Sunday, March 6, 2011

“We must learn to follow our hearts- not to pull them.”

It has been another eventful week in Cape Town.  Last Sunday, the majority of our house visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to go to the summer concert series, held at the open-air amphitheatre.  We had never heard of the performers, but we all ended up having a great time at the concert, singing and dancing along with the rest of the crowd.  The gardens were also beautiful, but unfortunately we didn’t have nearly enough time to see everything we wanted to see, so I will definitely be going back. 

My time at Zimasa this week was also amazing.  I feel like I am finally beginning to find my place there, and the kids are really starting to warm up to me.  They love playing the games I have been showing them, something they don’t often get to do with their normal teachers.  I was playing a vocabulary game with them on Thursday when Ms. Ludidi walked in to check on our progress.  She watched the game for a little and then started playing with them.  After it was over she came up to me and said that my games were a great way to get the students involved and that she wanted to learn some more from me, to improve her teaching.  It felt really good to be able to teach her something, especially because she has been teaching me so much about these kids and their situations at home. 

On Wednesday, Alena, Catherine and I went to Alena’s service site, Gender Dynamix for a talk about the definition of masculinity and what gender means in society.  It was actually really weird for me at the beginning because I have never been to an event put on by the LGBTI community, but I ended up learning so much.  I actually got the quote that is the title of this post, from one of the transgender men who was speaking during the discussion, and one of the main things I learned from the meeting was that love comes in literally EVERY form.  People say Cape Town is like San Francisco, because it is super liberal and accepting of people of all types.  The people in the room for this discussion captured that idea perfectly.  There were people who were black, white, coloured, transgendered, gay, straight, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and probably a whole bunch of other sub groups.  It was amazing to listen to these people and their stories, and I definitely feel like I have a much more comprehensive view of Cape Town as a result.  The following day we also attended a film screening of “Cape Town: Mother City?” which discussed the issue of homelessness within the area.  It was actually a pretty poorly produced film, but it did a good job of shedding light on an issue that is prevalent in the area.  This film also helped to make me more knowledgeable about Cape Town.

This weekend our whole group headed to Hermanus for a weekend at a retreat centre called Volmoed- meaning “full of courage” in Afrikaans.  On the way, we drove along the coast, on some of the most beautiful roads that I have ever been on.  On the way, I was looking out at the ocean and I saw a whale spout and pointed it out to the car.  We watched as it breached a few times, then disappeared out of site as we rounded the corner.  Right after we saw a troupe of baboons walking down the wall along the road.  So cool.   When we arrived at Volmoed, we met John De Gruchy, the author of the book Reconciliation: Restoring Justice, which we were supposed to read before we got there… although the majority of the group, including myself did not finish it.  Oops.  After introducing ourselves he sent us off to explore the property, which was spectacular.  While walking around, we stumbled along the meditation grotto and while we were admiring its beauty we heard a strange noise on the hill.  It was a huge troupe of about 20-25 baboons running about and screaming at each other, just on the other side of the river.  I sat down and watched them, fascinated at how humanlike their habits and interactions were.  We had a big family dinner, and then went out to lie on the grass and watch the stars, which were crystal clear because it was a new moon.  We saw a bunch of shooting stars and it was an awesome experience. 

Saturday morning we woke up in the dark at 5:15 to hike up the mountain to watch the sunrise.  It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top, and watching the sunrise from the top of a mountain was surreal.  It was so different from watching it on the beach at Fairfield or Montauk, but still so awesome, because we could see the water in the distance.  After that, we had our first meeting with John and discussed the basics of the book and the role that reconciliation and justice played in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  After our meeting we went into town and shopped around, then found an awesome tide pool with a bunch of sea stars and anemones inside it, which was so much fun for me (nerd!).  Then we went to lunch at the most amazing restaurant on the rocks right next to the water, and had a great meal.  The waiter told us that from June-December the whales come so close that people can feed them from their tables. CRAZY.  We will definitely be going back in June during the peak season.  We were then picked up from town and went back to have another session with John to discuss the book more in depth.  After that, we did a 15-minute hike to the waterfall, and went for a refreshing swim in the water there.  We then walked back to the house and set off for another mountain hike, this time on the mountain overlooking all of Volmoed and the neighbouring vineyards.  When we returned to the house, dinner was ready and we all enjoyed another amazing family dinner with lots of laughs. 

Today, we were supposed to wake up early and hike to the sunrise again, but it was really cloudy when we woke up so we went back to bed for a bit.  When I woke up I went out on a hike up the mountain, to reflect on my time and do a little journaling.  On my way up the mountain, I passed the meditation hut and stopped in to check it out.  While in there, I actually picked up the Bible and brought it up the mountain with me.  Now, most of you who know me know that I have never read the Bible in my life, but for some reason I just felt like maybe now would be the time to start.  So I got to the top of this beautiful mountain and spent 2 hours journaling and reading the Bible.  If you told me on Friday that I would be doing that on Sunday, I would have called you crazy.  But I did it. And it was awesome.  One quote that I pulled from my mountaintop reading that really hit home for me was: “love never gives up and its faith hope and patience never fail” (I Corinthians 13:7).  It just linked up perfectly with Charlie’s talk about love and the weekend that we had spent discussing reconciliation. 

Volmoed seems to have some supernatural energy within it, which seems to heighten your senses, while also making you feel at peace with everything around you.  It is truly an unbelievable place.  Our final session with John was the best.  He talked about the role of God and religion in daily life and tied it into the importance of God in forgiveness and reconciliation.  It was the perfect way to end an amazing weekend at one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  I think we all needed that time to relax, reflect, and rejoice about our experiences in Cape Town thus far, and to help mentally and spiritually centre ourselves for the weeks ahead. 

Beautiful Roads Along The Ocean

One of Many Baboons in the Area 

Meditation Grotto


Dawn over the Water

Sunrise over the Mountains

Volmoed Cross at the Peak of the Mountain

Tide Pools in Hermanus

Alena and I at the Waterfall

Scary Skies in the Morning

Lily Pads Covering the Lake


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