Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cape Town

Our visit to Cape Town was very different compared to Port Elizabeth. It was a very busy city, reminded me of Washington D.C. The people of the city did not seem as welcoming and personable as they were in PE. Although the landscape and coast were beautiful and the streets rich with history, I preferred our quaint time in PE to the time spent in Cape Town.

Robben Island

One of our excursions was a visit to Robben Island. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is an old prison where Nelson Mandela among other political prisoners were kept. Our tour guide was Kgotso Glen Ntsoelengoe, a former prisoner who served 6 and a half years. It was an incredible experience to have a first hand account of that time in history. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be imprisoned because of your beliefs.

Open room that housed the prisoners who were not well known. They kept the high profile prisoners in their own cells as not to cause problems between inmates.

Typical meals for the prisoners.

Nelson Mandela's old cell. No toilet, just a bucket.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bayworld Museum School

On our last day in Port Elizabeth we were fortunate enough to visit Bayworld. It is a natural and cultural history museum that hosts an Educational Program for thousands of the surrounding area schools. The learners come from all over the area to learn about conservation, marine life, reptiles, maritime, and local history. The museum is booked a year in advance and is very popular among area schools. We had a great time visiting the marine life and watching some educational programs that were taking place during our visit.

Last Day at Emafini

Today was our last day at Emafini. The staff said goodbye to us by hosting a Farewell Celebration. They danced and sang in Xhosa wearing their traditional dress. It was so amazing. Then we went to a braai (BBQ) at Principal McKay's house that evening. Such a warm and caring group of people. It was a bittersweet experience. I am sad to leave such an awe inspiring place but I am excited to return home to my family.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Women's Day

Today was National Women's Day in South Africa. This public holiday commemorates the 1956 march of over 20,000 women who were petitioning against  the country's "pass laws". This law required people who were defined as "black" to carry an internal passport. The reason for the pass law was to maintain population segregation, control urbanization, and mange migrant labor during the apartheid era. This is an important day in the history of South Africa and has been celebrated since 1994.
Lucky for us, the day turned out to be the most beautiful and warmest day of our trip. We took a stroll to a local park and walked along the beach. Happy Women's Day!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Lunch Time!

Lunchtime at township school is very different than lunchtime at an American public school. One reason is that lunch is provided by the government for ALL students for FREE. They must have a meat, vegetables and a carbohydrate (rice, meal, etc). The lunch ladies prepare the food all from scratch (in contrast to our American processed, chemical nightmare) every single day. The parent workers, as well as older students, then deliver bowls of food to each class. They carry around a huge bowl and buckets to serve from to each class. The students, or learners they call them, then each get a bowl of food in which they use a spoon brought from home, to eat while finishing up their work. If they don't have a spoon, they either use their fingers or wait for someone to finish their food so they can borrow their spoon. The entire time I was at the school, I never heard a single complaint about what they were getting. They took the bowl of food graciously and ate every bit of it. Some examples of the foods served are a bowl of cabbage, pumpkin, meal (that is what they call it, it was some kind of grain similar to grits) with fish gravy. Another day they served cabbage, rice, and a small (and by small I mean like 2 inch) chicken leg. VERY different than chicken nuggets, hot dogs or pizza. I can't imagine what my students would do if they were served a meal like this!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Election Day

Today is Election Day in South Africa. We do not have school because it is considered a Holiday. The streets and places around our hotel are not busy. Interesting that they provide time for people to actually get the the poll to vote. It is important enough for them that they make it more accessible for the voters. Maybe America should take note. ????

Friday, July 29, 2016

"English" Lesson

 I had noticed from previous days and while in a few different classrooms that when they teach English, most of the lesson is in Isixhosa. It is understandable being it is their home language. However, it seemed to me that the lesson should focus more on learning the English words and how to understand them. After being in the school for about three weeks so far, I have found that most of the teaching and learning is on the surface level. The teachers do not ask questions and invite students to actually think about the information they are learning. There is a lot of route memorization, especially with math, but with reading as well. One of the teachers asked me to teach the English lesson by reading a short story. I started the lesson as I usually would, asking students what they thought the story would be about. What was happening in the pictures? ..............Blank stares.
They are not used to being asked such a question. After a short pause, a student raised her hand and answered me. More students excitedly began to answer. We preceded to read the story, all the while stopping along the way to answer my questions. After a few minutes the teacher politely thanked me and then took over. She then had the students go back and read the story out loud together. Then out loud one student at a time. Over and over, without asking ONE question.
It makes me sad that they are not exposed to an experience of really diving into a book.
It opens up a whole new world when you think about it. I know it does.
I could see it in their eyes when they started to answer my questions.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Journey to Grahamstown

Today we traveled to Grahamstown which was about an hour and a half from Port Elizabeth. It is a cute little college town. Our group went to Rhodes University where we met with the author of Voices From the Forest, Michelle Cocks. She discussed Bio-Cultural Diversity and the impact that the various biomes have on the culture.
After the trip to the university we then visited  Nombuelo Secondary School to learn about the Bio-Diversity education program is being implemented. Students learn about conservation, grow a medicinal garden and learn about the importance of cultural identity.

We traveled to the forest with a few of the students as well as Mr. Mluleki Nkosi, another member of the program's team. We hiked down a steep path and came to a clearing. There we sat. We closed our eyes and we listened. We FELT nature. We CONNECTED with nature. We listened to him speak in Isixhosa about REALLY connecting.

When is was over, we had a chance to talk with the students. They were amazing!! They were able to explain about what it meant to them to stay connected to their culture. These kids here. I can't even explain.......

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Add another great adventure to the Africa trip! Arrived at my class today and the teacher was no where to be found. I asked the students where she was and they said she was in the office. I thought ok, I'll just monitor for bit. Awhile later another teacher comes to check on me and says my teacher is AWAY at a Math Competition!
Sooooo, long story short I was the teacher all day with no plans, and a class who barely speaks English.
The students were great! They showed me such love and tried their best to understand me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Emafini Primary School Day 2

Today I met my one of the third grade classes that I will be teaching. The teacher as well as the students were very welcoming and excited for me to be there. The "learners" as they call them speak their native language of Xhosa (said with a click at the beginning), and begin transitioning to English while in 3rd grade. It was very hard for most of them to understand me. I can already tell it will be difficult to teach them due to the language barrier but I am up for the challenge.

This experience so far has made me contemplate how it must feel for our International teachers we have at Carolina Forest International Elementary. They come to our school, often just a few weeks from leaving their country, into a whole new world. I can see now how difficult that must be for them to try and integrate into a new culture. Listening to the teacher speak in Xhosa today, I felt lost and isolated. Not a great feeling when you are in a foreign country.

There are also so many mannerisms, gestures, etc. that are culturally different but have a huge impact in understanding and communicating with one another. Take for instance pointing at someone as to say come here is a normal every day occurrence, however, in the Xhosa culture it is seen as being disrespectful. As I learn more about the culture I will be sure to add it to my blog.
So much to learn, so little time.........

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The "Rainbow City"

We have only been here for a few short days and already I am learning so much about the African culture. The people here seem so friendly, open and honest. They are more than eager to discuss matters such as politics and cultural differences. At one of our many coffee shops visits(the coffee here is AMAZING), a colleague and I asked the barista why she thought people were so much more friendly and willing to discuss such matters. Her coworker enthusiastically stepped in to answer our question by saying that he thinks there is more racism in America than in Africa. I found his comment very interesting and wanted to know more about what she based her perception on. We asked her to think about it and we would check back with her tomorrow. It really surprised me that a native would think the idea of racism is less in a country that has only been free from Apartheid since the 1990's. Especially with all that is going on in America at the present time, and since we have not had legal segregation for decades. They were adamant and genuinely happy to say that they are the "Rainbow City" and how now blacks and whites are all mixed together.

I cannot wait to learn more. :)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Community Service with Volkswagen of SA

Our first day in Africa was nothing short of amazing!! We partnered up with VW who sponsored the clean up and beautification of a local elementary school. We painted murals on the walls, planted shrubs , and put mosaic tiles up in the bathroom.

Tomorrow we are off to the Elephant Safari and Game Park!! Check back for more pics!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

3 More Days!!!!!!!!

Only 3 more days until our South Africa adventure begins!! I cannot wait!!
I created this blog to document my adventures while teaching in Port Elizabeth. Stay tuned to hear all about it!