I have officially been home one whole week! Well, my plane landed in Oregon a week ago. I spent the two and a half weeks before that traveling Illinois spending quality time with people I love. I really do appreciate all of the notes I received while I was gone and all of the delightful care packages. Thanks to those who took the time to read my ramblings! I wish all of the best to every single person who took the time to read this final blog post. Have a great evening and, as the South Africans woul
A Quick Little Catch Up...
My last three weeks of teaching sped by so quickly! It started with Wellyna going home to Sweet Home Alabama and Laura moving into the apartment. We started working out together and trying to get in shape as she only had one month before she would be home. We created a routine and a meal plan so we could plan what we needed to buy so we wouldn’t end up with too much excess food. I think Laura ended up just eating a bunch of pasta her last week here.
As far as teaching goes, the schedule worked out so that my last couple days of teaching weren’t very busy. I got to spend some good, quality time with my classes as well as my private lesson students. Unfortunately, the very last day I was there we had tests scheduled, so the girls all had to take a test! Most of the music teachers were going to be gone at a marimba festival in Port Elizabeth, so we scheduled something easy for the substitute, but not necessarily easy for the girls. We didn’t end up going to the festival because it was cancelled, but we went on as scheduled for the most part. After school that day we had a small picnic in one of the quad areas and some of the teachers came out for drinks after that. All in all it was a great end to my teaching placement at Victoria Girls’ High School!
Saturday was a busy day as I started to pack for the trip home, organize my belongings, and prepare for Molly’s arrival the next day! Laura’s school, Kingswood College, also had big sports rival at their school all day playing various sporting events. We went to watch rugby and coincidentally ended up sitting next to the music teachers from there! We talked a little about music, but more of the conversation was me and Laura asking questions about Rugby.
Sunday morning we got up early to head to Port Elizabeth to pick up Molly from the airport! I was absolutely giddy with excitement! We were able to spend most of the day in Port Elizabeth, walking around the market and down the boardwalk to some other shops.
The next post will begin our adventures, but it will probably be written on the airplane to Chicago! This is the last post from Grahamstown, South Africa! It has been really great here getting to know the cultures and a whole new education system! I can’t believe these last 4 and a half months have gone by so quickly! There were definitely times when it felt like time was moving slower than a sloth, but in the long run, time has sped by. These last two weeks of traveling with Molly were definitely the fastest because we just kept going, and going, and going! You will see what I mean when I have time to post again! Cheers for now!
Last weekend! Finally! All caught up! Friday night, Laura got back into town and her and Wellyna and I went to Boudina’s for dinner. Another American drove us out to her farm. He is here doing a mission service trip and working at a Catholic school, while living in the monastery it is connected to. There are many houses on the farm. Boudina’s husband, Cameron, has his mom living on the farm in one of the houses and her house is where we had dinner. We had venison with sweet potatoes, rice, and other veggies with chocolate mousse for dessert! It was a very tasty meal! We didn’t stay too late because we had to get up early the next day.
Saturday morning we left for Addo! We were going to spend the night there Friday night, but it was too expensive, so we just decided to go for the day. We were also going to have a picnic, but it was raining all day, so we went to the restaurant in the park instead of taking food to picnic with. The first hour or so in the park we didn’t see much and we were afraid that the animals were hiding away from the rain. However, we did end up seeing animals albeit slowly at first, but then it snow balled into us seeing many, many elephants by the end of the day! We saw well over 100 elephants by the end of the day! We also saw water buffalo, warthogs (to which we all exclaimed Pumba!), black-backed jackals, an owl, many various types of birds, zebra, kudu, and another antelope like animal. This was the first time we’ve seen: elephants, jackals, warthogs, and kudu! The antlers on the kudu are the curly ones and they are as massive and beautiful in real life as they are in pictures.
We spent a few hours driving around looking and then decided to make our way up to the cafe for lunch and shopping at the gift shop. After lunch while driving around is when all the excitement started. We stopped at one point to watch a group of elephants who were walking around right near the road. As we sat there waiting, one of them started walked directly towards us! Dr. Baxen, who was driving, started freaking out and Laura got it all on tape! She didn’t know if she should back up or just hold her ground and not move. We eventually convinced her to not move the car any and just stay where we were. I should mention that we are required to stay in our cars at all times. We can even get in trouble for leaning out of the windows (but we did that anyway). The elephant was just walking towards us to get to a different patch of grass and we really didn’t have anything to be frightened about. Later in the drive we stopped again for another group of elephants who were slowly crossing the road. We stopped again to watch them and noticed a large group of variously sized elephants. Amongst them was a tiny baby elephant! There were two adolescents and an adult protecting the baby by surrounding him (we only know it was a ‘he’ because he had just finished peeing). There were many cars in this area while this was happening and we could tell the elephants were agitated by all the cars. At this point we wanted to back up to give them space, but we looked behind us and there was another (quite large) elephant directly behind us too! We were trapped in between a mom and her kids and another elephant. This was a little scary, but it was still great to see the elephants so up close. I got many pictures of that baby with his mom. Hiding under his mom and taking advantage of this location to sneak a snack. Overall it was a super fun day and it was great to finally see some elephants!
We decided to go to the monastery for church Sunday morning to see what it was like. We asked Dr. Baxen if she wanted to go also, since that was our only way to get there, so we were happy that she wanted to go. The monks are Catholic, so it was a proper Catholic service with incense and all. There were only 4 other people there besides us, a few monks, and Cameron (who drove us to Boudina’s Friday night). It was a very small service and when it came time for communion, we each gave the bread and wine and said the words to the person next to us before handing them the items to do it for the next person. It was very interesting to do it that way and the first time I’d seen that done.
Over all I’ve had a pretty splendid time while being here even if I haven’t been keeping you all updated on what I’ve been up to. I have received many loved filled packages these last couple weeks and those have really been keeping me going. Thank you to those of you who have mailed me packages and letters! I am looking forward to Molly’s arrival in just 26 days! That leaves me less than a month to make it look like I haven’t been pigging out on Easter chocolate for the last three weeks ;)
I hope you have enjoyed reading this 6,000 word novel of updates and have a great day!
Every year the grade 12s (otherwise known as matrics, because they matriculate not graduate) get to dress up in their best attire, bring a date, and dance the night away. Basically, it is like our prom. However, the grade 11s arranged everything and acted as hostesses for the evening. The theme for this year was Moroccan! Everything was very colorful, there were belly dancers, the food was Moroccan themed, there was even a photo area set up in the foyer with a red tent filled with a couch, pillows, fruit, and candles! Before the dance actually started there was a display walk set up leading into the school from the area where the girls would be dropped off. There were big spotlights and people lined both sides of a path. As the girls arrived, everyone got to see their dresses (and their dates!) and they got applause as they headed into the building. I don’t have any pictures from the night because it was hard to take pictures while they were walking, but I can tell you that the dresses were absolutely beautiful, the heels were high, and the ladies looked fabulous! Once the dance started, the doors were locked and everyone who was there had to be there until 11 pm when the dance ended. The staff was allowed to leave though, so Wellyna and I left around 10:30. This all happened Saturday evening, but earlier that day we went to the market and watched hockey games here at the school. It was a full day, but very, very fun.
I just recently ran across another girls blog who is staying here in South Africa. She is one of the other COST students who was placed in Port Elizabeth and actually goes to school with Wellyna. She just left to go home Sunday, but she recently posted a list of colloquialisms comparing South African language to American language. I copied and pasted it below. A big thank you to Katharine for compiling all of these words!
tennis shoes / sneakers = techies (technical trainers)
swim suit = costume
students = learners
whiteout = Tippex
eraser = rubber
schedule = timetable
agenda = diary
grading = marking
matric = senior
matriculation = graduation
chicken sandwich = chicken burger
beef jerky = biltong (except biltong is dried raw instead of cooked. Still delicious!)
popsicle = ice lolly
chips = crisps
french fries = chips
candy = sweets
cookout / barbeque = braai
OUT AND ABOUT:
pharmacist = chemist
line = queue
traffic light = robot
Farting = Shooting a bunny
Right away = Now now
Within the hour = Just now
Eventually = Now
Howzit? = How are you doing?
When speaking, South Africans sometimes drop the article “the”. For example, you would say, “He is in hospital” or "I go to University".
One more post to go before being caught up!
Wait for it.....
Thursday we got up early for…….Table Mountain! Kyle didn’t have his boating class that day, so he came with us and drove us to the base. We got there really early so we weren’t hiking in the heat of the day. There is one main entrance area where the cable car goes up and there are two roads that lead to it, one from each side. We had a route planned out that we wanted to hike up, but we came up the road that was on the other side of the entrance area. So our hike started by walking up to the very base of the mountain, then across the mountain to the beginning of our planned ascent trail. The first part of the hike up to the base was our first indication of how difficult the hike was going to be. It wasn’t an inclined path, it was straight up giant stairs! It was a nice break to walk across the base once we got up there, but it was still not a piece of cake. As we walked across Laura was marveling at the various types of rocks and how they had formed. As a geologist, she is very interested in how the mountain was created, but it didn’t take her long to figure it out. Turns out the whole of Cape Town was underwater at one point and the mountains and hills are remnants of sediment that settled in the water. The layers of various types of rocks are clearly visible as you hike up the mountain. The top of Table Mountain itself is made of quartz which is why it is so flat. The layers of sediment that were on top of it gradually wore off due to erosion. Quartz, however, is hard enough that it didn’t erode, so everything eroded around it, leaving the nice flat top. (Laura- feel free to correct me if I have made a mistake :) )
The trail that we decided to hike up the mountain was Platteklip Gorge. Directly translated it means “flat rock” or “flat stone.” Kyle is probably the most fit of all of us, but Laura and I both have experience hiking, Laura more so than me. Wellyna doesn’t have much experience hiking, so her gear was spread between the rest of our backpacks and she just focused on getting up the trail. If anyone reading this has ever hiked up the Monkey Face trail at Smith Rock, this trail was similar in difficulty, but at least twice as long. It just kept going up, and going up, and going up! The path was mostly big steps the whole way, so our upper legs got a really good workout. My goal was to not use my inhaler the whole way and I reached that goal! I had to really focus on my breathing at some points, but I didn’t need to use my inhaler at all! I was so happy about that because that means I have made progress in dealing with my asthma!
One of the prettiest parts of the hike was seeing the natural spring water coming out of the rocks and trickling down or falling in droplets off ledges. With the sun going through them, the droplets looked like “little drops of heaven,” as Kyle called them. It was just too beautiful! We picked the perfect day to go up the mountain because it was the only day there wasn’t a blanket of clouds covering the top! Every other day “the blanket” was there and visibility from the top would have been nearly impossible. On Thursday it was so clear that we could see absolutely everything from the top! Once we were at the top, there were some nice lookout points, the gift shop, a food area, and then the cable car to get back down. This hike was definitely all about the journey and the destination was only just the icing on top.
Because we were all really hungry from the hike, we decided to take the cable car down and head to Hout Bay for “some of the best fish and chips outside of the Wild Coast” according to Kyle. He lives in the Wild Coast area and says you can’t get any better fish and chips than when you’re there. He had been to this specific restaurant before, so we let him navigate there. Turns out he was on the wrong side of the peninsula, so we drove for 2 hours before we got there, but then he couldn’t find the restaurant! We did find fish and chips (it’s not too hard here to do that), but they were less than stellar. However, because we were all so starving because it took an extra 2 hours to get there, it was worth the wait :)
Friday morning we woke up early to walk to another museum. This one was called “The Slave Lodge” and was just that. It is now a museum about the history of slavery in South Africa, but it used to be a building where slaves were forcibly held and made to eat, sleep, and work. The conditions were horrendous. The British government at the time of enslavement (because they were the ones in charge then), told the settlers that they weren’t allowed to enslave the native Khoe (pronounced like coy) San people. So they didn’t. However, they spread disease through them and there are no Khoe San people left today because of that. The slaves were shipped down from western and eastern African countries. I’m not going to write anymore about it because it is depressing, but feel free to ask me if you want to know more information.
After the Slave Lodge, we went back to the V&A to board a ferry to go over to Robben Island. The island is home to the maximum security prison where many were held for their opposing political beliefs during apartheid. The most internationally famous of those people was Nelson Mandela. He was held in the prison for 27 years, released in 1990. After his release he started his public political path and was then elected in the first democratic election in 1994. One of the other men detained at the prison was there only so he wouldn’t create public unrest. He had committed a crime at one point, but then upon his release, because the government didn’t want him in the public again, they created a special clause just for him saying that he could be detained without reason. As soon as he set foot on public soil, he was arrested and put into solitary confinement on Robben Island. It was a solemn story, but powerful as it made me realize the power the government can have and how grateful I am for our own government, despite some flaws it might have. After this solemn day, we went for our last dinner at a restaurant called Karibu. The word means “Welcome” in Swahili. Laura and I both got a dish from there that had ostrich capriccio on top! It was actually quite tasty!
Our last morning, we spent a lazy morning at Vida e Caffe just talking. Kyle was supposed to pick us up late morning, but he didn’t end up showing up until 4 pm, so we had a nice long time to talk! Kyle then drove Wellyna and I back to Grahamstown and Laura started her adventure! You can read about her two week trip back to Grahamstown at her blog: rootedandbranching.blogspot.com.
That's the end of our Cape Town adventure, but I'm not done posting yet! Don't worry! Just a couple more thoug
HAPPY EASTER! We went to the Hillsong Church again Sunday morning for Easter service. It was weird not celebrating Easter with family, but they had a bake sale, so that made up for it a little bit ;) After the church service, we went to the Kirstenbosch gardens. They were absolutely beautiful! So many different kinds of plants and most of them indigenous to South Africa! I bought a postcard there, but I haven’t figured out who to send it to yet :P The gardens are huge, so we walked around for awhile and then I sat and read my book while Wellyna and Laura walked around some more. The gardens butt up against an area of wilderness at the base of the Table Mountain region. Before traveling to Cape Town I thought that Table Mountain was just one entity standing alone with the flat-ish landscape around it and that’s what made it a miracle, but it is actually part of a whole range of hills/mountains. It is a miracle because of how flat it is, but I will get to that later! We stayed at Kirstenbosch until dinner time, so we were there for about six hours! It was just so beautiful though, that we couldn’t even take it all it. We got a snack at the restaurant in the gardens and then Kyle picked us up and we went to the Victoria and Alfred (or V&A) Waterfront for drinks. The V&A is actually a whole other shopping area, but also provides entertainment, many eating places, an aquarium, and obviously a marina area. Kyle knew of a little stand that generally has many beers on tap and they let you sample them before buying a whole glass. They were mostly out by the time we got there, but they still had a few left to try. One of the ones they were out of was a Pumpkin Ale that Laura and I really wanted to try, but we couldn’t. We all ended up getting a dark beer that had molasses in it. It was actually really good! We realized around 8:30 pm that we hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so we found a fish and chips place that had really tasty fish and chips! It was probably the best I’ve had so far. There were some seasonings in the batter on the fish that were what really made it tasty. Also, it’s called fish and chips because french fries are called chips here and chip are called crisps. There are quite a few little things like that which I’m just now getting used to. After all of my Cape Town posts I will add one only about the colloquialisms of South Africa.
Monday was a really rainy day, so we decided to sleep in and work on stuff for school, which all of us needed to do some of anyway. There may be something that I’ve forgotten about Monday morning, but we did go wine tasting in the afternoon. Laura went to school with someone who’s brother lives here in SA, so she contacted him and he decided to go with us wine tasting. Kyle drove us so we had to wait for his class to finish, but then we picked up Claude and drove to one of the wineries that stayed open later. Most wineries close between 4 and 5, so we had to find one that was open later than that. We found about 3 that were open until 6:30, but with the rain it took us longer than expected to get to the area, so we only got to visit one, but we figured that would happen so we took our time with at that one winery and enjoyed each of our tastings. Their idea of a tasting here is like, almost half a glass of wine. It is so much wine! Laura went on a tour a few days ago because she is still on holiday, and one of the wineries lets you taste every single wine they have available! She didn’t because she doesn’t like certain kinds, but she most certainly could have! And that’s a lot wine! She and I are going to figure out how to land ship wine back to the states. The wine we had in that one afternoon was so tasty. I, of course, liked the most expensive one the best, but that still was only around $14 or $15.
Tuesday morning we got up fairly early and walked to the District Six Museum. The museum reflected on one area affected by white supremacy during apartheid. The area of District Six was primarily occupied by various groups of non-whites during the time before apartheid. At one point during apartheid, the government decided that they were going to make that area a whites only area, so the residents were given less than 24 hours notice and they were to move out of the area. If there were still people there after that, they were forcibly moved out of their homes. This wasn’t the biggest tragedy for them though. It was the fact that they were moved out of their communities and spread out across the area, not allowing them to keep the same communities that really tore people apart. They government demolished the houses and buildings where people used to live and work and then began recreating an area for white people only. It was a really sad museum to be in, but it gave a true account of what people’s lives were like and how they were changed. After District Six we went back to the V&A to the aquarium. We walked around there for awhile and were able to see a “Creepy and Crawly” show as well as the feeding of the large fish and the penguins. They have whole frog exhibit too, which I’m sure Molly would love! It wasn’t a big aquarium, but it was enough to keep us occupied until the evening when we decided to stay and watch a movie there at the V&A. We saw the movie “Parker” and I really liked it. I don’t think Wellyna or Laura really liked it because it was quite violent, but I really did like it.
Wednesday we went on a Cape Point tour with Baz Bus (the same company Molly and I will be using for our travels). The bus picked us up right in front of our backpackers and then we made a figure 8 shape around the Cape Peninsula. We made 3 big stops. The first was in a small town where some people took a ferry out to Seal Island. We didn’t because we already had the opportunity to swim with seals and they were pretty stinky. The second stop was in Boulders to see the penguins! The city of Boulders is home to many African penguins and they have made a large effort to preserve land for their natural habitat. We weren’t allowed to touch them, but we took lots of pictures of them. The big stop, of course, was Cape Point! The bus took us in to the park and we took a short bike ride to meet the bus at the visitors center for lunch. After lunch the bus took us to the parking area and we got to walk up to the top of Cape Point where the old light house is located. They decided to add another lighthouse at a lower location at one point because when there were clouds, the original lighthouse would be covered and not do anyone any good. After hiking to the top, we hiked back down only to hike up a different place and hike up and over a peak and then down to the sign that said we were actually at the south western most point of Africa! All three of us were under the impression that Cape Point is the southern most point and where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Turns out this is false! Cape Aghulas is where all of this happens and that is East of Cape town, back along the Garden Route. We still took a picture at the sign, because it is still such a cool place to be! We got dinner when we got back into town and got some good sleep for our big day on Thursday! You’ll find out in the next post what happened on Thursday ;)
Let me just start by saying how fortunate we were with working out our transportation to and from Cape Town. One of the teachers who works with Wellyna and I at VGHS was headed to Cape Town for certification classes for various yachting courses. He is only 22, has just graduated university, and is the long term substitute for the teacher who left for maternity leave. Kyle was willing to drive the whole way there and was happy to have people to share gas money with. We finished school around 10:30 Thursday morning and he drove us back to the house to get our bags and pick up Laura. She didn’t have school at all on Thursday, so was able to spend the morning packing up and cleaning from our dinner and dessert the night before.
We spent all of the rest of Thursday driving westward. Wellyna and I had already seen about 4 hours of the drive through our FreeWalkers adventures, but it was Laura’s first time, so she sat in the front seat. Kyle has a Subaru and Laura and I were both very excited about that because we’re both very used to seeing them at home, but it was the first one either of us had seen here in SA. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how the landscape farther west is similar to that of Oregon, and it only became more so the closer to Cape Town we got. There were some mountain ridges that we could see before it got dark, but we didn’t drive through them until it was dark. I think I tried to take a picture, but it was difficult because the car was moving (duh) and it was just too difficult to truly capture the landscape in a photo. Once we got into Cape Town proper, it was definitely night time and the city was deserted. We thought there would be some cars about seeing how big of a city it is, but there might have been ten on the city roads before we got to Long Street, that is. Long Street is the happening place for people to be after dark. It is literally a really long street full of pubs and nightclubs. There is also a stark difference once you’re on Long Street. Our hostel was two streets up from Long St., but as soon as Long St. ended, so did any people. When all three of us were together we felt fairly safe walking the short distance though. There was an evening that just Laura and I went out and we wished, once we’d gotten back, that we had called a taxi because our nerves were so high. We had a hard time finding our hostel because Kyle had never actually driven to and around Cape Town by himself. He has always been driven around by his family that lives in the area, until this trip. That first night there, we stayed in a dorm style room at our backpackers. we were in there with 5 guys and it really smelled bad, so we’re happy we were only there one night!
Friday morning we woke up and locked our stuff in a closet until our private room was available. Wellyna and Laura had both heard of a church they wanted to go to for Good Friday service, so we called a taxi to take us there. The church was called Hillsong Church. They are known for recording and producing praise band music. They are well known among that circle of people. There are 4 main churches located around the world: Sydney (where it started), London, Cairo, and Cape Town. Across the street from this church was a shopping center where we decided to go eat lunch. From the restaurant we could see a few shops, so we decided to go in and look around. Unbeknownst to us, we had just walked into one of the largest shopping centers in all of South Africa with over 400 stores!! We ended up spending most of the rest of the day just exploring the mall. Seriously, all we did Friday afternoon was shop. It was fun and, seeing as shopping is one of Laura’s least favorite things to do, I am grateful she put up with the shopping all day. I can’t remember where we ate dinner Friday night, but all of the food we had in Cape Town was really good. It was more expensive than Grahamstown, but the same price as it would have been in America.
Saturday we decided to explore our more immediate surroundings. Our morning coffee place was Vida e Cafe (Life and Coffee in Portuguese). Their mochas are made with Lindt chocolate and they always accompany their drinks with a small piece of dark chocolate or (for Easter weekend) a small Lindt chocolate bunny rabbit. The baristas all seemed liked they were having a good time and were all very nice. They are also really quick at what they do. Laura and I showed up one morning and there was a long line (5 or 6 people in front of us) and we were ordered and walking out of there with our drinks after only 6 minutes! After a lazy morning of drinking our coffee, we walked back to Long Street to see what it was like during the day. There were still lots of people, but the shops were open. We walked along the length of Long Street looking in little shops and finding antique stores (one of Laura’s passions). There were many boutique stores with little merchandise, but high prices. We enjoyed mostly just looking at the different kinds of fashion that is popular here. Bright colors are a must, but other than that the style seems pretty much the same. It is not uncommon to see someone wearing bright red skinny jeans and bright blue top with yellow accent jewelry. Our day out ended at the Green Market Square. It is a square with a brick ground where people set up stalls and sell the same things we have found in every other market. It was interesting to see how much more money they would ask for than the market in Port Elizabeth though.
Cheers for now! Part 2 coming soon!
Many moons ago....
I want to apologize for this post being so late. It just takes me a long time to sit down and remember everything that has happened, so I keep putting it off, but that just makes the problem worse! This is the first post of a few as I will split up my week in Cape Town to a couple posts.
Wellyna and I finished with classes Wednesday afternoon, but we had an Inter-house Swimming Gala at the end of the day, so we stayed for that. I was confused because it was called a Gala, but it was just a glorified swim meet that all the girls who volunteered to, swam in various events against each other. I helped time one of the lanes with Libby. We got a bit wet because they placed the timers on the same end of the pool where the girls were jumping into the pool! We still don’t understand why it was called a Gala, but I guess things are just different! For example, if you say, “Can I have a napkin?” people will look at your like you’re crazy because napkin here is what we know as a diaper! What we know as a napkin, they call a serviette.
Thursday we had off of school, so we left for Port Elizabeth to hang out with people. Wellyna and I were going to leave Wednesday night, but we decided to stay at home with Laura one more night so she wasn’t alone in the house for that extra night. Dr. Baxen had already left on the Tuesday previous to go visit and stay with family for awhile, so it was just the three of us there and Laura still had school on Thursday and Friday, so she was there alone until she joined us in PE on Friday afternoon. Wellyna stayed with the other Americans in their flat and I stayed at the Freewalker house. The Europeans that I met were still there, but one was leaving the next day and one the day after that, so I wanted to stay with them and get a chance to properly say goodbye.
Thursday night and Friday morning we all just hung out and took Pauli to the airport for her flight home. Laura’s shuttle was really late in leaving Grahamstown, so we didn’t get to leave PE until 5 ish, but our final destination was Jeffrey’s Bay, which is only about 45 minutes to an hour West from PE. We got to J-Bay and got set up in our sweet hostel. Everything was like apartment style living with just multiple beds in each bedroom, so we had a whole living room and kitchen to ourselves. It was a really awesome set-up. We went out to dinner at “The Mexican” for dinner and guess what kind of food they had?! haha There was also a restaurant called “The Greek” in town. We didn’t go there, but I’m sure I can accurately guess their cuisine.
Saturday morning we were up early to get a start on our quadbiking through a game reserve adventure! Quadbiking is the same thing as four wheeling for those who don’t know. We literally got to drive/ride a quadbike through this game reserve, following our guide along the path. It felt really nice to have control over the bike and be able to decide how fast I wanted to go. We passed a group of rhinos taking a nap and stopped to look at them and take pictures because there was a baby among them! The mom didn’t really know what to make of us though, so she stood up while staring at us to see what we were up to. At that point, the guide suggested we move on so the mama rhino didn’t get mad at us and charge. That could have ended very badly, but it didn’t! We saw so many different animals, but we were in a small enough game reserve that we could tell we were caged in and we didn’t like that so much. I asked someone where we could go to see wild animals in the actual wild and they said no where. I was quite confused, but they said that if the animals weren’t in game reserves they would be poached to extinction. Even in the reserves, the animals are still poached. It is really sad to know that the animals can’t live freely or they will be killed. When we got back from the ride we were suuuuper wind blasted and dusty. Wellyna’s hair was almost as brown as mine! Luckily, Laura and I were both wearing a backpack when we rode on the back of the bike, so that took the brunt of the dirt and dust that was flying up.
After quad biking we went to lunch at this cute restaurant that was actually built into the sand on the beach. We got to walk around barefoot (not that that is uncommon here at all) and someone ordered crocodile kabobs for an appetizer and we all tried some! It tasted pretty much just like chicken, but was a little chewier in texture! I also tried calamari for the first time at this restaurant and it wasn’t too bad as long as there was ample garlic/lemon butter smothering it. I tried one without the butter and I didn’t really care for it, but at least I can say that I’ve tried it now! The biggest adventure came after lunch!
We took a surfing lesson and were in the water for a couple hours! I sort of got up on the board, but not for very long. The hardest part was just letting my body do what I trained it on the beach and not thinking about it too much. Our instructor, Andrew Moon, was really patient and I was very grateful for that. If you go to the FreeWalker facebook page they have pictures up from that trip. I obviously didn’t take my camera with me surfing.
Sunday we planned on horseback riding on the beach, but we got rained out, so we had breakfast in J-Bay and then went back to PE for some shopping and then Wellyna, Laura, and I came back to Grahamstown. It was such a fun weekend, even though it was the first instance of bad weather for us.
Again, sorry for the tardiness of these posts! Writing is not my strong point. Gear up for Cape Town! Those posts will be arriving shortly!
Teaching has gotten a little easier now that I’m more used to their system of teaching. On Wednesday of this last week I got observed by Dr. Baxen. She is very centered around the idea of creating the environment for the student to learn in rather than teaching the student. I really like the idea of teaching like this and am working on creating more lessons that are built on that system, but am finding it difficult. She and I have spoken about ways to incorporate this into my classroom more, but are still trying to brainstorm. My cooperating teacher, Boudina, has been gone since Tuesday because her baby girl is sick :( I think they figured out on Friday what was wrong with her and are working on fixing it.
Friday was the beginning of Founders Weekend, which is the birthday weekend of VG High School. It also acts as a reunion for the class that graduated ten years earlier. There was a relay among all of the students of the school in the morning, and then the girls got to clean the school until a formal assembly. At the formal assembly, there was a guest speaker from the class of 2003. She gave a really great speech! After the formal assembly the girls got to split up into their houses for one last rehearsal before they competed against each other in a singing competition! They are all such great singers! I don’t think I can get a video to upload on here, but I will try to upload one of the videos I took of one group to my facebook page.
Friday night was the big concert of all the groups performing. The Victoria Girls’ Primary School joined us for the concert and had some groups of their own perform. It was a beautiful concert of all sorts of music. The concert lasted until about 8 pm and then it was time for bed!
Saturday morning there was a hockey game between the current first team hockey team and some of the old girls who came back for Founders weekend. The old girls definitely gave the high schoolers a run for their money, but thankfully the high schoolers pulled through and won the game. Laura went with me to the game and then her, Libby, Libby’s dog Archie, and I went to the market for a little bit. After the market we came home to get ready for our exciting afternoon!
Yesterday (9 March) we went to the Kwantu game reserve and elephant sanctuary! We didn’t actually go to the sanctuary part of the reserve, but we did get to go on a 3 hour game drive and see nearly all of the big 5! We saw zebras, wildebeests, and various antelope animals right away. Then we saw a giraffe!! And then three more giraffes!! It was so exciting! While the three of us were looking at the giraffes, our driver told us to look the other way at a bush. None of us could see anything at first, but then we all saw the lion staring back at us! There were three lions laying down in bush not very far from us! Our driver, Lucas, took us even closer to them! We were less than 50 feet from a mom and her son and daughter! The mom had just eaten and still had blood on her mouth! It was the craziest thing ever! We sat there watching them for a very long time. Then we went closer to the giraffes so we could look at them more up close. They are huge! I knew that giraffes were big creatures, but I didn’t realize how big they are! We kept driving and saw a lot more zebras and antelope like creatures. We saw a few ostriches, the males who are pitch black and the females who are a drab grayish, brownish color.
The next big sighting were two White Rhinos! We also learned that they were originally “wide” rhinos, but the Afrikaans didn’t have a word for “wide” so it was translated into “white.” The ‘wide’ described the shape of their mouths, which are wide for grazing on the grass. The other kind of rhinos, which are now known as the black rhinos, have a mouth shaped to better allow them to eat their way into bushes, which is their only source of nutrients. On our way back to the start we saw one lone water buffalo! He ran away from us the closer we got so the one picture I have of him is really blurry, but we still saw him!
After the game drive, we got to walk around the predator camp at Kwantu. Here there are tigers, African lions, White lions, and cheetahs. They have these animals in very large enclosures because they are keeping them safe before releasing them into the wild. There are only about 900 tigers left in all of Asia, so Kwantu is a breeding ground for them. They will stay at Kwantu until they are about 4 years old and then they will get sent to Asia to be put into the wild. The African Lions are in captivity because they would be killed by the wild lions if they were to be put out into wild at too young of an age. The White lions are rejected and killed by the African lions in the wild because of their coloration. They are thought to be a danger to the pride because they stand out too much. Therefore, Kwantu keeps the two White lions in their own space inside the predator camp. The cheetahs were napping, so we didn’t get to see them run, but they were smaller than I thought they would be! They are also trying to breed the cheetahs to increase their numbers in the wild, but the female they have doesn’t like the male, so she won’t breed with him. I say, good for her! Standing up for what she believes in! :)
After seeing all the gorgeous animals, we got to go in and eat a huge meal! We had soup, tandoori chicken, and a salad for our starters. Then we had mutton curry with rice and grilled veggies as our entree. Finally we had a custard-like dessert. None of us really cared for the dessert, but the other food was good! We also got sparkling apple juice to go along with our meal! We paid one awesome price for everything we did while at Kwantu and it was another unreal experience.
The sun has now gone down here, so I am going to make sure I’m ready for school tomorrow!
Oh. My. Gosh.
The Storms River Bridge where the jumpers jumped from!
The title says my overall feeling about last weekend! I hardly have words to describe my feelings about everything that happened!
Wellyna and I both took the day off school on Friday to start our adventure with FreeWalkers. FreeWalkers is a charity group who also lead adventure weekends. They are based in Port Elizabeth, so it was an early morning to get there by the time they wanted to start the weekend. We met up with the other group of Americans doing COST (they are based in Port Elizabeth) and there were four other people joining our group: one Israeli, two Belgians, and one German. It was nice to see the American’s again, but the new people were really nice, so it was fun hanging out with them too. We left PE around 9:30 am and headed East towards Plettenburg Bay where we would eventually be staying the next two nights. Our first stop was Bloukrans bungy jumping off the Storms River Bridge into the Storms River Canyon. I didn’t jump because I just wasn’t too keen on losing the contents of my stomach to the Storms River. Wellyna jumped though and said there were no words to describe the feeling she had while falling. The area was absolutely gorgeous, so I was content taking pictures and listening to the screams of people jumping.
After the jumping experience, we drove to Plettenburg Bay, dropped off our bags, changed into our swimming suits, and went snorkeling with seals! We had to take a boat ride to where the seals live and then were instructed on how to act around them and while we were in their habitat. They are very playful creatures and would swim right up to us! There is a video on my facebook page that someone was able to take while we were in the water. You can see the seals coming right up to the camera and playing with a rope in the water. It was just too cute!
After swimming we went and got cleaned up and then went out to dinner. It was an early night because we had to get up at 6 am to leave for our adventures on Saturday!
Me next to the cage we'd be in!
After breakfast Saturday morning we drove another 40 minutes to Mossel Bay to go Great White Shark Cage Diving! We first went to the main office of the company we went with to hear the safety briefing and to place our lunch order. Then they took us down to the boat. We were on the “Shark Warrior!” The cage we were about to be in was on the boat with us and would eventually get put into the water and then drug around to the side of the boat. Normally the boat goes out to a small island of rocks not far from shore because that’s where the seals are and consequently, the sharks too. Instead, they took us pretty far away from the marina. They had had better luck the last few days at this new location. On the way there, one of the guys working on the boat took out two giant packages of frozen fish. He put them in a big garbage can with some water and just chopped them up with his shovel. He kept adding water to it until it was fairly diluted, and then he started putting it in the water to attract the sharks. I forgot the word he used to describe what the mushed up fish was, but it stank reeeeeally bad. We weren’t anchored for more than 3 minutes when we saw the first shark around the boat. It was really exciting! I was part of the first group to go in. The cage fit 6 people very snugly. The protective bars on the cage were vertical, but there were horizontal bars on the inside for us to hold and put our feet on. The horizontal bars were a few inches away from the vertical bars in order for us to still have fingers and toes when we got out of the cage.
The men working the boat tied a huge tuna head onto a rope and threw that into the water in front of the cage. As soon as they saw a shark approaching, they told us to go down (which was hard work because of how buoyant the wet suits were!), and then as the shark went for the bait, they drug it closer to the cage! This brought the shark right up to the cage and it even attacked the cage sometimes! I probably should have been scared because...well, they were Great White Sharks, but I wasn’t afraid of them at all. I even wanted to touch the stomach of one as it swam past, but I knew that wasn’t wise.
I actually got to go a second time during the third group of people because they needed the cage to be weighted evenly. I was more than happy to get back in the water. I have no sense of how big the sharks were, but one of the guys on the boat said the biggest one we saw was about 4.2 meters long! Mossel Bay is home to the largest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world, but they are mostly the juveniles who stay there because their safe. Once they are grown up, they move to the big, wide ocean.
Being in a cage while the sharks were right in front of me was one of the coolest moments of my life. After the big sharks, we went to breeding area for the sharks and got to swim (not in a cage) in a big aquarium with some baby sharks! They only have cartilage, no teeth yet, so there was no chance of them hurting us if they even got close enough. They were mostly afraid of us, so I only just barely touched the tail of one as it swam away.
After all of this we went back to Plettenburg and sat on the beach for a little while before going out to dinner. I hung out with the non-Americans most of the night and it was SO much fun! After the weekend I friended them all on Facebook before realizing that nothing they or their friends post will be in English! Thank goodness for Google translate!
Sunday morning we were off again around ten, heading back towards PE, but we had a few stops on the way. Plettenburg is in the Western Cape, so after crossing the Storms River on Friday, we were officially in the Western Cape. The first thing we saw was a baboon! It was just walking next to the road! The scenery was also almost identical to Oregon, just a little sunnier! Definitely not what I was expecting! There were whole mountain sides covered in pine trees! I took some pictures that will be in the album on Facebook. Then you all will be able to see how similar the landscape it. The similarities are unreal.
Our first stop on Sunday was to Monkey Land and Birds of Eden. The first is a sanctuary for monkeys who have been held in captivity so can’t be released into the wild. Monkey Land is a very large area of land where the monkeys roam free with what seems like no limitations. They are provided food and medical attention and can live out the rest of their lives without having to worry about being put back in a cage or eaten by a predator.
Birds of Eden was another area of land that had a huge net over it to confine the birds. They still had plenty of space to fly, but they couldn’t escape. Some of the birds here were very exotic, but there were also some doves and pigeons flying around.
Our last stop of the trip was a zipline tour of part of Tsitsikamma! We went back and forth across this beautiful gorge with a river flowing underneath us and even some waterfalls! It was absolutely gorgeous! I think this is something that Molly and I might have to do when she comes to visit. It was just that beautiful, fun, and inexpensive.
We got back into Port Elizabeth around 6 pm and then Wellyna and I had a shuttle take us back to Grahamstown, getting in around 8:30 pm. It was a long, long, long weekend, but SO much fun! It was great to get out of Grahamstown, awesome to get the chance to make really cool friends, and even cooler to do all of the things we did in such a short period of time!