One suitcase, Four months

Well…I finally made it home! My one suitcase made it through my countless times moving from place to place and on a number of plane rides. Although at one point I thought it was going to rip apart because of all the stuff (luckily I had some duct tape my mom threw in my bag at the last minute which I said I would never use). I said goodbye to some of the most amazing people that I have met, some that I will see again and having lasting relationships with and others who came in and out of my life quickly but nonetheless taught me some very valuable lessons. The people that I met during my time abroad really made the whole experience worth it.

Over the last week my mom and I traveled around. We started in Cape Town where we did the typical touristy things like climb table mountain, visit Cape of Good Hope, go to the beach, eat delicious seafood, visited Bo-Kaap (a muslim neighborhood known for its incredibly vibrant colored houses), and did some wine tasting! It was all a lot of fun. From Cape Town we flew to a safari park called Thorneybush. We stayed in a lodge there for 2 nights and went on a lot of game drives which required us to get up at 4:30 am every day and then go out again at 4pm. But I wasn’t going to complain because we saw a TON of animals. We saw lions, rhinos, impala, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, a leopard and much more! We drove right up to the animals. If I wanted to, I could have reached out an touch them but I knew better! Other than game drives, we relaxed and ate food. It was wonderful! The most spoiled I had been in months. From Thorneybush we drove to another lodge called Arathusa (in the Sabi Sands) where we went on more game drives. We say mostly the same animals but there were a few highlights that we didn’t see previously. We got to see a lion eating a buffalo that it had just killed, chomping down and ripping it apart very violently. I kept saying how I wanted to see a leopard in a tree, thinking that it would never happen. Then, on the last day my guide asked me what I wanted to see before I went home and I told him, again thinking that this was a long shot. Finally, after two hours of searching, he got really excited about something over the radio and then sped up, driving really quickly. He stopped and said, look up, so I did and low and behold…a leopard in a tree! I was amazed and had to contain myself from yelling with excitement! It was the perfect end to a wonderful week of game drives.

And now the long journey home began…we packed up our bags, after having been up since 4am and drove to the airport. We took an hour long (extremely turbulent flight where I thought we were going to fall from the air) to Johannesburg. There, we had a 5 hour lay over because our next flight wasn’t scheduled to take off until 9pm. We got some lunch and then sat and waited for our flight. We had heard that it might be a little delayed because of a catering issue but we didn’t realize what was in store. We started to see that all of the flights before ours were being delayed, but so far no information about ours. Finally, around 8pm when we were supposed to start boarding, they made an announcement that our flight was delayed. We figured out that the catering company (the people who provide the in-flight meal service) had gone on strike. I was angry, anxious, and all I wanted to do was get home. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. Finally, at 10pm they announced that we were going to board. An hour later, we were on the plane and at 11:30pm we took off! I got dinner around 12:30am and then around 1am I was able to fall asleep for a little while. After 16 hours and 45 minutes of sleep, tv, movies, and books, and sitting uncomfortably, we landed in Atlanta! Our delay caused us to miss our connection home but we got on a later flight and finally made it back to Washington! I am home, safe and sound but already missing South Africa.

I am so grateful for the experience I had. While I was skeptical at first about my program and Durban, choosing SIT and South Africa was probably the best decision I have ever made. I learned from everyone I talked to, and I have countless memories to hold onto now. I have learned more about public health in a real life setting which will be incredibly valuable for my future. If you ask me about what my favorite part was I would have to say my first rural homestay experience. Learning Zulu dances and eating meat right off the bone in a cold, damp hut showed me that you don’t have to have a common language to communicate. Laughing and singing and eating with my friends and “family” was our communication. While I may not have fully digested my experience there, I do know that it has impacted me. I have learned more about myself than ever before. It may take weeks, months or even years to figure out what this experience has taught me and how to make meaning out of it. But for now, I sit back and realize how fortunate I am and how fortunate I was to have met all of these wonderful people in South Africa. IMG_1677 IMG_0395 IMG_0415 DSC_0565 DSC_0389 DSC_0138 DSC_0194 DSC_0217 DSC_0010

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Cape Town Day 1

My days in Durban have come to an end (time has flown by!) and now I am in Cape Town for my last week abroad. We are here doing presentations on our ISPs but in between that we will have time for touring around. Cape Town is beautiful and I don’t want to leave already. This afternoon, after we got settled into our backpackers a small group of us went down to Camps Bay Beach (a beachfront area with a lot of restaurants and people moving about). We ate a really good lunch and got soft serve ice cream and then walked around the beach. The water is so different from Durban. It’s calm (no waves whatsoever), clear blue water, white sand, and mountains surround the whole beach front. One of the things that stuck out to me besides how beautiful it is, is that the cars actually stop for you! There are actual crosswalks and when you step out into the street the cars don’t want to run you over, they stop! Tomorrow I give my final presentation and then the semester comes to a close. I cannot believe my time here is almost over but I can’t wait to make these next two weeks (with traveling) a lot of fun!

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera out today but don’t worry lots of photos to come soon!

Bafana Bafana

Hey all!

Over the weekend my friends and I went to see the South African National soccer team play against Sudan. We won! It was really fun and the game took place inside the 2010 World Cup stadium. It wasn’t even packed to capacity and it was so loud and the energy was very contagious. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like during the World Cup! Oh and the team is called Bafana Bafana (which is why post is titled that, if you were confused! It also means “Boys Boys”) The yellow mark on my cheek is a painted stamp that says Bafana Bafana and has the team symbol.

Here are some photos from the event:

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Arts & Crafts

I am approaching the three weeks until the end of my program mark and it is hitting me how much Durban has become another home. I was sitting on the bus on the way to the SIT office the other day and I looked at some of the tourists on the bus. I realized that I didn’t feel like a tourist at all. I have been here so long that I felt like a part of the city, an expert at getting around and using public transportation among other things. I hope to fill these next few weeks with as many adventures and fun stories as possible. For now, here is a run down of what I have been doing besides my ISP.

Saturday, some of my friends and I went to a market at the stadium. It was a market that sold local items made from residents of the area. They had jewelry stands, clothing, artwork, bags, scarves and a whole lot more! There was also delicious food and we all shared a falafel and baklava! Sunday I went to the botanic gardens (South Africa’s oldest standing gardens) and brought a picnic lunch and sat in the park for a concert. It was beautiful outside and really nice to enjoy some great music among friends and locals. The group that performed was Ladysmith Black Mambazo (who have been called the “Rolling Stones of South Africa”) and the other was Johnny Clegg. They were both excellent and listening to music was a great way to spend a Sunday!

So that was my arts and crafts weekend! Hopefully more fun to come soon!

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A Food and Music Weekend

Saturday: Despite the rain and cold weather on Saturday, three of my friends and I traveled 20 minutes up to Umhlanga for a food and music festival. Umhlanga is a residential and resort town north of Durban on the coast. It’s filled with newly renovated hotels and apartments right along the beachfront. We all got a lot of food and drinks and shared them all. I had a butternut squash, feta, caramelized onion and spinach wrap, some chicken and avocado pizza, and a few bites of this chicken sandwich! We also sat and listened to some local bands who played really good music! It was really nice to relax with friends and eat some good food. Although, being there made me think about my first lecture while in South Africa. My professor mentioned how South Africa is a country with areas of extreme wealth surrounded by areas of extreme poverty. I have definitely experienced both of those areas. Two weeks ago I was living with a family who didn’t have enough water and Saturday I was surrounded by fancy cars and endless amounts of food and drinks.

Sunday: I had a pretty lazy Sunday but my night included walking about 30 minutes to a drum circle that was located inside a market. When we got there, it was dark, the market was closed, and we didn’t really know if we were in the right place. We finally found this drum shack and talked to the man who owned the place. He said that he fixes drums and on Sunday’s locals come by, talk and play their drums together. We were invited to stay and we were each given a drum. Having never touched a drum before, I was a little nervous to participate but when in South Africa….trying it was definitely necessary! I quickly learned that it is hard to do something wrong and you can’t really mess it up. The man leading the circle showed us what to do and we followed his instructions. I must have looked like I knew what I was doing because one of the guys came up to me and asked if I had ever drummed before! It was really fun and probably one of my favorite moments so far on the program.

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Chatsworth Excursion

Since coming back from my rural home stay, I have moved into an apartment by the beach with three other friends! I have been working on assignments for my last two weeks of classes. Tomorrow marks my last day and then I start my Independent Study Project for a month. I will be researching orphans and vulnerable children in Durban, South Africa but more on that later. Yesterday, my group took a day trip to a town called Chatsworth. There, we visited a hospice center that is completely free. Individuals don’t have to pay to live there, eat, or use special services like massage therapy or counseling. Chatsworth has a large Indian population, so after the hospice center we went to eat Indian food at this Hare Krishna Temple. I tried a lot of new and interesting foods and sweets which I really enjoyed. One dessert I had was the texture of marzipan and had different spices in it. It was orange and finger shaped, so it didn’t look the most appealing, but it was still great! After eating, we visited inside the Temple. It had beautiful frescos inside covering all the walls and ceiling of the Temple. We spoke to a follower of the Temple and he told us about his beliefs and Hare Krishna. He mentioned how we are the drivers of our bodies, and that the goal of our life should be to achieve Maslow’s last hierarchy of needs which is “self-acualization”. Everything he said was very interesting but I could tell his main goal was to get us to join his Temple and adopt the same beliefs. Overall, it was a very enlightening experience.

So after two months of classes, I am ready to start my Independent Study Project and begin a new adventure in South Africa!

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