Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharks and Townships (and everything in between)

Link to Facebook Pictures:

Shark Cage Diving

Caves and Nyanga Weekend

Classes are over!  I still haven't really wrapped my head around the idea that this means that my time here is also beginning to wind down.  The last few weeks of classes here are exactly the same as they are at home: hectic days packed with tests, papers, and classes.  But here you have to add the service factor too- more on that later.

Since I am now officially three weeks behind in my blog, I'm going to spare you all and give you the abridged version of everything that has been going on around here.

Weekend of 4/29
On Saturday we took the train to Kalk Bay and went on a hike to explore the Silvermine caves.  However, we did not have a map, or many flashlights (torches as they call them here) between the group of us so finding the caves was a tough task, and exploring them was even more difficult.  We did, however, manage to find two really cool caves and spent some time hiking around the mountains trying to find more.  At one point, we were so high up that we could see both sides of the Cape peninsula, which was pretty awesome.  

Group of us in the Caves

After returning from our hike, a few of us went to Simons Town to spend the night at a backpacker, which ending up being a mellow evening away from home.  Turns out Simon's Town isn't much of a party place, just more of a day time tourist destination.  The next day we rode bikes along the coast for a few hours, exploring the area.  We saw a HUGE pod of dolphins chasing a school of fish, which was a really cool sight.  We returned to Obs exhausted after hours of biking up and down the beautiful coast.

Morning View from the Backpacker

The next day, we hopped on a bus that brought us to Gansbaai, home of Dyer Island, known for the thousands of seals that inhabit it, and more well-known for the great white sharks that come to feed on them.  We were handed our wetsuits and told that we could start getting in the cage as soon as the sharks started smelling the sardine chum, and began to come near.  I was one of the first of the group of 25 people on the boat to get my wetsuit on, so into the cage we went.  We were only in the cage for a few minutes when the guide told us to go under, to see the first shark.  I plunged my head into the cold water and saw a glimpse of the shark as it swam away.  This shark was the first of many that we were to see that day, and at the end we saw seven in total, varying in size from 2 to 3.5 meters.  We all took turns in the cage, and when we weren't in the cage, we could watch the sharks surface from the boat.  It was so amazing to watch these powerful creatures swimming toward the bait, and sometimes swimming away with a little snack.  One of the times that I was in the cage, the shark went for the bait and missed, turning toward the cage, almost grazing it with his razor sharp teeth, and causing me to pull my hands back, even though I knew they were safe in the cage.  After about 4 hours of non-stop shark viewing, it was time to head in because we were officially out of bait.  The boats are regulated as to how much they can bring out, and our guide was telling us beforehand that if we ran out of bait, it was a good day.  And we did just that.  It was definitely an adventure to say the least! 

Me, Charlie and Alena in the Cage

Great White!


(Rugby) Weekend of 5/6

On Friday night we went to UWC to watch our housemates perform.  We first went to the rugby game to cheer on Tyler, who plays for UWC.  After his game was over, we headed to the performing arts center to listen to the UWC choir, which Madeline, Brian, and Janelle all sing in.  It was really cool to see them all doing something they felt passionate about.  After the concert a few of us went back to the stadium to watch the rest of the varsity rugby game.  

On Saturday we had another rugby filled day, first we went to UCT to support our housemate Charlie who plays for the team there.  The crowd was almost entirely white, a stark comparison to the composition of the game the previous evening.  After Charlie's game, we all headed to Newlands stadium to watch the Cape Town Stormers play the Crusaders (a New Zealand team).  It was a super exciting game, but in the end, the Crusaders won, tough loss.  After that, our friend Simo picked us up and we went to Nyanga with him to spend the night in the township.  It was really different to be in the townships at night, because we are usually only there in the daytime for service.  Simo brought us to his aunt’s house and we were exposed to Southern (Africa) hospitality at its finest.  As we hung around the house with his extended family, his aunt made us delicious food and treated us like family.  The kids just wanted to play with our hair and take pictures, and it was nice to feel so comfortable with a huge family that we had just met.  Later, Simo took us out to a club, and it was definitely a different experience than we have had so far in Cape Town.  After hours of dancing we returned to his house and got some sleep. 

Stormers Game

The next day we woke up and walked over to his aunt’s house.  I was amazed at how different Nyanga looks when walking through it, rather than driving.  I saw and heard so much more than I previously had.  We later got into the car and drove to Gugulethu to go to a big open air meat market.  Simo ordered us some food and when it came he told us that it was cow heart. YUM. It was definitely an experience to say the least.  I was struggling to swallow it, but it’s really rude to refuse food here, so Melissa, Brian and I did our best to eat some and look convincing that we liked it.  While we were eating, an ANC rally was going by because today is actually voting day for municipal elections in Cape Town.  Melissa asked Simo if he could get us some of the free shirts that they were giving out and he asked and the woman gave him three shirts.  We donned our ANC shirts and proceeded to take about 50 pictures with random people who wanted pictures with the white Americans in ANC shirts.  We became instant celebrities, it was pretty hilarious actually. 

Brian and me with Simo's Family

ANC Rally

In other news, my service site has been pretty crazy lately.  Mrs. Ludidi has not shown up for three weeks now, and the school does not have a substitute teacher system.  So basically, on the days that I’m not there the kids just sit in the room by themselves for 2 or 3 periods a day.  Yesterday, they were so excited to have someone to teach them that they wanted me to continue teaching through their lunch period, while they were eating.  This whole process is definitely a struggle for me because I can’t help but compare it to the way things are in America, and this would never happen there.  It is so frustrating to know that these kids are just sitting there when I’m not around.  There is also a lack of preparation required for these teachers, so I was left with 4 grade 6 classes and no lesson plans.  I decided to do a section on poetry and that seems to be going really well.  We are practicing rhyme schemes and writing our own “I am” poems, which is allowing me to learn more about these awesome kids and where they come from.  Our research paper on our service site is actually due tomorrow, so the poems are definitely helping with that. 

That’s all for now!  I should probably get going on this paper.

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