All posts by Erin

Weekend R&R…& Students!

The weekend consisted of rest and relaxation for the most part. Saturday started with more rain, so I spent the morning reading & relaxing. Then the skies cleared, and Sheila treated me to an afternoon at a winery, or vineyard as they call them here (literally saying “vin yard”), called Hazendal, near the wine region of Stellenbosch (about 35 minutes east of Cape Town; Google it and you’ll see what a huge wine region this is).

Sheila had purchased a Groupon type of deal for wine tasting and lunch. I’m not sure of the total cost (I have to treat the next time), but I saw that it only cost R10 or about $1.50 for 5 tastes…and they are generous pours. And, even more, our waiter gave us a 6th one at no charge. He could tell I was from America, and when I told him that our region produces quite a lot of wine, he was surprised saying that he thought most wine comes from South Africa. :) I guess we’re all a bit ethnocentric.

We enjoyed our cheese plate (including hugely popular fig jam) with our first few tastes, and then we had lunch. Afterward, we made our selections of what bottles to buy, though there was no pressure at all to purchase anything. We each selected three…I went with a Merlot that Reed will love, along with a red blend of Merlot, Cab, & Shiraz (R35!), and a Sauvignon Blanc. The total was R142, or ~$20, and these are very good wines (no comments, Reed, about my cheap wine tastes as I didn’t pick based on price!). You can see the lovely winery – or vineyard – with it’s traditional Dutch/Cape architecture, and some wine/food pics attached (you may notice that their logo looks a bit like Edgefield’s Black Rabbit). I also got a couple of good scenery pics from the car of their magical mountain.

Saturday night consisted of smoked salmon salads & bruschetta, a bit more merlot, and a rugby match on TV with Sheila’s neighbor, Binci (as in “inci binci spider”), joining us. Rugby is HUGE here, as is cricket…I walk by the cricket club on my way to school, as well as the rugby stadium (sponsored by DHL)…and of course football (you know, what we call soccer; Sheila supports the Arsenal [a UK team], FYI).

South Africa is still relishing in hosting the 2010 World Cup, despite the economic toll the 10 (I think) newly constructed stadiums have taken on the country’s economy. The church team saw the orange one in Nelspruit, near Kruger, which our driver said sits empty now. I got a peek of the new Cape Town stadium, and I saw the massive (favorite word here & in the UK…Reed, remember Stonehenge?) practice stadium too. Sheila said their stadium is used for rugby, soccer, and concerts, but feels the old one would’ve been suitable for the Cup (she said FIFA’s requirements resulted in the new one).

Anyway, it is rugby season in the winter, and the local Capetonian team, the Stormers, were away, taking on the Sharks of Durban. It was a big match as the Stormers sit atop the 15-team-SA-league with a record of 10-1. Unfortunately, I must be a jinx as the Sharks won 25-20. :( I wasn’t really into it (shocker, I know), but I enjoyed the experience. I actually understood it by the end, and I can appreciate its much faster pace than American football…and complete lack of protective gear! Binci and Sheila clearly had their favorite players (Patrick Lambie for the Sharks and Peter Grant for the Stormers, both of whom were described as “luscious” by my local rugby enthusiasts). :) Sheila and her brother actually have season tickets to the Stormers (& can walk from Sheila’s house), so they are pretty big fans I gather.

It was great to greet my students Sunday morning (of course)! Stanford picked me up at 9:45 and we made the short trek to the airport, after picking up two Brazilians who were going back home (I learned that Brazilians take a long time to say goodbye and have a LOT of luggage). I’ve included a picture of us with Stanford at the airport (don’t worry, we didn’t lose Kym; she arrived the day prior). They all looked good but said they were very tired, of course. I pray they rest well and can hit the ground running Monday morning. They have the energy of youth on their side I guess.

We drove to Plumstead where they all are staying. First we dropped off Jen with her hosts, Clive & Ursula Baatjes. Kym is at this homestay too, but she and Ursula were on a walk so I did not get to see her. Clive said she had settled in nicely and woke early this morning. Next we took Courtney and Crystal to the home of Yul & Sabine Eckardt, where we also met their 6-year-old daughter, Lauren. They had a pretty intimidating looking German Shepherd that Courtney wasn’t too happy to see. Hopefully the pooch is a nice family dog once s/he knows you’re part of the family. Finally, we delivered Kelsey and Kjersten to their hosts, Patrick & Beryl Riley, a nice older couple who had just returned from church. All of the hosts were very warm and I trust the “girls” (as the GHS staff calls them) settled in well today and got some good rest.

Sunday afternoon, Sheila drove us through Camps Bay and Bantry Bay to Sea Point, where we walked along the Atlantic for about an hour (several pictures are below). Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, was off in the distance (I’ll be taking the ferry there with the students Tuesday if the weather holds). Being a beautiful “winter” day (I’m guessing close to 70 degrees, sunny, & no wind), lots of people were out walking, jogging, and playing in the park. On our return walk, we even stopped for gelato…yum.

We drove past the Table Mountain cable car on the way, and when we returned she took us through downtown Cape Town, including the Waterfront, where I’ll be staying once my family arrives on June 21. it looks like a LOT of fun with attractions (including a wheel like the London Eye), shops, restaurants, and a working dockyard…something for everyone.

Finally, on the way back to Sheila’s, we stopped at the Cecil Rhodes memorial. It boasts a great view of the city/cape, as well as a pretty substantial granite memorial, complete with several lions, which children appear to enjoy climbing. Rhodes was a diamond and gold mine baron, and he set aside a large amount of land (i.e., where the memorial sits) for conservation. I think he was a president of SA too, though I’m not sure and my guidebook doesn’t say.

It was a great afternoon excursion, and I’m starting to get my directions figured out (though I still often feel turned around, which isn’t like me as I have a pretty good sense of direction [just ask my parents how I helped navigate the family through New York when I was 16…but don’t ask Reed how I did on our way to Normandy, France]). :)

When we got home, I thought I’d try to call my niece, Tess, who graduates from high school today in Vinton, Iowa. Fortunately, my timing was perfect as I got to speak with her, as well as my sister, two young nieces, and my mom. It’s a big day there, and I’m so sorry to miss it…but, the good news is Tess will be coming along with the family next month for our South Africa/Swaziland adventure. (Not a bad way to celebrate one’s high school graduation, if you ask me!)

The students and I have a very full week – probably our fullest of the four – with orientations, outings, classes, practicum experiences, and getting accustomed to this place. They (we) will be learning so much just by being in such an international setting. I feel that experiences like these are incredibly valuable, and they are certainly key in meeting Concordia’s mission of preparing leaders to transform society…we must be prepared to transform diverse segments of society, not just our own. I hope to have some exciting posts…stay tuned!

NOTE: Until welcoming my students at the airport Sunday, I had not encountered an American since the church team and I parted ways on Tuesday. Nearly five days with no Americans around…so strange. Makes me feel kind of special and weird all at the same time!

Success

Well, it is Thursday afternoon, just before 4:00 as I type, though I won’t be able to post until morning. I thought I should jot down some of my successes while they’re fresh.

I had a good chunk of time at GHS earlier today and got quite a few pictures from Swaziland and Kruger posted. It is not all of them, but it will have to be it for now (I had to upload them in groups of five, and it was very slow!). I also caught up on some email. I sure take for granted having wifi everywhere back home! I will miss it this weekend.

Then Brenda and I walked to the guest house where our classroom will be, at least for the first half of the time. I was wrong in naming it “Aberdeen” – it is “Abbadale.” Not sure if you can find it online or not. A very formal hostess, Judy, greeted us and briefed us on the security system (which, by the way, I set off when I returned to Sheila’s). Anyway, she took us upstairs, and Reed will be glad to hear that I was able to connect to the TV in the classroom to display my Powerpoint files and videos from my iPad! (I think I hear him saying, “I told you that there was nothing to worry about.”) Yay, what a relief!

Then I walked to the Pick ‘n Pay or PnP (a store with everything…kind of a Target or Walmart but it seems way cooler to me). I was unable to convert my travel phone there to a South Africa number, but there was a Vodacom store right across the way that took care of it. I think I have the sim card switching system figured out so I’ll still use my UK number to make calls home, but this will be good to make local calls to GHS, Sheila, etc. should I need assistance, as well as to receive calls. You have to register with your passport to do this, so it feels kind of official. I purchased 50 Rand of airtime and the guy told me how to check my balance. Hope it works if I need it.

Then I bought some leggings and slippers (see pic) at the PnP clothing store (for a grand total of about $14…things are cheap here). It was good to see racks of warm clothes should I discover I didn’t pack well enough for Cape Town’s winter. Then I entered the grocery portion to get lunch supplies (bread, Skippy!, yogurt, apples, crackers, etc.) and a restock of shampoo and toothpaste. I also “splurged” on a box of Kleenex as I haven’t seen any since arriving. And I bought a washcloth…also MIA in Africa. Still not sure how to solve my stinky towel problem tactfully…

I trudged home with a heavy load. It is warmer here today, so that feels nice. I actually got hot walking and had to stuff my coat in my backpack. Funny story…when I was waking to GHS this morning, I heard someone call to me from the road. I kept walking, assuming it was a street peddler (there are many here). Then I looked and it was Stanford, the GHS driver, and Brenda, who had just picked up some groceries for the students. I hopped in and rode the rest of the way. Brenda said I already looked like at true Cape Tonian by the way I was waking. That helped my confidence as I kinda feel like a bumpkin. Speaking of which, the PnP checker commented on my accent, which she described as a drawl. :) And, did you know you have to weigh your produce and place a label on it before you pay? Now I do.

I am very excited to get my students here…I’m hoping to be able to ride along with Stanford to fetch them this weekend. The main purpose of GHS is teaching English to college-agers from around the world. There are many from South America here now, as well as parts of Europe (especially Germany), Asia, and the Middle East. I’m not sure how much my students will interact with them, but it may be quite interesting…there are social outings they can tag along with too. Hopefully they will stay out of trouble. :) My main observation of the GHS students here is that they smoke a lot. A lot. I think they are from fairly well-to-do families as Brenda told me that they often buy cars while they are here for several months, especially the Asians. The Colombians think it is REALLY cold here. It’s great to be in such a diverse area for awhile, though it feels light years away from Corbett. Still, we are all the same in some ways I suppose.

I feel better about things (I was pretty sad after talking to Reed and the kids last night). I still am not sure why I thought this would be a good idea. But, I think God is working hard on me, and being “alone” here will help me be a better student of His. This down-time in between segments of my trip is not the best, but there wasn’t really a way around it since World Vision set the dates that started this whole thing. I am trying to get rest, orient myself, read (Bible and Catching Fire too, I admit), and journal (in addition to this blog), so I guess I’m accomplishing something. I will wait to explore the downtown, true Cape Town, & the train until I can go with the group.

I really miss my daily life back home…I miss making school lunches, getting the kids to baseball/softball practice, tucking them in, checking on homework, doing our laundry, texting, watching TV, and feeding our pets. Even more I miss the voices and hugs of those I love. I miss my husband – my friend – and his loving smile and kind (& often silly) words. I deeply miss my children…I hope they somehow understand my absence and how it honors this part of me that God (for some reason) created. I miss a lot of things (like my morning coffee…the way I make it with Winco double French roast, ground fresh, steeped in a French press, with nonfat vanilla creamer!). But mostly I miss people…I miss home.

I don’t really miss driving…or cleaning the litter boxes.

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P.S. Friday mid-day now and I haven’t yet walked to GHS to post. It is quite rainy today so I’m hoping it lets up a bit before I venture out. For pics, in addition to my R19.90 (<$3.00) slippers, I've included the view from my window, as well as a couple of special messages. :)

P.P.S. Sheila drove me. :) And, just a reminder that I can't post over the weekend as I have no wifi (& haven't seen evidence of any nearby my home stay). Back online Monday...

Not much to report

I slept more warmly last night after asking for another blanket. The air temperature is not frigid by any means (maybe in the 60s during the day?), but without much heat source inside these concrete homes, it is chilly inside. My small bathroom has a good hot shower, so that helps (though I am cursed with stinky towels…not sure how to graciously fix that). Sheila did some laundry for me yesterday and it is air-drying. I would rather do it myself, but I think it’s something she is expected to do as part of her payment for being a host.

Our first dinner together was nice…roasted chicken and vegetables. Breakfasts are just cereal and coffee (instant; having it as I type), so I hope to eat more simply than I have been throughout Kruger and Swaziland! If you’ve been before, you know how well we are fed, which is one of the many ironies when in Swaziland.

Mrs. Sheila Sloane has some strong (political/social) opinions and is a bit rough around the edges (I’ve heard a few curse words), so I think we are quite different (also no evidence of a belief in God). She is a British immigrant who came here as a young adult in 1970. She has been widowed twice, and has three grown children from her first husband. She has worked has a secretary and antiques broker. Today she is having things around the house serviced…lock on gate, plumbing for dishwasher, gardener, and the “mouse man” is here now, so I guess I had better be on the lookout for Mickey. :)

Speaking of locks, the security in Cape Town is amazing. Every house has a locked gate, decorative bars on the windows, alarm systems, and a combination of locks that makes your head spin. I have a set of four keys and I’m hoping I can get myself in and out if Sheila is away. I was unsuccessful with the gate lock yesterday when I returned, but thankfully I could call her by intercom and she let me in. That is why the locksmith is coming today I guess. Brenda at GHS said she is from Zambia and they don’t have such locks/gates there. I said we don’t either, but confessed that we had been robbed, so maybe we should have! All that to say I am safe and sound here…no need to worry.

After coffee, I will walk to GHS and then set about to get some things done there. I hope to be successful in the classroom technology department, and then I will post this, catch up on email, and try to upload more pictures from Mhlosheni…maybe the connection will be better today. I plan to get a few groceries on my walk home, and try to swap out my sim card so I will have a local number and can easily call should I need assistance.

I’ve attached a couple of pictures of the mountain… Sheila said people here are very fond of their mountain. :) There is also a picture of Sheila outside her home, as well as Brenda in front of GHS.

Cape Town by day

I awoke to a mix of clouds and sun…and quite a lot of wind. Table Mountain has been covered by its “table cloth” of clouds whisking toward us, which means rain is on the way I guess. I slept okay, but was quite cold…the houses aren’t really heated here; I just have a panel on the wall that emits a bit of heat, though it is away from my bed, which is near a window that is a bit drafty…that all makes for a chilly combination. The street is noisy too, so I will have to adjust to that. And there was a barking dog…

Sheila took me on a drive this morning, after her DMV task. We drove away from Cape Town; I haven’t seen the city yet (I am in the suburb of Newlands). We drove toward Muizenberg, St. James (& “Danger Beach,” a surf spot), and Kalk Bay; all on the east side of the Cape. I included a couple of photos from the drive. It was beautiful; kind of reminded me of the New Jersey southern shore towns…a bit run down, but lots of charm. The mountains remind me a bit of the Wasatch in Utah; the trees & flowers of northern California (Sheila has orange, avocado, guava, & grapefruit trees). I guess it’s nice to have something to map on to.

I am now at the Good Hope Studies center, which is a 10-15 minute walk from Sheila’s. It is a safe neighborhood with shops and other conveniences between GHS and “home.” I feel quite disoriented, but I know that will subside the longer I am here. The train station is nearby too, but I will tackle that another day. Everyone is friendly, and it is very nice to be back online, at least during business hours.

The classroom for our first two weeks is another 10-minute walk from GHS in Aberdeen Guest House (at least I think that was the name). We will go there tomorrow so I can try out my iPad and connection with the projector (fingers crossed). I guess it has wifi too, so that is a nice surprise (we had been told no wifi there). Brenda is my new friend at GHS as she is doing a nice job orienting me.

I feel so disconnected from anything familiar now, so that is trying. I trust God in bringing me here, and I know He is with me. I also know that once I am settled a bit more and students arrive that I will be feeling better about things…now I feel a bit lost!

I am going to sign off now and wade through some emails… :)

In Cape Town at last

As you can see by the dates, the Team Mueller blog hasn’t been updated for nearly seven years. I guess we’re not a family that blogs together (thankfully, we do lots of other things together). :) My time away in South Africa and Swaziland seemed like a good time to once again pick up blogging. I don’t promise anything all that eloquent, but rather a way to feel connected with family and friends while we are separated by nearly 10,000 miles for almost six weeks (gulp).

I am currently flying from Swaziland to South Africa, typing as I fly. I hope to be able to post at least semi-regularly once I’m settled into my teaching location, Good Hope Studies (GHS), in Cape Town. They allegedly have Wifi M-F, 8a-5p, or thereabouts, so I will post as best as I can (no Wifi at my home stay). I hope it is a good process both ways…and I hope it is especially good for Jackson and Abbie!

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Nearly midnight now, and I just got settled in to my home stay with Ms. Sheila Sloane (see pics). She is a lovely hostess already, offering me a welcome hug. :) Her home is modest as far as I can tell, and my quarters are quite suitable (lots of cupboards and drawers for my things instead of suitcases). I have a bed, of course, extra blankets (it is winter here after all), and a small, private bath. It should do just fine for the next month or so.

Sheila said we’ll go to the center tomorrow (i.e., GHS) where I’ll be teaching come Monday. She’ll also show me around the neighborhood, and we’ll do an errand at South Africa’s equivalent of the DMV (she was informed that, while in England, her photo she submitted wasn’t suitable…this caused her to be unable to rent a car in England, a real inconvenience). Seems like DMV annoyances are universal. I was happy to hear we don’t have to “go the way of the sparrow”; a British phrase meaning we won’t be departing early in the morning. :) I think I have a lot to learn here…

By the way, the GHS driver, Stanford, was at the airport as planned and quickly got me to Sheila’s. He also seemed nice and welcoming. So far, so good in Cape Town…I’m looking forward to seeing it in the daylight!