Thursday, August 2, 2012

The End

I’m back in New Jersey now. Leaving was so hard.  I woke up this morning, and it was strange not seeing Milou and Sarah and Brittany and the beautiful view from our windows.

I was so proud of myself for not crying when I said goodbye to everyone, but then the moment I sat in the cab and looked at everybody waving from Perspectives, I broke down. The poor cab driver, I hope he didn’t feel awkward. He said, “All good things must come to an end. It’s time to say goodbye to this beautiful city, but know that it will love to have you back.”

Walking towards Customs in Newark Airport was hot and humid and the air was so heavy and South Africa felt like a dream.

I really can’t even begin to convey how incredible these past two months have been.

I got to teach English and meet wonderful students and teachers. I learned so much about education, and about the culture and diversity of South Africa. I saw extreme poverty and extreme wealth; I learned so much about the importance and value of humanity. It’s such a warm, friendly, diverse, beautiful country.

We shark-dived and ate amazing food and danced and laughed and cried and learned and got lost and climbed mountains and bungee-jumped and drove through some of the most scenic places in the world. I’m so happy I met the people I did, took the chances I did, made memories that I will carry with me forever.

I understand why going abroad is encouraged so much – it changes you. It broadens your perspective on everything. It helps you further define, or reshape, your values. Your view of the world, and of yourself, changes. You feel smaller, and bigger, and more connected and have sort of a slightly better idea of how ridiculous and wonderful and beautiful this whole world is. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Table Mountain, Garden Route


So, where do I begin? My final day at LEAP was last week, and it was really hard saying goodbye. I feel like I was just starting to get comfortable there, and I can’t even tell you how much I’m in love with the school, the students and the environment.

For instance: before Winter Break, some students told me how bored they were going to be and asked me to assign them something. I was really surprised and just off-handedly told them to write me a story, mostly expecting them to forget about it.

Two and a half weeks later, they found me, smiling, with their papers in hand. I was SO surprised and infinitely happy and I’m keeping their stories forever. It makes me smile just thinking about it. Some people truly value education and learning; too many of us take that stuff for granted.

Also, you should check out Sipho's blog! He's a 12th grade student.

So my time at LEAP ended on a wonderful note, and I hope, I hope, I hope I could come back again one day.


My first day off – last Wednesday, I think – was a beautiful day, so we climbed Table Mountain.

(Excuse my language) Table Mountain was a bitch. Oh my goodness. I was SO tired, and I had already felt nauseous all morning. I was so angry at the world. I kept saying “Fuck this. Fuck Table Mountain. Fuck these rocks. How the fuck … “  I even cursed at the people coming down at one point.

But then we made it to the top, and it was beautiful, and all the pain and nausea was SO worth it. I’m so happy I climbed it instead of taking the cable car; you just have this indescribable sense of accomplishment, which ties you closer to the earth and the rocks and the mountain. Oh man, it was great. We had dinner at the top, and walked around and looked at the beautiful view. I felt so content.


GARDEN ROUTE WEEKEND! Oh man. So many wonderful things happened. We left early Friday morning, and came back Monday evening. Every night, we stayed at a different hostel/lodge. There were lots of long drives throughout the weekend, but the scenery was absolutely beautiful:

On Friday, we went to the Cango Caves, which was so cool. I’ve never been in a cave before. There were parts where we had to squeeze and crawl and climb, which was terrifying (apparently, someone got stuck there for 4 hours last week), but SO much fun. Idk, I think climbing those two mountains have given me some strength. 

We stayed at a cute hostel that night, and had a braai. The next day we went to an ostrich farm, which was cool. I kind of felt bad because we’ve been eating ostriches a lot…

And then! That afternoon we had this BEAUTIFUL hike at Tsitsikamma to Storms River, where we walked along the Indian Ocean.  

The hostel we stayed at that night was very home-y, and we ended up drinking and playing pool and foosball and meeting some really wonderful people. 

OKAY. Now. Let me tell you about bungee jumping. Milou and Sarah were talking about this early in June, and I remember thinking, ‘kapsh, okay, that’s something I’m never gonna do.’  Because it’s not something that I would do, right?! I’m super paranoid and careful and not thrill-seeking.

Anyway, I know some people who went on this the week before, and the way they talked about it was what got me. The bridge is the highest jumping point in the world, and I kept thinking that I would regret it if I didn’t do it.

So I did it. I remember that morning, I was taking a shower and I actually thought it was my last day on Earth. I thought I was going to die. I remember realizing, though, that I was content with my life at that moment and that maybe dying wouldn’t be that bad. 

So we drove down to Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bungee in the world, at 216m. It was SO cool. They blast music on the bridge – and then you jump, and it’s complete silence. And the view is absolutely breath taking. There aren’t words good enough to describe it. 

The moment, when you jump – it’s like you’re flying. Like time doesn’t exist anymore. You’re just diving, diving, diving into the beautiful green valley below. Being engulfed by silence and nature and sun. Oh man. It may have been the craziest, best thing I have ever done.

I know this sounds absurd, but if you ever get a chance to bungee-jump off a crazy high point, please do it. Please do it.

After jumping, we went to an elephant park, where we walked and played with and fed elephants. It was SO cool. I love elephants, they seem so calm and content with their life. 

Then we drove to the Garden Route Game Lodge, and settled into the cutest little chalets. We went on a game drive/safari that evening.

The next morning we did another game drive, we saw cheetahs! Hung out with some snakes. And then visited a penguin colony. 

Back at home in Perspectives now! I can’t believe so much has happened in the past couple of days. I also refuse to accept that I have less than a week left.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Favorite Thing

Oh man, I didn’t realize that I haven’t updated this in so long. The days have been so wonderfully packed, and busy, and productive. I'm sorry I haven't been taking many photos! 

Someone asked me, recently, what my favorite thing has been so far, and I honestly couldn’t answer. How could you pinpoint a favorite aspect of a whole experience? How could you take into account everything that makes up a contented moment - and choose one specific facet of it? There is no way, I don't think. 

This is why I don’t have a favorite anything, and why I have small panic attacks when someone asks me to choose a favorite candy bar or song or color. I really don’t believe in favorites. 

So, my answer is: everything. From the people I’ve met, and the overall diversity, to the students, to my friends. From climbing, to diving, to falling and drinking and laughing. Everything. 

Ahhhhh we only have two weeks left! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th

Yesterday was July 4th, and for the first time since I came here, I kind of missed the U.S. It’s so interesting thinking about how we each identify ourselves – here, when I meet someone, I usually say “Well I’m from America, but I was born Egypt … so y’know … Africa…” because I’m always afraid that people perceive Americans as obnoxious. And I mean, I love America, but we are kind of obnoxious sometimes, as a country. It’s just like how last semester I was really annoyed that the United States wasn’t first on a drop-down menu of countries, even though the countries were in alphabetical order. The U.S. is obviously above alphabetical order.

Another thing I’m realizing is how everyone, from different countries, knows so much about the U.S. – about our politics and economics and people. We really do influence so many other things in this world.

Anyway, 4th of July! Sarah and I hiked up Lion’s Head, to watch the sunset and the moon rise. It was amazingly, amazingly beautiful. I was freaking out about the hike up, because there was a really steep part with chains and foot holds and I’m super uncoordinated, but it wasn’t bad! I was so happy when we made it to the top, and we just sat and looked at the beautiful view and watched the sunset and ate dinner, and then saw the city lights became brighter and brighter, and the sky became darker, and the stars came out, and the moon. 

It was such a beautiful day, I was so happy. Getting down was really scary, because it was so dark, but it was completely worth it. I tripped and fell, not when we were climbing down the rocks, but when we got to the easy sand pathway, haha.

I know I said this before, but there's something wonderful, beautiful, valuable in being engulfed by how big the universe is, and how small we are. And how connected we all really are to each other. And that's why, I think, hiking and climbing and getting away from the busyness of things was such a wonderful experience. Because you could look down at the city with a sense of calm and finally be able to acknowledge the beauty of the place we live in.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Half Way

Last weekend, Milou, Sarah and I went on a wine tour – oh my goodness. So much wine. It was really fun. And I learned so much about wine! Who knew I would ever step beyond Franzia … 

We started with champagne at 10:30AM, and kept going until about four. I think, in total, we tried 25ish different wines. Also the last place we went to had all these different types of wonderful cheeses it was so good. We had planned to go to Long Street that night, but I think we owed it to our livers to just sleep in.


The school is on holiday break for these two weeks, so I’ve been enjoying sleeping in. I’m also helping a little at The Bookery, a school library across the street from our apartment building, and walking around/exploring town on my own, which has been really nice.

Yesterday we went on a walking tour of Langa. I was really hesitant to go on a township tour in the first place, because I didn’t understand the whole point and the idea made me uncomfortable – especially since I got sad/upset/frustrated when I went to the daycare last week.

It was an amazingly positive eye-opening day, though! I learned so much. We went to an arts centre, had African beer, saw different types of homes, heard different stories for being in Langa. Everyone was so friendly, and happy. I don’t know why I felt so bad when I first went there – I think it’s just a different way of living.  There are an infinite number of ways to define happiness; it’s not the same for everyone. 

It was really interesting paralleling how we drank African beer at the beer house – there was one tin can, that was passed around to everyone -  and thinking about our wine tour the week before. They seem to be on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but experiencing both has showed me how alike they are; how similar we all are. People are people are people, whether drinking fancy wine out of a fancy glass or drinking beer from a tin can. It’s all the same. The world is smaller than we think. 

AND THEN after the tour we went to Mzoli’s, an amazing, delicious butchery in Gugulethu. Oh my goodness. It was so good. You go and choose your meat and they cook it for you. We just had one big dish of all these different types of meats, and it looked messy, but it was DELICIOUS. And we sat and ate with our hands and had beer and listened to music and I was just so happy.

There’s a word in Xhosa, Ubuntu, which is about the interconnectedness and relationships with others. It’s a philosophy that, I think, resounds in so much of this culture. I see it everywhere! There’s just a spirit of interconnectivity, a sense of value found in each other.  

Maybe that’s why I misunderstood how the people of Langa lived when I first went there; there is no reason, really, to think that they are unhappy. They have family, they have community. 


And then! Today, Jessica and I went on a bus tour, where we stopped at all these beautiful places! And had amazing food. We got to go to a vineyard and the beach and Camp’s Bay. Words can only do so much: 

I absolutely cannot believe we only have a month left, I get so sad thinking about it. I was gonna talk about how I feel about time going way too fast but I’m not gonna address it here because it gets me sad, and I'm really sleepy, and I'll probably ramble and start crying.