Reaching Out 2 The World


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Expect the Unexpected in Dubai… Day 1

The day has finally come that Dan and I would be departing for our Dubai/Moroccan adventure! We woke up to the sound of knocking at our door. This has become an all too familiar habit of waking up… but I suppose it’s kind of nice. At the door Lupho was waiting to greet us and say one last goodbye before we left. Not long after Lupho came by another boy named Luthando poked his head in to say farewell. These boys came by before school and since the Zulu’s residence is not at all on anyone’s way it meant they had to leave their homes an extra 20-30 minutes before they normally would have. It meant a lot to both Dan and I to see them off before we departed, but I think we both went back to sleep for a little longer once they left!

Our drive to the airport was nicer than I expected. Our driver, Kevin, turned out to be a very well-traveled man. He told us he’s been to Dubai at least 20 times and was able to tell us all sorts of great tips. At this point, Dan had withheld all information from me regarding our trip to Dubai. He had sorted out accommodation and possibly more, but I had no inclination as to what to expect. For the past few weeks Dan has been impressively good at dodging all questions thrown at him regarding our trip. Dude knows how to pack a surprise…

When we arrived at the airport we still had some time to kill so we ate a nice IMG_5494breakfast at wimpys. I think the endless refills are what caught our attention. It’s rare to get free refills on drinks outside of the USA. In fact I think most foreigners are very shocked when they eat at a restaurant in the US because both the size of drinks and the portions they are served are so much larger than anywhere else.

A few cokes later it was time to board are flight. This would be the first time I’d be flying Emirates and hopefully not the last! Not only was this plane enormous, but it was an absolute pleasure to travel on. I’m going to skip telling you about first class because frankly it’s just not fair. The level of luxury that they fly is just at a totally different level. With that being said, our seats were nothing to complain about. Quite the opposite actually! The TV’s on each seat were much larger than any other flight I’ve been on and there were places to charge all your electronics. When you pushed the little button to lean your seat back, your butt cushion also moved forward allowing you to recline much further than expected.

To start the trip the stewardesses passed out warm damp towels so that everyone could clean their hands and faces. I couldn’t help but think there was some sort of chemical on these clothes that would force everyone to relax, but that didn’t stop me from using my warm, awesome, towel in the slightest!

IMG_5493The next thing we received from the attendants were menus. Each passenger actually got a menu so they could choose what they wanted for lunch and dinner! I can’t recall what all the options were but I went with a chicken dish for lunch and Dan went with a pasta dish. Both meals also came with salads, bread, cheese and crackers, coffee or tea, a piece of chocolate, dessert, and a beverage of your choice. Not only was the food delicious but it filled us right up. While eating I watch the movie, The Fast and The Furious part 6. It was alright, I liked the other ones a little better but it was still fun. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous stunts taking place throughout the full movie.

Our flight was between 9-10 hours which gave me plenty of time to watch a few additional movies. I also watched Oblivion, Guilt trip, Monsters University, and some show on brain power! At some point we were also served a dinner where IMG_5492I again went with the chicken option. I gotta say, I’m a pretty big fan of plane food and Emirates knows what’s cookin! Both my meals were just right!

Between my fancy meals I was also able to create a South African bracelet. I think this was the first time I’ve ever started and finished a bracelet in one sitting. In the beginning it would take me 4-5 hours to make just one of these bracelets, but I think I’ve cut that time more than in half. In addition to my bracelet making I also played a few games on Hearts, Spades, and Catan on my ipad. Thank you Apple, for always supporting my ADHD.

It wasn’t until about 12:30 that we landed in Dubai. Stepping off the plane was like stepping into the sauna. Even though it was the middle of the night, it was still very warm out. We took a bus from the plane to the baggage claim and I was shocked when it took us nearly 20 minutes to get there. How big was this place? When we pulled up to the airport and went inside we were all funneled towards either the elevators or the escalators. From there we went down about 4-5 stories underground into an absolutely enormous atrium where you’d find the customs and baggage claim. Welcome to Dubai, where things are going to be bigger and better than you’ve ever seen before!

IMG_5857At this point I was still in the blue as to what our plan was but Dan informed me that we weren’t supposed to be anywhere till morning and that we were just going to hang around the airport for a few hours. A couple hours later when we determined that trying to sleep in the booth at the airport Burger King wasn’t going to cut it and we decided to just head to our accommodation early. When I say early, I mean early, because at this point it was about 3:30 in the morning.

As it turns out, Dan had booked us at the Auris Hotel, located just a block away from the Mall of Emirates, a five star hotel in an incredible location. We got there around 4:30 am and had to wait a bit for our room to be prepared but we were so thankful that they were taking us early that it didn’t even matter. The fact that I was going to get to sleep in a comfy bed after traveling ALL day was just music to my ears!

When we finally got to our room on the 13th floor we were welcomed in to the chilled room with the sounds of traditional Arabic music playing from our TV. I could tell we were going to be staying in luxury for the next few days and I couldn’t have been more ready for it! After scoping our room and climbing into bed, my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light.

Tuesday

Like yesterday we were once again woken up by someone at our door. Only this time it wasn’t a young African child, it was room service seeing if we’d like our room cleaned. Not being anywhere near ready to get up we sent them away and learned that there was a button we were supposed to press when we were ready for them to come back. With the curtain closed tight we slept till about 11:00 am without even being able to tell the sun was up. To me, that’s exactly how I like it be when I sleep!

Once we were up and ready to go we decided we better walk over to the IMG_5601Mall of Emirates and see what it’s all about. Dan told me that this was second largest to the Mall of Dubai… the largest mall in the world. I’ve grew in the suburbs of Philadelphia, just a short drive from the King of Prussia Mall. I thought I knew big malls but I was very wrong. The Mall of Emirates features more than 560 brands, has a Magic Planet (Sort of like a Dave and Busters), a 14-screen Cinema, a community theater, 90 restaurants, and one more thing… I can’t seem to remember what it was. Oh right, and indoor ski resort and snow park! The mall has 3 levels, 2 enormous food courts, and outside you’ll find a parking garage that has 7,000 parking spaces. If you like to shop, you need to find a way to experience a mall in Dubai!

IMG_5587We walked throughout the mall for a bit but we both knew what we were there for. Outside it was close to 100 degrees and we were about to hit the slopes for a snowboarding session. Inside the massive facility we rented our snow suits, boards, and gloves. The gloves were actually bought after a quick journey down the bunny slope, and the recognition that it was in fact snow, and it was in fact very cold! Add on the fact that neither of us had boarded in many years and falling down was unavoidable… suddenly, gloves were sounding like the best investment ever!

Ski Dubai had a bunny slope, snow tubing, a 4 person chair lift, an expert slope, an intermediate slope, and a beginner slope. At the very top you had the option of going left for the expert slope or right for the intermediate one. The right side is also where you’d be able to find the jumps and rails, but I knew that wasn’t for me. After a few trips down each of the easier slopes I started feeling a lot more comfortable on the board. Soon enough I felt confident enough to go down any of the paths but still wasn’t interested in trying any jumps.

On the far side of the expert track was a IMG_5596drag-lift that looked enticing. I saw a few skiers and boarders taking that route to get back to the top and decided I wanted to try it. I made my way over and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t even figure out how to dislodge the pull bar that would drag me to the top. After struggling for a few minutes one of the employees came over to give me a hand. The pull bar had a small bend in the bottom of it with a very tiny metal knot at its end. The idea was to put the bar between your legs, sit on the knot, and let the system drag you to the top (still standing in the upright position with your board on the ground facing up). At first this seemed pretty easy actually and I was cruising up theIMG_5595 slope, but soon enough it was time to turn the corner. It’s difficult to explain what happened but basically in order to round the corner the cable I was riding up on had to switch tracks and during that time of transition you come to a stop. What I wasn’t ready for was the huge pull I felt when my bar latched onto the new track. If I hadn’t been holding on tightly I would have been left behind. The pull also came while rounding a corner so my board was struggling to face the correct direction and things were becoming frantic. I didn’t want to let go, but I was being dragged up this slope in a very unconventional way. Finally, my efforts prevailed and I was able to face my board up and ride up the next bit of the slop with the knot at the end of the bar clasped in my hands. I’m pretty sure everyone in the snow park and chair lift watched my battle but I made it! Just over the halfway mark I was able to pull myself back into the correct position with the bar between my legs. My hands were pretty cold at this point but at least I made it. At the top I waited for a few minutes for Dan because despite my struggles the drag lift was much faster than the chair lift. We continued boarding the rest of our allotted session and I successfully went up the drag-lift at least one more time. Ski Dubai was so much fun, and I forgot how much I enjoyed snowboarding. When I get home, I’ll definitely be looking to go!!

After changing out of our snow suits and back into our summer clothes we exited Ski Dubai and back into the mall. We were near the East Food Court and ready for some lunch! It was almost 4 in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten anything since the flight!! One of the things I was most surprised about walking throughout the mall were all the American stores and restaurants. There was a P.F. Chang’s, a TGI Fridays, a Chili’s, a California Pizza Kitchen, and literally every type of dessert stand I’ve ever come across. You name it, and Dubai had it! Cold Stones, Baskin-Robbins, Haagen dais, Krispy Cream, Cinnabon, Dunkin’ Donuts, and soooo much more.

IMG_5585For lunch we ate at Japengos, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by our driver back in SA. This place specialized in dishes from all around the world. Both Dan and I were torn over what to get so I went with a huge burger, and he went with a Chicken sandwich and we split them 50/50. After eating the best burger I’ve had in months, we decided we IMG_5584better stop and get some ice cream before venturing back out into the desert sun. I actually can’t recall the name of the place we got our ice cream but it wasn’t a company I had heard of before. I want to say it was called Marble Slab Creamery but don’t quote me on that. Regardless of its name, they provided me with the most perfect ice cream cone I could have asked for. Similar to Cold Stones they add the ingredients you’d like right in front of you. I went with green mint ice cream with brownies, cookie dough, and hot fudge all added in. This was then all put into a chocolate coated waffle cone covered in rainbow sprinkles. For me, this was perfection in a cone. I ate my ice cream as we retraced our steps back through the mall, and back out into the heat. Once outside it was more of a minty milk shake since the ice cream had zero chance against the warm temperature.

IMG_5625Back at our hotel we traveled to the rooftop where we knew a pool was waiting for us. The views from up there were really incredible and we were just in time for the sunset. Dubai can become pretty dusty sometimes but this just made for a few sweet pictures.IMG_5622

After getting cleaned up back in our room we ventured back up to the rooftop and shared a hookah. In the Middle East and Arab world, people smoke hookah as part of their culture and traditions. Smoking shisha, or flavored tobacco, is like grabbing a drink with a few friends at a bar. Drinking is prohibited in most places in the Middle East, but you’ll almost always be able to find a hookah lounge. It was pretty nice being able to relax on our rooftop with the views of the city on the horizon. With the sun now down the temperatures were much more comfortable.

IMG_5749Before calling it a night we went back over to the IMG_5619mall for a very lite dinner. We both really love Mexican food and the fact that there was a Chili’s so near was just too hard to pass up. We split the biggest bowl of chips and salsa they had and ordered a side of mozzarella sticks. Feeling bold, Dan ordered a chocolate flavored coke. I think they just added chocolate syrup to his coke but he said it wasn’t half bad.

That pretty much wraps up our first full day in Dubai. We were both still exhausted from the traveling and the day’s activities that we went to bed fairly early. Having high speed internet in my room was also a luxury I’ve missed and embraced with open arms!

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My Late Night Township Walk

On Thursday I had plans to finally meet up with Isaac. We had been trying to connect ever since I arrived but he was busy with his company. He called me in the morning to let me know he’d be coming in around 10am to pick me up. This is a good opportunity for me to tell you all about “Africa Time”. Basically, things happen when they happen and there is generally no rush… unless you’re driving. If you need to be somewhere and meet someone at a certain time and something comes up before that can happen, things will get postponed. I remember this from two years ago as being rather frustrating because I’m usually pretty punctual and like the same in return. So when Isaac said he’d be coming around 10 and then called to tell me it got pushed back to 11 I wasn’t too surprised. When he finally showed up closer to 12:30 I still wasn’t too shocked. African Time is a way of life around here and there isn’t a point to becoming frustrated. You just have to learn to go with the flow. I knew that when he finally did come that we would have a grand time, I just had to wait a bit longer than expected. It’s best to have something to occupy your time if you know you might be waiting.

We first went into Stellenbosch to run a couple errands he had to take care of before heading out of the area to a vineyard he was familiar with. Because Isaac works for a tour company he has many connections throughout the area and seems to know people everywhere we go. IMG_3446

On the way to the vineyard he pulled the car over and asked if I wanted to drive. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and moved over to the driver’s seat. In South Africa they drive on the left hand side of the road and you’ll find the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car. Almost all the cars around here are manual so you do all the shifting with your left hand. I drove the rest of the way to the vineyard with no problems but had to keep reminding myself which side of the road to stay on. In the distance, as we drove, you could see snow capped mountains. This is still strange to see snow in Africa but they had just gotten a lot of precipitation this past August. IMG_3445

The place we stopped at was called Backsberg Estate Cellars. They are best known for their brandy, and we were able to do a complimentary tasting. The first brandy I tasted was aged 10 years and was very smooth. It was definitely pretty strong, but still delicious. IMG_3440The second brandy I tried had been aged 5 years and had a similar taste but was much more difficult to put down. That stuff was strong! These brandies were both called Sydney Back and had been matured in oak casks. After our brandy sampling we followed it up with some desert port wine. I think ports use different grapes than traditional wine, and with it being a dessert port it was very smooth and very delicious. It was the perfect complement after sampling the brandy. We ate lunch at the restaurant located on the premise and were presented with a nice bottle of white wine. I don’t recall the name of this wine but Isaac bought a bottle for me to bring back to Kayamandi. I left it in his car by accident so I need to remember to grab that in the near future. Isaac had their fish special while I had a lamb sandwich. It was alright, but my meat was a bit over cooked. They should definitely stick to their brandy making!

I was telling Isaac about how glad I was to get cheese the night before but that I was hoping to getIMG_3443 some softer cheese. Being surrounded by wine vineyards that specialize in cheese, wine, and brandy was the perfect place for me to be! We went down the road to another vineyard he was familiar with and one where he knew they had very good cheese. I got the same quantity of better cheese at the vineyard for 1/3 of the price I had paid the night before. It cost me 15 rand for my cheese which equates to about $1.50 USD. Another great thing about these vineyards is how cheap the wine is. They had a special sale at the place I bought my cheese. Pick any 5 bottles of wine for 100 rand. That’s 5 bottles for 10 US Dollars! If you fancy yourself a wine drinker you really ought to make your way to Stellenbosch!

By the time we made it back to Kayamandi it was just about 3. Papa Zulu told me that a few students had already come by looking for me. Since I had gotten the permission slips for the trip on Wednesday my plan was to go around meeting the parents today. The problem with this was that many of the students’ parents work odd hours. It wasn’t long before they all made their way back to my place. I often wonder if there is a beacon over my house that lets them know when I get home. While we waited for their parents to get home I started teaching more of them how to make the bracelets. We are still on the very early stages. I have tons of string but only a limited supply of the South African colors. I want them to practice on the other colors before diving into the South African bracelets.IMG_3447

IMG_3448About half past 5 when we were getting ready to go I heard some people talking outside my shack. When I opened the door I saw it was Mama Zulu and she was with two guys. The one guy was white and carrying bags so I pegged him as a new volunteer pretty quickly. His name is Eric and he is a volunteer from Germany. He’ll be living with the Zulu’s in Kayamandi for a whole year! That’s a long time but I know he’ll have an amazing time. I’m not exactly sure what he’ll be doing here but I know he’ll be working at the Trust Center.

Even though he just arrived and was very exhausted from his full day of travels I convinced him to come along as we walked around the township. I thought this may be one of his few opportunities to get a tour like this and have the chance to meet the families of these kids. It always impresses me how easily the foreigners I meet can speak English. Maybe easy isn’t the right word because I’m sure they have worked very hard, but I’m still impressed. I wonder if he’ll be able to pick up Xhosa as a third language.

The first place we stopped at was Chesters house. This was my first time meeting with his family. Out of all the students he definitely seems to have the biggest home. I can confidently say that because there were 3 rooms visible. Most of the other homes I’d be visiting were just one room with a dividing wall. After I introduced myself to his mother and grandmother I went about explaining what it was we had planned. I found myself trying to break down the itinerary as simply as possible. I wasn’t sure what they understood or what they had heard from their kids already. I think it went pretty well and she seemed happy about what we would be doing. She signed the permission slip and off we went to the Mawande’s home.

I remember where Mawande lived and I even met his family before, but that was two years ago IMG_3449and I couldn’t remember their names. When we arrived I reintroduced myself to Mawande’s mother, Buklwa Mcinjana. They are a very nice family but I got the sense that they didn’t really understand to much of what I was saying. I again spelled out the itinerary and tried my best to explain our plains. Once in a while Mawande would chime in. Their home was too small for Eric and the rest of the kids to enter so they all waited outside. After Buklwa signed the slip I went back out to meet up with them. It was already starting to grow dark and I knew Mama Zulu would have supper ready soon. We decided to head back to my place and on the way I told Eric much about the Township.

We got back just after 7 and the sun had gone down. It was a fairly cloudy night which made for an extra dark evening. I thought the kids would just drop us off while we ate but they had other plans. They wanted to play monopoly on my ipad while we went in for dinner. I didn’t really have a reason as to why they couldn’t so I opened my door to them. In the past I trusted them while I was out of the room, so why should now be any different? Plus, we had this trip coming up so I figured they would all be on their best behavior.

For dinner we had spaghetti and meat sauce. There weren’t any tomatoes used in the meat sauce, but rather cut up potatoes. It was different… but still good. Now that Eric is here I have someone to join me at the dinner table. When we first sat down he asked me if I’d like some spaghetti. I looked at him questionably because I didn’t know what he had said. He had asked me in German by accident. At this point I think his full day of traveling was finally catching up with him. He told me he had left at 2pm… the day before! Like me, he also wasn’t able to sleep on the flight. I definitely knew how he was feeling and knew that he was about ready to crash.

After dinner we went back to my room to find the kids still playing monopoly. A couple of the kids had also continued to practice their bracelets. We sat with them and chatted till about 8pm. I figured the kids would be going around this time but again, they had other plans. Riri (one of the better English speakers) informed me that Ski’s mother was now available to sign the permission slip. I thought, now? It was late and already dark out. They told me that because of her work schedule that now, and at this time, would be the only time she could sign the slip. That was good enough reason to me to walk throughout the township at night…

Eric stayed back to begin unpacking while myself, Riri, Ski, and Mawande made our way to Ski’s mother. It was a bit chilly out so I suited everyone up with the couple sweatshirts I had. A chilly night in South Africa is still a comfortable night back in Pennsylvania so I was fine just wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

On the way to Ski’s mother I asked him to remind me what her name was. He told me, but only after the other boys were not listening. It was actually kind of adorable that none of these boys wanted the other boys to know their mothers’ names. I imagine it was to prevent against teasing/mamma jokes. When we got to his mother, I’m not sure if it was her home or not, I again introduced myself and began explaining the trip. I’m almost certain she had no idea what I was talking about. Obviously the trip will be amazing and an absolute great experience for the kids but I could have been telling her anything! I handed her the slip and explained what it was and what she had to do. I hope the kids have better luck explaining what it is we are doing. I definitely plan on printing pictures after our trip to provide the families with. Maybe I can make a small book for each of them with pictures and a timeline…

I was under the impression that we’d be heading back to my house after this but Riri asked me, ever so nicely, if we’d be able to meet with his mother at this time. Riri’s house was on the other side of the township to where we were and it was approaching 9pm. I figured we didn’t have any issues up to this point and that we could make the trip. As we made the walk, Ski kept calling us ninjas. I’m not sure he realized how much of a complement that was to me, but I was thrilled with the nick name. I am now the White Ninja! Umlugu Ninja. At one point on our walk Mawande suggested that we stop speaking English for a bit. I got the impression this was because of where we were and how late it was.

Still not coming across any issues we made our way to Riri’s home. His mother was feeding Riri’s younger brother and niece. I explained to her the trip we’d be going on with much greater ease. Both of Riri’s parents speak English pretty well and it definitely shows in Riri. She wanted to wait and talk to her husband before returning the slip and I thought that was a great idea. I told her she could just give it to Riri when they were ready and he could bring it back to me.

Afterwards, the kids were nice enough to make the walk back to Mama Zulu’s with me. On the way we encountered a gentleman who seemed friendly enough. He wanted to talk to me. I’m not positive everything he was saying but I’m certain that he kept telling the kids to shut up. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or serious or really what all he was saying. At one point he tried to tell me that the kids I was with were crooks and that I didn’t know them. I think it was at this point I concluded that he was most likely drunk and just looking for trouble. I made small talk with him, or at least I tried to but made sure to keep my distance. As we went our separate ways he had a lot to say but it was all in Xhosa so I didn’t really catch any of it. The kids told me afterwards that he was telling me I didn’t know the kids and that they were bad kids. I didn’t really think much of it…

Once we made it back we said our goodbyes and I went back to my shack. Eric and I talked more about what Kayamandi is like and I updated the rest of my blog. I offered him some cheese and crackers and he had some delicious German chocolates! Food is the perfect peace offering!


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Wednesday was the Cheese to my Crackers

Wednesday was a great day. The day started with a meeting with Johan, the man who started Hotspots2C. Hotspots is the company we are working with for the trip we’ll be taking the kids on. He has gone to great lengths to help us bring down our costs and we are both really excited about the opportunity we are offering the kids. We discussed the itinerary and he provided me with the permission slips that I would need to take with me around the township getting signatures from the parents. While we were talking he told me there was someone he wanted me to meet.

Songo Fipaza was born and raised in Kayamandi. He has since started his own organization which is all about getting the children off the streets and keeping active. His program is called, Epic, and the name is very fitting. He provides the kids with loads of awesome activities that are both fun and very inviting. They just built a new building near the primary school and Johan brought me over to check it out. I was really impressed with all the different activities he was offering. Songo is really into biking, and running, so his main attraction is a BMX track that has been built next door to his office. He trains kids to ride on the track and when they are good enough he takes them on races and courses through the mountains. His program has been really successful and he’s been able to take kids to participate in races all over the world. It’s completely free for kids to participate in, and all they need is a parent signature. Johan and I were both thinking this would be a great place for the students I worked with to check out. I also had the thought that maybe I’d be able to get some support either from Songo or Johan with transporting kids to the Frisbee practices I’m looking to set up. We’ll see if we can make that happen.

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This is Pam

IMG_3390It was still midday after our meetings so I decided I’d pay a visit to Ikaya Primary School. This is the school I worked at 2 years ago. I wasn’t really able to keep in touch with any of the teachers so it was also a big surprise for them to see me. Pam is the teacher I worked with the most, so I went to her classroom. She is still teaching grade 6 but I didn’t know many of her kids. I spent a sometime in her classroom and saw a few things I thought were noteworthy. Her class was fairly small sized with just 38 students. Never having enough chairs many students have to share. At one point I saw a boy reach into his pants and pull out a shard of mirror. It was triangular shape and differently looked to be sharp. He was pretty casual about the whole thing and proceeded to check himself out in the reflection. IMG_3392When he was finished he shoved it right back into his pants. A few minutes later I guess a friend had asked if they could use it because I saw him passing it to the next person. During this same time a young girl was applying that flavor lip balm that girls often carry around. I think it might taste good and provides that shiny look on your lips. The mirror made its way across the classroom so she could use it. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in the back of the classroom with Pam. She had just given an assignment and was waiting for the students to come back so she could grade them. I guess she noticed what was taking place with the lip balm as well because she said something to the young girl and then took it from her. I thought maybe she had taken it from her because the young girl should have been doing her school work but I quickly found that it had been taken because Pam was looking to apply it to her own lips. Even better, one of the students that saw this happening retrieved the mirror shard so that Pam could accurately apply the lip balm.

Later on in the day, Pam was introducing me to a new class but I was only able to understand pieces of what she was saying. I’m not positive but I think she told the class about the trip I was taking the students on. I’m not trying to keep it a secret or anything but I wasn’t planning on just announcing it to a class I didn’t know. I’d hate for students to become jealous over something they didn’t even know about moments ago. It didn’t seem like an issue or anything, and like I said, I’m not actually positive what she was saying in the first place. Either way what’s said is said.

IMG_3387On the walk home from the school I took some pictures of the Kayamandi. A few students came around the bend and were looking to get their pictures taken. Actually what they said was, “Umlugu! Umlugu! Shoot me! Shoot me!” IMG_3386Umlugu, and I apologize if the spelling is off, means white… or in my case, white man. As I walk about the township I’ll either be called Umlugu, or Teacher. When I heard them yelling I was more taken aback by what they were inquiring from me? Shoot me? As they started posing I realized they wanted their photo taken. Pretty obvious as I look back on it now.

 

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In the evening I had Frisbee practice. This practice was held at a different field than on Sunday but I think it might be closer to where the mini buses go. That’s good news if I want to pay for a mini bus to take all the students down to the fields some night. If feels so great to being out there playing Ultimate, and I’m really looking forward to getting back into shape. It’s weird, I feel like no matter how long I take off from Frisbee I still have my speed. My endurance is crap, but there still isn’t a throw I feel I can’t run down. Lucky for me there are tons of things going on this time of year for Frisbee. This Sunday is the start of a beach league in Cape Town. I remember this from 2 years ago as being the equivalent to Ultimate Frisbee Paradise. It’s ultimate on the beautiful Clifton beaches in Cape Town. There are giant cliffs at the back of the beach which help a great deal on cutting down the wind. Wind is generally the biggest factor when playing beach ultimate and having these cliffs is a blessing! The team I’m playing with in Stellenbosch is also hosting a tournament later this month that they want me to play in. It’s the day after Dan arrives so I’m not sure we’ll be up for it but I told them I’d definitely consider it. I’m sure I’ll swing by if I can.  IMG_3383

On the way home from Frisbee we stopped at a convenience store because I had to withdraw some more money. I also decided I wanted to buy some cheese for my crackers. A week ago in England I was sitting around with Sean eating cheese and crackers and I was desperately craving that again!

Wednesday was a pretty great day and I absolutely have been feasting on cheese and crackers ever since!


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Parkour Through Nottingham

Our plan on Saturday was to head to the Peak District for an overnight camping trip with Sean’s brother and sisters. This was something that we were all really looking forward to but we ended up having to cancel do to the evening’s forecast. My time in England has been filled with unusually beautiful weather but with rain coming we didn’t want to risk a wet night in the country side. Of course with that being said the weather in Nottingham ended up being great!

Sean had some friends that would be meeting up in the city center to train parkour so we headed in to meet them. The first place we went had three areas for training, all of which seemed almost too perfect for parkour. I’ve never formally trained nor have I looked at a city in the same way these guys do, but after a glimpse into the life of a free runner I’m suddenly seeing things with a new perspective. Cities, often referred to as concrete jungles, couldn’t be more fitting for those looking to explore the less traveled path in the style of parkour.IMG_2853

It’s easy to get hurt while bounding across ledges, and jumping gaps and that’s why so much practice and training has to be done. What may look like carefree maneuvers is quite actually precision jumps that take loads and loads of practice and strength building.

The runners that I met up with were Matt, Will, Edgar, James Parish, James Holbrook, and James Allen. Each of these guys had their own style and each was infinitely better than I was. We spent a few hours at each location and I spent the majority of my time amazed at what these guys were doing. There were 3 things I saw on Saturday that I was extra impressed with.

The first of which was Matt’s ability to flip. These guys could all flip, but Matt could flip up walls. Meaning if there was a wall 1-3 feet high, he would be able to hit the wall in stride, flip, and then land on top of the wall. If you’re reading this and trying to figure out how that’s possible then we are on the same level. I was right there watching it happen and can’t even provide an explanation!

TIMG_2883he next ridiculous feat I observed was by Will. I suppose it goes without saying, but these guys are not scared of heights. If you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s a picture of Will walking along the rooftop edge of a parking garage 12 floors up. Don’t worry folks, you will NOT find me doing anything like that. IMG_2881

The third most incredible thing I witnessed today with my own two eyes was James Parish jumping gap that no human should be able to do with as much ease as he did. I ran track and field back in High School and I’d like to think I was pretty good, especially when it came to the long jump. But I suppose that’s all relative when I’m running down a runway, wearing track shoes, jumping into a sand box and James is a stand still jumping over 10 feet where he’d be landing on a wall about a foot wide. Little room for error when coming up short means breaking something vital and not sticking your landing results in a fall where you’ll just have to rely on instincts to save you from injury. This was all impressive, a bit crazy, and so very awesome. IMG_2882

After training for a bit and defying the laws of gravity we moved about through city to various locations these guys use for training. We through the Frisbee around a bit, explored some forbidden locations, and enjoyed the day expecting it to start raining at any moment. The rain never came… at least not in Nottingham. Apparently it was pretty brutal throughout the rest of England and we’re quite sure that had we gone camping it would have been a soggy experience.

I should mention that while training today Sean was teaching me a move called a kong. Basically, you run at a ledge about waist height and jump over it using your arms to help vault you through. Your legs travel through your arms and you land on the opposing ledge on your feet. This is something they have all mastered and continue to add elements of difficulty to it in order to step up their running. Unfortunately while Sean was showing me how to do this he landed abruptly on the wall he was aiming for, stuck his landing, before coming down quite gingerly. Turns out when he had landed a jolt went through his back and he’d have to take the rest of the day at a much slower pace. He’s a champ though and made it through the rest of the day as if nothing was bothering him. Certainly a better pain tolerance than most!

When we got back to Sean’s we opted to cook up the food that we had acquired for our camping trip. That night we feasted on ham, pasta, and the remaining cheese and crackers we had from the previous night. We also watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I hadn’t seen this movie since back when it came out and I forgot this was about the time they switched directors. There were loads of changes in this movie but all things moving in the right direction.

Exhausted from running throughout Nottingham we called it an early night with high hopes of getting a lot done on Sunday as it would be my last day in Nottingham. IMG_2880IMG_2884


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High Tea, Cheese and Crackers, and of course… Harry Potter

My time in England has been filled with new places, new people, and of course new customs. One custom, which I quite enjoy, is having a cup of tea. I take mine with sugar and milk but everyone has their preference. I’ve discovered over my first week that there is no wrong time to have a cup of tea. In fact, I don’t think there has been a moment along my trip where I haven’t been offered or provided with a cup of tea. I’m drinking a cup of tea right now, and it’s my fourth cup of the day! Although having a cup of tea is a consistency in day to day life there are some traditions which take it to the next level. This is known as High Tea.

IMG_2800We didn’t have any major plans for today so we hopped onto Groupon to see what kind of deals we’d come across. We saw a deal in Nottingham for High Tea which included champagne, finger sandwiches, and desert. For the two of us it was going to be 14 pounds which is a fantastic deal seeing as we were considering do the same activity in London for 29 pounds… each! Obviously things are going to be more expensive and posh in London but we weren’t going to let that bother us. We decided that we should dress to impress before making our way across town.  IMG_2801

Since I didn’t pack in preparation for a tradition such as high tea I had to borrow a suit from Sean. Fortunately I was able to squeeze into it, but I didn’t have really have a pair of shoes to fit the part. We looked pretty fly though walking about the streets in our suits with our t-shirts as undershirts, and my flip flops as my footwear.

We had great time, talking extra posh, and making sure our pinkies were out as we sipped our tea. The food was delicious but the portions were a bit small. Of course with that being said, I was pretty full after all was said and done.

We opted to take the scenic way home after our high tea and walked along the Trent River which goes through Nottingham. It reminded me a lot of the Schuylkill River heading into Philadelphia. We saw crew members passing up and down the river, as well as a gander of geese. We also came across a few swans. Sean informed me that the queen owns all the swans throughout England. That’s a hard concept for me to grasp but I’ll take his word for it. I suppose if you’re the queen of England you can really do whatever you’d like. You’ll find her face on all the currency including coins and paper bills. We watched a comedian the other night, Michael Maclntyre, who referenced the currency in one of his bits. He didn’t think her same portrait should show up on each value. He simply suggested that the less of value the currency the less “revealing” the picture of the queen would be. For example, the penny would maybe show the queen with no makeup, wearing her pajamas while the 50 pound bill might show the queen showing a little more and dressed to impress. I couldn’t help but agree, I think it may even drive people to work harder so as to earn higher valued queen bills. IMG_2852

Before heading back to Sean’s home we made a stop at the grocery store to pick up cheese and crackers for the evening. We also had plans to go camping over the weekend and wanted a ham roast for our wood fire. IMG_2851

Friday night we tuned into the first Harry Potter movie while dining on cheese and crackers. Sean’s sisters, Elli and Cassie joined us for the movie. I was legitimately surprised to find out that Cassie hasn’t seen any of the Harry Potter movies! I’m happy so say that we are currently 4 movies deep at this point and Cassie will be a Harry Potter fan when all is said and done. This coming Thursday we have plans to visit Harry Potter World outside of London which has the studios where the series was filmed. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t really excited for that!IMG_2898