Wow so much has happened since I have last blogged. One thing that hasn't changed is my opinion on this seminar and that it is still absolutely amazing and that I feel so blessed and thankful that I am participating in this experience. I am currently lying on my bed and it is a little past midnight. It is actually raining right now and I can hear the soft sound of the rain through the walls.
Last Thursday we woke up early to catch a bus up to the mountains for a two-day retreat. The trip took 3 hours that also included a tour through two different townships. Our driver explained that how every township has a different feel and look. One of the ones we went through was almost a government-sponsored place. The South African government built small houses and schools for the community to use. The houses from the outside looked about my bedroom size and on average there is 14 people living in each house. This township our driver, Mark, said was more hopeful because of the growth and long term stability of what is being built. The other township we visited was completely made up of metal shacks. The outside of the house is made up of different things ranging from tires to boxes to metal sheets, anything they find they use. This community is struggling more than the prior one we saw and has less of a "hopeful" feeling. There was a field of random shrubs and bushes scattered through out that separated two sections of the township and Mark talked about how you would not walk across this at night because men would wait in the shrubs/bushes and grab individuals who walked by and rape them.
Once we finally made it we did some logistics such as choosing a house/bunk to sleep in and we talked about the guidelines. Educo Africa (the organization that sponsored retreats) does not believe in rules. We met Mark (my bus driver) his two children, Emma 11 and James 7, Wendy and Fernando. This retreat was absolutely amazing and one of the best experiences I have had in my life. One thing that they advised us and asked us not to do was look at the time. So for two days I never knew the time and that was a new and liberating experience. Not being stressed about deadlines and schedules was relaxing and peaceful- it was an experience I had never really felt before. The idea of trying to explain the whole retreat with the activities, the meanings, the stories, and experiences that I and the rest of the group went through seems very impossible, so instead I will just touch on some things. We watched the setting sun over African mountains and plains, we watched the sunrise over South Africa, we hiked two different times to two different mountain springs where we swam and talked, we did multiple team building activities such as building a time machine that is identical to other teams with out being able to see what we are doing and doing mental challenges, we stayed up late drinking tea and biscuits while playing the South African game called Thirty Seconds, we had fires, we shared stories, learned about the apartheid, social justice, and forgiveness from three individuals who experienced it, we stood outside for a long time watching for shooting stars and finding the southern cross ( I managed to see two shooting starts), and I know there are numerous things I have missed. The retreat was such an eye opening and community building experience and it has truly changed myself and my outlook on different things
We returned from the retreat on Saturday, which was also New Years Eve. New Years Eve was unreal. We all went downtown Cape Town on a popular street called Long Street. We ate some dinner and when it was close to midnight everyone from all the restaurants, bars, clubs, etc came pouring on to the street to count down. Once midnight came fireworks went off and everyone was shouting happy New Year to everyone and giving hugs to everyone close. There was also even a parade going on. That will definitely not only be a New Years celebration I will never forget but also a memory I will hold onto forever.
Sunday was New Years day and about 9 of us ventured down to Camps Bay- a very wealthy area of Cape Town to go to the beach. It was frustrating seeing the Hollywood homes looking over the ocean when there are many people a few miles away who live in metal shacks. It was interesting being on the beach it felt as if I was a celebrity. There were families, individuals, old people, young people, and moms coming up to my group and me to have our pictures taken with them. Our conclusion was that they knew we were American because we couldn't think of anything else. We laid out and talked and put on layers and layers of sun block. Another yummy thing I experienced on this New Years Day was a Gatsby. A Gatsby is a type of sandwich South Africa is known for and the one I had consisted of steak, egg, chips (French fries), onions, tomato sauce (ketchup) and lettuce. It was delicious and I hope to have another one before the trip is over with. During the evening a lot of people just hung out and talked it was a very relaxing way to end the holiday.
But for South Africa the holiday is still going on for January second. The day started out with us going to our first class session where the focus was on community. We had a good discussion on what community is and how we are a community. After class we went to the Minstrel parade, down town Cape Town. We watched different groups of flamboyantly dressed people march down the street singing, dancing and playing instruments. For dinner today we had a taco potluck where everyone brought different items and we all ate together.
So I realize this is a very quick catch up view for a blog but I needed to catch up since I have been so busy lately. South Africa is so amazing and I am so thankful I still have 2 weeks to continue to learn about South Africa and grow as a person.