Tag Archives: students

Transitions

Friday was our last day in Cape Town. We awoke to fog, which was rather disappointing since today was the only opportunity for the family to take the cableway up Table Mountain. We crossed our fingers and said a few prayers that the sky would clear.

Reed finished his peace psychology seminar with the students while the family went to the waterfront. We rode the Cape Wheel and browsed the artisan shops. After lunch, we took the hop-on/hop-off bus for a few stops, and then we met up with everyone at the District Six Museum. It is too much to put into words as I blog at this late hour…I encourage you to read about District Six. It is an important story to know.

We said our good-byes to the students, which was quite bittersweet. I am so thankful for a “successful” program and meaningful experience, but it is a special moment in time that we will never share again. I value each person and their journey here, and I am grateful that they invested so much in this.

The family hopped back on the bus and ascended Table Mountain to the lower station. Thankfully, the skies had cleared by now, and it was a unique day to go to the upper station. There was a low bank of clouds over the Atlantic on the “back side” of the mountain. It was stunning. We enjoyed our time and got a lot of nice photos of the spectacular views.

We intended to hop back on the bus, but it didn’t have a scheduled stop for awhile. Instead, we Ubered to Camps Bay for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. We enjoyed some American fare and 80s/90s music videos to mark our last night in Cape Town.

It is time for The Kruger tomorrow…I can hardly wait. Journey mercies to the students as they transition back home.

Cape Point & Penguins!

Our party of 16 had a wonderful Thursday excursion around Cape Point. We drove through Hout Bay, along the rugged Atlantic coast, and down to the Cape of Good Hope. We went to the Point and ascended to its top. Some chose the hiking option while others of us rode the funicular. At the top, we marveled at the views and took a LOT of pictures!

Next we drove to the water and it’s famous sign. We walked on the rocky shore, and some brave ones did a little rock climbing that made me quite nervous! I was relieved when we were all back on the bus, heading to our lunch stop in Simon’s Town. At lunch, Ernesto surprised Reed with a bottle of wine he bought for him way back on our first full day in Cape Town. The name seemed fitting for the male Professor Mueller – “Stubborn Man.” 😉

After lunch, it was time to go to Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. The famous “jack-ass penguins” were quite adorable and entertaining. We had fun watching their behaviors and taking LOTS of pictures (again). We had a little time for souvenirs, coffee, and ice cream before heading back to the city. It was a great day at the Point and with the penguins!

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the Concordia program. We’ve learned so much, made new friends, and are forever changed. I am grateful for the time here!

P.S. One of our students celebrated her 21st birthday today. Happy birthday, Mo! 🙂

Water, Sun, & Sand

Our braai Sunday night was delicious. There were mixed reviews on the ostrich kabobs, but no one can deny the meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful. 🙂 Monday morning at Backpackers’ Paradise was cold! Gerard said 3c in fact, which is about 37f. We found our way to the main lodge to sit by the fire (with the 3 cats who reside there!) as we woke up and waited for breakfast. Toast, eggs, and fruit filled our bellies, and we set out in the minibus around 8:30.

We drove back through the Klein Karoo, which means “little land of thirst.” We went past the ostrich farms, through the hop valley, and over the Outeniqua Mountains. We drove through the city of George and back to Wilderness. Our first stop was at the Kaaimansrivier to do some kayaking. Thankfully the sun was out and it had warmed up! Gerard guided us along this calm, shallow river to a secret waterfall and past a sandy beach. We saw the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing in the distance. Aside from some bumper boats and splashing, it was a fairly tame paddle. 🙂 The kayak guy said most South Africans have not seen the waterfall that we visited, so we felt special!

We piled back in the minibus and headed to a Spar Market to purchase our lunch items. We drove a couple of minutes to Wilderness Beach, and we picnicked in the sand as we watched the waves. The Indian Ocean here is very blue and the sand is quite gold. Most of us got at least our feet in the water, and some got their whole selves wet! It was a fun time together, relaxing in the sun and admiring the beauty around us.

As I write this, we are on our way back to Cape Town, some 5 hours from here. Gerard got us some snacks of “Nik Naks” (like Cheetos) and “Jelly Tots” (think Dots), and the students have requested an ice cream comfort stop in awhile. 🙂 Our first stop was along the road at an ostrich farm. It was fun to get an up-close look at these amazing creatures! We made a couple more comfort stops, as well as an incredible sunset stop with Table Bay and the back of Table Mountain in full view!

On the home front, the family is on their long layover in Frankfurt, Germany. It was an extra stressful departure yesterday as the new South African regulation of carrying original birth certificates for minors was not known to us. Reed learned of it in PDX and was able to get our kids’ originals, but my sister is traveling with copies. Oliver from VAC said they should suffice just fine, and he acknowledged it is a ridiculous new rule when birth certificates were verified in order to obtain the kids’ passports! Anyway, fingers (& toes) crossed they will have an easy-going passport control agent in Johannesburg tomorrow!

Wow Wow Wow!

Today we were true Cape Town tourists and rode the hop-on / hop-off bus ’round & ’round and up & down majestic Table Mountain. We were so fortunate to have a sunny, calm day, and it felt as if we were on the top (of the bottom) of the world!

We began with a return to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden where we got soaked on Monday. We enjoyed the panoramic views and tree top canopy. Next we ventured on to the World of Birds where we walked through enclosure after enclosure of every kind of bird on the planet it seemed! We also saw guinea pigs, lemurs, and various monkeys. Wow!

At this point we were in need of lunch, so we set our sites on Camps Bay and the Hard Rock Cafe for the “free” burger included with our bus ticket. By now it was nearly 15:00, so we opted for Ubers to get us quickly up to the aerial cableway on Table Mountain. We already had our tickets, so we went straight to the cable car queue. Before we knew it, we were ascending what felt to be straight up in our cable car, complete with rotating floor! Wow!

We marveled at the views and meandered along the paths for over an hour. We were so fortunate to have calm winds and relatively clear skies, along with a nicely timed ride down at sunset. Wow! The bus took us back to the waterfront, and we Ubered to our respective homes.

It was a day full of beauty and contrasts. This truly is a unique and spectacular part of the world. We all highly recommend that it gets on your “places I need to go” list! Here are just a few of the incredible scenes from today. I’m sure each of the student’s social media pages has many more incredible shots. 🙂

Milkshakes off Main Road

Today the students returned to their placement sites, and they had (mostly) good things to share when we met to debrief. Those at Ihata Shelter are coming up with fun, crafty ideas to do with the children there. The two students at the Heideveld Clinic got to observe some interesting sounding procedures in “theater” today. We met at a cute cafe in Obs to check in, which is where the group photo was snapped. We enjoyed processing the day and other important feelings over snacks, cappuccino, and milkshakes. Yum. Then we went to the market, ATM, and post office together, successfully crossing busy Main Road (twice!). The students accompanied me back to my flatlet to wait out he traffic before Ubering back to their home stays.

Speaking of which, they are having mixed experiences with their hosts. Aysia and Paige are with a couple who is relatively progressive in their thinking. On the other end of the spectrum is the couple with whom Vadim and Ernesto live. Frequent racist and judgmental (in a variety of domains) statements are voiced. We are working through this and have avenues of support here if a change in location is needed. Mo, Kaelyn, and Sarah are with a Muslim family and are experiencing a bit of Ramadan. So much is learned about culture through home stays, but it can be a challenge at times.

The weather was fairly nice today, breezy and in the mid-60s, which Capetonians consider cold (it is winter after all). The mountain remains a bit elusive, as seen in the photo behind my flatlet. There is construction next door which has sounds of clanging and singing. We definitely aren’t in Portland anymore! 🙂

Placement Ups & Downs

Today the students went to their placement sites for the first time. They will spend six days serving in the community of Heideveld, a suburb in the Athlone part of Cape Town. Over 90% of the population of Heideveld is coloured, the local term for multiracial. Our driver, Ibrahim, told me that about half of the residents were displaced from District Six, which was a residential area of Cape Town that was forcibly disbanded during Apartheid. We will learn more about this as we continue our time here.

Five students selected the Ihata Shelter for their placement site. This women’s shelter strives for a society free of gender-based violence. Women and children can reside there for six months where their basic needs are met while they heal and grow. The students got a tour of the facility, but also of the impoverished township. They were able to interact with little ones, and tomorrow they will be more involved in counseling settings. It sounds like they had a great experience today, and I’m excited to hear more as they continue to serve!

Two students chose the Heideveld Community Health Clinic, a government run facility. We arrived at a crowded clinic and passed through the metal detector. We saw many waiting to receive care in several different areas. Loyiso, our placement coordinator, had informed us that people arrive early in the morning to be triaged, receiving a green, yellow, orange, or red code, indicating the severity of their needs. Those coded as green may not get seen in the course of the day. Unfortunately, the site supervisor for our students is out this week, and the day was not productive. Loyiso will be there tomorrow to address the students’ learning objectives, and if it seems they will not be met, they will likely move to Ihata. I appreciate our students’ flexibility, as well as those on the ground working on our behalf.

We are in good hands here and being well looked after by our host agency, VACorps. Thanks for following along!

 

Warm Wednesday

Wednesday was our warmest day so far (upper 60s) with lots of sunshine. I even got to sit on a sunny bench at Trinity and read for about an hour! It also was fun to watch the people and magpies around New Square, the green in front of our apartment.

The four of us ventured out after a late breakfast to walk to Christ Church Cathedral, about 15 minutes from Trinity. I had read that you can pay one entrance fee for both the cathedral and “Dublinia,” which is a Viking and Medieval Dublin experiential type of attraction next door, so that’s what we did.

The cathedral was quite impressive; Jackson had learned about that type of architecture, so it was neat to have him add to the conversation (can’t wait till he sees Notre Dame!). I especially liked the stained glass windows, particularly a room with various saints, including Patrick (of course). The tree of Jesse is depicted in the large window grouping at the end of the cathedral; it was spectacular to behold. Jackson and I lit a candle of remembrance for Uncle Bruce in a reflection room. After we saw all the features, including the spiral stairs up to the impressive organ, we headed downstairs to the crypt. It was kind of spooky between the below-ground dungeon feel and knowing there were bodies in the walls. It was good to get back into the sunshine. 🙂

Dublinia was next…you enter what looks like a Viking ship to begin the story of how Vikings invaded what is now Dublin (settled in 841). We learned lots about Vikings’ customs, weapons, houses, trading practices, etc. A highlight was going inside a typical Viking home and imagining what it would have been like to live back then. The portrayal of a Viking bathroom was humorous, complete with sound effects. Did you know moss was the toilet paper of the Viking world? And, Vikings didn’t actually have horns in their helmets – who knew?!

The next level focused on Medieval Dublin and what it was like to live in that time. Again, not an easy way of life. The traditional home was more advanced and there were interesting discoveries that had been made, but living conditions were hard and death rates were high. The final part of Dublinia was an exhibit about archaeology and how discoveries are made through hard work, patience, and science. It was quite interesting and I think we all departed thankful that we had spent the time and money on our excursion.

We walked back to Trinity, stopping for lunch at Pizza Hut on the way. The rest of the day was spent reading, playing games, and hanging out with our students. Reed held a session for the seminar he is teaching while here: Cultural & Political Psychology through the Lenses of Self & U2. It is a very interesting combination of Irish history, intergroup conflict, and application to self. They have been at their service placements for two days and they are good overall. Hannah is volunteering at a watersports school working with (adorable Irish!) children. Jamieson is serving at a facility for intellectually impaired individuals (complete with cat!). Jamie and Kayla are at a rehab & residential setting for people with brain dysfunction (zoo field trip next week!). We will visit their placements so we can get a better sense of what they’re doing. The students are seeking out a lot of additional cultural experiences…they are truly taking full advantage of their time here! As one of the students eloquently put it, “Dublin, I love you.”

Tomorrow morning I will head to the airport fairly early to fetch my parents. We are very much looking forward to their arrival and hope their journey is a smooth one. Tomorrow night we get to see “Riverdance” at the Gaiety Theatre; something I have been waiting for with great anticipation! Hopefully Reed and Jackson will be pleasantly surprised. 🙂