Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back at Home

When I set out on my South African journey I created a list of do's and don'ts. In case you forgot, here is a refresher:

1) Don't throw up on person seated next to me on plane. No matter how much I try, it will never be considered a bonding moment.
2) Eat new foods! (Shouldn't be a problem). (Warning: see #1: sensitive stomach)
3) Appreciate the language(s):  Try and eavesdrop on people speaking Xhosa (click) as much as possible.
4) Embrace being out of my element (examples include: bungee jumping, swimming with Great Whites, safari)
5) Ride the elephant, don't let the elephant ride me. (To be understood literally and metaphorically).

Looking back on the past five months, I feel pretty accomplished. I never threw up on Michele or Mollie, in fact I slept for the majority of the plane ride both to and fro, I learned (very basic communication skills) of Xhosa, Afrikaans and Shona. I tried new foods (yes mom, I did eat something other than Mcds). I was often out of my element and it was arguably the best part (i.e.: Langa homestay, working at Masiyile, shark cage diving). And finally, at times the elephant rode me. Things were bumpy, awkward, disheartening, overwhelming and nerve-wracking. But I rode that elephant right back. No bumpiness or awkwardness could ever measure up to how incredible the past five months were. I am so appreciative of the people who made it such an amazing semester- I WILL be back!!

Unjani, dankie, thanks!

With love,


As many of you know, the entire semester was centered around our Capstone projects. Mollie and I worked at Masiyile Secondary School (grade 8-12) in Khayelitsha for the entire semester. With the help of amazing teachers and enthusiastic students, we were able to implement an after-school writing club, called "My Masiyile, My Words" that focused on youth empowerment through creative expression. Essentially the club provided a safe space for students to express how they were feeling through song, dance, and writing.
    We were able to compile all of the students work into a book that will be kept in the Masiyile library. Furthermore, we were able to bring several students to University of Cape Town to perform their poems and share their short stories with an audience during our capstone presentations. Everyone was blown away by their passion, talents and confidence.

Four amazing Masiyile students singing at U.C.T Baxter Theatre

Me and Mollie with Mrs. Matyatya, the head Life Orientation teacher at Masiyile and the CIEE Liason. Amazing woman!

Me and the incredible Masiyile writing club!


This blog title pretty much explains it all. On May 1st, a bunch of us (Katie, Lauren, Lauren, Mollie, Caitlin and Alvand) boarded a small boat and navigated the high seas to find Great Whites. Despite having an untimely date with seasickness, it was by far one of the greatest days in Cape Town. We woke up at 4:30am and arrived by 7, ate a quick breakfast, and we were on the boat all day.
     All seven of us were able to fit in the cage at one time which was awesome. The ship crew would through chum in the water to attract the sharks. They were HUGE. Shark week on the Discovery Channel does not do them justice. They came right up to the cage, which freaked me out a bit, but we knew they wouldn't be able to get in. If anyone reading this ever travels to South Africa, I definitely recommend this!

Molls looking dapper in her wetsuite

Me and Katie waiting like champions before we hopped into the cage of death


Langa Homestay

On the weekend of April 20th, the service-learners had the chance to do an authentic homestay in Langa township. Langa is about fifteen minutes outside of Cape Town and one of the oldest townships in South Africa. I stayed with a single mom and her 21 year old daughter in an RDP house. There was a tremendous sense of community and Xhosa culture and although townships often get stigmatized for being dangerous, I felt completely safe and loved the entire time. It was one of my favorite experiences because I had the chance to feel completely uncomfortable and rely on basic human interactions. I had the chance to learn about her life, her family and her community. We also spent all day Saturday at Aces, an outside meat restaurant. It was great!

Easily the cutest kid I've ever met

Me and Aleah, a 5 year old who lived in Langa

Me and my host mom!

World Cup Stadium in Cape Town!

World Cup Stadium- Cape Town, South Africa (Ajax Cape Town vs. Orlando Pirates)

Me, Caitlin and Katie at a soccer game at the World Cup Stadim (April 27th, 2012)

Emily, Caitlin, Johanna, Justine, Katie, Me and a Security Guard outside of the World Cup Stadium!

Five Months Too Little

It's hard to believe that the past five months came and went. As I sit at home, in a familiar setting that somehow feels extremely unfamiliar, I try to piece to together how the time went by so quickly. Everyone warned me that abroad would feel like a break from reality, and that time would essentially stop. I suppose it did.

I always rolled my eyes at the people who claimed to be so enlightened when they returned to the States post-abroad. I'm not claiming to be enlightened but the people I met and the experiences I now have in my memory have definitely changed me for the better. Between the dive bars of Stones and Pig & Swizzle, to hiking Table Mountain, to swimming with sharks, staying in Langa township, to the beautiful campus of UCT, my time in South Africa was the best five months of my life. I am so appreciative and grateful that I had the chance to experience all that I did.

To my mom and my friends- you were right. To you, this blog was a failure. But, to me, my infrequent blogging is a testament to how busy I was in South Africa. Sure, I could use the ongoing excuse that my internet accessibility was limited. In reality, I was constantly on the move- trying something new, meeting someone new, learning something new.

So, I propose a solution to the problem of my lack of blogging. I can't turn back time, but I can post a picture blog of all, or most, of the memorable events that happened post-penguins.



Friday, March 23, 2012


I can't believe I forgot the most exciting thing I've done since I've been here! Wednesday was a public holiday (human rights day) so we all took the train to Simon's Town and saw PENGUINS!

Here's a view of the beaches before Simon's Town from the train (photo cred. Ms Lauren Waldenburg)

I wanted to take them all home with me but there was a big sign that read "Don't Get Handsy with the Penguins". Oh well.