Hey there everybody!
So it’s been just about 3 weeks that I’ve been here in South Africa, but it definitely feels like much longer. We’ve been busy since day 1 and there’s been constant change which makes the time both fly by and, looking at the layout of the upcoming months, seem like we’ve experienced more than just a fraction of a fraction of our gap year experience. There’s so much to say and it’s close to impossible for me to recall everything I’ve been wanting to put in my blog, but I will try my very best. Also, please excuse the choppiness.
The beginning: Most of us met up in New York the night before our flight out of the States and it was strange meeting everyone for the first time and thinking that we’ll be spending the next 7 months of our lives together. That we’ll know more than we could ever imagine knowing about one another and have experiences that only we will truly ever know. Before even departing from the JFK airport, we celebrated the first tbb (thinking beyond borders) student birthday and have celebrated two more since. The flight to South Africa was the longest flight I’ve been on so far at around 16 hours. When we were waiting for a connecting flight in South Africa, we passed the time by playing frisbee in the airport which has been the first of many places we’ve attempted to play frisbee. We spent the first week or so at a camp type facility where we slept in cabins and had various group bonding activities along with learning a little more on what this trip entails. We’ve been on quite a few hikes so far, and I swear, there is not one place in South Africa that isn’t scenic. I also absolutely loved going kloofing (I’m pretty sure that’s the Afrikaans word but I’m not entirely sure what it’s called in English). Basically, we all wore wet suits and helmets and repelled down to a river between a valley of rock where we zip-lined, swam, and hiked along the river. I slipped and fell more times than I’d like to admit, but at least it was entertaining for everyone to watch.
Host Families: We’ve been living with our host families now for almost two weeks. Us as students are separated into three different communities all within a 20-30 minute or less drive from each other. Each person is living with one other tbb student within a host family and there is at least one other tbb pair residing in the same community. For me, I’m living with my tbb sister Cat in the Crags township, and Graham and Benji are the other tbb students in our community.
I love my host family!! I have a host Mom, Aunt, sister at age 27, and brother at age 12 along with a pet cat, two dogs and a bird. My host Mom and her sisters run a kindergarten from the house, so every morning there are a bunch of kids running around which makes a great start for the day! THEY’RE SO FREAKIN’ CUTE!! My host Mom loves to sing, and one of my favorite moments so far was singing Lean on Me with Cat and my host Mom. Singing and music have definitely been a prominent theme on the trip so far and I hope it continues. I brought a travel guitar with me and have had a couple jam sessions with the tbb gang at our orientation, and Graham and Benji have come over to our home stay to have a couple more jam sessions. Always lots of fun!
A typical day: First of all, the most important thing here is to go with the flow. There really is no good description for a typical day because they can all look very different, but my best way of describing a typical volunteer day goes as follows: Cat and I wake up around 7am from the alarm clock on the phone we were given to share. I eat either yogurt and granola or cornflakes as my breakfast, and lately have been having a lot of toast and apricot jam because Cat loves toast. Toast = Cat, and her love of toast has been rubbing off on me. Then, we pack up our bags (I should have brought a slightly bigger day pack; it’s a crammed mess in there), get ready for the day, grab our lunches and head off to the clinic. The clinic is about a 10 minute walk from our house and there’s a beautiful view of the mountains while walking through our community. At the clinic, Graham and I shadow a caregiver which consists of walking to various patients’ houses to check in on them and see if they’ve been taking their medication. However, we’re at the clinic from 8am-12pm and only visit patients for about 30 minutes to an hour of our time there. Otherwise, we do filing with Benji and Cat or sit in one of the rooms waiting around for directions on another task we could do. It’s been very interesting to see the different way things are run here. They are much more relaxed and don’t feel rushed to get things done. Being punctual does not seem to be valued here and after talking with several locals about this, I’ve found that some people find it frustrating while others like the laidback atmosphere, finding it less stressful.
Sometime around 12pm, we’re picked up from the clinic and head to the building where all the students and Program Leaders meet for seminars. That’s where I’m posting this blog from and has so far been the lone place I’ve accessed the internet on the tbb laptops we share. Afterwards, we either head back to our house, stop at Pick n Pay to buy snacks (we have so, so many snacks), or head to the library for a bit. Then we’re with our host family for the rest of the night or we’ll work on our readings for the seminars.
Extras: Our host sister took Cat and I to her friend’s graduation party from University. There were a bunch of different speeches made by numerous people and almost all exclusively in the language Xhosa, so it was very difficult to follow. But definitely interesting to experience! Our host sister also took us to a club where we met up with the rest of the tbb students and some of her cousins. We’re not allowed to drink alcohol on the trip even though we’re of drinking age here, but we all had a fun time dancing and playing pool. On the drives to and from places, I’ve seen baboons, pigs, and a lot of hitchhikers. Also, there are so many stray dogs here and it’s rare to not hear dogs constantly barking through the night.
So that’s the main jist of my time here in South Africa so far! I’m going to try to post more regularly from now on so it’s not a whole lot of information crammed into one post and it hopefully wont be as choppy. See you next time!
Left to right: Me, Graham, Benji and Cat. At the clinic in the Crags