Friday, February 26, 2016

South Africa Part 1 Video

So much has happened over the past 2 weeks, but most recently I had to get two of my impacted and infected wisdom teeth removed here in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.  My plans have been disrupted a bit, but I'm still taking things as they come here, hoping I'll be back to myself on Monday.  I spent the last two weekends in the Cederberg Mountains and Cape Town, and I'll post about them soon, but for now here's the link to a video I made from my first month here. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Weekend Excursions: Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and Wine Festival

There's so much to do around here that we are always making the most of our weekends.  There's rarely time to relax, but always time for a new adventure.  This past Saturday, we went to a nearby nature reserve to hike and swim in a waterfall.  It was a super hot day and it's become clear that the South African heat is not letting up anytime soon.  We've been told that February is the hottest month of summer here, and so far that's been true.

The hike to the waterfall was hot and directly under the sun, but it was worth it once we got to the shaded, ice-cold waterfall that we could swim in. 

Freezing water has never felt so good!

On Sunday, a few friends and I went to the annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival that was happening just this weekend.  There were over 500 different wines to try all for free once you paid the entrance fee.  We had a great time trying new wines and having some great food on a beautiful day. 

Breanna and I
Carmen and I 

The whole group

The most accurate South African forecast I've seen so far!

Tomorrow,  I'm heading to the Cederberg Mountains, a few hours north of Cape Town and Stellenbosch to spend the weekend on our first AIFS excursion.  We have a hike, campfire, wine tasting, and some relaxation in the woods in store.  Until next time!


Week 4: Classes and Rugby

It's crazy to think that I've been here in South Africa for almost a month now, and in a few days that will be the case.  I've experienced so much already and I'm finally starting to feel like I live here, as opposed to just passing through.  There are definitely times when I miss the comfort of home, but Stellenbosch and this country are both teaching me a lot about myself and the world and it's only been a month!

Classes at Stellenbosch University started on February 1st and I just finished my second full week today.  I'm taking 4 classes here which is the same that I usually take back home at SMC.  I'm taking Conservation Ecology, Photography, Jewelry Design, and a Political Science class about gender and equality specifically in South Africa. My ecology class is a regular university "mainstream" class, so there are many South Africans also in it.  Since the class focuses on the ecology of Africa, I'm learning a lot about species on the continent that are very different from what we find in the States. The rest of my classes are specifically for international students so a few of my AIFS American friends are also in them, but also some German, French, and other international students that I've met in my residence complex.  

My favorite class so far is my political science gender class.  Our professor is SO great and we're learning about so many issues currently facing South Africa such as poverty, racism, sexism, education, violence, and so much more.  We're learning how these issues are hitting this country particularly hard, but are also so similar to what we're experiencing in the U.S and globally.  It's such an interesting time to be in South Africa with Apartheid ending only one year before I was born in 1994 and so much change hitting the country with protests and political unrest in recent years.  I'm excited for the new perspective I'm gaining in the class and can't wait to bring it back to the States and be more informed overall. 

My jewelry design class is also one of my favorites.  We meet for 3 hours every Wednesday night and spend the entire session working towards a jewelry project.  Our first project a pair of copper earrings, which I'm almost done making from scratch.  We started with two small sheets of copper and the paper stencil shown below.  We had to use a small saw to cut out the negative spaces, file away the rough edges, and then use a hammer to create the dome shape of the earrings.  Pictures of the final product to come soon!

Starting pieces
Doming the metal into a curved shape
Hammering the pieces to curve them.
This Monday night was the first game of Stellenbosch University's mens' rugby season.  I absolutely love how big the sport is here, compared to it's relative unpopularity back home.  I'm missing my SMCFRC family quite a bit (but not 6am morning practices!) and it's great to see so much rugby support around campus. None of my American friends here knew what was happening at the game but I was happy to help. 

Stellenbosch's rugby stadium. The beautiful views don't get old. 
Go Maties!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Weekend Excursions: Strand Beach and Dornier Winery

This past weekend we ended our last week without class on a great note with a visit to one of Stellenbosch's beautiful wineries, Dornier.  It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been and we were able to try so many fancy wines and food for a great price. The South African currency, the rand, is currently very weak compared to the dollar (16:1), so almost everything here is much less expensive than it would be back in the States -- definitely a perk for the broke college student!!

We were able to try many different wines, white and red, while being told about how it was made here in Stellenbosch. When I was in France this past summer with St. Mike's for a month-long study abroad trip I learned a lot about wine tasting so it was cool to be able to connect my two vastly different travel experiences.  The amazing backdrop of Stellenbosch mountain and the beautiful weather made the day feel like yet another out of a dream.

The unreal scenery
Sam and I, in front of the wine tasting building
A free bottle after tasting? Yes please!
All smiles in Stellies!
Tappas, galore!

On Sunday, we took an AIFS group excursion to Strand Beach, the closest beach to campus. We have only had one cloudy day since being here and we were lucky enough to have yet another beautiful sunny and mid-80s weather for our beach day.  Me and a few friends don't have class on Fridays so we are planning on going back tomorrow.  I do miss the Friday afternoon ski trips back at St. Mikes, but I guess I can't complain about the beach either!

Playing around with the GoPro in the water for the first time 
Strand beach

On the way back from the beach, we stopped at a cute market with food, crafts, and live music. A great end to a relaxing Sunday here in South Africa!

Fresh juice-- mmm!!
Enjoying our lunch with live music
My weakness - turquoise rings!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Greetings from ZA

I've been here in South Africa for almost 2 weeks now and I'm just finally getting time to document my  adventures.  These 2 weeks have been busy but super fun!  We don't start class until this Monday, February 1st, so a few friends and I traveled to Cape Town this week to enjoy the beautiful city. We've also explored our new home of Stellenbosch quite a bit.  We've done so much that it seems like I've been here forever already, but I know the semester is going to fly by.

Our campus here at Stellenbosch University is gorgeous and the city of Stellenbosch is a very lively college town. The biggest difference from the St. Mike's campus is the size.  The school has 30,000 undergrad students and it's very spread out.  I'm used to walking 5 minutes to get to any place I need to be on campus and my friends, but here the campus buildings are at least a 20 minute walk from our flats.  Horrible blisters and swelled feet were a harsh reality during the first week, but we have all adjusted to the walking for the most part now. It's a much different experience being at a school with 30,000 students when St. Mike's is only 2,000, but I'm glad I'm getting to experience it. 

The sun and weather have also been a tough adjustment since we arrived during what the South Africans called a heat wave.  Coming from 15 degrees in Boston to the 90s here was a crazy shock to my body, but just like the walking, it's something we've all adjusted to.  When we first arrived every store in town was sold out of fans, but I was finally able to get one last week... thank god!! The heat wave has also passed by now, so today is only supposed to be a high of 90.  We've all been told that February is the hottest month here, so hopefully the fans will hold up! 

Last week was busy with orientation for international students which was very helpful and I met a bunch of students from all around the world.  There are lots of students from Germany, France, and Finland here, so it's great to meet people from everywhere, not just South Africa and the U.S.   

On Monday, my flatmates and I took an Uber to Cape Town, a half hour away, and we stayed in a hostel for 2 nights while exploring the city.  We walked all around the city and went to many restaurants, the Botanical Gardens,  and the District Six apartheid museum.  On Tuesday we went to Muizenberg Beach, one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world (I didn't try surfing this time, but before I leave I'm planning on taking a lesson). On Wednesday we hiked Lion's Head, a mountain that overlooks the entire city of Cape Town. It was possibly the most beautiful view I've seen in my life.  For the past few months, I had been looking up pictures from the top getting excited for my trip, and it was surreal to actually reach the top and see it for myself.  

So far this trip has been everything I've expected and much more and I'm so excited to see what adventures are in store for the rest of the semester! 

AIFS friends in Cape Town with the rugby stadium in the background

Cliffton Beach, Cape Town

From the top of Lion's Head Peak
Cliffton Beach, Cape Town

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town

Muizenberg Beach

Camps Bay Beach, Cape Town
The view from outside my flat, Stellenbosch
The center of campus, with beautiful mountains in the distance
Sunset from our flat, Stellenbosch