Third World Beauty

•June 4, 2009 • 1 Comment


•June 3, 2009 • 1 Comment
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Creche Principal collecting donation
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Kiddies Creche
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  • Fruit stand in Philippi
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    Kiddies Creche

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    Driving by...

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    Hope Scholars Represent!

    I feel awful that I haven’t been able to keep up with my blog as regularly as I had anticipated. I haven’t been able to carry my laptop around freely to and from work as I thought I would be able to. So, until the last few days I have been in a hostel and left my laptop there until I found a place to stay for the remainder of the winter!

    So, yipeeee, I finally found a place to stay! Well, obviously I had been staying somewhere up until this point! I was staying in a backpacker’s hostel called the Green Elephant! I stayed there for about a week and a half, but it was time to go! I met some amazing people there from all over the world and made great friends, but it’s a very busy place and my experience in South Africa is having such a profound impact on me that I need some quite space to absorb and reflect what I am experiencing.

    So, what am I experiencing? It’s a struggle to find the words to articulate my thoughts about Cape Town. It’s noted as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Lush vegetation, pristine beaches, towering palm trees and people of all shades. However, the paradox of the blatantly visible, deeply rooted disparity between wealth and poverty have perplexed, disturbed and torn my psyche in two. I am humbled and grateful to be able to spend time with the people from the Philippi townships. I have never met more glowing people. They have the most kind and generous spirits. The kids and teens are brilliant! The women are embracing and a joy to be around!

    Within the next few weeks I will be interviewing students in the Gap Year program.
    The Gap Year is one of the SAEP’s longest and most successful program. The Gap Year is a program for students who are either preparing to take the matric exam, or have already taken it and not received high enough grades to qualify for University. The matric exam is a national mandated exam that all students must take in order to qualify for University. Their scores determine what programs in University they are eligible for, if they get in at all. The SAEP helps to prepare students for the important matric exam through tutoring and mentor programs, formal classroom instruction and a host of extracurricular activities. The Gap Year helps students prepare for educational opportunities beyond the high school level.  See here for more information about education in South Africa:

    I had the pleasure of talking to the Gap Year interns for an hour today about the importance of oral history interviews. They told me that “it’s traditional for their grandmothers to tell them about their past.” One young man said, “if we don’t know our past, then we won’t know about the mistakes that have been made.” Another young woman said, “Our parents fought very hard for us.” Many more profound thoughts were expressed as we got to know one another better! At the end of the lesson I gave one student my camera, had one student conduct a mock interview and another person was the interviewee. We all had a great time! The youth are teaching Xhosa! I love trying to learn the language…the?? Huh!!! No, on average the youth here speak about 3-5 languages! Amazing! Well, that’s all for today. I’m headed to the new place! It’s rainy in Cape Town, but I barely notice because I’m still floating above the clouds!


    •June 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment
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    Friends at the Green Elephant!

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    The one and only Shiela!

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    Standing under a beatiful palm!

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    Making Lunch at SAEP!

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    The view from the Backpackers! The very tip of table mountain!

    Week 2 in Cape Town

    •June 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment
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    The flag that hangs in the Backpackers!

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    The train I take to and from SAEP!

    The pool at the Backpackers. I just missed the warm weather!

    The pool at the Backpackers!

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    Shingi and Blessing at Camps Bay!

    I am meeting such wonderful people, both at the SAEP and in the community. The people that I’m staying with in the hostel are from all over the world. I have had the most intriguing conversations with my friends from Zimbabwe and Namibia. It’s a golden opportunity to learn about how other people live and the values they hold dear.

    In relation to my International Public Service Project, I have had two meetings with stakeholders who have provided me with invaluable insight regarding the project that I will be working on. At this point my project plan is fairly solid and I am moving forward with the following 2 initiatives. Initially, I was going to work with the organization to launch an oral history project to capture the stories of “Gap Year” students and principals in the Philippi crèches. In addition to the oral history project I will also focus on producing a 5 minute video to tell the important stories of the SAEP.

    I will be working with a former Gap Year student to complete the editing of all of the footage that I will collect. Although my primary focus will be the video, I will simultaneously be conducting full length oral history interviews to be archived at the SAEP.

    On the weekend I went to see a fantastic place called Camps Bay! It’s the world’s most beautiful beach (in my mind) and is right next to Sea Point, which is where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet. It looks like Beverly Hills meets Nice, France. It’s incredible to look out into the ocean from the very tip of the continent. The sand is a sparkling white and palm trees line the shore. Locals walk up and down the beach selling beautiful paintings, word carvings and quilts. I had the most delicious seafood curry at a restaurant along the beach. Camps Bay is also well known for its culinary mastery and beautiful restaurants. I’ve heard that movie stars like Robert DeNiro and others have properties in the area.

    London and my first week in Cape Town

    •May 21, 2009 • 2 Comments
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    Table Mountain from a distance.

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    Camps Bay.

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    Scenic drive through Cape Town.

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    Spirit at the London Bridge

    Spirit at the London Bridge

    Buckingham Palace

    Welcome to “Spirit in South Africa!”

    As a proud student of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Arkansas I am completing my International Public Service Project in Cape Town, South Africa! This summer I am working with an amazing organization called the South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP) from mid May until mid August. SAEP is an award-winning non-profit dedicated to helping children and youth in the impoverished informal settlements (townships) of Cape Town through support at every level of academic and personal development. SAEP helps beneficiaries build academic and life skills, realize their academic potential, prepare for productive employment, and contribute as leaders to South Africa’s economic and social development. I will post more about SAEP in the coming days, but I wanted to kick off my blog by painting a picture of my journey to this magnificent land.

    On my way to Cape Town I had a 9 hour layover in London, so I decided to spend the day in the city. Fortunately, I sat next to a London native on the plane who was able to give me very detailed instructions on how to get on the Tube (pronounced “Chube” by people in London) and into the city. I only had nine hours, but I managed to visit the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. I took Flat Stanley around London, but unfortunately he hasn’t been dolled up in South African attire. He’s kind of bland in London, but don’t worry he is going to be vibrant with the colors of South Africa soon enough!

    After walking around all day I sat down to a delicious meal of fish and chips in a pub right downtown. I wish I had more time to spend in London, but it was a great day and break in between flights! After eating I hopped back on the Tube and headed back to the airport. I was so excited, yet delirious after time changes (night suddenly becoming day), etc. But, I was so excited when I got to my gate titled “Cape Town”! I was so excited that I even took a picture of it. We boarded the plane in the early evening and set off to South Africa. I tried to sleep, but I kept peaking at the map and stared in awe as I saw the digital airplane coasting over the continent of Africa. It was such a wonderful feeling to think that West Africa was right below me, although I couldn’t see anything because it was dark. But, even to be soaring in African clouds made me beam with excitement!

    I watched “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road” throughout the night. Kate Winslet is amazing! Breakfast was served two hours before landing and the anticipation was incredible as we approached Cape Town. Don’t ask me how (because I chose my window seat online), but I was in the middle of the plane with no outside view. I was ill over that because the sun was just setting and I wanted to feel the warmth of the South African sun kiss my face. However, I managed to weasel my way to a view and it was blazing and beautiful!

    When we landed I was so energized to be in Cape Town that I was bursting at the seams. A lovely young woman named Danielle picked me up from the airport and she gave me a warm welcome into the city. On the way from the airport Danielle pointed out key areas, such as some of the townships that surround the city. For those of you who are not familiar, the townships were where many black South Africans were expelled to during Apartheid. Amazing, vibrant, loving people live in the townships, yet they face intense challenges such as extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, violence, and a host of other social circumstances. More on this later.
    I arrived at my hostel and checked in early in the morning. I wanted to soak in everything that I could, but I was practically limp after travelling for 2 days and bopping in and out of time zones. I passed out cold and then couldn’t sleep through the Cape Town night because I slept all day and my body thought it was day! After a couple of days I adjusted and life has been better than sliced bread ever since! Speaking of sliced bread, my hostel was right by a grocery store called the Spar. They have delectable food at low, low prices. The currency in South Africa is the Rand. The most beautiful looking dollar bills I have ever seen. The exchange rate is sweet, so it’s awesome! For example, you can pretty much buy an entire meal including a meal and a couple of drinks for under $10. I bought groceries the other day for about $7 US and it lasted me five days. Good stuff too like pesto, gouda cheese, the tastiest rye bread, sparkling water and a tantalizing avocado!

    So, I stayed at my first hostel for 6 days and relocated to another one with a much lively vibe. I went from night to day…from a hostel where you basically just sleep in to one with a pool table, small swimming pool outside, inter-nerd access, comfortable beds and super cool people from all around the world. So far I’ve met people from all over South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Namibia, Amsterdam and London all in one week!
    Cape Town has an amazing view of Table Mountain and palm trees and lush green vegetation line the streets. People of all shades of the rainbow reside in Cape Town, hence the nickname “Rainbow Nation.” There are 11 official languages in South Africa and I have heard lively conversations in many of them, most notably Xhosa, which is a treat to listen to! However, despite the beauty of the place, the long lasting effects of Apartheid have gauged at the livelihood of many people in South Africa. The townships are a keen emblem of the effects.

    This winter (yes, I’m in South Africa’s winter, which is beautiful I must say!) I will be interviewing principals and students who work with SAEP to gather their testimonies and stories. I have visited the Philippi Township twice already and had the privilege of meeting the most beautiful and loving children at a crèche (pre-school). At each crèche we visited the children (over 50 little kids) came running and screaming and hugged my legs and welcomed me to their crèche. I’ve never felt so good in my life. The children are strikingly beautiful and have such radiant smiles and faces. At that time the only word I could say in Xhosa was hello, so our communication was mere smiles, hugs, laughter and singing. The little girls broke out in hand games and began singing and dancing to show me! I cannot wait to spend more time in the townships. Go to this website for more information about the Philippi Township:

    I also attended a meeting in Philippi with the women principals of about 10 crèches. They warmly welcomed me and I love how they call me Sister! The women also said that I had an “African form!” I beamed with delight and felt a kinship with my Sisters, with whom I share my ancestry!

    I hope to keep my blog updated with lots of stories and photos about my experience. Please send me feedback and let me know if you want to know more about something or are interested in certain aspects of the stunning city and people of Cape Town!

    •March 14, 2009 • 1 Comment


    Hello world!

    •March 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

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