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South Africa

a travel blog by Whitney


This summer I will spend almost 3 months in South Africa interning with Umtha Welanga, a non-profit in Cape Town that focuses on meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families in crisis because of HIV/AIDS.

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Starting Out

Minneapolis, United States


In just a few hours, I'll be leaving the States for South Africa. Disclaimer: I will be back in Minnesota in time for the State Fair.

As for my trip, everything's packed. I've said my goodbyes (I'll miss you all). Now the only things that stands between me and Cape Town are airport security and hours of waiting. So fly to Heathrow tonight, layover for most of the day, and then fly straight down to Cape Town. Once I get there, I'll try to post as regularly as I can. Time for one last goodbye: Bye Minnesota! See you in a couple months!

permalink written by  Whitney on May 30, 2011 from Minneapolis, United States
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged Leaving, Minnesota and StateFair

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Halfway

London, United Kingdom


Didn't buy much internet time, so I won't be able to write a long post. Here's the gist of my trip so far: 9 hours on a plane (with 2 seats to myself! and about 30 movies/tv shows to watch), 3 hours wandering around Heathrow trying to find out where to go, 2 unsuccessful attempts at contacting the US, 1 successful attempt, and just under 4 more hours to wait before my 12.5 hour flight to Cape Town. Heathrow is huge and it is hardly labeled and apparently you can't wait at your gate for your plane. Everyone sits in this one mall-like area until half an hour before the planes are scheduled to take off. All in all, I guess the trip so far has been smoother than I could hope for. No delays, anyway. Okay I have less than a minute left. Signing off.

permalink written by  Whitney on May 31, 2011 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged London

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Cape Town!

Cape Town, South Africa


So I made it to Cape Town. Everything here is just a little bit different. People drive on the left side of the road. Stoplights are called robots, and there are no walk signs. Outlets have three holes but they're all circular. The currency is roughly the same shape as in the US, but each bill feature lions and 5-6 colors. Things like that. I have orientation tomorrow, so I'll know more of what's going on then.

permalink written by  Whitney on June 1, 2011 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged CapeTown

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Camps

Camps Bay, South Africa


I've learned a couple weird things about Cape Town in just about a day of being here. 1. All the coffee is instant. Maybe you have to go somewhere fancier to buy real coffee beans? Instant is certainly more convenient, but certainly less tasty. 2. There's a “value-added-tax” on every item you buy included in the original price. When you go to the airport to leave the country, you can bring receipts and get that tax back on any item you can show them. So you get the money back on things like shirts and knickknacks, but not on food or drinks. Of course, I learned this one after buying a converter and tearing up the receipt. The “vat” was less than a dollar, so it's no big deal. Next time I'll remember and get my 79 cents or whatever it ends up being.

Today I went on a tour of Cape Town, and then tomorrow we are hiking somewhere, so I should be able to post some interesting pictures. We spent a lot of time in Camps Bay, which is gorgeous. I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to go to South Africa. You have Table Mountain/the 12 Apostles behind you, a beach beneath you, and Robben Island/the Atlantic in front of you. You simply can't beat it.

I met most of the people with VACorps. Everyone has been really friendly and accommodating so far. I've really enjoyed my stay :).

Saturday I leave for the Sardine Run trip. I'll be flying to Durban and going to Coffee Bay and Port St. John's from there. I probably won't be bringing my computer so I won't be posting until I get back on the 12th.

permalink written by  Whitney on June 2, 2011 from Camps Bay, South Africa
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged CampsBay

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Sardine Run

Durban, South Africa


Day 1: Durban
Four of us—Robin, Ellen, Mike and me—flew to Durban on the early flight (8 am). We thought we were the unlucky ones, but it turns out we got to spend the day at the beach, swimming and laying in the sun, while everyone else arrived tired around 4 pm. That was my first time swimming in an ocean. We hung out at the backpackers that night, watching rugby and soccer.

Days 2-5: Port St. John's
11 interns and Vanessa, from VACorps, piled into a van for a 5 hour drive to Port St. John's. The drivers of said van were blasting dance/trance music despite the fact that it was 9 am. We drove up and down gorgeous rolling hills as we hugged the eastern coast of South Africa. Finally, we arrived at the next backpackers (Amapondo). That night we just explored the beach (filled with cattle for some reason) and hung out at the bar. All 12 of us slept in the same room in bunk beds, so we told jokes and ghost stories as we felt asleep, and everyone had a great time.
The next day (Monday), we split up into two groups and went out on the water. Steve and Justin, our guides from Animal Ocean, were so helpful. They explained what to do and where to look and were so relaxed about everything. I snorkeled—sort of—for the first time. I didn't really let go of the boat, so I'm not sure it counts. We did see hundreds of dolphins from above water and underwater. We also caught some fish for chum and baited some sharks. Saw mostly Duskies and some Hammerheads. The other group went on a hike in the morning while we snorkeled and snorkeled while we all took naps. We braai-ed for dinner (barbequed South African-style).
On Tuesday, the groups switched and we hiked to “the blow-hole,” a small opening in a rock face right on the ocean. Water bursts out of the hole when big enough waves come in—hence the name. The hike itself was amazing, a lot of steep up and downs. In the afternoon we went out on the water. I actually snorkeled this time, and it was so awesome! Wetsuits make it so easily to float; in fact, it is practically impossible to sink without a weight belt. We didn't see dolphins this time out, but we did see even more sharks. I almost got seasick, but managed to keep it together until we got back to land. The other group made dinner—another braai.
Wednesday, we switched groups, because some people hadn't seen dolphins yet. My group went to the Mud Caves in the morning. We rode in the back of a pickup truck out into the even more rural areas of Port St. John's. Our friend Donnie from Amapondo hopped out of the truck and followed a large Xhosa woman into the forest. We hesitantly walked after them, unsure of what was going on. We caught up to Donnie at the base of a rock wall. There was a 2 foot by 4 foot crooked opening in the wall. Some muddy puddles outside the opening were filled with trash, so the everyone except Donnie was reluctant to crawl into the hole. Eventually we sucked it up and climbed in, still unsure. The Xhosa woman covered us in mud—not like wet dirt mud, but spa mud. We then scrambled up the rock wall and hiked through the forest a bit more to a sulphur spring. Donnie made us drink sulphur water and say something nice about it afterward. Believe me, there was nothing nice about that water. The Xhosa woman then gave us leopard prints with a darker mud from a pond near the sulphur spring. We then climbed back down to the truck and rode through town (we got a lot of stares and laughs) and then jumped in the ocean to clean off. The water was too rough to go out in the afternoon so we just hung out. Donnie made us a potjke (not sure of the spelling). It is more or less a big cast iron pot stuffed with veggies. So good. We didn't see any sardines despite the fact that we were there for the Sardine Run, but we did see sharks and dolphins, so it was all worth it.

Days 6-9: Coffee Bay
On Thursday we drove to Coffee Bay, only three hours. Our driver, a 25-year-old South African, played and sang along to Celine Dion. Again, we just hung out at the backpackers once we got to Coffee Bay. Friday we walked to a Xhosa village, drank traditional beer, hung out at the beach, and then ate traditional food and listened to traditional songs in a different Xhosa village. The pap and veg was quite good. I've heard there's a restaurant in Cape Town that serves the dish. I'll have to go check it out. The next day, the weather was beautiful so we went on a 10 kilometer hike up and down mini-mountains. Our guide went barefoot and was barely breathing heavily. A British girl who was vacationing in Coffee Bay and who had just run a marathon a couple weeks before was even struggling. The hike was worth it though because of the gorgeous scenery.

Day 10: Drive back to Durban and Flight to Cape Town
We drove 8 hours to Durban and then hopped on our flights back to Cape Town on Sunday. It was a great trip but I'm ready to start my internship.


permalink written by  Whitney on June 13, 2011 from Durban, South Africa
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged Durban and SardineRun

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Umtha Welanga

Khayelitsha, South Africa


Umtha Welanga (oom-tuh well-an-guh), where I'm interning, (ideally) does five things:
1. Provide support for families affected by HIV/AIDS
2. Provide support for child-headed homes
3. Provide support for foster families
4. Help attract people to fostering and place children in good home
5. Do home-based care

A government grant recently ran out, so UW is out of funds—the workers haven't been paid since March. As such, work is moving slowly. I did a home visits today. With a social worker (Siv) and two long-term employees of Umtha Welanga (Nqo and Lolita), I walked through Khayelitsha and stopped in about seven homes. The first was disgusting. We walked into a dark, dank, run-down concrete house that was filled with empty 40s and unconnected wires. An old man appeared from the bathroom after a couple of minutes and proceeded to talk in Xhosa. I guess his wife had recently died, and he was left alone with two foster children. The old man looked arthritic and had a lot of trouble walking, even though the house was tiny. The second home we visited couldn't have been more different. It was made of bricks, had nice patio furniture out front, and the inside was filled with grandmotherly furniture. The other homes varied in between these two. The stories of the residents were both depressing and uplifting. In the middle of the day we saw a three-year-old running around the side yard of a house. His grandmother was around back doing laundry. The little guy smiled and giggled when he noticed we were walking toward him. Siv, Lolita and Nqo talked to the grandmother for a couple minutes, and then they translated to me. The three-year-old's mother had been sick—she has HIV—but then she disappeared after leaving him with her boyfriend's mother (who I've been calling his grandmother). That's the depressing part. No one knows where the mother is or if she's okay. But her son appears to be in good hands, he looks happy, and Umtha Welanga as well as other organizations are there to provide support when needed.

After lunch I interviewed a woman who would like to adopt her niece. I listened to her story and helped her fill out the application to foster a related child. Normally, Umtha Welanga interviews people everyday and offers training monthly on how to successfully foster. With the funding problems, UW hasn't been able to do the training programs or advertise much. I have no idea what I'll be doing tomorrow. Hopefully more home visits. It is so interesting to see how people live.

I just bought a Xhosa dictionary, and by the end of my stay here, I should be able to speak just enough to talk during the visits. So far I know:
-molo (mow-low), which is hello
-molweni (mole-wen-ee), which is hello to multiple people
-unjani (oon-jahn-ee), which is how are you
-ndiphilile (uhn-dee-pee-lee-lay), which is I'm fine
-and a few other random words

permalink written by  Whitney on June 14, 2011 from Khayelitsha, South Africa
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged UmthaWelanga and Khayelitsha

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Youth Day

Cape Town, South Africa



Today it is Youth Day, so everyone gets the day off of work or school. Black South African students marched on June 16, 1976 to protest Bantu/separate and unequal education. School had been taught only in Afrikaans, and the educational standards were much lowers for black schools. Busi from work was in 8th grade and actually marched in the Eastern Cape. There the police fired rubber bullets at the students to disperse the protest. In Soweto, students weren't so lucky. Real bullets were used, and many students died. So June 16th is a day of to remember the sacrifice and importance of the youth for this country. The above picture is the famous image Sam Nzima took to document what had happened.


permalink written by  Whitney on June 15, 2011 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: South Africa
tagged YouthDay

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