My Week in Pictures

This post is long overdue, so have my apologies. The semester has been winding down and I’ve been busy with school work here. These are pictures from my week in Cape Town. We had about a week and a half off for Easter  break (March 28-April 8) so Anna, Laura, and I spent it in Cape Town. Laura’s school had 3 weeks off so she continued traveling while Anna and I returned to Grahamstown. Some of the places we visited were Kirstenbosch Gardens, Robben Island Museum, District 6 Museum, Table Mountain, Two Oceans Aquarium, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Groot Constantia Wine Farm, the Slave Lodge, Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Haut Bay. Enjoy!

The ferry over to Robben Island

The ferry over to Robben Island


The historical Company Gardens

The historical Company Gardens in Cape Town


Inside the Slave Lodge Museum. During the early days of Cape Town, thousands of slaves were kept in this building in very inhumane conditions. It was later turned into a courthouse, and now it is a museum to honor the memory of the slaves and to draw attention to modern day slavery.


Fountain in the courtyard in the Slave Lodge


Marimba players at Kirstenbosch Gardens.


Mr. “Zo Zo”, a political prisoner in Robben Island for 14 years. He was arrested and detained for his participation in student protests in 1976. He and other ex-prisoners give tours of Robben Island. It was great hearing him speak about his time in Robben Island.


Nelson Mandela’s jail cell


Flowers at Kirstenbosch Gardens


Robben Island Maximum Security Prison


Protea on Table Mountain
The Protea is the national flower of South Africa


Penguins at Boulders Beach


Cape Town streets


Music store in Cape Town


Kirstenbosch Gardens


Zebra Crossing Backpackers, where we stayed for the week


Table Mountain


Table Mountain


Cape Point- the Southwestern most part of Africa


Cape Town


Kirstenbosch Gardens


Cape Point

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Surfing in SA

Hello Everyone!

Last weekend we went on another adventure with Freewalker to Jeffreys Bay. J-Bay is one of the surf capitals of the world and is home of the “perfect wave”. I caught a few waves myself in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. Before the surfing, we went quad biking (four wheeling) through a game park. Seeing rhinos, zebra, and giraffes up close without being in an enclosed vehicle was exciting to say the least. Other than the surfing and 4 wheeling, the weekend was pretty relaxed.

The pictures provided in this post are all courtesy of Murray Luscombe with Freewalker South Africa. He takes us on all our excursions and captures moments on photos. Freewalker trips with Murray are great because he doesn’t treat us like tourists being escorted around town, but rather like old friends who have come for a visit.

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Safari Time!

Last weekend my roommates and I went on a game drive at Kwantu Game Reserve. We were with a great guide, Lucas. He drove us around the reserve for 3 hours as we searched for the wildlife in the park. We saw white rhinos, lions, giraffes, wildebeest, ostriches, zebras, and more. Here are some pictures!

PS- My posts may come more infrequently now because I don’t want to use up too much of our Internet allowance, but I promise to share pictures!










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Adrenaline Rush

Hello friends!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. So much has happened in the last two weeks! Weekend before last, we took a trip with Freewalkers to Plettenberg Bay which was an incredible experience.

On Friday, we went to PE to meet up with our adventure guide and the others who were going on the trip. Our first stop was bungee jumping at the Bloukrans Bridge: the world’s highest bungee jump. I thought I would be afraid, but I was completely calm. Words can’t explain the feeling of jumping off of a 217 meter bridge.

After that, we went snorkeling with about 4,000 seals. It was so exciting see them swim right past us in the water. I’m definitely not an animal person but I truly had a blast.

Early Saturday morning we went cage diving with great white sharks. The guides in charge of the dive would throw bait in the ocean to attract the sharks while we were in cages attached to the boat. A few times the sharks ran into the cage and rattled us a bit, but it was exciting nevertheless.

Saturday afternoon we visited Monkeyland and Birds of Eden where we saw various species of monkeys and birds up close and personal.

That weekend was one of the highlights of my time in South Africa for sure! I can’t wait for more adventures and adrenaline.



Bloukrans Bridge. I can’t believed I jumped from here.


Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.







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UA in PE


The view from where we had lunch at The Mediterranean Seafood House

Hello friends! This weekend was one of the more exciting ones we’ve had since being here. Anna and I were


Humansdorp track meet

two of the chaperones for the track team. There was a district meet in Humansdorp (about 2 hours from Grahamstown) and about 10 of our girls competed; a few of them placed in the top 3 within their events so that was very exciting! In Humansdorp, everything was very Afrikaans, which is very different from Grahamstown where there is a pretty even distribution of Xhosa and Afrikaans speakers.

On the way back from Humansdorp, Anna and I got dropped off in Port Elizabeth where we stayed with two of my classmates from UA who are doing the COST program there. Katharine and Emily live with 3 other girls, all of whom are from Kentucky. It was great to see some familiar faces and to get a break from Grahamstown.

The first night we were in PE, we went to a professional rugby match. The Southern Kings (South African) won their season opener against the Western Force (Australian). It was definitely and exciting experience, especially since the Kings are a new team. I didn’t really understand the game100%, but I quickly learned when & when not to cheer.


Inside the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium




On Sunday Anna and I went to church with Katharine and afterwards had a chance to do some shopping at the weekly market. Merchants set up their booths along the beach every Sunday and sell things such as paintings, wood carvings, jewelry, etc. There was this lovely giraffe statue that I really wanted to buy but it would have been impractical to take home. The man selling it suggested that I just take it on the airplane as my carry on. I wish.





Katharine & the mask. Roll Tide.

This weekend we’re supposed to be going to Plettenberg Bay with Freewalkers and the other girls in PE. I’m excited and can’t wait for the trip! We may be going bungee jumping and shark cage diving. Stay tuned!


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Casa de Loco

Casa de Loco

Last Sunday, Anna and I went for a stroll around town. It was great to see places other than the same things we see on our commute to and from school. We grabbed lunch at Casa de Loco, one of the few Mexican restaurants in Grahamstown. Delicious! I have yet to have some real South African food; hopefully that will change soon. On the way home, it started to rain and we got a little damp, but overall it was a great experience. Here are a few sights from our lunch & walk around town.

Fajitas! The power went out in the middle of our meal.

Fajitas! The power went out in the middle of our meal.

My clear lemonade. It tasted just like Sprite.

My clear lemonade. It tasted just like Sprite.

This past week flew by quickly, and I can’t believe that I’ve been here for a month already! Soon it will be time to go back home, but not until I’ve had enough time to thoroughly enjoy South Africa. I’ve been doing more consistent teaching. I’ve taken over the Grade 8, 9, and 11 English classes. My favorite lesson so far has a been a lesson with Grade 11 English on how language is used as a tool of power. This is something very important for the 11th grade learners because soon they will be in the “real world” and need to strengthen their English skills, especially since although South Africa has 11 official languages, nearly all of their official documents and business transactions are done in English. For most of the learners at VG, English is their 2nd language and they are forced to speak it in school. Sometimes it is hard for them to speak English when they naturally prefer Xhosa or Afrikaans, so I just tried to give them some encouragement and show them ways to improve their English skills. They were very receptive and although I’m sure they’ve heard it all before, I think it was nice for them to have a different messenger to deliver the same message.

Yesterday, Anna and I went to our 3rd braii to celebrate with one of the teachers for her 24th birthday. Braii is a big thing here and they do it all year long. The food was delicious and I tried prickly pear salad for the first time. It was interesting to say the least. This weekend, Anna and I are planning to go to Port Elizabeth. I’ve been in contact with Murray from Freewalkers, a travel company that specializes in Volunteer and charity work while also giving tourists like Anna and me a chance to see authentic South Africa. I’m excited to see more of this beloved country.



Streets of Grahamstown are empty on Sunday. Everything closes around 1PM

Streets of Grahamstown are empty on Sunday. Everything closes around 1PM


High Corner, one of the many Bed and Breakfasts in Grahamstown


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Weekend Fun!


On the shores of the Indian Ocean

Hello Friends! I know the weekend is almost here, but let me tell you about last weekend. Dr. Baxen, Anna, and I went to Port Alfred to spend the day. Our hour long drive through the scenic South African hillside led us to a charming little beach town. Port Alfred isn’t like our typical idea of a “beach town” where the streets are littered with cheesy tourist traps and souvenir shops, but rather, it is a small community rich with history. With a population of roughly 20,000 (smaller than that of the University of Alabama with 33,602 students), Port Alfred is the site the British settlers used as a buffer between the Xhosa people and the Cape Colony in the 1800s.

While in Port Alfred, we had lunch at the Ocean Basket restaurant, located on the banks of the Kowie River. Afterwards, we went for a “cruise” down the river. We looked and listened as our skipper pointed out the homes of the rich and famous that lined the banks of the Kowie. The highlight of the excursion was the trip to the beach. It was great to enjoy the 95 degree weather, especially since back home it’s still a chilly winter.

One thing that struck me was the juxtaposition between the rich and the poor. Driving into Port Alfred, you pass townships where people live in homes made from metal scraps with poor electricity and water quality. This is a stark contrast to the multimillion dollar homes that line the marina. This disparity really gives you something to think about.

On a lighter note, we stopped by “The Big Pineapple” on our way home to Grahamstown. It’s exactly what the name implies: a gigantic pineapple. It was built to draw attention to the not so successful pineapple industry in the region. It was completely random, but the view from the top was spectacular.



Anna, Dr. Baxen, and I after lunch at Ocean Basket

Houses on the Marina. These vacation homes ranged from $400,00 to over  $1 million.

Houses on the Marina. These vacation homes ranged from $400,00 to over $1 million.

Communities like this one lined the outskirts of town. Stark contrast to the many vacation homes of Port Alfred.

Communities like this one lined the outskirts of town. Stark contrast to the many vacation homes of Port Alfred. [photo courtesy of Google images]

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The Big Pineapple


Inside the Pineapple


Behind the scenes


The view from the top


Roll Tide!


Until next time, Uhambe! (Goodbye in the Xhosa language)


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Into the Sunset

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“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!” 
―C. JoyBell C. 

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School Daze


Hello friends! Last Monday, I officially began my internship at VG and it has been quite the ride so far. To begin with, this is the beginning of the school year, not the middle as it is in the US. The year runs from January until roughly the beginning of December with breaks in between the terms. For the first few days I wasn’t assigned a specific teacher so I had the opportunity to observe a variety of classrooms. One major difference I’ve observed so far is the emphasis on the arts here. Whereas music programs and fine arts are taking major cuts and are essentially devalued here in the States, students here  are actually tested on their musical abilities at the government level. Academic classes run from 7:40 AM – 1:45 PM and after school they have “co-curriculars” which range from Marimba classes to track & field (which I have the pleasure of coaching this term).

Another difference is the rigidity of everything. The students are heavily policed, but it seems that discipline is not a problem, at least not upon first glance. They are required to


Ms. Ntombela’s Xhosa class

greet the teacher with either a “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” before being permitted to sit at their desks and must greet any adult that comes into the classroom in the same manner. They are required to wear uniforms and name badges. One teacher told us that even when they are in town at the stores, they must be in full school uniform so that if any problems arise, the store owners know what school to notify.

The school operates on a very confusing (to me, at least) 9 day rotation, so the schedule varies from day to day. Every Monday, they have a morning assembly before heading off to classes to start the week. Anna and I are finally beginning to get the hang of the schedule and are looking forward to getting into a routine.



On Friday there was a staff “braii” (South African barbeque cookout) to kick off the beginning of the year. The braii was BYOM (bring your own meat) and everyone cooked their own food on the grill. Anna and I had the opportunity to mix and mingle with members of the school’s staff  & governing body, which is basically the equivalent of a “Board of Trustees”.


Poolside fun!


Welcome gift from the staff


A night at the social

Saturday night, we hung with a different crowd as we assisted the Music Department with a fundraiser. Victoria Girls’ hosted the first social of the year with their brother school Graeme College, and the assembly hall was filled with loud music and dancing teenagers.

Here are few more pictures taken randomly throughout the week.


Walking to the grocery store


The closest thing to iced tea in Grahamstown.


Do you know the muffin man who lives on Drury Lane?


A treat from students on Friday. “We came from different ships, but we are on one boat now.”

Stay tuned!


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Traveler, not tourist

Here are a few sights from around the city of Grahamstown. Today, Anna and I got a chance to do some exploration with Libby. She’s a teacher at VG who grew up in Oregon and moved here 2 years ago. Libby told us more about Grahamstown, VG, and her transition from living in the US and moving to South Africa. This is truly a beautiful city with plenty of history. Have a great weekend!

Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture. ~Mark Kurlansky




Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.”- Freya Stark



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“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”- G.K. Chesterton


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