Howzit?! Last weekend I spent time away at the Hermanus Whale Festival about two and half hours away from campus. My program sponsored the event and about thirty Americans signed up. We left Friday night and stayed through until late Sunday afternoon. It was so nice to get away from campus for a few days and see a new place. We stayed at a quaint and comfortable hostel walking distance from the festival and all of our meals were prepared for us by the owner and staff. We were all ready and geared up to see whales on whales in the bay, take pictures of the whales and buy whale t-shirts. After sitting looking out at the water for about an hour, it seemed the festival was lacking one minor detail. I might have seen the back of one whale, but… it very could have been a rock. Regardless of the whale aspect, the trip offered the chance to really get closer with some of the other Americans. It was such a beautiful day and valuable time was spent bonding with the other students while lying in the sun on the shore.
I still remember my first week here, worrying that I would not make any authentic, genuine relationships. This was one of my main goals in coming to South Africa- to find new people to connect with and learn from beyond the surface level. Prior to coming here, I honestly had the perception that I wouldn’t really even talk to Americans and would be laughing and scampering about South Africa with the locals. Surprisingly, those that I have become closest to are not local South Africans, but other American students in my program. As time passed, I found myself wanted to discuss and reflect on the experiences I was having with people who would understand the context. Through both the good times and the more challenging times, I wanted to find peers that could really relate to what I was feeling. I have definitely made local friends and have had many conversations with South Africans; I just have not developed the relationships I anticipated. With all of this said I am so grateful and blessed for the strong relationships I have made! I am learning so much through these friendships and my experience here would not be the same without them. Several of us are already making plans to get together back in the States after the program ends! 🙂
Yesterday I went on an anticipated three to four hour hike that turned into a seven hour hike. You know, you just can’t rush when you are going along. There are so many things to look at and so many different things to climb. I went with another student, Luke from Indiana, and I tell you what- we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Luke had ‘mapped’ out the hike to a supposed hidden, secretive gem of Cape Town that we thought would take about two hours to get to. After about four hours of hiking, we realized how comical the directions online really were (ie. ‘Once you reach a set of jagged-looking rocks, turn left onto a faint path and walk approximately four minutes). Perhaps an experienced mountaineer would have fared better, but everything sort of looked the same to us. Regardless of never actually finding said ‘secretive gem’, the whole ‘path’ we were on was absolutely incredible.
Luke and I kept commenting that even with the best camera it would be difficult to capture some of what we were seeing. At one point, when we were climbing down next to a stream, the wind was was lightly blowing the rain water off of the mountain and as the sun was shining down it look so beautiful- I had never seen anything like it! I have had the conversation a number of times with friends that within nature is where I feel most human yet this feeling became even more apparent yesterday. There is just something right about being able to hear the birds chirp, the water flow in the distance and your own heart beat as you work your way up the mountain; something about being able to drink cold, fresh water right off of the rock that makes me feel I am where I need to be.
The two photos above were taken when we started to get closer to the top of the mountain. It was amazing- in the entire seven hours that we hiked we only saw one person! It was so quiet and peaceful! There are so many great places to hike around Cape Town and I want to explore as many as I can before I leave!
Wow, I cannot believe how long I have been in Cape Town already! The time is just flying by! I apologize to those who have been waiting on the blog- it took awhile to get everything set up, there were some issues with uploading the photos and school has been rather hectic lately! I have so much to talk about and will now be blogging consistently. Okay- I want to get everyone up to speed on what has been happening over here in South Africa. The first two weeks were completely PACKED with various orientation activities. I spent most of the time with the other international students in my program exploring the popular spots in Cape Town and touring the University of Cape Town (UCT) where we would be taking class. We stayed in UCT residential halls for the first week and at the start of the second I moved in with my host family!
Classes are now in full swing and I have turned in my first few assignments. Now that I have had time to get into a routine and actually know how to get to the bus stop, where my classes are and how to walk home, things are going quite well. I did struggle a little at first; everything was so new and different and I didn’t know anyone! When classes started it really hit me that I was not at Hope anymore. Sitting in lecture halls of 300 students, not knowing how to print in the library or where to go in between classes, I was definitely challenged. Yet, any time I became anxious or overwhelmed I would just say to myself, ‘It’s all part of the experience’. I am experiencing so many new things every day, and whether good or bad I am learning from them; learning more about South African culture and more about myself in the process. In short, I am loving it. I went for a hike up one of the mountains recently and at the top as I looked out in awe over Cape Town, I just couldn’t stop thinking, ‘I am here- I made it!’ Feeling so blessed by this amazing place. It is difficult to describe everything in words so below are some photos I have taken thus far!
Well, that is all for now but more to come soon! I can’t wait to see all that Cape Town has to offer! 🙂 Peace and Blessings!