Day 12: Shark Bait

May 29th, 2010 by

Today was the day that my life has built up too. Today is a day where I conquer fears, embrace life, and look danger in the eye until it swims away, because you see today is the day I dive with the…… GREAT WHITE SHARK!!!! Since I was a kid I have had a list of things I’ve wanted to do since I was 13, and one of those was to dive with a great white shark. It’s just exhilarating to face your dreams and prepare for them. I think that everyone should make a list like this, because the feeling you get when you physically mark it off your list is amazing.

Anyway we woke up and took our long drive to the docks of a town called Gansbaai. As we arrive I realize that this is actually happening and when I saw the boat with the cages on it my heart started beating really fast. We got out and had a really great breakfast, but it was on to more important things. We got to the boats, and they gave us a tutorial and safety lesson. Then they went on to tell us how the girls would go first. I don’t care to let them go first but I was definitely going to be the first one in the cage. Well anyway everyone started putting on their wet suits and they were taking forever with it, and acting like it was really hard. I was so excited that bad boy was on in 2.5 seconds.

Well they all got in the cage first and they were scared out of their mind, I was sitting up on the top deck and laughing so hard because I was so excited as soon as I saw the shark. Well as soon as they got out I literally jumped in the cage, I didn’t climb in, I jumped in. Well I got to the end of the cage and as soon as they got the others in they locked up the cage and down we went.

My heart was racing I couldn’t stop laughing I was so excited. The waves were roaring, making the cage shake vibrantly. Some of the others were wanting out but there I was fingers clinched against the cage, as I watched one of the most dangerous creatures circle us. I noticed that it circled us a couple of times and then disappeared. All of a sudden out of nowhere he slung himself at our cage and bit it right in front of us. It was exhilarating, and a priceless moment that would allow me to cross number one off my list of things to do.

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Day 11: Adventure #3

May 22nd, 2010 by

Well today was the most amazing day ever and yet once again the beauty and mysteries of Cape Town open up to let me see its amazing wonders. Well you see today was a free day, and what else what I do but get up and get ready for the hike of my life. Well I got in the taxi and made my way to table mountain. Well as soon as I got there I met these two guys that were doing video production. They were telling me how they do documentaries on the extreme sports in South Africa. So I decided to make myself a couple of friends so I can have some networking here. Well we got to talking and I told them how I was going to hike the mountain and they showed me to this expert trail to the top to where I get to rock climb, hike, and see the most beautiful views I have ever seen.

We started hiking up and about an hour in I thought I was going to die. I have never worked so hard at something that I didn’t physically need to do. At one point I knew that this was a personal battle to show myself I could do it, so I pushed through it and got to the rock face. To where I made my way up and had the most spectacular view and most personally triumphant experience of my life. I made it looked over the edge and just took a deep breath and couldn’t help but to smile.

Well when I got to the top I met with my instructor, who had left earlier that day and took the public trail, and we went looking for some treasure. Well he gave me the coordinates, and I was on my way. I climbed all over Table Mountain looking for them, and it took me through the prettiest views. I made my way through mountain peaks, bush, etc. I found my GPS telling me I was about 100 feet away from it, and as I followed the compass I noticed it was taking me over the peak of the mountain. When I got close I looked all around for it and found it in a small cave on the peak of Table Mountain. This was my first find, and it was an old wooden knife. I can’t think of anyone who can say that they have found treasure in a cave on the peak of a mountain in a third world country. Needless to say this day was so amazing and it really got me excited for my adventures in shark diving tomorrow.

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Day 10: Emotional Experience

May 22nd, 2010 by

Today was an EYE OPENER. There are no words to describe the feelings and emotions that ran high today. Today we went to the township of Langa. We learned about all the differences in townships, the class system, the house plans, the families, etc. We started by learning about a program that art students started to give some of the citizens of the township jobs, and also to make profit that went towards the townships economy. This project gave me a great idea, in which I thought it would be a great idea to somehow obtain funding to where you could give the children or teenagers cameras to where they could document their everyday lives and they bring the footage in every day and you could make a documentary out of all of them, and proceeds from the documentary could go to the townships and the development of education for the children.

Well anyway, we started the tour by walking through the streets of Langa. Right off the bat you notice you are an immediate point of interest in the community. We walked around and you would either see the nice people who were accepting and friendly, the kind of people that understand you are there to help and learn. Or there will be the people that do not what you to be there, and they think you are there to take from them. Well as we continued we went in the homes and saw their lifestyles.
We ended up at a few shops where they sold household made items. The mothers that owned the shops would have to watch the children close by as well. So the children would be so thrilled to see you and it would warm you heart to see them play and want to play with you. They just seemed so loving for somebody with that type of living environment. I guess it’s not really what makes a house a home but a family that makes a home.

The thing I did not like about this trip is how as we were walking around and viewing these people, who are nice enough to acceptance for the value of learning, the other student were taking pictures left and right as if these people were a tourist attraction. One of the instructors explained how it’s best to ask permission or to just leave the cameras behind. Well I just think it’s disrespectful to go up to these people and treat them as if they were an animal at the zoo. These are people that are working hard, due to their conditions. I guess from my time here I just find it to be extremely disrespectful to look at something and be so closed minded to the fact that these are people working and doing the best they can. That deserves respect, not an opportunity for facebook pictures.

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Day 9: From the eyes of the people

May 22nd, 2010 by

Today we went and visited the site of District 6. District 6 really starts getting your mind ready for what townships and the people of South Africa go through. It really goes in and explains what happened to the people of this small town and you learn about the town from these people themselves. The tour guides that took us around were either the children of or the citizens of the town. The way they went about in describing how nice the town was and how it was just took from them really starts letting you see how they lived and the events that took place there.

The tour itself began with a physical tour of the site of the town they call District 6. When you walk around its very upsetting to see how these homes and families were ripped apart by this unnecessary act of suppression against the colored people of South Africa. You look around and notice garbage, rocks, and other little insignificant items but still you can’t help but to wonder who it belonged to and why anybody would take that person from their home.

After the physical tour it was back to the museum to learn of the people, culture, and a number of random facts within the town itself. We learned what the religion was about, the different ethnicities, the house structures, etc. You look around at all these museums and figured you would get so bored with all of this but you here the testimonies of these people while you look at the history of it and it just breaks your heart. I can honestly say that all of these museums has really gotten me prepared for what we go out and physically see every day on the street and yet it still breaks my heart. This trip has really changed me in so many ways.

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Day 8: Learning the Culture

May 20th, 2010 by

Well today was truly I cultural experience. Although it was a very easy going day, it was also very educational. We started the day off by going to Spiers Vineyards. We learned the processes of making wine, and then we went on a wine tasting. We learned how wine tastes how it does, and what makes it better than other wines. We learned the difference in white and red wines and how to acknowledge whether or not it was good or not. We first started off by holding the glass up to the light and distinguishing the color of it. Whether the color had a very dark tint or a very pink one if it was red, and with the white wine you look to see whether or not the color was clear, or more yellow.

After this you continue on to smell the wine and see what flavors you can pick out of the glass. Certain flavors you pick out of the glass can determine the type of wine. For instance in the white wine we tried first you could notice hints of bell pepper, and maybe a hint of asparagus, and when noticing these flavors you know that you are about to drink a cheninblanc. After you smell it to see what you first smell you then smell it to the side with one nostril to get a better sense of what flavors are in it. Then you shake it around to let you wine breath. When going to taste it you taste it once to cleanse your palette, then you taste it a second time and swirl it around to let your palette get used to the flavors, and then the third time you taste it you should be able to fully enjoy and sense all the rich flavor in the wine.

It was a quite interesting lesson and when learning about wine in South Africa, it’s pretty interesting to understand that wine is distributed almost anywhere in the world and contributes a lot to the economy of South Africa. Well afterwards we decided to head to an animal reserve. You start looking around and they have cheetahs everywhere, it is very exciting. Although the animals are injured and are put in the reserve for healing, and some are in there because of their lack of instincts that are needed in order to survive in the world. Although the cheetahs are very tame, the fact that petting one and learning about it sounded very interesting. I hesitated at first because it had a very zoo like feeling to the place but I couldn’t resist when I found out that the proceeds of the reserve went to help the cheetahs.

So I entered the cage and learned about a cheetah named Josef. He was the coolest animal I have ever seen/petted. I think this cheetah had the life. He just got to lie around all day, get fed meet, and pose for pictures, get his back scratched and play with other cheetahs and run around. Sounds like a pretty good life for a cheetah, and I am really glad they have the reserve, and I think it is a terrific thing to do for almost any animal.

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Day 7: New Experience

May 20th, 2010 by

Today was a great learning experience as has much of this trip been. I learned so much about the culture today. I think one of the main reasons I picked to come to South Africa is the diverse culture that I knew I would learn about. We learned today about more reasons of mixed cultures within the country. For instance we learned all about the Dutch-Indian Trading Company today or the VOC, and the slaves that came from the company. We visited Cape Castle which is a fort in which the company set up camp pretty much. When entering it quite honestly feels like when you enter any fort in Tennessee it has a very civil war feel to it, and then you look around at the history in the castle and it just grasps you and really shakes you in order to understand the importance of it.

We entered and looked at the different rooms and the importance of them. Some we entered were the well room, the ammunition room, the jails, the courtyard, the slave holds, etc. But to be honest with you, there is only one room that really gets to you and makes you really feel the importance of this castle, and that one is the slave hold. You enter and she shows you the torture chamber of the hold and what they did to the slaves and explains why they tortured them and to be honest there is no reason behind it except the importance of power over them. They told us that the device in front of us was to bind the slave’s hands towards the floor and then raise their feet above their head until they died and if they didn’t die they were put into a small room until they did die. As we entered this room, the guide told us to all squeeze in together and when we were all shoulder to shoulder she closed the door and explained that the slaves were placed in here but with three times the people, and she told us that the window above was to symbolize hope on to which the slaves should never hold on to.

This whole experience has showed me the evils of our history all over the world. I think that it is a great thing to know your evils though, for instance Germany never embraces the World Wars due to their role in them, but to be honest you can never grow as a civilization until you know where you have been and what you have done, and then at that point you can grow as a civilization.

Next on the agenda was lunch. Before the trip I was so excited to try the food that South Africa represented, as days go on I realize that this country is so diverse that is almost impossible, because you are trying to try every food represented in each culture around the globe. We walk down the streets and you see food from all around the world and it is so fascinating. I stopped at a small hole in the wall restaurant that served Indian food that my instructor suggested. So we stopped and ate but while I was eating I finally just realized it was the first time I had actually sat down and just viewed the surrounding from inside the city.

The people you see around you are so very different you can’t help but to study and analyze the diverse cultures walking around you. I mean I am in a city to which you could basically compare with the city of Washington D.C. and I saw at least 10 people walking around without shoes and 3 people walking around without a limb of some sort. It is crushing to see this, and when you walk by the beggars all you want to do is offer them money. One thing my instructor pointed out to me is that it doesn’t matter if you help one person out or two the people of South Africa will never be able live on the donations of tourists, because there are so many people out there you would never be able to help them all.

Although I met one kid, that helped a few of our lady friends out in the streets. We all got to know him a bit and understand that he was an orphan. He never asked for any form of rand from us or anything like that, which is COMPLETELY out of the ordinary for orphans in South Africa. We bought him candy bars and other things. We offered to make sure he got to the night shelter he went to all night, and he kept trying to make sure we didn’t go with him all the way there, and we realized it was because he never got enough donations from people throughout the day to stay in the shelter. You see it cost 40 rand each night to stay there, so the orphans will go out and beg for the money until they have enough to eat and stay on.

He was trying to get us not to follow him to the shelter because he knew we would help pay for his stay there for the night and he himself did not have enough for the shelter for the night. So we all gave him enough for the week to stay there, between all of us it was like 30 American dollar, so we did not care at all. But this 14 year old kid Terrick a.k.a. “Short Round” would come to be a face in my life that I will never forget.

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May 18th, 2010 by

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

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Day 6: Adventure #2

May 17th, 2010 by

Well let me tell you how one of the best days of my life so far went. Well I started off by waking up at 4 a.m. to get the countryside to go on a safari. Although I was so excited to go to the safari, I really needed some sleep. Anyways, we were on the way and we passed under some any old tunnel. Well it was dark on the one side, and as you went through the other you could see the sun coming up over the most beautiful mountains, I couldn’t explain it to you if I wanted to. It was so amazing; it was probably the second most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. Anyway as we go on you notice the country side and its majestic wonders. I honestly felt like I was in the Andes Mountains it was so gorgeous. Well as we continued we arrived at the ranch.

We entered ate some breakfast and then off we were on check one of my bucket list. You see I have a number of things on my bucket list, and I plan on checking off just a few of those while I am here. Anyways the breakfast I have to say was absolutely the best, I haven’t had that good of a breakfast in the longest time. So like I said after breakfast we got on the caravan and we were off. We started off and our guide was showing us the springbok. He started giving us soo much interesting information about all of the animals we saw. For instance specific springbok have certain colors; one is dark and very uninteresting, and then the most famous one is tan, dark brown, and white. The tan is for blending in for when it lays down, the dark brown is for when they sleep at night they can regain heat through the color, and the white was for reflecting sunlight off the ground. Also the springbok is the only animal that can go its whole life without needing water, although it does drink water because it is a very smart animal.

It was interesting facts like this with every animal we saw; which were baboons, giraffes, rhinos, water buffalo, wildebeest (which are delicious by the way), elephants, lions, and zebras. It was so amazing and then after it was all done we got to go to this trail that went up the side of one of those amazing mountains that we saw coming in. Going up I saw so many gorgeous views, and we even ran into a couple of baboons. Well I got to the top and felt like I was on top of the world. I came back down got a few pictures and then it was back to the lodge. Once back, we had another amazing meal to follow up breakfast.

When I got back I got to map out some geographic treasures my class is going to look for. You see there is this thing called geo cache and what you do is go online and go to their website, and there are people who hide stuff all around the world and all they do is give longitudes and latitudes and sometimes maps, riddles, and other clues you have to decipher in order to find the things they hide. So then you plug in the longitude and latitude in a GPS receiver and off you go on a treasure hunt. So needless to say I can’t wait to go treasure hunting tomorrow.

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Day 5: Cape Town or Bust

May 15th, 2010 by

Well another slow morning. I woke up to find myself packing for another departure. I hated to leave Joburg but then again you can’t help but to embrace the excitement of safaris, history, shark diving, table mountain. All of which you can find in my next stop, Cape Town. I got up finished my daily morning ritual and finished up just in time to catch a rugby match in the lounge with one of the locals. This seemed to be a ritual that I developed and loved just in time to leave. Well we got up got on our way and as we were loading up on the bus, a car literally smashed in to the back of a parked car right in front of me. I looked and surprisingly enough I think that the months of mental preparation paid off, not only did I not freak out but I found myself trying to be helpful and positive about the situation. I am in a new culture, so therefore I must keep in mind that not everybody lives by a great moral standard. I say this because as the car that hit the parked one simply threw it in reverse and took off.

Since I’ve been here I’ve noticed about 3 wrecks, 2 of which I have actually seen people climb out and injured. I say this to you to remind everybody of the moral standards of which most of us should be proud of and to embrace the culture that we should all be so lucky for. We live in a mostly safe environment and should be thankful for what safety we do have.

We arrive at the airport, and as we make our way to the terminal gate I notice myself once again in front of everybody, I say this not for the purpose of purely saying that I am a leader but to show the excitement and qualities that this trip has given me. Well not much to talk about on the plane, I simply finished up some homework and tried to catch some sleep. Although the highlight of the flight probably had to be the flying over Cape Town and seeing the shores of the Atlantic and table mountain, the mountains I had to say reminded me of home. It was the first time seeing a line of mountains since I have been here and I have to say asides from missing loved ones it was a moment of home sickness.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the mountain though I knew that I was supposed to be there and in one brief second felt I was home, and that mountain was something I had to conquer. We landed and got on the bus and as we made our way to the hostel we passed so many poverty stricken homes. Homes are a funny word describing them because if you saw them you would think to yourself, “Why would anyone call this place a home, and why must people go through such poverty?” Well it’s a question that cannot be answered by me, but simply pondered. You can’t help but to feel sorry, or maybe a little guilty for the unnecessary items you have in your own life, when people out there struggle for water, food, shelter, etc. This trip has taught me so much yet I feel like I know nothing at all.

We arrive at our hostel and the view is amazing. We have a straight view of the mountain and it is gorgeous. So now all I have to do is finish up a little homework, get some sleep, and try to get some stuff unpacked in order to wake up at 5 a.m. for my safari. Until then sanibonani.

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Day 4: History and Government

May 15th, 2010 by

This morning was a very exhausting morning due to the lack of sleep I got last night, but still all the while you can’t help but to wake up with a sense of a great attitude and a great look on the day when you look in to the distance in the morning and notice that your surroundings are so very different and that you are about to find out so many interesting facts about those surroundings. I find myself missing home more and more each day, but still like I said you just have moments almost every second where you notice that you are in a new culture and that you are learning more and more by the second.

Today was a very interesting day, as we went to Pretoria. For those of you unfamiliar with Pretoria, you can think of it almost as if it was the Washington D.C. of South Africa. We started off by visiting the natural history museum. If any of you were to research the most interesting finds in the cave I visited yesterday, one of the ones that stick out the most is Mrs. Ples found by Dr. Robert Bloom. Well within the museum is a stowed away room that used to be Dr. Bloom’s office. The office now a day contains significant archaeological finds and the room now is coined as “The Broom Room”. What I enjoyed most of the visit is that the room itself is closed to the public generally, luckily one of our instructors Mr. Bethard had a source and we were able to see one of our world’s most historically significant finds.

After the “Broom Room” we set off to visit what is kind of like the capital building in Pretoria. The building is so interesting looking, and holds the office to Jacob Zuma the current president of South Africa. The building has a colonial look with a view that will leave you speechless. The view is part of it but the most beautiful part was the gardens in front of it. The garden itself held so much beauty and interest; there was no denying the history that lied in the view.

We finished off this beautiful day with a traditional local “braaing” or bar-b-que. The meal consisted of what seemed to be a grilled cheese with tomato, and chicken, served with a traditional style of mashed potatoes, and a bratwurst. I would have to say so far since I have been here this is one of the most amazing meals I have had in a long time. The locals at the hostel are not only a master at grilling but a master of cultural acceptance. They seemed to be so tolerant and helpful with any foreign traveler, and they also seemed to show interest in any culture aside of their own. This is a trait I myself as a traveler strive to posess.

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