Reaching Out 2 The World


Leave a comment

Two Beautiful Days in the Sun

The best way to describe my weekend was that it was a weekend in the sun. Since it’ll be a frigid fall November welcoming me home I figured it’d be nice to take full advantage of this beautiful South African weather before departing. Maybe even get a little color!

On Saturday a group of us traveled to Muizenburg for a day of surfing. Miriam offered to drive so Hanneke, Mieke, Dan, and I all piled into her small little car. Getting a lift to Muizenburg saves us a lot of trouble because it would take nearly twice as long if we had to take the train.

The day was a beautiful day and DSC_0259when we arrived we went over to Dave’s Surf Shack to hangout and wait around until our friend Max could meet up with us. While we waited we sipped on some delicious hot chocolate brewed out of Dave’s future restaurant. He has plans to hire a chef and begin serving food but they still have some work to do before opening.

Once Max got there we all suited up and made out way to the beach. None of us are experts but it would be Miriam and Maxes first attempt at surfing. We gave them a very quick tutorial and told them that it’d be a lot of trial an error. As we waded into the water we noticed that there were a lot of jelly fish and the water was less clear. The minute we got out past waist deep it became apparent that we were dealing with totally different waves than last time. I think maybe because there was bad weather earlier in the week the ocean was still chaotic. Waves were coming from the left and the right and there was hardly any consistency. The current first pulled us up the coast and then started pulling us down the coast. We all still had a lot of fun but we were having aDSC_0425 heck of a time with any success standing on our boards. Some of the younger guys that are a part of the surf program didn’t seem to have as much trouble as they cut through the waves no matter the rough waters. After a very exhausting 90 minutes of “surfing” we made our way back to the dry land. On my previous experience I was able to ride a wave all the way into the shoreline yet on this day I could hardly even stand up for more than a couple seconds. No matter the trouble though, when I looked around at the rest of my group we were all full of smiles and highly IMG_6966enjoying our battle. It seemed like everyone showed up for the challenge today!

When we were changed out of our wetsuits we walked around to find a nice place to eat. The plan was to eat and walk around the coastline for a bit before heading back to Kayamandi.

Following our meal we walked back out to the beach to take a few pictures by the famous colored shacks on the shore. I think these structures are used to hold equipment for the lifeguards, but I’m not positive.

IMG_6969Our next destination was to walk a few miles up the coast before returning back to our car. The walk was beautiful; actually all the coast lines in South Africa are beautiful. The walk brought us with in meters of the crashing waves and it became a challenge to dodge the ocean spray. I think myself and Max were really the only ones avoiding the spray, because everyone else seemed to enjoy getting hit with the shower of water.

We made it back to Miriam’s car around 4 and all stuffed in. It wasn’t until we were in that Miriam realized that she was missing the mobilizer that’s necessary to start the car. I had no idea what a mobilizer was but I guess they are pretty standard in older cars to help with theft deterrent. We tried contacting someone that could help us bypass the mobilizer and we even retraced our steps all the way back up the coast. The later it got the less likely it IMG_7030seemed that we’d be driving Miriam’s car back to Kayamandi. It wasn’t until after 7 that we secured a cab ride that would be able to bring all of us back to Kayamandi. None of us intended on being in Muizenburg all day but I felt the worst for Miriam. She had to have her car towed to a safer location for fear of it being stolen if left unattended in the parking lot where we were. She’d also have to figure out a way to get a replacement mobilizer.

When we finally made it back to Kayamandi we regrouped with the rest of the volunteers to learn a new game. The game was called Weerwolven and you need at least 8 people to play. It involves role playing, mystery, manipulation, and deception… that is my kind of game! It’s too difficult to explain on here but I plan on teaching it to my friends once I get back home.

On Sunday I was woke early but knocks at our door. When I got up to see who it was there were a dozen kids standing outside. I had told them earlier in the week that we could go swimming on Sunday but didn’t think they’d show up before 9! I wasn’t even positive the pool was open today but it was such a nice day out I figured it’d be worth checking out.

IMG_6990Mieke and Hanneke joined us as we all walked down to the pool. To get there we had to cut through Kayamandi, sneak through someone yard, and jump a fence. Once on the other side of the fence we crossed the 5 lanes of traffic and continued to walk in the direction of the pool. In the distance we could see the pool but it looked as if no one was there. I was worried the pool was closed for the day but our only way of knowing was to continue our walk. Just before getting to the pool we had to cross a small stream. There was just a long tree branch bridging the gap but these guys didn’t seem to struggle. Over the river and through the woods we all crossed over some train tracks and were just about there. The pool still looked abandoned but we continued our walk.

There was a security guard waiting inside the IMG_0977gate to get in and he informed us that the pool wouldn’t be opening for another hour or so but that it would open. That was enough for me and we passed the time playing all sorts of sports. I had my Frisbee with me as well as the soccer ball, and when the kids grew tired of those they wrestled with Mieke and Hanneke. This is their victory pose after defeating the hooligans. I think Mieke’s legs tell a different story though. I had my camera with me that I supplied one of the boys with and I think they took 4 gb of data before even getting into the pool area.

IMG_1017Nande is the gymnast of the group and we recorded his entire floor routine. I was pretty impressed but he told me it was nothing special and that he learned it in just a few days. We practiced some flips and hand stands with the kids and I was surprised to see that Mawande could do a running front flip off of a brick. A couple of the other kids were trying to do back flips out of each others hands but it didn’t seem too successful. I lifted Nande onto my shoulders and held his ankle very tight. With all his balance and flexibility he was able to outstretch his other leg high above his head. I had no idea what this looked like until I later saw the pictures but I was impressed. He’s a skilled little gymnast!

After waiting and playing out in the sun we wereIMG_6979 finally permitted into the pool. It’s 5 rand per kid and 10 rand per adult so to get all of us in was still under $10. I think the wait was worth it because we were all that much more ready for the chilly pool. The coldness was welcoming after being out in the sun for so long and the pool area quickly filled up with what seemed like hundreds of kids.

I could not even imagine being a lifeguard at this pool with so many crazy kids running around and not nearly enough staff on hand. They seemed to have things mostly under control though and the kids knew their limits. I probably gave half a dozen swim lessons in our time there.

IMG_6972Along the outside of the pool were loads of kids laying out on the red bricks soaking up the heat from all sides. This was the perfect place to hang out in between swimming sessions. We were sure to take loads of pictures jumping into the water and playing and everyone had such a great time. There are few things these kids like more than swimming and it was awesome being able to take them there.

Because the pool is located in the IMG_6976Township across the way the majority of the kids at the pool were colored and spoke Afrikaans. This goes back to before the Apartheid in 1994 when groups were segregated to live in different areas. The colored people spoke Afrikaans (more education), while the blacks spoke Xhosa. The mandatory segregation aspect has since ended but the division is still very apparent. When the kids all get together at the pool though they are all equal and generally play nice with each other. I was shocked to see kids from the other township come up to me andIMG_6977 call me by my name. They had remember me bringing the kids to the pool back in 2011. As I looked around I could point out a few of the kids that I had also remembered but I definitely didn’t recall any of their names. It’s a shame I have to leave on Thursday because our pool day was excellent and weather around here is just so much better than back home.

We spent most of the afternoon at the pool until our group grew hungry and myself, Mieke, and Hanneke grew red. We had been out in the sun all day for the past two days and had a lot of color to show for it. When we made it back to Kayamandi we split up for lunch before regrouping for a movie. The movie was hosted in the girl’s house where we could take shelter from the sun. I think they watched Ice Age 2 while I worked on my writing.IMG_6988

While I was checking things on my computer I saw I had an email from none other than Mrs. Debbie Hoffman. She had a video response for us in regards to the, “Day in the Life of Lupho” video. I brought my lap top over to the group and shared with them the video and they all seemed to really enjoy it. I still need to show it to Lupho but I’m hoping he’ll come by before I leave. The video was a nice surprise and it was great hearing from her class. A big thank you to the kids that helped make that happen!

In the evening once all the kids had gone home we played the same game as the night before. It’s a pretty great game. Remember, you need at least 8 people to play but it’s more fun with more people. I think you can play with as many as 20 people, but we’d have to look up how the expansion pack works. Gather some friends when I get back home and we’ll make it happen!

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Living With a Super Star!

Friday morning was sort of like disaster control for Dan. We both were able to sleep in a little but once he woke up he set to work on cleaning up from party central. I cleaned up a bit around our room but it was nothing compared to the task he had at hand. After the party you could hardly see the floors because of how much debris was everywhere. From what I gathered he had to mop multiple times in order to make it back to the original flooring. I guess that’s the price you pay when you throw epic parties in a township.

My plan for the day was to host a sports afternoon with as many kids as I couldDSC_0045 gather. The only problem was that not many kids were over when I wanted them to be. I was expecting at least 10 kids to come down to the fields with us, pick up a few kids along the way, and meet maybe another 10 kids down by the park. I still had a handful of Five Ultimate jerseys to give away and I was hoping to suit everyone up. When 3:30 rolled around only about 4 kids were at our place. Maybe they all had candy hangovers from the night before? It was such a nice afternoon out that we decided to head down to the fields anyway. Even with just the 4 kids, Hanneke, Mieke, Dan, and I, I figured we could come up with something fun to do.

DSC_0055Along the way we passed different groups of kids but none that came along with us to the fields, and when we arrived at the fields they were basically empty. I thought Songo’s BMX riders would be available to join but they weren’t even riding today. I didn’t want to give up though so we continued down to the fields and began passing around the ball we brought.

In the distance, on another field, we saw a group of younger kids playing soccer. I asked Mawande and Apihwe to run over and ask if they’d like to join. In the mean time I asked Wande to run over to a different group of kids and see if they’d like to join us. Slowly but surely kids started showing up, and when they saw that kids were getting the chance to wear awesome 5 Ultimate jerseys they came running!

When we finally had enough people for a real game we split the teams up withDSC_0141 Hanneke captaining one team and Mieke captaining the other. We really had no idea of knowing who had the better team because we only knew a small fraction of the players. There were well over 30 kids on the field when the games began and only about 4 of them had walked over with us.

DSC_0138Things got off to a quick start with Hanneke’s team taking an early lead. The score might have been 4-0 when I decided to join Mieke’s team and lend a hand… or foot. Even with my help the other team continued to score and it wasn’t until I finally offered a decent pass to Mawande that our team scored! The score was like 5-1 at this point but we had our first goal. I think in any sport the first goal is always the hardest and we used our momentum to score another couple fast points. All these kids, ages 5-14, were better than me at soccer, but I was still faster!

We continued playing for the next hour or so and the score was eventually 8-8. WhenDSC_0126 we saw kids struggling to run the full length of the field and realized we ought to head back for dinner it seemed like the perfect quitting time. What began as a small group and turned it into a very large competitive soccer match. Sports day was an awesome success and the kids were all thrilled to sport their new jerseys! Thanks so much to Five Ultimate and my team mates from Shippensburg University for the donated jerseys! You pretty much are these kids’ heroes, and there is no doubt that they’ll have these jerseys for years to come! Most of these kids could use a few years before the jerseys finally fit them anyways!

IMG_6876One of the reasons we had to be back at a certain time for dinner was because Hanneke, Mieke, and I were going to a performance at Amazink and needed to eat beforehand. Amazink is a restaurant in Kayamandi that offers outsiders a chance to experience a cultural performance while eating a delicious dinner. The best part about this performance was that Lelethu was one of the star performers! Lelethu is my host sister who lives with us at Mama Zulus. We all know she has a stunning voice from hearing her sing throughout our mornings and afternoons but this would be the first time seeing her on stage.IMG_6877

Just after dinner the three of us dressed up and headed over to Amazink. The reason we ate first was because we were unsure if our tickets had food included and we didn’t want to risk not eating anything all evening. Since this was the first and probably only time I’d be getting dressed up in Kayamandi I was sure to take a few pictures with Mama Zulu, and the kids that were over. When we arrived at Amazink we were greeted by a welcoming performance just outside the doors with Lelethu leading the way. She looked so great we all had to get pictures with her before going inside.

IMG_6872None of us really knew what to expect upon entering the place but we were all anxious and excited to find out. We first were guided to our table that was specially reserved for us. Our seats were great! Right by one of the stages and right in the middle! After ordering a bottle of wine and IMG_6868playing some cards the show finally began.

To put it simply, the show was incredible. Honestly one of the greatest performances I have ever seen! For nearly 2 hours we were blown away by solos, dances, costume changes, and more! Every one of the performers had a unique style and an amazing IMG_6862voice. I was so proud to know Lelethu and see her lead many of the songs. From start to finish I was completely engaged in everything they were doing. We went outside for a couple songs where I found out that Lelethu could play the djembe drum, and was totally amazed to see her lead the entire group in complicated step dance. Okay, so my knowledge of dance styles isn’t the best but I know great dancing when I see it and these guys were phenomenal. Some of the performers have traveled the world with their skills but continue to find themselves back in Kayamandi.

Throughout the entire performance I kept IMG_6863thinking to myself how great it would be to have brought some of our kids to the show. It’s a bit expensive and I don’t have time to do it before I head back home but I was thinking it might make for an awesome Christmas present for the kids if I supply Mieke and Hanneke with a means of taking a small IMG_6867group to the show. I just know they’d love it as much as I did and would probably be singing and dancing along with them.

As the show went on more and more of the audience began to get involved and before things were finished we were all out of our chairs singing and dancing. Immediately after the performance we all demanded an encore and were lucky enough to be entertained for at least a few more minutes. No one wanted the show to be over, but all good things must come to an end.

I’m so glad how things worked out on Friday, and I’m not sure I’ll ever see a performance like the one I saw at Amazink. Lelethu, never stop being so awesome! IMG_6869


7 Comments

It was a Mash, A Monster Mash!

The much anticipated day of the week was here, Halloween! After spending the past couple days IMG_6811gathering all the supplies we could Dan woke up first thing in the morning and began transforming our living quarters into a Halloween themed party central. I spent most of the day catching up on writing but when I went to go check out his work I was very impressed. From the ceiling to the floor the room was decked out and there was even a table full of candy.

As Dan was putting the finishing touches on the room and working on a playlist for the evening the kids began showing up. They’d first come over to my room where we reminded them that they couldn’t go into party central until they were in costume. There was a slight rain so numerous kids came over and still needed to change. Mawande was one of the first to show up and was wearing a ripped up shirt as part of his zombie costume. Since he was the first one ready I began with his face paint. I’m not exactly sure the IMG_6810best way to create a zombie face but I figured some black around the eyes and some blood around the mouth would do the trick! He took care of the acting part which was definitely the clincher.

The next pain job I did was on Wande. He came over with a cat mask he had created but he was still looking for IMG_6809some make up. It’s a bit difficult to tell from the pictures but I gave him some fangs, whiskers, and yellow cat eyes on his eye lids. He looked pretty creepy when he shut his eyes. With two down and many to go my room was filling up with more and more characters. There was a ninja in my room that had a mustache, another cat, the Prince of Persia that requested a star and a heart on his face, and a super hero who represented South Africa. Painting the South African flag on this guy’s face looked pretty awesome but I was a little concerned with the blue. The kits we had did not carry a blue color paint so I had to improvise and use a little of the fabric paint we had bought for the shirts. This was only after I saw that it was non-toxic, and even then I just used a very small amount. You can’t be the South African super hero and be missing one of the colors on your flag…

IMG_6807The next face I painted was pretty strange. I was just following the instructions he was giving me but I still don’t know what to make of the final design. Ahobonga first asked me to cover his face in all white paint, and then he asked me to put red circles around both his eyes and a red circle on his nose. The next step was red lipstick, and the final touch was three whiskers coming out of the sides of his mouth. Looking at him smiling back at me was pretty scary so I guess the mission was accomplished. He later threw on a black and white afro wig and really looked out of this world!

With the time nearing 6pm I still needed to get into custom IMG_6805and went about finding my Moroccan attire. I had my blue head scarf, and my white tunic that I sported throughout the night. The boys thought I was wearing Indian clothes or that I was dressed like “The White Ninja” but I told them it was just traditional clothing worn throughout Morocco. The other volunteers all dressed up as well and we were all ready to party! Since Dan and I were the only Americans I think mostly everyone else was celebrating Halloween for the first time! Dan also suited up in his Moroccan garb and Eric celebrated his first Halloween as a surfer!

Earlier in the week we made the decision to order loads of pizza for our party, but when the day finally came we were having a very difficult time finding a place that delivered. Kayamandi is only a 2 minute drive from Stellenbosch and there are numerous pizza places over there that offer free delivery! We had quite a large order but not one company would make the delivery. We not only offered to pay extra but tried telling them about what the order was for, and we even offered a hefty tip… still nothing. Their reasoning was all the same, it’s just too unsafe to deliver to Kayamandi. Hearing this is always a shock to me. There are people that live just a couple miles from Kayamandi and are afraid to enter. We’ve even had friends drop us off at the entrance for fear of driving through. I’ll tell you right now, these fears are irrational. Yes, there are problems that take place in Kayamandi once in a while but you don’t have to be afraid to enter! These streets are filled with a lot of friendly people, people I call family. IMG_6802I suppose if the pizza man had bundles and bundles of cash on him he may not want to make an easy target for himself, but I think they were just acting cowardly. We had to call Miriam to the rescue, our volunteer German friend who lives in Stellenbosch and has a car. We were hoping that she’d be able to IMG_6801make it to our festivities anyway but now we had a huge favor to ask her. We ordered ten pizzas for our Monster Mash and needed to get them in Kayamandi. She pulled through and brought Eric with her to make the collection. Operation: Get the pies to the guys. Thanks so much Miriam, you saved our party!

Now with all the snacks we had, all the candy, the drinks, and the ten pizzas you can imagine the slight shock I felt when I entered party central, not more than 15 minutes after the pizza had arrived, and ALL the food had been eaten! Holy IMG_0849cow did they devour that pizza. “Finish you’re plate, eat your vegetables, there are starving kids in Africa… “We’ve all heard it, and we’ve probably all said it, but I can assure you that on October 31st there were no starving kids at our party! Luckily for us volunteers we still had Mama Zulu’s dinner!

The party was a huge success and everyone had a killer time. Dan really did put together a great party and the rest of the volunteers did an awesome job getting involved! And just like I had hoped for we had an epic dance off midway through the party where everyone got a chance to strut their stuff. Hands down the winner was our cat painted guest, Nande. He’s also the gymnast of the group and knew all the moves to impress the crowd!DSC_0034

Things went pretty late, considering we threw it on a Thursday. I think the last group of IMG_6798kids went home around 10. Party central looked like a tornado had rolled through but we were all still in high spirits. The volunteers and I stayed up late into the night playing more games and having ourselves a very good time. The final game we played was similar to a game of twister… only rather than spinning a dial that tells the group where to put their hands and feet I just shouted out my own instructions. This turned into a real life human knot and it’s one I’m pretty proud of!

Halloween was sick nasty twisted fun, and it fell right before an incredible weekend. Friday I’d be hosting a sports day, surfing on Saturday, and a day at the pool on Sunday! Stay tuned!

IMG_6808


Leave a comment

Picking Things Up Right Where We Left Off

Life back in Kayamandi is right where we left off. You head into Stellenbosch when IMG_6757you need to run a few errands and the afternoons are spent hanging out with the kids. On both Tuesday and Wednesday Dan and I went into town so we could gather the supplies necessary for the Halloween party we’d be throwing on Thursday. This is much easier said than done when you’re in a country that doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. I say not really because there were a couple stores that sold some costumes and a few decorations but nothing like we have back home. As a matter of fact they already had all their Christmas decorations out on display!

I like to throw good parties but Dan only knows how to throw great parties! This is probably why we spent two days looking in every store that may have something we could use for our party. We bought loads of candy, snacks, and drinks, as well as spider webs, wall coverings, banners, and even a blacklight. The blacklight was one of the more difficult items to come by but we lucked out just before giving up and going home. We also made sure to buy loads of props for costumes and face paint so we could transform the kids. Once we were satisfied we made our way back to Kayamandi.

IMG_6723On Tuesday a few kids came over and we discussed their options for costumes. We made sure every child knew that they were definitely invited… but they weren’t getting into the party without a costume. IMG_6721We weren’t going to provide the costume but we’d certainly help with ideas, creativity, and of course facepaint. By the sounds of it, it seemed like we were going to have a couple ninjas, a superhero, and possibly a cat. All that matters is that they were excited and that’s what Halloween is all about!

While we were discussing our costumes I found out that one of the boys is a gymnast. I found this out while watching a dance off in my bedroom and seeing this little guy drop right down into a split! We immediately went outside where he could show off the rest of his skills. All the other boys tried their best but not just anybody can do a split! IMG_6719Even Butsha gave his shot at a couple handstands when he saw us all having a contest. This really made me miss my diving team back home! I’m really looking forward to seeing all my divers!

On Wednesday afternoon I went with Eric to Judo. I hadn’t been there in nearly a month because of the ReachingOut trip and the 3 weeks we spent traveling up north. I felt bad for not seeing them in so long but really wanted to spend at least one more practice with them before I’d have to head back home. The first practice is for the younger group and a few IMG_6752of the kids I was looking for weren’t actually there. It’s alright though because Eric and I went outside with a few other kids for an ‘advanced’ workout. Eric’s my German buddy who lives across the hall from me back at Mama Zulus, and he is one of the coolest guys I know. He’s been going twice a week to Judo for nearly 2 months and has a lot to show for it! But today was different because Eric and a couple of his students were IMG_6756outside working to the extreme! After a mid-distance run these guys did pull ups and then flipped giant tires across the entire field. I’m sure after you see the picture I attach you’ll be able to make sense of their craziness. I filmed the whole thing though and rooted them on! Before leaving Judo the rest of the students I was hoping to see showed up for the later class. As hard as goodbyes are I still find them very important and I’m glad I was able to see them off. I’m hoping to keep in touch with everyone I can this time around!

After getting back to Mama Zulu’s and having a greatIMG_6759 dinner Hanneke, Mieke, Miriam, Eric, and I went back into town for a few drinks at the Cubana. This was pretty fitting since it was the first place we all went together back when we first met in September. We shared a couple hookahs and played many rounds of cards. The night was so great but there was something even better waiting for us back in Mama Zulu’s kitchen! I still had a mug full of that delicious chocolate mousse and it had my name written all over it! Literally, I carved my name in the top of it with my spoon before putting it back in the refrigeratorIMG_6763 the day before. And with Eric at my side I couldn’t think of a better person to share it with! Cheers to another amazing couple days back in South Africa! Tomorrow would be Halloween and I promise the party lived up to all it’s anticipation! IMG_6762


Leave a comment

A Smooth Return to Kayamandi

After a full day’s worth of traveling we finally arrived back in South Africa. As soon as we touched IMG_6703down I could tell things were going to be great. We made it through customs in a breeze and were some of the firsts to recover our baggage. It was great to finally move through an airport at a less than frustrating pace.

Once we had everything we began heading towards the exit and saw in the distance two familiar faces. Mieke and Hanneke had come to fetch us at the airport and were holding two welcoming signs. Well, actually they were “Wanted” signs that attracted a lot of humorous attention, but we received them as big welcomes in the highest form of flattery! For mine they chose a picture from when I was dressed up in Morocco and set my reward for a whopping 8 Rand. They were pretty spot on with how I could be recognized and really did an outstanding job on the sign making. It was so nice of them to be there for us at our arrival and this was just the start of the day’s surprises!

IMG_6701With our pickup, they had also organized a ride back to Kayamandi, which is an awesome convenience that shouldn’t go unnoted. When we made it back they told us that they wanted to be there as we walked into our room. You can imagine our apprehension and anxiety at this point. We had been gone for nearly 3 weeks and our room had been periodically occupied?!? I had no idea what to expect but when we opened the door we were staring at what seemed like hundreds of sticky notes covering our walls. In the room we noticed that all the sticky notes had writing on them and there were personal messages written to both Dan and I. I think we spent the next half hour unpacking our bags and reading all of our notes. The girls had spent a couple weeks working with the kids from Kayamandi on the notes and the pictures that collaged our walls. Most of the notes weren’t signed by anyone but some were easy to identify. Ski’s drawings were easy to spot, Riri’s sayings and lingo were all pretty clear to me, and I could pick out a few I thought may have been written by Mawande. We found out that many of them had stuck with a consistent color for their notes so that also made it easier to identify. This was a total surprise to us and I absolutely loved it!

Before we could even finish reading all our notes the girls came back in to inform us that lunch was ready. What? They even had prepared a meal for us? We walked over to Mama Zulus and into the dining room and I saw on the table a few of my favorite things; coke, nutella, and crepes. Not only that, but there was an abundance of each and we totally pigged out. I think I ate almost half of the nutella jar that afternoon. When we were stuffed to capacity they went back into the kitchen and brought out the game changer. My absolute favorite desert ever…. chocolate mousse! It’s a game changer because no matter how full I previously was, I can always make room for chocolate mousse.

IMG_6700Not long after our delicious feast of a lunch did the kids start coming over. Our room quickly filled up with most of all the guys making their way over. A nice reunion to see them all again but we had a ton of people in a very small room. The girls and I decided to take all the boys to the park town the street and play some Frisbee and soccer with them. We played for a while, until we figured it would be time to head back for dinner. I love playing sports with these guys and it was the IMG_6699perfect addition to our big return. While we were playing I saw Mawande hanging out on the slide. When I went over he was admiring a small ladybug that had come to join us. Just another sign of how fantastic it was to be back in South Africa.

Another special treat about being back home in South Africa is Mama Zulus cooking. Chicken, french-fries, beans, and a salad were all waiting for us when we got back to her house. The Kayamandi kids waited back in our room while we indulged in our supreme meal. Before I head back home I plan on preparing a large meal that will have enough food to feed everyone that’s over. The kids never ask for food nor expect it, and Mama Zulu is already making enough, but it’ll be a nice treat to enjoy a meal with everyone.

IMG_6705More kids had come over by the time we had finished eating and were all hanging out in our room. They showed us which notes and pictures they had drawn and we told them a bit about our trip. Normally they’d all begin heading home around 8pm but they made it clear that they had no intentions of going home early on our first night back. Even once the other volunteers all got together around 9pm for a few card games the boys stuck around. I think it was closer to 9:30 when they finally had to go. It was nice seeing them after being away for 3 weeks and I’m dreading having to say my final goodbyes. When I came back to my room I saw that Ski had a new pair of shoes on. He was telling me that he wanted to trade with me for the day but I could risk loosing my vibrams haha.

After a few card games, Mieke, Hanneke, and I played a round of Catan. We changed up the rules a little bit to add some fun, and extended the game an extra 3 points. It was probably the perfect end to a perfect day back in Kayamandi and it’s all thanks to our friends from Holland. Mieke, and Hanneke, you guys rock and I hope you understand how much I appreciate all the kind things you do. Letting you beat me in Catan was just my way of saying thank you.


Leave a comment

A Few Days to Relax in Spain

Rather than going to bed, Dan and I had a train to catch at 1am that would take us through the night up to Tanger, the northern port in Morocco where folks cross over to Spain. Again we weren’t too sure what to expect for our ride but wanted to get there ahead of time to make sure we didn’t miss our train.

When our train finally arrived we had a bit of trouble locating our seats but eventually found them near the front of the train. We had the entire compartment to ourselves which was perfect because we were both very tired and could lie down along all the seats. Before drifting off to sleep we made sure to set a few alarms for ourselves to make sure we didn’t sleep through our stop. The next 6 hours was a lot of stop and go traffic along the rails but I didn’t have much trouble sleeping. If I can lay down, and cover my eyes, chances are I’ll be able to sleep.

Things got a little crazy when we got off the train in Tanger, just after 7 in the morning. IMG_6563We were both a bit groggy from the trip and caught a taxi to where the ferries take off from. As soon as our taxi pulled up we were ushered through the gate by a very panicky employee who was imploring us to hurry up. The boat was leaving at 7:30 and he didn’t want us to miss it! We ran through customs, upstairs, and down corridors until we were just about to board the ship. We even already had our tickets when the guy finally asked for payment. We never intended to pay with cash so we were at a bit of a setback when we found out he didn’t accept cards. Thinking quick, Dan left me with the bags and ran back through the port where he located an ATM to get the cash necessary for our trip. You think the guy could have mentioned that before rushing us through everything!

It was just after 8 in the morning by the time our ferry pulled up to Tarifa, Spain (I even slept for our 30 minute voyage across the Strait of Gibraltar). Once in town we caught a taxi to our accommodation and both went down hard for a nap. Traveling is exhausting, even when you are able to get a little sleep along the way!

IMG_6453For the next 5 days we’d be hanging around Spain. With no intentions of exploring this incredible country we set our sights on just plain old relaxing. You may call everything up till this point an extravagant vacation, but it’s hard to relax when you’re constantly on the move. Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to explore Spain one day but now was not going to be that time.

We were stationed in Tarifa, a small town in the southernmost part of Spain. This is typically a tourist destination but since it was October there weren’t nearly as many people, with the exception of the first day we arrived. Because it was the last day of the weekend and there was an ample amount of wind the oceans were loaded with kite surfers and the beaches were lined with onlookers. It was an incredible sight to see so many kites flying through the sky and I was very interested in joining them. It turned out to cost more than I could budget for and required a series of lessons that I didn’t have the time for, but one day, I’d like to learn to kite surf!

IMG_6460The first place we stayed with was a bit detached from the main city of Tarifa 1378550_10151785447919926_2001282457_nbut offered incredible views, sunsets, and just a short walk to the beach. Even with all the beauty that I was surrounded by the highlight of my days there was video chatting with my sisters. I spent sometime in the early afternoon talking with Anna and Charlie before she had to go into work. They are both doing great and Charlie is the cutest baby around! I’m excited for Charlie to get to experience his very first Halloween this year as both of his parents are major fanatics!

IMG_6501Later on in the day I was able to call up and talk to Rebecca and the rest of her family! It was her birthday and she was joined by her husband, Ed, her two amazing children Sarah, and Evan, and her parents Nancy and Ed! It was so great to catch up with them and hear how everyone was doing. Sarah turned 5 back at the end of September and they were both very excited about a trip they had planned the upcoming weekend to see Cinderella on Broadway in New York!

As much as I love traveling it’s difficult to be away from the ones you love for so long. I’m really looking forward to getting home to see my niece, nephews, and of course the rest of my family and friends as well.

So one thing we learned about Spain, which we had IMG_6513known about but never experienced, was their crazy eating schedules. From what I understand they don’t eat breakfast till early afternoon, skip lunch, and eat dinner sometime between 9 and 10. Walking around looking for a place to eat lunch and dinner was one of the more difficult things we had to do. On one occasion we walked around the city of Algericas for nearly an hour trying to find a place to eat. Everything was either closed or not serving meals. It was maybe 6pm when we got started and closer to 8pm when we were finally eating our hamburgers at what seemed was the only place in the entire city selling food, Monet. I’m sure if we stayed there longer we’d adapt to the eating schedules or find ways around starving for most of the day, but it was a little frustrating when we were hungry and nothing was working out.

IMG_6568Of course when we did find a place to eat the menus were in Spanish. Dan knows a bit of Spanish, and I studied it in high school but I’ve never been immersed in it and it’s been years since I’ve had to speak it. We got by for the most part but ordered a basket of fish by accident at the first place we ate. Neither of us likes fish so the basket went untouched.

On one of the days we toured IMG_6564the Castillo Guzman El Bueno, an old castle by the port of Tarifa. It was nice to check it out and take a few pictures around the place but the doors to go inside weren’t open. Oh well though, we made the most of our castle tour and took some cool pictures with the sun setting in the background!

IMG_6638Our last night in Spain was the best. We had plans to go see flamenco dancing at a small restaurant in the heart of Tarifa. To me, Tarifa reminded me of a much older version of an ocean city along one of our coasts, a similar atmosphere but a much different look. The streets were filled with places to eat, and musicians in the streets, but after grabbing some dinner we made our way to where the flamenco dancing would be held.

I didn’t really know what to expect but we were determined to arrive early so we could have the best seats in the place. It was a good thing we did too because the restaurant filled up to its max capacity. The show began with two gentlemen taking a seat in the front, one with a guitar and one with just a bottle of water. Once the guitarist began playing he was accompanied by some spectacular singing. I couldn’t tell you what he was singing about, but it was mighty impressive. Not long after those two began were they joined by a young lady who was dressed to impress. Once she began dancing the show truly was underway. IMG_6647Three performers, all working at the same time, all doing completely different things, but in perfect harmony. I couldn’t tell you who was the most skilled amongst the three because they impressed me thoroughly from start to finish. If you ever have the opportunity to watch some authentic flamenco dancing, you don’t want to pass it up!

IMG_6645The following day we packed up and began our trip back to Casablanca in Morocco, where we’d be taking a plane back to South Africa. We stayed a night in Tanger, a city in the northern part of Morocco, and bought a few souvenirs for our travels. In the evening we practiced a bit more with the light painting but all in all it was a fairly easy trip back to Casablanca.

I’m also pleased to say that the flight back to South Africa was pretty uneventful and my time was passed watching a couple movies and reading Ender’s Game. I think this book is being made into a movie, if it hasn’t already, and I wanted to read it before seeing it.

Overall, our three week trip was pretty awesome, and I was able to see places I IMG_6557never thought I’d be able to see. From the mega city of Dubai, through Morocco, a trip into the desert, and a few days along the beautiful coast of Spain, this trip covered a lot of ground and will leave me with some incredible memories. Be sure to let me know if you’ll be headed to any of those places and I’ll be sure to tell you what I know. The next few posts will cover my remaining days in South Africa. I have a lot I’m still looking to do but only a minimal time to do it. One thing for sure is though, we are all very excited about our Halloween Celebrations coming up!


Leave a comment

Oh the Places You’ll Go & and the People You’ll Meet

Our goal for Friday was to make it up to Rabat to visit a friend of Dan’s. In order to get there we’d have to take the train and we wasted no time getting up and packed so we could begin our journey north.

We were originally looking to buy first class tickets because of how great our first experience was but those tickets ended up being sold out. As we walked down the platform for our second class seats I think we were both thinking the worst. Down in South Africa the second class seats are a hard plastic bench seat and typically very over crowded. This isn’t a problem on short rides but we were under the impression the trip to Rabat would be quite long. When we neared our train car there was a friendly woman standing outside who confirmed we were in the right place and that we should sit near her and her daughters who also spoke English. This sounded like a good idea to us so we decided to join them.

One of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people.1395367_10151649906501975_1155543292_n It seems like you can’t go anywhere without running into awesome people who live very interesting lives. Jeannine, Nicole, and Barbara are perfect examples of such remarkable people. For the next several hours we talked with these three about their past, current, and future travels. Nicole has been teaching English in Casablanca for nearly two years and is considering teaching in Dubai once she has her two year requirement completed. Her mother, Jeannine, and friend, Barbara were both in Morocco visiting her. Between them, it’s probably easier to count the countries they haven’t been to, or at least it seemed that way. Barbara is on the verge of some major traveling come the start of the new year and Nicole is always on the go. Hopefully they’ll take our advice and start writing a blog so that we can continue to follow along with their travels. In addition to the ladies was Nicole’s pooch Beso who traveled all the way from California with Barbara to visit his madre. This dog was as cool and collected as I’ve ever seen and apparently has been a star at traveling. During our train ride Beso chilled on the table and IMG_6393let anyone and everyone pet him as they walked by. Kids from throughout the train would sneak away from their parents so they could spend a little time with this awesome pup. So far, second class was even better than first class and our seats were more comfortable as well. Before long the girls and Beso had to get off in Casablanca but it was a real pleasure meeting them, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet again?! Until next time, take care ladies!

With the first part of the ride over we only had about an hour or so till we’d be arriving in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. I used that hour to do a bit of writing but with no place to plug my laptop in I ran out of juice before I could get much done. No worries though, the ride ended up being considerably shorter than we thought it would be and we were in Rabat several hours before we thought.

When we arrived we walked out into the cleanest city we’ve been to while inIMG_6435 Morocco. After finding some Wi-Fi we booked a room for the night and made plans to meet up with Lisa in the evening. Lisa and Dan worked together back in Michigan and she just recently started a volunteer stint in Rabat where she’s living with a host family and working at a women’s center. From what I understand, she’s done a bit of traveling but never anything quite like spending a month in Morocco with a host family. I could tell Dan was looking forward to meeting up and checking in on his friend and I was looking forward to meeting her.

IMG_6433Lisa told us that she’d be with some friends drinking at a bar on a boat and described to Dan, in a facebook message, how we’d find it. It took us a bit of a walk and a short cab ride but we eventually found them. Lisa was joined by Capucine and Mariah, both volunteers who arrived in Morocco the same time Lisa did. The three of them were sitting at the front of this beautiful ship sipping on wine and enjoying the night. After a day of traveling it was great to sit back and meet some new friends.

I guess it’s easier to befriend someone when traveling because you already share something so huge in common with them. The fact that you are both away from home, and experiencing a new culture is generally enough to bring people together. Conversation is always easy because it’s always interesting to hear IMG_6434someone’s story as to how they ended up where they are or maybe where they are headed next.

Lisa has plans to head to Paris after her time in Morocco and is hoping to intern at a French bakery! She’s got a passion for pastries and is chasing after her dream… it doesn’t get much better than that! I’m still looking forward to tasting one of her treats, even if I’ll have to travel halfway around the world to do it!

Capucine is the most traveled of our group and has had the chance to do some pretty incredible things. Capucine’s first language is French so she’s also been a huge help to everyone she’s been with while here in Morocco. She also loves photography and has begun documenting her travels at http://footloosediary.wordpress.com/ . I’m definitely planning on keeping up with where she heads off to and I already told her I’d be visiting her again! From what I grasped, she’s a bit of an expert snowboarder in Whistler, Canada and I just recently rediscovered how much I love snowboarding! I think her next destination is Central America where she’s looking to reside for some time. From one extreme to the next Capucine seems to be on the right track! Good luck with everything!

IMG_6403Mariah, my new California friend, may have been the youngest of our group at just 19, but she’s got an impressive resume. She’s been studying Arabic and for her current travels and is fluent in sign language. I think her travels are just getting started but I’m sure they are far from over.

Before our night was over we all walked over to a small fair that was nearby and did a round of bumper cars. What better way to get to know someone than by trying your hardest to crash your car into them? These cars were a bit whacky too because the wire mesh on the ceiling wasn’t completed and there were sparks flying all over. Luckily no one was harmed and we all had a great time.

After our fun-filled evening we made plans to all meet up for lunch the following day. Dan and I would be leaving on an overnight train to Tanger before taking a ferry to Spain but we still had the entire next day ahead of us before any of that.

On Saturday we met the girls in the Medina and they took us back to their homestay to give us a IMG_6429tour. Their home was nice and cozy tucked into the alleyways just off the main street but it seems to suit them nicely. The family they stay with is very accommodating and their home has Wi-Fi. When traveling abroad, those are two very special things that are sometimes hard to come by.

From their homestay we walked the streets of the medina a bit before finding a place for lunch. With the menu being in French, it was extra nice having Capucine there to help make sure we ordered what we wanted. I’ll eat just about anything that’s in front me but there are certain things I’ll generally avoid when ordering at a restaurant. Champignons almost snuck one past me and ended up on my burger but the crisis was averted. Never been a big fan of mushrooms…  For dessert we ate delicious ice cream that was served in flavors a bit new to me. I tried a few different flavors but my main focus was the slice of triple layered chocolate mousse cake I had in front me. Oh how I love chocolate mousse!

IMG_6427Our highly satisfying meal left us all very full and in need of a walk. With it being such a great day out we decided to just pick a direction and begin walking along the beautiful coast line. Along the way we came across people swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, hanging out, playing soccer, and just about anything else you can think of that would be fun in the sun.

Rabat may not be the most popular place IMG_6425in Morocco to visit but so far it was one of my favorite places! For the rest of the day we strolled around the city, and met up with the girls for a few more drinks in the evening. It was so great to meet you all and I’m sure we’ll see each other around!IMG_6424