Junior volleyball player Bright Beury (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst Steele) is away from the team this Spring as she takes advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Check back all spring as Beury chronicles her journey.
A WONDER OF THE WORLD... (5/31/11)
The past week has been very hectic with trying to get stuff done for classes. I’ve had tests and assignments that having been keeping me plenty busy, which is why I couldn’t wait until this past weekend because I have been looking forward to it since I’ve gotten here. Our destination was Livingstone, Zambia to view one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls.
After we figured out most of our money issues we got our free shuttle to the Jollyboys backpackers in Livingstone. It was such a cute place decorated beautifully! They had a desk that specialized in activities so we signed up for the cruise that night. They picked us up around 3:30 p.m. and we drove down to the Zambezi River and hopped on our boat for the next 3 hours. The Zambezi River is one of the largest in the world and it runs into the Chobe River where the four countries Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia meet. This is also that river that flows over the magnificent Victoria Falls.
During our journey, we stopped to view some hippos, although they were mostly submerged under the water so all we could see was their heads. We reached our final stop where most of the other boats traveling down the river stopped too so that we could watch the sunset on the Zambezi. It was amazing to see and obviously everyone took a ton of pictures. We had a meal on the way back up the river which was some chicken and sausage that was grilled on an open flame on the boat which was very delicious! We also had some coleslaw which apparently they love in this region because I had it three times on this trip.
We all went to sleep very early because we had to be up extremely early the next morning for our safari trip in Botswana to the Chobe National Park. We all got into a small boat so that we could cross the water which was the point where the four countries meet and also the two rivers. There were a bunch of larger boats that were shuttling semi trucks and cars and even some people across the river so it was a very congested area.
Later we walked down to the river and jumped into our safari boat that would take us down the river to view everything from elephants, hippos, baboons, birds, impala, kudu, buffalo, giraffes and crocodiles. I can’t post all of the pictures I took, but here are a few of the better ones. Some highlights from the safari (since pictures do more justice than my words) was the baby elephants we saw trying to drink water. We also saw baboons drinking down at the river, which they lay on their stomach to drink so that they can see if a crocodile were to sneak up and attack. All the facts our guide pointed out were very interesting and I feel as if I learned a lot on the trip and it was worth every penny!
We exited the Zambia side and made our way walking towards the Zimbabwe. It was a cute town with lots of shops and places to eat which is why we went. We got some pizza at some pizza place and relaxed a bit. It was weird paying in dollar though because I’ve become accustom to everything seeming more expensive that it actually is, but here it was the actual prices and there was no converting necessary. We made it to the falls safe and sound with plenty of time left before the sunset (which was when we needed to be back at the cabs by) We followed the path and the first sight we saw was absolutely amazing! The opening showed us the entire view of the falls and it was so clear that you could see all the water falling. I was seriously in awe with everything from the sound of the thunder water and the sight of the mass amounts of it falling right in front of my eyes. Also, there were rainbows everywhere in my line of vision and no matter where I looked I could always see at least one. It was the prettiest thing I have ever seen in my entire life and this sight made coming to Zimbabwe worth it! We kept walking and every opening view just kept getting better.
Once we reached the end of the trail it started to rain a whole lot more and we had to turn back because it was getting late. I honestly can’t describe the sights I saw and I know my pictures don’t do it justice. I think that everyone should make it a point in their life to visit this area of the world and really embrace all its beauty because this was one of the best weekends of my life and we were only in the area for four days. All in all this was the best weekend that I have had since I’ve been in Africa!
SPRING BREAK IN SOUTH AFRICA... (5/6/11)
Sorry it’s been so long, but I just had the most amazing spring break of my life. It was technically autumn break here or aka Easter Holiday. The leaves are changing colors here in case you were wondering, but it is still really hot during the daytime, it just gets chilly at night. So after my botany test, I got ready to leave for Hogsback and Port Alfred for the weekend. This was going to be my Easter break so I wanted to keep myself busy instead of getting homesick. Firstly, we went to Port Alfred in our tiny Toyota Yaris. We went sand boarding down these huge dunes for the afternoon and I fell quite a few times. It was a lot different (easier) than snowboarding, but it was very easy to pick up a lot of speed down these hills. Port Alfred was beautiful, it is only about 2 hours outside of Port Elizabeth and it is a very quiet and peaceful town. It seemed like it was predominately white and you could definitely see that the area had money. We stayed at Kowie Backpackers for the night which was a nice tiny house that made you feel at home, and yes they had a TV!
After Port Alfred, we made our way to Hogsback, which was the trip I had been wanting to do since I’ve came to South Africa. I am not a big Lord of the Rings fan, but this is the place were J.R. Tolkien was inspired to write the series. I could see where he got his inspiration from; it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. The next two days were filled with a lot of hiking and I can’t even describe how beautiful the place was. There was even a bath tub situated on the side of a cliff where people could actually take baths! So cool! The waterfall we hiked to was amazing and it cooled us off after a long hike. Some people from the local community were getting baptized as we were passing by which was cool to see. We saw almost every waterfall in the area and had the most amazing Easter dinner. It was a chicken stir fry with loads of veggies and a lot of chicken (Mom and Dad I would have loved your dinner even more!!!) I enjoyed the weekend very much and it was the best possible Easter I could have had away from my family.
The best spring break I have ever had included our trip to Cape Town. We arrived just outside of Cape Town in a township where we stayed the night. I think I must first explain townships. Townships at home are just housing developments outside of the city, I use to live in one, but it is just like any other housing development. Townships in South Africa are more or less a densely populated area (usually blacks and/or coloureds) of people that have a low income or are unemployed. Some townships are even lined with shacks made of sheet metal and wood. You see kids walk without shoes and dogs are just roaming the streets. We stayed in a safer township where the houses were actually houses and our mama had a T.V. and running water.
The next morning we woke up pretty early and walked to the main mama’s house. I have to admit I was pretty nervous walking through the township especially with my suitcase full of all my stuff. Everyone we passed by gave us a warm hello or “molo ” We hoped on the pass after saying a quick goodbye and made our way to the base of table mountain. The trail didn’t look that bad from the ground, but it was basically like doing the stairmaster for 2 and a half hours on the highest level. We took breaks, but I think what got me was that I was warm from climbing, but the air was a lot colder towards the top. Once we got to the top a cloud was still hanging over the mountain so we couldn’t see very far out, at some points you couldn’t even see anything but cloud. We all huddled in the same place and looked on as Shawn got down on one knee and proposed to Alyssa (two fellow travelers) on top of table mountain. It was amazing to see! And she obviously said yes, we all drank a little champagne and walked around the flat top of the mountain. It was a great day, one of the top ones since I’ve been here. Table Mountain is such an icon for South Africa, it was nice to actually see it and climb it.
Friday was a day filled with touristy things like Robben Island and Cape of Good Hope (CGH). We started with Robben Island and made our way across the rough water on a ferry for our tour. The ride was a bit wavy and there was a lot of clouds so Cape Town wasn’t very visible. Once we got to the island after about a 30 minute boat ride, we hoped on some bus’s and toured the island first. Our tour guide was great and very knowledgeable. My favorite place we stopped to view was the quarry that took so many years to dig, especially because the prisoners only were given shovels and picks. The site to see that really made my heart dropped was a pile of limestones about 3 feet tall right in front of the quarry. The stones were placed there by all the former political prisoners when they revisited the island; Nelson Mandela included. Once the island tour was over we headed inside to the actual jail and we were given a tour by a former political prisoner. It must be tough for him to relive the experience everyday when he gives the tours, but they talked about Robben Island as something to learn by and that they shouldn’t fear it. We saw Nelson Mandela’s prison cell which was about the size of a normal bathroom.
Afterwards, we made our way to the CGH which took quite a while. Along the way we pasted by a section of beach that was very exclusive and only contained 500 housing plots. They are extremely expensive and top celebrities like Tom Cruise and many others have houses there. Once we got to CGH we saw a baboon straight away. We see monkeys all the time here, but this was the first time I have seen a baboon and it was a lot bigger. We made the trek up the stairs to the lighthouse and looked out into the ocean. This is the place were people consider it that the two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) meet. Looking out you couldn’t see anything but water and it was pretty cool to get almost of 360 degree view from the lighthouse vantage point. We took a bunch of pictures and were rushed to leave or we wouldn’t make it to the penguin beach.
Once we got there, we took a scenic walk along a boardwalk and were able to see a ton of penguins along the way until we reached the beach and could take a bunch of picture up close of the penguins. They are now known as the African Penguin, but they use to have the common name of the Jackass Penguin because they sound like a jackass when they make noise or are calling. It is very loud and I couldn’t believe how similar the two sounded. The sun was setting on the way home and we called it a day with a bunch of adventures under our belt.
The next morning we packed everything up and had some breakfast and made our way to the ostrich farm, which was our last excursion of the trip. We were able to pet the birds, hug the birds, and the guys even got a kiss from Betsy, one of the lady ostrich’s on the farm. I never realized how strange these birds are and they will honestly eat anything you give them, including rocks. The jockeys that were helping us demonstrated the real way to ride an ostrich which they were obviously really talented at. He jumped on and in order to steer the ostrich, you have to push its neck in the direction you want it to go! It was so awkward to watch! We then got a chance to check out some ostrich eggs, which are a huge item that they sell in the markets here.
A little side trip to a waterfall just outside of town was our very last stop along Route 62. It was the clearest water I have ever seen, but also very cold. Some people were brave enough to cliff jump in, but the cold water wasn’t for me. I just took some pictures and admired the high rocky cliffs around me with a cool mountain breeze.
All in all it was a great and by far the best spring break I have ever had. I got to see and do so much in such a short amount of time. I really loved Cape Town and I definitely want to come back at some point in my life. Cheers! Miss all of you at home!
ADVENTURES AND STUDIES... (4/2/11)
I went away for the weekend a couple weeks back to visit the Wild Coast of South Africa was way more important. We ended up leaving around 6pm and had about a 7 hour drive ahead of us up to Port St. Johns in the Eastern Cape. The roads consist of a lot of sharp turns and curves even on the highway once you get out of Port Elizabeth. The roads were terrible on the way, two lane, skinny dirt roads. Potholes were filled with dirt and cattle were free roaming so fences were nothing to keep them off the road. We had to stop or slow down so many times just to avoid hitting a cow, goat or sheep.
After settling into the hostel we ended up heading up to an airstrip with the hostel owners for a sunset. It took forever to get to the top of the mountain, but the view was well worth it. We overlooked the river mouth flooding into the Indian Ocean from about 150-200 meters up. We decided that the next morning we would get up for the sunrise and come back to the same spot because the sun had set on the opposite side of the mountain and not over the water.
There was a drumming workshop that night at the hostel so a few of us joined in and were taught some beats on the African drum. We also learned some history behind some of the drumming and the Transkei region we were in. The Eastern Cape is mainly made up of the Xhosa speaking people and the Transkei would be similar to like a tribe and they make up most of the wild coast which is where we were for the weekend.
We all woke up pretty early the next morning because we were going to the Hole-in-the-Wall with a guy we had met at the hostel. His name is Aden and he is currently living without money for a period of 5 years. He is living by trading his way and doing favors for others. He even made his arm a billboard for advertisers who help him out. He seems pretty cool and I added him on Facebook so I can see what he ends up doing with his project. The HITW was amazing! It was literally a hole that went right through a huge rock wall. I can barely describe it and wish I could post a picture! We swam for a while, some people jumped off the ledge into the hole. I am not the best swimmer so I opted not to jump, but did climb up there to check it out! All in all it was a great weekend spent with good people and beautiful places. Thank you wild coast!
On our run the other day, I saw a bunch of people looking out towards the sea so I grabbed Becca by the shirt and pulled her to a stop. It was the coolest most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We watched as about 50 plus dolphins swam parallel to the beach front. They were close enough that you could see them individually and most of them were jumping. It was amazing! The people who were out swimming for the Iron Man were right in the middle of the pack along with some kayakers. Becca wanted to run out there and swim with them.
I had my last class of the term in which basically all the foreigners in the class were given the stage to discuss what they thought of South Africa now and what we had predicted it would be like before we came. Some of the things that were mentioned were that here in South Africa it is a lot more dangerous than at home. Here, each house is surrounded by a wall about eight foot tall with an electric fence or sharp edges so that no one can get in. Everything here must be accomplished before darkness falls otherwise you run the risk of being mugged. During the day though, everyone is very friendly and willing to help anyone. The driving here in completely different and it is almost more aggressive than driving in New Jersey. Everything here is prepaid, which is almost better because then you don’t have as many people in debt from not being able to pay their bills. Although it is very annoying because when you run out of electricity in the middle of the night it really sucks. I am now done with all my classes from first term which was 7 weeks long, but I don’t take the finals for those classes until June.
I am now taking Botany and Zoology, which is why I studied abroad in the first place. I had both very early in the morning on Monday. Botany was first and this was my first large lecture. There were maybe about 60 people in the room, which is like triple what a large class is at LEC. I sat in the middle front so I could pay attention and see the board. I didn’t know anyone because the room was filled with South Africans that are all in the same major (probably botany) and take all their classes together. So if the professor asked any questions about like a timetable, the whole class (except me) had the same schedule, so there was no reason for me to say anything as the minority. We went overrules like any other first day of class and they state that I cannot miss more than one class. This is a huge blow. Although I almost never miss class at LEC, here it makes sense to skip a Friday or Monday class to travel and see the country. The professors that get classes with a majority of international students understand that we travel so they don’t schedule tests close to long weekends, but since I am in two classes this term with all South Africans, I really have no other option but to not skip! This might interfere with my plans to see Victoria Falls in Botswana sometime in May.
I got a little homesick this week I think. Not like homesick longing to go home, but homesick like everything is so much easier at home. I miss driving my car whenever I want, I miss my parents cooking, I miss Subway, texting whenever I want to, and I miss volleyball right now. The team is played at Eastern Michigan in a tournament and I really wish I could be there! I also hate rationing my Hershey’s syrup that my parents sent me because I only have two bottles and that isn’t enough for 2 months! I think I will go and lay by the pool now for the rest of the afternoon! Everyone enjoy the cold weather back at home, I’ll be thinking about you! Cheers!
MARDI GRAS WEEK... (3/10/11)
Sorry it has been such a long time since I’ve sat down to write. I had a test today which I have been studying for. I’ll start from Friday and work my way up till today (which is Thursday). Friday was a very relaxing day. I sat out by the pool most of the day and made a trip to the grocery store. Not really much to say, other than I have never been this tan in my life! I love having a pool 20 feet outside my door and the beach maybe a mile away.
I ride my bike everywhere now which is nice and I get to places so much faster. Also, it is good prep because I hear that gas prices are on the rise at home so I will be riding my bike everywhere when I get back. The gas prices also have affected us here too. The prices of a cab went up about 10 rand, but cabs are still way cheaper here than anywhere at home. It costs us about 50-60 rand for about a 15-20 minute drive past the airport, which is about 7 dollars. Then we split that between 5 people so it usually costs about 10 rand each or like a $1.50 ish. Saturday, (my friend) Becca and I woke up pretty early and ran down the beach for our seven mile run. There was a triathlon going on so we kept running into the racers. Everyone here exercises, I love it. There must have been a 100 people out running, riding or walking that morning! Later, we rented a few cars and a group of us went out to Wacky Woods. It was like a music festival that played music all weekend, nonstop, throughout the nights. It was really cool and we all got out faces painted. There was a pool and I stayed up all night. We left very early in the morning because everyone was exhausted.
Sunday was a pretty boring day. I napped for awhile and recovered all day until I skyped with my parents. We talked for about an hour just about everything. It is always nice to talk to them, but I always get a little home sick after I get off with them.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all pretty laid back. Monday night, we went to the rugby game. The game was so much fun and intense even though I don’t understand rugby. We ended up winning, which was the first time in two years winning on our home field. The crowd went nuts and everyone was so excited!!! After the game they had a relay race for some students who signed up ahead of time. The race consisted of four team and a wheel barrel. The team had to have one person sit while the other wheeled them down and around a keg and when they got back the next person to get in the wheel barrel had to chug a beer then be wheeled down and around the keg again. Once they were finished with all five people they had to sit down. This being a school event and involving alcohol would never fly at Lake Erie (although it would be cool if we did stuff like that at home!)
Tuesday was Mardi Gras as everyone knows and they really didn’t celebrate here, but I did. I met Kristen at Spar and we picked up ice cream and brownie mix to make a volcano look-a-like from the Rainforest Cafe. We baked everything at her place since she has a nice oven then made our way to Annie’s to put it together. There was a storm on its way so we booked it as fast as we could so that we wouldn’t get soaked. We made it just in time for tacos that we all chipped in for. It was a great last meal! After dinner we put the volcano together and everyone dug in and it vanished in seconds. So good! It started to rain a little later and there was a spectacular lightning storm where you could basically see each individual bolt for a few seconds each time it struck. It started to pour so we were all in Chelsea’s room just hanging out hoping that it would clear up so we could go out and celebrate the holiday. It finally did and we got a ride with one of Hannah’s friends to captain, where they have karaoke nights every Tuesday. There weren’t very many people there, but I had a lot of fun. We sang the spice girl’s song Spice Up Your Life and it was hilarious.
The next day, Ash Wednesday, I would only be eating bread to see if I could do it. It was tough, but I did well. I studied a little for my test on Thursday during the day and then had my volunteering. It was a very laid back day at Masifunde. When we first got there the younger kids were still there so we were instructed to help them with their work. I sat down with a little girl at first and she read me a book about a rhino chasing some kids and ended up just wanting to be their friend. The book was in English and she had some trouble reading it. She was only in grade 1 so I could see that she was still learning. I helped her with a majority of the words, but she seemed to learn the words as I said them because if they popped up again she remembered. Next I helped a little boy with his math homework. He knew what he was doing and had very few errors with his subtraction. Then I helped an older girl who I believe is in grade 7. She knows english very well and was preparing for her EMS test, which is like economics. We went over everything from consumers, to producers, and supply and demand. Her test was the next day and she seemed very confident once we were done. She had to study a pyramid of what is important like wants and needs and she was having a hard time with it. So I showed her how I study is by high lighting each individual thing a different color so that it sticks out in my mind. Once we did that she flew through the pyramid and shouldn’t have any problems with her test. The kids are really starting to get to know us and they love asking us questions. I learned today that not only is the material we go over for their homework important, but the way they learn is important too. I was glad I could show the last girl I worked with a new style of studying and I hope she can use that throughout her studies.
This may sound very general, but today I realized I need to learn all the kids names. Even though they may be hard to pronounce, I still need to give it a shot because today some of them remembered my name. I think I might have them write down their names for my next week and maybe something about them so that way I can almost study it when I go home.
The rest of the night was consumed with me studying frantically and cramming for the test because I didn’t study as much as I had wanted to. I wasn’t up very late and I felt really confident going into the test. I hope I did well because I got my paper back and I did well on that, so I want to keep the streak going! When I got my paper back though, I received a 68 and my heart automatically dropped, but a 68 here is like a high B so not bad. I don’t know why their grading system is different or even how it works, I just always ask if I don’t know.
I am sort of jealous that everyone back home is on spring break and ours isn’t until the end of April, so I still have more than a month left. I should be in Ft. Lauderdale having a blast with my best friends, but I just keep thinking about next year and what I will be doing for spring break! Cheers!
Ps. I want to apologize for not including any pictures recently. My camera has died on me and won't charge. My parents are sending me a new one via UPS, so I should have it in a few weeks! I would have bought one here, but they are extremely expensive and the plugs wouldn't match up when I head back home with it!
AN ADVENTUROUS WEEKEND... (2/16/11)
I am writing in my room right before I go to bed. Still no internet, but you don’t really need it around here all that much. The only reason I want the luxury is to stay in touch with everyone back home, but I guess that is really what the internet is for.
Anyways let me rewind to Thursday night and start my story there. We (Chelsea, Becca, Kristen, Alyssa and Sara) all took a lovely, yet windy walk down along the ocean towards the boardwalk. The boardwalk is a very well decorated area of Port Elizabeth that houses a bunch of shops and restaurants including the ice cream parlor we decided to rest at. Almost all of us got a double scoop of chocolate fudge chocolate chip expecting something similar to a rocky road concoction, but instead we got a lighter kind of coffee tasting ice cream with chocolate shavings spread throughout. This is probably why the majority of South Africans, and for that matter the rest of the world, are thinner than Americans. It was delicious and very filling. After our sugar buzz, we walked through an African craft area where some people got to play some beats of the drums. There was also an artist that painted these glorious pieces of art that represented all aspects of Africa. I fell in love with all of that immediately and will definitely return before the end of this trip to purchase a few of his works.
The next morning, with our two rented cars, nine of us left for Jeffery’s Bay, or J-Bay. J-Bay is home to the surfing championships which are held in South Africa’s winter (July). That is the time where rogue waves are abundant and the surfing town comes alive. We got to our hostel around noon and grabbed a bite to eat in town while they were getting our rooms ready. Our rooms basically sat right on the beach and overlooked the ocean with breathe taking views. We spent most of the day being lazy on the beach. The water is freezing (even though I probably have no room to talk because I know it is 10 times colder at home) and the wind is strong. Laying on the beach with a breeze is nice, but not when the sand pelts you from all directions and basically buries you alive.
The next day, we woke up and made out way towards Tsitsikamma to check into our second hostel of the weekend. This town is tucked away along the mountain and in the woods. We ate at an American inspired diner dedicated to Elvis and most of the singing legends of the 50s. I of course got a cheeseburger (go big or go home) and fries/chips. We were in a bit of a hurry and left so we weren’t late for our reservation. On the way we saw a monkey sitting on a sign on the side of the road, not something you see everyday!
We arrived at the Bloukran Bridge around 1pm to claim our reserved spots for bungee jumping off the worlds highest bungy bridge (216 meters). It was kind of on the expensive side, but worth EVERY penny, or should I say rand. Our jump time was at two so we made our way out onto the bridge around 1:45. I don’t even know if I can put into words what was going through my head. As we were walking, to my left was a brilliant view of the ocean and beach nestled between two steep slopes from the gorge I would be plummeting into and on my right was a spectacular view of mountains and more of the gorge. Looking down through the grate that we were walking along was scary enough for me. The wind was strong and it was a lot cooler that far up. We had a chance to watch some people go before we made out way out onto the bridge, but watching from afar didn’t do it justice. We gathered around to listen to instructions and they assured us you basically couldn’t mess it up and that it was 100 percent safe. I believed them, but it still didn’t stop me from shaking. I knew I had always wanted to do something like this, but I couldn’t believe I was standing on the bridge about to hurl myself into nothing but air.
Sara went first and I was up next. My ankles were all strapped in and I didn’t hear one word the “jump master” said to me while he was getting me ready to go. I really didn’t hear much of anything for a good 5 minutes. Once I was ready, they helped me up and hopped me over to the edge. I didn’t feel much of anything, my knees were just a bit shaky and when they said “5,4,3,2 ,1 bungy” I just let myself fall over and didn’t even think about it twice. They told us before hand there was four seconds of free fall before you felt the tension of the bungy, but that 4 seconds felt like a decade. It was the most amazing feeling just flying through the air with nothing stopping you for those four seconds. Then once I hit the bottom of the jump and bounced back up I felt almost weightless and spun my arms quick like I was trying to swim or something. I bounced a few more times and tried to take in as much scenery as possible while being upside town and spinning through the air. I hung there for probably about a minute, but to me it felt like an hour until someone repelled down to come and get me. He put my in a sitting position and hoisted me back to the top of the bridge. I was still shaking so bad because of all the adrenaline and the guy even commented on it. We made our way to buy our DVDs and pictures then booked it back to town so that we could meet the rest of the group to zip line.
After jumping off a bridge, zip lining felt like nothing, but it was still really fun! We soared through one of South Africa’s national parks for about 3 hours and even got a meal to go at the end.
We all went to bed early because it had been such a long day. The next morning we woke up pretty early and went to the National Park to hike a trail that led us to a beautiful waterfall. The trail was tough in spots because we had to maneuver over everything from large rocks to small loose rocks. It was nice to feel a good work out and I even got a chance to do some running on the trail when it was mainly dirt. The waterfall was well worth the 50 rand we paid to get into the park and some people even jumped off of it. I didn’t because I don’t think I am a strong enough swimmer so I just sat back with my feet in the water and watched. We took a bunch of pictures and then made out way back.
There is so much to do here, but I don’t want to fall behind in classes and risk not passing because I don’t even want to know what would happen then. I’ll update as soon as I can, although I am guessing this week might be on the boring side compared to the weekend I just had. Cheers!
THE JOURNEY BEGINS... (2/8/11)
Finally I am here [in South Africa]. After all the unnecessary stress that was all a part of my departure, I made it. I am writing right now from my room, which as of now doesn’t have any internet, on the first Monday after my arrival.
First I’ll reflect on this past weekend, starting with the Visa situation! My visa/study permit was apparently delayed getting to Cleveland so it was not delivered on the day that I was told by the consulate. The reason it was delayed was the massive snowstorm that hit the Midwest dropping 2 feet in some places. My dad finally called and calmly told them the situation, even though my mom and I had done the same exact thing, and got everything straightened out. The only problem was that my Visa was now in transport to me and my plane was still on schedule to take off at 2:25 p.m. that day (this was happening around 10:30ish). FINALLY, my Visa arrived, I sprinted down the drive way grabbed it from the guy and we all jumped into the car and headed for the airport. It was time to say good bye, or so-long! I cried, of course, but I am going to miss them so much!
Taking off in Cleveland seemed very dangerous, it was basically a blizzard. They sprayed the plane down with some anti-freezing liquid and then we were off. It wasn’t the smoothest take off I’ve ever experienced. After we reached an altitude above the clouds it was so beautiful! You could see the snow storm right below and it was sunny skies all the way to Washington. Once we got to Washington I grabbed something to eat and then we got onto the international flight from Washington to Dakar and then onto Joberg.
When we touched down in Dakar to drop people off and pick some people up, though not many, it was about 630 am in Senegal. The sun was just rising and Dakar sits right on a peninsula so it was obviously a sight to see. Once in the air I could see Dakar from above and I noticed a few things. Lots of people were fishing in their small boats, similar to the Amazon, and there was a few hundred houses in a small vicinity that had a high piles of trash that was surrounding the houses. I don’t know much about Dakar, but you could blatantly see the difference between the wealthy and the poor from the air. I met my whole group from CEA on the plane and we talked a little while mainly about our experiences before arriving to that point.
Once we got off the plane Monalisa, our international coordinator, was there to show us to the hotel that we had to stay at until the next morning. It was great sharing all the excitement with the other study abroads.
We were picked up the next morning so that we could drop our stuff off at our rooms and then pack quickly for our weekend orientation, aka Bush Camp. Before we got there we stopped at a raptor and reptile rescue/rehab center and learned a lot about snakes. I got to hold a huge python, similar to the one Britney Spears held at the VMAS that one time, and also two other snakes/reptiles. I’m not going to go into detail about Bush Camp because they tell everyone not to reveal too much about the experience, but I will say I got to zipline into a river called Umlamboo (I think?) which was pretty cool! It rained most of the time we were there so it wasn’t very uplifting, but on the other hand I did get my first glimpse of wild monkeys! They were white with black faces, probably as tall as a medium sized dog. On the way there and home we passed by these communities on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth and basically they were made up of small shacks, probably only 1 or 2 rooms, with sheet metal for a roof and a bunch of trash surrounding their houses. Someone on the bus mentioned that in South Africa you are either rich or poor and I saw that first hand driving from those communities straight into the city.
The view of the Indian Ocean is beautiful! There are palm trees everywhere and so much wind it could knock you over on a rough day. Port Elizabeth is known as the windy city and I can understand why. Another thing I noticed was that every house or for that matter any building is gated and most have barbed wire and other high end security systems to protect their houses and property. The crime rate in South Africa is very high so people take the necessary precautions.
I got a chance to meet my roommate. Her name is Tabbi and she is from Botswana. She lived here last year so she knows basically everything and she is very, very nice! It is crazy the people I have met here so far. Some people are from the States while some are from Germany, Finland, Sweden, France and a bunch of other countries. It almost hurts my head to listen to so many accents in one conversation. I am already burnt and it hasn’t even been a week, but in some spots I am tan. I can’t wait to start classes and meet some other South Africans!
We did get to go to a college rugby game already and it was awesome. It makes football players look like pansys! It was so intense and the players never got a break except for halftime. Also, the student section had the most school spirit I have ever seen. They sang school songs which were awesome, even I couldn't understand them.