South Africa Memories and Into India

A couple weeks ago, we said goodbye to South Africa and hello to India! I absolutely loved my time in South Africa, have great memories and am so thankful for my amazing host family!

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South Africa Host cousin, sister, and mom

We’ve been in India now for about 3 weeks and I LOVE IT! Here’s a brief overview of what I’ve done so far:

  • Tried goat’s brain
  • Watched dramatic Hindi shows with my host family
  • Saw a Hindi movie in theaters (Dear Zindagi)
  • Spiced up my life…quite literally
  • Ran up the Himalayan mountain range (maybe not, but it felt like it)
  • Celebrated my host mom’s birthday
  • Saw the Golden Temple in Amritsar
  • Enjoyed waiting at the bank for several hours
  • Corral 13 2-4 year olds daily
  • Sang head shoulders knees and toes more times than I’d like to admit
  • Painted classroom walls with only minimal paint splattering on my kurta
  • Gotten sick
  • Witnessed a dog bite one of my roomies…twice
  • Probably had the first ever Indian Thanksgiving

ANDDDDD

Been awful at updating my blog. Sorry!!! A more detailed post will be coming your way sometime in the future.

 

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One of my students

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Tibetan Library

 

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In Amritsar at the Golden Temple (thanks for the pic Maddie!!)

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Cape Town Crazes and the Crazy Ordinary

A little over two weeks left in South Africa!! The thought of leaving definitely gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, I’ve had such great experiences here and have loved getting know my host family and everyone else I’ve either worked with or randomly met during my time here. The village I live in and Plett itself has felt like a comfortable home for quite a while now, and I feel like I have a standard, basic idea of their layouts and how things work. Of course, I’m certain there’s still plenty I don’t know since I only have about a month and a half worth of first hand experience/knowledge.

On the other hand, I feel ready to see and immerse myself in a completely new area. I expected to be challenged by the new constantly on this trip, but I now realize that, while we still are challenged by the new, we are also challenged by making sure we don’t let the extraordinary become the ordinary (We had a Skype call with Robin Pendoley, one of the founders of TBB, who brought this up as a helpful reminder. Thanks Robin!). For me, I took this to mean that some days are naturally going to be extraordinary and the fact of where I am and how different everything is that I’m experiencing will hit me. However, other days will glide by unnoticed from semi repetitive structured days, or I may spend the day wishing it away from exhaustion, stress, and/or other reasons. Because of this, it’s important to acknowledge that while everyday may not be absolutely amazing, everyday is out of the ordinary in the sense that it’s nothing like our home life. I also feel that the general message can be applied to life in general: soak in the feeling of any day that is naturally extraordinary, and also find the good in everyday by recognizing things you’re appreciative of and grateful for. Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially when the stress of life and reasons to be negative seem to be overbearing, but it’s always good to have those reminders every once and a while.

Cape Town was absolutely amazing and just a short weekend there was definitely not enough time. We traveled there for our Independent Student Travel and my group was Dmitri, Simon, Matt, Graham, and Jessica. We went to a trampoline park, did some shopping, went on a bus tour, climbed/took the Gondola up Table Mountain, roamed the city, listened to live music, met up with a local family my Aunt and Uncle knows, and ate at many great restaurants and cafes. At a restaurant called Karibu, I tried Ostrich, Antelope and Crocodile. The Ostrich and Antelope wasn’t too bad (I’m not the biggest fan of meat to start with), but I definitely was not a fan of the Crocodile. But, overall, I absolutely loved Cape Town!

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View from Table Mountain, Cape Town

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The crew (minus Jess) in front of our hidden Cape Town home

This past Saturday, I spent the day making fat cakes with my host mom, teaching my host brother how to play guitar, singing (including: Afrikaans songs, Christmas Carols, the Beatles and much more), dancing, and learning even more about my host family and their lives through great conversations.

On Sunday, the TBB group went paddle boarding where we found the perfect place for doing flips into the water and then hung out at the beach where i proceeded to cut my foot on a shell (typical Quinn move).

I’ve been working with the Wellness team this week where we drove to a factory to check-up on the workers’ health by testing them for HIV, checking their sugar levels, checking their blood pressure and asking questions on their general health. (This was mostly in Afrikaans). It’s been a nice change up from working in the same area, and I’ll be back in the clinic next week.

That’s all for now!

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One of our host family’s dogs: Taily

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My host mom teaching me how to make fat cakes

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Flip site found paddle boarding

KIDS!! And More..

I finished working in the elementary school last week and I absolutely LOVED it! A fellow tbb student, Saoirse, and I were in the English class for 4th grade. We would walk around the classroom and help any kids who had questions or needed guidance and check their work to make sure they had the correct answers. They were so energetic and happy to be there which made me even more excited to go help out every morning. Definitely an experience I’ll never forget, and I wish I could have been there longer than a week.

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Last week, Cat, D and I had an epic baking party. We made delicious chocolate muffins as you can see below, and scones with apricot jam while rocking’ out to some great music. Feels like a home away from home!

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Dance party/ baking chocolate muffins with Cat and D! (please excuse the blurriness)

This past week, the tbb group has been staying at a Hostel in Robertson and working with Breede River Hospice. Here, we’ve been doing similar work as in Plettenberg Bay, and I’ve been shadowing the one and only Lulama! (She’s awesome) I’ve really enjoyed the work here and it’s been interesting comparing healthcare in Robertson to healthcare in Plettenberg Bay.

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Lulama!

dsc_0728.jpgIn a matter of minutes, I’ll be leaving to head to Cape Town for the weekend! And that’s it for now!

Jumping Off a Bridge and into 19 Years

I just turned 19 this past weekend and I’d say it was a pretty awesome birthday. It consisted of both chocolate cake in the morning and delicious homemade ice cream cake (it’s my absolute favorite 🙂 ) at night, bungee jumping off the highest bungee bridge, skyping my family, good conversations, hanging with the tbb group at the Program Leader’s apartment and watching 500 Days of Summer. Bungee jumping was insane!! Pure exhilaration and any adrenaline junkie out there has to try it if they haven’t already.

On another note, I start working in the Elementary School tomorrow. It seems to be the oddball work project of South Africa since it doesn’t fit the theme of healthcare like volunteering in the clinic and shadowing caregivers does. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to it! From the information I’ve gathered, it sounds like we’ll be assisting in the classrooms by giving guidance to any child who needs it since there are more students in the classroom than a teacher can carefully attend to. However, I wont truly know until I’m there and in the swing of things. Stay posted for more to come!

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Hello from South Africa!

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!

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Left to right: Me, Graham, Benji and Cat. At the clinic in the Crags

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Hike at Robberg

7 Months, 2 Bags

Let me just say this:

I’m horrendous at packing. The absolute worst.

So needless to say, packing 7 months worth of stuff into 2 backpacks (1 big, 1 small) was not easy in the slightest bit. But somehow, I managed. Somehow, I’m officially ready to start this thing and hit the road. Here’s a sneak peek into the process:

I may have put a couple t-shirts in my guitar bag too…

Welcome!

Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog where I will try my absolute best to keep you all updated on what’s happening in the gap year life of Quinn Rainer. If you don’t know what I’m about to embark on, here’s the nutshell version of my usually lengthy explanation: In just a few days, I will be leaving the US and heading off for a 7 month global gap year with Thinking Beyond Borders. I’ll be traveling to South Africa, India, Cambodia, Ecuador and Peru and staying with host families while participating in fieldwork alongside locals and looking closely at the global issues they face. I am beyond excited to start this new adventure, but currently feel the stress of last minute packing and preparation. Still LOTS of excitement amidst the stress!! Stay posted for more to come…