“Do what you love, love what you do” & The Day of Many Songs

Well hello there meaning of life, how did you end up underneath my café mocha? “Do what you love, love what you do” what else is there to say? Now that I am on my way back home to the United States, I now have begun to reflect on my 2.5 months in Cape Town. What is there to say? It is still completely surreal to me that I have left my new home and must return back to my old home, and then go to my school home. Goodness, so much traveling!

This is what I wrote while sitting in that café, drinking my mocha:

It is odd how the most appropriate messages are always right in front of you. The sweet and emotion-filled lyrics of Taylor Swift were the tunes that drove me to Cape Town International Airport; as I gazed out the window to take my last glimpse of the city, my eyes were filed with tears, “take a deep breath” it is time to go. Now, I am sitting in the airport café and I’m watching my last sunset over Cape Town…this goodbye is extremely bittersweet. I’ve actually had tears in my eyes since saying my goodbyes to my housemates; although some are shed because I am sad to leave, they are mostly of joy. How can I be sad? I will obviously miss this amazing city, but I was also so blessed to have this opportunity and I am taking home so many memories and new friends.

 I also know that I won’t stay away for long. I have met too many people and I can’t let that be my final goodbye; instead, I prefer a “see you soon” (which also means I will have to travel around the world…oh well!)

 1. “It was all a dream”

 Was it? I know I was there, I know I had seen all the sights and told my story to so many people, but how is it already over? I can’t believe that I was there for almost 3 months. I’ve walked the streets, I’ve climbed the mountains, and even swam in the ocean (although, it was only once). I’m here, now, in the Amsterdam airport, but my time in Cape Town already seems so far in the past. How can that be? I know that it is not possible, but I wish that I could suspend certain moments in time…. just so they don’t disappear, just like a dream. I have photos, but the memories will also have to last me until the next time I come back.

2. “Make new friends, but keep the old….”

“…One is silver and the other is gold…” oh Girl Scouts, you taught me so much, and this was probably the most important lesson of all. As I have mentioned over and over and over, I have met SO many people during my time in Cape Town. I have told my story over and over and over, and I just found out the other day that people I haven’t even met yet have been reading my blog! I’m actually quite thrilled, but who knew that I would be touching so many people? Hopefully it is for the best!

Anyway, all of these new friends have a special place in my heart and I am going to miss them so much; however, this departure is truly bittersweet because as much as I am going to miss them, I have also missed my friends back in the States. There is a lot to look forward to, and many more journeys to be had! So as, I have learned, I can make new friends, keep the old, and know that I have a great network of folks wherever I may go!

3.  Track 6 – The Best of the Ganga Muffins 

And now, I’m sitting here in the Amsterdam airport listing to “The Best of the Ganga Muffins,” a pretty quality cd that I purchased for R50 from some guy who I met while buying a soda at Mzoli’s Place. I wonder if he knew he would be traveling all the way back to America with me…

4. “I Will Be Blessed” – Ben Howard

One another note I must also thank my new friend Austin for introducing me to Ben Howard. He is an amazing artist, and will be the perfect accompaniment while I am traveling today. Thankfully, she is one of my friends who I am able to see again back in the States…. what a lovely thing! 

It’s nearing the end, my friend…

Sometimes it takes the end of a journey to realize the impact that you have made. As I sit here on my last day as an intern at Cape Town Child Welfare, I review the pictures from the many events this summer and begin to see how far I have come during my time here. 

Today, as a proper send off from my internship, we had our Women’s Day Fundraising Breakfast. Honestly, I don’t know how much money we made, but I think the most important outcome of the event was sharing the mission of my organization and showing our guests that we need their help to educate others so that we can continue to help the children of Cape Town. I had days where I was concerned whether the work we were doing was truly making a difference, but after reading the thank you cards and saying my goodbyes, I know that my time here has been worthwhile. 

It almost brings me to tears (almost) how much I have gotten out of this internship. The journey has been an amazing one and I look forward to sharing my stories will all of you! 

Oh the places you’ll go…

I wrote a poem:

Oh the places you’ll go, 
oh the people you’ll meet
when you’re sitting in the taxi 
or walking down the street.
 
Every day there are ups,
Every day there are downs
But what else do you expect?
It’s Cape Town! 

 

I think this generally sums up my time here so far…and I also wrote a great post to go along with this poem, but I have to contemplate whether I am going to upload it or save it for my entry into the GoAbroad’s Next Great Travel Writer Contest, which was shared with me by a colleague/friend at If I Could… 

Perhaps once I submit the entry I can post it here, as well. 

 

What’s going on this week in Cape Town? Let see… I am very busy planning the Women’s Day Breakfast for Cape Town Child Welfare, and although we have been successful in getting many donations, we are still hoping to fill up some more tables at the event. On my end I have been contacting various restaurants, wineries, etc. for donations for our goodie bags and “lucky draw.” I even managed, some how, to get the goodie bags themselves from 2, yes 2, different companies! I’m sure we will be able to figure out something fun to do with the extras… 

This Friday I will be attending a Cape Malay cooking class and then on Saturday I was invited by my coworker to a Ramadan dinner at her home. I may have mentioned this before, or some of you may have already talked with me about it, but although her offer is very generous, I am quite concerned about traveling to her home. From what I have heard, the area in which she lives is not the most safe, but I trust that she will be there to pick me up from the taxi rank; I will also just continue to repeat my mantra (from Kelly Clarkson) “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Let’s just hope I don’t have to practice my duck and cover move if I hear any gun shots (I wish I was kidding!)

Once I am feeling more contemplative I’ll write again; there is a lot to focus on this week and my mind is a little frazzled! 

Back to work! 

“See you now” = 20 minutes…or more!

I will say it again for the record, everyday is an adventure in Cape Town, and today as I was walking down the street, I took a moment to think about my journey thus far…it was a strange to realize that I have already been here for 6 weeks, which also does not seem like much time at all. I am now half way through this amazing adventure and now, more than ever, I want to take advantage of every moment I have here!

This past week was quite lovely since it was a mix of different holiday programs for the youth that we work with at Cape Town Child Welfare. As you can see from my pictures on Facebook, the children are absolutely adorable and working with them is such a blessing. I wrote in one of my previous posts that I am not sure whether I am 100% set on following the path towards social work, but after working with these children, I am once again seeing where I “shine” (as my mother would say). When you know you really enjoy something you can feel something like a glow coming from your heart, it draws you closer, and you know that you are where you belong; playing with the children at the crèche is where I felt at home, I was able to connect with the children so easily and I truly enjoyed my time with them.

On Thursday I was also able to meet up again with the boys from the holiday camp that I worked at a few weeks ago. I had put together a slideshow for them and we brought snacks, but my favorite part about that day was bringing the group from Egoli to the beach. Although these children live no more than 30 minutes from the beach, even on holiday they rarely ever have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful area of their city. Talk about heart warming…these boys looked like they were having the time of their life, and I was honored to get to spend that time with them. It makes me a bit sad, though, because I feel like many of these children are stuck. Yes, they are receiving an education, but if their family cannot afford to pay, then they will not be able to continue, and by 16 they will likely begin to work to help support their family. It is a completely different lifestyle and there are very different standards and expectations. Several of the boys kept saying “I’m going to come back to America with you” and although it would never make sense to take them from their families, I would love to show them how I live in the States. This is why I feel like I must live every day with my eyes wide open and appreciate every moment that I have in these townships, because I will never experience anything like it ever again. This may not be the Africa that everyone pictures, but it is a reality and I wish that I could sufficiently share everything that I have seen and experienced…

Often this makes me contemplate the work that I do at CTCW, because to what extent does my slideshow and snacks make a difference in these boys lives? Yes, the organization does very important social work, but what is “community development” and where are there changes being made? I am concerned, as I am sure I will reflect in my final PICA essay, that there is more substantial work to be done and my department is not reaching far enough to meet the people’s needs. It is sometimes frustrating to be limited by the work that is done through this organization, but I also remember that we are only one of many, and we are working to just meet people’s basic needs. As I was reading in one of my social work books (for my internship at the Waterford Country School), basic needs must be met before any other service is attempted, such as counseling. I think that many of these boys have seen pain, suffering, violence, etc. far beyond anything that I can imagine, but how can CTCW or any other organization help them if we can’t even provide them consistent meals?

Just something to think about, and definitely a topic for more research and contemplation as I begin to plan my final “thesis,” in which I plan to compare child welfare in South Africa and the United States.  

On a different, more pleasant note, I have begun to become quite immersed in the Cape Town Ultimate world…as have many other Americans it appears! I went to indoor pick up on Friday and several girls who are from the US and studying at the University of Cape Town. Today, I was also able to meet more Americans who are working at an NGO. We all went to Mzoli’s Place for another braai (refer to previous post!). Overall, the weekend was lovely, and there is much more to look forward to during my next 5 weeks. I feel as if it is necessary for me to take a step back and do some more critical thinking, but often my best thinking comes when I am far away from my computer.

As a final thought, this Thursday the 18th is Nelson Mandela Day, which is in celebration of Mandala’s birthday and the amazing work that he has done during his lifetime. From what I have learned thus far, 67 minutes of this day are to be contributed to some community service, where you give your time, but not your money. I am still considering the best way to celebrate Mandela Day, but I am thinking that I will bake on Wednesday and share what I have made with all the people I have become “friends” with on the way home (the woman from the train station, my taxi driver, the guy from Vida Café, the man who always asks me if I am going to the gym, and the parking guys who work near my house….I now have quite the collection of new friends!) Anyway, I also ask that everyone use 67 minutes of their Thursday by giving back to the community in some way. Celebrate Mandela and reflect on how he has made such a difference in the lives of South Africans and those around the world. We were just at an exhibit about him at the civic center, and I really wish I had the opportunity to meet him, he seems like such an amazing person and I am inspired by his approach to life. 

 

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended”

– Nelson Mandela 

Looking back on where I’ve been, but keeping the focus on where I’m going…

I was about to write a post on race, but I’m not sure I’m ready to embark on that topic until I have had the opportunity to return to the US with new eyes. My initial thoughts were that until arriving to Cape Town, I was very blind to race, since it is not something I think about on a daily basis. Being the minority, though, has changed my view, and recently I have been thinking about how my opinion of race might change when I return to the US. I think that living in Cape Town will have a very important impact on how I view the US, in general, and I am looking forward to seeing my country with fresh eyes upon my return. 

For anyone who is interested, I would love to hear your thoughts about race in either the US or South Africa…I think that these countries are still in a state of metamorphosis and it is quite likely that I still do not see the whole picture. 

Anyway, now that I have begun to settle into my schedule, I have begun to truly appreciate life in Cape Town. The first few weeks were full of adventure, and although my weekends allow me to continue to explore this wonderful city, I enjoy just sitting in a cafe (just as I am now). What have I been up to, you ask? Well, since the boys camp 2 weekends ago, I have climbed Table Mountain (4 hours up and 2 down) and begun two new projects at my internship. Most of my week was spent sitting in front of a computer, but I have now been employed to outline a campaign called Children4Children, which is meant to be a program that raises money for children in Cape Town, while connecting them with students in the United States (if you have any thoughts on this, please let me know!). My second project, designed under my own accord, is to teach computer skills to local teachers. They mostly need to know the basics, but I think it would be very helpful for them to know how to put together Word documents and send basic e-mails. My plan is to put together a binder of step-by-step guidelines and give a short tutorial, as well. This may be a project that is spent on my off day, since my supervisor didn’t seem 100% on board. We will see what happens with these projects, but nonetheless I am hopeful that I will be able to contribute something significant to my organization before I leave. 

This evening I am planning on hiking Lions Head for the sunset, and tomorrow I might trek down to the African History Museum. Sunday my internship organization has a trip planned to Roben Island, but the weather does not look ideal, and I don’t think you could pay me to get on a boat in the middle of a storm…sea sickness isn’t my idea of fun! 

Next weekend I am going to a cheetah park, but not the one where you can have animal encounters. I originally thought that we would get to play with the cubs, but after reading the organization’s website, I realize that this is a conservation park and it would be both harmful to me and the animals if I wanted to get up-close and personal. 

The following weekend, I have tickets to the Cape Town TEDx conference, and I might also be attending a performance of Rocky Horror for my friend’s birthday. 

There are so many things I want to do in Cape Town before I leave, so I’m glad I still have a few weeks left to fit it all in! Please feel free to ask questions here or on Facebook…I’m just giving the basics and I’m sure you want to know more! 

 

 

Rainbows, Rain Spiders, and a Weekend of Adventures at the Chrysalis Academy Boy’s Holiday Camp

First, I have finally come to understand why South Africa is often referred to as the ‘Rainbow Nation;’ I literally see a rainbow at least once a week, whether it has rained or not. As it arches over the city I feel as if it is some sort of symbol of protection, or represents something far beyond my capacity of understanding….generally, though, it is just something beautiful to see. They are always full arches, too, and once I even saw the end where the light dissipated into the mountain (unfortunately, I did not the pot of gold).

            Second, how do you write about an experience that was so powerful that you know that words will never do it justice? During my weekend at the Cape Town Child Welfare Holiday Boys Camp I frequently asked myself how I would share this experience with my family and friends, since each moment was packed with so much emotion. There were several occasions in which I felt so overwhelmed with joy that I was almost brought to tears, and looking back, I see that I was very blessed to have such an opportunity. The following post is merely just a summary of this weekend, since these boys all have their own story. You will just have to speak with me personally to get all the details…

             I honestly did not think that this camp would turn out so well, especially since Friday afternoon at 2:00 we only has 9 boys signed up to attend. Somehow though, Jenilee and Fagmieda were able to network with additional townships and find enough boys to reach a total of 24. These 24 boys were from three different township areas (Hout Bay, Imizamo Yethu, and Engoli), townships where these children would not normally have the opportunity to interact. It was amazing, though, how quickly the boys were able to mingle and begin playing. After the first few hours and several introductory games, I was not able to tell what township each boy was from. This ambiguity was one of the primary goals of the camp, since it is important to show these children that everyone is equal and sometimes they must work together to complete a shared goal.

 While the night began with introductory games, I was in the kitchen cooking pasta and meat sauce…it was quite the challenge to cook for ~30 people! The pasta was over cooked and apparently the sauce lacked salt, but thankfully we had enough food and everyone seemed satisfied with the meal that was provided for them. After more games and a movie, the night ended, and I personally did not have any trouble falling asleep.

            Saturday morning the boys awoke early and after breakfast we had them sit down and complete the “Me Tree” activity that I had put together. I first asked them to help me define self-esteem and then we briefly spoke about what might make us feel good and what makes us feel bad. On the paper leaves provided, I had the boys write something nice about each person in their group so that they could put it on their tree. Surprisingly, the boys were quite receptive to this activity and they were very genuine in the words that they wrote to their friends. This activity also required the boys to write something they liked about themselves on an apple; it was refreshing to hear such positive commentary.

            The day progressed with low ropes, a team building activity, and the boys LOVED it! Each group had a spotter and when it was my turn, several boys stepped in to help me complete the course. [The course was great, but the baboons were running all around us, and one even snuck up to steal a drink from a boy’s water bottle]. After the ropes we used the Academy’s underground training centre, which were tunnels that the boys could crawl through (my neighbour in the US, Jack, would have really enjoyed this, too). From the ropes and tunnels we went to a hiking trail at the Tokai Plantation; this was such a beautiful area, and I had a lovely time walking with the boys and answering questions they had about living in America.

            Hiking was followed by lunch and more activities through the rest of the afternoon. We had a braai for dinner and then we headed over to the other facility where the Field Band Foundation (another group staying at the camp) was setting up for their evening performance. This organization, as I was told, is for at-risk youth who are taught to play an instrument or dance choreography. Apparently, the organization wanted to mimic the traditional US marching band, but with added African features. This was one of the occasions where I was almost brought to tears, their performance was absolutely amazing and I was so overwhelmed by the music, the moonlight, and the beauty that had come out of so much tragedy.

            The joy I felt that evening was carried over to the next morning as the weekend drew to close and boys packed up their belonging on Sunday morning. As the boys cleaned they began to sing and make beats with the brooms. They played their spoons on the doors, bottles on the floor, and made such a beautiful rhythm…maybe they were inspired by the children from the previous night. This was the perfect way to end the weekend, and I really loved every minute of it. I might not be able to describe these meaningful moments as I had experienced them, but through my pictures and stories I hope that you all can appreciate the outcome of this event. Before departing the boys reflected the lessons they had learned, and I hope they know that I have also grown from them.

 >> Rain spiders are scary! Please see photo attached!

It was a day, just an ordinary day…

Today really did just seem like it was going to be just like any other day, but I should have known better, because life in Cape Town is anything but ordinary. As I was explaining to the random man at the Student Y (I’m already getting ahead of myself), every day in Cape Town is an adventure and although I am far from being overwhelmed, I am always pleasantly surprised by what this city will put in front of me. Ok, back to the random guy at the Y (it rhymes!)…Well, as many of you know I love playing Ultimate Frisbee, and even before arriving in Cape Town I was searching for a group of people who shared my love for this sport. I had been in contact with one guy who said there would be a pick up game today at the UCT campus.  Ah yes of course, the UCT campus, I TOTALLY know how to get there! Meet you in Mowbray? Ok! Except that’s not what happened, he had other plans for this evening and I decided to make the journey from my internship to UCT (map quest is always a great help). Anyways, after a minibus-taxi ride to the familiar Pick and Pay stop I found myself a real taxi and headed to the campus. It was only 4:00, though, and pick up didn’t start until 5:30, so I decided to venture onto the campus anyway to see what it was like. I found myself at the door of the Student Y, which I learned was their Christian center affiliated with the YMCA. I asked “do you mind if I just sit here quietly for a bit?” and they warmly welcomed me in. As I sat there for the next hour and half I chatted with a nice guy who had some very philosophical thoughts about life, psychology, and life in South Africa. Sometimes you don’t know what you will stumble upon! Frisbee was also great, I got to meet some lovely people and I’m looking forward to going again next week. Like I said, everyday in Cape Town is an adventure!

 

This weekend will be especially interesting; I will be working at a boy’s camp hosted by my internship organization. Apparently there will be 30, 9-13 year old boys and 3 female adults (including myself). Wish me luck as I preform as camp counselor, cook, trail guide, lifeguard, and self-esteem workshop coordinator! Expect some good stories too!

 

It’s called a Braii (at least that’s what I’ve been told!)

Today I had the opportunity to experience a traditional South Africa “braii,” which, from what I have learned, can range from the typical American cookout to a large gathering of people who buy (un)cooked meat and just hang out to dance and drink. Last evening we went to the latter version at the neighboring guesthouse, but today we ventured to a township called Gugulethtu (I think I’m spelling that right…). I was under the perception that this braii would resemble what we see at our local parks that have areas for grilling with picnic tables…it wasn’t. Instead, we waited approximately 4.5 hours to order and receive our cooked meat and pop (grain-like mashed potatoes), which we consumed in less than 10 minutes. I have to say it was absolutely delicious and I am already planning on the next time we can make it to this particular township. [However, the ride home was particularly frightening, since it was more or less a party bus full of intoxicated women who really enjoyed dancing while the bus was in motion. After a quick stop in a more than sketchy area, we finally made it home and although my ears were ringing from the blasting house music, I have to say that I generally had an amazing time!] Also, our “escorts” from the German School (where my housemate, Fabian, taught) invited Luhnar, Irene and I to another braii in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to experience another version of this shindig.

Tomorrow, since it is Youth Day and I don’t have work, we are planning on attempting to tackle Table Mountain! If you’re reading this, please considering donating to the Exercise Your Rights event through the Vermont Workers Center. Tomorrow, and other days as well, I will be participating in this event by hiking the various wonders of Cape Town. Please make a donation if you can! J

http://www.crowdrise.com/eyroutofstate/fundraiser/kathyevans

Just a quick thought before the day begins…

Before I left for Cape Town my parents both said that I will either come back knowing exactly what I want to do with life, or I will never want to do social work again. I have admit that I think they were right, and I have already begun to reconsider what it is I want to do after I finish my undergrad in December. I guess that is what going abroad and having such amazing life experiences will do to you; every day I have the opportunity to reevaluate what I want my future to look like, and my internship is providing me with the forum to do so. As of today, although it will probably change next week, I have begun to think about event planning for nonprofits (or working for the minibuses), since it is a position that is not highly present in the NGO world. It appears that through my past several years at different internships I have been unknowingly doing a similar job, specifically, planning events and doing research on donors, venues, and fundraising. Although I am still interested in Social Work, I am thinking that I have other skills that can be utilized in the ominous “real world.”Anyways, that is today, but who knows about tomorrow. I will continue to consider my options and enjoy the experiences I have here at Cape Town Child Welfare!