Reaching Out 2 The World


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The Sunshine Blogger Award

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The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. It is given to bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.

Dan Sellers of Adventure Born  nominated O’Sullivans Travels for a Sunshine Blogger Award! Thanks for that Dan. The aim for my blog was to create a window into the world I was living while volunteering and traveling through mostly Southern Africa. What started as a way for my Grandma to keep tabs on me developed into a lot more. I’ve met some pretty neat people through writing and it’s always nice being able to look back and relive a memory.

For excepting this award, there are some rules I must now follow in return:

  • Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the eleven questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate eleven blogs to receive the award and write them eleven new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or your blog.

Well here are the eleven questions Dan gave me along with my answers! I’ll also be renominating his blogger friends. I trust they are great! I’ve had the pleasure to meeting Miss Noemie-Capucine and she is just awesome!

  1. If you could visit one country right now, where would it be?
    • It’s been a few years but I’d love to get back to South Africa. Many friends, students. and family to reunite with.
  2. What’s your favorite animal?
    • Cheetah or Monkey… or Eagle? I love animals
  3. Batman or Superman?
    • I’m gonna go with Batman, he seems more inventive.
  4. Besides family and friends, what do you miss from home the most when you’re traveling?
    • The convenience of my car.
  5. How old were you when you took your first flight?
    • Pretty young. 4-5?
  6. Favorite school subject?
    • math or social studies
  7. If you won one million dollars, what would be your very first purchase?
    • I think about these things a lot and I’m really quite practical about it.. First thing I would do is pay off all debts.. after that maybe a plane ticket? or maybe a house!
  8. Where are you exactly right now as you’re reading this question?
    • In my apartment, on my couch
  9. What was the last movie you watched?
    • Batman vs Superman… Superman pretty much just got his ass kicked the whole time.
  10. If you had the opportunity to hike Mount Everest, all expenses paid, would you?
    • Of course I would have to… but have you seen the movie? Kinda terrifying.
  11. What would you say to those that are afraid to travel somewhere new for the first time?
    • Go with an open mind. You regret the things you don’t do in life a lot more than the things you do…do.

Here are the 11 other bloggers that I nominate:

Here are my 11 questions:

  1. Three countries to live 1 year on each… which countries would you choose (not counting where you currently reside)?
  2. Would you ever compete on the the TV shows, “Naked and Afraid”, or “Alone”?
  3. Would you rather have the ability to Fly or be Invisible?
  4. What’s a hidden skill you have?
  5. What’s a recent moment you are proud of?
  6. How many years before we legitimately have an NBA star as dominate as Lebron James?
  7. What is your favorite sport of the Summer Olympics to watch?
  8. If you could give advice to your 13 year old self (one sentence), what would it be?
  9. What’s an item on your bucket list that you have not yet achieved?
  10. Netflix or HBO?
  11. What National Park in the USA would you visit and hike if everything was planned out perfectly for you?

Thanks again for the nomination Dan!

Next week I’ll be joining Dan on a two week road rally. Your guess is as good as mine but it is sure to be a grand time. Following along via http://adventureborn.net

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Teaching, Coaching, and Some Incredible Art

It’s been about a year since I last updated this blog and while I plan on filling you in on a bit of what I’ve been up to, I’m mostly just looking to highlight a very cool gift I just received.

Jumping back a bit… Upon returning from South Africa in November of 2013 I jumped right into the start of my second season coaching the diving team at Methacton High School, my alma mater. It’s been really great working at the school and the team I coach has been awesome. This past season everyone on the dive team qualified for districts! <- That’s a really good thing!

In February of 2014 I began working at the Belmont Charter School in West Philadelphia. My position there is as a full time building substitute but I’m primarily working with the middle school grades. The team of colleagues I work with are phenomenal, and help make each day a bit better. We’ve been really looking forward to the warmer weather to get back outside to our weekly frisbee golf sessions. So far my teaching career has traversed from rural Pennsylvania, to a township in South Africa and now that I’ve found myself back in my home state working at an inner city school I feel like I’ve seen it all.

Between working at the school in the city and coaching at the school in the suburbs I’ve made sure to find ways to tie in my abroad experiences. Our students in the city are working towards an outward bound trip, this May. The trip will take 40 of our eighth graders on a 5 day adventure either hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail or canoeing down parts of the Delaware River. Although the locations are 8,000 miles apart the idea behind this year’s trip is quite similar to our ReachingOut2TheWorld escapade. The 8th Grade Boys of the BCSSince I’ve been home I’ve shared my stories and experiences with hundreds of students from several schools in the area. Being able to walk my Belmont students through the trips I took in South Africa seems the best way to ease any fear or anxiety they face towards their trip this spring. For most of them it will be the first time being away from home, hiking, camping, and being without their phones and electronics. I think some of the teachers are even a bit nervous. Not me though, I live for that sort of thing, not just being out and about, but sharing the experience with first-timers. There’s not a doubt in my mind that everyone will have a wonderful time!!

Jumping back to diving, because this update does go full circle, image1 (2)I’ve also found some ways to tie in my expeditions. Kevin Roy, a Junior at Methacton, has been diving since his elementary school years. I know this because I was on Methacton’s diving team (8 years ago) when Kevin and his brother first got started. I always knew the Roys were talented athletes but it was just this most recent season that I learned how talented Kevin was with his art.

When Kevin first started showing me some of his art I was impressed right away. His style of choice is pen and ink illustrations as well as water colors and when I saw his talent I knew I needed one of his pieces. His in school assignment was to create a piece that showed an emotion. Kevin and I sat down for a while paging through photos I took and we ended up landing on the one of Ski receiving a hug from a friendly elephant. The quick back story behind that was that out of the 8 boys we took on the ReachingOut2TheWorld trip Ski was the toughest. He was always the hardest to get to crack a smile no matter how much fun he was having. At 14 years old smiling isn’t always the cool look kids are going for. So when it came time for Ski to meet this giant elephant, and then receive a hug from it, there was simply no way he could hold back a grin. It’s one of my favorite photos and certainly holds with it emotion. Now it was just a matter to see what Kevin could do!

image2Kevin’s ability to portray a photo with a pen to paper is something else. I asked him to snap some photos of his process along the way and was rewarded each time with a sneak peak into awesomeness. image3

This piece in particular took Kevin just over 20 hours to complete and he used BIC Pens for the entire portrait. How amazing is that? He did this with a PEN!

It was important for me to meet up with Kevin before he began working on this piece because I wanted him to know a bit about what was going on in the photos before he started. I’ve always seen art as a process, a journey from the beginning to the end. Often when I look at art I try to imagine image4how long it may have taken them to create such a piece. Sometimes I wonder where they started or what they were thinking image5while they worked. Being able to hear from Kevin and receive updates along the way was really cool.

Kevin still has another year of High School before he takes his talents to college, but in the mean time he’s still looking to create more art!

If you’re interested in having one of your own photos done up by an up and coming professional be sure to reach out to him at: KevinRoyArt@gmail.com

In the meantime I’ll be looking to help Kevin set up his own site to show off some of his other work and provide another way for folks to get in touch with him if they have something they’d like done. I can assure you that Kevin is an awesome young man and you will be truly impressed and delighted with what he can do for you! image6Thanks a lot Kevin!!!


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The Real Story: by Mieke Scherpenzeel

During the 2 months Hanneke and I knew Chris, we would keep up with his IMG_4927daily adventures through his blogs. Of course we were there most of the time so we knew what happened, but it was nice to read what he had to say about it. I always thought that he told the stories very well and Hanneke and I both were kinda sad that it had to come to an end after he left! So the first question we had to ask him on Skype was: How many blogs are still coming? It was only about 2 more days, so only 2 more blogs… We insisted that he wrote a reflective one as well. Then he came up with the greatest offer; Why wouldn’t we write one from our view? That was too hard to put down, I don’t know if it was a smart decision O’Sullivan, but we would love to do it!

IMG_4322I remember that, when we just met Chris, and I heard his story about taking the kids on a trip, I was very impressed. How great is it that somebody puts all this effort in raising money to give those kids a treat and bring them on a trip! Especially the way he thanked the donors was something I thought was creative and nice. I didn’t know the kids at all yet or what to expect, but when time went by we got to learn the kids and it was not hard to tell that they were crazy about Chris.

We got to see that they really enjoyed coming over, no matter what they wouldIMG_3563 be doing, mainly just to hang out with their Chris, and of course Dan. How nice for those kids to have a safe place to hang out and just be together. We could tell that they really looked forward to the trip and Chris and Dan really put a lot of effort in to make it all work out.

IMG_7211After the trip we could tell that the kids just had the best time, we could tell by the pictures but especially by their excitement and stories. Those kids got to do stuff and got to see things they’ve never done nor seen. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. But would they still come over after the trip? Or did they get what they wanted and that was enough… That was the dumbest question we could be wondering. Those kids are very thankful and not just taking advantage of anybody. They seemed to come over more than ever and with more other friends then ever! They were really sad when Chris and Dan left on their trip to Dubai and Morocco but they at least knew they were coming back!

Luckily for us, the kids still came over whenever the guys were gone. DSC_0003This was our opportunity to do something nice back to them. That’s when we came up with decorating their whole room with nice sticky notes and drawings. This is when we could tell how much the kids appreciated those guys. Of course they kept on asking when they were coming back. We were all counting the days together!

IMG_1258I think it was in the last week that Chris was here how much I realized how strong this relationship was. Most of those kids don’t have an easy situation at home and are missing a dad in their life. We know how important it is for teenage boys to have a male role model and you see how much they miss it. Chris and Dan could just give them a little bit of this need. Chris, with his teacher skills, was pretty much a father to them. He loves those kids to death and we are sure it’s the other way around too.

That’s why it was heartbreaking to even think about him leaving. IMG_1310Hanneke and I talked about how much we would give to switch places and leave so the guys could stay, we enjoy the kids a lot and started bonding with them but they need men in their lives… men that care for them like Chris does. When it was time to say goodbye to Chris our heart really broke, his bond with them was just really special and strong.

IMG_6700We are really thankful towards Chris and Dan to get us involved with the kids. How could we not get involved? Those kids are awesome, so sweet and sooo much fun to be around! They stole our heart just like they did with Chris and Dan. I don’t know how we’re gonna manage it without the guys but we are sure we gonna continue working with those kids, until we have to leave in July. We would be more than happy to take them more places and of course provide the contact with the US!

Next to the work with the kids we IMG_3517got to know Chris pretty well. He was the one that helped us out the first days to get around and get to know South-Africa a little. It was a lot of fun having him here. We already miss his many stories, the game nights, beating him at Catan and doing fun stuff like surfing, eating out, Cubana’s, playing Frisbee or just hanging out together. And of course sharing the memories of Mzoli’s!

It is always nice to meet great people during traveling. I’m sure we will come to America one day!

 


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Ultimate Weather

We all got up Sunday morning ready to head into Stellenbosch and play some Frisbee. Unlike IMG_3518Saturday though today wasn’t so sunny and looked like it may rain. Hendri and Chris came to pick us up at 9:30 to take us over to the fields. One of the reasons we took two cars was because Hendri was bringing along his dog Nox. Nox is 9 months old and was an absolute joy to play with!

The plan was to warm up, practice, have a scrimmage, and then have a cook out. A team by the name of Ghost would be joining us. Ghost is a team based out of Cape Town and they are the defending national champs for South African Ultimate. Their team is compiled of players from all over IMG_3519the world really. I met a few Americans that played for them, a couple from Australia, a German, a couple from Great Britain, and of course a few South Africans. They were a lot of fun to play with and I think the Stellenbosch team learned a lot! Pretty early on into our training it began to rain. This didn’t stop us from practicing but it did make for very cold and wet conditions. These conditions are important to practice in because you never know what the conditions may be like on a game day. Unfortunately, I ended up pulling my right hamstring. I could feel both of my hamstrings becoming tight and I stretched and did everything I could to prevent a pull but it wasn’t enough. I’m going to continue stretching it and try not to let it hold me back but I’ll have to take a few days off from ultimate.

Because it was raining we all decided that rather than having a cook out we’d just go to Ginos.IMG_3521 Ginos is an Italian restaurant that specializes in pizza. I remember Ginos from two years back and I was happy we’d be able to eat there. All in all there were two teams of ultimate players that caravanned to the restaurant… which meant slow service. Even though it took a while to get our food I think everyone was alright with it because it gave us all a chance to talk. I had told Hanneke, Mieke, and Eric how great the ultimate community is. How no matter where you are in the world it seems ultimate Frisbee players are pretty great people. This definitely held true and I think they may continue to play!

When we got home we were all pretty damp, exhausted, and full of pizza. It was around 4pm and Chester was waiting for us. I told Chester I had to shower and sent him over to Erics room, but this was also because I really just wanted to just lay down. My leg was pretty sore, and I was just plain tired. As I lay there just on the verge of falling asleep I heard Butsha. He was yelling something and made his way to my room. I thought he was just looking to play but he was coming to tell us dinner was ready. Oh man, we totally forgot to tell Mama Zulu that we ate a late lunch and were still full. It was too late now so we all got up and went to dinner. Turns out everyone was just lying low and relaxing. Needless to say we all ate smaller portions that night. Eric was really interested in playing Catan again and had high hopes of winning. Hanneke and myself still needed to shower so our plan was to play afterwards. IMG_3516

Back at my door, Riri, Atha, and Aphiwe were all waiting for me. I set them up with my ipad while I went to go shower. We still had some time before Catan so the four of us went through some more pictures from my time here in 2011. I always enjoy going through those pictures and to be able to share them with the students is even better!

The second night of Catan proved just as much fun as the first. Both Mieke and myself won one more time each. We’ll see if Eric can pull of that victory on Monday.


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Frisbee and Board Games

The boys asked the day before what time they could come over on Saturday. I told them maybe between 9-10 but quickly thought mentioned that closer to 10 would be better. I got a knock at my door at 8:58. Half asleep I thought that if I just ignored it they would come back an hour later.IMG_3496 That’s when my phone started to ring. I got and headed to my door and could see that there was a shadow over the normally see through key hole (later in the day I too looked through the key hole and was amazed at how much you could see in side. There is another door before getting into my room but you could completely see the entire entrance way.). Outside were Ski, Mawande, and Chester. I ushered them inside, told them I could use another 30 minutes of sleep, and set them up quietly with my ipad. They actually did a decent job keeping quiet but not to the point that I was able to fall back asleep.

Shortly after being let in Eric came over to see what all the noise was about. I think he was also a IMG_3494bit shocked to see them all over so early. The plan was to head into Stellenbosch to play some Frisbee in the park. I was going to tell the boys that they could pick an ultimate jersey out of the bag but when I came back from brushing my teeth they were already geared up. Nice to see them making themselves at home haha.

It was probably 10am when we started our walk down to the mini buses. When we got there Eric realized he had forgotten his cell phone and wanted to go back and get it. He said he would just IMG_3489meet us at the park, and Chester decided he would go with Eric. I had no problems with this because it meant I had one less kid to pay for! Rather than a mini bus, today we piled into a jeep. 12 people in total piled into to the front seat, back seat, and trunk of this jeep. I think there were 5 people in the trunk alone!

The weather was just perfect for playing the park and we threw the Frisbee around for hours. We came up with a game similar to one we’ve all played before. One person throws the Frisbee the others try and catch and the person who comes down with it gets the points. I also added bonus points to anyone that could throw the Frisbee back to me. The boys are all getting pretty good at throwing and catching a Frisbee. I taught them how to read a disc today. To a bystander it might have looked like I was playing fetch but I promise it was all in good nature. Everyone loves the feeling of successfully running down a flying object no matter the sport you’re playing.IMG_3490

After playing in the park for a few hours Eric and I decided we would by some lunch for the boys and made our way to the McDonalds. I know it’s not healthy but we were just aiming for something to hold them over.IMG_3488

After some lunch we took the mini bus back to Kayamandi and were greeted by two new volunteers. Mieke and Hanneke are two very nice girls from the Netherlands. They had actually arrived late the night before but we had already been fast asleep. We introduced ourselves and they got to meet Ski, Mawande, and Chester. While we were letting them get settled the rest of us went back to my flat where we worked on some bracelets and made some music on the ipad. The girls came over to join us and I told them a bit about the township. I feel like a pretty well groomed guide at this point. Since they had just arrived they weren’t sure yet how to head into Stellenbosch and they had a few things they needed to pick up. Even though we had just gotten back from town I thought it’d be nice if we took them back in to teach them how it’s done. I’m really quite fond of sharing what I know about Kayamandi because I love the township so much!IMG_3495

I told the guys (Ski informed me that they are no longer kids) that we’d be back later but for now I was going to take the girls into town. I love being there to witness everyone’s first time riding a mini bus, or being there when a child runs up to them for the first time and lays a big hug on them. It’s so welcoming to receive so many hugs, from the kids of the township, just on the way to the bus station. Of course our walk to the buses is also filled with such beautiful views that it’s hard to say which is more welcoming. Our bus wasn’t packed on our way into town like I told them it’d be, but I think that was because it was midafternoon. I really truly do my best to show and tell the other volunteers as much as I can because when I leave I’m going to want to know they are still taking care of my students, and I’ll want lots of updates! I made sure to tell them all about which restaurants the kids can eat free, and which book stores to shop at, and which fields to play soccer at. I want to know that when I leave I’ll still be there for these kids… sorry, young adults.

After running a few errands, picking up some food, and buying the necessary adapters we took a mini bus back to the township. This ride held 21 passengers with me in the back with 4 others, and the 2 girls sandwiched up front with the driver. I love these rides! I was a little concerned that the girls may not know when to get off but they informed me afterwards that they kept an eye on me for each stop. I considered getting off early so we could walk a bit through the township but we had food with us and I figured it was more important for them to know the proper place to get off. Once at our stop I had to teach them how to say the name of our street, Cedile street. Both Mieke and Hanneke speak perfect English as well as their home language of Dutch. I’m glad that I can at least help them with Xhosa. All day every day I meet people that are bilingual, some people here can speak many more that two languages but I feel pathetic only able to speak English, EVERYONE seems to be able to speak English. Often the players on the Frisbee team just go back and forth between Afrikaans and English without even skipping a beat. Because Dutch and Afrikaans are closely related the girls from the Netherlands can also understand when the locals speak Afrikaans. Even Eric, from Germany, is able to pick some of it up. Afrikaans is derived from Dutch and German after all. I need to get my act together!

It was just about time for dinner by the time we got home and the 4 of us all sat down to yet another delicious meal prepared by Lelethu and Mama Zulu. I asked them afterwards if it’s easier to cook for a lot of people or just a few. They told me the stove does the cooking and they just have to stand there. They are very humble and modest though because their food is great, and I know it can’t be easy to cook for a group of strangers.

At dinner I asked the girls if they had played the game of Catan. They had, and Mieke told me she plays it almost weekly! This was awesome news and without a doubt we had a plan for the evening.

IMG_3515Eric needed to make a phone call so in the meantime I taught the girls the basics of bracelet making. They got it relatively quickly, but not without a few major knots along the way. I also had time to show the girls were they would be doing their volunteer work. The clouds looks really beautiful against the mountains.

IMG_3517

Mieke and I intensely strategizing

Catan is a German board game, yet Eric was the only one of us who hadn’t played it before. I taught him the rules and we let the games begin. We played two games with Mieke winning the first and myself winning the second. Both were great games, and just the first of many. During our match I got to try some snacks from the Netherlands and from Germany. Eric had his delicious chocolate and gummy bears, and the girls brought this waffle like cookie that was soft and tasted like it was filled with syrup. It was pretty incredible.

I convinced them all to join me on Sunday for an Ultimate Frisbee practice followed by a cookout but we’d be getting picked up at 9:30 in the morning. After our second game we all went our separate ways and headed off to bed. It’s always fun to meet new people, especially when they know how to play Catan!!


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The Bridge Over the Cam

After a very late night we woke up and started our Tuesday around 7. This was a bit rough but it was necessary as we had a lot to see today. The first thing we had to do was drive to Guildford to the school Koren is a teacher at. She needed to print out her thesis which she’d be handing in today in Cambridge.

Koren works as a Math teacher at Royal Grammar school which is an elite boy’s school. IMG_2931The school specializes in math and science and goes from year 7 to year 13 which equates to the ages 11 to 18. Walking about the school I can tell you that it was an extremely fine school. It was however quite early and Sean and I were coming off a long Monday, so while Koren was printing what she needed we used the time to relax in the teachers’ lounge. I napped. I tried to nap on the way to the school but the roads were a bit too windy for me.

IMG_2959Our next destination would be Cambridge which would mean more highways and better quality sleep. After another couple hours in the car I woke up feeling much better!

My first reaction to Cambridge was how incredibly beautiful it was. The buildings were so old and so architecturally appealing. We spent the entire day walking about the city.

The first place we went was the Facility of Education where Koren turned in her thesis. She is now a Master of Education! Yay Koren! I’m happy I could be a part of your celebratory day!! Afterwards we ate ice cream 🙂IMG_2953

We decided the best way to celebrate would be to go punting down the Cam. Punting is similar to a gondola where everyone sits in the boat and the person in the back stands and propels you through the water by dropping the punting staff into the water and then pushing off the bottom so as to move the boat forward. IMG_2956This was much easier said than done, but after going back and forth, crashing into a few other boats and the canal walls, I finally started to get it. We had the option to hire someone to take us around but with Koren’s awesome student (no longer a student as of this day) discounts we decided to just do it ourselves! It was a very enjoyable time and we had a few drinks along the way to celebrate. We started at Trinity College, the college Steven Hawking attended and is now a fellow, and traveled down as far as the famous IMG_2939mathematical bridge. This bridge receives its name because the beams that hold it together are all at a tangent to the ark which means that it is self-supporting and you won’t find any nuts or bolts holding it together. Before all was said and done we all had the chance to try punting down the Cam. None of us were really that great at it.

The next stop of our Koren guided tour was St. John’s College. Because we were with Koren we were granted access inside the walls of this college. This isn’t something generally granted to tourists so it was extra special that we could walk through. In addition to that, the places tourists were allowed, we didn’t have to pay. We took our time walking through the gigantic buildings and admired the surrounded cathedrals. Everything about these colleges were excellent and prestige. The grounds were perfect, and the buildings were immaculate. IMG_2962

IMG_2965On the way back to the car we checked out the Corpus Christi College and famous clock. We also saw Kings College which had another enormous cathedral. IMG_2967

After the lengthy drive home we made and ate some yummy fajitas, played a game of spades and watched the 5th Harry Potter. Koren’s boyfriend Fraser arrived back home just in time for dinner and spades. On Wednesday we’d all be traveling into London which would surely prove to be  yet another full day of traveling. IMG_2992