As I am sitting in the Amsterdam airport after an 11 hour flight from Cape Town, I am thinking back to the incredible experience that I was just on for the past three and a half weeks. Three and a half weeks. I can hardly believe that I was in a foreign country for that long and saw so much that I never thought I'd see. I am thinking back to when we were in this airport on our way to Cape Town and how much different I felt: anxious, excited, nervous. Now all of my emotions are completely different. I feel as if I am in a daze, not able to wrap my head around the fact that I will no longer be residing in the beautiful city of Cape Town, seeing Table Mountain every morning as I wake up, and visiting Delft township where the staff filled my soul with joy every single day. Instead I will be going back to my hectic life in Minneapolis where I will be consumed by school and work. It's going to be incredibly difficult to incorporate what I have learned into my life, but it is definitely my goal to do so, and I challenge myself to do that. After seeing what I saw, I know that I do indeed want to live a much simpler life, focusing on what I am so blessed to have and not complaining about things that are not worth my time. I am going to appreciate waking up every day with a roof over my head, knowing that I will be going to class that day to get a valuable education. And finally I want to spread all of the joy that I received from the people of South Africa to those I encounter on a daily basis, because that is what life is all about and focusing on the joys in life is a worthy way to live.
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Being in Delft township has been an incredible experience. We have done so much just in one week and I have given so much as well as taken so much from the experience. I have seen everything from an African medical clinic, homes of families in the township, so many children and an incredible amount of joy in the lives of the South African people. Everything that we have done to help out in the township, small or large, has made such a huge impact on the people of Afrika Tikkun, which is an organization in Delft township that helps transform the township into a better community. The experience that impacted me the most while being in Delft was when 5 others and I painted a mural on the outside of the main building. One of the staff members, Lizeka, told us she wanted a tree painted on the wall because trees are always present and because of that they give hope to the children. I thought her words were so beautiful, and because I've had a weird obsession with trees, what Liz said really impacted me lot and gave me a reason to love trees that much more. So the six of us sketched out what we wanted to eventually paint, went and got paint and then went to town on the wall. We had a very short time to actually paint the wall, but we all worked together and finished what we all thought was a masterpiece. In my free time back home, I find peace and relaxation in painting, so doing this was such a remarkable experience. Knowing that we were painting this wall to give back to the community and children of Delft made it that much more meaningful. Once it was all finished, the reaction of the staff of Afrika Tikkun made the entire process so worth it. They were all raving about our work on the wall and Liz told us that what we had painted was so much better than what she had in mind! Everyone genuinely appreciated our work and loved the effort and heart that we put into the mural. I was on a painter's high and couldn't stop smiling, knowing that when the kids saw the wall, they would be so filled with joy; knowing the reaction of the children thrilled me beyond belief. This mural was by far my favorite part of the week in Delft because we made an impact on that community that will stay there forever.
The past two days have been beyond wonderful! Yesterday some of us experienced a real life Lion King on a daylong safari trip. We ventured 2 hours away and were greeted with champagne and a breakfast buffet, not a bad way to start a Saturday. We then got aboard and headed out to see the animals. We were able to see buffalo, elephants, zebras, ostriches, springbucks and a giraffe, which has officially become my new favorite animal! (I really wanted to take it home with me, I think we would get along quite nicely) We then got served a lunch buffet followed by relaxing by the pool. After all of that excitement we topped off the trip with wine tasting; what a day! I am proud to say I can now cross going on a safari off of my bucket list.
Today was a jammed packed day filled with great photo opps. We went to the Cape of Good Hope, which is the southern most point of South Africa; not many people get to say they've been there so I'm pretty pumped about that. But it was not an easy task to get there. There was a lot of uphill hiking done on very narrow paths overlooking an insane drop down to the vast ocean. I quickly realized that I am pretty afraid of heights! I got over it and just kept walking, knowing that the view would be worth it, which is most definitely was. The views all around South Africa are amazing, but this one beats them all. I felt so free being that high up! These past two days have given me a new found appreciation for nature and all it has to offer.
It has been a little over one week since we landed here in Cape Town and it feels like we've been here a month because so much has happened since landing. Initially, I felt like we were on vacation because of the majestic mountains that we woke up to every morning and the amazing weather we get to enjoy. But then venturing into the mountains really put things in to perspective. Being up there made me realize the beauty of the Earth that we live on and just how simple life should be. Spending time alone reflecting on the challenges in life helped me to appreciate the things that I am so blessed with. While watching the sunrise one morning, it all hit me; I was on a huge mountain in South Africa with so much privilege while so many people living in South Africa will never get the chance to see what I'm seeing, and that hurt me. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that numerous people here do not get what others thrive on. I keep going back to the image of our first day here in the township. While standing in that township, the view we had was of million dollar houses just across the street. It disturbed me so much that the people living in those million dollar houses wake up to the same exact sunrise as the people in the township just across the street and their lives are completely different. Through this trip thus far I have grown to realize the simple things in life and want to take with me what I saw in that township in order to change my way of living. I truly want to live my life more simply in order to remember that others live their lives even simpler than I ever will. I feel as though being here has altered my perspective on life and helped me to not take life and the things I have for granted.
Hey everyone! My name is Megan and I'm a Junior studying Marketing with a minor in Design. Within my graduation requirements, I have to have some sort of study abroad experience. With that as a requirement that was presented to me right as I entered college, I immediately started weighing my options of where I could possibly go in this huge world we live in. I had an opportunity to volunteer in Africa as a middle school student but I let that pass me by; it just wasn't the right time in my life to take such a huge leap. But because I get the chance to fulfill that opportunity that was once presented to me, I cannot be more excited to see what it has in store for me. Ever since that time in middle school, I have regretted not going to Africa, so I made it one of my life long goals to make the journey.
Now that the adventure to Africa has begun, I know my dream is finally about to come true. I do have to admit, I am a bit anxious about the trip simply because I have absolutely no idea what to expect; I have never been this far outside of my comfort zone before. It will indeed be a life changing experience, but to the extent, I am eager to find out. Stay tuned!
Throughout this incredible opportunity I am hoping to become a better version of myself. I have never thought too in-depth about the topic of social justice, so this trip will give me the chance to find out knowledge that I have been missing. I would like to take the experiences of the South Africans I encounter back with me to the United States and let them influence the life that I will continue to live. I hope to learn a lot about myself, others on the trip and most importantly about South Africa. So let the journey begin! Africa here we come!