The End

Ubuntu.

I am because we are.

Life here in South Africa has come to an end. My blogging slowed and then stopped, I think, because I didn’t want to keep reflecting. I wanted to stay in the moment as much as possible, and I wanted my life here all to myself. I was selfish and lazy and happy and didn’t want to have to stop and think and write about my time here, especially as the days started rapidly dwindling.

But now I’m home, and that’s all that’s left to do. Stop and think and write.

Ubuntu is the shortened version of a Zulu proverb, “umuntu ngumuntu ngamantu” which translates as “A person is a person through other people”.

This one word carries so much meaning, and has resonated with me so forcefully that there’s no turning back. The whole study abroad process has been the experience of Ubuntu.

I’ve made friends from eleven different countries around the world. Eleven.

I’ve eaten authentic French cuisine on Valentine’s Day, celebrated Queen’s Day with the Dutch, braiied with South African’s on a wine farm and been kloofing with an Aussie. I ran a 10K mountain challenge with a German (Sophia came in 2nd place!) and went dancing with my favorite Swedish couple. I beat the Mexicans in beer pong, and lost to a Belgium in Taboo. I traveled the Garden Route with some of the coolest Americans you’ll ever meet. And so much more.

Countless friends and faces have shaped my experience here. Have changed me in small ways and big. And I am so thankful.

To Molly and Paulina,

How many times did people comment on our dynamic, our good vibe, our weirdness? How many times did we notice it ourselves? The flowing, happy balance that was the three of us made my time in South Africa what it was; amazing.

You remember coming home after a night out dancing? We filled up the tub to soak our feet, one of us grabbed the ice cream, another grabbed three spoons. Two in the morning we sat on the edge of the bath tub eating ice cream and laughing till our sides hurt and our eyes were smudged with mascara. I have a snapshot image of this in my mind and for me it marks the beginning of our close friendship. Every moment, every shenanigan in South Africa we shared together, side by side, because we wanted to, because it wouldn’t have been the same without each other.

You two are my deepest Ubuntu.

 

For my friends still in South Africa, I miss you, enjoy.

For those of you who kept up with my blog, thank you for letting me share my experience with you.

And for my friends and family that welcomed me back, thank you for giving me a home to come back to. 

 

Suid Afrika, I love you.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Lion’s Head

So my days are numbered and it’s giving me anxiety. I don’t know how ready I am for reality yet. In a few short months, this has become home. Consequently I’ve been trying to do as much as I can here in South Africa. Last Thursday my roommates and I (still a bit hung over from Wednesday night, also known as “Little Saturday” here in Stellenbosch) woke up and ran to make the 1145 train to Cape Town. We spent the day at the beach, eating at a restaurant overlooking the water, buying ice cream from the vendors yelling “Lolly to be Jolly!?” down the beach. We put our toes in the icy water, licked our sticky fingers and looked out at the horizon, sad smiles on our faces as we commented about how little time we have left here together. Then, packing up our towels and sunscreen, we headed over to Lion’s Head, a small mountain connected to Table Mountain. We met up with friends and as the sun began to dip, the full moon began to rise in tandem with our ascent. A night hike up the mountain meant for some incredible views, as the city lights started to emerge, twinkling down below, and the huge moon lit up our path. Some people stopped half way up, got comfortable and broke out the wine glasses and cheese. We kept going till we reached the top, I grabbed Molly and we did a little top-of-the-mountain jig, laughing and twirling as everyone kept marveling at the view.

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The Little Ones

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The Little Ones

So I usually don’t blog or post about the volunteer work at the primary school in Kayamundi that we do each week, mostly because they asked us not to, or to keep it private. But this week was too fun, and I brought my camera along because I don’t know how many weeks are left and I want to remember their little faces. This week’s theme was “Safety” so we did a lesson on household safety and road safety. Although the kid’s names are difficult to pronounce, (a boy named “Lucky” being the only exception), we’ve spent enough time now to recognize their individual personality quirks and really begin forming bonds with them. “Teachah! Teachah!” they cry and tug on my hand to show me just how well they can Hokey Pokey. They are bright eyed and beautiful, teaching me more about life than I am teaching them, as children can so often do.

The Bungee Jump

Video

Alright, it’s going to be hard to put this in words, but my dad insisted I should try. We drove over the bridge looking down into the gorge where we would jump, our faces pressed up to the windows of the van. Once over, we pulled into a dirt road on the side and came to an area of buildings. There was a little café with a view of the bridge, a souvenir shop and place to fill out the paperwork and sign up. I really wasn’t too nervous, it was hard to know what to expect. Even watching the jumpers from afar didn’t overwhelm or disconcert me, it just didn’t quite seem real yet. As we got our harnesses some members of the group were bouncing with excitement, others were actually close to tears. Almost everyone was a bit wide eyed.

We walked out onto this little catwalk and at this point I definitely started feeling uncomfortable, the wire was bendy under my feet and you could see right through all the way to the bottom of chasm. We finally reached the concrete at the center of the bridge, underneath the passing cars. Loud, pumping music was echoing around us, and the workers had high energy, some of them dancing while they worked. As they strapped up the first jumper we started to dance; building up our energy, feeding it to each other, getting more and more excited as we cheered on Daniela, who took her selection to be 1st with a brave face.

When it was my turn and they started strapping me up I still wasn’t panicky or anything. I just focused on the music. Only when they helped me stand and I looked out over the bridge did my heart do a little leap. “Ohh no.” I said. The guy was speaking to me, telling me about how the jump works and what would happen but I couldn’t register what he was saying. I kept shaking my head a little bit, trying not to psych myself out. When I got to the edge I realized he had stopped talking, he wasn’t telling me what to do anymore. My toes hanging over the edge, my eyes wide at the empty space in front of me, I quietly, absent mindedly asked, “Now what?” He laughed and said “Now you bungee jump.”

And then I jumped.

In the first moments, I was hit with a deafening silence. It was the type of silence that fills you up. The kind that gets in your eyes and your mouth and your nose and suddenly you are holding your breath. Suddenly I was holding my breath. Everything below me was in sharp focus and of course, I felt like I was flying. I hurtled toward the vast, gorgeous picture below me in what seemed like slow motion.

Eventually, time caught up with me and I could then feel my speed, the air whipping by me as I rushed toward the ground. The bungee caught and I was launched back up, felt myself suspended in the air again. When it was all over I was left there hanging, taking deep, deep breaths, marveling at life, at the human experience, and thanking God for letting me be a part of it.

After my surprisingly peaceful moments at the bottom, I realized I no longer was enjoying hanging upside down hundreds of feet in the air and hoped I would be lifted up soon, as all the blood was rushing to my head. A worker came spindling down like a spider on its web, and lifted me to safety.

P.s. Mr. Hill, I thought of you as I was up on the bridge, happy to be following in yours and Michelle’s footsteps!

 

Here’s a link to the video:

 

Spring Break Shenanigans

We did way too much on the Garden Route for me to try and write about. So here is a little visual montage:

 

Ostriches are WEIRD creatures….Image

 

 

Monkey land! Found home at last…..Image

 

 

Exploring the Cango Caves. Some places were a tight fit…Image

 

 

Knysna Elephant Park, where we got to feed and play with these majestic animals.Image

 

 

Cheetahs. Casual. I’m standing two feet away. Image

 

 

 

what a life I’m living. 

 

Garden Route

Happy April everyone.

           For spring break this year I went traveling on the Garden Route, a path up the east coast of South Africa, so named for the diverse vegetation, lagoons and lakes scattered along the way. A five a.m. departure time, we piled into the vans with our pillows and blankets, snacks and ipods and watched the sunrise slowly casting light on the highway as we sped up the coast. South Africa is a beautiful country.  Hilly, washed-out yellow farmland with grazing sheep borders the side of the road and far in the distance gives way to looming green mountains, with waterfalls snaking down their sides, white streaks painted on a canvas of pure jade.

This was so different from the rocky crags that surrounded us in Cederberg. The changing, diverse landscapes of South Africa never cease to surprise me. We stopped at a backpackers hostel in a town called Wilderness, with the Indian Ocean crashing down on stretches of beach in front of us, and the gorgeous, Jurassic feeling mountains right behind us. The weather wasn’t the usual African sunshine we were used to, and the drizzling rain threw a misty fog over everything.

 

One of my favorite things we did was kloofing. This involves strapping on wetsuits and hiking through the forest down the mountain into the gorge. Jumping of cliffs (kloof=cliff) into the water down below and swimming through the river. The other kloofers and I floated down the river, laughing and chatting, cheering each other on at the big jumps.

The place was absolutely, unequivocally, SERIOUSLY beautiful. I found myself looking up, marveling at the thick vegetation clinging to the mountains around us, feeling like I was in a whole other world, and realizing that I was.

This country is burying itself into my heart. Image

South Africa vs. Central African Republic

My first professional soccer game! It was a FIFA World Cup qualifier, South Africa versus Central African Republic. It was such an interesting experience, especially when comparing it to a game in the states. There was no loud music, no gimmicks or half time shows, no programs being sold or tons of paraphernalia, no loud announcer or jumbo tron, it was just ALL about the game. So different! And I loved every second. We had wonderful seats, and we were in a section that couldn’t sit down, too many close calls that brought everyone to their feet so eventually we all just stood. Everyone was dressed up in their jerseys, waving the South Africa flag. And when we scored. Oh man.

I imagine that because there isn’t a significant amount of scoring in soccer games, that when there is a goal, an absurdly long and raucous celebration is definitely in order. And the South Africans delivered. We were still celebrating the first goal a half hour later. The whole crowd was singing a song in Afrikaans, swaying, cheering, clapping, you name it.

I think my favorite parts were the “almost goals”.  Everyone getting excited and then one big simultaneous groan from the crowd, as the player trips, or just barely misses, or the goalie makes a save. A grin still on everyone’s faces though, because damn, that was close.

ImageFinal score: South Africa 2 – Central African Republic 0