Monday, August 27, 2012

Adventures and Poetic Life Lessons

Honestly, I had completely forgotten about the blog until a friend reminded me. I finally feel completely at home here and have become so consumed with having fun, exploring, running, classes, and homework that the blog had escaped my mind. As I was telling my mom the other day, so much happens that I would like to share with her and others that it is impossible to do so. It is also hard with something like this to then narrow down what to share. 

A little more than a week ago the majority of my LSCE group and I went to Capetown for the weekend. We all took the train from Lynedoch where we work and learn at Lynedoch Primary to Capetown and made our way to a hostel. That weekend I had the chance to eat at remarkable restaurants, explore Capetown, and even go to a Springboks game – the SA national Rugby team! Being in Capetown gave me a chance to see a different side of South Africa – one that appeared to be much more culturally diverse and a faster pace than Stellenbosch. At the end of the weekend we met up with our AIFS group and made our way to Cape Point and Boulders Beach to see the penguins! Those trips were definitely on my SA bucket list and it was an amazing experience! But who knew penguins were so unfriendly?

Another adventure I have had since last blogging was Shark Cage Diving! A few of my friends and I went on a boat in Gansbaii to Shark Alley where we jumped in a cage and got to see up close the massive and beautiful Great White Sharks. They fed them while we were there and so they came very close – one even latched on to the cage while I was in it giving me quite a view of his mouth, teeth, and eyes! Honestly the scariest thing I have ever done but it was one of the best experiences.
Things like shark cage diving, making my way to Capetown, staying in a hostel, running more and more, working with my third graders at Lynedoch, and my other classes have all demonstrated to me how I have already grown immensely in confidence and strength.  Whenever I reach an obstacle or am unsure I have no choice but to take a deep breath, laugh a bit, and find a solution.  These evolutions in myself make me wonder who I will be come November when I return stateside. The point of life as I see it is to constantly evolve to be a better version of yourself, to enjoy the moment, and to love yourself and others. It strikes me that I had to come all the way to South Africa to finally be able to begin to truly embody these principles.  South Africa, the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the lessons of LSCE have already taught and allowed me to be more comfortable in my own skin. While I will never be perfect I certainly feel more comfortable with and appreciative of myself.

Sunday was the first night homesickness truly hit me. I was feeling very sick with a chest cough and needed my mom and familiar things! Luckily I have two amazing flat mates who have helped me through.  That night I went to church for the first time since being here which was absolutely amazing. It was just what I needed – a lively night of praising with people from all over. Finally I felt like I welcomed back into my heart what I was missing. While I still feel sick today I feel more centered and positive. Every day no matter where you are there are challenges – I am learning and have gotten better at facing and loving these challenges while abroad.  Watch out, what doesn’t kill me is making me one wicked strong woman and a happy one at that. South Africa is the time of my life…Table Mountain, the Garden Route, Kalahari Desert Safari, and more to come soon!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Settling In

As my third week in South Africa comes to an end I counted that I have spent (if my math is correct) 20 days in South Africa with 111 remaining. This counting is due to a mix of emotions. For one, I am thoroughly enjoying my stay here and each day brings new challenges, excitement, joy, and lessons learnt. I finally feel adjusted and at home here and it feels as if it has been many more than 20 days here. On the other 111 days feels like such a long time! No matter how long I am away I will always miss my family, friends, and my Stonehill home. However, my classes, friends, and activities have been keeping me busy! My LSCE course is incredible – This week I bonded with the class, with my community partners, and with our director Grant’s unbelievable knowledge and insights. I find myself often noting what I call his “Grantisms” such as; “I am because you are,” “Nothing for us or about us without us,” and “the problem is never the problem – the problem is always the problem”. The wealth of knowledge and experience he holds and brings to us is so great that I am trying desperately to absorb as much as possible. One lesson that I have already learned from this experience is to be more in tune to what myself and others are feeling. For example, every class we “check in” with our names and how we are feeling and I have noticed that I rarely assess myself to determine exactly how I am feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Being aware of how I am doing in these aspects as well as how my peers are dramatically helps the energy of the room and my ability to be live in the moment mindfully. 

With my HIV/Aids course we are conducting a community project with the Kayamandi Township at the Legacy Center. With this project we are, in groups, paired with a community partner to address a need. Our partner brought us to the Creche, a day care center located in a shack where three ladies are trying desperately to take care of 15 children from infants to toddlers. These ladies have little resources to do so and often have to deplete their own pockets to feed the children. They simply are asking for mattresses and blankets and we as a group were given 1,000 rands (about 100 U.S. Dollars). We want to do so much for this deserving project – a new floor is need, the Creche needs to be expanded, books, toys, food, are all needed. But we may not even have enough to purchase the mattresses and blankets they are asking for. We as a group are struggling with this situation for we want to create a project that could be sustainable and include the community more than just simply purchasing materials. This project will certainly be an ongoing challenge throughout the semester and I will keep posting updates as it progresses. If there are any suggestions, comments, or questions about the project please don’t hesitate to leave comments or contact me at
One thing that has greatly helped me in my transition to life abroad has been keeping active! From running (which I’ve been improving so much on! It must be the air in South Africa…) to hiking being active has helped so much! Yesterday I went hiking at the Jonkershoek nature reserve where we hiked, saw waterfalls, explored, and even went a bit off the trail to do some little unplanned rock climbing… All in a day’s work! Now I am off to go for a run now that the rain has finally cleared!