Good news! I get to continue blogging this semester, so you haven’t
heard the last from me! Although I may not be writing from such an
interesting place as South Africa anymore, it’s my aim to maintain my
starry eyed outlook on the world from normal old Illinois. Wish me
luck. I’m already planning too many trips for this summer to cope with
So since I last talked to you, I obviously was spending my time
readjusting to being home which, was a fun endeavor. Jet lag was the
most hilarious thing I’ve ever encountered as far as mass confusion
and sleepiness. Seeing it get dark at 4 and 5 pm was very difficult to
get used to, and even months later sometimes I feel like it’s later
than it actually is.
My sister got married a month after my return, so there was all that
going on to get me right back into the family dynamic. The wedding
along with holiday parties for Christmas and New Year’s were just
enough to get all the family and friends caught up on photos and
adventures (as simply as one can sum up such an extensive trip).
Katie and I also already managed to visit with one of our flatmates
from South Africa before she left for school, and she had tickets to
see Andrew Bird downtown so she took us to see him! He is a seriously
amazing musician and I thank her for introducing me to his music.
Right after New Year’s I got my wisdom teeth taken out, and just in
time for classes to start back up. The drowsiness and pain meds have
probably helped keep me from losing my mind at realizing just how
strange it is to be back at school, back in regular design classes and
seeing familiar people. I’m excited to be back in art classes; don’t
get me wrong! It’s just strangely normal how familiar everything is
when I feel so changed as a person and it’s something I’m going to
have to get used to.
Aside from blog writing, I’m also really excited to return to work at
the Office of Marketing and Communications. I don’t remember if I told
you I work on campus doing web design, but I do and I missed the office
and everyone in it!
I feel like this is far too brief and less exciting than normal, but I
suppose that’s to be expected. So here’s to another semester, and
you’ll be hearing from me again soon!
It’s safe to say this will be my final blog from South Africa, unbelievable as that is.
It’s really hard to believe, even with some people from our group having already left early. I don’t know if it will actually hit me until I’m finally on the plane myself.
I have to say I’m thankful for my time here, but I’m thankful to be going home again. I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve made, and I’m thankful for the old friends who supported my coming here and are waiting for me to get back.
Since my last post, we had an AIFS dinner which was basically an overall goodbye. That really got to me. But it wasn’t until people started going home that I’ve been getting really depressed.
One of my first closest friends to leave early was Kristen, so on her last day we went to one of the free lunch concerts at the Konservitorium. It turned out to be a series of flutists, which made my day since that’s the instrument I play, and made me really want to get home and start practicing again. We went to Birdcage which is a cupcake place with giant and pretty cupcakes. My flatmate Lauren and I did a lot of window shopping after, and I got some more souvenirs out of the way.
A large group of us went wine tasting at four wineries on a beautiful sunny day, which we ended at Java, probably our favorite restaurant. We also tried out “5” recently which had amazing peanut butter and caramel milkshakes. I thought that the vanilla milkshakes were good here, but apparently ALL the milkshakes are delicious. Milkshakes at home are never going to compare. One of the “food” items I’m going to miss here.
We went to Strand and spent the day at the beach, which entailed taking the train – a first for me since being in South Africa. I’m not really a fan of the train at home, and I’d heard a few bad things about them here, but most of my friends had taken it before and there were seven of us so it was an adventure. It was a beautiful and perfect day for it, and I finally, actually swam on the other side of the Atlantic. It was too cold on Garden Route to do so (which, come to think of it that was the Indian ocean), and obviously I kayaked, but finally I got to play in the waves and swim quite a bit. The downfall to this is that I did it right after I had put sunscreen on. So I ended up a very burnt Breanna and the next three days consisted of having a hard time sleeping and barely leaving the flat as I recovered. But it was still a great day! And strangely enough we even saw jellyfish that washed up onshore. Sad, scary, but amazing to look at. The one was seriously bigger than my head!
Our final Saturday, Kelsey, Lauren and I spontaneously decided to go to Butterfly World. There weren’t just butterflies of course, but also spiders, scorpions, reptiles, birds, marmosets, more meerkats and a duiker, which is a small kind of antelope. In the final aviary room I spent a good ten minutes not being able to take pictures because one of the parrots decided it was his play toy. When he first landed on my shoulder I was really amused, but then he proceeded to climb down, try to eat my camera lense and all the buttons, and bit me when I finally tried to shoe him off. Kelsey got some pretty interesting photo and video out of that.
Sunday, I finally went out for what Katie and I had been calling “picture day” all semester. Katie wasn’t feeling well so she went out a different day, but I walked around with Charlie, Lauren, Kelsey and Mary. We took pictures of streets, buildings, and anything else to bottle up some final memories to take home. We went to a movie at the Pulp theater and went to Cubana after. It was Charlie’s last night here so we made the most of it.
Monday Katie, Kelsey, Lauren and I went to Giraffe House, which literally was the home of only one giraffe. But much to our surprise, we got to feed and pet her! There were also tons of other animals there, including springbok, zebras, more duikers, more meerkats and, wait for it… a bat eared fox! He was one of the cutest animals I’ve ever seen. There was also a reptile show that made me reminiscent of the time I spent volunteering with DNR Exotics, and I’m hoping to have time to go back to doing that; but after this trip I’m going to need to go back to working first!
As amazing as the Giraffe house was, my day was very sad, as Charlie left for his flight that evening. We said goodbye and saw him off, but instead of going to the final dinner at Java with the others afterwards, I just went back to my room and reflected. And I’ll be honest, I cried a good deal as it finally sank in. That’s three of the closest friends I have ever made in record time, during an amazing experience, going home. And the rest of us are soon to follow. You don’t go back to normal after a journey like this. But that’s okay. That’s the whole point of staying in another country.
Katie just recently came into my room and just hugged me and said “we did it.” And I had a jolt in my brain about how true it was, how it’s coming to a close, and had to refrain from crying again. We did do it. “It” being tons of amazing things. This whole experience. A new country. Another semester of college. Etc. And once more I have to tell you how much I could not have done this without her.
And with that, my internet goes off tomorrow and I will be spending the next three days trying to wrap my head around this being over, trying to contain my level of anticipation for getting home, and trying not to be too sad at the same time.
Have a happy Thanksgiving! I’ll be spending mine braaing (BBQ-ing) and saying a final farewell to South Africa.
Hello once again!
As far as exciting excursions go (or as I sometimes refer to them, adventures), things have slowed down significantly. The school semester is already coming to a close, and that means crunch time!
However, a few weeks ago we did go to the Hermanus Whale Festival. It’s a weekend dedicated to whale watching in False Bay as it’s the prime time to spot them there. A few of us also signed up to kayak, and although we didn’t see any of the whales while we were out on the ocean, a photo taken from the cliffs revealed that one had been right in front of us! It just hadn’t breeched the surface enough for us to catch sight of it. I also swear I saw a seal swim away, but that may be wishful thinking.
We ended the afternoon sitting on a ledge that proved to be a great location to spot some whales. Because of the kayaking, I didn’t bring my camera, but you can find some amazing pictures on Katie Kmetty’s blog (she was the first to spot them too). I had shivers watching those whales jump and swim by.
I also finally got to go to Cart Horse with the Maties PAW society. We had a decent sized group of volunteers so we all just did a few various jobs. I did some sweeping, filling stalls with new hay, and brushing one of the horses. There were two pairs of mother and foal too which were so adorable!
This weekend we went to Robben Island, now a museum, taking a ferry to it, getting a tour of the prison and a bus ride tour of the island. It was really interesting and disturbing to think of the hardships that went on there, especially when our guide had actually been a prisoner there. It was an enlightening day actually witnessing a place of such historical significance.
Now I just have school to wrap up. My photography class at the academy was a quicker 10 week course, so that’s already over and done with. Our last day of jewelery design was dedicated to finishing up anything we needed to, but I, like most of us, had finished according to schedule so that class is over too!
So for me it’s all just papers for my remaining classes now. It’s hard not to stress out a little, but I’m in South Africa so how stressed can I really get… right? Once all of these assignments are done, the semester is over and we have all of November to plan our own trips. Katie, Lauren and I have been talking about renting a car to do some day trips in the area (especially the beach!). We may try to go on a safari closer to Stellenbosch. I still have to at least see a giraffe and rhino before I leave, and I’m also pretty determined to see an African Wild Dog and bat-eared foxes. I’ve also thought about paragliding so we’ll see how that turns out!
I’ll keep you posted as the end of my journey in South Africa comes to a close.
Are you ready for a really long update?!
I’m definitely overdue for catching you up on the exciting things that have been going on over here. Early September brought around our “spring break”, and then school picked back up, keeping me pretty busy. So it is only now that I’m finally taking the time to tell you about what was probably the best collection of experiences in my life.
Removed from it all, staying in different places, seeing different animals, eating great food, with a group of 27 kids that are all a part of this grand experience, our trip began on a:
Four of us (including Katie) had photography in the morning, which was really hard to sit through knowing we would be leaving immediately after class. We picked up the LSCE students, and the ten of us drove to catch up with the rest of the group at Antlers Lodge.
When I finally stepped out of the van, I was ten times more amazed by the stars than I was at Cederberg. Dazzling and bright, they were just the beginning of sights to be seen.
This was the start of our early morning wake up calls. We had breakfast out at the tables around the fire pit, stood out at the gazebo on the pond, and just… reveled in life. I was already happy and excited being there, and this was before it even turned into the best day of my life.
We started out at Monkeyland, seeing spider monkeys, a beautiful white gibbon, and lemurs! I was completely freaking out at seeing the lemurs just chilling on the stand of fruit. It was probably the most squealing I did all day, which is kind of weird because our next stop was Tenikwa, the cat park.
We started with the caracals, which I was practically dancing with joy about (okay, no, I was dancing around for every animal in my brain because I didn’t want everyone to think I was crazy). Then we saw the leopard, who was just lazing about. Other people were hoping he’d get up for pictures, but I got some close ups of his face thatI really like. There was also a rescue penguin enclosure which reminded me of reading about 52 penguins recently rescued from an oil spill. And then we went into the African Wild Cat cage. He was none too pleased with us bothering his sleep and I didn’t get any good pictures. The same goes for the servals because the one was just cleaning himself and the other was evading us. I did get some pictures of them though. I was just happy being in with them. Once more I was reminding myself to take pictures, but not stress too much about good shots because the most vivid memory is going to be in my mind.
We saw some funny looking birds whose names I’m not sure of, and then we went in by the cheetahs. Like sat with them. And if that wasn’t cool enough, I thought we were leaving, when the guide leads us to the meerkat enclosure I didn’t know existed and is basically just like “have fun the exits over here, bye”. So I was literally one of the last two people out there, just sitting on the bridge, and Hestea had to come get us. I hope she understood my expression as “kid in a candy shop,” except really,” Breanna near animals” is a far more excited emotion and expression.
We ate lunch in Plett Bay; Katie, Jenny, Kristen and I stayed in the little food and market area, and I had caramel banana crepes that were probably one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. And then we shopped around in the little markets for a really long time and I managed to only buy two souvenir. Mary and Lauren found us and even though I guess they had already gone to the beach and we were running out of time to go back to the vans, I really wanted to go walk in the sand. It didn’t work out so well, but Kristen and I found this cute little church instead and I just felt so… content with life.
After lunch we went to Knysna, and we buddied up to take a basket of fruit. Kristen and I were like jumping up and down, I seriously don’t know how no one else was freaking out as outwardly. We basically took a tractor out to the elephants and first we got to feed them while they stayed against a bar between us, and then we got to walk around with them and pet them. They’re very food hungry and fairly disinterested in us otherwise, but that’s really just pretty funny. I think I was in shock and awe the whole time.
On our way back to the lodge we got to stop for our own drinks and snacks. Dinner at the lodge was delicious. I’m usually good with adjectives but it really doesn’t work with some of the meals we had this week, seriously. And eventually I went to bed to be woken up again bright and early.
About 20 of us jumped off a bridge today. Three of us watched. And I say “us” because, no, I was not persuaded into jumping. Our very own Katie and Sanja did though! So I’d say two out of three Dominican daredevils is good!
Some of us went zip lining after this, including Katie and I. It’s funny because we were split into two groups, and Katie was at the end of hers while I was at the start of mine.
Although the day started off overcast, just before the bungee jump it got sunny so it was nice for both activities. I regret having kept my jacket on when they put us in our harnesses.
At dinner (which was good, but for me still didn’t top the previous night) we handed out “awards” to the bungee jumpers. One of the most notable was my friend Kelsey who wore her Superman shirt and literally did epic Superman poses her entire freefall.
We packed up the night before and left Antler’s after breakfast, going straight to the Cango Caves. 26/27 of us had signed up for the Adventure version, where only one of the girls did the Standard tour. She had the right idea.
I still will always say I feel like I should have known. Mama H told us the Adventure tour is a lot of crawling, climbing and getting slimy and dirty. I was okay with all of this. I loved climbing and crawling in Cederberg. I don’t mind dirt, cuts, or exertion. The difference was those were cracks in a mountain. There was air. It was cool air and I could see sky from time to time.
As soon as our guide showed us the map and explained that it was 1.2m in, and 2.4m total because you come back the same way, as in only one entrance and exit, my panic began.
We walked down into this large cavern, with amazing rock formations, and he told us about who first person to get lowered in was, and then turned out the lights to see just how dark it was, and that was really cool, but it didn’t reach me. I wasn’t focused. We went and stood next to a 1.5 million year old formation and Katie took a picture of a few of us but I know I was just trying to smile even though my face was refusing. I started getting angry about not being able to focus and enjoy it because it felt unnatural. I was wandering around, following people but not really seeing. Stuck in my mind trying to calm myself. I tried telling myself that my geologist friend would really like this, and to pull through for him. Later I tried telling myself “you’re a dwarf like in Eragon, chilling in the mountains”. I never got along with the dwarves. I’m an elf.
So we get to Jacob’s Ladder, which Alistar (at least I managed to remember our guides name) is telling us is the hardest part physically because it’s 172 steps. I’m not worried about that. I did Cederberg; stairs at least to me are even, level, terrain and I can handle it as exercise. But the notion of going farther and deeper meant every step tightened the panic in my body. We got to a point of having to crouch. Cue intense fear. My eyes were tearing up. I turn to Kelsey to tell her I don’t think I can do it; the first time I’ve decided to say something since being in here, not wanting to ruin it for anyone else but getting surer and surer I can’t continue. Since I turn to tell her and trip into a puddle of water, which makes me give an anxious laugh, she doesn’t take me entirely seriously and I don’t take myself seriously either. Soon I tell her again and she sees the watery eyes and hears the shaking voice and asks “what can I do?” because she is one of my closest friends here and looks out for me no matter what. If it were any other situation of just a slight fear, I could definitely have been talked through it. But I have discovered my one true fear, and tell her I don’t think there’s anything that can be done. And then we get the entrance of what is the first section of the actual adventure tour. I was panicking from the standard tour. We’re in an open enough area that I turn and let other people pass and Katie is the one to say “I’m pretty sure that’s what Peter and Logan [the two drivers/assistants] are here for; one of them will take you back” so they tell them for me and I’m standing here wiping off my glasses because they’re steaming from tears and humidity. Peter tells the guide and then he walks back with me. He tells me he’s actually pretty glad; he didn’t feel like doing it again as he already has five times before. Apparently it’s the truth and still a way of making me feel better. He tells me when to slow down, because obviously I could sprint towards freedom, but I would just slip and smash my head on things and so he’s the voice of reason. And I’m really quiet and focusing on my breathing. Every step back has been a nudge off of the pressure. And then we can feel the air from the door and I’m focusing on it when Peter points it out and he makes a joke.
He may be overly sarcastic on most days, but he has this job for a reason and was my knight in shining armor that day.
We find Janien, Hestea and Hannah and we all go set up for a surprise lunch for when everyone else gets out. They’re all really understanding and Janien tells me she tried the caves too and couldn’t do it, and between that and the enhanced appreciation of the sky and wind and sun I feel weightless and wired.
We went to the Ostrich Farm after and that too was… a disappointment. I was fascinated by them, I was even laughing when other people were riding them, but there was part of it eating away at me like it didn’t feel right and maybe I was really just amused and intrigued because I needed the pulling distraction from my analytical thoughts of my new found phobia. I definitely put some question into the ethics of the place.
That aside, we went to our next lodging destination, Fairy Knowe in Wilderness, a backpackers lodge that was really quaint. We were treated to dinner at an Italian restaurant that night, where I had Pasta Alfredo which, as Mama H explained to me, where we do chicken Alfredo at home, they do bacon Alfredo here. And Jenny explained back bacon which is why I was so confused about why their bacon is so different here. I found streaky bacon at the store just recently now.
But yes. I had that with mushrooms, and it was literally the best thing I have ever tasted. Again! I could maybe say it was the emotion of the day, the needing something that tasted good, and falsely glorifying it, but I seriously think it was just that good. I was commenting on it at least every five minutes and that’s something I don’t normally do. Jenny and I also split a really good Tiramisu after.
This was kloofing and horseback riding day; we had all signed up for one of the two, or some people stayed behind and did their own beach day or nature hike. I did horsebacking which made up for the caves big time. Seven of us were driven to Black Horse Trails, but as it turns out, there’s another place nearby so that the two sometimes work together. This means a girl named Chantelle came over from there with two horses; one for one of us to ride and then she would ride with them on her horse. That person was me and that’s what the benefit of just going with the flow gets you.
His name was Harry Potter because he’s magical and has the smoothest canter. Chantelle and I were at the back of the line, and we talked a lot and she tried to help me with my trot so I had a great time. Other people apparently didn’t because of our actual guide, but I basically never spoke to him. It was just me and Chantelle, Harry and Ben, chilling at the back of the group. So I was super ecstatic from the morning.
And then I got back to the lodge and was locked out of my room.
My three roommates for this leg of the trip had worked out a new “new” system for our key… after I had left that morning. So I had an hour and a half of waiting around. And although I was upset about the confusion I take the positive spin of it. Hannah gave me a sandwich since I couldn’t get my snacks. Alexis let me change into a pair of her shorts before she left for the beach, and Caroline gave me an extra suit she had and sandals, which I had just changed into to leave with them when the hike group got back and I finally got into my room. So it was a nice show of support. Like a reminder that although we don’t all talk or hang out all the time we’re all in this experience together. We’re a randomly assorted family of study abroad kids. And I loved thinking of it like that. So I got my suit and sandals and towel, and left with the third group to the beach.
It was sunny but it was windy. The water was freezing but ever the adventurer, Charlie went in, and Jenny and I stayed behind when most of the people who had come were already gone. We just paced the shore, picking up pebbles and shells. It was a really nice end to the day. We also buried Charlie in the sand and turned him into a mermaid.
After breakfast we were headed straight home. We got back a little early so that the Kalahari group (going on a game drive, camping, and rafting) had, in total, three hours to get ready for the rest of their trip. One of them backed out but couldn’t get her money back so our other roommate Mary did take the spot, which was super lucky and awesome for her. Since Lauren was already signed up, Katie and I had the flat to ourselves, and are alright with our choice of having not signed up for it. It was about a 12 hour drive, with only the three hours between the two trips to get ready. So… I was much happier with the plan Katie and I made on our own.
I stayed up to Skype my parents but they were an hour late so at that point I was like “Hi. Bye. Yawn.”. I slept like a rock.
Friday and Saturday
The aforementioned plans that Katie and I made in place of a trip to the Kalahari, was an overnight stay at the Drakenstein Lion Park. This is a trip that I feel the least need to talk about just because it would be impossible to, and it’s something I will gladly keep within myself forever. It was the first thing Katie and I planned out ourselves (her, mostly) and only involved us. It was a unique, one of a kind experience that I can’t put into words. So I’ll just tell you that the lion park currently homes 34 rescued lions from circus’, humans trying to keep them as pets, and soon they are taking in chimps and tigers from a zoo that closed down.
It was very difficult to go back to school after all of this, especially when I had papers due. You’ll be glad to know I managed with those, but regardless, it was the week of a lifetime, and the fact that the weather was perfect the entire trip says a lot too.
Growing and learning and meeting people and seeing different places. I’ve had a lot of insight to myself this last week and I’m really glad for it.
No wonder it was so hard to sit down and write a paper.
Drum roll for the animal that most people don’t believe exists in South Africa: The African Penguin.
This colony is located on Boulder’s Beach, our second destination of our recent day trip. I also did finally spot a Dassie Rat, and although I didn’t get a great picture of it I was just happy to see it. Cape Point the Black Zonure also made the list of animal sightings, as well as another ostrich. But I’m getting ahead of myself by my excitement about animals, which is what I do best.
We left bright and early Saturday for the Cape of Good Hope/Cape Point, and let me just say, no words or pictures are going to accurately or appropriately paint being there. A few times I stopped and wondered “Am I taking this in enough? Am I seeing everything I can? Will I remember clear enough?” But man… driving towards it, it was like all this underbrush, slight hills of it, and just between them you could see the ocean line and I was like “is that the ocean? are we there?” I in no way prepared myself for being at the tip of South Africa (let’s not get technical about the farthest tip of Africa; Cape Point is historic and beautiful enough for me to not get technical).
I tried so hard to capture the color of the water, the textures of the waves, videos of the wind and sea, but I knew it wasn’t going to do much. I knew to put my camera down often enough to just stare out. I had to store the memory of the waves, the wind, the sun and the plants. It’s like how I got with concerts; do less committing it to technology and more committing it to the memory and senses. Enjoy it in that moment and don’t worry about the later.
The black zonure lizards caught me by surprise so much so that I was so excited by being the one to spot the first, and then have so many of them out sun basking. There were fuzzy orange caterpillars that were pretty cute too.
I was beaming with happiness. Thoughtful and awed.
Another cool thing was at the top of the lighthouse there was a sign with distances to major cities. Chicago wasn’t one of them but New York was. And to acknowledge just how close in a way we were to Antarctica? It was a pretty surreal day.
So we drove to Boulder, and had lunch at a restaurant on the beach by the windows that overlooked the shore, and I did sit right by the window. It was beautiful. I ended up doing my first bit of “haggling” with some street vendors as well, getting two souvenirs for my mom and best friend (so I can’t tell you what they are) at a good deal. It was interesting and fun.
Then we finally made it to the penguins. And they were basically everywhere. We got to walk along wooden piers that the penguins would walk under to get back into the trees where the walkways also wound through.
I of course feel like there is so much more to be said but, beyond the pictures, there’s nothing I can share with you guys that will replicate it. Things like this are a firsthand experience. And an amazing one at that.
Pretty soon we’ll be going on what is basically Spring Break, where all of the AIFS group will be going on the Garden Route, and those who signed up will be going on the Kalahari Desert tour immediately after. Katie and I didn’t sign up for the Kalahari, so we planned an overnight trip to Drakestein Lion Park, which I’m just as excited for as the Garden Route.
Aside from certain things already included in our Garden Route plans, we had the option to sign up for other things. I’ve committed to zip lining and horseback riding, and I put a maybe for bungee jumping, mostly so I could go to the bridge with those who are and watch. One of our photography drivers (who used to be the student assistant to Hestea) told me if I was going to walk the bridge, I’d end up jumping too. I don’t doubt I’ll be tempted after watching a few people, but I’m pretty convinced I won’t be tempted enough to actually do it. Time will tell. At the very least, next time you hear from me I’ll have interacted with some more animals (monkeys, elephants, ostrich), and zipped through the tree canopies.
Hello again! You could say it’s been a bit hectic recently, but such is the start of a new semester – and settling into a new country. Therefore, I have a bit to catch you up on!
After all of the orientation lectures our first week, all the international students had a chance to take a tour of Cape Town on the weekend. My flat had decided on going Sunday after checking the weather for Saturday which was expected to have rain. That didn’t mean our Sunday started off clear sailing. I will admit to being miserable beyond all belief at the start of this day. It was still cold and rainy from the day before, and we had a bit of a laundry fiasco that left me with wet clothes and therefore a wet sweater that ended up getting me sick for wearing it out in the cold. But even if my personal condition wasn’t leading me down a depressed road, the drive might have. You see, we are staying in Stellenbosch which is close to Cape Town and both are lovely, but the townships in between are where you are reminded that not everything is a happy reality.
We drove past quite an extent of poorly crafted shacks, as we had from the airport, although at that time I did my best not to let it bring me down. But I suppose all of these shanties, in this weather, yet with a beautiful backdrop of a mountain… just didn’t make sense. I got very contemplative and lost in my head as I tend to and thought of some things that fall under the “too heavy to be chipper today” category.
And then as we drove through Langa, and I saw two little kids walking by who smiled and waved at our bus, I suppose in some aspect I had found that as a turning point in my day.
In Cape Town we first stopped at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We stood in line for hot chocolate which took forever since I thought “no, let’s not wait in line for this” and then decided I definitely needed something warm, and food too, so we were at the very end of the line. But once we got to the front, the server who was doing his best to serve us all quickly, just put a smile on my face, and I had my hot chocolate, energy bar, and some donut like pastry that was delicious. We walked through the gardens and it was sunny.
So by the time we made it to the Camp Beach I was feeling significantly better. I loved climbing the rocks. I loved the smell of seaweed, and the sight of sand, and sun even if it’s not warm enough to swim here yet.
We got to wander around the V&A Waterfront, which is basically a mall, where a few of us had lunch at Krugmann’s Grill.
Then the first week of classes began, and all the South African students were back on campus. It’s basically like being a freshman all over again; particularly for me who has never lived on campus.
The Friday that we left for Cederburg, Katie and I had photography. The cool thing about this photo class, as opposed to the other one I had been looking into, is that we actually get picked up and go to the Stellenbosch Art and Design Academy. As graphic design majors, Katie and I were super excited about this. However, knowing that we were leaving for the mountains right after class made it kind of difficult to focus that day.
Katie and I, the two other AIFS students in the class with us, and the students in the LSCE program, were all picked up and split into two vans. The rest of the AIFS group who signed up for the excursion left earlier in two more vans with Hestea (our resident director, sometimes referred to as Mama H) and Janien (her student assistant). Our drivers, Logan and Peter, are actually students at the university as well. Peter has done this with previous AIFS groups for Hestea, so he was well versed in asking and answering questions. For me, this actually really triggered the notion that we aren’t all just here meeting and learning about each other, but also about our cultures.
It was a pretty long drive, and we were on a dirt road traveling into the mountains by the time the sun was going down, and that was beautiful. We met up with the rest of the group at our accommodations near the bottom of the mountain, stargazed and had a bonfire with dinner. We started early the next morning for our hike.
The initial climb up was pretty difficult for me. It didn’t take long for half the group to speed up to the break point, and the rest of us to plod along. I was actually in the middle for a while, before my lungs practically gave way. From where we regrouped and took a break, we made our way into the cracks of the mountain, so we were literally in the mountains, doing all kinds of crawling and climbing acrobatics to keep moving forward. That part I loved. And as Mama H promised, we all made it to the top! We sat with the view, ate our lunches, explored the sort of valley at the top, and reveled in our accomplishment.
The climb down was a “straight shot” (we didn’t go back through the mountain cracks) but probably the most difficult part. All of our legs wanted to give out from under us, and the change in elevation actually makes your fingers swell. It was a huge relief when we made it back down to the bottom.
We got to sleep in a bit the next morning, but almost immediately left for the University. This was because we got to make a side trip to the Bushman caves along the way, where we saw some very old cave paintings that made me reminiscent of taking Art History last year. We again got to eat lunch on a cliff with an amazing view, all of us staring out in a sort of awe and reflection.
Once back in the vans, I finally got to see some baboons. Although we were warned of them the whole weekend, we hadn’t gotten to see any since we had arrived so late at night. Seeing them on the way out almost made up for not seeing any dassie. They, along with some tiny white tailed antelope and a single hare, were the only wildlife sightings I managed.
It was a great kick off to the semester, and I’m already missing the relaxing atmosphere of sitting around the fire. I have been a little stressed out about classes, but probably no more nervous than I am at the start of every new year. I’m taking an English elective called Gothic Revivals that is the only of my five courses that is an actual mainstream class at the university; as in, I’m one of two international students, and everyone else are actual South African students. That’s my most intimidating class.
Aside from that, we’ve been getting to know other girls in the AIFS group, grocery shopping, and hanging out. With no TVs in our flats we’ve been doing our best to keep up with the Olympic games. Last Thursday we went out to watch them plus celebrate National Women’s Day, and as my friend Kelsey had said before, it was really amazing to sit and watch the Olympics with people from all over the world. There were at least six countries I knew for a fact were in the room, and that was a pretty “lekker” (good/cool) thing to take in.
A few from our group went shark cage diving (including our very own Katie Kmetty), but I’m holding off on that until it gets warmer; not to mention I was sick for a second time and wouldn’t have enjoyed myself.
This weekend we get to go to Cape Point and Boulder Beach. You won’t even believe me when I tell you which animal we get to see, so I’ll just come back with pictures instead!