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.