One Month In

It’s been one month since I left for South Africa. Time has gone quickly but I can see and feel the changes in myself. My mirror reflects a girl with tan face and lighter hair, someone who has been enjoying the sunshine. My body is leaner from all the walking and my legs are covered in bug bites. A midst all the fun adventures that come with traveling abroad, there is also a lot of downtime. I love it though. It’s been…calming. Peaceful. The books are piling up on the side of my bed, the leather soles of my sandals worn thin. I am well rested, I am happy.

 

Last night my South African friend Babbet asked me what I missed the most about the States. I couldn’t really pin point any major cultural differences that I was struggling with. I like to think that I came with a very open mind. But I came up with a few quirks:

Driving. Alright it took a while but I got used to the whole “we drive on the left side” thing but what bothers me is that people will NOT stop for pedestrians. My roommates and I get beeped at regularly, even at cross walks! It’s a college town, thousands of kids are walking around daily crossing the streets, you would think that people could handle slowing down for someone to cross. But no. One international student got side-swiped the other day. I kid you not.

 

Food Service. It is really slow………….

 

Things that are opposite. All the knobs turn the other way. This is essential to remember especially if you would like to do the dishes without getting soaked.

 

Our favorite South African sayings: “I’m totally keen for that” or “lekker day” or “howsit?”

Our favorite trend: The boys and their pastel shorts, all with a tad bit higher hem line than you see in the states. Very European.

Our not-so-favorite trend: mullets. Seriously? 

 

After one month I can say I love it here and I am really proud of myself for taking advantage of this opportunity and am thankful to the people in my life that helped make this possible. To the other study abroaders- you rock and I hope you are having as wonderful of an experience as I am. Be it Spain, Italy or Fiji.

Not a day goes by where the thought “I am so blessed” doesn’t float through my mind, generated from the all the smiles that are constantly forming on my face.

To my family back at home, yay for vacation! To my friends at High Point, one week till spring break! 

Have a lekker day people. Miss you. 

 

Cederberg Mountains

Sorry for the delay of posts! With classes and school work picking up and a little camping on the side, blogging was temporarily put on the back burner. But tonight I’ve got some time so let’s see what the latest shenanigans I can share with you are….

Camping in Cederberg.

Pack your bags! T-shirts, shorts, sunscreen, water bottles, sneakers, snackie dackies for the ride (as Mama H would put it), ipods, sunglasses, bandaids…

This past Friday all 28 of us in the AIFS program, (25 girls, 3 boys) said goodbye to Stellenbosch for the weekend and headed into the mountains.  The four hour ride consisted of wide open landscapes of South Africa whipping by our windows accompanied by the occasional ostrich, donkey, zebra or….baboon. Three hours later on the highway our vans slowed and took a turn onto a dirt road that led straight into the mountains. Mountains on mountains on mountains. Farther and farther we went, deeper into the mountains until we stopped in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with only the looming rocky peaks keeping us company.

The weekend was a combination of hiking adventures and quiet moments in the sunshine. It felt good to be away. Nothing to do but explore or relax or just be.

On Saturday the group hiked Wolfberg Cracks. It was so unique and unlike anything in Massachusetts. There were no trees, only rocks and low bushes. We hiked in the shade of the mountain, going up and up and up and looking back to see just how high we climbed, our views completely unobstructed. Then at the top, or close to it, we climbed into the cracks of the rocks. Up, over, around, through- we shimmed and scaled and crawled.

We stopped and ate sandwiches in the middle of a cave on top of a mountain. Sandwiches! In a cave! On top of a mountain! Absolutely wonderful.

p.s. here’s a baboon anecdote just for fun:

Hestea told us that one semester while the group was out wine tasting she was at the cabins on “baboon duty”.  She had put her fake plastic snakes out and was just relaxing outside when a baboon came moseying on over to the site looking for food… She told us that once the baboon got close it spotted one of the snakes (the bright red one) and it was SO frightened that it fainted. Bam. Done. Out cold. Baboon down.  We were all in stitches as she played out the story, telling us that she eventually threw a piece of wood at the poor thing till it came to and took off.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately…whichever way you want to look at it) no baboons came down to bother us during the weekend. We only saw them from a distance. The sign in our cabin said “Please keep all windows and doors locked to keep Baboons from entering”. And I’ll admit I was tempted to leave mine open just a hair…

Cederberg Mountains

Sorry for the delay of posts! With classes and school work picking up and a little camping on the side, blogging was temporarily put on the back burner. But tonight I’ve got some time so let’s see what the latest shenanigans I can share with you are….

Camping in Cederberg.

Pack your bags! T-shirts, shorts, sunscreen, water bottles, sneakers, snackie dackies for the ride (as Mama H would put it), ipods, sunglasses, bandaids…

This past Friday all 28 of us in the AIFS program, (25 girls, 3 boys) said goodbye to Stellenbosch for the weekend and headed into the mountains.  The four hour ride consisted of wide open landscapes of South Africa whipping by our windows accompanied by the occasional ostrich, donkey, zebra or….baboon. Three hours later on the highway our vans slowed and took a turn onto a dirt road that led straight into the mountains. Mountains on mountains on mountains. Farther and farther we went, deeper into the mountains until we stopped in the middle of absolutely nowhere, with only the looming rocky peaks keeping us company.

The weekend was a combination of hiking adventures and quiet moments in the sunshine. It felt good to be away. Nothing to do but explore or relax or just be.

On Saturday the group hiked Wolfberg Cracks. It was so unique and unlike anything in Massachusetts. There were no trees, only rocks and low bushes. We hiked in the shade of the mountain, going up and up and up and looking back to see just how high we climbed, our views completely unobstructed. Then at the top, or close to it, we climbed into the cracks of the rocks. Up, over, around, through- we shimmed and scaled and crawled.

We stopped and ate sandwiches in the middle of a cave on top of a mountain. Sandwiches! In a cave! On top of a mountain! Absolutely wonderful.

p.s. here’s a baboon anecdote just for fun:

Hestea told us that one semester while the group was out wine tasting she was at the cabins on “baboon duty”.  She had put her fake plastic snakes out and was just relaxing outside when a baboon came moseying on over to the site looking for food… She told us that once the baboon got close it spotted one of the snakes (the bright red one) and it was SO frightened that it fainted. Bam. Done. Out cold. Baboon down.  We were all in stitches as she played out the story, telling us that she eventually threw a piece of wood at the poor thing till it came to and took off.

Unfortunately, (or fortunately…whichever way you want to look at it) no baboons came down to bother us during the weekend. We only saw them from a distance. The sign in our cabin said “Please keep all windows and doors locked to keep Baboons from entering”. And I’ll admit I was tempted to leave mine open just a hair…

Bohemia

Bohemia

Bohemia is a favorite bar of the Stellie’s- the college students flock there. We love it too, it’s got a lot of character plus there is often live music and you will almost always see someone you know there. Although overall we have received mixed reactions for being American, most of the time we have been welcomed. We all agreed the sign is pretty damn funny.

Hallo, my naam is Fransien. Ek praat Afrikaans!

First day of school! First day of school! Please imagine me zipping around like Nemo in the sea anemone. It’s been so long since I’ve been in class!  My friends at High Point are already a full month in. I had my first beginner’s Afrikaans class today. After going over the syllabus (yes, sadly they have those here too) we started learning conversational Afrikaans immediately.

Die klaskamer – The classroom

Die lekker uitsig! – The sweet view (The classroom did have an awesome view of the mountains and Stellenbosch)

Baie Dankie!- Thank you!

Plesier! -Pleasure! Or you’re welcome!

Bly te kenne!- Nice to meet you!

 And my favorite part…because who doesn’t love getting a new name in a language class…. I was newly christened “Fransien” muahahaha

 

The class was very participatory which fits me to a tee. More new classes commence tomorrow, Totsiens! 

Trumpet Tree

After three weeks we are finally meeting more and more South Africans and not just the international students that are in our building. They are a friendly, open people, often willing to discuss with us the sensitive social issues of South Africa, or perhaps the stereotypes of Americans or maybe just beer preferences and silly pickup lines.

 

Last night one South African guy made the distinction that he wasn’t “Afrikaans” but English. He explained that Afrikaans was a language but also a culture. We tried to make sense of it. “It is not a distinction of race though?” “No, no, there are white Afrikaans”. We asked him why, if he was born here, his parents born here, and even his grandparents, did he not consider himself to be Afrikaans? He started talking about a war that happened hundreds of years ago, and how even now, people are very proud of their heritage and make the distinction. “I am South African, but I am English.” But you speak Afrikaans? “Yes but English is my first language”

We were just surprised at the separation he made. He said that Afrikaans and English are very similar and that it is hard to tell but it’s definitely there.

 

We discussed it more and compared our own experiences and felt that, race issues aside, if you are born in America you don’t typically make that type of distinction. My roommate Paulina doesn’t consider herself Dutch first, even though her father is from the Netherlands. She’s American. Food for thought? We certainly didn’t want to generalize.  Is the U.S. a place where emphasis is put on heritage, do we have this type of separation, this way of distinguishing people? Does it depend on where you are in the States? As Paulina put it “Are we a melting pot, or a salad bowl?” We only concluded by commenting that the histories of these two countries are very different.

The great thing about this was that it was just wonderful conversation. No one was defensive or hard headed; the flow of discourse was easy and interesting. It ebbed and swelled under the twinkling lights of the Trumpet Tree social café, with music and smoke and laughter drifting in from the bar in the next room. Image