Words cannot express how absolutely powerful my trip to Cape Town, South Africa was. I got to travel abroad for the first time in my life, I made lasting relationship with people halfway around the world, I learned about myself and the history of South Africa, and I had tons of fun in the process. As I look through countless pictures and memories, I can honestly say I am completely satisfied with my experience abroad and am slowly reaching closure with such a wonderful experience.
On the plane ride to Cape Town, I had the chance to outline some of my goals for the trip. I had the oppertunity to look it over once more, a week after arriving back in the states. Looking at my list fills me with pure elation to know that I was successful in achieving nearly every aspiration I had set out to accomplish and more out in Cape Town.
Once again I would like to thank the generosity of the College of Education & Human Development, Learning Abroad Center, Organizational Leadership Policy & Development, Office of Equity and Diversity, and the countless individuals who supported me every step of the way!
Use the trip as a retreat: I had a wonderful time truly getting away from the daily grind and NOT WORKING! I think this was the longest time I have gone without actually working since I was 16. Getting away from work allowed for me to rest from the demands of my employment. At Educo Africa, I was able to get away from technology and the nasty sense of time and really marvel in the beautiful landscape of South Africa. I found the trip to be a saving grace from the mundane life I lived in the states. I got to remove myself from simply going through the motions in life.
Identify how to carry out my passions, post-graduation:
One of the biggest learning experiences was serving at Afrika Tikkun, an organization dedicated to empowering the people of the Delft township on the outskirts of Cape Town. I saw how the people working at the Afrika Tikkun were able to combine their passion for serving others into their daily lives through working at the center. After seeing these wonderful people selflessly work, I realized that I can do that in whatever capacity I can no matter what my career aspirations dictate.
Develop a better understanding of South Africa's Rich history:
Thanks to the great content provided by Nate, this goal was pretty easy to achieve. We visited the Slave Lodge, one of the oldest building in South Africa, created by the Dutch East India Company and learned about it's history of early oppression. We then visited the District 6 museum to see a remnant scar of the Apartheid movement. The readings and documentaries helped provide deeper understanding of the history.
Though the readings and videos helped, it wasn't until we engaged with the people of South Africa that we truly saw the lasting impact of the apartheid movement unfold before our eyes.
Compare social issues between Chicano/Latino and South African people:
As I learned about the various social issues, I found a lot of commonalities between Chicano/Latino people and those of South Africa. But arguably one of my biggest takeaways was the ability to see the residual damage left behind by such discriminative periods of time. It takes time to see just how damaging certain historic periods in time were to the people. Take the Zuit Suit riots of the 40's. Only the people involved or directly connected to the incident in LA can voice the pain and agony faced by the community at that time. That was roughly 70+ years ago. We were fortunate enough to go to Cape Town and see a country who is still healing from such oppression and get a sense of what it might have been like to be a few years removed from the civil rights movement.
Solidify Academic Plans:
After going on my trip, I became more and more confused about my academic plans. What I do know is that I will definitely be looking to pursue a graduate school in the near future. What I also solidified is the fact that I am completely up to relocating for a school if I truly feel like the school would be the right fit for me.
Teach someone in South Africa Spanish:
Would you believe I spoke quite a bit of Spanish on the trip?! One of the first people I met on the trip was Laura, the director of InterStudy, who happened to be from Granada, and a Spanish-speaker! I also got the chance to speak the language with Chris Crump from the trip which was great. There's just something about expressing oneself in their first language that really made me feel at ease, thanks in-part to my multilingual friend Chris!
But my experience would usually happen in taxi rides! Any night we would get a cab, I would always strike up a conversation with the taxi driver. I would ask them how busy the night was, what part of Cape Town they lived in, and what language they spoke. The taxi drivers would always ask "so where are you from?" To which I replied, "I am from the states, but am of Mexican Dissent." Instantly they would follow up with a comment about the Mexican National Futbol team and famous Futbol stars like Chicharito and Marquez. Then I would ask them how to say hello in their language. After that, they would ask me how to say various things in Spanish! I had a great time sharing my culture while getting to various destinations!
Barter at the local market:
Going to the local market was always an adventure. Beautiful arts and crafts, hand-made goods, and consumerism all in one place! Talking vendors down on the price was the name of the game! The first few interactions were a bit strange because in the states, the price the vendor states is the price they sell for. But after a while, it just became a force of habit! Landing top deals became a game and getting a fair price for the good was always a challenge I looked forward to. I always made sure to be nice to the vendor, offer a fair price, and stick with my guns until the price was met or was where I wanted it to be at. I got some great deals and was able to bring back great gifts for family and loved-ones.
Every time we went out to the market, the group would all meet to discuss how great of a deal we all got. From the jaw-dropping deal, to the shocking overcharge, we experienced it all at the market. Though everyone became better at bartering, nobody quite compared to the barter queens which were Lekie, Addis, Charlene, and Milan, who left Cape Town with enough souvenirs to start their own store!
Out of all of my experiences, learning the rules of Rugby will always have a special place in my heart! As we stayed in the mountains for the Educo Africa retreat, Mark, our program host, had his two children stay with us, James and Emma. James was a blonde haired, blue eyed 7 year-old with a deep knowledge of automobiles and a passion for the sport of rugby!
Throughout our stay, I pestered him about teaching me the rules of rugby. He would always laugh and then tackle me as if we were on the pitch (field). On the last day, James taught, Ben, Adam, and I the rules of rugby. From the type of passes, to the rules on hitting and blocking. We even played a quick pick-up game! It was definitely a great experience to learn the sport and have James be an integral part of my journey through South Africa!
Overall, I am extremely happy to have gone through such a tremendous experience. Every day provided a new learning experience, which will change the way I look at the world around me forever. I would just like to thank everyone who made the trip possible and the classmates who played an integral role in making the trip the phenomenal experience it truly was. I left a piece of my heart in Cape Town, a place that will remain near and dear to me for the rest of my life.