Our final days in South Africa

Our last few days in South Africa consisted of finishing up papers, finishing up work at our placements, Saying final goodbyes to new friends, and of course, packing. In our last few days in South Africa we had presentations on our placements, had final reflections, and had one free day.  During my free day myself and two others decided to do a bit of last minute shopping. We went to a flea market in down town Cape Town. I will say so myself that I am a pretty darn good barterer! I got a deal on all the things I purchased! Needles to say many people will be getting Christmas presents from my travels abroad.

Two days before we left South Africa the country and our entire nation suffered a tremendous loss: the death of Nelson Mandela. The day following we saw in everywhere we went, the entire country  mourn their fearless leader who saved them all from the Apartheid government. After learning about Mandela in class and experiencing first hand the progress and reformation he brought to South African it really was a sad day felt by everyone we were around. In the week leading up to his funeral, there was clearly an outpouring sense of celebrating the life of this visionary man.

After speaking with people in South Africa and experience the current political feeling there I fear that there may be a back lash against the ANC government now that Mandela has died. Many people  are living in conditions of  great poverty. Many people are unhappy with the growing gap between the rich and the poor and blame the corrupt Zuma government. Hopefully my intuition is wrong and that South Africa can continue to be a peaceful place and can continue to grow and be a world leader.

At 7 pm on Saturday we left the SHAWCO house and headed for the Airport. It was sad to leave but I am truly grateful for the opportunity to experience everything I have in these past 7 weeks. It was truly a once and a lifetime experience.

SAFARI

Today I went on a safari!!! It was extremely exciting and we got to see a bunch of animals, including the 4 of the Big 5 South African animals. The 4 big 5 animals we saw were the Lion, the African Elephant, the Rino, and the Cape Buffalo; because leopards hunt at night it was very unlikely that we would see on during the day and we didn’t. But 4 for out of 5 isn’t bad. Along with these animals we also saw giraffes, cheetahs, springbok, zebras, and many more. It was really a great experience. The reservation we went to was called Inverdoorn game reserve. The game reserve, unlike zoos, allows most of the animals to live together in the same space just as they would in the wild. The even have a cheetah conservation were they have successfully rehabilitated two cheetahs to the point where they can hunt for themselves and have been doing wonderful in the main reserve. Now most of the animals at Inverdoorn  were rescued from poor conditions where they were treated viciously. There is a separate reserve for the Lions because they have been so domesticated that they would not survive if they were put in the main reserve because they would not be able to hunt for themselves. This was the result of the treatment of their previous owner. The three Lions at the reserve all came from a game farm where the owner feed them so that they would get big and fat and then would charge game hunters a large fee to come in and then shoot an award winning large Lion. It was a bit sad to hear about the wrong, unnatural conditions some of these animals were put through. All in all it was a great day filled with a once and a lifetime experience. Our guide even said today he saw the most animals during a midday tour than he ever had before, I guess we brought the luck of the Irish with us!

Weekend of Wine and Water

This weekend was very eventful. We started Saturday day off with a wine tour. I didn’t know this before the tour but, apparently South Africa is really known for their wine. Yeah I know who knew right! Anyways, the vineyards are what would be comparable in the US to the cotton plantations, they used slave labor to operate, especially, during the Apartheid years. People from the US and all over the world boycotted South African wine in protest of Apartheid during the 1980s. The history of Winery’s is closely tied to the History of South Africa. The grounds of each vineyard was delightful along with the delightful drinks. I realized from this experience that I am not a wine expert and I doubt that I will ever be! Regardless, the day was excellent, I learned a lot and had fun.

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On Sunday we decided to have a beach day. The group as a whole split up and some went to the Atlantic Ocean and some went to the Indian. I’ve never touched foot in the Indian Ocean so I went there. The beach we went to was called Muizenberg Beach. This beach is actually the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. We had a fun day taking in the sun and browsing through the surf shops, Muizenberg is the place to catch waves for all the local surfers. It was great seeing all the people come together to enjoy the beautiful South African sun; Black, white, tourist or Native, everyone was at one beach together. Even if some of the separation still exist it’s at least nice to see that in at least some aspects people disregarding race and coming together.

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Robben Island

Today we visited Robben Island. Robben Island is where the political prisoners of the Apartheid were held including Nelson Mandela. Our tour guide was an actual detainee of the Robben Island Prison during Apartheid years. He was just 17 years old when he went to prison and was held there for 7 year in a cell block just a few steps from Nelson Mandela. It was so interesting to hear the conditions the prisoner were kept in and how the government tried to cover them up. After Robben Island, we spent a few house down near the waterfront shopping and looking around. Overall, today was a great day. Tomorrow we are scheduled to take a tour of the Cape peninsula, which is supposed to be beautiful, but until them you can look at all these picture I took today!

South Africa

7:00 am Monday morning we were up, out of bed and waiting to board the bus to Dublin to catch our flight to London and from there South Africa. It was the beginning of the second half of the trip.

 

Leaving Northern Ireland

Leaving Northern Ireland

Finally after almost 24 hours of travel we landed in Cape Town, South Africa. We had the remainder of Wednesday, which was basically 14 hours, to adjust and get some sleep. Thursday morning we started off at 8am with SHAWCO learning about the organization. SHAWCO is an organization based out of the University of Cape Town that specializes in service learning and community outreach through a variety of programing including SHAWCO international with is the programing were participating with.  Are day with SHAWCO started with an orientation that included a tour of a South African Township. Townships in South Africa were a result of the era know as Apartheid.  The Apartheid government grouped people based on race and set living parameter for them such as where they could live, if they could vote, where they could work etc. Even though Apartheid has ended people still live in these townships, and for the most part they are segregated by race. It was so incredibly shocking to see the immense amount of poverty in these areas. At the same time, across the street, in the same township, there would be a house worth $50,000 and a Mercedes parked in the driveway. It was so incredibly striking to see how South Africa is truly a first and a third world country just by looking from left to right. It really was a humbling experience, especially when coming from Northern Ireland where the people who live on the Dole live in houses that are compare to those that we the middle class live in back in the States. The amazing thing about these townships is that the children who live there are as happy as can be. They love the attention from us the tourist and would immediately come up grab your hand and just walk with you for as far as they could on the tour. They were so innocent and oblivious to the poverty that they lived in. It made me really think about what makes me happy and that we don’t need things in our lives like cell phones and Xboxes and all that stuff that we should just live in the moment. South Africa so far has been quite the eye opening experience I can’t wait for Monday when I get to start my placement at the Treatment Action Center which is an AID/Health Education/ Human Rights clinic. I only took a few picture thus far, I didn’t want to intrude on the people living in the Townships by taking picture, think about it how would you feel if people came into your home and started taking pictures of your house and how you lived. They’re not a zoo, they are human beings just like you and it didn’t feel right to take picture of them. Anyways here are the picture I have: 

 

Dunluce Castle

Today we headed back up to the north coast to do a tour of The Dunluce Castle. Now this is the super nerdy, tourist extreme, thing I wanted to do in Northern Ireland. If I wouldn’t have gotten to see a castle in Northern Ireland I would have been a three year old whom had their toy taken away; I would have been extremely unhappy. The castle was BEAUTIFUL…. just like the rest of Ireland of course. It was really just a fun day for our last Saturday here. I can’t believe this portion of the trip is already coming to a close, it honestly feel like just yesterday I was packing up all my stuff in Ohio to head here! The experience I have had here I will never forget and I will cherish dearly until I can return. This trip has really made me realize that we are a collection of our experiences, they make us who we are, they help us grow from childhood into the adults we are today, and this trip will help us grow and be placed into our professional fields in the future. We are who we are…. okay really typing that just made me think of the Ke$ha song so I figured I’d end with that. My next post may even be from South Africa! Till then enjoy the picture above.