“Take memories and leave impressions”

Today is my last day at school! I’m kind of happy because that means I’ll be heading home soon, but I’m also sad. I’m definitely going to miss these crazy kids and the outrageous things that they do.

It has been quite the experience getting to work in a South African school for 4 weeks. I have worked in many different schools in different places, and none can compare to this. The way school is conducted and thought about in this country is completely different than what I am used to. I came into this experience with an open mind, knowing that I would be challenged and would have to adapt my mindset and theories about teaching and education in general. I certainly was challenged during my time here. Even though I knew things would be different, I was not prepared to see what I have seen. My home classroom, where the school placed me, has been the most difficult. The teacher in this classroom has a very different approach to teaching than I do. I am sad to say that I am disgusted by the actions of this teacher. Everyday, I saw things happen in this classroom that should never be done to a student or occur in a school. Shouting is a common occurrence, along with public shaming, name calling, and worst of all, hitting of the students by the teacher. The first time I saw this, I almost cried. The most horrifying part of it all is that these incidents happen at the most inappropriate times. Not that there is an appropriate time to hit a child or call them stupid, but it is definitely not when they get an answer wrong or are late for class because they had to walk in the rain. I am shocked that this is standard here in South Africa. As I leave, I realize that I am only an outsider here and I cannot judge or criticize the way that things are done. I can have my own opinion and take it back with me to better my own teaching practice.

In my teaching practice I want to believe that students should be praised for their accomplishments and supported when they don’t quite understand. I also believe that respect is very important in a classroom community. If I do not respect my students, how will they respect me? The biggest thing that I think I have learned from being in this classroom is that I need to be able to teach my students in a way that they are able to learn. By just telling students what they need to know, they see no importance or significance in the information. It merely becomes facts that they memorize and will forget come the next term. One of the many teachers that I have seen here does a great job of relevant teaching. She communicates to her students why they need to know things and relates it to their lives. I enjoyed spending time in her room as well because I see many techniques that she uses that I someday want to teach to my students.

Besides some good teaching and some not so good, I still find myself saddened over this school. It seems to me that there is a lot of negativity surrounding education. Teachers are frequently here for the money and not for the students. No one seems to think that it can ever change, and few are in the education profession to make a difference. I have seen a few teachers in this school that I strive to be like in the future. As I mentioned before, I have seen them relate to their students. The great teachers create classroom communities that foster genuine learning and respect. I plan do the same someday to become a great teacher. When I become a teacher, I am not going to sit back and let pessimism and lack of enthusiasm rule the education system. I know that I will be able to make a difference in my students’ lives.

Besides having some not so great days, today was great. During our second period, my students threw me a going away party. Before today, I wasn’t very pleased with my experience. I felt like I had not been making a difference in these students’ lives. But now, I know that I have made an impact. All 38 students stood up individually and gave a speech to me about how much I have affected them. They all thanked me and told me they loved having me in their classroom. Some students were funny and told me “even though you yelled at me and sent me out I still love you” and some genuinely spoke about how happy they were that I was able to teach them new methods in math. We had some snacks and played a game that I taught them while they crowded me to take pictures and give hugs. I now feel that I have influenced these students in a positive way. My dad texted me this morning and said “take memories and leave impressions.” This really stuck with me after being in the classroom today. I feel that I have left an impression on my students and the staff here. I have taught them many new teaching techniques that I have learned at Michigan State. I have had some laughs and disagreements with teachers about what we believe to be best. I also have taken memories from this school that I will never forget. Even though their system is not necessarily one that I always agree with or would use myself, I have learned so much about myself and the teacher that I want to become.

Advertisements

One for the books

This past weekend was definitely one for the books!

 Thursday morning we left Cape Town and drove about 5 hours to a city up in northern South Africa called George. We arrived at another backpacker’s inn just in time for sunset on the beach. The places we stay at are called backpackers, which are basically hostel made for people who are traveling around the country. They are always full of lively people hanging out at the bar or having a barbecue until early in the morning. It’s a cool concept because we’ve met people from all around the world doing the same things that we are doing. Thursday night we went to bed early because we had to get up early the next morning.

 Friday we woke up early to go bungee jumping! (or bungy as they say here) I wasn’t that nervous until we started driving up to the place and drove over the huge bridge that we would be jumping off of. We got out and signed in, then we had to get our harnesses on. When everyone was ready, we were off to the bridge. It wasn’t a long walk to the plank where we jumped, but by that time I was really nervous. I’m not very afraid of heights so I was okay walking on the bridge. Some of the others were pretty scared because we walked under the bridge (not where cars drive) through a grated tunnel I guess you could call it. I looked down and could see right through the ground of the tunnel to the river under the bridge. I thought it was so cool, but others didn’t quite feel the same. We got to the center of the bridge and immediately, they called the first person to go. He wasn’t part of our group, but everyone watched and cringed as he went off the bridge. As others went, we got to watch on a TV screen as they jumped and got pulled back up. It was finally my turn and it went up to get strapped in. The guys put weights on my ankles to even out the distribution of weight and I sat waiting for my turn. Another guy came over to make sure I was secure and explained that I was supposed to jump straight out and off the bridge, instead of down. My ankles were tied together so I had to jump up to line and the workers carried me to the edge. I was all ready to go and getting ready to jump when they stopped me because I wasn’t close enough to the edge. I had to hop closer to the edge so my toes were hanging off, and I was almost falling. This made me tense up and lose my courage and for some reason I forgot how they had told me to jump. They counted down “3,2,1 bungee” and let me go. I was afraid they were going to push me if I didn’t jump, so I jumped straight down like I was jumping into a pool. Although my jump was wrong, it was probably the most amazing 2 minutes of my life! Once I jumped, the rope pulled me straight down by my ankles and I was flying head first to the ground. At the end of the rope, I was flung back up and bounced a few times. My arms were out and I was screaming so loud I thought people at home could hear me! As the rope slowed down, I was slowing swinging back and forth. It was actually very peaceful because the sky was so quite all I could hear was the river flowing below. I hung there for a few seconds while a guy came down the rope on a pulley to help me get back on top of the bridge. When I got back up, all I wanted to do was go again and again. After the bungee excitement wore off, we went for lunch and then to a forest for zip lining! This was also pretty cool because it was over waterfalls and some amazing scenery.

 The next day, we went to a place called Featherbed. We rode a ferryboat to an island were the area was protected and could no longer be developed. It was beautiful so we walked around for a while to get some great scenery pictures. There was a little market and waterfront area we explored as well while we grabbed lunch. Sunday, we had to wake up very early for our safari! First though, we got to ride elephants. I rode the papa elephant with Alanna and my friend Sam rode the baby. We got about a half hour tour riding the elephants with guides as they showed us around the preserve. It was pretty weird sitting on top of this huge creature as it walked at a turtle pace around the path. After everyone got a chance to go, our safari truck pulled up and we were off on a 3-hour ride. The car was so bumpy because we had to go off the track to get a closer view of the animals. We saw rhinos, different kinds of antelopes, wildebeests, zebras, and giraffes. We also saw the elephants that we rode out roaming on their own. It ended up being that we got lucky because we were the last group ever that would ride these elephants! Immediately after we rode them, the staff let them go and we saw them in their natural habitat on the safari. Of course we were all waiting to see the lions and our guide saved them for last. We pulled up to a gated area that was pretty small and drove slowly inside to find them. There were 3 lions sitting on the edge of the fence, 1 male and 2 females. They were so beautiful just sitting there not even noticing that our car had pulled up. It was kind of weird because it was almost like a zoo. The other animals had room to roam around and hunt for food, but the lions were kept in a small area. They said it was to keep them from hunting the other animals, but it was still strange to see them locked up for human entertainment. We went to a wildlife ranch after the safari. Here, we saw more animals that were in a zoo setting. We saw more lions, cheetahs, and tigers, and then we got to pet cheetah cubs! We went into their cage 2 at a time and could pet them and take pictures. I really wanted to hold it, but the trainers said no one holds the cubs. If they get held when they are young, when they grow up they will still want to be held and that could be dangerous. They were so fun and cute it was like I was playing with a puppy!

 Monday was another fun and crazy day. First, we went to an ostrich farm. The night before, at the backpackers, they had ostrich for dinner. I had no other option but to try it and it was not something I would eat again. We also had ostrich egg for breakfast that morning and I felt the same about the egg. After eating these birds, it was kind of weird going to a farm to see them. Our guide told us all about the birds and showed us how they raise them from babies to adult. We got to go see them and had a chance to pet, feed, and hug them. I only pet and hugged it because when I saw how they ate off a hand, I was out. It pecked so hard one girl had a bruise on her hand! After feeding it, they took us to a big fenced area where we could ride them. This was the strangest experience I have ever had. I was kind of scared because they are such weird looking animals. They move so fast and are pretty dumb, so it makes them unpredictable. To get an ostrich, the trainers have to chase it around the pen and put a bag on its head so it can’t see. Their eyesight is their strongest sense so without it, they don’t know what’s going on. Once they wrangled it to the place where you get on, they take the bag off its head and it goes crazy. It was hilarious to watch the others ride on them because it runs so fast and the trainers have to chase it around to catch the person. When it was my turn, I was actually more scared to do this than bungee jump. They got the ostrich and brought it to me and told me just to jump on. They lifted its wings and I struggled to get on and put my legs under them. The trainer showed me where to hold on the wing, which was so weird. I was grossed out because I could feel it’s bones and it was so dirty. They took the bag off its head and it took off running. It went pretty fast and trotted away while the trainers chased after it. I started screaming because it was getting so close to the others and I thought it was going to bite me! When the trainers caught up, I screamed to get me off and I fell backwards while they pulled me. I was laughing hysterically but almost crying because it was just so weird! I definitely don’t plan on doing that again. We went to a place called the Cango Caves next. This is where the Xhosa people used to live about 1 million years ago. It was beautiful inside the huge caves. We walked around on the path following our guide as we went through tunnels and very small spaces. We got to one spot that was called Devil’s Chimney where we had to squeeze into a space that I could barely fit in, and climb up these very slippery rocks. Right before I went, a girl got stuck for like 20 minutes! The guide had to run around the cave and go in through the entrance to pull her out the other side. She ended up just being scared and not actually stuck, but that made me nervous to go in! I didn’t get stuck, but being so short, it was hard to grab the hand holds and pull myself through. It was really cool to see but weird to think that people lived there for hundreds of years.

 Now that the excitement is over, I am going back to school to finish up my last few days here. I leave a week from tomorrow and I am sad but also happy to be going home. I’m going to enjoy my last few days and make the best of the time that I have left! 

Birthday Fun and more…

The last time I wrote I was waiting for my birthday weekend to come and hoping that I would have a great time without missing home too much. Well I did!

On Friday afternoon, Roxanne took some of us girls to a winery. Alanna and the other Allie live nearby so we’ve been hanging out quite a bit. They tagged along with Roxanne, myself, and one of Roxanne’s friends to Durbanville Hills Winery. If you can look this up I suggest you do. It was beautiful to sit outside on what us Michigan girls considered a nice day (the South Africans thought it was freezing) and look out over the miles of vineyards and see the ocean while we had some wine. We enjoyed some tasting and a cheese plate that went with our wine. It was so good that I even bought a bottle to bring home, adding to my 2 others. I’m starting to really enjoy red wine, so I can’t wait to go home and try some of my dad’s favorites! After the winery, we went to a barbecue at a neighbor’s house. They had some chicken and I offered to make a marinade for it before we grilled. I was a little nervous because they did not have any of the same spices that I normally use, so I just threw something together that sounded good. It turned out that everyone liked it, so I volunteered to make dinner one night next week! We’ll see how that goes…

Saturday, on my birthday, Kathy and Roxanne took Alanna, Allie, and me to a little town called Franschhoek. It was a cute place with a market for shopping and a bunch of restaurants. We walked around for a while and had lunch and then of course I had to get a birthday ice cream cone. We explored some more because it was such a nice day I didn’t want to leave! For dinner, we went for some South African Mexican food. It was definitely not like what we have at home, so I think I’ll just stick to the native cuisine. Alanna and Allie weren’t sick of me yet, so I slept over their host family’s house that night because we had more fun things planned for the next day.

Sunday, we woke up pretty early to head into Cape Town. It gets pretty busy there on the weekends especially when it’s nice out, so we wanted to beat the traffic. We went straight to the waterfront where they have double-decker bus tours. This was pretty cool because I had just done this in New York with my family and now I was able to do it half way around the world. We took 2 separate tours that took us around most of Cape Town. We went from the Atlantic Ocean waterfront to Table Mountain and saw everything in between. There were so many different bays and beaches that it didn’t even feel like South Africa. Beside the 75-degree sunny day, the scenery was not what I expected to see here. It was a beautiful weekend and I’m glad that I got to spend it with some new friends!

To start the week on Monday, I was back at school. I went into a classroom that I had not been in yet and enjoyed watching the first grader reader to each other. That is definitely one of my new favorite classes! Today, I came into school and found out that my teacher was absent. Knowing the class that I was in and where there were in their learning, I just picked up where he had left off. We did math for the whole morning, reviewing a lot of what the students had already learned. I did this because while observing my teacher, I can see that some of the students do not understand or are falling behind. I thought that I would give them a chance to ask me what they are struggling with and try to help them better understand the subject. It was tough though because this is a 4th grade class. It sounds silly to say that I struggle with 4th grade math, but teaching it is harder than just knowing it. I had a student correct me once and I felt so embarrassed but tried to turn it into something good. I went on to tell the students that it’s okay if they feel behind or make mistakes because even a teacher does this sometimes.

I am still sitting in class watching the students solve problems from the board and I can’t help but watch how they interact. A lot of the students here are very physical. They hug each other very often and when they sit at their desks they are always leaning on each other. This is almost like a metaphor for these students’ lives. They lean on each other physically, both also emotionally. I feel that these students come to school without getting affection or emotional support from anyone at home. They come to school and rely on others to support them during the little time they get in the classroom. I feel sad knowing that a lot of them do not have parents or others at home to give them this love.

This is the perfect opportunity for me to thank everyone that is there for me. From the people who have texted me just to ask how my time here is going and family that has called I want to thank you for always supporting me in my decisions and great adventures that I take. But most of all, to my parents and brother, thank you for giving me the physical and emotional support that I have always needed and will continue to need for my days to come. I love you!

I am only in school for one more day this week, then I leave for a long weekend trip. We are going on a safari, zip lining, bungee jumping, elephant/ostrich riding, and much more. I can’t wait to write about more adventures next week!

 

“Do you know Nicki Minaj?”

On Monday, I had the craziest day that I have had while being in the school so far. I volunteered to be a substitute, not knowing what it would entail. In this school, when a teacher is absent, students disperse into other classrooms and sit in the back all day with no work to do. It sounds like this is a new system, but a bad one at that. I figured that I could be more useful to the students even if we don’t do much, rather than them sitting and doing nothing all day. So I took a class of about 40 students and was on my own all day. I asked many people if I should be following a lesson plan or if there was a specific thing I should be teaching, and they all said no. So I was on my own. I introduced myself and I could tell that they were in shock because of my accent. I decided to let them ask me some questions about America because they all love learning about our country. This turned into a conversation about the U.S. dollar. I realized that I had some money in my bag so I pulled it out and taught an impromptu math lesson. The students may not have known that they were learning math, but at least I had something to do with them.

 

Later on in the day, the students switched classrooms. I was not expecting to have new students and had nothing planned, so I just did the same thing. Again, they all loved questioning me, asking if I know about Chris Brown, Will Smith, and other celebrities. At the end of the day, I had taught 4 different groups of students an impromptu lesson based on America. It was hard to get the students quite and under control because I was not their regular teacher but by the end of the day, I found my way and I think it was a great lesson.

 

Being here in South Africa has been quite the experience. I am learning a lot and love spending my time with the students. Today is Thursday already and I was in a grade 5 classroom. The students were learning about different religious holidays. I had previously told the teacher that I am Jewish, so she let me read the part in their books about Judaism. She was not sure how to pronounce some words and she thought it would be better if I explained it, because I live the religion. I read the blurb about Judaism and gave the students a chance to ask me questions. Surprisingly, they had a lot of questions about the religion and some misunderstandings that I got to clear up. After a while, the questions of course turned into asking me about America. All of their knowledge about our country is from what they learn in movies and magazines so when they ask questions, a lot of them make me laugh. The most frequent question that I get is “Do you know Nicki Minaj?” I think it’s so funny because the students obviously don’t understand that just because I’m from America, it doesn’t mean that I know everyone in the entire country, especially a celebrity. So I find myself often questioning them back “Do you know every single person that lives in South Africa?” They just laugh and realize that their question is kind of silly. The students did however have a lot of good questions. They are so intrigued with America in general, that if anything is even a little bit different from their own country, they love to talk about. Driving on the other side of the road, snow, and money are repeated topics that I get asked about. One student today asked “Do you have children that ride on bikes and throw newspapers to houses?” He clearly watches a lot of old movies about the United States. This just reminds me how fascinated children are with everything and how they absorb much of what they see.

 

Unfortunately, not everything in this school is great. Along with their system for substitutes, a lot of what happens in the school is not efficient. A lot of time is wasted throughout the day yelling at students and relearning material that was taught wrong. It is tough being in the classroom and watching a teacher do things that I myself consider inappropriate. But it is easy for me to sit here and criticize. I am not the teacher so I just have to sit back and watch. I am learning that observing a classroom is nothing like teaching one. It’s so easy for me to judge a teacher when I am not in their position, so I have to understand that I can give suggestions, but cannot complain when they do not take them. I am also going into the weekend thinking about home. I am definitely missing my family and friends and I am thinking about spending my birthday here half way across the world. I am spending the weekend with most host family and hope to make the day special. I can’t wait to come home and apply all of the knowledge that I am gaining here into my classroom next year and my future classrooms as I become a teacher.

 

 

A different side of S.A.

As I said in my last blog, I would be seeing a different side of South Africa in this new part of my experience here. Already, after 2 days, I definitely have.

Yesterday we went on a tour of what they call a township. I’m not sure how to explain it, other than it was heartbreaking to see. This place held a lot people and was not nearly big enough for all of them. Some of the homes were made to house one family and had 4 bedrooms, but held 34 people. The homes can barely even be called houses compared to what our standards are. Half of them looked like a homemade storage units with gaps between the walls for wind and rain to come in and had no windows. While we walked around, our tour guide pointed out the different huts that people worked in and let us go inside one of the homes. As we walked, I kept noticing the children walking around. Some of them stared and some of them wanted to play with us as we gave them high fives in  passing. What I noticed the most was people just going about their day, not giving any attention to us. This seemed strange to me because we were such a big group and noticeably were different. We were told because groups go on tours so often in Langa, it is not a big deal to the residents. I felt like such a foreigner in this place where I did not belong. Not because the people were different then myself or the homes were different, but because of what I was doing there. I was only there visiting for a few hours to see how these people live and to pity them. Then, I was to go back to my daily life where I have running water, food to eat, and much much more. This does not seem right to me. I enjoyed going to the township to see other parts of the country and how others live, but I am sitting with pain in my heart for these people. They seem to live happily, yet I’m sure there are many times a day where they feel that they are in poverty and are suffering. But one thing, on top of many, that did inspire me about Langa was the fact that even under these circumstances, they still value education. I know that I cannot chance the living conditions of people like this, or help them financially, but one thing that I can do is motivate them. As as teacher, I can go into a school like this and show my students that where they come from is not a deciding factor in where they can go, it is just one aspect of who they are.

After the tour of the township, we had dinner and met our host families, then went home with them. I am living with Wilfred and Kathy, along with their daughter Roxanne who is also studying to become a teacher. So far I have had some delicious meals and talked with Roxanne about our different school experiences.

Today, I started school as a 4th grade teacher. Walking into the school I was nervous about what it was going to be like. I have taught in many different situations before, so I wasn’t nervous about teaching, just the fact that it was a new place and I was not sure what to expect. Of course I was nervous for no reason because everyone was very welcoming. When I walked into my classroom, the students stood up and almost sang a good morning chant to me. It was so cute! I observed for most of the day, but when science came around, the teacher handed me the book and said “Your turn!” So I stood right up and got to it. I basically read the lesson right out of the book and the students answered my questions. We talked about energy and how we need it to go about our lives. Now if someone told me I would be teaching 4th graders about energy a week ago, I would’ve said no way! But here, it seemed that the lessons were already prepared, and I just have to read them out of the guide. In the situation today, I guess I liked that because otherwise I would’ve been lost. But that is not what I think of as a great way to teach, so I hope that I am able to help my teacher plan some great lessons. My mentor teacher is a nice guy, but we have different ideas of what teaching is. That is okay with me and I am not here to change his methods, I am here to teach my students and learn about the kind of teacher that I want to be.

Hopefully I will be observing and teaching a lot more in the days to come!

-Ms. Kramer

“Learn, Unlearn, Relearn”

 

This week has been pretty busy and filled with fun adventures so this post might be pretty long.

We started out at UCT and had some great lectures. Tuesday, we got a tour of the campus and walked to a cute cafe on top of a mountain (and had a glass of wine of course). I say mountain loosely because everything here seems to be at a high elevation with a lot of climbing involved. So when I lose my breath or start sweating while walking up, it’s a mountain. Wednesday, we went to a brewery after class. We went on a tour of the place and got to see how beer is made, processed, and packaged and also got to taste a few. It was really neat to be able to try the beer right after seeing the water and other ingredients that it is made from. For dinner that night, Corvell had us try a famous food from Cape Town called a Gatsby. It was basically just a huge sandwich with chicken and french fries, but so so good. We also went to a casino that night and had a great time dancing with the band! Thursday, we had what they call a brai, which is just another term for a barbecue. Being on what seems to be the other side of the world, it’s crazy to see what similar traditions they have here.

Back to the lectures that we had at UCT…I feel like I am learning so much already. Not so much in the form of me taking notes and just copying facts, but in ways that I know will benefit me in the future. We have been talking a lot about the difference between South Africa and the U.S. in the classroom and our societies in general. I don’t want to bore you, so I’ll just mention a few things that stuck out to me. Learn, unlearn, and relearn is one of my favorites. This can be used in any sense of a person’s life, but for me as a teacher, it really makes an impact. Our speaker Eugene told us that to create deep change in a person or society, we have to be able to forget our previous beliefs and opinions that hold bias and create new ones based on impartiality and open-mindedness. I believe that it is important for me to look at the world this way because I do not want to influence any of my future students in a bias way. I want to be able to teach them how to learn, then let them form their own conclusions based on facts and evidence. Another point that Eugene made was to be an active citizen. This goes along with learn, unlearn, and relearn in the sense that we all have our on beliefs. No matter what your belief, Eugene says that we should all fight for what we believe in and try to make a difference. This sounds simple but in reality, it is not such an easy thing to do. He and the other speakers have made such big impacts in this country on the education system, but not without struggle. Most of them have been imprisoned for standing up for what they believe in and it is amazing to hear their stories. This sounds cheesy, but I am inspired by them and want to live like they have. To inspire my students and see them make a difference because of me, is what I strive to do.

This weekend we got a break from sitting in the classroom and got to explore some more of the cape. Friday we drove about an hour to a place called Hermanus and stayed at a backpacker’s hostile. It was a cool place where people came and stayed for a few nights then went on their way. We got to meet people from all over the world one night when we all played board games in the common room. Saturday was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I went shark cage diving in the Atlantic Ocean! On the way, I was so excited to go and had no doubts in my mind about doing it. After getting the long speech about safety, we all nervously got on a pretty small boat with 24 people and went into the middle of the ocean. The ride there wasn’t bad and my excitement was keeping me going. We put on wet suits and my group was the first to volunteer to get in the cage. It was smaller than I thought it would be and tied to the side of the boat. The top opened and our instructor basically threw us in the cage one at a time. I had no time to think about how cold the water was or how scary this was going to be because as soon as the top was secured, we heard “Down down go under!” This meant there was a shark in sight. We had no scuba gear on, so we floated at the top of the cage and when they saw a shark coming from above, they yelled and we pulled ourselves under water using a bar on the cage. I was lucky because my group went under about 5 times and saw quite a few sharks. Our instructor pulled us out (after what seemed to be an hour but was probably only 5 minutes) because we saw a lot of sharks and it was the next group’s turn. Getting out of the cold water and being on the boat for about an hour did not leave me feeling too well. I thought that I would be fine because I fortunately have had a lot of experience on boat, but this boat was a different story. Everywhere I looked someone was puking over the side of the boat. Thankfully I did not, but I got pretty close to it. I was just about done with this boat ride and was ready to go back to shore until I saw the last girl get too sick to get in the cage. I went up to the instructor and used my puppy dog eyes to try to get in the cage again. He didn’t even say yes, he just picked me up and threw me in the cage. Good thing he did because right when I got in, there was a shark as long as the whole cage swimming right past. This time, I was prepared and got some sweet videos. I saw about 7 sharks total and it was the most exhilarating thing that I have ever done and probably will ever do again.

So far, this experience has been once in a lifetime. We have all been loving every minute of it (except for a few sick moments)! We have seen so many things, yet nothing at all. Our time so far has been great but has only shown us the good of this country. We have been very blessed to be able to do the things we have done and see so many beautiful places. Tomorrow we are going to see a whole different side of this country. We are all going to live separately with host families and attend schools to teach for 3 weeks. Our trip leaders and friends have tried to prepare us for the culture shock that we are about to endure, but words can only go so far. I don’t know what I’m walking into tomorrow, but I hope to bring the lessons that I have learned so far with me. That’s all for now… (and maybe a long time because I do not know when I will have wifi again)

 

-Expert shark cage diver

More adventures

The past few days have been nothing but more excitement!

Saturday, we started off the day visiting a monument for the language of Afrikaans. It is the only monument in the world built for a language. It was interesting to see and hear our guide talk about because each person that we hear from has a different experience with the language. His view was a bit skewed because he is a white male, but it is still nice to hear different sides of the fence on such big issues in this country.

After that we went to a winery and got to taste a bunch of different wine and some cheese. The wine here is so cheap compared to the U.S. I wanted to buy all of them! Unfortunately we found out that each person is only allowed 3 bottles per person on the flight home, so I only got 2. We’re going to 2 more wineries and a brewery, so I have to save up. On our way out, it started raining pretty hard which was not great because we were on our way to a rugby game. Now for those of you who don’t follow the Springboks, South Africa’s best team, this was a huge game for us to go to. (Apparently the U.S. has a team too, but clearly I don’t follow them.) Luckily our seats were under an awning so the rain didn’t really bother us. It was a really fun game to be at because there are only 8 games a season, so everyone gets really into it. Rugby is kind of like football, but harder to follow if you don’t know what’s going on, so we made friends with the people around us and had some beer like traditional South Africans.

Sunday we did some more traveling to Cape Point and got the best views of the ocean. The pictures that I took definitely don’t do it justice. We saw 2 rain storms coming from either side of the mountain over the ocean and it was breathtaking. We also went to Boulders Beach where we saw penguins! As soon as I found out we were doing this, I asked everyday when we were going. The penguins live on the beach and near the ocean, so a boardwalk was built for sightseeing. There were hundreds of them just wondering around and playing in the sand, it was pretty cute.

Today and the rest of the week we are at UCT (University of Cape Town). We have already had 2 great lectures and some awesome traditional South African food. We had lasagna today for lunch which was pretty good, but definitely not as good as my moms. 🙂

More to come about my adventures in the shark cage later! Thanks for reading.

-Allison

“Is that a selfie stick?”

Except for the strange noises and the weather everything is going great so far! Let me explain…

The weather here is very strange. Outside isn’t bad, although the average is around 65. But when you go inside anywhere, the air is freezing. No one here has central heat so whenever we’re inside, jackets are always on hand. I even sleep with a heated blanket on because I am so cold! And while I’m sleeping, I’m constantly being woken up by weird animals. We’re not sure what they are but it’s so loud and kinda creepy. One time I thought it was a lion, but I’m sure that was just my jet lag talking.

Besides that… the past 2 days have been very adventurous. Yesterday, we went to table mountain. We rode a cable car up the mountain and stayed on top for about an hour. We explored up there and around the cafe, even with a glass of wine on the edge!  The hike down was a different story. I’m not sure what I was expecting but what we did was not it. I guess I was thinking it would be kind of dirt trail. It definitely was not. The trail was full big rocks and every step that I took I had to watch where I put my foot or else I would end up flat on my butt (which happened quite often). I’m not surprised that people were passing me and laughing as they walked by! Other than a sore body today, it was a great experience.

Today was a pretty calm day, but still awesome. We started off at Green Market Square which was a pretty big market filled with any souvenir one could ask for. It was fun to talk to the natives and bargain for the best prices while others tried to pull us in. For lunch, we went down the street to another market filled with a variety of food. I’m a pretty picky eater, so it was difficult for me to find something that I would like. But when we sat down, I got a chance to try some of the other girls’ food and it wasn’t too bad. After lunch was explored our side of the peninsula. As we jammed to throwbacks in the car, we drove up and down the mountains and to some great picture-taking spots. We watched the mountains and houses go by as we all talked about how it looked like we were on a Caribbean island. With million dollar houses and sandy beaches, I was in shock that this was South Africa. I’m realizing that I knew very little about this country.

Whenever we have the chance to explore a place on our own, my friend Sam and I always end up finding someone to talk to. Whether they are a local from SA or a fellow tourist, everyone is interested in what we are doing and why we are here. The funny part is, the conversation usually starts with people asking about my selfie stick. (For those who do not know, a selfie stick is a long pole that I can attach to my phone that takes great pictures/selfies). Everyday I encounter a new site and gain new memories that will last a lifetime.

I’m off to bed because my laptop is dying. The outlets here freak me out because I may or may not have caused a power outage within the first 10 minutes of being here.

-Mossy (my new nickname, short for mosquito)

“Each one teach one”

Welcome to my South African blog!

This is my first post from South Africa and it’s been a great a time so far. I’ll start from the beginning…

Going to the airport and leaving my family was difficult, but thinking of the times ahead had me very excited. The first flight that I took was 7 hours to Amsterdam. It was quick because I slept most of the time. Our layover was 4 hours then we were on our way to Cape town…or so we thought. Of course nothing ever goes perfectly, so getting on the plan was a struggle. First, the plane’s air conditioning was not working so we had to wait in line for the plane to be switched. Then after a while of waiting, we got to the front and when my boarding pass was scanned, it read that I was not allowed to board. I and another girl on the trip had to go into a different line and get the issue fixed. Finally it all worked out and we were off on an 11 hour plane ride. This one wasn’t bad either because I had some school work to do and movies to watch. We arrived in Cape town and were ready for our adventure! (When I say we, I’m talking about the 9 girls on the MSU study abroad program) We are staying in a bed and breakfast in a town called Durbanville. It’s a pretty good size place where a few of us share rooms. Once we were settled in for the night, we all went straight to bed.

Tuesday morning we woke up around 9 had breakfast, then were off to the mall. Malls in South Africa are where people go for everything. Restaurants, grocery stores, and shops are all found in these huge malls. Everyone shopped around for things that they forgot or could not fit in their suitcases. We had lunch here, which surprisingly was great. The major thing that I was worried about before coming to South Africa was the food. Although we’ve only eaten in restaurants so far, everything that I’ve had was good. Our next stop this day was a cheetah encounter! We split into 2 groups and got to go meet a cheetah named Ebony. He was so sweet and calm the whole time we were in the cage. Each of us got to sit next to him and pet him while the guide spoke to us about the program that they had and why they are here. We went to the beach next. Our leader, Corvell (also known as Corvs, dad, etc.), told us that the water was great and to bring our bathing suit so of course I had to put my feet in. Turns out, he’s quite the jokester and it was actually freezing.

Wednesday was another early (9 am is early for me) morning. We had breakfast and took off for another long day. The drive was about an hour to get to District 6, a museum in downtown Cape Town. The museum was about the size of my bedroom but very interesting. Our tour guide’s name was Joe and he talked to us about human rights violations. He said something to us that I really wanted to share. “Everyone bleeds the same color blood” he told us in one of his speeches. I took this statement to heart and I think that I’ve always tried to think like this on a daily basis. It struck me to think about the issues that are not only going on here in South Africa, but also in the United States. This small phrase has big meaning. If everyone tried to think like this, I think we would all be much better people. Next on our journey was Robben Island. The beautiful boat ride was about an hour. Our whole group spent the time singing camp songs and playing elementary games! When we got there, we took a bus tour around the island then stopped at the maximum security prison. An ex-prisoner spoke to us and took us around the prison while he told us all about his and others’ experiences on the island. It was hard to listen to, but in a way he made me feel inspired. He spoke with no anger or resentment about his years locked up. The best part of this experience was when Kgotso (the ex-prisoner) spoke about how he and others educated themselves. Because all of us are in the field of education, we talked a lot about this experience afterwards. Kgotso said “Each one teach one” was the motto of his time in prison. This means that every man who was literate and able to teach, did. Those who were not, gave back in different ways. This is something that spoke to me and a phrase that I want to bring into my future classroom. I’ve learned over the years that not everyone is good at one thing. Just like Joe said, everyone bleeds the same blood and we are all human. Everyone on this earth has something to give. It may not be knowledge of reading and writing, but everyone has their own journey to share.

South Africa so far is much different than I expected it to be. Most of the time, I barely notice that I am in another country. Aside from cars driving on the other side of the road and some funny accents, I feel at home. As I said earlier, my worries are at ease with finding food that I can eat. Every restaurant has food that I would order at home and everyone speaks english. I am told that in a few weeks when I go stay with a host family, everything is going to change. But until then all I can do is enjoy.

Thanks for reading!

-AK (my nickname here because there are 2 girls named Allie)