Thursday, January 27, 2011

This is Week Two

Hello from South Africa!

By this point in time, everyone is aware of all the fun, exciting adventures I am having, so here is a little bit more about the school before I recap the week.

The school I teach in is called Mamre Pre-Primary. My students are 5 years old and most come from very poor backgrounds (these are the kids living in the townships for the most part). They all wear uniforms to school though so its hard to distinguish their individual backgrounds. Their teacher is Miss Verna, and she is very strict with them, but she has to be. I work with 2 other volunteers in the class, my friends Mike and Lindsay. The classroom has a very religious focus, for example, they pray in the morning, before lunch and before dismissal, as well as sing songs about religion. Its a bit odd coming from the States which practices a clearly defined separation of faith and education, but I honestly think it is good for the kids and does no harm. Our job as volunteers is to help Miss Verna and give each kid individual attention. The class has 32 students, so you can probably imagine they do not get much one on one time with the teacher. We help encourage them, teach them songs and dances, play with them, discipline and facilitate. Out of 32, only 4 speak some English. So doing all of the previously mentioned tasks is quite difficult, considering I do not speak Africaans. This is a challenge that will no doubt help improve my over all communication and cross-cultural skills though.

If you know me, you will probably know I am not the biggest fan of children in the world. I have to say though, these kids are wonderful. There are a few that I would prefer to not work with, but for the most part, they have all really inspired me and touched me. I have my "favorites," which include a little girl named Taylo, who is wise beyond her years and has a very soulful voice. She knows some English and helps me translate what the other kids are trying to say. She just seems to "over it" when the other kids are going crazy, I wish she was my little sister! There is a little boy named Ritley who is a huge flirt and blows Lindsay and I kisses constantly. He's adorable and always sets a good example of behavior for the other students. Zoey is just about the sweetest little thing, I want to adopt her. She is very shy and quite, and smiles all the time.

After school, we are very lucky to have a great deal of down time. Monday we went to Blouberg Beach and sunbathed and watched the windsurfers, (which looks so much fun, I think we are going to try next time we go). Tuesday we just hung out around Mamre, did some hiking and walking but mostly just spent time as a group talking. Wednesday we went to Camps Bay, but the weather was a bit too chilly, so eventually we left the beach and just walked around and had dinner. We ate at this incredible Italian place and shared wine and food together. Today (Thursday, 27 January) we are in Cape Town to say goodbye to Mike, he's leaving very early Friday morning. The rest of us are going back to Mamre either Saturday or Sunday.

It's Lindsay, Vanessa and I's last weekend in Cape Town which makes me realise just how fast time has gone by! I can't believe I only have a week left with the kids and with all the other volunteers. After this, its on to Italy where I will have a chance to reflect and plan the next stages of this life in an incredible city, Rome.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Funday

Last night we went out dancing until 4 am at a Reggae club and at a gay club. It was the most fun I've had in so long! I feel like I've known these friends forever, yet we've all only known each other a week.

Today (Sunday, 23 January), was one of the most aweinspring days of my life. We went to the Cape of Good Hope at the Southernmost Point in Africa and got to play with penguins in the wild on Boulder's Beach.

Won't be updating for about a week or so.

Loving every minute of life.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Development Idea

I am not the most emotional person in the world.

When we passed by some of the largest, most dangerous townships in South Africa, I didn't feel "sad" or sympathetic, I was instead wondering "how can we make this better?" and so this is what I came up with:

Townships: millions living in literal shacks, shanti town like situations with scarce electricity and no running water.

With the strengthening rand and growing development here in South Africa (and as it emergence as a one of the developing democracies to watch in addition to Brasil, India, China and Russia) I have to wonder, what is the delay with a national housing fund for these people living in Townships?

Looking to the post-war plan in Great Britain, (which was introduced dramatically in the late 1940's and slowly phased out by the turn of the century), and taking inspiration from post-WWI Germany, in which modern, communal apartment housing was built by the government: A communal housing apartment plan, subsidized by the South African government should be issued. We could relocated the people by giving them a place to live at a very affordable rate and employ them with jobs working towards national development. Abandoned townships would not be destroyed with respect to the atrocities of the apartheid era, but rather gated off and converted into national landmarks, bringing historical significance to them. A source of revenue could be generated through tours of these townships so no South African would forget their heritage of this tumultuous part of their nation's history.

I still have a great deal to learn about this subject, but I have to say the problem at hand is incredible. The most fascinating part of the whole thing is that the solutions are even more incredible. This is a massive nation with so much room for progression and I just hope that I can learn to be a useful part of the problem-solving and development.

EDIT: I've overused the words "incredible" and "amazing" lately. Sorry! Will try to find some more words.


Sharks and Then Some

Today, Saturday 22 January, 2011 (I'm beginning to loose all sense of time, running on "Africa Time.") 

Shark diving has been the thing I was most looking forward to doing here in South Africa. I have an odd fascination with marine life, in particularly the sharks, and what better to see than the Great Whites! I somehow met a group of friends here who were just as into this idea as I was, so off we went! The bus picked us up at our hostel in Cape Town, (we left Mamre for the weekend so we could make the most of our down time from the schools), and took us on the two hour drive to Gansbaai, South Africa where "Shark Ally" is. We had to be ready at 445am to leave which was rough, but honestly I had so much excitement I didn't even need to sleep on the bus ride there. We got on the boat around 8 and got outfitted in wet suits. I had a ton of trouble with mine because they gave me the wrong size. I had about 4 of the crew guys helping me pull up my suit and when it was all said and done I realised I could not breathe at all. The suit cut off at the top of my neck and I was done. They got me another suit but by that point I was suffocating like and started to feel sea sick. So I finally got into the proper suit and by this point at least 10 of the 12 of us started to feel sick. Needless to say, choppy Atlantic waters led to all of us vomiting off the sides for hours. Once it was finally our turn to go into the cage and see some sharks, all of the nausea went away. It was totally worth it to be eye to eye with a Great White! We saw some get quite close and one even thrashed its tail against the cage which threw us all to one side. The water was absolutely freezing, we had a bit of a "Titanic" moment with the shaking hands and quivering lips, but seeing those animals was just an unreal experience. 

The boat ride back was still choppy but this time we were also freezing cold. Some of the girls and I just cuddled as close as we could and covered ourselves up in whatever towels we could find. The crew were so nice, they saw us so chilly and offered their personal sweaters and jackets to keep warm with. The had a fireplace and hot soup at the office for us when we got back which was very comforting.

The bus ride back was another incredible experience. Our driver and tour guide (essentially) was so accommodating to us and took the longer route which drives up and down the coast. We saw some of the most beautiful, majestic scenery I've ever seen. (Okay, it was the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen). We stopped at this beach to take a few pictures and just took our time driving back. 

Tonight is a nice dinner downtown and some drinks, (by the way, drinks are super affordable here. A glass of wine is maybe 2 or 3 dollars USD and a cocktail is about the same) Tomorrow we have hired the same driver as today to drive us to the Cape of Good Hope and see the Southernmost Point in Africa, as well as check out the penguins and hopefully take a dip in the Indian and Atlantic Ocean.



Friday, January 21, 2011

Alright, Still!

So I was going to post day by day but that would most likely prove boring to the readers.
Let's just say this:

South Africa is hands down the most incredible experience of my life. I love the friends I've met here, its amazing how instantly we've all clicked and connected. The people of South Africa are warm, lively and inviting. I have yet to feel "unsafe" or scared of anything. The children at the school I'm teaching at are gorgeous and most are very sweet. I want to help them, make sure they have a nice day at school because I know they go home to very sad conditions. It feels like more than a week here so far. I love it here, I'm totally happy. I do miss three people (one is a dog) hahah, but that's about it!

Oh, and all 12 of us are going on a legitimate shark dive tomorrow. What the hell. I LOVE THIS.

If it is of any interests to people I post day by day replays of what happened, direct from my journal. I'll just wait till I get back in the states to do so.


<3 ac

First day of volunteering?

Bonjour from Africa!
So I'm kind of lying, it's friday and I've been here for much longer but there is no such thing as wifi in Mamre. ANYWAY.

Soooo. This is what happened Monday, the 18th of January:

We woke up early and ate breakfast with friends and ran a few errands around Sea Point (the neighbourhood in Cape Town where the volunteer house is). Taxis picked us up from the volunteer house at noon and we had orientation with the organization and found out I'd be living in Marme, South Africa. 11 others are staying in that same town so it's very lucky. Some are in different towns so we are separated. booo. The town is super small, I think population 6000. I'd actually say less than that. It reminds me of the town in "To Kill A Mockingbird," or some small town in Georgia or Alabama. Everyone knows everyone, quite a poor town but not the poorest. We have electricity and water. It makes you really appreciate things such as air conditioning.  Anyway, it's quite a basic accommodation, I am rooming with Michelle, a friend I met the first day in Cape Town. Hilda is our host mom, she is a petite lady who is a busybody. She's involved with so much in the town of Mamre. She is the supervisor of the Mamre accommodation so we can talk to her if there are any problems. Mamre is a community of colored people (the term they use, not my term). It's meaning is mixed of black, Malaysian and white blood, I'm pretty sure. We visited with Hilda and her friend Morgan before bed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Waka Waka

Second day:
Wonderful! I finally got some sleep...(it had been 2 days since sleeping in an actual bed...) Anyway a group of 6 of us decided to take a typical tourist trip of the city via the "Red Bus" tours that you see in almost every major city. It seemed a bit corny but it was so much fun. It helped us all get better acclimated with the city layout and see parts of it we might not have otherwise. It was nice because it allowed for getting on and off as you please, so we stopped at the waterfront area, which was similar to the Pier in San Francisco but less cheesy, though still super touristy. Then we stopped off at a lookout point on the way to Table Mountain, though no one was dressed to hike up it, we will do that later. The bus went on a scenic drive to Camps Bay which is a ritzy beach area. This place looks just like Miami Beach, except more beautiful and exotic. We dined al fresco at an Italian restaurant and walked by the beach (the water is freezing but such a rush to jump in for a moment). Then we headed back and walked along the beach boardwalk to our house. 

All the people here are very nice, I like that we are all here with similar interests of travelling, and pursuing the more global goals that we all seem to share. Tomorrow we go to the homestay and I probably won't have internet for another week or so. 

In conclusion,
I love Cape Town. It's so incredibly diverse, you really feel a strong culturally pull wherever you are. So many different ethnicities, lifestyles and contrasts are abound. It feels modern, and very safe. Sure you have the few dodge looking people here and there, but it is no where near as bad as anyone made it seem. I've realised the "warnings" and fear people try to instill in you are from people who have never been or had first hand experience, so what they know is from what "they heard somewhere," which is not a great source to base opinion on. Everyone should come to Cape Town!



Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Day

This day has been so surreal. From being totally uncomfortable, tired and restless on the flight from Frankfurt, to actually landing in Cape Town and getting to the volunteer house, to meeting new people and exploring the town.

First: Cape Town is so beautiful. I've hardly seen the best of it and I'm so taken aback by how amazing this city is. Very beachy, with Atlantic waves crashing on shore, to Table Mountain in the background of every view.

I've met some great people here so far, from all over. We went walking around the beach and to lunch today with my roommates, and tonight a group of us went to the center of nightlife for dinner and drinks at an African restaurant. Our house is about 1000 feet from the ocean, which is amazing.  I love this city. Not sure if that came across before. ;)

Anyway, Monday we fight out more details about the actual location of our volunteer projects, meet the family we are homestaying with and figure out the other logistics. I'm definitely going to keep in touch with the people I've met at the volunteer house so we can do day trips and weekend excursions together. So far, we are talking about swimming with penguins, wine tasting, sky diving, safari and *fingers crossed* Great White Shark diving. ALSO: The dollar to rand exchange rate is incredible.

Tomorrow the plan is to get some of the touristy "must see" stuff done, and hiking up Table Mountain. I've heard the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular so I'm very excited to do that.

Everything here is a new experience, I am enjoying it all.


Friday, January 14, 2011


This will not be my most interesting or insightful post.

Anyway-I landed in Frankfurt at 1030, I leave for Cape Town at 2250. As in ten hours later... I was all set to go explore the city but I got sick on the plane (yuck) and didn't sleep at all. So I determined I am too much of a zombie to wander Germany alone. Thank goodness they have sugar free redbull and plenty of outlets to charge my iPod on here.

There are these kids (guys around my age) playing some trancy electronic music on their MacBook behind me which is very good listening. I am currently watching planes go bye out the window... Only 6.5 hours left. Ug. I can't wait to get to South Africa. I still can't actually believe I'm going.

I need to learn other languages. I feel like such a moran whenever I go abroad because of this. It's my number one insecurity traveling.

Okay this was almost totally pointless but like I said, I'm totally dying of bordom at the moment.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


So tomorrow I will be leaving, flying from Orlando to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Cape Town. I'm flying with Lufthansa, which I've read only positive things about so I am hoping to enjoy a comfortable, pleasant flight. My only slight bit of hesitation about this entire thing is the 10 hour layover in the Frankfurt, GR airport. I don't know a word of German other than "thank you" and am probably going to be tired and confused while I'm waiting for my next flight.

I'm almost entirely packed, bringing only a small carry-on suitcase and a tote bag. I've condensed my luggage by a tenfold since initially packing, so I'm quite proud that I've got a carry-on only for 36 days of travel.

I am so excited to go to South Africa. I can't wait to meet the other volunteers, get to know the teachers, talk with the family I'll be homestaying with and explore the city of Cape Town.

It's hard for me to stop planning and looking ahead, for instance, I'm also working on teaching in Spain next October and planning my graduate school applications, but I have to remember to take these few weeks to really savor the moments of my trip.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why Travel?

So why bother travelling?
Earlier in my life it was to "escape" a life I "couldn't stand" and other dramatic reasonings of a teenager.
Then, it was to "explore" and assimilate into another culture, if only for a brief amount of time, and to inevitably return to my home craving more.

Now, this second reason still holds true somewhat, exploration of other cultures is one of the most rewarding reasons to travel. My focus now, after spending the past 3.5 years reading and learning about the world around me, is to understand by example. Through the intensive study of European and Latin American History, as well as European and Latin American politics, in addition to general political theory and Global Comparative Politics, I have built a basic framework for how I understand things in the world to be. I have studied influential political documents, books and manifestos. I have pieced together global connections and started to grasp the un-fleeting importance of globalization in this 21st century. I have personally researched extensively on the subjects of the development of nationalism in France and Latin America, also, the state of education in South Africa.

I am ready now, to see the world through new eyes, through an educated mind which will not rest. I will not stop asking questions, challenging things we so often accept as fact. I will not lament systems of old without dreaming up a solution of new. I will be proactive, not just observing anything, but doing, immersing myself, and helping to be apart of the change I want to see in the world.

This trip to South Africa, to teach, is not merely an "escape" or a chance to "see" life elsewhere. It is a chance to change, to develop and to progress. With the things I learn in Cape Town, I will start to make work in developing democracies a priority, while taking inspiration in order to help change the one I am a citizen of.

Take a moment to consider something previously unconsidered by you. That is what I am doing, and I will continue to say "yes" when I previously might have said "no." Continuous growth, continuous progression. Don't look back, only forward. Only consider what is to come.


Saturday, January 8, 2011


In regards to the shooting spree in Arizona today:

This act of violence is a reminder of how completely failed the US political culture is. The line between "partisan" and "life and death" is blurred more than ever today. Calling for an extraordinary renovation of the entire political system in this country which breeds hate and extremes. Politics are about policy, not extremity, though that is hard to tell given the sheer divide of this "two-party system."