Friday, May 30, 2008

The view of the 12 Apostles from the top of Lion's Head mountain.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Fun Fact: South Africa has one of the largest populations of great white sharks in the world.

So obviously, I HAD to go see them!! We took a half hour boat ride off the shore of Hermanus (120km from Cape Town) to an area where Great Whites are known to breach in April and May. Once we got there we suited up in our full wetsuits; booties, hood and all. Six of us jumped in the cage for the first go, all lined up along the side of the boat. The water was cold, but not unbearable, and frankly, I had more important worries on my mind. One of them being the giant holes in the cage which were certainly large enough for an arm or leg to drift out of!!! One of the crew men began dumping buckets of chum off the side of the boat (not a nice smell/taste to be swimming around in) while another guy, Lloyd, tossed a large buoy overbaord fully equipped with dead fish as the bait. Five minutes later a fin surfaced and was headed straight towards the cage. Lloyd shouted "Down!" and the six of us took a deep breath, submerged underwater, and watched a 9 footer swim right by us and then disapear into the dark cloudy waters. The first few dips were scary, but I began to feel quite comfortable and fearless after 3 hours and no casualties. We saw four different sharks, all of varying sizes, but none of them were any more than 4 meters (about 12 feet). And the best part was that I didn't get sea sick!!!

Now that the weather is quite chilly, the kids have been cramped up inside with very little to do. So to keep them busy and ourselves entertained, we have to get creative. Here we have Ms. Virgil and Ms. Autodine dressed and ready for a productive day in the office.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


So Mom and Dad came to visit...yippee! Their travels began with a safari at Notten's Private Game Reserve in Sabi Sands (right outside of Kruger National Park) where we sattled up in a Land Rover for early morning and evening game drives through the bush. We had superb sightings on every drive, and found every animal that we were promised (except hippos). To be honest, I was terrified the first day when we pulled up no more than 15 feet away from a rhino. But it only got more thrilling from there. We watched herds of elephants trample through the bush, ripping trees out of the ground while bellowing out their trunks. We sat 7 feet away from a pride of lions as they feasted on a fresh impala for dinner, and watched a hyena take its last few breaths after being killed by a lioness who was claiming dominence. To top it off, on our last night drive we witnessed a leapord attack an impala while he was distracted dueling heads with a fellow male impala. The leapord held him down with by biting into his neck for nearly 2 minutes, when out of the trees came a hyena, scaring the leapord, causing him to let lose and free the impala. What a sight!!! The impala's life was saved as the leapord walked home hungry. This was no Disney World. It was incredible!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sea Point

Over the 3 week Easter break a handful of orphans were stuck at St. Jo's, so we took them out to Sea Point for the day. We played soccer, took advantage of all the playgrounds, and spoiled them silly with candy and snacks. The best part was watching them run up to the railing where waves were crashing, and then quickly scurry away before getting wet. Although not one of them managed to escape the water and get out dry, they ran back time and time again because they found it so funny. Somehow I too walked away drenched with sea water.

Friday, April 4, 2008

We decided to have our own little dance party with the girls. As you can see, they loved it : )

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wheelchair Race

Another outing with St. Joseph's! 3 lucky boys got to participate in a wheelchair race at an old, car racing track. There were about 100 people, most of whom were adults. Our little guys were lucky enough to be pushed from behind by their allstar volunteers, Sean, Lauren and Sarah! But our competition was pretty serious. We were up againt long legged young African men who seemed to have practiced their speed walking skills prior to the race. Sean won Minqueno a third place prize, which was a brand new cordless hot water heater!! Mind you, Minqueno is four years old. And sadly, Lauren and I crossed the finish line for a tie in last place. The guys were good sports though, and kept laughing the whole time.

Garden Route Easter Weekend

Last weekend 7 of my friends and I ventured out on a road trip along the Garden Route. We traveled east along the coast of the Indian Ocean and made stops at 3 bays for the four nights. Our first adventure was at Cango Caves, where the first cavemen lived on earth. We initially thought we were just going for a casual sightseeing walk and would be learning about rock formations and stalagmites/tites, all that wonderful stuff. Little did we know we'd be crawling through tunnels only inches larger than our bodies' circumfrence, using our stomach muscles to squirm along like worms. Luckily no one was claustrophobic.

On the road we ran into some ostrich farms and camels (which are not native to South Africa, but were imported for the sake of toursits going on camel rides).

That night we stayed in Knysna Bay. We had a wonderful feast of fresh seafood down on the waterfront and then went out to dance with the locals.

My favorite part of the trip was bungy jumping off the highest jump spot in the world!!!! It was absolutely terrifying. So much so that I tried to reach back and hold onto the guy as he pushed me off the edge. EEk! The freefall was a feeling that I can't describe; I literally came up speechless with a huge smile plastered on my face for a good 10 minutes. Incredible!

We bunked up in Plettenberg Bay for the following 2 nights. We relaxed a bit more, spending lots of time at the beach. We also went on a zip-line adventure, flying from tree to tree over a river and waterfalls. Now that we are all adrenaline junkies, we're trying to get a thrill any way we can. Unfortunately, nothing compares to jumping off tall bridges. I guess all that's left is base jumping, but that's just crazy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Meet Damon. He's an 8 year old Capetonian battling HIV and cancer. He was sent home about a week ago because there is no further treatment for him at St. Joseph's. The doctors would rather he be in the comfort of his own home with his family, and his friends at school. So today I went with a social worker and 3 other volunteers to visit him in the township that he lives in called Philippi. Damon's family kept our visit a surprise, so his eyes filled with tears when we showed up at his school to pick him up, which in turn triggered the waterworks on us as well! He led us to his house through narrow dirt roads that were lined with shacks made of rotting wood and tin roofs. People stared, some smiled. Avoiding the wandering dogs, cats, pigeons, and goats, we pulled up to his family's home at the end of the road. Once we arrived, Damon proudly brought us into his home to show us his room and all his toy animals. We sat in the few lawn chairs they had in the 'living' room to give him a pair of ballet shoes that we brought as a gift. Damon was the most talented little ballet dancer at St. Joseph's, always showing off with plies and pirouettes. Very cute. So you can imagine how excited he was about his very own pair of slippers! We asked him to put on a little show for us, but quickly sat back down out of embarassment. We stayed to chat with his family for a bit, trying to avoid the inevitable, but eventually we all had to struggle to hold back our tears as we said goodbye to our good friend Damon.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Rest of February

Hello! A lot has gone on since my last entry so I'll just try to highlight the good stuff.
A few weeks ago we drove to Hout Bay and took a ferry to see seals on what they call 'Seal Island'. Its basically a large rock with about 1,500 seals sunbathing and playing by the water. There were beautiful rock formations surrounding the bay making the boat ride enjoyable despite the sickening waves!

The following weekend a group of friends and I drove to a game reserve called Aquila to go on a horse back riding safari. It was an incredible day starting with a full buffet breakfast with all sorts of different African dishes. The safari left after breakfast, and for 2 hours we roamed the grounds and saw hippos, water buffalo, elephants, springbok, rhinos, zebras, and giraffes. The closest we got was about 50 feet to the springbok, water buffalo, and zebras. But we steared clear of the rhinos and hippos...not the safest creatures to get close and personal with!! After the ride, there was another feast prepared for us (this country really likes to eat, my kind of place). In the afternoon we took advantage of the pool for a dip before heading home back to city life.

Last weekend I got the chance to go on an outing with some of the kids from St. Josephs. They don't get the opportunity to leave very often, maybe once a month, so it was a pretty big deal when they arrived at the aquarium in Cape Town! They were fascinated by the tanks of fish, sharks, lobsters etc. All day they wouldn't stop talking about going on a boat, so we treated them to a ride around the Victoria and Alfred Waerfront on the oldest boat in the harbor. The wind was so bad though, that we couldn't make the full trip or else we never would have made it home alive. It was the first time the kids had ever been on a boat before...and they loved it. They didn't stop asking questions. At the end of the day we bought them ice cream and watched most of it melt down the side of the cone because none of them knew how to eat it.

The following day four us took a road trip to the southernmost tip of Africa, called Cape Agulhas. We stayed in a very cute hostel-style place called Backpackers. In the evening we went horseback riding barefoot along the beach before sunset. The horses were a little less tame this time, and actually let us trot along the water. It created quite a laugh because none of us knew what we were doing.

Last but certainly not least, this past Saturday we rented a mini bus and drove out to a remote beach for a 10 course fish braai (bbq) on the rocks. For 5 hours we ate seafood, drank wine, and swam in the ocean. Some of the courses were muscles, lobster, & fish with an endless amount of homeade bread and jams. It was a real treat.

Here's just a couple more pictures of the kids.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Week 1

Cape Town could not be any more gorgeous. It's prettier than I imagined. I've been here for about ten days now and I'm still finding it hard to believe that this is where I LIVE!

The flight was painful, but everything went smoothly. Unitl I got into town. Apparently there is a shortage of electricity in all of South Africa and they have known about it since 1998, but never took action to conserve or make amy changes. So when I arrived and drove in from the airport, the entire city was experiencing a 'blackout'. Starting at 8pm all of the city's lights shut off and didnt turn back on until 3 am. So it was incrdible waking up the next morning and looking out my window to the sight of table top mountain behind me and the ocean out ahead.

On my first day I ventured out to the winelands with other Connect-123 interns. The vineyards were beautiful the way they rolled down from the mountains. We also stopped at a cheetah farm and we were able to actually pet them. They are quite tame!

Sunday afternoon I was up on the rooftop by the pool and this was the view. They call it the "tablecloth" on Table Top Mountain. It looks like liquid clouds pouring off the top of the mountain due to the wind. I've never seen anything like it. This is by far the windiest city I've ever been to. Some days it feels like a hurricane is sweeping through and it is hard to keep your feet on the ground. But without the wind, temperatures would be too hot to bear!

The beaches are gorgeous as well. We made it out to Clifton this past weekend for a day under the sun. The water is a Carribean turquoise, but it feels just like home. I would guess it was about 60 degrees...not cold enough to keep me from going in!

Now I'm sure you'd like to know how work is going. Well....I'm having a blast!!! These kids are so adorable and loving. It is obvious that they get very little attention. I play games, do arts and crafts, take them swimming in the pool, and play out on the playground. I basically feel like a kid again. The other day I had a couple little girls try fingerpainting. They had never done it before and have probably never even used paints at all. It was amazing watching their little faces light up as they mixed colors and splattered the paper (not to mention their feet, clothes, and, my face). The kids here range from age 1 to 18. Each age group is so much fun to work with. The older kids look at us as peers and like to hang out and talk or play cards, while the little ones beg to be picked up and held. Although it is hard work and exhausting keeping them all in line and under control, I always leave with a big smile on my face (as cheesy as that sounds, it is true).

It's hard to tell that some of them are even sick, but others are in wheelchairs due to missings limbs or paralysis, or they have physical deformities, traches in their throats, or drainage bags coming from their stomachs. No matter how they look, they are all chronically ill and will probably live here for years. There is one ward specifically for HIV children, most of whom are under the age of 8 because they dont manage to live much longer. I won't lie, it is pretty sad, but I try not to take work home with me. The kids love what we are doing with them and hopefully we're making each of their lives a little bit better than it would have been.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Testing 1,2,3

Here I am, trying out this whole blog thing before I get there and have no desire to sit down and create an account when I know the sun is shining and the beach is calling. Hope this works!