Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time Flies

I can’t believe I’ve been here for a day short of two weeks already! Time really does fly when you’re having fun. Adventure wise, we didn’t really do anything too crazy last weekend. I think we all just needed some time to relax and explore the town a little more after our first week of student teaching.

On Saturday morning, we called a cab to pick us up and drive us to the Green Acres mall. It was like any mall you would see in America, but it seemed a lot busier than the mall in Strongsville that I always go to. All the locals keep saying February is the most brutal month of the year for heat, and that this might be their hottest summer yet, so I needed to buy some skirts and shorts to wear to school. We spent the majority of the day at Green Acres. Although getting skirts was important, the best buy of the day was a real pillow!!! I have never been happier to see one in my entire life since the pillows they gave us in our apartments are as thick as a folded hand towel.  I slept like a baby that night. After returning to Summerstrand, we went to the Boardwalk for a bit to enjoy some free wifi (it’s a very valuable thing to us here).

Sunday morning we got up early and walked to the leasing office so some of my roommates could buy wifi. I knew I should buy some since I would run out soon (and sure enough I did that night) but I was out of Rand and they only accept cash for internet. After that, we spent the entire day wandering through the flea market. There were so many handcrafted wood pieces, paintings, and key chains. I would love to buy one of everything except
 1. Nothing fit in my suitcase on the flight here and
2. I only had enough rand to buy some ice cream.
That night we booked a cab to take us to the United Methodist Church service in Walmer which is about twenty or so minutes away. Most of the people were about high school age, but it was a great service and we plan on going back on Sunday nights.

After school on Monday, we headed to the Boardwalk to meet a local girl and some of her friends from NMMU for dinner at Spur. Monday night they run a burger special where you buy one meal and get one free, so I was all about that! And as always, the free wifi is a plus, especially for facetiming. On our walk back into our apartment building, we met some South African country boys who are staying in the complex next to ours for a few weeks for business. It was funny to hear how similar their country living was to our country living, even though it’s an entirely different country. They seemed really nice and invited us to barbeque with them and listen to Tim McGraw whenever they are outside. Not that I don’t feel safe here (but sometimes the teachers freak me out telling me horror stories of crime), but it makes me feel safe knowing they are going to be around for a few weeks if we ever run into any trouble (which I hope we don’t). It’s just very different that all the houses and building here have huge walls with barbed wire surrounding them and there are bars over all the doors and windows.

After school on Tuesday night I went to help out my high school roommates coach fitness club, and it was so much fun! I will definitely be going back. That night, Summerwood Primary held a picnic/pool party for the first grade families, so I decided to go check it out. Although I didn’t talk to any parents, it was nice to get to know the other first grade teachers better. One was even nice enough to drive us home since it was getting dark out.

As always, the kids were adorable this week. We were having a lesson on body parts and discussing the reason we had eyelashes when a raised his hand to say that they were only there to “make us pretty.” They say the cutest things. My favorite story for the week is that one morning a child’s mom stopped to talk to me before class and asked where I was from because her son had told her I was from Mexico! I’m sure Mexico is a lovely place, but it’s definitely not where I call home.
I learned some small but interesting differences between our culture and theirs:
1. THEY DON’T MAKE S’MORES WITH CHOCOLATE!!!! This is just disturbing.
2. They call all crackers biscuits (I have no idea what they call biscuits)
3. They sing the incy wincy spider instead of the itsy bitsy spider which just sounds adorable with their accents
4. They call ‘jell-o’ ‘jelly’ so they don’t quite understand American’s fascination with peanut butter and jelly
5. They call all ‘jelly’ ‘jam’

It’s Thursday, which means the weekend is only a day away! I’m so excited for tomorrow because we are going to a braai (a barbeque) at the high school with our roommates before we leave for Plett (Plettenburg Bay) for the weekend. I’ve heard it’s one of the most beautiful cities around and it’s also the city my mentor teacher is getting married in next year. I can’t wait to see what the weekend has in store! Talk to you all next week J

Friday, January 24, 2014

Week one, done!

     It’s official, I’ve survived not only my first week as a student teacher, but also my first week in South Africa!!! Everyone was right, it goes by quick. I’ve never been to a beach in America before, but I’d imagine that this city is very similar to one there. Sometimes things don’t feel that different here, except for when I am in school.  I am in a grade one classroom and I have 24 lovely students. The first difference I noticed was that a classroom library was missing. There is one bookcase in the room, and if I had to guess there are probably less than 30 books sitting on the shelves. Their school day is much shorter than ours. Grade R (which we would call kindergarten) gets out a noon, grade 1 and grade 2 are done at 12:50. Once you are in grade 3 you have to stay in school until two and high school stays until 2:30. My roommate and I think they have such short school days because they don’t have a long summer break like we do. Despite difference in academics, kids are kids anywhere you go and I am in love with my entire class. I know I still have five more weeks, but I’m already sad knowing I will have to say goodbye. Some of the phrases they use are a bit different than what your typical American child would say. On the first day of school, a child was completing a paper and told me, “I hope that my parents are pleased with my work.” It's just so adorable, you would never find an American child that speaks that properly. 

     Going into this experience, I was worried about not being able to understand their accents, but it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t be able to understand mine. The way they pronounce their ‘e’ and ‘a’ sound is especially different.  On the first day, one student told me, “Your language is weird.” My roommates are from/go to school in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama, so we’ve discovered that my accent is even different from theirs. I never realized I was such a northerner until now. People seem to pick us out as Americans very easily here. It must be something about the way we dress or carry ourselves, because some locals have told us that it’s not our accent that gives us away.

     Although there are times I miss everyone from home, I am too in love with it here to be homesick. This city just gets me. Most of the time people walk around barefoot (perfect because who hates shoes more than this girl?), even to the grocery store and out to dinner!!! I also love that the grocery store, restaurants, my school, and the beach are within walking distance. I think it's such a hassle to have to get in a car and find a parking space, so I am all about the convenience of being able to walk to my destination. It would be helpful to have a car to get to some of the cooler sites outside the city, but we can call a cab and the Freewalker's adventure crew for that. Everyone here is so laid back and relaxed, I could really get used to this way of life. Since I get out of school at 1 everyday, it's so nice being able to go hang out on the beach after school. Last week we even saw dolphins on the beach! I about passed out from excitement since I have never seen one in real life before. I love how active the city is too. There are always people out swimming, surfing, biking, running, or walking, no matter what time of day it is. It's very motivating. 

     Last Sunday we went sandboarding in Sardinia Bay with Freewalker's, our first real adventure! It was amazing! It’s basically like snowboarding on sand, but way easier and it doesn’t hurt when you fall (which I did a lot of…). The beach was beautiful and the people were very friendly. We can't wait to plan another big adventure, but until then we are going to try and explore Summerstrand a little more this weekend and make a trip to the mall so we can buy more warm weather teacher clothes before the heat gets to unbearable in February. 

This is the beach at Sardinia Bay where we sandboarded. You can't tell here, but the sand dunes were really high!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It’s Time: January 16th/January 17th

     It didn't feel real yet on the plane. My bags were packed, my mom was gone, I was sitting at the first gate, but it still didn’t feel real yet. 13 weeks, 1 suitcase, 5 minutes until boarding, and numerous deep breaths. I know everything isn’t going to be rainbows and butterflies, but I also know time goes quick. After all, the last 21 years did, didn’t they? Time is always silently slipping away, so as terrified as I am for this, I know it was the right choice.

     I was lucky enough to sit next to nice people on all my plane rides. On the longest rides I sat next to two business men. Even though they were much older than me and in business, one of them was even a surfer who had never been to America, they had so many stories from where they had traveled all over the world and they were just as interested to hear my stories as I was to hear theirs.  I was also lucky to have no problems getting over here, hopefully getting home in six weeks will be the same way. Getting off the plane in Johannesburg was scary. Not only was the airport huge and intimidating, but that’s when it hit me that I’m really here, I’m really doing this.

     When I arrived in Port Elizabeth, it was 9:30 at night (2:30 in the afternoon US time). Dr. Singh picked me up from the airport and drove me to the apartments I would be living in for the next six weeks, pointing out different sites along the way. Since it was dark outside, it didn’t seem too different to me than what I’d imagine Florida to look like, but I guess I’ll find out today. There are three girls (including me) me in my apartment and two girls in the apartment across the hall. They all seem really nice and have already been here for a few days, so they are going to show me around tomorrow, and most importantly take me to the Boardwalk where there’s free wifi so I can let everyone know I arrived safely.  The apartment looks somewhat like a College Avenue apartment, except a little smaller and there is only one bedroom instead of two. There are no desks either. Also, my bed is in the living room and my closet is technically a kitchen cupboard, which I find kind of hilarious. There is no air conditioning, and only a fan in the living room, which I guess makes me lucky to have my bed there. It’s cooler at night right now, so I wonder how hot it will get during the day tomorrow and heaven forbid if it rains and we have to close the windows, but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I shouldn’t have complained about all those hot weeks living in Ashland dorms, because it really prepped me for this haha. It hit me all at once as soon as I sat down in the apartment, I miss everyone from home. I know it’s hard right now, but I also know that once I get my wifi set up and start a routine going to school, things will get much better since I will be able to talk to everyone and be busy. Well, it’s off to sleep so I’m awake and rested to go explore the city tomorrow. Love you all and miss you! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Departure

It's crazy to think that after three and a half short years of college (years that I thought would end up lasting FOREVER) are coming to a close. Only twelve weeks of student teaching, six weeks in the beautiful country of South Africa and six weeks in Florida, separates me from the real world. I'm so excited to explore new places and meet new faces, but it's sad knowing I have to leave behind everyone I love and everything that's familiar for a little while. There's a quote by Seth Godin that says, "If something scares you, it might be a good thing to try," which I definitely think applies to me this semester. I've always loved the idea of traveling, so I  signed up for the COST study abroad program before I had a chance to think twice and talk myself out of it. Let's be real, signing up to live in a foreign country and a different state where you don't know anyone sounds a little intimidating, at least to me. Yes I've traveled before, but it was only for about a week and I had my best friend and partner in crime by my side, so this is going to be a big step. I can't wait to step out of my comfort zone and see where the wind takes me! Don't get me wrong, I'm beyond excited for my journey, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't the slightest bit nervous.