Monday, May 26, 2008

sorry for the delay...

so after that wednesday blog the week made a complete 180. or 360...but that usually means you are back to where you started...and that's definitely not the case.

thursday was great. i don't remember all the details of what we did at school but i do remember when we were in the workroom in the morning Sbu and some of the other boys came in looking for their teacher and he asked me if i brought the soccer ball. i told him i had it but i had to pump it up and i'd meet him in the court yard after school. i had a sharpie in my hand and told him to sign the ball, and his friends too, i told them they could NOT break any windows with it and they had to share but i told Sbu he could keep it when they were done. you would have thought i told him he just won the lottery. his face was priceless. i met up with them after school and kicked the ball around with them for a little bit (they're REALLY made me feel a little old so i didn't play long). oh! i remember now, Liz and I taught the grade 10 sex education class. we did the questions again and got tons of new topics. it was a little disheartening because this class was not as open-minded as the previous class and they definitely were not as active in the discussion. they didn't think homosexual relationships were right. the boys (there were a lot of boys in this class) said they wouldn't care if a girl asked them to wear a condom, they would just move on to another one. and they were just as clueless to STD's as the other class. sigh. we had a lot of explaining to do....

saturday we made history, again. we were in a march to end violence against women and children in the community! yes, it's true, i was in a peace march in south africa. i'm pretty sure it doesn't get any cooler than that. they had guest speakers on top of a big convoy with a PA system. people from all different organizations working towards ending violence towards women and supporting the domestic workers union. there was a rap group of 3 guys who were really good. before and after all the speakers the would say "VIVA! rape crisis center, VIVA!". it was awesome. i got goosebumps on my arms from almost all of the speakers. they told stories of women they've worked with and how their efforts have failed and we need to do more as a community to come together and fight against the law system who lets rape cases go on and on for months and even years without bringing any justice or peace to the victim and families.
this lady was sitting on the curb and i asked if i could take her picture. she was so tickled to see her image on my screen. very photogenic.
this is me and my roommate ashley. she's amazing. the best roommate anyone could ask for. and she doesn't even read this blog so you know i'm telling the truth.
we had to get off the march at city hall. they were going to parliament but we had another appointment to meet with four women refugees. i took this picture after we got out of the march. i was going to keep my sign but instead i handed it off to one of the kids who skipped school to be apart of the march. there were seriously tons of high school kids still in uniform participating.
there was dancing and singing and chanting. it was so powerful and uplifting. VIVA!

after the march we met with four refugee women from Congo, Rwanda and one other country i can't remember. they are doing bead work with one of our professors friends and we were meeting with them so they could work on their "people skills" because they have been displaced from their homes and very shook up by what is going on. which leads me to my next topic. we are all safe here. i know the news makes it sound like there is violence in the streets (which there is, just not near us) and it's very sad. we went to a church service on sunday and they spoke about the xenophobia and how it is effecting the community. today in school a group of girls came up to liz and i and asked us how we felt about it. i summed it up by saying, "well, i think it sucks." along with some other choice words that were a bit more classy. two boys told their teacher they witnessed some men beating and killing 2 other men from Zimbabwe this weekend in their front yard. it's ridiculous. people, kids especially, should not have to go through this. we have read about, heard about and seen the stories of refugees and the stories of those being effected by xenophobia. just keep them in your thoughts, please.

lighter notes.

i went surfing on saturday!!! here is the proof.
it was SO fun! i stood up a few times but only for .32846 seconds and then i fell off. my mom says that still counts. we are trying to go back this saturday, meredith and i will have to sacrifice seeing Cape Point but i think the whole coast is beautiful and we've seen a lot of it already so i wouldn't mind trading that trip in for another surf outing in south africa.
actually in the water incase you thought i put on that wetsuit and grabbed a board just for the photo-op.
meredith. crystle. me and jen (dr. fish). gnarly.

sunday we took the boat to Robben Island. i got to see Nelson Mandela's cell, that was pretty awesome. i took a few pictures but ended up deleting them. i don't know, i just felt weird trying to glamorize a place of pain and suffering for some glossy photos. it was a very interesting place. all of the tour guides are former political prisoners like Mandela. we took a bus tour of the island. it looks like a ghost town but 50-80 of the staff member live on the island. it was so foggy and gloomy that we couldn't see back to the mainland but i saw pictures and the view is incredible. we heard about how they made the prisoners carve out lime stone for no reason but to do busy work. that's why Mandela's eyes are so bad now, 24 of his 27 years in the prison he was working at those sites...for no reason. they said he went in very angry and hostile and came out a completely changed man...i still don't understand how a human being can be so peaceful after being put through hell for so long. i'm just glad there are people like that in the world. it makes it easier for me to continue to have hope.

sunday we saw the choir preform at the church. it was a loooong service. we stayed for about 2 hours and left around 1230..the service is probably still going on. the choir sounds even better in the church with the proper acoustics. i love those kids. i can't even think about leaving them yet.

today was such a great day at school! even though we did have to be there by 745am to be at the monday morning assembly....with no starbucks. i met with Swallows in the lab after the assembly and he had 9 students ready for me to work on the website with them. i set it up and gave them a tutorial about the site and how to change things. some students went to classes after that but some stayed so i decided to do some other work until i heard "katie! can you come here." it was one of the boys from the group. i walked over and he had the website page open and was working on it already! i was so excited. he asked me some stuff about it and went back to working on it for the next 30-45 minutes. it was so cool. i helped them create email accounts on Gmail and i made them all add me in their address books. as a tutorial exercise of course. i already have 3 new messages.

our workshop is tomorrow afternoon. we're going to talk about sex, peace, empowerment, awareness and knowledge. it spells out SPEAK if you didn't pick up on that...haha. the main focus will be about xenophobia, HIV/AIDS, rape/abuse, plans for the school like the book club and working on the website and of course the infamous question and answer session.

i'm sorry i haven't had the chance to update in so long. i wish we had a computer at the house so i could tell you what was going on all day! i think i've said that before. at least 5 times. thank you to everyone who continues to be a committed reader! as soon as our plans and ideas are solidified for the book club or donations i will let everyone know. these next few days are packed with meetings and trips and saying our goodbyes :( it has flown by and i'm not ready to leave. i miss you all but i feel like there is so much more to do here and i have already become attached to these kids! laura was in the lab when i was working with the website kids and she looked at me and just said " should be a teacher. you're so good at this" i just laughed at her and said "yeah, i've heard that a few times."

i love you!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


here are the kids from yesterdays class!


i thought i would start with the uplifting stuff because it's kind of downhill from here....

today was VERY frustrating. i woke up and got dressed and went to eat breakfast. i usually eat in my PJs then get dressed but i was so ready to get to school i thought if i got dressed first time would go faster.

we stopped by the Rape Crisis Center on the way to school to pick up a million pamphlets to hand out to the class today. i brought one of those inflatable globes to pass around during the question and answer time. i was planning on showing them Norfolk on the globe.

we got to school with all of our materials and headed for the workroom. we sat down and started planning for the workshop we're going to do next wednesday after school. it's basically going to be like the Life Orientation class but it's totally open to whoever wants to attend and we're going to have an open forum for questions. we decided to pass out index cards and pens (for them to keep) to write down their questions if they don't want to stand up.

*thanks to everyone who donated so many wonderful materials! we have some awesome ideas as to how we will distribute them :)

we got our plan together and went to the principals room. he was about to meet with two men but we insisted it would only take 2 minutes. we even told the men they could time us. we walked in his office and quickly told him our idea and he was so happy with it and totally supported it. he gave us the name of the woman we would need to talk to in order to have an announcement made and to get help with the logistics; venue, time, day, etc. as of now, it is set for next wednesday. KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED!

that's one thing i think i have failed to mention about this entire process. south africa is so different from america because they are not on a structured time schedule. they call it "africa time". you take your time, you might not call someone back, plans fall through, contacts fall through and it's pretty much a go-with-the-flow kind of place. this is very frustrating to us because 1) we've been raised on a schedule all of our lives. even the most laid back person knows it's important to meet with someone when you say you're going to meet with them at a certain time. 2) we are only here for another week and a half. we don't have time to "talk about it tomorrow" or "we'll figure it out later". i've come to learn that this service work experience has a lot to do with playing a waiting game. one day we sit around for 3 hours but then end up having a private concert with the choir boys and the next day we teach a class. anything can happen at any moment and you have to be ready for it.

i guess that is a good introduction to what happened today. we waited all morning to teach the class at 1235. stacy and ashley (the girls working for Rape Crisis) managed to get away from work to bring more literature and rulers to pass out to the kids and talk to them about the crisis center. we were all SO ready to go in there and give those kids the best advice and guidance we could muster. (that's a weird word but it fits right now haha)

we walk to the class room and knock on the door. we were 5 minutes early and hoped we could just hangout with the kids before class starts. the teacher opened the door and said something like they had to do some work today and we would have to do it tomorrow or next week. my heart sank. i was so mad. i've been flexible this whole time and i've been grinning and baring it but this was the straw that broke MY back. i felt defeated. the teacher had a meeting right before this class and found out they had something they had to do (i really don't know what it was, a test or something) so i know it's not her fault but i'm still upset.

the crappy thing is that tomorrow its a different class. it's not the same class as yesterday and they aren't on the Rape unit yet. we will be giving the sex talk again. which is fine and i'm looking forward to that of course, but we spent so much time preparing for todays lesson and had some really great things to talk about. we'll just have to do it next week...sigh.

Swallows was not in school today. the lab was locked so i couldn't get in there. i'm planning on starting to build the website at one of the cafes just to have it done and when i can get on their computers i'll just link it as their homepage and then show them how to use it/edit it. .....that's the goal/dream/hope/please god i want this to work/idea/plan.

Alex told me she was in the lab earlier and students were on YouTube. DAMN IT. i blocked it friday and the block was working fine. i'm assuming when the internet was down yesterday and they were running new cables to fix it, it must have reset it....sigh again.

so today has been tough. really tough. you can definitely feel the spirit of the group dropping and i am refusing to let that happen. yeah this sucks not being able to come in and do everything we want to do but that's the process. the sucky process and i refuse to give up.

we did get to see the library, FINALLY. there is a big hole in the ceiling and a few broken chairs and some ovens in the corner (not working, just there for storage). lots of boxes and there are actually shelves on the walls with books! tons of encyclipedias. why is this room locked up?! the group decided we would be taking this project home with us. the plan is to get the appropriate contacts and write grants when we get home. Liz and i really want to come back in december (winter break, their summer break) to help paint and put things in action. we'll be looking for sponsors and donations. as soon as we have a proposal i will let everyone know how they can help if they want to. you guys are great, have i mentioned that?

it's time to head back and make some posters for the workshop and start drawing up plans for this library and the book club. i have no idea where my USB chord is for my camera....

i just need to go back to bed and start over in the morning....nah.

i love you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

a good rainy day.

i probably look like the biggest goof in this internet cafe because i have a huge grin on my face due to the excitement about writing this blog!

today was great.

we got there around 915 again and went to the workroom to meet Alex. she proposed we make an exam template for the upcoming and future exams. they only have 2 more weeks of school before the winter holiday. their exams never have a 'cover sheet' like we know in the states. Name. Date. Grade. Course. so we sat in the lab and typed one up with a border and a logo of the school. it looks pretty spiffy if i do say so myself. we even wrote up some general instructions like "read each question crefully" "answer easy ones first" "take your time" and of course "try your best!".

we walked around the school again, this time with name tags on, and i don't know if it was because of the tag or if they have really good memories but i heard a few "hi katie!'s" around campus.

ruth and jen walked us into school today to see what was going on. yesterday was a slow morning so they just wanted to make sure we had something to do. they talked to one teacher and it turned out she was teaching a Life Orientation class at 1250 and would love our help. it's like a "family life" class. she welcomed us to come in all week and help out. so today after the lab we ate our lunch and waited around a few minutes until it was time for class. we practically ran there because we were so excited. we walked in to a room of probably 50 kids. same size as yesterday. it was already getting stuffy but today was a rainy day so it felt nice to me. the teacher gave us their text book to look over before class. today's subject was Teen Sex: Is Everyone Doing It? we knew this was going to be good.

it's not hard to believe but i have been appointed the 'speaker' of the group....because i'm loud. i don't think i'm loud.....i just have a lot to say and i want to be heard. anyway, so i told the kids who we were and why we were there and then introduced myself. after we all said our names we got right into it. it was the 4 of us in front of this room of 50 faces just staring at us waiting for us to speak. crystle opened to the first page and it was about Dating. we asked the class how they defined dating, love and relationships. we asked if anyone has been in love (one boy has been in love 3 times), what type of qualities they look for in a partner and if it was OK to date outside of their own culture. then we got to the sex talk. we discussed a few things out of the book like being pressured to have sex, if you should make a boy use a condom or what boys would do if a girl asked them to wear one (they all said they would). this group was totally blowing me away with their honest answers. they knew right from wrong. until we got to the question and answer portion. i asked them if they had any questions that we could answer for them. anything at all about sex or their bodies that they were not sure about. myths, if you will.

the room was silent.

so of course i said " you guys know EVERYTHING about sex already?!" and the room errupted with laughter. one boy stood up and asked a question and then one girl did. then the silence came back and i knew we were losing them. so i used my loud mouth again. "...ok. if we pass around some paper will you write down your questions and pass them up and we'll answer them? no one will know who asked so please write ANYTHING you want!". their faces lit up. i passed out the paper and they couldn't write fast enough. we discussed some other issues while they were formulating questions at their tables and some kids even got out their own paper to write down questions. it was great! i went around and picked up the paper and read the questions out loud then the 4 of us answered them. most of the questions were normal teenage questions about sex and masturbation and different bodily functions but i read one piece of paper to myself and tucked it behind the others because i wasn't sure how to answer it yet. the question was, "where does HIV/AIDS come from?".

*if you have an answer for a teenage girl or boy in south africa that would totally clear that up for them please let me know. thanks.

so i read the question like the others and we all kind of looked at each other. i started with, "this is a really hard question and i'm sorry to say we don't have the answer for it. there is no pin-point location as to where HIV/AIDS was originated and there is no cure right now. (they were all staring at me, nodding their heads, so i thought i should keep going) but there is a way to prevent it from spreading. ANYTIME you have sex use protection, take birth control and make sure you and your partner get tested even before you have sex. if you get tested and you are positive it's not the end of the world. i promise. first of all you can feel good because you are saving so many lives by getting tested and knowing for yourself so you don't infect anyone else. (still nodding) there are medications out today that you can take to help you live a long and happy life even with HIV/AIDS. i wish there was a cure and i know millions of people who wish the same but until we find a cure we have to protect ourselves and each other." then liz told them a story about her friend who has been living with HIV for over 30 years. he takes medicine and has a great life. i think they really liked hearing that story and knowing it's possible to keep going. i told them i lifeguard and if someone has a cut on their foot i have to put on gloves and take all of these precautions before helping them because i want to ensure their safety and mine. i'm almost 22 years old and i have to say, that was the best sex talk i've ever had.

after class we hungout with them and asked if we could take a class photo. they jumped out of their seats and formed a pyramid in the middle of the class. squished next to each other, sitting on desks and standing on chairs! i forgot my USB chord today but i will upload it as soon as i can. after the class photo EVERYONE wanted to take pictures with us. it was such a surreal feeling. "can i take a picture with just you and me?" "will you take a picture with me and my best friends?" "i want to be in the picture!" so cute.

with all ups there are downs.

in the midst of the photoshoot excitement a girl came up to me and was speaking so softly i could barely hear her. i leaned in and said "please say that again" and she did but the only thing i could hear was "i have a problem..." so i asked her to step outside with me. we shut the door and walked down the sidewalk a bit and i asked her again "ok, what were you saying?". she proceeded to tell me that her "friend" has been sexually abused for the past 5 years. they wrote a letter to Oprah and haven't heard anything and they don't know what to do.


i asked if it was by a family member or boyfriend and she said a family member.

shit shit.

i told her some of the people from our group are working at a Rape Crisis center and if she wants, i would get information for her tonight and bring it to her tomorrow and she could talk to my professor if she wanted to. she said she would love that. i told her it would be OK and i would do anything i could to help. i don't know if it's going to be OK but i didn't know what else to say. i gave her a hug and told her thank you for telling me and she can tell me anything she wants and ask me anything she wants anytime she wants. she said thank you and we turned to walk back to the classroom and i noticed she wiped away some tears but she was still smiling. she's about 14 or 15 years old.

we left that class and headed back to the economics class and i took the same seat next to Caroline and Olivia. their teacher never showed up for class so we sat and talked with the rest of her table. they asked me questions and i asked them questions. one girl asked if i go to church. i told her i didn't and she asked why. i told her i just haven't found one that i agree with yet and she nodded her head and smiled and said "i understand, you just haven't felt you have connected with one yet". brilliant. i laughed and said that's exactly it. they all understood. i've been given weird looks from so many people at home because i don't believe in a conventional god or accept any certain religion but these girls totally got me. they didn't judge me or think i was a bad person for not going to church. they knew i had my reasons.

we got to hear the whole choir today. i got goosebumps again.

well, we're going to head back for dinner. hi jess and becca! i'm so glad you're reading! i love you and miss you and i hope the surfing thing works out too :)

i'll get those pictures up soon. i hope everyone is doing well!

i love you!

Monday, May 19, 2008


two days in a row? nice!

as you know, i was VERY excited to go to work this morning. we were dropped off around 915. it was only the four of us. crystle, laura, liz and myself. dr. fish and dr. triplett went with the other groups to their first day and an important meeting the Stepping Stones group had. so we were on our own!

the entire school is outside, there is no "building", just rows of classes. i can't think of a school at home that looks like it but i hope you get the idea until i get some pictures. we drove through the barbed wire gate and got out of the van. walked through the front hallway and ran into Swallows, he informed us that the internet was down. oh no! my mind started racing; thinking about what i was going to do all day. if i couldn't get on the internet i couldn't do ANY work that needed to get done. we went into the teacher work room and sat down to wait for alex and pumi because we were supposed to meet with them to see what we would be doing for the day. alex came in a few minutes later to talk to us. she didn't have much work for us to do because she had to turn in her portfolio tomorrow and was busy with that. we looked through a few text books and scanned over some papers for about 30 minutes.

3 hours later...yes, 3 hours of sitting around in the teacher work room. we decided to get up and walk around the campus by ourselves. walking down the 'hallways' (cobblestone sidewalks) we passed classroom after classroom of broken windows and open doors. it was about 75 degrees today. every class we walked by yelled and waved and we waved back and smiled and said 'molweni!' (mole-wayne-eee) this means 'hello' to a large group of people. if it's just one person you say 'molo!'. we felt like celebrities....again. a boy from one class we walked by asked us if we were from New York. that made us laugh.

after our tour we found an economics teacher in the workroom who agreed to let us sit in on his grade 11 class. the students were already there when we showed up. i didn't count but i would guess upward from 35 in a room smaller than my moms at school. no air conditioning. the broken windows and the open door were the only source of circulation. but with the door open there was so much noise in the courtyard even i was distracted. i don't know how they do it.

anyway, we got to the classroom and introduced ourselves. i was last.
"hi! i'm Katie. i'm from ODU and my major is psychology...and i'm really you can tell." they all laughed and gave me and the rest of the girls a huge round of applause after each introduction. then the teacher told us to take a seat and one girl at the back of the class looked so excited and was waving at me so of course i went and sat next to her. she cleared off the seat beside her (they have to share a bench which is connected to the desk). her surname is Caroline. i have no idea how to spell or pronounce her Xhosa name, sorry. next to Caroline was her friend Olivia. again, a surname. they were so sweet. after the lesson we got to talk to them about why we are here and what ideas we had for the school. when they heard about the idea of a book club they lit up! we passed around a piece of paper and got everyones name who was interested. this was the last class of the day so they left after we talked, you would be amazed at how a wave and a "goodbye" from us made them grin from ear to ear. i get chills just thinking about it :)

we went back into the computer lab after school. Swallows was already gone because he and the other teachers had to attend a workshop this afternoon. we sat around in the lab for awhile to see if the internet was working again but it was still down. we really hope it isn't capped for the month yet. did i mention they have a cap? they only get a certain amount of download bites (gigga, mega, i don't know what it's called) and with all the unnecessary downloads like youtube and music they lose that really fast. back to the story, crystle and i met a boy named Mawande (muh-wan-day). he is in grade 12. he wants to be an engineer. we told him to apply to ODU and i wrote down our email and the schools email. i hope he looks into it. he asked us a bunch of questions and we just chatted for awhile. he asked if we have visited the townships and we said yes. he asked if we walked around them and we said yes. he asked if we walked around for a long time or a short time and we said for about 20 minutes. then the conversation went something like this...

us: "we walked around for about 20 minutes."
him: "really? ....i wouldn't do that"
us: "uhhh.....why?"
him: "that place is dangerous. no, not even dangerous, i don't know a different word, but it's more than dangerous."


i'm sure he meant that about the night time and of course if we were by ourselves. which would NEVER happen. to hear him say that just broke my heart. he lives in the townships. i'm not sure which one. he was such a nice boy. we asked him what he liked to do after school, if he had any hobbies or anything. he basically said he did homework and sometimes played soccer in the streets; anything to stay away from the gangsters and drugs and violence because "that stuff is bad". they are actually called "gangsters" out here. not like 50 cent or tupac. real gangsters that rape and murder and steal. these kids face that everyday when they walk home from school and in their neighborhoods. we're going to meet up with him tomorrow after school so i can create an email account for him to stay in touch after we leave.

now for the happy stuff. see how i leave the uplifting things for last?

Fezeka has an AMAZING choir. i mean, AMAZING doesn't even begin to describe them. after the computer lab it was about 315 and we weren't being picked up until 430ish. we were sitting around in the courtyard and saw a boy from the economics class walking towards us with his friends. of course we yelled for them to come talk to us. they mentioned in class that they were in the choir and we even tried to beg them to sing for us during class but they were too we asked again. the courtyard was empty and it was just us. they all had huge smiles on their faces and you could tell they were blushing but Sbu (sboo, this one is hard to sound out but just squish the S and the Boo together) told us to wait there and they were going to practice for a second in the classroom.

we waited for a few minutes then heard this booming sound coming from the classroom across the courtyard. i swear to you it sounded like someone was either playing a CD or they had more than 4 boys in the room with them. it was neither.

Thando (ton-dough), Sbu, Vuyo (voy-yo) and Khanyiso (he let us call him Kanye)

Thando and Vuyo are twins. Thando means "love" and Vuyo means "happiness". awwwww. Sbu means "blessings". i'm not sure about Kanye yet. they talked to us and sang for us for an hour and 15 minutes before the van showed up to get us.

did i mention they are all 15 years old?

they gave us all Xhosa names. they named each of us after one of them. i got Sbu! kind of ironic if you know my views on organized religion, but i love my new name. Sbu is my boo. that's the new joke in our group. he has a crush on me and it's pretty cute. i always fall for the music men.

we have a date to see the whole choir tomorrow!


we had our first dinner at the house tonight. well, the first catered dinner. there was a LOT of curry. my mouth was on fire. i've never had curry before. i think she said she uses it a lot in her dishes so i might be eating salads for dinner from now on. we'll see. by the way, i thought i was going to lose at least a couple of pounds on this trip. it's impossible when we eat ALL the time and there is a quick mart up the street from our house. seriously, this culture is all about food. all the time. and good food. we get snacks and treats and meals all day long. it's so hard to resist! and it's not like i'm not hungry and don't want to be rude, we work all the time and we are constantly doing things so we're starving by the time the next meal arrives. sheesh. oh well. when in rome....or south africa.

Ndiyakuthanda! (that is "i love you" and i'll let you sound that one out for yourselves)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

get your fix

it has officially been a week since i left home. it doesn't really feel like it but sometimes it does. our days are jam-packed with adventures that it's hard to find time to sit around and be home sick...but i usually find a few minutes in the van to do so.

i just wanted to start this BLOG off by telling everyone how truly happy i am here. the people on the trip are great. my roommate is great (we all know how my luck was with the LAST one). my job is great. everything is going so well it's scary. we're living in the moment and that's semi-new to me. i'm a fairly structured person, i didn't get an alarm clock until today (did i tell you the only clock in the house is on the microwave?!) and of course i have always been stubborn when it comes to change...among other things, as my father will be the first to tell you. all of this aside, i have not had a moment yet where i feel unhappy. it's a weird feeling. in the course of a week you would expect at least one unhappy moment. i have felt sad and disappointed and angry but never unhappy. i like it.

i mean, yesterday we went to Oudekraal (oh-duh-crawl) Beach. meredith and i brought our bathing suits and after shell & sea glass hunting (yes carolyn, i will share. there's enough to go around and there are more beaches to visit) we decided to get in the water! it was pretty cold but after walking around the beach and climbing up the rocks our feet were pretty numb so it didn't matter. we grabbed each others hands and ran out to a rock, dunked under the water and ran back...after freaking out when the huge kelp limbs hit our legs and we weren't sure it was kelp... but anyway. we ran back laughing because we just swam in the atlantic ocean in SOUTH AFRICA. how many of our friends can say that? i can only think of one now.

we've done so much and i feel so bad (but not unhappy) that i can't update you all every hour! it makes me so excited to know you're excited about reading "the next installment". a little nervous too because most of you are teachers...any bad grammar or spelling can always be blamed on fatigue.

tomorrow is the big day. our first REAL work day at Fezeka.

(on a side note, i just wanted to clarify that i will be working at a high school. the children in the picture below are from Stepping Stones. it's like a pre-school. 3 other girls work there but we got to visit and check out the site last week. i'll show you pictures of my school as soon as i take some.)

i am so stoked about working in the computer lab. who knew? my mom's comment about how she never thought i would be a computer wiz was completely true. the thing is, i'm not really a wiz but the basic skills i have are far beyond what they have. by no means am i superior to them because of my privilege and experience but it really does blow me away that in the grand scheme of things they just need to know how to block websites, build a school website and develop some core computer literacy skills. that's my goal in these next two weeks. two weeks....i want to stay longer already, but my parents wont let me. i miss my dogs too.

i digress. (haha, mom knows why that's funny)

we went to another beach today and it was a local beach and as soon as we pulled up and looked out the window, well when i sat up from a short nap, there were surfers CRAWLING all over the beach. girls, guys, kids, dogs. it was out of a movie. meredith and i were the first ones to bust out of the van and head towards the beach. we kicked off our flip flops and didn't care if they got stolen because we wanted to get to the water as soon as we could. luckily some of the other girls stayed where our flip flops were. it would have been a long day shoeless, and i really like my reefs. we walked down to the water and just stood there. neither of us said anything at first. then we looked at each other and almost simultaneously said "we're staying!". dr. fish came down and saw how we were glowing and told us if we really wanted to stay we could and they would pick us up on the way back. we seriously thought about it and even walked over to the nearest surf shop to see how much board and wetsuit rentals were. yes dad, you read that correctly. it is 200 rand to rent a board and suit all day. CHEAP. so we discussed our options with dr. fish (jen) and we came to the conclusion that we would find some way to fit a surf day in our schedule over the next two weeks! jen wants to try it and so do it. the area is a protected "bay", that means NO SHARKS. so of course i was game. meredith surfs so we don't have to pay for a lesson. we didn't have our suits with us today or we would have done it. so hopefully next weekend you will be reading about my very first surf outing. my first time surfing will potentially be in SOUTH AFRICA. again, how many people can say that....

here is the beach where we will be hanging ten.

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i know my parents have their mouths wide open right now and are probably contacting the embassy to report a 'missing person' and wondering what happened to their daughter but i promise it's really me. i'd be crazy to pass up the chance to go surfing in south africa. come on dad, you know that :) ...and the no shark thing doesn't hurt.

well, it's almost time for the cafe to close. i'm finally getting used to these keyboards so i haven't had to waste as much time going back and fixing things.

as of this afternoon there are new pictures on photobucket. i created a URL so it's easier to get to/remember....'re welcome :p

oh! almost forgot to tell you! at the beach we saw seals! krystal has a great video of them. i'm sorry but i'll have to wait til i get home to share it. they were so cute! robbie and rose. after the beach we went to another beach and saw the penguins! i do have a picture of them....

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ok, we got the 10 minute warning. i hope this entry will hold you over until the next one!

i love you!

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some steps in an alley we found that led up to a bead shop where we met a girl from baltimore. small world. i like it though.

Friday, May 16, 2008


my last update was tuesday and that feels like a year ago. ok, i have a lot of catching up to do and the internet cafe closes pretty soon (i have only seen a clock in ONE building since we've been here).

first of all. dad, no, you are not a "blogger" just because you left a comment on MY blog. aunt kathy and everyone else, a blog is basically a web-journal. carolyn, the title is from an Elliott Smith song. Ellen, i did receive my luggage yesterday morning! woohoo!

since this week has flown by and our days are incredibly long, i'm sorry to say i can not recall all of the activities on the specific days but i can tell you what we've been up to.

we visited this beautiful beach. i don't know the name of it but i do know it means "make you happy" in Xhosa. you can see why...

here is a short video (it took 40 minutes, yes 40 MINUTES, to load one video off my camera so i will give you a taste of what the Stepping Stones school is like. Krystal, Meredith and Nicolle work there. The kids are young, i think i said that in the last post? ages 2-6ish.)

(you can go to my photobucket link on the second blog entry to see all the photos i've uploaded so far)

here are the townships outside of capetown...

that beach is fairly close to the townships. isn't it crazy that such a beautiful beach is so close to poverty and pain?

well, who wants to hear some good news?!

today was our first day at Fezeka! we got there around 11am and met with Alex (the girl who is an english teacher there from Education Without Borders) and Pumi (poo-me) the choir director and another english teacher. it was the four students, crystle, laura, liz and myself and dr. fish. we all sat around throwing out ideas and brainstorming about how we should spend our next two weeks (it's going by so fast!).

so we start bringing up ideas that we have had like a recycling project, garden project, working on their library (it's basically an empty room, no book, it stays locked and no one uses it), a book club, various other clubs, helping them with their computer lab (basic computer skills, email, online newsletter, webpage for the school, etc.)

once we spent about an hour talking to alex and pumi, alex had to leave to teach her class so we stayed with pumi to get his input on some other ideas. we started focusing more on the book club idea so pumi decided to go get 4 students to bring in. we were so excited! up until that point we had not met any students and we were getting very frustrated and anxious. four girls walked in the room and we might have scared them because we jumped up to introduce ourselves and started asking questions about what they wanted from us and what they wanted to see in their school.

one girls name was Amanda. she was so cool. she was very outspoken and pretty much took charge of the group. she likes harry potter books and the sisterhood of the traveling pants. all the girls said they would LOVE a book club...i might have to break your heart in a second so you have been warned...we asked the girls if they thought some sort of incentive or rewards program would be nice to go along with the book club. they said that would help because a lot of their friends don't like to read (i also mentioned setting up a pen-pal/email-pal with students from the states so they can discuss books and other things and they loved that idea) so anyway, we asked what type of rewards or prizes they would want for the club. they said........are you ready?.......

us: "what type of prizes would you guys like for, say, completing a book? or reading a certain amount of book?"
girls: "encouragement. maybe a nice certificate? but just encouragement from our friends and teachers."

they didn't want any gold stars or pens or candy. they wanted ENCOURAGEMENT. you can't buy that. we all held back the tears and kept talking.

i just got the 10 minute warning from the manager so i have to hurry up. i hate that i can't update this everyday!

my job will be (for the most part) working in the computer lab with Swallows (the IT teacher, he's awesome). they really need help blocking websites that are eating up the internet space. i already did that today while i was there. now i just have to get a list of sites he wants me to add to the block. i'm also going to make a school webpage where they can post announcements, have links to the different clubs, pictures and other information. i'll fill you in on details when i have time. i didn't want to be the IT geek the whole time i was there but i know that's where they really need me. and if that's what they need then i'm all for it. but it is about 110 degrees in the lab. i wonder if Swallows knows he should crack a few of those windows? the weather is great, it began to rain a little today but there was a nice cool breeze all day. LOVED IT.

we went to the water front this evening for dinner and shopping. it is gorgeous. we heard a band and i have some video and pictures. i'll try to get them up tomorrow. the drums were amazing and some of us danced and clapped (even though we looked like total idiots, we didn't care)

sorry this blog was so scattered. i'll do a better job next time. word on the street is i have an audience now. the pressure is on......

i love you!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

we're here!


where to begin? the flight from Norfolk to DC was hell. it was a really small plane and felt like a rollercoaster the whole time because of the bad weather. the flight was running late so when we got to DC our next flight left within 30 minutes of us getting there. THEN came the 13 hour flight to Johannesburg. yes, i sat next to a big, harry, musty man who hogged the arm rest the whole time. everytime i had to use the bathroom i had to climb over him. seriously, CLIMB. after awhile i stopped saying 'excuse me'. crystal and ashley were in the 2 seats in front of me and they got a kick out of that everytime. i didn't sleep much at all. i watched three movies: p.s. i love you, just add water (sucks) and music within. we got to Johannesburg and found out they lost our luggage. EVERYTHING except my bag of donations for the school. weird. so we have all been in the same clothing since we left the airport sunday. it is now tuesday night. cape town is 6 hours ahead of home. my roommate is ashley and we're a perfect pair. we like to sleep in. everyone was up for breakfast this morning and we caught a few more Z's went down to eat then cam eback upstairs to nap until we had to leave haha.

today we walked downtown (about 15-20 minutes from the house) to the Stepping Stones school where 3 girls are working. on the way we saw a man laying in the road with blood coming from his head. i didn't look for long but i did see that his eyes were closed. the ambulance men weren't doing anything for him, they were directing people to walk around him. of course a crowd was forming but we just kept going. you couldn't tell what happened, i assumed he was hit by a car though because there was one parked behind the ambulance....

we got to the school and met the kids (ages 2-6). i wanted to squeeze all of them! but i only managed to get my hands on a few. they were too cute. we walked in and they treated us like celebrities. it was so cool. i hungout at a table with 3 kids doing a puzzle and taught them to say and give "high fives" and "low fives". then one girl came up to me and had her arms out so i bent down and she reached up and grabbed my cheeks! so i grabbed hers. it was funny because when i was little (and even still today) everyone called me a cabbage patch kid and said i had "chubby cheeks"; so one night my mom was putting me to bed and i grabbed her cheeks and said "you got chubby cheeks too mom" haha so that made my day, even though i was wearing the same clothes as yesterday without a shower. then all the kids sang some songs for us. i have pictures and video but my cords are in my luggage. i'll upload them asap.

the school is a part of the District 6 museum, look it up.

we went to lunch at this really cool coffe shop/restaurant called Special 38 (House of the Rising Sun was playing when we walked in and that put a smile on my face, not to mention the painting of Jim Morrison on the wall). after lunch we went to the Rape Crisis Center where 2 girls will be working. we met the counseling coordinator Joyce. and heard about the center and their role in the neighborhood. i was so tired by then that i admit, i wasn't listening to everything she said. and she speaks fast haha. but it was nice.

then we went to the townships. i can't even attempt to spell the name of the place but i'll look it up and tell you later. these places finally made me feel like i was here. i don't even think you could call these "homes" shacks. they are so small and close together, no electricity, no running water, there are out-houses randomly around the areas. the market is a long strip of fruits and veggies and clothing, then we went by the meat market........i might become a vegetarian. the smell was so powerful and the sight of blood and guts and heads all over the place just made us appreciate our Wendy's and Subway. there is a McDonalds downtown, btw.

after that we went by our drivers house. his name is mpatomi (mmm-puh-too-me). he lives in the townships but a "nicer" part. we met his son and daughter and wife. outside we played with some neighborhood kids who had these spinning tops and they taught us how to use them....well they let us try, we weren't that good. one kid was a pro at it, he spun it on the ground and picked it up and put it in my hand, it was still spinning. we were so amused and entertained by this little wooden thing on a string. it was awesome and they were so cute. they wanted to take a picture with us before we left then as we drove away they blew kisses. we all have new boyfriends.

then we went to one of the beaches here. i can't describe how beautiful it was. i took pictures and video. thats the only way i can let you know how amazing it was.

we stopped by the airport on the way back. our luggage is supposed to be delivered by 1030 tonight. it will feel so good to take a shower and put on clean clothes! i feel so gross.

the weather has been great so far.

tomorrow we are going to the other work sites (including my high school) i can't wait!

we're about to go back to the guest house. i can't wait to post pictures!

i love you :)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

happy birthday mom! (10 days and counting)

my mom is 52 today and doesn't look like it. god, i hope i got those genes....

i keep randomly thinking about things i need to do before i leave. then i forget about them. then i remember them at 2 o'clock in the morning. i should probably keep some post-its and a pen by my bed?

here is the link to my photobucket account. i plan on posting a picture (at least one) everytime i update but just incase i don't, you can see all of my snap shots on the bucket. *note to self: REMEMBER YOUR CAMERA & USB CORD.

i learned you have to set up an account in order to leave comments on here. you don't have to make a blog or anything but you do have to enter your email and create a password.

the new saves the day Bug Sessions (vol. 2 and 3) are amazing. i got an A- in Community Psychology. now it's time for my Exceptional Child final. sweet.

that's all i've got for right now.