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!