Mom, I promise I am still alive

What the heck am I doing???

This phrased was said a few too many times in the past few days. (Mom you might want to stop reading here and save yourself from a few mini heart-attacks. I’m alive and well and in one piece I promise.)

So, Friday after class, 3 of the people I live with and I got the brilliant idea to climb the last of the three major peaks in Cape Town – Devil’s Peak *duh duh dunnnnn*!!!!! Devil’s Peak is only the longest and most difficult of the three mountains. Our RA told us that it should take about 4-5 hours to do. So totally, doable and we will be home in time for dinner.

We decided to start the hike right outside our front door step and walked up the hill to the Rhodes Memorial above campus. From the memorial, we had the challenge of trying to find the trail up the mountain. We took a trail that seemed to line up with the map and veered off to the left.

That’s when we discovered the most terrifying bug I have ever encountered. It was a grasshopper like bug that was about 5 inches big. Its legs were bright red and the thorax of the grasshopper like creature was yellow and black stripped. But you know intelligent college boys thought it would be fun to mess with it for a little bit. (Later, we found out it was poisonous but thankfully not from trial and error.) I’ve been trying to google it to see what it is called but unfortunately grasshopper with red legs and yellow thorax isn’t being super successful.

We continued to walk and took a small path that looked like it started leading us uphill. We quickly found ourselves scratched up by thorny bushes and trees as the trail path got thinner and thinner. But we couldn’t return without getting to the top, so we pushed on. Anyone that knows me  knows I’m allergic to like everything. My legs were quickly covered with red bumps and itched like crazy. I was just praying it wasn’t poison ivy or some random poisonous African plant that was going to kill me. (Good news it wasn’t any of that and I am still alive to write this post.)  After twenty minutes, a bunch of cuts later, and seemingly no progress we abandoned ship. We decided to walk back to the Rhodes Memorial and start over and find a new path because this doesn’t seem to be working for us at all.

(It’s been two hours…we should be almost to the top by now….)

We walk back and right there in front of us is a nicely stone staired path…wow…how did we miss that…

So we start the trek up the mountain. We quickly happen upon a small waterfall back in along the side of the mountain and climb over some small boulders to get to it. The area was surrounded with just jaw-droppingly tall trees. They had to have been growing for 100s of years they were so incredibly tall. These trees, with the beautiful rocky cliff side and the small vegetation just made the area absolutely beautiful. We chilled there for a short time before we continued our hike.

So our RA also told us about a path up the mountain that “doesn’t look like a path, but a bunch of rocks that you can climb up.” So we find this “not a trail” trail and we literally started free rock climbing up this up this mountain…probably not our smartest idea of the day. There I am hanging on to the side of a 5ft wall wondering how in the world am I suppose to move up this wall anymore cause my arms just aren’t that long. I stand along a wall holding on for my life with the rocky/uneven ground a few feet below me before a nothing small cliff side just hoping that I don’t fall backwards and I just keeping thinking about how I would like to see my bed tonight.

We get up halfway and decide that this is a bad idea as we had to help lift each other up to the next level multiple times. So we begin to try to lower ourselves down the cliff. We are trying to carefully help each other out and guide their feet to the minute indentations in the sides of the rock. It ends up being much more of a task than we suspected. That is when we really realized how bad of an idea this was. Thankfully, we get back to the bath with just a few scrapes and bruises and start the climb, but following the actual path.

 

Even following the path, the climb feels like forever. It is such a mind game – you keep feeling like you see the top and then 5 minutes later the top still looks just as far away. I was so exhausted and starting to get hungry and it is very mentally and physically taxing. But you have to just be determined to push through the pain cause you can’t come back without saying you reached the top.

Finally, we reach the top – 5 HOURS LATER (the whole trip should have taken 4-5 hours!!!!) As you get closer to the top, the winds started to pick up. When you got to the top, it was literally like a hurricane up there. The winds had to be going about 50mph and I was holding on to a rock so that I wouldn’t blow off the side of the mountain after this heck of a hike. At this point, the wind has frozen and numbed my hands to the point where it sends a stinging feeling through my hands and arms each time I touch something. This can’t be good, and I am so ready to get off this mountain.

After long enough on top, we decide to go down the trail on the other side of the mountain because it should be a shorter path to the road and then we can uber home. As I climb down, the sun starts to set so we start to rush so we aren’t left on the side of the mountain at night. (The picture is from the hike down and kind of shows how dark it was, but a gorgeous sunset.) My numbness in my arms and hands feels like needles poking me each time I touch something to lower myself down. Plus, I’m hangry so I am so ready to get off this mountain.

We get to a point where we are about 20 ft above the road and we see a small little path that looks like it goes directly down to the road – so naturally, we follow it. Though we end up sliding on our butts to the bottom. We are surprised when we reach the bottom that it ends with a ton of rocks covering the path. Mini-avalanche maybe???

We watch the beautiful sunset as we wait for our uber to come and pick us up – huddled together like penguins trying not to freeze. Our uber cancels on us. Another uber cancels on us…It has now been 30 minutes and we haven’t even seen one car on this road. It is freezing and we are hungry and now we have been gone for over 7 hours.

We decide to start walking down the road toward the cable car for Table Mountain – this had to be about a 4 to 5 mile walk. We had lost our phone service and we knew from our previous hike up Table Mountain that we had service there.

I don’t realize there was a curb between us and the road and fell and rolled my ankle pretty badly. Great, I can make it up and down this mountain but give me a curb and I can’t walk over that. I hobble down the road trying to ignore the pain, hunger, and the bitter wind that has picked up and making my arms and whole body numb.

I AM SO READY TO BE HOME.

As we walk, the road is covered with plants growing through the cracks of the road. And not just small plants but like 2-4 foot plants. It literally looks like no one has driven this road in a long while. Then we come across multiple mini avalanches that cover over half the road. Oh so what if the road is closed due to avalanches????? This can’t be good…

I mentally prepare to be stuck for another few hours as we make the cold, slow walk to the cable car in hope that we can get an uber from there. You may think this sounds dramatic, but all four of us were doing the same thing. The walk to town was far and we were so cold, and who knew when we would have service again TIA.

OMG headlights! OMG a car is coming down the road. The boys take off toward the car in hopes of flagging it down. Then I see the red tail-lights. And my heart drops. Our hope of warmth is quickly crushed. The boys start joking around about what we would do if we saw a creepy nun or something else straight out of a scary movie but the setting was perfect – 4 college kids walking down a dark road at night, freezing, the clouds lingering low over Table Mountain…

Next thing I know, I see outlines about 20 feet of us of what looks like people. It looks like they have sheets draped over them and that there are about 20 of them. The next thing I hear is “you may approach”.

AND THIS IS HOW WE MEET OUR DEATH IN SOUTH AFRICA

Sorry mom for the phone call you will receive tomorrow that your daughter is missing and hopefully will be found. I don’t think I have ever been more scared in my life.

Well we find out it was a group of hikers (that had blankets wrapped around them – lol we are all in shorts and tshirts and this group is in blankets and sweatshirts and pants and they were cold). Apparently, they are going to hike up the mountain at night???? IDK I was just glad that I was going to live to see the next day, well hopefully – if we ever find cell service or survive the 5 mile walk from once we get to the cable car to town.

 

We continue to walk…it has been an hour…spirits are real low…like real low…i’m hangry….need a bathroom…limping on my hurt ankle…still on edge from our previous encounter…preparing to spend the night on the side of a mountain…

 

We get to a sign and it says road closed for avalanches- yup, our suspicions were right – glad we decided not to wait for an uber cause there was no uber coming our direction anytime soon.

We walk over the chain chainning off the road and OMG A CAR was coming our way. It pulls up next to us and says “Nico?”  (one of the guys with us is named Nico)

OMG!!!! WHAT???? HOW DOES THIS CAR KNOW OUR NAME?!?!

“Uber for Nico.”

OMG ITS OUR UBER!!!! HOW IN THE WORLD DID THIS UBER FIND US!!!! Nothing could have made any of us happier at this point. Warmth, bathrooms, food, and anything else we wanted was in sight.

I couldn’t tell you how happy I was to crawl in bed that night.

 

So Saturday, we went out to Cape of Good Hope.

We were walking around this small building with a courtyard when someone screamed. We all turned our attention toward the far end of the building where one of the guys on our program was running out of the bathroom and everyone else was backing up from the area he was coming from. I try to get a peak of what all the commotion is about and then i see it….

THERE IS A BABOON IN THE BATHROOM!!! I REPEAT A BABOON IN THE BATHROOM!!!! WAIT NO, CORRECTION – THERE ARE TWO BABOONS IN THE BATHROOM. TWO BABOONS IN THE BATHROOM ABOUT 15 FEET FROM ME!

The baboons make a move toward me and some other people and we all scatter in all directions. For the next 10 minutes, we are doing the best we can to avoid this baboon from coming toward us and get him out of this place. But the baboon just keeps running around and toward people. Baboons are just mean looking monkeys and I want nothing to do with them. Eventually, the baboons decide that this place is no longer exciting and leaving. And I couldn’t be happier that this adrenaline rush is over and we can go enjoy the peninsula.

 

And Sunday, our group went shark cage diving. I told myself I was not going to do this, but there I was on the boat in a wet suit about to get into the cage. What the heck am I doing? And the next thing I know, the dive master is yelling “DOWN DOWN DOWN!!!!”

So I got under water and there it is the GREAT WHITE AND IT IS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR ME. (I was the lucky soul on the end of the cage right by the crew member in charge of the bate on a rope so the sharks always came my way.) It could not have been more than a meter and OMG IT WAS GINORMOUS AND IT WAS COMING RIGHT FOR ME WITH ITS MOUTH OPEN! Like they look big when looking at them out of the boat but to be in the water with them OMMGGG THEY ARE HUGE GNARWLY CREATURES. Thankfully, some steel bars saved my life and I am still here on earth 🙂

So I’ve had an adventurous last few days. I am just glad to have returned to my bed safely each night. But days like these make the best memories and great stories to tell 🙂

But all is well and South Africa could not be any more amazing 🙂

-Kaitlyn

 

Sweet Friends

Only I would have to be in South Africa to see my best friend from high school…

Ellie is in the midst of an amazing year adventure of around the world serving. I was so excited that she made some time to spend with me in Cape Town this past week. Last Sunday, we watched the sunset from Signal Hill and got to catch up on life with each other since its been SIX MONTHS!

I had class all Monday, but a public holiday Tuesday. So Tuesday we set out to see the penguins on boulder beach. OMG they are so cute but vicious. They kept peaking at our cameras and us if we got too close- which is understandable. I would be annoyed too if I kept having cameras stuck in my face.

Then we headed to Muizenberg Beach and surfed! I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy surfing that much- but OMG I had so much fun and can’t wait to go back now!

Texas you need some nice beaches with surfing and mountains and hiking or I think I’ll be out of there pretty soon.

But, it was such a refreshing time to be in her company and meet some of the amazing also on this adventure with her. They are doing great things for God’s Kingdom and can’t wait to hear about the rest of her adventures in September when she finally returns to the States.

-Kaitlyn

Overwhelmed.

There is no better word to describe my week, but overwhelmed. I don’t know what I expected for my first week of school at UCT, but it was not this.

Starting at UCT, is like being a freshman again – but worse. I rode the bus to campus on Monday excited to finally be going back to school and get to meet people in my classes. My first class was at the opposite side of campus from where the bus stopped which I had no problem with because I thought it would be nice to have the chance to walk campus first thing and experience the full place. I stepped off the bus at upper campus, and my feelings of excitement quickly faded. It took me all of 2 seconds to realize this was not TCU. UCT is at least 3x as big as TCU so when I stepped off the bus I was greeted with herds of students. It felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square – people moving in every direction, people becoming human roadblocks as they greet each other after the long summer break, people pouring out of buildings after class…

It really did not hit me until this moment, what it meant to go to a school 3x as big as what I am used to. People everywhere. I pushed my way through the crowds and made it to my first class: Empires and Modernities. The professor greets the class, “Welcome history majors, or at least until the end of the year…” Shoot what did I just sign up for? It can’t be that hard right? It is just history. I just have to memorize every fact, and I’ll be good. The class goes on, and I realize that the professor starts his lecture assuming we have an extensive knowledge of South African History – well duh they grew up here, but uhh I can’t remember the last time I saw the option to learn about South African history, so I’m screwed. I go through the syllabus and I see that I have to write 10 papers for this class…what is school… Class one concludes and I’m already so panicked fort he rest of the semester. All I can think is about how much extra work this class is going to be.

But, I have to get to physics…which is over by the bus stop…

I once again feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I swear I pass more people than TCU’s entire population on my way to class. If I wasn’t already overwhelmed and anxious enough, this definitely didn’t help. Frazzled, I get to physics late and rush to a seat. Science, I can do this.

I get home after class, and the overwhelming feeling returns. My service learning class is going to be cancelled because not enough people signed up for the class. This is one of the reasons I picked this program in Cape Town. I can’t even describe how frustrated I was at this point. I couldn’t just drop this class, but I needed to find another class that worked with my schedule and that I didn’t think was also going to kill me.

Tuesday comes. I walk through the thousands of people to history, which once again, I’m scribbling notes of things to look up later. Scramble back to the other side of campus to physics. Then I have an hour before my next class. I walk back to their equivalent of The Commons or the BLUU – Jammie Stairs. There are tons of people sitting there enjoying the weather, the company of others, and lunch. This is the first time that it really soaked in that I was alone. I know a total of 18 other people on this campus of more than 28,000 people. Where were all the familiar faces that I was used to at TCU? I realized I couldn’t walk around and find someone I know to hang out with. I can’t walk through the library and find someone to hang out with. I can’t text my friend and have them meet me for lunch.

I am alone.

This is when it hit that it sucks. I thought it would be more like freshman year – everything new and exciting and you are so lost and confused about what is going on. But as a freshman, you are surrounded by people going through the same thing and your friend group is likely established by your dorm. But, I don’t have this dorm experience and the people around me in classes are second year and up and already have their friends and saving seats in the class for their friends. On top of this, after going through 2.5 years of college, you no longer have the invincible attitude that you can conquer any class, and when people say a class is hard or if you don’t do this you will fail, you take it much more seriously.

I sat on the stairs and just took it all in. I’m so used to being in a routine of knowing people and having a friend group already established. I sat on the stairs and just took it all in. I missed home. I missed my friends. I missed familiar and comfortable. But, this is experience will be what I make it. I will get to know people, it just takes time.

I went to my anthropology class next. Here came the overwhelming and anxious feelings. We spent all class talking about theories and philosophical things and man those just aren’t my forte. I think like a science person not like all these anthropology majors. I left so overwhelmed for this entire semester.

Since then, I have continued to freak out about classes multiple times everyday. Should I take _____ instead and drop ______?  How in the world am I going to get all this done? How am I going to survive? How am I going to be able to experience everything South Africa has to offer with all the school? And I also learned that the classes have “Tuts” (tutorials), so even more time I have to spend in class each week.

Shout out to my mom who has listened to quite a few panicked about life phone calls this week. You’ve been a lifesaver.

I wish I could say that I am no longer overwhelmed, but the rest of the semester still has me stressed out with finding a balance between school and experiencing all that Cape Town and South Africa has to offer. The hardest part is just how differently class time is organized and how grades are calculated. The homework is different and almost only readings, and I’ve been told by multiple people that if you don’t keep up with the reading you will fail…. (Yes, I am writing this blog to avoid all the readings I am a week behind doing opps.) I did find a fun class to replace my service learning class – African Instruments. I don’t have a musical bone in my body so we will see how this goes, but all international students take it so how hard could it be?

 

So I’ve been all over the place this week. But a few highlights from this week to say that yea i am having a great time despite the stress and anxiety of school –

Saturday: I climbed Table Mountain (a natural wonder of the world)

Sunday: I got to visit a church and absolutely loved it!

Tuesday: I climbed Lion’s Head (another popular mountain in Cape Town) for sunrise before class. I also went to the church’s College mid-week ministry which was really awesome.

Thursday: I ventured down to the Waterfront and walked around with a friend for a while.

 

I am looking forward to meeting people through the clubs I have joined – hiking, gymnastics – and in my classes. I am really excited that I got the chance to get involved with the community and volunteer with SHAWCO Health and get involved at the church, Common Ground Church, that will be my home for the next four months.

And I have some exciting things to look forward to this next week – shark cage diving, a church retreat, and ELLIE IS COMING TO CAPE TOWN!!!!!!!

Hope I survive to update on my adventures 🙂

-Kaitlyn

Langa

When most people think of South Africa, they think of impoverished communities, desert, safaris, and African tribes. These are some of the first thoughts that come to my mind when I think of Africa. Most people are a little surprised (and probably disappointed) to hear that Cape Town is very westernized and that there aren’t lions and giraffes outside my window (but that would be pretty awesome though).

I pictured Cape Town to be a booming city center with these impoverished communities that surround it on all sides. Driving into Cape Town from the airport, I would say that my expectations were not far off. The highways were lined with communities of tin shacks that had no running water. You could see all the port-a-potties used as bathrooms for the entire community. And it was obvious that the ratio of bathrooms to people was very off.

This past week, I had the opportunity to go through a township called Langa with a local named Michael who was born, raised, and currently lives in this township. Langa is one of the oldest townships outside of Cape Town. (In case you don’t know the history, townships are communities that were created by the Nationalist Party who came to power in 1948 to create separate living spaces for black and colored people from the white population. Even after South Africa became a democracy 23 years ago, many people still live in these overcrowded and underprivileged communities.)

Some brief history of some things that happened during Apartheid

  • Between 1950-1956 many Apartheid laws were passed – Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, Mixed Marriages Act, Suppression of Communist Act, Bantu Education Act, Separation Amenities…and many more…
  • Black and colored people had to carry a “Dom pass” (pronounced like dumb with a British accent). Police could ask for them at any time and these passes severely limited black and colored Africans
  • 1976 there was a student uprising because the government made it a law that schools would have to teach in Afrikaans instead of English (there are over 12 official languages in South Africa and many more tribal languages)

The township was nothing like what I expected.

We started our visit by the Catholic church that was built when the township began. The church brought education to the community and provides a preschool and adult schooling that are still used today. It was also interesting to hear from our guide Michael how Africans often will attend a church and also adhere to traditional cultural customs. For example, at 18 or so, they have a whole ceremonial process where a boy becomes a man.

Next, we visited their sports fields. This was one of the first shocking moments to me. This township is actually a well established community and not just a bunch of tin shacks. They had a swimming pool (like what???) and four or five fields that are used on a regular basis. Michael told us sports have become an integral part of African township culture. It keeps the kids out of trouble and teaches them to work for a goal as a team. Sports even brought the nation together after Apartheid. Michael said one of the coolest experiences he has had since Apartheid ended was when South Africa was in the World Rubgy Championship. It did not matter what your skin color was, people came together all over South Africa to watch and support their home team.

This township even had cafes, a community center that holds little concerts, and pretty much everything a normal town would have. This was shocking to me. From the road, all you see are the tin shacks, and you don’t realize the whole community that does live there and how well established they really are. And surprisingly enough, at least it was to me, people choose to stay in the townships. That is their home and community. To them, they would rather be surrounded by the people they know and love than up and move out for a little more luxury.

We also got to visit one of the government built housings in the township. Originally these rooms, which could barely fit three wooden beds the size of a twin bed (probably smaller), held 9 people in three sets of bunk beds. I have no idea how people lived in these conditions. They had to be deplorable. And where would they have put their stuff? It was just amazing. Then, to make matter worse, there were 6 of these rooms (so 54 people) that shared a small common cooking space and a bathroom. ONE BATHROOM FOR 54 PEOPLE!

As we were walking around though, one of the more surprising things to me was that the townships were not all these tin shacks. There were more established concrete and brick houses. Actually, a lot of the houses were nicer than I thought they were going to be. There was even a “Beverly Hills” part of the township. Though, sadly enough, right across the road from these was the worst of the worst of the township with overcrowded tin shacks without running water. The sharp contrast in wealth just from which side of the street you live on was sad.

As out guide put it “we are making progress but you can’t expect everything to change overnight once Apartheid was abolished. People are still living with the same feelings and ways of life as if they were under Apartheid. It is going to take a few generations before we are truly a free South Africa.” He then used the example how many young black and colored people still don’t know how to swim even though they grew up after Apartheid. Certain ways of life and feelings are still engraved in their minds. It is going to take a long time to get to a truly free South Africa, but progress is being made slowly.

But I also had one of the happiest moments in this township too. While walking through the township, all of a sudden about 10 kids came out of nowhere running toward us. I had one little girl grab my arm and started hanging on it and jumping around. Then as giggles and laughs began to get louder, kids flooded from around the corners of buildings and from the houses. Then there were probably 50+ African kids running around a group of 18 American students. I had four kids hanging off of me and climbing me like I was a piece of playground equipment. But I don’t know that I have ever felt so much pure joy and happiness in my life. These kids had so much joy and didn’t even know who we were or what we were doing but they just wanted to play with us. They have no idea how sad their living, economic, and social situation is but ignorance is bliss.

This was definitely one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. The fact that people actually made legislation to discrimination against a group of people. Like how does anyone think that is ok? The conditions these people were living in even post-Apartheid. Something about these communities has a special place in my heart. Walking through Langa, I really could see myself in the future living in one of these townships doing who knows what, but immersing myself into their culture and way of life.

-Kaitlyn

*I really wish I had better wifi and could upload more pictures but I will be posting some on facebook when I get the chance. so stay tuned…

Dolphins, Elephants, and Ostriches Oh My

I can’t believe it has already been a week in Cape Town. It has definitely flown by, but it is also that weird feeling that I have been here forever. Cape Town is absolutely beautiful. Mountains and beaches – what else could you ask for? Though, even its beauty can’t hide the very obvious spread in wealth. Driving from the airport to our little house by UCT, townships lined the road. These poor communities we learned don’t have running water, have practically port-a-potties on the outsides to use as bathrooms, and are just completely overcrowded with people. It was sad to see this, and then drive my the million dollar homes along the beaches. With Apartheid, their history is just so recent and it is obvious that there is still so much progress to be made.
On a happier note – I’m living in a cute little house with 17 other students studying abroad. (Normally, this program has like 80 students, but because of everything leading up to this trip there are only 18.) I like that this trip is so much smaller – I already know everyone and we are all living together instead of being spread out all over. The group really meshes well, and I am really to be living with them for the next few months.

This week was filled with orientations from our program IES. It was a rough start for me – fighting off the jetlag and listening tot these lectures that seemed like they were never going to end. (Plus it took most of the week for my body to get used to the time change and I kept waking up at lovely 5:30 am. But at least I got to watch the sunrise on Devil’s peak from my window.)

But the real fun came at the end of the week. We spent one evening on top of one of the mountains in Cape Town and watched the sunset over the water. Literally, one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life (but I may just be a sucker for sunsets).

Then we got to go on the Garden Route – a scenic route in southern South Africa in which you experience many different terrains and ecosystems that South Africa has to offer. Day 1 started with a canoe trip. We canoed down a river and got to chill for a while.

Day 2 we were told we were going for a nice little hike. This was a little of an understatement. It was a beautiful hike in which we saw dolphins jumping in the huge waves off shore, but the hike was also 5 miles and not what I would call easy. We were climbing over boulders, hanging on to the side of rocks, climbing up and down makeshift stairs….Then we only got to sit and rest for 15 minutes at little less than impressive waterfall. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the hike, but man I was not mentally prepared for that.

After the hike we headed off to an Elephant Sanctuary. I was able to pet, walk, and ride these amazing creatures! It was such an amazing experience. I even got to hug the elephant 🙂

Day 3 we headed to the caves and then an ostrich farm. This wasn’t just any cave adventure – we had to crawl through tight spaces, slide on and army crawl on our stomachs, and wiggle our bodies up a two and half foot diameter hole at 45 degrees. It was quite the work out! Such adventures we have already become! Then we got to go to the ostrich farm. We got to meet the only friendly ostrich on the premises and then they told us we could ride the less friendly ostriches….

Yes, I did ride an ostrich. Yes, I was quite scary. But I survived to tell about it! So you might be asking how does one ride an ostrich? Well first you have to mount it by putting your legs under the wings and grabbing the wings tightly with your hands. Then the ostrich literally takes off and good luck!

Overall, the first week was amazing. I’ve already fallen in love with South Africa. The landscape is beautiful, there is so much going on politically, and so many adventures to be had. This next week holds more orientation sessions by the university, so it will be another long week. But I am kind of ready to get into the swing of things.

I’ll upload some photos to facebook and here later when I get a chance. We have very limited wifi so I need to wait until I am on UCT’s campus to upload pictures.

-Kaitlyn