Markets of Warwick

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Two weeks ago a few of my friends and I spent Saturday at the Markets of Warwick in Durban. These markets are amazing and are comprised of nine different markets in Durban’s inner city. On an average day these markets see 460 000 commuters, and have between 5,000 and 8,000 vendors. “Currently this is the only informally structured market in a public space of this magnitude, and thus establishes itself as the single most authentic African market that South Africa has to offer.”

The markets are a beautiful display of culture. and I thought the best way to share this experience with you guys is through this video we took of the day.

Sorry about the shakiness of the video and beware there is a part where cow heads are getting chopped up.

~Grace

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Grab the Moments

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The last week I spent at Kruger National Park, the largest game park in South Africa. My host family took me camping there, and it was a wonderful experience. Most of the week was spent driving around the park looking at this country’s amazing wildlife. Here are a few pictures that I think capture some of the beauty we saw.

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It was amazing being able to see these animals in their natural habitat.. There is just something spectacular about it, I got the chance to see little glimpses of these creatures lives. I can’t exactly explain why it is so different from just looking at an animal in a zoo. I guess that the best way to explain it is that when I am looking at animals at a zoo they have been taken out of their world and put into my world, but when I get to see animals this way I get a view into their world, I am the misplaced one. I am sitting in the middle of their home instead of them sitting in the middle of my city.  There is something great about that.

Another thing I loved about Kruger was that after the sunset the sky turned into a wonderful display of light and design. The stars were fantastic and since South Africa is in the southern hemisphere it is a new sky to me, full of new constellations.  I have a wonderful fascination with the night sky although I know very little about it. What I love about stars is that you can’t really take a picture of them. You only get that moment, that night, to see that sky. Far too often I am guilty of wishing moments like these away. I am always searching for the next thing the next moment. I look back and this is my biggest regret, but I hope that I am changing. I have forced myself to stop and enjoy these moments of stars. Mitch Albom explains it well in his book The Time Keeper when he says

“But you grab a moment, or you let it pass.”

The last few weeks I have found myself thinking about the topic of time. Some recent books have been a cause, but also I measure out my time here in South Africa. How many days have I been here? How many days till I go home? I have a sort of panic about my time running out, that I’m not going to accomplish all the things I want to. But I also count until I get to hug my family again, and laugh with my friends at home. My heart is being pulled in two different directions. I realized the other day that for the rest of my life no matter where I am,  I am going to be missing someone. This makes me sad, and I don’t really know how I am going to deal with it. But I have decided the best way to deal with is to stop measuring the moments and the time. I have come to the realization that the best way to enjoy this exchange and actually just life in general is to embrace every moment full on. Grab them all, stop waiting for the next one, and live them for all they are worth.

~Grace

 

 

Yes, I do actually go to school

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     I think I have always had a love/hate relationship with school. I love learning and am so thankful that I have access to education and know that there are so many people in the world who do not have the same opportunities as me. Also I understand for most of history women have not had equal opportunities as men and am glad I have the privilege to live in a place and time that I have the chance to learn just as much as any male. But sometimes when I wake up at 6 am in the morning I forget to remind myself of this. I would rather crawl back into bed than read Shakespeare and learn about covalent bonding in molecules.  I have found out recently that this feeling comes even when you’re living in another country. It took awhile, but the trill of the school being new and exciting eventually wore off. I have learned that Mondays usually suck wherever you’re at.

Many people have asked me about my school here, so I have decided to dedicate this post to school. There are may differences between the school I go to here in South Africa and the one I go to in Oklahoma. So here is a little list…

  • Here I go to an all girl private school, in the U.S. I go to a co-ed public school. The all girls thing has taken some getting used to, but I really enjoy it.
  • This year I get the chance to wear a uniform (a flowered sun dress) that makes me feel like a five-year old girl.  This uniform makes getting ready in the morning about ten times faster, so I have grown to love it.
  • My school here is pretty strict, especially when it comes to appearance. For example you cannot wear makeup or jewelry, your hair must always be tied back, but not in a bun. A few days ago I even got in trouble for not having the correct colored hair tie. Lets just say when I get back I will never complain about the no tank top rule.
  • I get a twenty-minute “tea” break everyday here!
  • The students here pick their subjects in grade 10 and then continue with those subjects for the rest of high school. So other than the required Math, English, and Life Orientation I have chosen to take Biology, Science (physics and chemistry), History, and Afrikaans. These are pretty similar to the classes I would be taking in the U.S, except for maybe Afrikaans.
  • Since you take the same subjects for several years here the teachers go a lot more in depth than what I am used to.
  • Tests are the only grades that matter here, which I really appreciate since I have always hated busy work.
  • Here chapel is part of the school day twice a week.
  • The students here are required to show a lot more respect to elders. This means that if you are a younger student you must wait at a doorway to let an older student go through first. Also every time a teacher enters the room we are expected to stand up and greet them.
  • This term I am attempting to play squash, and next term my sport is netball (similar to basketball, but you don’t dribble) which are both very different from volleyball, the sport I am used to.
  • Every student gets put into a “house” and then the houses compete against each other in different things. This is awesome and it makes me feel like I go to Hogwarts.
  • My favorite part of school is that corridors and lockers are all outside. So every time I change classes I get fresh air, see the sun, and maybe even spot a monkey. This is going to make going back to the crammed hallways of my school back in Oklahoma a little hard.

  

    School is one of the things that is the most different about my life here. I compare the differences between schooling a lot, and am always trying to decide which one I think is better. I have come to the conclusion that both are good though. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but I really like them both. I am so glad I have the chance to see a different way to handle education. I get another perspective, and I think that it has been extremely beneficial for me. I value education a lot and am thankful I get the chance to experience two great, but very different ways of learning!

~Grace

Pieces of Places

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I was out of breath, and the thin air was struggling to make it through my lungs. This pile of rocks felt like it was endless and I was wondering if there really was a top to this climb. Then the guide said ten more steps to the top and it felt like a life line being thrown out, ten steps is easy. I reach the top and see much of the group sitting on the right and I start to make my way over when the guide stops me and tells me to go left. He says the views are better. I look over and all I see is fog on either side and think I’d rather go sit with my friends, but the guide keeps telling me to go left, so I go left. I walk over to the edge with a few others following behind. I remember I have my friend Danielle’s lunch in my backpack. She’s on the other side so I yell at her and she comes over. We sit down on the edge of the cliff, and the fog starts to roll back. When the curtain of clouds parts the picture it reveals is prettier than any painting I have ever seen. We are surrounded by mountains and cliffs, rivers are running paths through the terrain that lies below, the fog is still around the edges and creates a frame. I sit there amazed and breathless. Words flood my mind as I try to think of some way to describe the scene in front of me. Then my brain settles on something that was said to me a few weeks ago when I was in Cape Town. “God smiled when he made this place”, and I couldn’t think of any better way to describe what was sitting there before my eyes. Then as soon as it came the picture was gone, the fog came in and the view I had just seen would become only a memory. The rest of our group eventually came and sat by us, we sat there for about fifteen more minutes and ate our lunches. There were times when the fog started to to clear and we would get glimpses of the picture, but never again did I see the place for what it truly was.

Last weekend I got to spend four days in The Drakensberg Mountains. I had the pleasure of having my mid-stay orientation there with the four other YES Abroad South Africa students. We stayed at this backpackers lodge that was snuggled in the northern part of the mountain range. The lodge was great and I got to stay in a room at the bottom of a converted silo. The whole place had a great vibe from the music and loft areas to the really great cook who became our groups best friend. The four days were spent mostly sharing experiences and doing little workshops with our really awesome facilitators. On Saturday we went on the most beautiful 24 kilometer (about 15 mile) hike in the mountains which was and this is where I saw the view I described above. I wish I could have gotten a picture in those moments, but I did not. Maybe it’s for the best though because I don’t know if a photo could have done it justice. It was a very long hike though and I do have some other pictures from the hike that do show some of the beauty we experienced that day.

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I climbed down this ladder and it was one of the scariest things I have ever done.

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Standing at the top of the second tallest waterfall in the world, Tugela Falls. Too bad it’s to foggy to see down.

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As I compare this year to that hike I think that I keep seeing glimpses of how beautiful this culture is, every once in a while I see the picture peeking through the clouds. I see it in when the Zulu women greet each other on the street. I see it during chapel we say the Lord’s prayer in five different languages. I see another bit when I watch the girls dancing during lunch. I have seen pieces of the puzzle that are wonderful, but I haven’t seen the entire picture yet. I don’t know when I will see all the pieces fit together. It might not be untill the end of the year or even after I have left South Africa and am back where I grew up . As I go through these next months I plan on enjoying every piece I discover along the way and will treasure each moment I find another bit of this culture that I had not yet encountered.

~Grace

There are a bunch of excuses I could give for why I have not blogged in so long, but to be honest it’s mostly because I am lazy. So I will make a commitment, instead of doing a really long blog that tries to sum up my last month I will do a few shorter blogs over the next week or two to catch up.
These aren’t going to be in any order and will pretty much just be a bunch of random little stories like the one I wrote today, but I hope you all will enjoy them. Also I did not take most of the pictures that were on this post my friend Danielle did! Hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Reflection On the Last Year

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Three days ago I had to say goodbye to one of the best years of my life. It was a little sad, and a little exciting. The biggest part of 2013 had to be YES and all that was applying and getting accepted by the scholarship, and then preparing and eventually moving across the world to South Africa. But 2013 was also full of a lot of really great small things. When I think about this last year I have countless memories that bring me joy. As I look back I see all the crazy adventures, I see car windows rolled down, bike rides, long talks and some soul-searching. There where many meals shared with friends( including my favorites Tuesday lunches with Abi) and Thursday nights spent watching Scandal with my parents. I learned how to drive, I took lots of plane trips. I shed a few tears, but shared much more smiles. There were new friends made and memories made with the friends who have been there forever. Endless new things were tried, and most of all when I look back I see a whole lot of laughter. This year has been great and I could not be more grateful for all that it has brought with it. It was a big year, probably the biggest of my life. So to celebrate the year I would like to share the ten biggest things I have learned in the last twelve months

1. Loving people is a choice.

2. Being taken out of your comfort zone is a hard thing to do, but it’s the only way you can truly grow.

3. Every storm will pass. Sometimes things seem like the end of the world but they’re not, life goes on.

4. “Found out life was complicated, more grey than black and white” If I can borrow those words from Ben Rector. The world is complicated, there are rarely easy solutions. This was a hard one for me because I want to solve every problem and I want to solve it fast.

5.Listening is a lot better way to show love than talking. (this is still a daily struggle)

6. Most of the time when you’re scared of something, it’s because you don’t understand it.

7. The best people are the ones who can constantly make you laugh.

8. It’s ok to admit your weakness.

9.Don’t take for granted the friends who have always been there.

and the biggest thing I learned in 2013 was…

10.That the best things happen when you take risks! The thing that always keeps me from taking risks is fear, whether it be fear of failure or rejection, it always comes back to fear, but by far the best things that happened to me this year were all because I pushed aside fear and took risks.

That includes applying to the YES Abroad program. This program has been one of the best experiences of my life. A year ago I could not have imagined that this would be my life today. I am amazed and thankful every day for this opportunity. So I strongly encourage anyone who would be even remotely interested to fill out the application for the program to do so. It can be found here, there is a week left to turn it in. Also if you aren’t a high school student I strongly urge you to think about hosting a YES student. Both are great chances to get to understand other cultures and people, and get a chance to learn a bit more about another part of the world!  So here’s to the new adventures, further learning, and hopefully more laughter that awaits in 2014. I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year!

~Grace

December and Christmas

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The last month has not felt like December at all. When I think of December and Christmas I think of lights strung on houses, being able to see my breath in the air, apple cider, snow, hats and scarfs, fireplaces ablaze with orange and yellow, songs about the weather outside being frightful(Christmas songs are strongly geared towards the northern hemisphere), but I have experienced few of these things this December. Instead I have had swimming, beaches, tank tops, flip-flops, ice-cold drinks, windows and doors wide open letting fresh air in, and these things are just as delightful as the December I am accustomed to.

This month I’ve got to do really amazing things. The first week of December I went to camp! It was really fun and i got to go kayaking, play volleyball, help out with a holiday club for younger kids. The camp was a great experience and I got the chance to meet some really cool people!

One of the highlights of my month was one Friday Eunice took us downtown to go shopping. Though I had been to downtown before for a tour of the city, this was a whole new experience. Because we were with Eunice we got to really interact with all the people. The people there were so wonderful and nice. We got invitations to parties, and at one store the people had us sit down and went and bought us Coke and kept trying to buy us lunch. They also took a bunch of pictures with us and said they were going to hang it on their wall and tell everyone that Americans has been here. It was great, probably the funniest  part of the shopping trip was the amount of marriage proposals. Eunice was so funny, when boys would ask how much our lobola (a type of dowry paid in cows) was, she would say that they would have to pay it to Obama because we were American. It was a great afternoon full of smiles and laughter, and I felt like I got to see another piece of South African culture.

We have also spent the last two Saturdays in Durban, which is a big city about an hour away on the ocean. It is so beautiful there! We spent the first saturday swimming, attempting to surf, and going to a dolphin Christmas show. This last saturday we got to go to a market that was full of local venders, and take a ride up to the top of the Moses Mabhiba Stadium (one of the stadiums used for the FIFA world cup in 2010). Heres some cool pics of the stadium and looking out over the stadium.Image

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I love Durban and hope to be able to go back a few more times before I leave.

And so that brings us to this week and Christmas..

My whole life my Christmas has been about the same I have spent it with the same people, in the same places, doing the same traditions. This year everything is different. My Christmas has been spent in a different country, in the middle of summer, a family that I have only known for two months. The tree is made of wires instead of artificial pine, the traditions are new to me. I spent Christmas Eve  at mass with my host Gran in contrast to the bright lights and loud music of my church in the U.S. These differences seem so much more intense during the holidays and I am constantly comparing their Christmas to the one I am used to. But this Christmas has been wonderful and great in so many ways. As i mentioned before I went to mass last night with my host Gran, her sister, Skye, My host brother Sebastian, and his cousin Jordan.I’ve been to a Catholic church before and I really do enjoy them, and I was glad we got to spend our Christmas Eve at this one. We then came home and had a big dinner, and did Christmas poppers, and then opened presents and ate ice cream. It was a great night! Today has been really relaxed and we just had a nice Christmas lunch.

It has been a wonderful Christmas and I am thankful that I get to experience another culture’s Christmas and their traditions. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and it is filled with joy and blessings!

~Grace

P.S I am getting pretty excited about being able to watch the Thunder tonight for the first time this season ! THUNDER UP!!!

Saying Goodbye to Mandela

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“Hope is a powerful weapon, and no one power on earth can deprive you of.”- Nelson Mandela

Yesterday I walked into a McDonald’s to buy a mcflurry and while waiting with Skye and my host brother I saw a book off to the side. The sign above the book says to write a note to Nelson Mandela. The sign referred to him as Tata which means father in Xhosa. The book was close to full with beautiful words of love and admiration. The notes were in a wonderful collection of languages as the people of the rainbow nation said their goodbyes. I think the book sitting in the middle of this McDonald’s represented the grief of this country so well. It sat in an ordinary place so that ordinary people could say farewell to the man who changed their country and their lives.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”-Nelson Mandela

I have lived in freedom my whole life. I have never felt the bitter pain of oppression. Rights have never been taken away from me because of the color of my skin. I am white, I am privileged, and I have grown up in a free society. If Nelson Mandela had given up on his fight for human rights my life probably would have not been very different. But this is not the case for everyone I am surrounded by, these people who I now call my friends’ lives would be completely different. Without Mandela and people like him this country would still be suffering from the segregation and oppression that apartheid brought.  In South Africa the pain of segregation and oppression is fresher, it is not generations away. This has made it more real to me. I have so much more respect for people who have and continue to fight for freedom. I think that one thing I will take away from my stay in this country, will be a new perspective on freedom and how I should handle the freedom I am so blessed to have. I actually stumbled  across the quote above a few months before I left for South Africa and loved it, but I think I am just starting to grasp what respecting and enhancing the freedom of others really means. The more I have learned about Mandela as I have lived here, the more his life has challenged me on an extremely personal level in things like this.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”- Nelson Mandela

I have been in a unique situation these last few days. I am an outsider watching as a country grieves and celebrates the most  influential leader they have ever had. And though I celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life I have the feeling that I do not have the right to grieve. He did not belong to me, he was these people’s leader not mine. But I am thankful beyond words for Mandela’s life and work in this beautiful country that is becoming a home to me. The people of South Africa love Mandela, he is the father of their nation.He is apart of all of their stories. He showed people how to love, and he did it in an extraordinary way, and it is wonderful to see this love pour out as they remember his life. Leaders from around the world and the people of South Africa gathered to celebrate his life at the memorial service today in Johannesburg.  Eunice told me that it always rains when a king dies and today it did rain, here and in Johannesburg. My heart aches for these people as I feel their grief and I look at their broken past that still seems so fresh, but I look towards the future and pray for beautiful things for this country that I love. I hope that this country, and the rest of the world continues Mandela’s work now that he is gone.

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”-Nelson Mandela