daily posts

Sunday started with us getting up and going to church. We attended the 10 AM Morning service at St. James Church. It is Stu’s home church so he met us there before the service. The members of the church were so welcoming and even cracked a joke at Stu for bringing a bunch of his American friends to church. The service was beautiful and not very unlike my church at home except St. James is much more modern with a lot of contemporary music and technology involved in the service. After, we gathered with members of the church that are the same age as we are. We talked about America mostly, several have already visited and most are planning to visit in the future, so that was pretty cool! Before the trip, we learned about St. James Church and the massacre that took place there in 1993. It was powerful to be in the place where such a tragedy happened and potentially see people who were actually there that day.

In the afternoon, we were given the option to hike Table Mountain and I did not want to miss it. Table Mountain is 1088 meters in height, which is 3569 ½ feet, I’ve never hiked anything close to this size before now. In the taxi on the way to the mountain, we asked the driver about the hike. He said he, someone in poor physical health, could hike in an hour and his son could hike in thirty minutes. We had this taxi driver a few times already so we trusted his expected hiking time. Boy, were we in for a surprise.  I expected a pathway curving and turning all the way up the mountain. As soon as we began climbing did I realize this was going to be quite different. It was more like a giant staircase made of rock and in some places I found myself crawling.  We saw many people on our journey upward including people jogging up or down and a couple who told us that the cable car (that was going to take us down once we made it to the top) wasn’t working today and we should just stop and head back down. This was not true and I didn’t think that it was very funny.  After SEVERAL HOURS we finally made it to the top and spent a lot of time in the gift shop relaxing and shopping. I am very proud of those of us who hiked and might consider hiking it again… but not anytime soon.

On Monday we went to Stellenbosch.  It was absolutely amazing and we really were spoiled rotten today. We split into two groups and began our tours. First, we went to a butchery where there was so much meat hanging for the ceiling, a sight I had seen nothing like until now. Our tour guide picked up a bag of something for us and we went on our way. Then my group visited a cute little wine place called Brampton – The Wine Studio, it is kind of like a café but only for wine. We tasted several wines and my favorite was definitely the Rosé. The meat that our tour guide picked up was for us to try in between wines. She brought dried biltong and springbok. I was only adventurous enough to try one and it wasn’t as horrible as it looked. Next we went to a tea café where we had a tea party. I do not like hot tea at all but I tried every cup we were supposed to taste—with a lot of extra sugar I added myself! Then we did a lot more walking around the town and saw places like a haunted bookstore, several churches, the “Angel Factory” (seminary), and the oldest house! The oldest house was really interesting; it was built in 1709, I think, and survived the many fires that consumed the town. Speaking for fires, in the center of town there is actually a large open area just for the purpose of having a safe place to go in the town started to burn down! We then had lunch in the oldest hotel in Stellenbosch. Lunch included a tasting of several small portions of South Africa meals like biltong, a ground beef mixture, rice with curry, a tiny salad, sautéed vegetables and mushroom gravy on pie crust. Everything was delicious but I don’t think biltong is my thing. We can’t forget dessert! We got on the buses this time to travel to a dessert café where we tried two more wines, one of which was a dessert wine, and several small portions for dessert. It was all absolutely delicious. Next we took a little break for the luxury and actually did some learning. Andrew’s uncle started a business, The Burgiss Group, and there is a branch in Stellenbosch so we went in for a visit. We were a probably the most rowdy thing that office has seen in a while so we didn’t stay too long. The Burgiss Group is a company that handles data analysis and provides portfolio management software it is clients. It was actually the most progressive office I’ve ever seen because it actually seemed like it let its employees express themselves. By that I simply mean that I expected the employees to be dressed more professionally, that’s all. Back to the buses we went, and onward to the vineyards, to Donier Wines. It was unbelievably beautiful, even though it was the beginning for autumn and the plants, especially the vines, were beginning to have a deathly appearance. Nevertheless, we enjoyed tasting several more wines, and I found all of the wines here to e absolutely delicious. But wait, our day still isn’t over. Last, we went to a super traditionally African restaurant for dinner, Moyo. There was a buffet and we were outside with traditional decorations and dancers! They even invited all their guests on stage to dance. Watching the boys in our group dance was hilarious and I hope they all remember their new dance moves.

Earlier we learned from Stu about the work he is doing with SASDI (South African Sustainable Development Initiative). On Tuesday we went to the township of Philippi to give some of our time helping the construction of a school for children under the age of seven. We were severely unprepared for the work we were about to do but we did it anyway. The girls we given hard hats, gloves, safety goggles, a mask to cover our mouths, rollers and buckets and buckets of paint. They told us where to paint and we got to work. Though it wasn’t easy to paint walls all day long, it was not nearly as strenuous as the boys. They were making cement, moving it in wheelbarrows and knocking down walls. I was especially glad to be a woman today. We worked all day long, but got to take breaks for tea time and to play with the kids. The kids were great. I love kids, especially those ages. They’re so young and innocent, but I know these kids have seen things while living in the townships that I’ve been so fortunate to not see them. Bless their hearts. It was a good experience to help out the little that we could for just that one day.

On Wednesday, we spent a lot of time in the classroom. We started with a speaker, Kevin Chaplin. His lecture was titled “Lessons Shares from the Corporate World to the SA Ubuntu” and he also talked about the Amy Biehl Foundation. We learned a lot of good advice basically. For example, if you have the right attitude, you will make it. He emphasized that vision is critical, you have to believe in yourself and believe in your business. You need to over-communicate. You need to focus. THINK BIG. He discussed the Four Legs of the Table for success. These legs are administration/finances, branding/the product/marketing, people, and corporate social investment/responsibility. You absolutely have to have grace under pressure and there is no such thing as can’t. I thought it was a good presentation. We got a break for lunch and we also squeezed in a nap. The next speaker was Dr. Leon Holtzhausen, a professor in the Department of Social Development at the University of Cape Town. He spoke about “This Impact of Community Violence on Community Development.” I thought he was the most engaging of the speakers because he immediately asked each of us to tell him our name, where we are from and to ask a question we had. This quickly caught my attention instead of the usual throwing of words that you sometimes get when you listen to a lecture. He was so involved that the only note I took was the word “machsismo.” I actually have no idea why I wrote that or what it means! I might’ve meant machismo, which would make more sense than this word I potentially made up since we were talking about violence and economic status. We had another break and then we got back for one more lecture. Kevin Chaplin was back for more. This time we discussed “Living Your Business and Personal Life with the Spirit of Ubuntu, A Practical Approach to Success” Ubuntu. Ubuntu ngumuntu ngabanya Abantu.  All this is a universal idea that I am a person because of other people. I have the potential of being a human being because of other human beings. It means to be fair and compassionate and empathetic to all. It comes from the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Attitudes are contagious, is yours worth catching? At the beginning of a task, your attitude really determines the success of the task. Do you wake up in the morning and say “Good Lord, it’s morning” or do you say “Good morning, Lord”? I feel like this lecture was a glorified pep talk, and it was very nice to have. Don’t walk away from negative people… RUN. Have unlimited enthusiasm. Forgive yourself and others. Act like a winner. The three R’s:  resolve, refrain, react. Make a difference, even if it is only for one person at a time. Accept change. The only aspect of the future that is guaranteed is change. Be honest and frank. Be happy anyways. We learned about WATCH: Words, Attitude, Thoughts, Company, Heart. And we learned ways to boost your happiness. This was a very fulfilling lecture.

Thursday was a big tourist day. Today we got a ride for the first time in South Africa a charter bus. We all got in and began our day’s journey to Cape Point, the most southwestern point in Africa. We had some stops on the way. First, we stopped in a beautiful tiny seaside town full of boutiques and art galleries. It was nice to look at all the unique things made right here in Africa. I liked the pottery made from actual tires. We got back on the bus and headed further south. Our next stop was Boulder’s Beach. Boulder’s Beach is just what it sounds like but better. There are obviously boulders but there were also penguins! I never knew that there could be warm weather penguins! We took tons of pictures. We settled onto the bus yet again and headed finally to Cape Point. Here we had the opportunity to hike to the top and see absolutely everything. It was a clear beautiful day so the view was wonderful. It was a great feeling to being up there seeing the mountain and the ocean and know you’re at the tip. On the way back to town we stopped at Hout Bay. Hout Bay is a major port for fishing. We didn’t know what we were getting into when we got on a boat. We were headed to Seal Island! The seals were amazing but very stinky. It took several minutes of controlled breathing to get used to the smell so we could enjoy the seals. They were massive creatures, and they also had personalities. When they saw the boat coming, a bunch of them got into the water and started swimming and splashing around.

Friday started with a lecture from Ali Meadows. She spoke about sustainable tourism. South Africa is a world within one country, the people and the places are diverse and important. It is critical to narrow the gap between the poor and the rich. She taught us the precautionary principle which is that if you can’t fully measure the impact of something, don’t do it. We discussed how many resources that Africa has that haven’t been used. Tourism is 9% of the world’s GDP, that’s a good chunk. There’s a lot of good tourism, but there is also bad, like whaling.  We need to make the move to ecotourism. We need to focus on using natural resources, being low-impact, non-consumptive, educational, we need to contribute and conserve, involve local communities and be ethically managed. A big point was to take only pictures, leave only footprints. Then we heard from Luvuyo Rani, a business owner that used to live in a township. He started Silulo Ulutho Technologies, a company that provides internet cafés and computer lessons. He was quite an inspiration. He emphasized that we need to know how to spot opportunities and that the three most important things are focus, energy and passion. In the afternoon we toured a company that gives entrepreneurs a place to start their business. You can rent office space and even have connections with business experts to help you start and be successful. It was really cool to see how people in this company work together and I sure hope there is something like this at home.

In the morning Saturday, we had the day off. Most of us walked to Green Market Street where there in fact was a market. It was your basic tourist trap where you bargain with the sellers but it was fun none the less. It was so hard to control spending here but because it was in Rands, I really wasn’t aware of just how much I spent until later! The bargaining was something I had never done before but it was kind of cool. The first time I bargained with someone I don’t think I did a very good job, but I did well the rest of the time. I came out with a new dress, three paintings, a bracelet for each of my sisters and a sling shot for my brother. In the afternoon, we had tickets for a rugby game! Before the game, we went to Toad’s, kind of like a sports bar, and we got to just hang out and chill with each other, it was a lot of fun. Then we walked over to the stadium. Watching rugby was very interesting. Since not many of us in the group knew the rules, I felt like there was just a bunch of staring trying to figure out what was going on. But we knew which was our team (GO STORMERS) and we knew to cheer when the people around us cheered. It was really fun!

Sunday was our last day in Cape Town. It was really sad to pack up all of our stuff and load it on the bus, but we were off to see big things. The Big Five actually. The Big Five are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino and leopard. We were headed to Aquila Game Reserve. It was the first really cold day of fall and it was rainy most of the day so it was easy to sleep on bus ride there. The drive was through beautiful mountains so I didn’t sleep the whole time. When we got there the visibility was very poor because of the rain. We checked in and they gave us all a glass of champagne! We went to set up our stuff in our rooms before it was time for our 4 PM game drive. The game drive was so cold and so rainy and you really couldn’t see far into the distance at all. It was a two hour drive through the property. Even though the conditions were terrible, we still got to see the animals! We saw springbok, rhinos, zebras, ostriches, lions, wildebeest, buffalo and the only giraffe. We were lucky to see it because it’s the only one on the whole reserve! It’s the only one because its parents fell off a mountain and broke their necks.  The visibility was so bad that our driver told us that he was actually scared to go into the lion enclosure! We went in anyway but didn’t stay long. We went back cold and went but satisfied and ready for dinner. After a leisurely dinner, we all gathered to just hang out, play a trivia game about Africa, and reminisce about the trip together on our last night. We headed to bed at a decent hour because we had another game drive in the morning, at 6 AM! It was even colder in the morning but it was clear and gorgeous. The moon was still out as we got to watch the sunrise with all the animals, including ones we hadn’t seen yet. We got to see hippos and I really liked them. It was so cold and it was kind of miserable to be honest, especially when we kept driving by the same spot three times. But the last time we drove by that spot… elephants! They weren’t as big as I thought they would be but they were great. They were so cute and playful with each other and the pictures I took of them were great with the sun in the background rising behind the mountains. We then went to the enclosure where they keep the injured or sick animals to nurse the back to health. There we saw a lion up close and personal. We also saw a leopard and a cheetah. Memories that will last forever, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, as soon as we returned from the drive, it was breakfast time and then time to pack up and head for the airport. We left from the airport in Cape Town, to Johanesburg, to D.C. and then to Greenville. But I had to travel more. I then had to get on another plane to Atlanta and then to Tallahassee. We started travelling at 8 AM America time Monday and I arrived at home 5 PM Tueday. And THEN I had to go to my sister’s graduation.

Overall, that was a life changing experience and I would do it again in an instant.

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