Tuesday, September 25, 2012

There's No Place Like Home...

And by home (Sorry Mom…) I mean Stellenbosch. It took me a little more than two months and 9 days away traveling to truly feel it but there really is no place like home. It’s an odd thing finally feeling right at home thousands of miles away from the people you love the most. Yet through facebook and Skype I often don’t feel that far away. As my incredibly wise mom (brownie points!) once said – I have a whole crowd of people cheering me on back home who will be there when I return. I’ve learned how incredibly much everyone from home means to me – I guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder!

It is so strange to me to see many of my Stonehill friends just departing or settling in to their study abroad homes! LSCE remains a blessing as I continue to grow and discover challenges I never would have imagined I could overcome. My LSCE family is always there and my community partners and I have established a secure relationship where we learn more and more from each other each week. This week, my time working with my learners was cancelled and while I was relieved to have a break after lots of traveling, I missed my time with them and was excited to put in action the activities we planned! We have started our community projects with our learners which is challenging but so exciting! We are working hard to keep the project in the learners’ and teacher’s hand since the whole point is for us to enable empowerment and not dictate as first world outsiders. I’ll bring more news about the project as it unfolds – a bit of info since we are all so excited – book release party! Okay, that’s all I’m saying.

Now, you’ve probably seen the pictures but have you heard the stories? Okay this doesn’t exactly give me the space to dish out all the juicy details but I can at least give an account of all the activities. So it may sound crazy since it is September, fall, and the beginning of the academic semester back in the states. But in my part of the world, it may be September but it is spring and half way through the academic semester! So last week was spring break!

So first, the Garden Route!
Day 1: After a 7? Hour eventful night car ride straight from a full day of lecture at LSCE we finally arrived at our first backpackers! The following day we had a full animal day! First stop was Monkeyland where we had the chance to be up close and personal with a variety of species of monkeys – no cages just us and these active creatures! Next was the big cats at Tenikwa feline sanctuary where I got to see some of these amazing animals and even get my picture taken with a sleeping Cheetah which felt a bit too close for comfort and unnatural but very cool! Sure made my cats back home look like mice in comparison. Next we went to Knysna Elephant Park – my favorite stop of the day! As many of you know, coming to South Africa was no small feat for me. For numerous reasons, getting here took a whole lot of belief – as my Mom sent me “Sometimes you have to believe in something larger than yourself – I believe in elephants – and you!” The elephants we met had so much character my friend and I laughed the entirety of the time we fed these creatures as their trunk vacuumed the fruit from our hands! I’ll never forget my moments with them!

Day 2: If your friends told you to jump of a bridge would you do it too? Remember you parents asking you that? Well the answer is yes, yes I would and I did. The thought never crossed my mind to bungee jump when coming to South Africa – especially not off the highest commercial bungee jump bridge in the world at Face Adrenaline at the Bloukrans Bridge. But hey, while I’m feeling all more confident, care-free, and happy, why not? It was honestly the scariest thing I’ve done – but so worth it! What a view and I swear the adrenaline rush is still lingering! After that we went zip lining in the tree tops which was child’s play after bungee but relaxing and fun! For a person so vertically challenged I loved being so tall!

Day 3: Next we traveled a bit more and made our way to the Cango Caves – an adventure tour through the most amazing caves I’ve seen or imagine – like something from Indiana Jones! Then we were off to an Ostrich farm. Our guide introduced us to the creatures. Some got to ride the Ostriches. I did not agree with this practice – the birds looked in pain straining underneath their weight and it just didn’t sit right with me so I choose not to participate but also didn’t interfere with others’ experience. We also go to feed them which I did participate which was quite interesting! We also made our way to our next backpackers – a very charismatic little place!

Day 4: Next was a day off – which my friends and I took full advantage of and took a hike up to a waterfall! Such a beautiful time in nature complete with swinging branches, rustles in the bushes, and playing in the water! Then we were off to the beach!

Day 5: SO MUCH TRAVELING! We made our way back to Stellies. Then some of us got right back on the bus to Capetown where we got on another bus for a 12 hour trip to the Kalahari!


Day 6: We arrived in the Kalahari – a place I wouldn’t have believed existed if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. After setting up our tent, my friend and I went off on our run in the desert! Then we had a meeting and walk with a Kalahari San Bushman.

Day 7: Again, something I never believed I would be able to say I did – a full day safari in Africa! We saw a cheetah, leopard, lions, many many springboks, oryx, various birds, and other wild creatures. I got way too much sun and simply had a fantastic and unbelievable say.

Day 8: We drove to our next campsite, went wine and brandy tasting, and went on a sunset walk across beautiful Augrabies waterfall. At this campsite, monkeys and dussies were everywhere! One monkey even used our tent as a trampoline…

Day 9: Even though I feared falling in I braved it and did yet another un-Kristen-like adventure – river rafting! Surprisingly, I really enjoyed our trip through the Orange River! And survived the bugs! We began our 14 hour trek home…

My apologies for being so late on this post! Getting back into the swing of academics was tough and I’ve experienced many adventures since spring break that have kept me busy! I’ve realized I’m not very good nor do I really enjoy blogging – but don’t fear I have everything recorded in my journal!
Until I remember to do this again…

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