Tuesday, July 23

As I type, I am listening to the Muslim night prayer that is being sung somewhere down the street.   Yesterday marked the halfway point for Ramadan.  We learned yesterday that the full moon was last night and that is how the halfway point is marked.

This morning around 6:30am, I woke up to the prayers being sung.  Tonight they started around 6:30pm and are still going.  It seems that the night prayers are much longer.  It is truly a beautiful sound to hear as I am sitting here reflecting on the day.  It’s a great reminder of how truly diverse this country is.

A little about my day…
We started with a discussion at the University of Cape Town with Crain Soudien (author of our textbook).  We continued the day in Stellenbosch with a discussion with another professor about language polices.  We then had lunch at a winery.  Stellenbosch is known as the “Napa Valley” of South Africa.  It was beautiful!

We’re going out for supper tonight and then we rest.  We leave for home tomorrow!!!  We leave our hotel at 10:30am, we fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg, sit at the airport for a few hours, fly from Johannesburg to to Atlanta and then fly from Atlanta to Omaha… and then I’m home  🙂  Just a heads up… internet costs at the South Africa airports, so I won’t have internet access until I get home.  See you later!

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Monday, July 22

Today we went to the District 6 museum.  The people of this district were told to leave (during the Apartheid) so the White people could take over the area.  However, after the Blacks and Coloureds left, the White people burned everything to the ground and never rebuilt on the land.  The land now is completely empty with just the remnants of the old city streets.  I am having a difficult time uploading pictures to the blog, but I will have them up on Facebook soon.  The pictures will more clearly explain what the museum is all about.

We then went to Bo’Kaap, which was a Malay area.  It was beautiful!  We picked up some Indian spices and are excited to do some cooking!  Again, I can’t get pictures uploaded, but will have them on facebook in a few days.

Lastly, we went to Langa, which was a Black township during the Apartheid.  We walked through the area for several hours.  One lady invited us in to her home, which was smaller than a dorm room.  She has two sons that lives with her in this tiny space.

Even though they don’t have much, this community seemed so happy and vibrant.  I’m learning that it’s definitely not material things that make a happy life, it’s your outlook on life and the people you surround yourself with.

As we were walking down the street, this little girl ran up to me, gave me a hug, pulled me down closer for another hug, and ran off.  It seemed as though she came out of nowhere.  It was just what I needed.  She warmed my heart.  This area slightly reminded me of Haiti and this little girl was just the piece that was missing  🙂

We ate at the township and then headed back to the hostel.  We had a quick lasagna supper and are now resting.  It’s night time here and time for bed.  Tomorrow we go on a couple university tours and a wine area.  We leave for home on Wednesday.  One more full day and I’m outta here!  I absolutely love South Africa, but I’m ready to be home.  Tata!

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Sunday, July 21

We started the day at Robben Island.  This was a maximum security prison during the apartheid, which held many political prisoners.  Nelson Mandela stayed here for 18 years.

We had a 30 minute boat ride to get to the island.  Once we were there, we received a tour of the island.  We were told that the island was once a leper colony.  We visited the leper cemetery.

We then saw the place that Robert Sobukwe stayed while he was imprisoned.   He was a political prisoner that started the Pan Africanist Congress.  He was in a building away from the main prison in solitary confinement.

We then went on to the limestone quarry on the island.  This is where many of the prisoners worked, including Nelson Mandela.  The cave in the following picture was meant as a bathroom for the prisoners while they were working at the quarry.  However, the prisoners took advantage of the privacy and started talking and teaching each other.  They called this area “The University”.

This pile of rocks was started by Nelson Mandela during a prisoner reunion.  In silence, all of the other former prisoners followed:
We then stopped at the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a beautiful sight!  You can see Table Mountain behind me:
After a tour of the island, we went to see the maximum security prison.
In the prison, we saw the recreation area, the bathrooms and a few cells, including Nelson Mandela’s former cell.  Here is a video of Nelson Mandela’s cell:

It was sad to see how small these cells were.  When the prisoners arrived, they received a number that striped them of their former identity.  Many of these prisoners were political prisoners who simply disagreed with the government.  They were given a mat and two blankets and thrown in the cell.

On the way off the island, we saw African penguins:
After Robben Island, we had a light lunch and went to Table Mountain, which is one of the seven wonders of nature.  We took a cable up the mountain and took a nice little walk on top.  Here’s a view from the top of the mountain:
After the mountain, we stopped by the beach and took a nice little drive.  We’re now relaxing and resting up for another long day tomorrow.

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Saturday, July 20

Today we flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town.  It was a 2 hour flight.  It was cool to see the red dirt Johannesburg land and the green Cape Town land.

We’re staying at Observatory Backpackers, which is a hostel.  It’s a pretty cool and clean place.  I share a room with Tiffany and Linsay.  We share a bathroom, kitchen and living room with the rest of the group.  Here are some pictures:
Check out the view from our neighborhood:
We ate at an Indian restaurant tonight.  I didn’t have much luck with my food.   Tiffany and I shared Spinach Ka Beauty and Chicken Curry.  I think this is the first time that I didn’t really like my food.  Other than tonight, the food has been excellent!
This picture is of Linsay and I are the restaurant:
Tomorrow we will be visiting Robben Island and Table Mountain.  I need to get some rest so I can fully enjoy it.  So excited!

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Friday, July 19

A short post for today… which was very uneventful.

We took a campus tour at the University of Pretoria- main campus.

This sign is in 3 languages.  The first is Afrikaans, the second is English and I think the last is Sepedi.  I always thought that Afrikaans sounds similar to English, so I found this sign funny.

After the tour, the University of Nebraska and the University of Pretoria signed a Memorandum of Agreement.

We then went shopping at the mall and went out for supper.  Tonight we are resting and packing.  We fly to Cape Town tomorrow!

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Videos from the Safari

Herd of elephants:

Mad, young elephant:

Elephant drinking:


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Thursday, July 18

Today is Mandela Day!  It is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday.  South Africans celebrate this day as a day of peace.  They take 67 (Mandela’s prison number) minutes out of their day to do something nice for another person.  The whole city seemed alive and happy today!  Here’s the front page of the newspaper today:

This afternoon we stopped by the hospital that Mandela is currently being treated at.  I was so very close to this amazing icon!  The streets were very crowded with people celebrating the day.  In this picture, you can see the hospital in the background, with posters of support in the front:

Here is a picture of several of us in front of the ‘get well’ posters:

We ate at Cafe 41 today, which was very good.  I had a sandwich and soup.  Several University of Pretoria students offered to drive us there.  Here we are all crammed in the car:

After lunch, we went to the Union Building (where Parliament meets).  Here is a view of Pretoria from the Union Building:

The afternoon portion of the day was nice… the morning however gave me much time to reflect on this trip.  This morning we met with several University of Pretoria students.  The intent was to have a roundtable, asking each other questions about the education system and culture of the respective country.  We spent over an hour introducing ourselves and asking questions.  By the end of the 2 hours, there had only been 1-2 questions answered (at least 20 were asked).  It was very disappointing that our discussion did not lead to more questions being answered.

During the discussion, I reflected on this trip.  Warning:  the following reflection is very pessimistic.
I have decided that I am on the wrong trip.  I came with the Teaching and Learning department (I am in the Educational Administration for Higher Ed department).  I have enjoyed learning about elementary and secondary teaching, but I would have been better suited to attend a trip with my own department.  This trip is also highly focused on research.  I am not interested in conducting research in South Africa.  I am not at the point where I can collaborate on research with someone who wants to study the education system.  This whole trip has been revolving around this and it’s been very disappointing.  I did not realize that this would be the case when signing up for the trip.

Much of the trip has also revolved around creating a relationship with the University of Pretoria.  While I have enjoyed my time at UP and with the UP students, it seems that we are attempting to make a good name for UNL, without concern or consideration for the students’ interests that are currently on the trip.  I joined the trip hoping to learn about South African culture and I definitely expected to see the country.  I must have misunderstood the intent of the study abroad trip and have been greatly disappointed because of it.

My top place to visit has been South Africa.  I have been here for 2 weeks and feel like I have not been able to see and experience the country.  I paid UNL Education Abroad a good chunk of money and I have no idea where that money has gone.  We have had to pay for most everything while being here.  Due to crime, we are told to stay at the guest house after dark (it gets dark around 5:30pm).  Nothing is planned for the evenings, which can be nice so we can rest, but many of us want to go see and experience South Africa.  We can’t do that from a classroom or from our hotel room.  I wish I would have travelled to South Africa on my own.  I feel as though my money would have been better spent and I would have been able to experience South Africa in a way of my choosing.

For those of you that read my blog, I hope you can appreciate my honesty.  I know I sound very pessimistic, but I am extremely disappointed with this trip.  I have attempted to stay positive for the past 2 weeks, but I keep getting disappointed day after day.  I’m certain that things will pick up once we arrive in Cape Town (in 2 days), but until then I fear that I will continue to feel heartbroken over missed opportunities.  I’m in South Africa… I want to see and do more!  Unfortunately, a large part of our trip has been spent in the classroom and in the hotel room.  I have learned to pay more attention to the description of a study abroad trip before signing up for it.  This one was definitely not a good fit for me.

On a positive note, the people that are on the trip with me are awesome!  Many of them feel the same way about the trip as I do.  Unfortunately, we spend much of our time together discussing the disappointment that we feel.  It is nice to have some great people by my side while we’re here.

Please pray that things will get better.  I don’t want to leave South Africa feeling disappointed.  I want to leave feeling rejuvenated and excited to share my trip experience.

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