Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I Don't Know About You...

Febuary 15th.
Kwantu day! The elephants are here! We went to a place called Kwantu with Freewalkers to visit some ellies. IT WAS SO COOL! Not only did we get to ride them, and by ride I mean ride them around the bush just like they were horses, but we were able to feed them too! My entire hand was in the mouth of an elephant, how many people can say they’ve done that?! It was also really awesome to learn about the elephants too. My guide shared information with me as we casually rode around on an elephant (he even pulled out his phone to send a quick text at one point, but seriously, who texts on an elephant like it’s completely normal) and the ‘ring leader’ I guess you would call him told us even more information while we waiting for the other riders to come back once our ride was finished. I was blown away by how amazing these creatures were.

Next stop was a restaurant called Nanaga Farm Stall for lunch . They have the best bread I’ve ever tasted in my life (and if you know me well, you know that’s a lot of bread) and it was only 4 Rand… which means it was 40cents!!!!!). We ate our lunch out on a patio as chickens walked around freely. At one point, one jumped onto the empty table next to us and started eating the leftover chips from the last guest. As with all the other restaurants here, the food was phenomenal. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy food from a restaurant back home ever again because of the high standards this country has set for my taste buds. When we went to pay, I dropped a rand, and like lightening a chicken came out of nowhere to snatch it up. I guess they have a diet filled with variety.

After our lunch, we headed to a private game park called Schotia for our game drive. We were paired up with a really awesome German couple and our driver named Andrew for the night/afternoon. We started out like the little engine that could, when we couldn’t get up the first hill no matter how many times we tried. We found a different route, but continued to run into the same problem most of the afternoon/night. Despite our difficulty with that, it was an amazing drive! The scenery was so beautiful that I wouldn’t have minded sitting in one spot the entire afternoon. We saw animals like zebras, elephants, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, and LIONS! They were so close I could have reached out and touched them, but my better judgment told me I better not do that. We also ate at this super cool outdoor/tiki-like/bonfire restaurant.

Random note of excitement: Last week I gave directions to two different groups of people like I was a local and this week I got mistaken for looking like someone who speaks Afrikaans in the passages! It’s official, some people think I look like a real local!!!!!Scatterbrained. Anxious. Sad. Embrace. Those are just a few of the millions of billions of words all jumbled up in my head right now that I can make any sense of. The thought of leaving so soon has me so scatterbrained. As excited as I am to go back to America, I am so sad to be leaving a country that in a such a short time has managed to steal my heart. I am so anxious about what my time in Florida will hold for me, and that I will never find a place that I love as much as I love being in this country. I’m trying my best to embrace all of my time here, and remind myself that not everyone gets this opportunity to see this amazing country, but it’s so hard not to think about all of the things I will miss once I leave here. I haven’t even left yet, and I am already trying to devise a way to come back and spend more time here. As amazing as some of the big adventures like bungy jumping have been here, I think it’s the small, routine things I’ll miss the most. Walking to the grocery store. Hanging out at Kaffine to enjoy some good food and free wifi. Watching the sunrise over the water every morning. Being able to walk less than five minutes to the beach. Waving hello and goodbye the adorable little girl who lives in the apartment across from us and the cute little boy who lives below us. The way people talk here, not just their accents, but the way everything sounds more proper. And I’ll especially miss my end of the end of the day routine: “Good afternoon boys and girls” “Good aftanoon Miss Brough and Miss Zeleznik. And have a SUPA DUPA AFTANOON!!!!!!” Those cute little accents melt my heart every time! 

I don’t know about you…..BUT I’M FEELING 22!!!! What a great day! I went for my usual morning run, and even though I couldn’t see the sun through the overcast morning, I just knew it was going to be a good day. I passed my roomies on my way in to get ready for school and they started off my day with some happy birthday singing. Then I got into my apartment and found a wonderful table of all my favorite treats from my girl Sarah, I couldn’t have been happier! I got to school and was surprised with my favorite chai tea latte from Caroline and the news that my teacher wasn’t coming in so I got the kids all to myself for the day! It was such a fun day hanging out with the kids. I just love every single one of them to pieces. I’m currently trying to figure out how to bring them all home with me, or stay here with them forever. Being apart from them just isn’t an option I want to consider. For dinner, I went to Angelos with my roomies and finally had some pasta, I’d been looking forward to it all week.

Thursday and Friday I was lucky enough to get to spend the day with Teacher Kelsey and her grade R kids (our preschool/kindergarten age) at Beachwood. From the second Kelsey introduced me, I knew I’d get along great with them when little Andrew immediately stood up to yell, “I love her,” and then sat back down to look me in the eyes and tell me he loved me again. Apparently love at first sight is a real thing! Thursday I just took the back seat and tried to learn their names and get down the routine, but Friday I was on my own with them. It was awesome to be able to see how a classroom at that age worked, and of course the kids were so cute!

Friday night was a lot of fun! We took a trip to Stanely Street in town. It was like a really trendy street you’d find somewhere in America. We wanted to experience as much of it as we could, so we got drinks and a bread platter at a wine bar, ate fajitas at place called Buenos, and then ate the best brownie in the world at another restaurant. It was such a lovely evening!

Saturday morning I woke up early and walked down to the beach to read for a little bit. The sun reflecting off the water was the prettiest I’ve ever seen it. Just when I think I’ve seen everything here, I see it in a new and different way, so breathtaking! Sarah and I went to Kaffine and ordered breakfast sandwiches to go to eat on the beach and then we got ready to go attempt to tan, but the wind was so crazy, we were getting attacked by the sand. Once all of us met back up, we got ready and headed out to see the Donkin Memorial in town and city hall. It was really incredible, but there wasn’t much to do, so we didn’t stay long before we headed to Bridge Street Brewery for dinner.

Monday it was SO nice to be back with my kiddos. I have never been so attached to a group of kids before and I missed them like crazy Thursday and Friday (even though I still ate lunch with one third of them). I’m starting to get the feeling they’re just as attached because Thursday Matteo demanded me to tell him where I was all day because he was so worried about me all day long. Today he told me that when I leave he’s going to “miss me until he dies,” and yes ladies and gentlemen that is a direct quote. All my aftercare kids ask everyday in the middle of homework when I’m leaving and tell me that I’m not allowed and I have to stay forever. They’re just perfect; there aren’t enough words in the world to describe how much I love each and every one of these kids. 

p.s. I still can't figure out this whole rotating pictures thing, so if anyone could help me that would be AWESOME! :) Cheers! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Every Mile A Memory

Wow, four weeks down. I can’t even believe time has gone this fast. It’s so sad because there is so much I want to do and see here that I know I just won’t have time for. I also can’t imagine not living in this beautiful country. I also can’t imagine school and the grocery store being close enough to walk to, it’s just so much more convenient than having a car. Here’s an update on my week was:

Last Saturday morning was pretty uneventful, I took about 3 naps before noon. I definitely think whatever all the kids have at school they so kindly shared with me. It could be because they all pick their nose and wipe their boogers EVERYWHERE as if no one is watching. As gross as that is, it’s nice to know that kids are kids no matter where you go. Saturday night, our South African friends in our apartment complex drove us to a really cool restaurant just outside of town. It had a beautiful view of the ocean and the atmosphere was so relaxed since it’s a spot locals go to, and not one of the touristy restaurants in town that we’re used to. The highlight of my day though was a phone call from my little brother. As cool as everything is here, I miss talking to my best friend everyday like crazy.

Sunday morning we made a traditional American breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes and bacon, YUM) and took it outside to the picnic tables to eat. We shared some of our leftovers with all the little kids who live in our building and they were so excited. It’s such a small thing, but waving and saying hello to them always makes my day. After that, we packed up and headed out to spend the day at the beach. You can tell classes at NMMU have started here because the population at the beach has changed and expanded to more people our age. Sunday night we went to a new church called Father’s House. It was really different from the one we went to in Walmer, but it was still really cool and it was nice that the crowd was closer to our age and not all high schoolers.

Monday was field trip day! The day I anticipated since the sign up sheet went home. We went to a museum called Bayworld which is about a five minute drive from the school (and about a 20/30 minute walk from our apartment, depending on how lazy we feel). It was cool to see inside the museum. It was really similar to the Natural History Museum in Cleveland, but obviously this museum included a lot more marine life. I’m so glad I decided to help out at after care at Beachwood because it is turning into such a great bonding experience with the kids. Some of the kid’s complain all day about wanting to leave school, but as soon as the final bell rings they are practically dragging me over to Beachwood and begging to do homework. It’s nice to get to know some of the children from the other grade 1 classes and the grade R (kindergarten/preschool) students as well.

The heat has been pretty intense the last few days here. The high speed winds I just started to get used to have seem to come to a screeching halt as the percent of humidity has increased along with the temperatures. The only bad part about it is your clothes just sticking to you all day long, not a fun feeling. Honestly, I’m more than happy to deal with this than the snowpacolypse back home. You can tell it’s brutal on the kids just sitting in a hot classroom all day long because they are all much more emotional  and exhausted. On Wednesday,  a child was so exhausted that he fell asleep in the middle of storytime at the carpet. Today is Friday and it has rained for most of the day, which has helped cool it down . It’s also Valentine’s Day which has definitely lifted the spirit of the children. Today was definitely a day filled with love. This morning one of our roommates surprised us with a set up of scones, muffins and juice for breakfast, they were delicious! At school I was instantly greeted by cards, chocolate sweeties, and flowers picked from the schoolyard by students. It was cute to know that they had thought of me when planning their gifts for Miss Brough. For a few Rand, the students were allowed to wear their ‘civis’ (street clothes since they usually wear uniforms) if they had red on them. It was so cute to see then all dressed like little kids, instead of the mini adults they usually looked like. They were extra funny today too. One little boy told me, “Teacher Lesticks, daddy said I must save some of this chocolate bar for teacher for myself” and then proceeded to eat the entire bar. Another little boy excitedly gave me the bow off of a candy bar… but kept the candy bar for himself. My favorite laughable moment of the day was when a little boy found a pin that said, “I’m an extraordinary woman!” and proudly wore it on his shirt all day despite the fact that he knew what it said and he was very well aware he was not a woman. I’ve never seen a happier child before in my life. Even though I love a good laugh as much as the next person, my all time favorite moment of the day happened two hours after I passed out my Valentine’s. Valentine’s Day here is definitely not a big deal like it is at home, the only person that gets Valentine’s is the teacher. I was so excited I bought a box of Toy Story Valentine’s to bring with me on this trip, until I started to hand them out. I was a little crushed to realize that none of the kids understood what they were, what they said, how to open them, and the worst part was that some of them didn’t even know what Toy Story was! It was a little after break time when I looked up and realized one little girl was walking around carrying my valentine around the room. As the rest of the afternoon passed, I realized most of the class was carrying their valentine around with them anywhere they went in the room. It made me so happy to realize that it wasn’t a fail and that the children did understand them.

It’s strange thinking my time here is more than halfway done. It’s very bittersweet. I can’t wait to be that much closer to going back home to Brunswick, but every morning when I walk into school and see all the first grade faces I’ve come to love, I am heartbroken thinking that I’ll have to leave them. They’ve each hold such a special place in my heart, and I can’t imagine not seeing them every week. It’s also weird using the word home about America. In the short time I’ve been here, it’s snuck up on me that I now consider this my home. I even had a nightmare about leaving the other night. I woke up in a sweat thinking I was going to miss my flight back to America and I had to rush around the apartment to pack up my things. I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t bring myself to leave the apartment. That dream is so the opposite of everything I was feeling 4 short weeks ago, and I almost wish the next 3 weeks could last forever.

(I don't know why I can't figure out how to rotate this picture, but since I can't I'm instead telling you to just rotate your head to view it. It'll still get the job done)

I have been practicing my Afrikaans with my students (especially my colors!) but here are some of the English words my students have tricked me with:
Tackies= tennis shoes
suitcase= bookbag (if you say bookbag they’ll laugh and look at you like you’re an alien not an American)
corkies= markers
costume= bathing suit
ski pants= leggings
press stick= sticky tack
robot= stop light
specs= glasses
petrol= gas
take away= food orders to go
passages=hallway (if you tell children to be quiet in the hallway they’ll never understand what you’re       talking about)
bum= butt (clearly I’m too immature not to include this one)
A hat is almost always referred to as a cap.
Instead of getting a ride somewhere, you get a lift.
You don’t get things, you fetch them. How charming does that sound?
The most commonly used words in school are lovely, brilliant, charming, clever, and shame. The word shame is used quite frequently in all situations here, for example, “That poor boy tripped over his suitcase because his takkies weren’t tied” “Oh shame!”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week Three

Friday the first big adventure began! At 4pm sharp we loaded up the Freewalker’s van and headed to Plett. I thought the scenery was pretty the whole way there, but then we arrived in Plett and my mind was completely blown! It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. We walked across the beach to go to dinner at a restaurant with a sea side view, and caught a glimpse of the Milky Way and more stars than I’ve seen since I was 12 on the walk back to the hotel.

Saturday morning we started our day semi early with a boat ride out to dive with seals. We put on wet suits, flippers and snorkels, so it was the real deal. It was amazing to see hundreds of seals playing in the water and laying on the rocks. I don’t know where I was thinking this dive would take place, but I was completely panicked by the fact that we were about to plunge right into the middle of open water with no shore near at all. We jumped into the water and the shock of the cold combined with the fact that there was no shore to swim to was so overwhelming to me that I couldn’t stop hyperventilating and had to get back in the boat. I was proud I at least tried, but I’d prefer to never jump into the middle of open, freezing water like that ever again in my life.

My New Year’s Resolution was to be fearless, and after my seal scare yesterday, I needed some redemption. Sunday afternoon, I whole heartedly took the plunge into the realm of being fearless when I leaped off the highest bungy bridge in the world. Surprisingly, I was relatively calm leading up to the jump, I think my adrenaline kicked in a little early and helped with that. It was the most unbelievable and exhilarating experience of my entire life. Nothing, not even riding all the rides at cedar point or hanging off the edge of a cliff in Ireland, can come close to touching the experience I had leaping off that bridge. The only scary part was dangling head first while waiting to be pulled up and trying to think of everything besides the fact that my feet felt like they were going to slip out of my shoes at any second (clearly in the 30 seconds it took to jump I had completely erased the memory of putting on the backup safety harness).

Saturday was a rough day for me. I battled some pretty intense homesickness off and on, and even seriously questioned if this trip was even worth it. Sunday really solidified how happy and lucky I am to be having the experience of a lifetime in this beautiful country, despite how much I am missing everyone and everything at home. It’s funny to me that I ended up teaching on the coast for 14 weeks of my life when one of my biggest fears in the world is drowning and I have never liked being in the water. Coming on this trip is such a big step out of the lines of my comfort, and as hard as things get, I couldn’t be happier I did this. Homesickness will come and go, but regrets can haunt a person forever. Of course we did a lot more than seal dive and bungy jump this weekend, but I won’t go into too much detail about that. We had a few ocean side lunches/dinners,  visited a craft market, took a boat ride around Knysna, watched the sunset, saw baboons just chilling on the side of the road, ate fast food next to some monkeys, and watched a whole herd of cattle just casually wonder around a cemetery. Besides bungy jumping, hiking in Plett was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so unbelievably beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Ireland, but so much warmer. I could have stayed there forever. On the way back, we dropped off our new German friend Daniel back at his home in Addo National Park and we were able to see a little bit of wildlife. We also passed one of the biggest townships around. It was sad to see the conditions and how many people lived in such extreme poverty there.

The reason I’m here though, teaching, is also going great. Everyone at the school is so friendly. This past week, Caroline and I were picked up on our walk to school by a student and her mom and by a fellow teacher. My students of course are great too. One day I got to play substitute in another first grade class, and every time I passed my class in the hall they screamed and shouted like I was a celebrity or something, so it’s cool to know how much they enjoy me hanging out in the classroom. My mentor teacher is really awesome too. Even though she’s only a few years older than me, she’s always checking up on me to make sure I’m staying safe here.

We made some new friends in our building this week. They’re all South African farm boys from the north that are staying here on business. They’re all like your typical American southern gentleman. They surprised us with ice cream on our door step one night, and invited us to a traditional braai (a barbeque) another night). Last night, they were nice enough to let us tag along to our first rugby game!!! The stadium was beautiful and it made me feel so at home hanging out there. After asking 800 million questions, I think I’ve been converted to a rugby fan! So far my weekend is off to a great start, and I hope the same is true for all of you!