Friday, December 30, 2011

I PET A LION CUB and other adventures

Sorry, I meant to update this before we left South Africa but I never got around to it so now this post is going to be looong. The past couple weeks have been crazy busy! I guess I’ll start back at Cape Town.

It was a great weekend! Cape Town is huge. We stayed at a really cool hostel with tons of murals all over the walls and each room had a different theme. We all stayed in one room, the “cosmos” room, which was probably the least interesting theme because it pretty much looked like a little girl’s room, but still. On the first day we walked down to the waterfront, which is sort of like a boardwalk area with lots of shops and naval ships sitting around. We went to the aquarium and found a movie theater which was SO exciting since we haven’t seen a movie in months. We watched the new Twilight movie, which was awful, but being in the theater was enough. We took a train to Simonstown to see the African penguins chillin’ on the beach. The train ride was pretty cool, too – when we bought our tickets the lady at the counter was so shocked that we wanted third class but it was not that uncomfortable and it was interesting to see all the musicians and vendors who came through. We went to the beautiful Kirstenbosch gardens and caught a free concert on this huge lawn there. We also visited the Company Gardens and had a picnic on the beach one night. Arden and Sarah got tattoos at a place we found in town, and Katie and I got our noses pierced. Just a little stud, but I’m a bit nervous that it’s going to be hard to take care of here in India. So far it’s fine, though. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I first got it but it’s definitely growing on me! It’s nice to have it in India for a while because tons of people here have one, so I totally blend right in. But anyway we tried to go out to the supposedly great clubs in Cape Town one night but had little success. One place we went into was packed with people, really busy, and then like five minutes after our arrival it was deserted – we must have killed the vibe – it was hilarious. So overall the trip was great, except that everything was expensive so now I’m broke. And except that on the drive back our bus kept overheating and so our 8-hour ride turned into an 11-hour ordeal with no air conditioning. And none of the windows opened. It was so hot we couldn’t move. Quote of the trip was Chris, “I feel sticky enough to climb a wall.”

We returned to Plett and after a few days had our media project presentations to the community, and a farewell braai (of course there was a braai, there’s ALWAYS a braai). Kayce and Amanda made dirt pudding for dessert – in case you are unfamiliar with this DELICIOUS dish it is chocolate pudding with mashed up oreos and gummy worms, basically the best thing ever. The media projects turned out well and it was a fun farewell celebration. We said goodbye to our caregivers which was sad, and the next morning we said goodbye to our host families and left for Enrichment Week!

Oh, but before we left Mijal and I managed a little wreckage in our host family’s (Daniel and Chrissy’s) house. There was one day when Mijal was working on her media project late so she told me to listen for her yell outside the gate of our apartments so I could let her in. I was getting anxious because she hadn’t come home and so when I heard her outside I was running to get the clicker to open the gate and hurrying outside to let her in and failed to notice that the sliding glass door was closed. I ran straight into it and popped it right out of the door frame! Before I even knew what had happened I found myself standing outside, holding this heavy door with a big smudge from my forehead on it. I was torn between uncontrollable laughter and panic – Daniel and Chrissy were out running errands and I had to fix the door before they came home! So I’m yelling at Mijal to come help me quickly, meanwhile we’re both doubled over in laughter, and just as we are hoisting the door up to try to jam it back into the frame, Daniel and Chrissy pulled up in the driveway. Oops. Luckily they just laughed at me and we were able to fix the door. Then another day Mijal was trying to do a pull-up on a pull-up bar in the house and she was doing great, pulled herself all the way up, and then it came off the wall and plummeted to the ground with her still hanging on. It was pretty funny. She was fine, by the way.

But yes, enrichment week. We spent it at Addo National Park. Highlights of the week included hanging out at our NICE lodge which was tucked away near a bunch of lemon orchards and a river, beautiful. We played games on Christmas and watched some of the new season of The Office, went to the reptile and raptor center and held some horrifying boa constrictors. One of the best parts was the cheetah center where we got to cuddle with lion cubs and a cheetah cub. SO CUTE. We went on a full day safari and saw lions, tons of elephants, a rhino, and lots of warthogs which are surprisingly adorable. They have to kneel down on their forearms to drink! We spent one day kayaking in a river and another hiking to a cool cave with waterfalls and having a picnic lunch at a beautiful waterhole. It was an awesome week.

Then we left for India! The travel was awful so when we arrived at our families we had slept like 3 hours in the past who knows how long, it was so disorienting. During our long layover in Mumbai we all laid out on the floor of the airport and crashed – typical homeless TBB students. We were surprised to find out that we weren’t in our host families alone – I’m with Julia in the Gupta family’s home! They are very friendly and can understand English which is nice. They mostly speak Hindi, though, which we are picking up word by word. We had one Hindi lesson today and we’ll definitely need it to get around Jaipur. Our house has a nice terrace on the roof where our host brother says he’ll teach us to fly kites. He’s also going to teach us to play cricket. So far the food here has been delicious. My favorite has been this potato thing we had for breakfast that was kind of like a hash brown but with vegetables in it. There’s lots of chai tea, all the time, and curries. I’m impressed with myself for liking it all. Also, our house is about a five minute walk from the famous Laxmi Narayan Temple, which is huge and completely white marble with tons of carvings. Julia and I walked there on our first day. Our host sister has told us there is a gym nearby too, which we plan on investigating, because I definitely need it…

We have a lot to look forward to. We had our first seminar on education today. We’re trying to answer questions like “Does everyone need the same education?” “Who decides what is taught?” “Are students and teachers equal?” We’re starting our work project soon – we’re running three different projects, stuff like teaching English to disadvantaged kids and teaching computer skills to women. It’ll be interesting. I’m also excited for New Years Eve – our family is taking us to a party on someone’s roof terrace. They say it’ll have a DJ and that we probably won’t get back till like two in the morning – yeah, gettin’ crazy here! The Kite Festival in Jaipur is also coming up soon, hopefully we’ll learn before then so we can join! Julia and I are also going shopping with our host sisters to find some Indian garb, they all wear beautiful colors here. Plus they’ve got these killer socks that have a space between the big toe and other toes so you can comfortably wear your socks with your sandals. I fully intend to score some of those. And of course there’s tons more to look forward to but I’ll save it for later!

Happy New Years to everyone!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Howzit is how English speakers here always greet each other, haha, I'm so cultural. Or molo, that's Xhosa hello. Actually I should say molweni because that's plural hello. I know, you're impressed. That's almost the extent of the Xhosa I can pronounce though so...

Happy birthday to Dad Mai who requested a blog post as his birthday present. Love ya paps

Since I last wrote....

South Africa has continued to be incredible. I've learned so much. Our work in the townships has made the HIV/AIDS epidemic so so real. We're learning to understand HIV as more than a virus, but also the social, economic, cultural, and historical context that makes it such a challenge here. Just treatment and prevention aren't enough to fight an epidemic without taking into account the environment in which it's spreading. Poverty, gender inequality, infrastructure, lack of educational and economic opportunities, cultural beliefs about AIDS and treatment, the historical legacy of apartheid, and so many other factors contribute.

December 1st was World AIDS Day and we planned an event to raise awareness on the beach in Plett. It was pretty difficult because we were in the middle of Plett rage, so almost all the beach-goers were high school graduates who were there to party and difficult to engage with in meaningful conversation. Arden, Julia, and I walked around trying to get people to come to our booth and talk about the epidemic by offering red ribbon facepaint which was actually very popular. It was fun

We also went bungee jumping last weekend!! Off the highest bungee bridge in the world, 216 meters which is over 700 feet. It was INSANE! The jumping order was randomly selected by the staff there so I ended up having to go first which made me even more nervous. I was freaking out. After I got tied up by my ankles they scooted me over to the edge of the bridge and counted down from five. They counted really fast though, which was good because I didn't have time to think and I just jumped! It was an amazing experience! The first few seconds were unlike anything I've felt before, since you can't feel the bungee cord yet and it seems like you're literally flying. No whip lash but my ankles did feel like they were going to fall off because the rope was so tight. Gah, incredible.

We have also gone on more beautiful hikes in the area. One really cool one was the Robberg Peninsula where we saw tons of seals on the beach. It is all gorgeous.

It's hard to believe we only have about a week and a half left in Plettenberg Bay! We have made so many funny friends, such as King, the guy who works at the movie rental store, or Keira, who owns what we all call "the smoothie place." Or the kids we met on the beach during Plett rage. I'll miss our rounds with the patients - it has been great to actually see some of them start to feel better while we've been here. And of course the quirky nurses at the clinic and my caregiver Sindiswa. We still have some time together, though, too soon to be sad.

Getting really excited for Independent Student Travel weekend, we're taking a bus to Cape Town for a few days. I'll tell you about it in the next post. Till then, please email me or message me or something because I miss everyone and I know more than a couple of you said you would write! Love from South Africa