The jump, free travel, and Cape Town

South Africa 6Moving into our final homestay in Cape Town has been quite an experience. We have now gone from having no electricity, running water and connection to the rest of the world to having absolutely all of that and more than we possibly need. It has without a doubt been a cultural shock for us. We are now living with middle class colored and white families and taking lecture courses at the University of Cape Town.

Reflecting back on this journey up to this point I’ve come to learn how divided the nation of South Africa really is. I find myself feeling guilty living in the comfort of my nice home while just across town, thousands are living in townships, jobless. I feel broken here in Cape Town; it’s hard to not wonder why God provides for some and not for others, but then I remember life in Lesotho and how much joy I found from living simply and from the little things in life. I know that God was providing for me then too. It has truly been a life changing experience living and learning from the families and everyday people we meet on the streets.

-Bia Stoltzfus
Nov. 11, 2009

Resting on a hike - Jason Ropp We bungee jumped at a place called Bloukrans Bridge. At 216 meters it is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. I was very nervous on the bus ride to the bridge; just ask Rachel Yoder who was sitting next to me. After signing away all my rights in the case that something bad happened, I walked out to the middle of the bridge. They were playing mind-numbing, adrenaline-laced music, and there were 20 of us from our group pumping each other up. The atmosphere was perfect. One by one we would get hooked up and walk to the edge with our guide. Finally my turn came. He counted down from five and I just jumped without hesitation. The first half second was quite peaceful. For all my body knew it may have just left a six foot ledge and was about to return safely to the earth. Then came the point were I realized that I had just done something very foolish. I was falling very quickly with only one cord to save me from plummeting to my instantaneous death. I immediately proceeded to panic, but to no avail, I was going to die. (I think the panic is supposed to kick in earlier and prevent one from throwing oneself off of a bridge.) It took about four seconds to convince myself that I would live and that may have been my amazing courage and mental strength, or it may have been the subtle tug of the cord that I was feeling around my ankles. I transitioned from a terrifying free-fall into a state of complete silence and no movement and then I sprung back into the air again. At this point I was thoroughly enjoying myself. After three or four bounces I was pulled back to safety on the bridge. It felt good to stand on something solid again. I don’t regret anything about the experience, but I am not likely to attempt anything similar for quite some time.

-Darrel Miller
Nov. 9, 2009

Watching a traditional dance Free travel week was a nice break from the bigger group and a great opportunity to travel along South Africa’s Garden Route, which is a region along the southern coast that follows the N2 highway and makes stops at several beaches, inland villages, and tourist destinations along the way. We stayed in backpackers (like hostels) and traveled from town to town on the BazBus, a transportation system specifically for backpackers like us. My group of five stopped first in Outdshoorn, where ostriches abound (they actually outnumber people). Highlights include ostrich egg and steak, and riding 12 kilometers on bikes to an ostrich farm, where most of us were able to actually ride one.

Other free travel groups stayed closer to the coast, lodging in towns such as Wilderness, Mossel Bay, and Hermanus. My group finished our week in Hermanus, which is world famous for whale watching. We walked and hiked the cliff paths, saw many whales from the rocks, and on our last day, walked an hour and a half to spend the day on the beach.

Even though some groups encountered odd characters, transportation frustrations, and slight mishaps, we all had fun times and stories to share which will never be forgotten.

-Charlotte Wenger
Nov. 9, 2009

The mountains The last leg of our three month journey has begun. We arrived in Cape Town on Thursday, November 5, and ever since that day we’ve enjoyed the breathtaking sites of Table Mountain that mystically looms over the city. Our first few days were spent at Ashanti Lodge, located near the heart of downtown Cape Town, where we had the freedom to explore the city’s vast array of opportunities. The majority of us were drawn to the open-air markets, where our education in bargaining increased tenfold as we cajoled vendors into lowering their prices on everything from mahogany bowls to decorative earrings.

On Sunday, the group’s anticipation increased as we prepared to meet our new host families. Needless to say, our worries and fears were quickly erased as we embraced our new parents and siblings at the welcoming center that afternoon.

The following day we had our first lecture at the University of Cape Town, where professor Mohammad Shaeed Mati spoke to our group about the prevalent Muslim community in the surrounding area. Learning everything from when the first Muslims arrived from Malaysia in 1658 to the prejudice and second class status they acquired during apartheid, I became increasingly aware of the complex structural segregation embedded within South African history. Throughout the lecture, I could not help but feel privileged and extremely grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in such a culturally rich and diverse context.

-Elizabeth Barge
Nov. 11, 2009

Elephants on the road We arrived at Addo Elephant National Park pretty excited about our opportunity to finally see masses of African wildlife. We threw all of our inhibitions to the wind and did the most “touristy” thing you could think of…we went on a safari. Armed with our cameras, we set out on a khaki-colored truck and saw some pretty amazing creatures. We came within a few feet of monstrous elephants; we saw kudu, eland, ostriches, cape buffalo, warthogs, tortoises, and a few lucky souls caught a glimpse of the park’s six lions! Afterward, we grabbed a not-so-quick meal at the local restaurant before retiring to our “forest huts” for the night. And let’s not forget the most comfortable beds yet this trip, before waking up the next morning with free travel right around the corner.

-Jesse Springer
November 12, 2009