Sunday, August 26, 2007

Afrika is nie vir sissisnie

Okay well here goes another post. First I want to apologize for this being a day late. I got back late from rafting and was exhausted so I didn’t do this. Okay well the title of this blog is Africa is not for sissies in Afrikaans. So here goes my week. On Monday a momentous occasion occurred. I put on a belt, I hadn't worn one in a while, and I had to put it on the next belt loop. So in Africa instead of losing weight I am gaining it. Oh boy I don’t think this is supposed to happen. It’s okay though; it means that I am eating well! Also on Monday in Jewelry Design class I soldered some copper together, which was pretty fun. That was my highlight. Tuesday I had lab or prac is what they say here and then another class. That was fine. Wednesday evening was the international food evening here. I went and got food from 4 different countries. It was neat the United States table made macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. I didn’t get any of that though. Instead I got something from Zimbabwe it was like this thick stew with I think chicken and this sauce that was kind of spicy but not to spicy. I think too spicy for my mom though ;). And then there was this very sticky rice with more round grains. I am not exactly sure what it was. I also got South African food, which was like a meat pie. I am not sure what kind of meat it was. It was encased in a fried thing that looked like a pita. It was delicious because it was fried is my guess. I then got this thing that was awful from Zulu. I later found out that it was ox tongue. It was like a sauce with mushrooms and ox over this thicker harder cornish rice. There was no line at the table and I didn’t think as to why so I was like "may I try what you have?" and they said of course. Oh man it was gross I didn’t get to the ox though thankfully. Ewww. For dessert I went to Finland. I had a raspberry tart with some Finnish chocolate. It was sooo good. But then again I think that anything would have been delicious after the ox. Thursday it decided to rain on me. I noticed this after I had left and ran up to get my umbrella. I made it to class all right but when I was trying to close my umbrella I broke it. Then I went to the international office to go see if I had gotten any mail. I saw a friend, Spencer, there and showed him my umbrella and broke the side. Then I found out that they had lost a package of mine, well not really just they couldn’t find it. I got it on Friday it was just one of the important people there put it in a safe place. So that was good. But here is a picture of the umbrella:

I was a little upset but it was pretty funny

My class later that night got cancelled so that we could work on our paper. I was very thankful for that. But I didn’t actually work on it. Instead Rita's parents are over visiting. So we went out to dinner with them at the Brazen head, which is a bar and a restaurant. It was really nice they bought us some wine to drink. I had some chicken avocado thing. It had mashed potatoes, not as good as mom's but still good, a salad and then the chicken. The plates and pottery they have here are so pretty. They have such cool patterns and colors. I took a picture of it and some of the people at dinner so here they are:

Okay around the table from the left: Eric, Kylie, Spencer, Emily and Trish

Again around the table from the left Rita, Joe (Rita's Dad) Tillie, Me, Mary Lou (Rita's mom)

my food

Friday I had class and then went to Kayamandi to volunteer. This was fun. It was kind of hectic because we play basketball on a court outside that is like a public court. So anyone can show up and there is no roster of who should be there and who should not. So the kids change each week. Also the language barrier can be quite difficult but it is a great experience. We played a game with so many violations. Some of the kids were double dribbling and traveling. So we tried to show them what not to do but this didn’t work out so well. One of the college students that was volunteering at the soccer field, it is at the other end of the field with the basketball court on it, brought his backpack, which you are not supposed to do. Inside it was his wallet, camera, expensive prescription glasses, cell phone and school stuff. He had out it on the side and began playing soccer. A group of about 4 kids came and stole it and one of the children playing told Luke, the boy whose stuff hits was, as they were running off so him and another volunteer ran off to follow them but they got away. After we told Mike, the coordinator of the program, and he got a name from one of the children who saw it and got an address. After we went with the police to the house but it was not the correct. So that was pretty adventurous. I have good news though. Today I found out that Mike got a call from the mother of one of the people who stole the bag saying that she found it, not everything was in it but it is still better than nothing. Luke is going to press charges if he doesn’t return everything to him by tomorrow, Mike's idea, because he has already been in trouble with the law and Mike wants to make sure that kids get the message that they cannot get away with this. That night I left for my white water rafting trip. It was on the Doring River through Wild Thing Adventures. It was organized through the international office so it was with all international students. It took us 5 and half hours to get there though. It should have been only 4. We got lost. We left around 7 and didn’t get there until 12:30 at night. It was pretty intense, the drive that is. The food was delicious. WE got dinner when were there. There was 39 people on the trip and 2 toilets, they didn’t flush very well it took to long for the tank to fill up with water, and a couple of showers. The rooms that we slept in the first night were for 4 people and there was no insulation it was literally just a shed almost. I bundled up with a bunch of clothes though and then tied my hood of my sweatshirt around my face so I was warm but other people got very cold because they didn’t have sleeping bags. Here is a picture of the room:

I slept on the bottom right

this is outside the room. That is Theresa (American) and Katharine (South African). They slept in the same room with me and then there was Katy.

This was a view from the camp. It doesn’t do it justice.

We didn't get to bed until kind of late because of briefings and just arriving so late. WE had to get up at 7 the next morning to pack and eat etc. Later that day we got to the river and I discovered that the rafts that they were talking about were 2 people rafts. They were more like kayaks but rafts if that makes any sense. So we paired up. I was with Katy. She decided to be in the back so I took the front. We did okay. We had trouble with steering. In one of the rapids the boat capsized. And so we feel into the water and I got caught under a rock briefly but I had a helmet and a life jacket so I popped up. That is when I got into the cocktail position, it is when you hold the paddle, if you still have it I did, and put your feet up to have your legs hit rocks instead of something else. The guides helped us into the raft after. I will admit I was pretty shaken up but that is okay. It was almost lunchtime after so we just had to paddle back. This was the part that we had a lot of trouble steering. We switched places and eventually got the hang of it. At lunch we had rafting Olympics that consisted of throwing a rock three different ways and making some chicken noises. It was pretty funny. After that we went on the most dangerous rapid. During this rapid when we were going down one moment Katy was in the boat and the next she was not. I didn’t know what to do if I should keep paddling or what. It was so weird. So of course, the mother instinct in me I find Katy and then paddle, in the middle of the rapid, to her and had her grab on to the boat. This was all very fast then I was telling like it is going to be all right and patted her on the head and rubbed her shoulders. She is still in the rapid at this point. You should have seen her face she looked so shocked when she fell in. The guide paddled towards us in the rapid and helped her get in the boat she almost got squished by a rock and then we finished it. This was the biggest rapid by the way. It was pretty intense. But she was all right so that was good. Then we paddled a little longer and there was the calm part. We were paddling next to a guide. He comes up to us and flips us over on purpose. It was awful but hilarious. The water was snowmelt water. SO it was chilly but the sun was out so that was okay because it wasn’t too cold. It was tolerable. I must say that the water did feel warmer when I was in the water during the rapid because of the adrenalin. When we got to camp I took some pictures and we have some free time. So here are the pictures:

Ximena, Emily, Andy at the water edge

the poop was huge! Yes I know I would take a picture of that.

The tents


me drying out and enjoying the silence and sounds of nature

the moon is in this picture it is hard to see but it was gorgeous

There was no bathrooms. Oh I forgot to mention that I peed behind a bush at lunch and then had to drip dry. It was great. But the bathrooms at the camp were a tarp structure with no roof. There was a large barrel that was pretty high. On the top was a wooden plankish thing with a toilet seat placed on top. There wasn’t any toilet paper but luckily Katy brought some. When I was just walking around taking in everything I had to constantly remind myself that I was in Africa. It is sometimes still hard to believe. It is so amazing. If a year ago you would have told me this I wouldn’t have believed you. It is amazing how much life can change in a year. Crazy. Anyway, after hanging out on the rocks I went to the campfire and talked to people around there. We ate dinner, which was steak, potatoes, sweet potatoes and salad. It was so good. This was all cooked over a fire or gas stove. It was neat. So the whole night was spent at the campfire relaxing and looking at the stars. It was hard to take everything in. They put candles up on the rocks and it was so beautiful. The whole scene. I wish that you guys could have experienced it.

Katy, me, Stephen

Spencer, Luke, ximena, ashlee, charlotte, andy

some of the candles

people laying down and looking at the stars.

That night I slept fairly well. I wasn’t cold but the ground was kind of hard so that was my problem. I woke up and really had to pee but I didn’t want to get up. I eventually did it was like 6:20 and it was kind of light but the sun had not come up yet. I got up around 7 and watched the ending of the sunrise it was very pretty. It was a cold morning. I wore my bathing suit under a T-shirt and shorts because I thought the sun would come out but it didn’t. At lunch at one point I couldn’t stop shivering so I ended up getting my rain coat out which was a great choice. It warmed me up. After lunch the wind began to pick up and it was going against us. We would be paddling as hard as we could and barely go anywhere. That got frustrating. But all in all it was a good rafting trip. We rafted at total of 30km. Here are some pictures at the end:

The below are all on the truck ride back to base camp

I went in with a group of others and we are getting pictures that a professional photographer took. So there will be more later.

We said goodbye and then drove home. The stars and clouds were so amazing. There isn’t a lot of light pollution it was gorgeous. The area is really flat with just random hills. I can’t even describe it. If you get a chance to see it please do.

So that was basically my week. I hope you enjoyed.

Stay well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A week full of intersting food

Well this week.... nothing to exciting. I didn’t leave Stellenbosch, and there aren't many pictures so this one is going to be mostly text. I apologize. So since last time I wrote...nothing special happened on Monday or Tuesday just classes as normal. On Wednesday evening I went to Kayamandi, the "informal settlement" and had dinner there. It was all traditional food. It was so neat and interesting and after we talked to some of the local shop owners there. This was all safe let me just say. It was organized through the international office here at the University. Okay so the food. Well first we had steamed bread, which is bread dough that is then put into a plastic bag and put over a pot of boiling water. It is then cooked like that for about 2 hours! It was soooo good and moist. We had butter with it but there was no salt in the butter so it tasted kind of funny and I ended up putting salt on my bread. We also had orange juice or this other juice mixture, which was like apple and pear and I forget the other fruit. There was also house wine but you had to pay for that so I didn’t have any. Next we had chicken liver in this sauce and some sort of sticky rice (these all have African names but I forget them). I was pretty nervous about trying this chicken liver because I think eating liver is weird. I was also concerned about the texture but it turned out to be wicked good. I thought it was great and would have liver again anytime. It was somewhat spicy but didn’t burn your mouth or have that spicy after taste. Next they brought us out each a plate, oh let me interrupt here. The plates were gorgeous they were hand painted and ceramic. There was this zebraish print but classy not tacky and this yellow plate with black shadows of people painted on it. The colors here are gorgeous. It is amazing. Okay back to the food. They brought us a big plate like the size of a small pizza full of a bunch of samples of different foods. So first there was this spinach and cheese thing it was okay but my least favorite. Next there was this yellow and red pickled peppers and bean mixture. This was okay but nothing to amazing for me. They had chicken on the bone with seasoning that was yellowish. I think that there was a little curry on it but I am not sure. Next there was beef or lamb (I am not good with my meat) in a sauce. Then there was this orange squash/sweet potato tasting thing. It wasn’t either but it was very good. Then there was this white corn shaped thing but it was harder than corn. It was my favorite with it looked like purple pieces of corn in it. Around the edges were potato wedges (French fries which were very good I think that I was craving them). At this point I felt like I was going to explode! I was so full and it was all so good. I cleaned my plate haha I am a pig. Next the dessert came and there is always room for dessert in my stomach. It was a fruit salad with guava, apples, bananas (gross, I only had one in my salad and gave it away), oranges and strawberries. On top was a ball of ice cream which was a mixture of chocolate, vanilla and then this really pink one I don’t think that it was strawberry. Also there was a thin piece of apple pie/ apple crisp tasting stuff. That was my favorite part of the dessert. I also got an extra ball of ice cream because someone said that they couldn’t finish it and I was like well if I have to I will eat it for you..haha. I felt so full and sick afterwards so we just sat and let everything digest. Once my pants fit over my belly again I got up and went outside where they had a fire going and mingled with some of the people from Kayamandi and went to some of there shops that were in the same area. They had some beautiful jewelry and pottery but I only brought 50 Rand (that is there currency), which wasn’t enough to buy most things. It was very neat and it was a clear and night where you could be out in just your sweatshirt and be comfortable. The stars were gorgeous but I have yet to locate the Southern Cross. So that was my Kayamandi dinner experience.

On Friday I volunteered at Kayamandi. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before but I am helping to teach kids basketball. There was nothing officially set up there. The teacher had forgotten to remind the kids about basketball but just showing up with the balls and walking down to the basketball court (it is an outside one not at the school) there was about 8 to 10 kids that wanted to play. We only had 2 balls, one was a real basketball and the other was a giant tennis ball, and their ability levels differed so much. So the older kids and me played a game of basketball. I would say the oldest one there was about 12. The younger kids worked with Trish where they passed the ball around. They didn’t speak English or if they did they spoke very little so it was difficult to communicate. Later 2 older kids in high school asked to join so they joined. It was a success but next week we need to start drills so we will see how that goes with the language barrier.

After volunteering I had training. I applied to be in a peer education on HIV/AIDS group and was accepted so that was exciting. So right after volunteering I went straight there. It has been all weekend each day and then not next weekend, I am going white water rafting next weekend, but the weekend after that there is another training weekend. I have met a bunch of South Africans through it and it has been very informative. I have learned how HIV works and the difference between HIV and AIDs as well as different treatments and stigmas attached to the disease. I have also learned about different statistics, facts, sexuality and different gender roles. It is fascinating to me especially since there are so many different cultures just in South Africa and their stances on homosexuality and roles of women. Oh man it is amazing. Today we were asked to write down 2 names of someone who we cared for deeply over the age of 16 so I wrote Billy, my boyfriend, and Amy, sister. The first was how would you feel if that person, Billy, told you that he/she had HIV or AIDS. This made me stop and think. I was expecting it to but when we were told to do this it made me stop and think. How different life could be and how hard it must be to deal with the fact. It really hit me. The next person was what would you want the reaction of Amy to be if you confided in her that you had HIV/AIDS. And it was crazy what I would want, being supported, comforted and held and what my initial reaction would be. It is something that I need to work on. I need to put my self in other people’s shoes. I discovered one of the facilitators that has been there helping us all weekend was HIV + we got to ask him and question that we wanted to. It was great and he was very honest with us. It is just strange because people have the idea that people with this virus are sickly but you would have never guessed about this man. He is a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS by a blood from the doctor. It was very very interesting and this program I feel has a lot of potential of influencing my life. I am going to go and get and HIV+ and AIDS test at some point while I am here, don’t worry I am almost positive I don’t have it, you can never know for sure, but I want to do it just for the experience. We are going to be doing different outreach programs and work in an outreach clinic and mentor others. I am not exactly sure what to expect but am looking forward to it. However this training was very draining and I am exited to go to bed tonight.

At this training I met Gatien a man from Gabon. It just so happened that Eric, he is in the same program with me and is from New Hampshire, and I sat with him at lunch one day and it was there Independence Day on Friday night but the celebration was on Saturday. It is there 47th year of being free. So he invited us to the celebration/reception that the Gabonese student organization was having for free! So we went and ate some Gabonese food. It was strange there is this root and tree that they eat that Gatien raved about, cassava, it was good but I wouldn't call it delicious. You can use the root and the bark for food and the leaves for roofs. Here is a picture of it from the internet as well as the red is where Gabon is on the map:

It was very neat to eat this food and there we met other people. We also got to see a slide show of different places there and it is a place that I would love to go. It looks gorgeous and it is a safe country. The national anthem was gorgeous as well, it was in French. After the dinner and different groups performed we danced. I learned some African dancing. You pretend that you are doing like pushups with your arms. Apparently I am improving, haha which is another way of telling me that you look awful but we like to laugh at you as you try. I also learned how to slow dance with them, but there is no way that I could repeat that. The man was leading and I give him all the credit. It was very neat there dancing is classier than the American kind and some of those women can really move. Also men and women both love to dance and they have there own version, very similar to, the electric slide. The music as great I would love to find a CD with this kind of stuff on it. It was also neat to see how proud the Gabonese were of their country and willing to talk to you about it. It was great!

I just got pictures from the evening. Here they are:

Me and Gatien

Eric and Gatien

Ben, Me, Gatien, Eric

This one makes me laugh a lot I was talking.
It is me and then a singer from a group who is from Kayamandi that perforemd they were really good.

Oh I love when it is cloudy here. I think that the mountains look so cool with the clouds covering the tops of the mountains. Here are the only pictures that I took this week Sorry,

so that was basically me week. I hope you guys are all enjoying your last few weeks of summer while it is beginning to become more and more summer like here! Stay well, Cheers!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the path less traveled (a.k.a. the one that doesnt exist)

So this week I had classes as normal. However I had a 4 day weekend because Thursday was National Women's Day and my class on Friday was cancelled so that was great. On wedensday evening I went to a braai where I learned how to dance like Afrikaans people do. This is more like partner style dancing and was much more classy than Americans dance. That was very neat. Oh some mornings I get up and run which is relaxing but that isnt the point. It can be kind of sad. On the trash days you can see a bunch of people going through others trash and looking for food or anything worth money. So when i realized that was waht was going on it was kind of a reality check for me. Here I am living in an enormous rooom with my own bathroom and these people are just trying to get enough food to feed their family. Anyway enough with that. So on thrusday I walked around downtown and went to a really delicious place for lunch where I had some of hte best cheesecake in the world. It was so good. After we just browsed through some shops. It was very relaxing. Then on Friday I went to another vineyard called Lanzerac with Rita. There we went on a cellar tour which was very interesting and then had a wine tasting and cheese tasting. The cheese was very goood and the bread that the served as part of the platter was delcious. Here are some pictures of that day:

it was cloudy and rainy

outside of the cellar

rita and I

the hotel that is part of the vineyard

That evening Rita came over and we made Sloppy Joes. They were very good and very filling and not to expensive to make. It was great and something that is going to be done again. After dinner we sat and hung around and played MASH South African Style. That was funny.

Chelsea and Blakelee playing MASH.

Also that day I decided to do my laundry but here in order for your clothes to dry all the way you have to put it through the drier twice. I didnt have time to do that so I only did it once and hung my clothes all over my room. I thought that it looked funny so I took some pictures. It kind of made my room look like a jungle.

Saturday was just a relaxing day where I did homework and took a nap. On Sunday (today) we rode the train into Cape Town.

Blakelee and Me

A view from the train

We were going to Hike Table Mountain. This is a picture I have taken previoulsy of Table Mountain:

It overlooks all of Africa it seems (okay I am exaggerating a little). So we took a mini bus to the bottom of the trail. Here are some of the views from the bottom:

Chelsea and Blakelee

We then began up the trail. Here is a picture of some crazy flowers:

There was a path that lead up the mountain that we thought was the correct path. So we took it. Then i kind of disaperaed. Not so good. But we contiuned thinking that we would meet up at the path eventually. it began getting really tough. We were more rock climbing then hiking and the bushes and shrubs were cutting up my legs. This is what we began to climb:

I saw this and thought that you could kind of see the outline of a face. This is my new old man on the mountain.

On the path that wasnt actually a path we hiked in between 2 huge rocks sticking out of the mountain. It was gorgeous. Then we got to a dead end where we determined that it was no longer safe to continue so we decided to hike back down to the path. We were so close to the top it was heart breaking. This had taken us about 2 hours. So we hiked back down and ate lunch. We then found the correct path to hike up. This path was difficult but not nearly as bad as the one that we had just done. We also had to catch a train back and we knew that it would be cutting it close if we hiked up it but we did anyways, i know i know carless youths. So eventually after a lot of huffing and puffing we made it to the top. The views were gorgeous!

However we didnt have alot of time to enjoy the scenery because our train home left in 1 hour. I did feel like I was on top of the world. It was an amazing experience! There is a cable car that runs up the moutain so we took that down to save time. Then hopped into a cab and got to the train station only to find out we had just missed the train. Now one thing that we were told is to travel and groups and not be in Cape Town past dark. So we called one of our South African friends and he came to pick us up. We stayed inthe train station the whole time and tried to stay close to security guards. Thankfully nothing happened and we got home safely. We are making this friend dinner to thank him and we payed him as well. That part was pretty nerve wracking. But all in all it was a great day and I think that we are going to do this hike again sometime. It was worth it. The pictures don't do it justice.