Saturday, March 27, 2010

See ya later Stellenbosch, Hello Holiday

Today was our last day in Stellenbosch until April 10. Tomorrow morning we leave for a two week holiday where we will be traveling along the Garden Route (the southwestern coast of the continent). We have many fun and exciting things planned for this time including zip lining, going on safaris, bungy jumping (!), and shark cage diving.

These past two days have been wonderful. Yesterday we visited two of the tips of the continent, which were so incredibly beautiful. It was the greenest green and the bluest blue I have ever seen. The creation here is just breathtaking! I am constantly in awe of the beauty of this place.

I also have experienced my first wine tastings. They are so much fun and you get to try so many different wines! So far I have bought three bottles to take back home and share. Although I don't know much about wine yet, I do know that the wine here is truly some of the best in the world. Stellenbosch in particular is known for its wine.

I most likely won't be able to update until I return from holiday (but not sure at this point)... so I wish you all a wonderful two weeks!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cape Town

The town I am staying in- Stellenbosch- is a quaint but quite large village. It is home to Stellenbosch University, so there are plenty of students and people our age. The majority of the people in the town are white, but there aren't many tourists (like us). The streets are lined with cute little shops and places to eat and the whole city is so GREEN... there are trees and grasses and bushes and flowers everywhere. It is incredibly beautiful. The neighborhoods are also clothed with trees and most of the houses have large gates, which is very different from home. It is about a 15 or 20 minute walk into town, but there is much to see and do. My host family consists of David (father), Margaret (mother), Ross, and Helen (two students about our age). They are very welcoming and I really enjoy being in their home and getting to know them!

Yesterday was long and busy, but I loved every minute of it. We woke up early to a somewhat cloudy, cool day and walked to the train station where we rode to Cape Town (the city that is pictured above). Cape Town is the largest city in South Africa, is the future home of the World Cup 2010, and is honestly the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The train spit us out right in the heart of it, and I really felt as though I was in South Africa as the large majority of people were black or coloured (as they call them here). There is lots of construction and maintenance going on right now, as the city is preparing to host the FIFA World Cup in June. As a sign read: "We've come a long way, but now is not the time to stop. Apologies. If construction causes delays, we're getting ready to welcome the world." I thought that was a perfect description of what is to come in South Africa. The African continent as a whole has never hosted the World Cup-- it certainly will bring about a great economic boost for the city as well as an awareness of the history and the amazing developments the country/city has made. The World Cup will also be held in eight other cities this year.

We continued walking through the city until we reached the harbour. Turning around to look behind us, we could see the cloudy landscape of Table Mountain (the large flat mountain above) with the buzzing city in front of it. This is an image that will never leave me. We boarded the ferry for Robben Island, which is where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during the apartheid era. This island is about 11 km away from Cape Town, and the view of Cape Town from the island is breathtaking. These black prisoners, who were banished there only because they had attempted to somehow rebel against apartheid, were mistreated and forced to do heavy labor and build their own prison cells. We were able to walk through the prisons, including Mr. Mandela's cell, which were cramped and empty. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in confinement like that for over 25 years! Robert Sobukwe, who was a black leader arrested after the Sharpeville Massacre (where many innocent South Africans were murdered or injured by white police officers), was also confined to Robben Island, however, he had his own housing area and was completely restricted from having any type of communication or interaction with the other prisoners. One of our tour guides was actually a prisoner there for 5.5 years, though he was sentenced to 30 years, so we were able to get an insider's perspective, which made it that much more meaningful. He was very interesting to talk to and opened up about everything that went on on the island.

We rode back into Cape Town and I grabbed a bean and cheese wrap at one of the fancy malls (this one happened to be waaay fancier than anything in West Mi!). We were able to look around and shop for a short while before heading back to the train station and back to Stellenbosch. After a long train ride and a long walk back home, we had a delicious meal of pasta with most of our host family and hung out as a group.

There is so much more I could say about this trip and each day, but I must get some sleep! Tomorrow we head to Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, and Boulder National Park. Looking forward to it as always and feeling so incredibly blessed to be here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the most beautiful place on earth

I am having an absolutely wonderful time here so far! This country is even more breathtakingly beautiful than I ever could have expected and I am just so happy and blessed to be exactly where I am. The past two days have been full of getting to know our host families, eating delicious food (including gelato-yum!), exploring our village, hanging out with the group, and touring the schools that we will be teaching in. I found out that I am assigned to a Grade 3 English medium classroom, which will begin April 12.

Looking forward to the next five and a half weeks- including tomorrow, when we will visit Cape Town and Robben Island.

More updates to come! Sending my love.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday was my last day with my Jamestown students (aren't they cute?). After a brief lesson on the country of South Africa, I had them write letters to a South African student that included information about themselves, what they liked about living in Michigan, and questions to ask their pen pal. I plan to bring these letters with me to share and will hopefully bring letters back home for them as well. The kids were very excited and some of them even taped on a "squishy," a little animal pencil topper that the students love to collect and trade (a big sacrifice for a 4th grader!). They also made me pictures and cards and signed a yearbook for me. It was a day full of hugs and well wishes, and I miss them already!

Tomorrow I plan to go to church with my family, visit my Nana, and have lunch with the South Africa group and our families before take-off at 3:30.

Thank you for all of your support and prayers! See ya later, U.S.A. :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Seven Days and Counting

Greetings friends and family!

My school assignments are complete and my suitcases are quickly filling up. On Sunday, March 21st, I will depart for a GVSU teacher assisting program in Stellenbosch, South Africa with six other students and our trip advisor. The six weeks that I am away will be divided into half traveling - half teaching, and I will arrive back home on May 2nd. I am incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and am more anxious and excited than I can express to see what the next two months have to offer!

Until then, I will be finishing up my current teacher assisting placement in Hudsonville, which has been a wonderful learning experience that I will be very sad to leave. The students-- loveable and lively-- have nestled their way into my heart since being with them for the past ten weeks. Once again, I am thankful for an opportunity that has allowed me to grow as a teacher and to develop relationships with thirty one special fourth graders. Saying goodbye won't be easy, but I am comforted knowing that I can come back to see them when I return.

I will do my best to provide updates as often as possible. Your prayers are greatly appreciated!



If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea- even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:9-10