Friday, January 23, 2009

Port Elizabeth - So Far

Sorry for the many days of absence from my blog, but my internet access is limited to the one public computer in the bed and breakfast lobby (where I am currently, in my pajamas tired and hot). We have been spending all day every day with our host friends, out in the townships and the schools (where apparently most white people never go) and preparing for todays celebration. There are many stories to tell and photos to share, but we have been mainly spending our time with Sue's organization, MoloCare and Active Schools and seeing their progress, checking in with the group of sponsored kids (that were brought to Seattle to record an album with Eddie Vedder) and have since been sponsored and supported throughout their college education. But it is amazing to see how little we can actually do, not because it is destitute, but because they are doing it all for themselves. There is nothing they are not addressing, and they are doing so with little to no resources and astounding honesty. Schools are organizing marches against abuse, principals are listening to the needs of their children, and the pride in their communities is overflowing. And the "South African welcome" is like nothing I have ever seen. This all sounds incredibly cliche I'm sure, but it is all so real and meaningful to me, and I'm sure I will be processing it for weeks if not longer. The race and economic issues here are also very present. Race seperations are very clear (although improving) and the economy (although booming due to tourism) is still struggling. And in an exciting bit of news, the big political group here (the ANC) is being challenged by an opposition group called COPE and there is a big election coming up. This is very big for South African politics and everyone is talking about it. Its funny to have the same conversation with the people here about their concerns as we were just having in the states, about "corruption" and "jobs" and "health care" and "education". It is so cliche, but we all really do want the same things. Anyways, I don't have a way to upload pictures right now, but since I have made many many new friends here in the last few days, I will be putting up pictures and narratives as soon as I get settled into my new home in Empangeni, Kwazulu Natal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We are totally crazy - Table Mountain Hike Extravaganza

So, Table Mountain is this huge flat top mountain above capetown and its crazy high, like crazy 'only stare at it in awe' jagged high. So on our excursion to the Botanical Gardens at its base (which were gorgeous and super britishly formal and proper), what did we decided to do? Yeah, to CLIMB it. As super inexperienced hikers, we thought naively that "oh for sure we can do this" and in the end, we probably shouldn't have. Thankfully I was with a doctor who reminded me to take a break every 5 minutes because of how insanely fast we were gaining altitude. We even had to climb straight up in the air (probably 100 degree angle) on these ladders on top of cascading rocks. My mother would faint if she knew that we did it. Regardless, we had a freaking blast being totally determined and haphazard alone in the African forest on this huge STEEP as heck "trail". Yeah, after a while it was only a rock hill in front of us, no human activity or sound in sight. The pictures show our adventure in chronological order and bet your bottom dollar that we were saying many-a-hail-marys on the way down as our jelly-shakin (literally shaking) legs got almost lost. Enjoy!

Us, at the bottom.... see that little dip in the top, that little V, thats where we hiked, to the freaking TOP

The trees = Other-wordly. Me = super sweaty.

beautiful tress, everywhere, canopy of africa

Sue, who was extremely patient with me while I took picture and laughed and she freaked out on the ladders.

Ummmm, that's the top, yeah, no big deal!

Yeah, I was obsessed with picture taking, and this view down was suprisingly not dizzying

More of the infamous ladders, a completely insane shot which shows just how steep it was, which I had to include because I'm obsessed with our awesomeness

We then proceeded to get back down to the base, to a restuarant for some much needed frittes, and then eventually to the really nice hotel down the waterfront from us that had peanut butter brownies. With peanut butter icecream on top. It was incredibly off the hook, ya'll. That and some sauvignon blanc. We are off to Port Elizabeth tomorrow around lunch time and one thing I won't miss is the "we don't want to go outside for fear of death" winds. They are what kept me from going on the Robben Island tour, Darnit. More Updates from PE soon!

Have I mentioned how at peace I feel here? It's cliche, but its true, it's like coming home. Magnificent.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm heee-eerrreee!

Capetown. After a long long long flight, I arrived in capetown and checked into my amazing hotel last night. Thanks to some dramamine, I was able to sleep through the night and now I'm waiting for my travel buddy Sue to arrive tonight (sunday) but so far I've done some solo exploring. Check out some pics!

Table Top Mountain from the waterfront!

Me and the Penguins, fast friends

Dancing and Singing - this energy is everywhere

My hotel at almost-dusk

Everyone kept asking if I was planning on swimming with the sharks, and the answer is no. But I will stare at their teeth in a tunnel in the dark by myself. Yeah.

More Later!

thanks to all who helped me get here, wished me well, and love me still



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mind Flush

I had my first cry. It was terrible. But in better news, I have a great backpack from REI and I cancelled my netflix. I've packed away my purses, heels, scarves, and winter jackets. I'm cancelling my phone starting friday, picking up my last paycheck, and doing some last loads of laundry. It's beginning. And as my regular at the deli said yesterday, it's going to be a 'mind flush'. I like that.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Itinerary - So Far

So my nervous tummy has officially moved into the captain's chair of my life as the true countdown to South Africa begins. And it's not that I'm not excited and happy and totally and completely exihilirated, but when the unknown is still lurking, stress and nerves seem to take themselves out on my stomach. So I've accepted it's place in my day to day life. Acknnowledement is the first step right?

So the plans are as follows -

Sue Taylor - (family friend, doctor, surrogate-mom, and general bad ass lady) and I fly in on sunday, we are spending saturday evening to monday in Capetown. I'm going to spend a day going to classes at Nelson Mandela University with a couple students that she and her family are helping to put through school. I'm going to tour the prison where he was kept and other Capetown-y things (not to mention give ourselves a day or two to get over jet lag). We are then going to move on to Port Elizabeth, where her project is, to meet with folks and work. She will be in meetings most of the rest of the week and our time there will be planned/hosted by her people. I will be helping in the classrooms and clinic at Saphire Elementary. I am going to be soaking it all in. She said to be prepared to be "in awe". Here is a little idea of the project that she, her husband, and the University of Washington educators are involved in there.

We are then going to head to Durban on saturday or sunday and then a short train/bus to Richard's Bay (the town nearest my town that has an airport) on that coming monday. I arrive at my program on monday, January 25th. That feels like a good day.

And just for shits and giggles, and since it has been dubbed my/our song by two lovely boys at work, here is a littly diddy to make you smile.