Jordan: Meandering around the Middle East

dream come true. outside of the treasury of Petra
dream come true. outside of the treasury of Petra

It’s finally Spring Break at CYA!! For our week off, my friend Shea and I decided on a non-traditional spring break location and go to Jordan! Jordan might be the most beautiful, incredible place I have been so far, which is really saying something after traveling around Greece. The culture is very different here, which I have loved, but has also proved to be somewhat challenging: it definitely takes a while to figure out what is socially acceptable and what is not. The second and third day we were in Petra, which is a massive ancient site of tombs and buildings carved into the face of a red rocky canyon. And the best part… WE GOT TO RIDE CAMELS!! And horses! There are Bedouins all throughout the site that try to sell you camel and horse rides. After a while, it gets a little tiring having to keep saying no. While we were there we did a ton of hiking and saw lots of Napatean tombs, the famous treasury building, the great royal palace of Petra, and SO much more. There was still so much that we didn’t get to see since the site was so huge.
Early the next morning, we took a bus to Wadi Rum, where we were literally dropped off in the wilderness to hike before being taken on a short tour around the desert. Our guide took us to a huge sand dune (which made me think of Michigan!) to go sand boarding (think snowboarding, but on a gigantic red dune). That night, we stayed in a camping hostel where we got to interact with Bedouins, or the nomadic people group that lives in the desert of Wadi Rum and throughout Jordan. At night, we climbed up one of the rock formations and got to watch the sunset, which might have been the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. After that, the Bedouins made us their traditional food of potatoes, chicken and vegetables, cooked in a large pot under the sand. The food was incredible.
After that, we went spent one day on the Red Sea in Aqaba where we could look across the water and see Egypt and Israel. The Red sea is known for its amazing snorkeling and it definitely did not disappoint. The next day, we left Aqaba and traveled by minibus to Dana, a small town overlooking a massive canyon where you can hike and explore the wilderness trails. Shea and I got a small taste of the trails yesterday, and today we did a longer hike down into the canyon. During our descent, we met a native Jordanian man named Ali who immediately invited us to his favorite clearing to have tea. Shea and I were amazed to see him gather up twigs, start a fire, and pull a teapot out of his bag for warming. Within, minutes, we were having cups of the most delicious, sweet and flavorful tea I had ever had. This is just one example of many that shows how friendly and accommodating the Jordanians are. In that respect, they remind me a bit of people in Greece. Tomorrow, we hope to join a group going to the Dead Sea before continuing further north to Amman and Jeresh.

CIEE Excursion: Châteaux de la Loire

This past weekend, CIEE took us on a fun (and educational!) trip to 4 castles in the Loire valley. If anyone knows me, they’ll know I have a great love for old stone, so this excursion was right up my alley. Rock lasts for centuries, even millennia. It’s easy to picture all the historical figures who may have touched a cornerstone of a castle–both famous and common. Since the trip, numerous people have asked me which one was my favorite. But that’s such a difficult question! Each one was unique and I felt connected to it in a different way.


BrissacWe visited le Château de Brissac first, and I think it was a lovely place to start. Compared to the later castles we visited, Brissac was fairly small. But it felt the most like a Disney castle to me. I swear they turned Gaston’s tavern into the dining room. Even more interesting, a family still actually lives there! Brissac is particularly known for its ceilings, and I must admit, they set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I couldn’t stop looking up in the three other castles. Brissac also produces its own wine, and after our guided tour we were treated to a small wine tasting in the dungeon. This was followed by a stroll through the grounds in the sunshine.

VillandryjpgVillandry is a château best known for its vast and intricate gardens. At one point, the castle was in disarray and was actually saved by a couple comprised of a Spanish man and an American woman. As such, there were many Spanish influences in the decor and in its small collection of art. The castle felt much like a manor house to me, and our self-guided audio tour concluded with free time in the grounds and gardens. The view from the hill was definitely the most breathtaking. We just stood and looked for a long time.

ChenonceaujpgOf course, one of the best-known Loire Valley castles is le Château de Chenonceau. We arrived first thing in the morning, and without the crowds of tourists it was easy to picture Henri II and Catherine de Medici (or Diane de Poitier, Henri’s mistress and favorite) walking down the path with us as we made our way to the entrance. By the time we left, however, the grounds were packed! And for good reason. I thought Chenonceau was the most beautiful castle we visited overall. Both its interior and exterior are uniquely stunning, and the grounds and gardens are also something to see.

amboiseIn the end, though, I have to say le Château d’Amboise ended up at the top of my list. Amboise fireplaceFitting, I’d say, as it was also the last one we visited. Not only was it gorgeous, it also had an incredible view of the town and river below and a lot of history behind it. The history made it stand out to me the most. Out of all the castles we visited, Amboise was the only royal residence. Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne lived there, as well as Henri II, François I and Louis-Phillipe, the last king of France. Leonardo da Vinci is buried there too! Because of the connection to Bretagne, the decor featured various combinations of the fleur-de-lis (symbol of the king of France) and the hermine (Bretagne’s emblem).

All in all, this was a wonderful excursion. Learning about France’s history through its architecture made me appreciate the current culture even more. And knowing this was the last outing as a group gave the weekend even more meaning. We only have one month left!

Up next: the ISP

Tomorrow (Friday) is the start of phase two of the program. At 7am I’ll be at the taxi-brousse station, waiting to board the taxi-brousse for the 4hour bus ride to Betafo. Once that bus leaves the station, I’ll be on my own for the next 4 weeks. On my own schedule, that is. That’s because tomorrow is the start of the Independent Study Project (ISP). Basically, we’re given 4 weeks to go anywhere in Madagascar we choose and do a field based study on any topic we topic we like. We’re given a stipend for room and board, and the program staff help us with organizing transport and accommodation, and then we’re left to our own devices to do the project. I’m definitely excited 🙂

The ISP is a qualitative research project, based almost entirely on interviews and observation. The SIT staff like to call the project a “field based academic training,” and they keep stressing that the process of doing the project is almost more important that the results, so the challenge for me is trying to temporarily leave behind the quantitative scientific approach I’m used to as a Bio major. I’ve chosen to do my project on public health in rural Madagascar, specifically the Betafo area. Basically, the project is going to be an overview of medical resources, health conditions, common health problems, and possible solutions in the area. I’m an aspiring med student, so this project will hopefully be informative of my future career goals.   As part of my research I plan on interviewing the staff at the local clinic and hospital, the local government officials, the local traditional healer, and the residents themselves. My ISP academic advisor helped me come up with a lot of interview questions, and one of my language teachers corrected my French grammar and helped me translate the questions into Malagasy, so I’m feeling ready, and I’m excited to get started. Although I’m really hoping to improve my Malagasy during this project, at this point I really can’t conduct interviews in Malagasy (I might be able to practice the questions beforehand but that doesn’t mean I can understand the responses I get!) so one hurdle will be finding someone to translate for me. Since the program has contacts in one of the local schools, though, I should be able to find someone through them.

While in Betafo I’ll be staying with same host family as I did a few weeks ago, which I am very much looking forward to. That means I won’t have internet access for the next 4 weeks, because there is no internet in the village (not surprising since most people don’t even have electricity!), so don’t expect the next update until May.

Amin’ny Manaraka!

PS. I realized I haven’t share any pictures of my Tana host family yet, so here they are!

My Tana host mom Bakoly and host brother Aina :)
My Tana host mom Bakoly and host brother Aina 🙂

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Bretagne is the Best!

One thing I love about Rennes is the fact that it’s located in Bretagne (Brittany). I had no idea how special this region was. No clue that I was coming to live in a place so heavily influenced by its Celtic roots. It has been amazing to live in a region so unique and proud of its heritage.

Bretagne's flag, in Breton, is called the Gwenn ha du, which means "black and white." The tree-like symbols in the upper left are called "hermines." There is a lot of symbolism with the nine stripes (4 white and 5 black) as well, but it would take a long time to explain. Go read about it, though! It's really interesting.
Bretagne’s flag, in Breton, is called the Gwenn ha du, which means “black and white.” The tree-like symbols in the upper left are called pine trees hermines. There is a lot of symbolism with the nine stripes (4 white and 5 black) as well, but it would take a long time to explain. Go read about it, though!

To begin with, Bretagne used to be its own nation. One of the six Celtic nations in fact, and its two primary languages were Gallo and Breton. It later became a duchy, and was finally annexed by François I in 1532 to become a province of France.

At the Château in the town of Fougères, which protected Bretagne's border from French invasion. It is mostly in ruins today.
At the Château in the town of Fougères, which protected Bretagne’s border from French invasion. It stands mostly in ruins today.
Many people still think Breton should be Bretagne’s official language. These stickers are everywhere!

Breton and Gallo are actually still very widely spoken, and many of the cultural activities are heavily influenced by the region’s Celtic legacy. For instance, Fest Noz (“night festival”) feels like a cross between contra, line, and Irish step dance. CIREFE recently hosted a Fest Noz for us foreigners. My friends and I had visited a Fest Noz once before, but everyone already knows all the dances! We watched the dance and enjoyed the live, Gaelic-sounding music, but couldn’t join in. So the CIREFE Fest Noz was very welcome!

Fest NozBretagne, like all the French provinces, has special regional food. Bretagne is known both for its butter and for its apples, so it’s no surprise that cidre and the kouign amann  (pronounced “Queen Ahman”) are two of its most famous products.

Breton food

Cidre is basically apple cider, but slightly fermented. You can find it both brut (a strong 5% alcohol content or douce-2.5%). The traditional mug is called a bolée, and this one is decorated with a triskell, a traditional Celtic symbol. Cider is wonderful because you can find it in any bar, and it’s a nice low-alcohol alternative to cocktails or beer. The kouign amann (“butter cake”) is a buttery, slightly caramelized pastry with delicious flaky layers. They’re usually round, but I tend to go to the same bakery for my pastries and they were square there. Let me assure you, these things are NOT overrated.

Seen St. Patrick’s Day 2014.

If you’re thinking of going to Bretagne, you should also know that it rains. Incessantly. I know I’ve mentioned this in my posts before, but I’m bringing it up again to point out something that deserves a bit of spotlight: the sky. Yes, it rains all the time, but the SKY becomes this gorgeous three-dimensional canvas of greys. I’d never noticed it until our Resident Director pointed it out, but a variety of greys can actually be mysteriously beautiful. I’ve started just staring at the sky on cloudy days because it almost looks like another earth. And the rainbows are frequent and fantastic.

Environmental Awareness and an Anecdote That Ends with Coffee.

One thing I know I’ll take away from France is an increased environmental consciousness.  I thought I already had some things going for me–I don’t use plastic bags. I walk or bike if my destination is within a reasonable distance. I recycle. But in France, they have a much heightened sense of ecologic responsibility, and it shows in a lot of ways.

Firstly, you will never have a problem finding a trash can or recycling bin. The two are generally right next to each other and in some cases are part of the same receptacle! It is impossible to say recycling is not convenient. There are also large square bins on every few street corners for plastic and glass containers. This is really good idea, not only because the French drink a lot of wine, but also because the French drink a lot of bottled water. The Bretagne region of France in particular is known for having bad water, so they go through lots of plastic. (Rennes, I’m told, is fine. I drink tap water and nothing bad has happened.) Luckily, those bottles are never thrown out.

RecyclingSecondly, paper is conserved more than I’d thought, particularly at the university. Hardly anyone owns their own printer and there are only three places to print on campus. Students are only allowed 100 sheets of paper for the entire academic year. With the way it’s set up, it really makes you think about what you’re printing and whether you truly need to or not. That idea may not be intentional. In fact, the printing limit was probably put in place to lower tuition fees. But I know that when I get back to Hope I won’t be able to use the library printers without some serious forethought.

Now, I’m not from a city, so perhaps I know nothing, but public copy shops seem to be far more common here than in the U.S. My guess is that this is because home printers are not commonplace. I’ve actually had more people ask me for directions to a copy shop than to any other location, so they must be decently popular. Last Thursday I needed to print copies of a worksheet for the high school English class I’m assisting. The campus printers were down, so…

I walked into town and went to a copy shop!

Copyroom--English shop names are more common than I'd thought. I think English makes it cool and hip somehow.
Copyroom–English shop names are more common than I’d thought. I think English makes it cool and hip somehow.

It was really neat. I went to this particular shop because I’d been told that morning that this place had computers attached to each printer. That way, customers can bring their own files via USB. Some copy shops are only equipped to make copies of an existing sheet of paper. I love small businesses, and the lady who ran the store was super nice. I’d chosen to wear my nice black flats for teaching later that day rather than my waterproof rainboots. A word of advice: Never do that in Bretagne. It will always rain on you. So my feet and stockings were soaked through when I arrived at Copyroom. However, the shopkeeper didn’t look at me like I was a weirdo, like people sometimes do. She made a joke about Bretagne being one large shower, laughed, and directed me to the black-and-white printer: numéro 4. My 25 copies cost €3.25, but I also received a suggestion to head over to Brioche Dorée (France’s Starbucks) and get myself a croissant and café to warm up. I did so. It was heavenly.

Tamatave – The Indian Ocean, Petanque, and Poisson d’Avril

I just got back yesterday from an SIT excursion to Tamatave (aka Toamasina), a city on the East coast of Madagascar. It was kind of like an unofficial Spring Break, since we had very few organized visits and activities, and we stayed in bungalows right on the beach. I don’t think I could ever get tired of swimming in the ocean (at least, if there are waves in the ocean, which there were in Tamatave 🙂 ), so I had a ball. The only downside was how much conditioner I used up washing and untangling my hair! We spent our time watching the sunrise, running on the beach before breakfast, exploring the city, swimming in the ocean, playing cards in the evening… this trip was perhaps the least “Malagasy” part of my semester so far, since we didn’t have much interaction with the local people, but it was still a really nice vacation.

On Sunday while in Tamatave Anna and I went to Church with Hanta, the assistant director of program. Her husband is the head pastor of one section of the Jesosy Mamonjy denomination (a Pentecostal denomination) in Madagascar, so whenever she travels she visits the local Jesosy Mamonjy church, and at least on this occasion she preached the sermon too. It was all in Malagasy, but she explained to us what she was going to preach about in French beforehand, and gave us copies of the hymnal so we could sing along, so it was nice to know what was going on. The biggest difference between this and other churches I’ve visited in Madagascar was that the pastor never prayed alone – everyone prayed out loud simultaneously, which I thought was pretty cool.

Nara getting ready to throw - intense concentration!
Nara getting ready to throw – intense concentration!

Another great part of our time in Tamatave was getting to know some of the SIT staff members and drivers better. We found out that both our drivers, Nara and Tovo, and our logistics coordinator, Rivo, are part of the same professional petanque (aka botchy ball) club, so a couple of afternoons we played petanque with them on the dirt road in front of the hotel. One might think that petanque is not the most exciting game, but actually it was really fun, especially since the guys are really funny, and obviously way superior in skill compared to us, but at the same time not in the least condescending. I played on a team with Rivo, and I later found out that he and his professional petanque partner were the second best petanque team in Madagascar last year (i.e. if they had won their last match instead of losing they would have gone to China to compete)!

Petanque - Rivo and I
Rivo and I celebrating a win

It was especially fun staying together with the other SIT students again during the excursion (most of our time in Madagascar we’ve been staying separately with different host families), as by this point in the semester we know each other pretty well. One evening after dinner we planned a series of “pranks” that we put into action on April 1st (Poison de Avril, the French version of April fool’s day – it’s meant to be a day you tell lies but we opted for doing bizarre things instead), which happened to be a day we were on the road driving back to Tana. The pranks included everyone freezing simultaneously, all 9 of us crowding into the front seat when it was time to get into the bus, pretending to be mad and not speaking during lunch, and taking all our belongings and setting off on foot “for Tana” during one of our roadside stops en route. I can’t say they were all awfully convincing, since of course collectively we weren’t able to keep a straight face, but we had a lot of fun doing it.


Sultans, Palaces and Turkish Apple Tea

These last few weeks have gone by so fast! At the very end of February, I went on the optional trip with CYA to Istanbul, Turkey. We got up at the crack of dawn (to be at the academic center at 4 am!) and got into Istanbul in the morning only to hit the ground running. We were introduced to the city with a tour of Dolma Bahce palace, or one of the most important administrative centers of the Ottoman Empire. Even though we were all pretty tired, it was impossible not to be awestruck by the intricate, and larger-than-life design and decorations. Picture a mix between pictures you have seen of the inside of the titanic and the castle in Beauty and the Beast. We ended the night with a large, family-style Turkish meal, which was absolutely delicious! The food in Turkey is actually pretty similar to Greek food, except the Turks tend to put more spices in their dishes, which I love!
The next day was completely action packed and exhausting but incredible at the same time. I could write a short novel on everything we did, but, to keep this post reasonable a length, I will just give you some of the highlights. We started the day by going to the Blue Mosque, which had such a different feeling than the Ottoman-period Orthodox churches we had seen the day before. For one thing, rather than all the icons and gold mosaics that cover the walls of churches, decorations in the mosque were totally aniconic, or without any images of people. Instead, tiles with beautiful blue Arabic letters and vine-inspired designs spanned from floor to ceiling. It was beautiful to see a building with such a unique design.
Next up was the famous Hagia Sophia, which began as an ancient church when Turkey was part of the Byzantine empire, and was later converted into a mosque with the transition to the Muslim Ottoman empire. We could feel a nearly palpable tension between cultures as we walked around the massive building. Stunning gold mosaics picturing Christ and Mary appeared in tangent to equally beautiful Arabic calligraphy and excerpts from the Koran. After visiting the site, I would describe the Hagia Sophia as a church in an identity crisis; both the Christians and the Muslims lay claim to it, so today it is neither church nor mosque, but a neutral museum with an interesting blend of two very different cultures.
Some other interesting places we stopped were the location of the ancient hippodrome (or chariot track), an underground cistern and the Topkapi palace, which used to house the Ottoman Sultans. The museums in the Topkapi were particularly incredible, containing the crown jewels of the Ottoman sultans with their gem-incrusted weapons and furniture.
That night, we decided to check out a traditional Turkish bathhouse (sort of like a Turkish spa, but based to an ancient Turkish tradition. We had a bit of a crazy experience driving through a riot to get there, but once we arrived, our group was greeted by a wonderful group of Turkish woman who spoke only Turkish. I would definitely recommend the Turkish bath experience for anyone wanting to get a real cultural experience.
Sunday, our last day in Turkey, we visited the renowned Turkish markets which are both a shoppers dream and a complete sensory overload. Everywhere you look, store owners are calling you or trying to entice you into their store. Everyone calls you “friend” and promises the best prices “just for you.” As overwhelming as the market is, the prices are much lower than anything you can find in America, as long as you can perfect the survival skill of the market: haggling. Between my friends and I, we all purchased many of the main Turkish market specialties, including the delicious Turkish apple tea, silk scarves, Turkish delight, and beautiful, hand painted ceramic ware. We finished our trip by taking a 2-hour boat trip up and down the Baltic, or the body of water separating the European part of Turkey from the Asian part.
After the whirlwind weekend, our group returned to Athens, completely exhausted but so thankful for everything we got to see and do in Istanbul.

Life in Rural Madagascar – part 2

Life in the village is the most sustainable I’ve ever seen: there’s no running water, so buckets are used for showers and washing; most people don’t have electricity, but those who do have solar panels which they use minimally; there is absolutely zero food waste, because even fruit and vegetable peels or rice husks are consumed by the cow or the chickens, and almost nothing comes in disposable packaging, so there’s almost zero waste production. In the village there is a primary school, a Lutheran church, and three mini grocery stores, one of which was in my host family’s house. For anything else one has to walk 5km through the rice fields into town. I never saw a single car enter the village except the one that picked me up at the end of the stay. Everyone in the village knows each other, and a lot of them are related to each other too.

My host dad was 35 (although I would have pegged him at 25 based on appearance), and my mom was 28, so I couldn’t really imagine them as my parents, but they were truly wonderful hosts. I also had 2 host brothers who were 10 and 6. None of them spoke more than a few words of French, so it was an intensive week of learning Malagasy. There were some moments when I was really excited about how much I could communicate and understand with the small amount of Malagasy I’ve learned, and there were other moments when I felt quite downhearted about how little I could understand or communicate. Through challenge of language coupled with the constant of uncertainty of what was expected and what was normal in this new setting, God’s provision for me was very apparent. There were times when my host mom somehow knew exactly what I needed without me even trying to ask – such as when I  really didn’t want to sit still in the house anymore and she announced that we were going for a walk, or when I was unsure when the appropriate time to ask to take a shower was, and she announced that the bucket of water was already sitting waiting for me. There was also the Sunday when I was feeling especially frustrated about my inability to communicate when one of the pastors in training’s wife came to find me to practice speaking English, which she had learned at University. She even invited me to visit her and her family at seminary the next day, and later to spend a few days with them in their hometown over Easter. Despite communication difficulties,  so many locals were such a blessing to me – it’s amazing how even in the absence of words people can come to understand each other. I am really excited to go back 🙂

A baobab fruit - fascinating but not my favourite taste...
A baobab fruit – fascinating but not my favourite taste…
My host dad in the family grocery store
My host dad in the family grocery store
My host brothers
My host brothers Rickel (left) and Manjato (right)
... crazy host brothers :)
… crazy host brothers 🙂
A host cousin and one of the farm workers who lived at our house and my host brother
A host cousin  (right), one of the farm workers who lived with my family, and Rickel (left)
Host parents
My host parents in the front yard

Life in a rural Madagascar – part 1

Wow. How to convey the experience of the last week in a blog post of a few hundred words? I don’t think it’s possible, even for the most gifted writer. So you’ll have to come to Madagascar and experience it for yourself 😉

Well ok, I’ll try to at least give you a glimpse.

View from my bedroom window
View from my bedroom window

I spent the last week staying with a host family in the village of Ampilanonana, about 5km outside of the small town of Betafo. The countryside was absolutely beautiful, and the village lifestyle is something I miss already. The pace of life was very peaceful – moramora, as they say here in Madagascar – for example, the only clock in the house was half an hour fast and I don’t think my family was even aware of it. Just sitting and watching the sky for sometimes hours was not considered strange. Men would work in the fields all morning until about 2pm, and then come hang out at my host family’s store front playing dominoes till the sun set. Women spent a lot of the day cooking and washing laundry, but also participated in watering the crops and some of the steps in harvesting rice. No one ever seemed stressed, although granted I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying so I don’t know for sure. On Sunday the tiny church in the centre of the village was filled to capacity – mostly with women, for some reason, although most of the men weren’t working. The church service was 4 hours long – because no one has anywhere else to be, I guess.

Milking the cow :)
Milking the cow 🙂

While staying with my family I got to milk the cow, wash the dishes, peel vegetables, play soccer with my brothers (to the amusement of all passersby – if being vazaha wasn’t enough, girls don’t generally play soccer here).  I also learned to make mofogasy (literally translated “Malagasy bread”), a type of slightly sweet rice flour doughnut made on the fire – I was  quite proud the first time when my mom had to go down and attend to the store and I managed to flip all the mofogasy and save them from burning myself. My family also showed me around a bit, introduced me to some of the family, and took me to the market. There was still a lot of down time, though. It got me thinking about my lifestyle in the US – the mindset that everything needs to be done as efficiently as possible, and that one always needs to be doing something productive. On one had one could view life in the countryside as purposeless, but on the other hand, how many of the thing we occupy ourselves with, how many of the “purposes” we create for ourselves in the US, have any real  inherent value? Is the calm life or the busy life better, or are they just two different but equally good approaches? I’m planning on going back to the village for the last month of my program to do my independent study project, so I’m sure I’ll have more time to ponder it :).

Nothing quite like a double rainbow in the Malagasy sky

ShOrT VaC!

Last week was our short vacation for school which is the equivalent to spring break in the U.S., and I was able to travel to Swakopmund (Swak), Namibia and Cape Town, South Africa with a great group of girls. We left early Saturday morning on a highly cramped mini-bus and spent about 16 hours traveling to Windhoek, Namibia where we spent the night to the catch a bus to Swak the next morning. Namibia is a very young country as it only gained its independence in 1990. It was previously colonized by the Germans and you could feel the German influence upon Namibia. When arriving in Swak, there were many German restaurants and several coffee shops (which are never seen in Botswana). The city of Swak was a very cute beach town that reminded us of a beach town on the coast of California. While there, we were able to sand board (great fun!), hang out at the beach, and go on a desert tour. The desert tour was very fascinating as we learned about some awesome desert plants like the welwittcha (look it up!).

This was the main group of girls I traveled with and here we are in the Namibian desert!
This was the main group of girls I traveled with and here we are in the Namibian desert!

Then we were onto the next leg of our trip, CAPE TOWN! While being in Botswana, people raved about Cape Town. We had so much fun and we were able to do so much! We went to Simon’s Town which is one of the only places where there is still an African Penguin colony, we went to the most western point of the African continent (Cape Point), toured the botanical gardens, did a wine tour, and visited Robben Island where Mandela was jailed. We were also happy to go out to eat and get something different than Tswana food (food served in Botswana), and we went all out. We got Mexican food one night, Ethiopian the next, and then American food. It was great! Being in a developed city was very nice and made me feel more at home, but it also made me appreciate the place I am calling home for 5 months. Botswana is not glamorous like Cape Town, but has provided me with a learning experience I wouldn’t be able to have in a developed place. I am able to experience a very different culture than my own and try to adapt to it. I loved spring break, but am very happy with my location of study abroad in Botswana.

We are at the coast of Robben Island where you can get a good view of Table Mountain in Cape Town.
We are at the coast of Robben Island where you can get a good view of Table Mountain in Cape Town.