Megan in South Africa Blog

Studying Abroad at University of Cape Town

Quick Update on my life. October 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 7:12 pm

So I haven’t done this in a while because I’ve been too busy doing fun things. Going back a while; we spent a weekend in Hermanus, which is supposed to be the best place in the world for land based whale watching. I’ve never seen a whale before, and since shark cage diving blew my mind about how big sharks were, I was really pumped to see whales. We decided to spend the night in a backpackers lodge, and wandered around the town for the whale festival that they have every year to welcome back the whales. There weren’t that many whales because it was still really early in the season, and it was pretty hard to tell the difference between big rocks and whales, but it was still really neat to see a tail every once and while.
Then I had a whole week of classes until my parents came to Cape Town! They flew in on a Thursday and were planning on staying until the next Saturday. Most other people’s parents came during our spring break, but this was pretty cool because we could just do day things around the city every day after I was done with classes. We started off with walking around UCT, the waterfront, and downtown Cape Town. We ate at all the restaurants I’m too cheap to go to on my own, took the cable-car up Table Mountain, did some wine tastings in Stellenbosch and Franschoek, and wandered around the National Botanical Gardens.
Since most days I’m in class until around noon, those were some of the fun afternoon things we got to do. I don’t really have class on Tuesdays and Fridays, so those were the days we got to go places farther away. We went to Cape Town’s closest Big 5 safari, which was really nice, not quite like the ones I went to on spring break, but we did get charged by a rhino, and watched our guide smell poop to guess which animal it came from. We also made a trip through Hermanus because I liked it so much, but actually kept driving past it to head to Gansbaai so we could go shark cage diving together. The waves were pretty crazy that day, much much worse than the first time I went. By the time we got out to the place where they were dropping the cage, everyone on board was feeling pretty nauseous. My dad and I suited up in big wetsuits, and once the first shark came we dropped into the cage. We saw some huge ones from in there, but from in the cage every time you came up for air you would get a big wave in your face because of how rough the water was. Long story short, my dad and I both got seasick at the exact same time over the side of the boat (which they encourage to help chum the water). After pretty much the entire boat except my mom had barfed, the crew decided to take us in. We had some lunch and on the way home pulled over in Hermanus so we could see if there were any more whales than the last time I was there. This time there were tons! But it was really hard to take a picture without it just looking like a rock. But it was cool anyway.
I slept in their fancy hotel a few of the nights, and it really made me miss my bed at home. But I’m actually really going to miss Highstead when I leave. I think all three of us were pretty tired by the end of the week. After whatever activity we did during the day, we would head to Camps Bay or Signal Hill or somewhere fun for happy hour and sunset watching, which was always a nice way to end a day.
That weekend, almost everyone in CIEE, plus just about everyone in Cape Town headed to a three day music festival called Rocking the Daises at a wine estate in Darling. With my parent’s flight on Saturday night, we decided to head to Darling on Saturday in the hopes that there would be a cool town we could have lunch before they dropped me off there before heading back to the airport. There wasn’t really a cool town. Or anything at all really, except this one wine estate place. So we said bye in the parking lot, and I walked in past a bunch of shirtless smoking dirty looking people, with my green sleeping bag and backpack to go find my tent. Big giant loser that day.
But that was just because I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I bought my tickets. Turns out it was so much fun. Even though I didn’t know any of the bands, there were four stages and over 100 different acts all together. We had really tiny tents, but the weather was absolutely beautiful. The craziest people were wandering all over the place, and there was a giant lake in the middle where everyone was swimming. We listened to the music, wandered around, ate and drank and had so much fun.
After that weekend, it was back into the swing of classes, but since the weathers been getting really warm, I’ve been spending a lot of time after classes at Muizenburg, Clifton, Camps Bay, Kalk Bay, and other beachy places. I figure I should take advantage of it now, since when I have to come home in a month (?!) and it’ll be freezing in comparison. This past weekend I spent both days at the beach since it was at least eighty degrees both days. And this weekend there is a Kite Festival at Muizenburg, which I want to go see. With only a month left it’s kind of nerve-racking to be making the most of everyday, while still finishing up the work for classes, and getting ready for finals. I’m trying to make some travel plans for when I finish finals, because I’ll still have ten days to kill before I have to head home. Right now I’m thinking potentially Durban, Joburg, or maybe Mozambique. We’ll see what happens.

 

if you dont know the words, just shout something. September 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 6:41 pm

So this past weekend we took a short drive to Ocean View Township, which one of the areas where the forced removals took place during Apartheid. We were going to do a home stay with families there, where we spent the weekend with them from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. It was a really eye opening experience, the people opened their homes up for the entire weekend to a bunch of Americans they knew nothing about, and almost everyone who went came out of it having had a great weekend, for me, it was pretty interesting, kinda awkward, and mostly just new.

Once our bus arrived, we went to the high school and watched the township high school break dancers perform a show for us while we all had dinner as a get to know you with our families. Once we went back to the house, I realized it was going to be a big challenge to understand a lot of what my host dad said. He had a really heavy accent; I couldn’t understand where he said the mother was, and I stayed in a room with his two ten year old daughters, who only said one thing to me the entire weekend: “so you’re from America?—is there a war in America?” and that was that for our bonding.

On Saturday we took a walk around Ocean View and the father showed me where the rest of his family is, and talked about how he is the town pastor, and runs mass every weekend in his garage for eleven people, and his wife runs a daycare in the back of their house as well. So it’s a busy household especially with hectic weeks, it was really nice of them to let me mooch off them all weekend.

The most interesting part of the weekend was Sunday morning. I was invited to attend mass with the daughters, and a township mass is one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. Women and men of all different ages just screaming things out. At first they are all really cheerful, things like ‘praise Jesus’ and ‘merciful god’ or just ‘oh yes!’. Long story short, the mass lasted almost four hours. Tons of loud singing, and an open mic policy in regard to any readings. Anyone who wanted to say something could just up and say it. There were people who would get up and run around the altar for entire songs, and if you didn’t know the song you could just yell out anything you wanted. By about three hours in, it got pretty hectic. Every single person in the place was crying, even the young people, were all sweating and screaming.

As much of a culture shock this was to me, when I went home to explain it to my host family about what mass is like at home, in that it’s the same thing every week, one person reading from the bible, and a small little homily about it, they were shocked. There are a few songs that everyone generally knows, and if you don’t the words are in a book next to the bible. Everyone’s quiet, if your baby cries then you take him outside, and if you feel like not singing you don’t have to. But that’s the thing, people left this mass just in tears. Here, if the people feel something, they scream it out so everyone knows, if they’re guilty about something, they run up and grab the microphone and tell the congregation about it. There’s no one on one confession, you tell everyone, because everyone has their own problems too. It was definitely an interesting four hour experience, and it must be draining having it each weekend, but it’s the township culture to make mass an all day event.

Afterward we came back to the house, and people from mass just kept coming over. More and more people came and brought tons of food, and then before I was able to talk to all of them, I had to return to the buses to come back to Highstead.

It was an interesting weekend to say the least, I’m excited to be back in my bed, but not that excited about the workload I have coming up, since there really are only five weeks left of classes and two months left in Cape Town.
But in other news! My parents come in nine days!!!

 

My Passport Looks Great

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 5:33 pm

So I just returned from the most incredible spring break I think I could ever hope to take. Although it was the biggest pain in the butt to plan the entire nine day vacation that we had, it all ended up working out better than I expected. We decided to go through a travel agency so that we didn’t have to plan everything day by day, and although it was a lot more money than working everything out by ourselves, it felt a lot safer to be with guides that knew where we were and what we could do at each place.

We did everything, and went through four countries. So this is going to be a long one… From the beginning, we left the Cape Town airport on Saturday morning, for the second day in a row that we had a four am wake up call. We met up with the rest of our group at the terminal gate, and all slept straight through to the Jo-burg airport. Quick little layover and then on to Livingstone which is in Zambia and is also the town where Victoria Falls is.

Our trip was called through Livingstone to Livingstone, but I didn’t really know what that meant until we started. Once we arrived in Livingstone, we headed to our ‘hotel’ which we were told we were going to stay in the first and last night. It didn’t take long to realize that the Zambian version of a hotel is a tent that’s already set up for you, rather than setting it up ourselves. So after settling in our tents and coating ourselves with a layer of bug spray, we headed out to explore the campsite. It was right on the Zambezi River where we could watch the sunset, and found a place to plan activities for the next day. We then met up with our guides who would be taking us everywhere, Calisto and Prince. Both were from Zimbabwe, and they each knew a lot about all the areas we went to. Because it is so dangerous to drive around by yourself in these places, it’s a really good idea to have a big car with someone that is experienced driving on the roads. Most of them were unpaved, and the paved ones had hippo sized potholes, so it would almost be better if they were unpaved. But anyway, our two guides switched off driving on the long routes, and helped us to get to know each area we were staying in.

After we met up with them at the campsite, we took a sunset boat dinner cruise down the Zambezi. We all started freaking out when we saw our first hippo in the water and an elephant on the side of the river; little did we know that those sightings would become a commonplace over the next eight days. Nevertheless, the first sighting was pretty great. After the cruise ended, we went back to the campsite and headed to bed in the tents. They were two people tents, and I bought a big green sleeping bag for the whole break. After a slight freak out over the size of the bugs that were flying around outside, we zipped up the tent and our sleeping bags really quick, and did our best to fall asleep.

So, woke up the next morning convinced that I had malaria, due to the thirty bites I had on one leg that weren’t there the night before. I guess I didn’t, since I’m fine now, but at the time it looked like I had chicken pox on one leg. Once I tried to get out of the tent to go tell everyone that I definitely got malaria in my sleep, there were dozens of monkeys everywhere. Climbing on each other and the tents or trees, and eating things off each other. They were just everywhere you looked! Little ones and big ones and some baboons, yet another thing I’ve never seen anything like.

This day was wide open for us to choose something we wanted to do from a bunch of options. I learned my lesson after bungee jumping that that was the last thing I wanted to do, so while a group went out white water rafting, the rest of us stayed back and read by the Zambezi, and decided to meet up with them that afternoon for abseiling? Which I didn’t know what was when I signed up. Turns out it wasn’t a whole lot better than bungee… First you were supposed to do a Gorge Swing, where you basically bungee jump, but instead of a bridge it’s a gorge, and instead of bouncing back up you swing to the other side. Stood on the edge of that for about three seconds before realizing that it was a bad idea. Then they wanted us to do a Flying Fox, which is where you are tied up to a zip line thing, and are just supposed to run off the gorge. It took me a while, and once I was out there I was ready to come back in, but I did it. Then, finally, I learned what abseiling is. They hooked me up and I repelled down the mountain, so it’s that thing where you kick yourself off and drop like five feet each time. That was a disaster, I kept spinning the wrong way and hitting the gorge with my back or head instead of my feet. But it was still pretty fun, and since you didn’t ever have to look down it wasn’t that scary, so that was my favorite part.

The next day our guides drove us to Victoria Falls! Definitely no question why it is a wonder of the world. It seems like it goes on forever, and there is just a constant rainbow over it in about three different places. You get to walk around the whole thing, and later in the trip we found out we would get to see it from the Zimbabwe side too, since the two countries share it. After we were finished taking hundreds of pictures of the falls we headed to the border so that we could cross into Botswana. We had to take a ferry with our truck to get there, and got our passports stamped again. In Zambia we had the Kwacha currency, which was pretty strange looking, more like monopoly money than anything else. When we went out to lunch there a sandwich was 45,000 kwacha, but that was really only like four or five US dollars. So we exchanged out Kwacha to Puma, the Botswana currency, and headed out for the next campsite. I set up my first tent! A big green thing, a little tricky this time, but by the end of the trip I was a champion tent setter upper, but only if it was still light out, the dark ones were a lot harder. So then we set up the campfire and the guides told us all about Botswana and the people, and we were warned that the campsite was on the edge of Chobe National Park, and it was pretty common for elephants and hippos to wander into the campsite since none of the parks around are actually fenced. We saw plenty of baboons, but luckily we avoided any elephants running through the camp. We headed off to bed, crossed our fingers to avoid malaria again, and fell asleep for an early wakeup call the next day.

We woke up super early the next day to go on a sunrise game drive. Most of the animals sleep during the day and are out and about early in the morning, so we were able to see a lot of them. The only way to get around the places we were in were pickup trucks with three or four rows of seats in the pickup part of it. So we piled in there and tried to search for the big five all morning. The big five is the nickname given by hunters to the five hardest animals to hunt and kill successfully, because if you miss you probably won’t walk away from it okay. We drove around Chobe National Park, and were able to see all of the big five except the leopard. It was so cool. We almost ran into a water buffalo, and saw families of elephants going out for breakfast. That night we went for another sunset game cruise, where we were able to get up close to the animals from the water perspective instead of the off roads we did that morning. We got so close to hippos and crocodiles and a ton of other animals you could almost reach out and touch them. We watched a baby hippo stand up to an entire herd of elephants, and win, and enough giraffes and crocodiles to hold me over for the rest of the trip, and the finally, the most incredible sunset you could ever hope to see. The whole sky is every shade of red and orange and yellow.

Throughout the game drives and cruises, it was pretty easy to see that the Lion King is actually kind of accurate. The names for things like Pumba and Nala are actually the real names for the animals here. I also got to see a Zazoo, and baboons are really actually crazy. Just like Rafiki (which is also the name of a really fun bar).

The next day we crossed the border into Namibia, which is almost entirely off road-ing because barely anything is paved. Our campsite for Namibia was almost five miles off a main ‘road’ into the middle of nowhere, but our tents were set up right on the water of the Okavango delta, where there were always at least four hippos in plain sight. There was a constant bushfire across the delta for our entire stay in Namibia, and every once and a while ash would rain down on us, and at nighttime, while the stars came out there would be a big red smoke cloud across from us. We would wake up every morning to hippos snorting, and fall asleep under the most beautiful stars in the world. We took a Mokoro ride the next morning, which was a nice long stroll down the delta in a dugout canoe. We were SO CLOSE to hippos. One of them was walking along the beach as we were strolling past, and he jumped in after us and started swimming over, but we just paddled a little faster and got away. We saw a group of about fifty of them all yawning and spitting and being cute. It’s weird, because I’m not sure why that was allowed… I get the game drives, if something bad happens, we can drive away, but we were at water level, and I accidentally almost tipped us once…but it was so much fun.

The weather was so beautiful the entire time we were on break. It was at least ninety every day, probably hotter. Each night when it cools off our guides would start by telling us about the area we were in, and the traditions of the tribes of Namibia or Botswana. On the last day, we went to see Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, which was even more beautiful than the Zambian, much more powerful and tons more water.

It was an incredible spring break.

 

more people die each year from toasters than sharks.. September 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 9:42 pm

It’s been a really busy week trying to get all my class work done before spring break this weekend. I’m so excited! A group of us are flying out of Cape Town Airport in the morning to Jo-Burg, and then up to Livingstone, where Victoria Falls is. Somehow throughout the next ten days, I’m seeing Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia… I just don’t really know the exact order, or what’s going to happen in each place. BUT I bought a big green sleeping bag and some bug spray because were camping the whole time! I’m going camping in Botswana for ten days… that’s so fun to just think about, and I haven’t even done it yet. I know a safari is in there somewhere too.
Quick summary of things this week since I have to go to sleep because our flight is at 5 am… So, this week marked the first day of spring! Hopefully that also means the end of rainy season, which is winter, and the start of beach days. This week unfortunately was pretty rainy, so maybe it was getting it all out of its system so spring can come.
Thursday was volunteering again at the Ark. The one girl that I like a lot, Tatum, was pretty down and we eventually found out that on her way home from school that day on the public bus a man grabbed her by the collar and broke her necklace. She went on to explain that the necklace belonged to her mother, who lives in Jo-burg with her four brothers and sister who Tatum rarely ever gets to see. This really upset me, and afterward I talked to someone who is volunteering through a program called Young in Prison. They visit youth who are in prison, many of whom still in their preteens. The volunteers were warned before getting involved in the project that these kids were in prison for a reason. They stole, killed, raped, etc… but all deserve the extreme punishment that they are receiving. Once we chatted, and I realized that the people they are visiting are the people harassing the people that I am visiting, it was a really strange feeling. You almost don’t know who to feel worse for.
Also at the Ark that day was an older woman who asked where I was from. When is said New Jersey and she didn’t recognize it I said it was close to New York, she answered by saying she used to live there. When I asked where, she said under the Brooklyn Bridge, laughed and rambled on in Afrikaans. I’m still not sure what to make of that encounter.
This morning I went shark cage diving!!! It was incredible. Hands down the coolest thing ever and definitely kicked bungee jumping’s butt. A van with a big shark on it picked us up at 430 this morning, and we drove/slept two hours to Gansbaai, where they gave us coffee and toast while giving us instructions for what to do once were out there. We took the boat for 15 minutes out to a certain point in the ocean, where we put on our wetsuits with big hoods and booties, and they dropped the cage in along with a whole bunch of dead fish and chum. Once one huge shark came, we jumped in the cage, and a whole bunch more came! We were probable in there for around forty minutes, and it was just the coolest thing in the world. These sharks were HUGE. Most were bigger than the cage, and they would bump into it or just check it out. There was also a man on the boat who would have a giant dead fish head on a rope, and he would throw it out and pull it back in to get the sharks closer to our cage. It was absolutely amazing. Also, apparently Great White Sharks are predicted to be completely extinct within the next 20 years?! Because supposedly when sharks are hunted, they shoot for the biggest ones, which are the most capable of breeding new sharks, so this causes a whole issue. I love sharks.
SPRING BREAK SPRING BREAK SPRING BREAK!
I have to go to sleep now, so I can try to get some kind of rest before the flight. I think I’m going to really like camping.

 

How’s Megan Feeling. August 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 4:07 pm

I joined the swim team on campus! It’s called the UCT aquatics club, and I had to join the boy’s team because girls don’t really do it that much here. I went to meet the coach one time last week, just so I knew I could find the pool, and make sure it was okay if I joined, but don’t really feel like being serious about it.

At first when I went to join the team, the lady in the office told me that it doesn’t start until September when the outdoor pool warms up. Long story short, I find out a month later that ‘Learn to Swim’ Lessons start in September, and I was supposed to say aquatics club? Or something like that, because that’s been going on all semester. So I finally got in touch with the right people, who set me up with where the pool is, and it’s about a ten minute walk from where I live in Rondebosch, at a private high school’s outdoor but heated pool. Swimming isn’t popular at all here, and I stunk up the first practice pretty hard, but only because they do everything so weird.

It was just really confusing and different than home. You’re supposed to swim next to each other, like two people in a lane next to each other, instead of in front and behind. But that’s silly, and everyone I went next to would be doing butterfly or going really slow or it just didn’t make sense. So I told the person I was next to that we should just circle swim, and after running into everyone in the pool a few times, I realized they swim like they drive, and that it goes opposite. But then to get used to that I had to maneuver the strangest looking flip turns, and the whole thing was just a disaster.

Also, there are two girls that were in the pool that thought the strangest things were the coolest in the world. They loved my crappy pair of goggles held together with duct tape, (Oh my god… speed sockets! Did you see her goggles! Look at them!)  And they liked playing a game at the walls where I would try to talk like them and they would try to talk like me, which definitely didn’t go well. And at one point the coach gave out a set in Afrikaans, I guess forgetting I’m there, and everyone just took off doing different things while I failed at piecing together anything he said. Such a weird practice. But I kept going to them, and now I’ve almost gotten the hang of it, and the coach almost says everything in English now.

At first the coach said he wanted me training nine times a week with the boys and going to competitions and setting goal times etc. After we had a talk about it though, I told him that I don’t really want to compete, and don’t want to meet goal times, just people. And that nine times a week was pretty much out of the question. We agreed that I’m here to have fun, and that I came to South Africa to get away from nine time a week practices, and to get back into actually liking the sport to begin with. So now I can come when I feel like I want to swim, and if there’s something cooler going on in Africa, I go do that instead. I can go to meets, and if I don’t feel like swimming I can go cheer on the rest of the team and use it as a great excuse to go see different parts of the country on a weekend when nothing else is really happening. Perfect set up!

At volunteering last week, we had the girls do some journaling, and make some collages. We brought them magazines and construction paper with markers for them to cut and paste or write whatever they wanted. There is one girl that I like a lot named Tatum, and she asked me to write down on a piece of paper things that I thought about her, and she wrote one for me. It’s hanging on my wall now, it says:

I think Meagan is a lovely person and very kind. A person who is a little shy but, can do something that she feels like doing. I am very fond of her and I enjoy her company and I enjoy it. She is beautiful and caring.

It made me really happy, and I don’t think mine back was as good as hers. It stinks for these girls that students from America and all over the world come hang out with them for weeks and as soon as the girls probably make a relationship with the volunteers and begin to like and trust them, the semester is over and they have to go back to school, with a really slim chance of coming back to Cape Town. They have already had family problems and people leaving them enough in their life to warrant them staying at the Ark for a long period of time, so it just makes me sad that friends they make in us will also eventually have to leave them. It stinks. But as long as I help make that one day that I visit better for her and the other girls, then I guess it’s okay for now.  

Shark diving was cancelled due to weather, and we had to postpone it to another weekend, so hopefully that happens soon. Instead of that on Saturday, we went to the Old Biscuit Mill again for breakfast, which is that farmer’s market kind of thing way down the street. We went to a rugby game on campus, UCT lost, but it was still fun to watch, and then had a braai at another house for dinner that night. It was an early morning on Sunday, because these two giant cooling towers that you can see from upper campus were getting blown up. Apparently they’ve been there for decades and were finally getting demolished. We had planned on hiking up to a memorial where you are able to see them from way up high, but the weather was really rainy and cold, so instead we just grabbed some coffees and went to another CIEE house with a big second level porch and watched it happen from there. There was a bunch of traffic and people trying to get to somewhere to see it happen because it was a big event for the people to watch. There was a giant boom and a bunch of smoke and it was over, kind of anticlimactic, but still pretty cool to watch. So then we grabbed some lunch in town, rented some movies, and all hung out for the rest of the day inside, writing papers and watching movies to relax and get ready for school this week.

To change the subject randomly, out of the people that I’ve met here, I seemed to be the only one that was homesick. There were a few things that happened in the past week that made me think about this a little harder. I read a quote somewhere, I forget who said it, but it was:

‘Homesickness means absolutely nothing. Most of the world is homesick for their entire lives. You aren’t really longing for another country. You are longing for something deep inside yourself that you have not yet been able to find’.

I thought about it for a really long time, and realized that if you are totally comfortable with yourself, you can be happy anywhere and that life is going to go on around you no matter where you are, so you might as well enjoy wherever that is. I also was talking in a memory and identity class about the forced removals of apartheid, and the effects that it had on people. In order to do this we had to describe home and what it means to be a part of a community, and how it feels to have that sense of belonging, which also just got me thinking.

And finally, I borrowed 500 Days of Summer from a friend here, and there was one part of the movie, where the younger sister is trying to convince her brother to take another look back at the failed relationship, and this time, don’t only focus on the good things. So I started looking back, and home is awesome. It’s incredible and beautiful and I love it and couldnt imagine growing up anywhere else. But there is also some stuff that isn’t so great. Of course that’s going to happen anywhere, but I realized then that I had been so caught up in remembering the best times at home that I had been forgetting the real reasons that I decided to come abroad, and it really held me back from fully enjoying what lay in front of me at UCT and in South Africa as a whole in the beginning of this experience.

This is not to say I just declared myself free of being homesick forever, just to say that I have done a lot of thinking, and realized that I have three more months here, and am going to stop counting them, and rather just enjoy them, because, (I know, another quote… sorry).

                ‘You’re going to miss this.

                You’re going to want this back.

                You’re going to wish these days had not gone by so fast.

                These are some good times, so take a look around,

                Because you may not realize it now, but you’re going to miss this”.

 

TIA. cause this is africa.. August 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 11:00 am

I’m heading off to Robben Island today with the rest of my house to check out the prison that Nelson Mandela was held in for a few years. We get to take a boat there and it’s an all day tour with museums and fun things. Plus CIEE pays for it, which makes it even better.

This week has been really nice and relaxing. After the long weekend we were all so tired we stayed in for a house dinner on Tuesday, and since I’m finished with classes around 9 on Wednesdays, Julie and I took a train into Muizenberg which is the really nice surfing beach, and got some reading done for our classes since the water is still too cold to go in.

Thursday I went back to volunteering at the Ark City, which I like more and more every time I go. I hang out with the teen girls, who really just want someone to talk to. I don’t know any of their stories yet, because I don’t feel comfortable enough asking them before they get to know me a little better. A lot of their moms might be in the drug rehab or the domestic abuse recovery parts of the complex, or they could not have parents because of a lot of different reasons. It’s so fun to go chat with them, because I think the people I live with are getting sick of me talking about home, but these girls love it. They want to know about every concert I’ve been to, every boy I’ve had a crush on, and every detail about what I do for fun at home. They had no idea what New Jersey was, but when I said it’s next to New York, they all started running around screaming and singing songs about New York and asking a TON of questions about it. I didn’t tell them that I dont really like the city very much since they got so excited about it, and then they just asked a lot more questions. Then they straightened my hair and painted my nails, which worked out perfect, because once I left the Ark I took a big nap before a group of us went to a Karaoke bar on Long Street, where I dedicated a really rough version of Sweet Caroline to Caroline Menapace in front of the whole bar. It was a really fun night.
On Saturday CIEE paid for us to go on a wine tasting in Stellenbosch at this beautiful vineyard. We got to tour the cellar, and then taste five different wines. I really don’t like the red kind at all, but I bought a bottle of my favorite white one. After that, we headed to a cheetah rehab place, had a really nice lunch, and got to pet cheetahs that were sad and sleepy.
There was a braai at another house last night to celebrate someone’s birthday, which are always fun, and most people drank all the wine that they had bought that day at the vineyard.
I’m still struggling to make up my mind about spring break… I have ten days to plan for, and can either wing it with friends, or go through a travel agency. Right now, I can do either Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls through a travel agency, or Kruger and Namibia with friends. Tough choices, either one would be fun though. I’ll keep working on it.

 

Garden Route! Great times with great people. August 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — megan @ 6:34 pm

I got out of Rondebosch! Success! A group of ten including me rented two really crappy cars to drive up the garden route for a four day road trip. It was unbelievably beautiful, even though I slept through most of the car rides through the beautiful scenery. Once all the plans were finalized, we were able to leave Highstead around two on Friday, made a few stops along the way, but made it to the first town in about six hours.

The first hostile was in a town called Wilderness, which was the coolest little place. We grabbed fish and chips real quick before checking into the hostile where we had our own house with a kitchen and a big room of bunks for everyone. Luckily we were a group of ten so we perfectly filled out the hostile dorms, and didn’t have to share with any randoms.  This one was tucked back into the woods so there were incredible views out of every window, and a bunch of hammocks and little tables all over the place to relax on. There was an outdoor pool table and fireplace bar area for everyone, and then we had our own patio outside the house where we all sat around to play games that night. It was awesome getting to know everyone better. In our group there were eight people from the CIEE program that I’m in, and two from another program, so it was nice to mix it up and all hang out together.

Since the reason for this long weekend is National Women’s Day, we woke up on Saturday and the boys of the group had made eggs and toast for everyone. After eating and paying for the hostile (110 rand = 15 dollars!), we headed to Victoria Bay, which was this nice little beach with a lot of locals who let the surfers in our group borrow their boards while everyone else hung around and grabbed coffee to keep us warm while we sat on the beach for a while. Next it was time to get back in our cars and head to a place where we could rent canoes and row to a waterfall. We buddied up in the boats and rowed until the river ended, and then hopped off to hike for another half hour or so until we hit a waterfall that everyone went swimming in. After that it was time to make the trip to the next hostile, which was about an hour drive away to Knysna, and this time the hostile was a little more crowded, which was fun because we got to meet other groups of backpackers staying there. There was a big fire pit outside the main house where we all sat around all night talking and sharing stories.

It wasn’t a late night on Saturday because my group is crazy and wanted to go jump off a bridge on Sunday morning. We woke up early to go grab breakfast in town because we had an eleven am reservation to go jump. South Africa has the Guinness record for the highest bungee jump bridge in the world, and for some reason they all thought it would be awesome to go jump off too. I wasn’t that into it, especially once I saw it, and immediately wanted to puke the breakfast I just had.

I was talked into at least getting on the bridge by the rest of my group, and people from CIEE that were there and who had already jumped off say it was incredible and I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I got harnessed up, signed my life away on a waiver, and starting walking toward the bridge with the rest of my group. My first hint should have been the fact that I couldn’t even look down walking across the bridge and needed someone to hold my hand before we even got to the jump point. But, I made it to the middle, where they have a DJ on top playing loud music, probably to drown out the common sense raging in my head telling me not to jump, and a bunch of big men up there who tie you up to the bungee. My group was stoked to jump, and most of them wanted a running start or to go off backwards. Crazy people. So I was fourth to go in my group, and the guy just comes and grabs you out of the group and starts tying you up before you know what’s happening. I was sweating everywhere and was ready to throw up, and to make a long story short (the long story version I have on video, since I didn’t think anyone would believe me without it), I eventually was just pushed off by the big men since I wouldn’t jump by myself. It’s a five second fall that feels like about three hours. Then as I was hanging, the man who pushed me repels down to get me and brings me back up. As soon as he came down I said, ‘get me back on the bridge, now’, and then wasn’t able to talk for another ten minutes on the bridge until I stopped shaking.

It was rough. The guy then walked me back to land and dropped me off at the viewing bar which overlooks the bridge, which is where I realized that anyone in the bar before got to watch my pre-jump/push freak out on the big screen TV on the wall, which just plays whatever is happening on the bridge for everyone to see. Then I had to go to the souvenir shop so I could watch it too. Soo… even worse than I remembered. But I bought it anyway, to prove to myself that I actually did it. Plus I got a package deal if I also bought a t-shirt… and I definitely deserved a t-shirt after that.

I don’t regret doing it, but I never ever want to again. Ever.

So by the time my whole group got back on land talking about how awesome it was, I had stopped shaking, and we were able to get back in the car to go to an elephant sanctuary for a while. You could pet the elephants and walk with them or ride them if you wanted to. They were beautiful, and I realized that that activity would have been much more my speed if I could have just hung out there all day. There was a nice restaurant, and we hung out there for a while before going to look for another hostile for the night, since the jump wore us all out… but mostly just me.

Leaving the elephant sanctuary it started storming, but luckily we came across Buffalo Bay Backpackers Lodge, which was right on the water. Literally, high tide waves basically lapping up against the common room. This place had a giant common room built around a huge fire pit and a wall of windows. With the water being so rough, it was awesome to have the windows there and see the rain and the storm with the big waves right outside. It would have been even cooler if it were really nice out, because we could have actually hung out on the beach instead of by the fire all night, or they have tents outside you can camp in on the sand instead of the dorms, and a bunch of hammocks and picnic tables and grills and things that would have been fun if it were nicer out. But it was still fun because since it was so cold, everyone who was staying there that night was huddled around the fire pit. Including these two really cute Jack Russell puppies who slept next to the fire the whole night, and were still there the next morning when we woke up. We met families that were backpacking and there were couples and just old people who just wanted to travel everywhere. It was a really cool place to be stuck in a storm.

Monday morning we headed to another beach in Buffalo Bay where the local people at the hostile told our group to go surf. We hung around there until noon, grabbed some lunch and started heading home since we had another seven or so hour drive ahead of us. It was an awesome weekend. Minus the bungee jumping part. I really liked the freedom of just being able to do whatever we wanted to everyday we woke up. And with so many options of stuff to do it was nice having the flexibility to just get up and see where the day takes us.

We got home last night, I showed the rest of my housemates the video of my jump, which we all had a nice laugh at, and then I went to sleep nice and early so I could wake up for my eight am. We had another field trip to the beach today for Oceanography, where we had to measure wave lengths and periods and heights. It’s at a beach called Milnerton, which is absolutely beautiful because the water is so clear, the waves are always huge, and you are able to see Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, and Table Mountain, all in a row. The teacher grabbed a stick and started using the sand as a chalkboard to chart out the waves and their patterns. We’re about to braai tonight outside Highstead with a few other houses, and then hopefully some of the boys will break out their guitars and play us some songs on the patio.

Especially after how great this weekend was, it’s time to start planning for spring break, which is September 4th to the 12th, and there’s one more long weekend before then that I think I want to spend in Stellenbosch. We’ll see where those trips take me, but hopefully not off any bridges.

 

 
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