Thursday 01-08-2013

I honestly cannot believe that this day has arrived – today I will be starting my long journey back home. I’ve never been away from America or my family for such a long time, but this has, without a doubt, been the best summer of my life (and I still have a month left!)

Anyway, Alice and Daniel woke up around 8 to go return the rental vehicle (and Alice graciously let me sleep in, since I have 26+ hours in of travel in front of me YAY!) Once she got back, I started packing and then went to have breakfast.

For our last breakfast here, we were finally able to make soft-boiled eggs (as opposed to hard-boiled eggs) and they were simply delicious. I honestly forgot that eggs could have runny yolk, since all the eggs at MaP are cooked very thoroughly!

After breakfast I took a quick shower, packed up everything and moved all my bags into the common kitchen area. Bruce graciously allowed us to check out of our rooms, but keep our baggage at 22 on Rose until our taxis came to get us in the afternoon.

Daniel then went for a haircut, while Alice and I went shopping on Long Street. I must say that shopping in South African boutiques is a much more pleasant experience than shopping in American boutiques, mainly because of the price conversions! I ended up getting a lovely thick burgundy infinity scarf (that was very discounted!)

We then met up with Daniel and headed into the craft fair in the centre of town. I spent literally all my rand (except for R100 that I need for the taxi to the airport!) on lovely, hand-made crafts. Once I had spent everything, though, I realised that I hadn’t gotten a single pair of earrings this whole trip.

Thinking “what’s the worst that could happen?” I tried bartering. I took the gold, rose-shaped studs I had been wearing for the past two months out of my ears, and offered them to one of the women in the stalls. I explained that I didn’t have any money and that I really wanted jewelry to remember South Africa by. After examining my earrings for quite some time, she actually agreed, which surprised me, Alice and Daniel. I felt so accomplished and wore the blue and green beaded earrings for the rest of the day.

We then headed to the Haas collective – a store/café on Rose Street. I had a delicious chicken salad and chocolate chip cookie (that I saved until later, when we got back to the B and B, where there was milk!)

Next, we headed back to 22 on Rose and had about 15 minutes to kill until Alice’s taxi came. When it did arrive, we had a lengthy goodbye process. I realised that I hadn’t really been separated from her for more than five hours for the past two months, and knew that large amounts of separation anxiety would follow. After three different rounds of goodbyes, I waved to her taxi as it turned off Rose Street, and then headed back inside for a bit.

Daniel and I had about an hour to kill before our taxis came, most of which we spent online (since we were still enamored with the super-fast WiFi here and knew we would be internet-less for the next day!) I did go back to the Haas collective, both to look around and use their restroom before our taxi came.

I then had a cornflakes, yoghurt and pear snack before the taxi came (did I mention how much I loved Bruce’s open-kitchen policy?!?) Finally our taxi arrived and we were off to the airport!

I will spare you all the details of my lovely 26+ hours of travel, but I will mention that I rode on the largest commercial airplane in the world (the Airbus A380!) from Dubai to NYC.

I touched down in NYC around 2:15pm on Friday (after leaving South Africa around 6pm on Thursday) and it was so nice to see my family again! Lulu even made me cupcakes, which tasted especially delicious after 24 hours of airline food.

In conclusion, I would like to thank literally everyone who helped make this trip so amazing – from the other Harvard interns, to the students and faculty at Maru-a-Pula, to the people of Botswana and South Africa, to my family and ALL of my blog readers. Thank you for everything you have done with and for me. Hopefully I will be seeing some of you in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer (or winter!) and please please PLEASE keep in touch (and do not hesitate to let me know if/when you are near the Boston area!)

Instead of TGT, I figure I’ll list my 10 favourite moments/things from the summer, in no particular order:

1) Bungee jumping at Vic Falls
2) Getting to co-teach my own maths class for two months
3) Visiting the children at Childline
4) Getting entertained by the Lavericks
5) Meeting and mentoring the MaP scholars
6) Listening to the Drakensburg Boys Choir under the stars (and sans power) with Alice
7) Meeting former president Masire
8) Tutti e Soli (especially hearing those wonderful marimbas)
9) Singing and dancing under the stars at the 4th of July party
10) Road tripping to the Cape of Good Hope

Until next time/tsamaya sentle,
~Julia Kee

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Wednesday 31-07-2013

Today I learned (yet again) another hugely valuable life skill – sometimes you just have to trust other people.

Allow me to explain. Everyone has been telling us that the Cape of Good Hope (basically the tip of the Cape) is breathtakingly beautiful and well worth the 90 minute drive. However, there was no cheap way to go about getting there. Unless we rented a car. Alice, thankfully, is very used to driving stick shift, however she had only driven on the left side of the road a couple of times before. But she kept telling me how she wouldn’t have volunteered to drive if she didn’t feel comfortable, and in the end I decided to let fate call it – if the rental company would let a 19 year old with an American drivers license rent a car, then who am I to say that we can’t?

So after another delicious breakfast, we got picked up by the rental car company at our B and B. We drove for about 5 minutes, and then arrived at the rental car office. I wasn’t loving the whole rental car idea (mainly because I was worried about damaging the car and/or ourselves) but Alice was very patient with me, explaining that she really did think she was up to the challenge.

We got the car, inspected it, and then were off! Those first few minutes, to be perfectly honest, were the worst part of the trip. We were in the middle of Cape Town and the car was more sensitive than Alice’s back home. Alice was a trouper, though, and drove without hesitation through the streets of Cape Town centre, while Daniel directed her and I prayed and bit my fingernails in the back seat (but actually).

Once we hit the highway, however, all was well with the world. I actually think that the music was what made all the difference – we turned it on once we got onto the highway and I could just feel a weight being lifted off of our shoulders.

This ride was actually indescribable. The water was this gorgeous clear-blue to our left, the towns on our right were picture-perfect seaside villages, and the mountains behind us just made it all that much more memorable.

We had to turn around because we missed the turnoff to see the penguins, but we were so glad we did! Down a boardwalk-like wooden ramp were dozens of penguins, waddling around and/or just chilling in the sun. They were precious (and some were even a little sassy). After a bit of walking and picture taking, we headed back into the car.

Sooner than we expected, we hit the entrance to the Cape of Good Hope National Park. After paying the fee, the real fun started. We were cruising with the windows down, down a very uncrowded road, past some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life (no exaggeration here, I promise!)

I didn’t want the road-tripping to end (literally never thought I would say those words!) but we were soon stopped by the end of the road – and a footpath leading up to a lighthouse! I was super-excited, since for some reason my family has always had an affinity for lighthouses.

We made our way up the steep path, stopping every so often for gorgeous photos. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enter the lighthouse, but we could get GOREGOUS 360-degree views around it. It was beyond stunning, and I didn’t want to leave. However, we were a tad pressed for time.

I noticed that there was a short-looking path going down a little further out onto the rocky jetty. Since Alice and Daniel didn’t want to go on it (and I for some reason felt this deep desire to see what was at the end of the path) I told them that I would run (literally) down the trail, and meet them back at the car super-quickly, and they agreed.
So run I did. The run there was absolute perfection – downhill, with 270-degrees of water views. I know I am overusing this word, but it was SO gorgeous. I took some pictures at the end (including pictures of an abandoned lighthouse further down on the rocks) and then started the run back home.

The run back wasn’t nearly as fun, since it was uphill and I was already tired from the run down. Oh, and also that hot African sun was beating down on me without a single cloud in the sky. Regardless, I made it back to the car, and soon we were off!

We continued on our way, turning off a different road to take a picture by the official Cape of Good Hope sign and also to see the views from a different area. After a brief stop there, we piled back into the car and started the journey back home.

No one really warned us for how narrow the curvy the roads would be, but yet again Alice was an absolute trooper as she conquered one turn after another. Eventually, we arrived in Hout’s Bay and I had my first proper Fish and Chips. We were starving, and the food was so good (and so fresh, too, since this was literally a waterfront establishment!)

We then got back into the car and made our way to the base of Lionshead. Now we were told ahead of time that (and I quote), “many locals like to do this hour-long hike with a picnic basket after work.” We were basically given the (mistaken) impression that it would be an easy hike to the top and back down again.

And it started off easy – on a wide dirt path with gorgeous views wrapping around the mountain/hill. However, very quickly, it became very steep. It was a great and beautiful challenge, though (although I did regret going for that hard run down to the second lighthouse!)

However, the views from the top were so worth it – 360 degrees around Cape Town and the surrounding suburbs. We could also see Table Mountain and the 12 apostles not too far behind us. We briskly headed downhill, since we were supposed to meet some MaP alumni for dinner at 5 (which clearly wasn’t going to happen!)

Thankfully Steph (one of the alumni) was very understanding. We went home, parked the rental car, showered, and walked down to her office on Long Street. She was especially understanding when she had heard ALL that we had done today – saner people would have split this up into two days, but we leave tomorrow, so that wasn’t really an option!

Steph drove us to her apartment, and then we met up with Mala and Andrew – two other MaP alumni who attend Varsity College in Cape Town. We went to a sushi restaurant, and it was delicious. Mala and I really hit it off, and realised pretty quickly that we are pretty similar people – both obsessed with food, talk to our parents almost every day while at university, are runners, etc.

After dinner, Steph called us a taxi, and the cab driver was named Steve, and Daniel later pointed out that he looked very much like Steven Pinker. After a bit of packing and checking into our flights online, we were off to bed after a thoroughly exhausting (in the best way possible!) day.

TGT: 1) amazing road trip to the Cape of Good Hope 2) delicious sushi dinner with MaP alumni 3) getting to the top of Lionshead

Until next time,
~JK

Tuesday 30-07-2013

Today was actually spectacular. First of all, I must preface this by informing you that Alice’s family back in CA is in the wine business, and her step-dad actually went on a US wine tour with Mr. Malan, the owner of Simonsig (more about all this later).

Anywho, we woke up today and had another spectacular breakfast at 8:30. Around 8:35, we heard a knock on our B and B’s door, and it was Mr. Malan’s son, Michael, coming to pick us up. He was supposed to get here at 9, but because you can never tell how good/bad the Cape Town traffic was going to be, he got to us a bit early.

We felt bad for “holding him up” but he said he was fine sitting and chatting with us during breakfast (and he assured us that driving us to and from Simonsig was better than any alternative his dad would have had him do on the vineyard today!) Once we finished breakfast, we were off to the lovely town of Stellenbosch.

Stellenbosch is about an hour outside Cape Town, and it was a beautiful drive. After a few turns off the main road, we arrived at Simonsig, a winery that has been in the Malan family for quite a few generations.

And this place has quite the setup! There’s a tasting room, a restaurant (which unfortunately was closed today, since it’s winter/the off season), a gorgeous patio, and then of course all the vineyards and buildings where the wine is made, bottled, packaged, etc.

When we walked into the tasting room, we were greeted with Champagne (although I’m apparently not allowed to call it that – it’s sparkling wine, since we technically aren’t in the Champagne region of France!) We took our glasses, walked outside, and had a lovely chat with Mr. Malan.

Mr. Malan then took us all around the “inner workings” of the winery. We saw where the grapes got peeled and then fermented, where they are turned into wine, where they age in the cellars, where sparkling wine is made, and where all the wine is put into bottles. It was such a cool and unique experience!

Next, it was time for wine tasting! I loved the Chenin Blanc that Simonsig made, but many of the other wines were pretty swell, as well. Mr. Malan sat down next to us and tasted the wines alongside us!

By then it was time for lunch. Michael (who had basically turned into our chauffeur for the day) drove us to this absolutely gorgeous winery (there are at least a couple dozen in Stellenbosch!). I would describe Simonsig as beautiful in the old-fashioned sense of the word (with lots of woodwork and lower ceilings), but this winery/restaurant was beautiful in a more modern way.

First of all, there was a gorgeous mountain right in front of the patio where we ate. In addition, the dining area was all glass and wood – very simplistic, but incredibly well designed. To top it all off, there was a gorgeous waterfall right as you walked in from the parking lot. As if that wasn’t enough, we all (without knowing it ahead of time) ordered the chicken and avocado sandwich, which was delicious!

After eating and taking some pictures, we headed into Stellenbosch’s town centre. Michael showed us all around Stellenbosch University (his Alma mater) and there were lots of similarities between it and Harvard. For example, the first area we walked through was a dorm (although all-boys, and with a cricket match being played in the courtyard!), but said dorm also had its own dining hall, laundry room and gym just like each of the houses at Harvard.

We then walked around the Stellenbosch University Museum for a bit, and continued meandering around the town centre. Both Daniel and I were able to buy really cheap bags, essentially from a 5 and 10 cent store (Emirates allows two checked bags, so rather than risk being over the weight limit, I figured I’d just put everything into two bags).

After that, Michael drove us back to 22 on Rose. It was a spectacular (and incredibly cheap, all thanks to Alice’s connections!) day. But it wasn’t over yet!

My family and I have been part of the Harvard Host Student programme for three years now, and our first student we ever hosted was Amanda Lu. She graduated this past spring, but was enrolled in an engineering course that is basically paying her to spend the summer in Paris and South Africa! We ended up meeting her for dinner at Sargent Pepper’s on Long Street, and we all had a good time (even though Alice and Daniel had never met her before). I had a delicious chicken and avocado salad, while everyone else had pizzas.

We said goodbye to Amanda and then walked back to 22 on Rose. After using the WiFi for a bit, it was off to bed.

TGT: 1) interesting and informative winery tour of Simonsig today 2) amazing lunch with incredible views 3) getting to see Amanda for dinner

Until next time,
~JK