Friday, May 10, 2013

Stay in the STARS

So much to say, so much I'm feeling. I'm going HOME today, at least I think I am. But the world feels like home now, the 32 magical people I've spent the past 4 months with feel like home, the families I've met feel like home, the universe and the stars feel like home. I feel so supported. It's incredible.

We spent the last few days in High Africa, a camp-type place, for our retreat and final destination. It's been such a beautiful experience to be able to spend 3 days in nature with amazing people and closing this trip on a perfect note. We did a bunch of team/self building activities like high ropes courses, leaps of faith, etc. I did them all YAY (biceps are on point lately) We had a final talent show, and I've never smiled or laughed so much in my life.

Yesterday we talked about what we want to remember most from this semester... Such a heavy question and I don't even think it's something that can be explained or written down, but I've come up with a semi list (I love lists) of things that is a compilation of my peers and my thoughts/things I want to remember/feelings/everything. Here goes:

- How much I want to do on this planet
- Patience and understanding
- Where the power in this world lies and how unfair it is
- What privilege is and feels like
- We all bleed red
- Beauty exists despite suffering
- The power of perceived identity
- Small changes = BIG impact
- Represent your country don't let it represent you
- What being a woman in male dominated cultures feels like
- Everyone has a story that needs to be heard
- How to chill/relax
- How to access my emotions and my own feelings in the midst of chaos
- Stability can be found in instability
- How to breathe, really really breathe
- That feeling of receiving love from a complete stranger
- The feeling of being so supported by my friends and family from home. THANK YOU SO MUCH. It has meant the world to me.
- What it feels like to romp around the world with a partner in crime (hi holly)
- Every single moment with my BEAUTIFUL new friends. All of us are so different and it comes together like the most perfect mixture. I am so so so thankful for the stars and moons that aligned to bring these 32 superstars into my life.
- Friendship is sitting around in a circle with cups of tea, wearing the same clothes we've worn for 4 months, telling our worst pooping stories. That's what it's all about.
- Being a part of something bigger, the universe.
- The feeling of being in the stars. Whatever that means, I felt it the other night and it was magical. I sound crazy but one day (if not already) you'll all feel it too.

I'm going to miss this trip and the people so much, it's hitting me hard right now. But we have something together that is irreplaceable and indescribable and that will keep us connected even if communication is minimal.

"I just feel like I've seen in this group the best that life has to offer." -Karen Straight (one of our traveling faculty) I couldn't agree more.

I'm not sure how you bring a trip like this to an end, actually I don't think it does end. It goes on, the journ-E continues, feet on the ground, but staying in the stars.

Can't wait to share all of my experiences with you all. Until next time!
All my love,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What makes South Africa...South Africa

This is it, the last time I'll be doing this. South Africa has been life changing and inspiring and a once in a life time experience. I said bye to my host family on Monday morning and it was so so difficult this time around for many reasons. I'm going to miss SA and Cape town and the Bo Kaap so much.

It takes a lot of words and years of travel and living to be able to describe this country and my experience here. Currently on the bus back from Worcester and I feel inspired so here it is, what makes SA...SA (for me, right now):

- Apartheid, it's everywhere
- HIV/rape/inequality/injustice/death
- Simon's Town
- Penguins
- Weet-bix/jungle oats for breakfast
- Zwelethemba, home.
- Olga Macingwane, my mama
- Church experience in ZW
- Biking through Worcester wine country
- Xhosa
- Afrikaans
- "Lekker!" "Howzit?" "Now now" "Shame man."
- Townships
- Table Mountain - unreal view
- Lion's Head (and the friends we made at the top)
- Cape Point - Cape of Good Hope
- Old Biscuit Mill - most amazing artisan/farmer's market that happens on Woodstock every Saturday. It's heavenly.
- Long Street
- Amazing beaches right next to mountains
- The Bo Kaap community
- Cape Malay food
- Spice Market
- Salwa, my crazy/amazing Bo Kaap host mama
- Ziyaad - the little bugger
- Mzoli's in Gugulethu township - Sunday funday redefined.
- High Africa - retreat camp
- Smiles, celebration of life, heart and soul in everything
- Sound of drums
- Music everywhere
- Beautiful sunrises/sunsets
- Roiboos tea all day, everyday
- SO much beauty
- Unbelievably inspiring guest lecturers
- Story-telling culture - don't hold anything back
- HIV/AIDS seems so casual. It's not.
- Danger and crime. What's driving it?
- Coming full circle and feeling so connected as an IHP group

I have this weird feeling that I could have a future in South Africa. Who knows? Leaving this place so soon, stay tuned for a final blog tomorrow. Kinda scared to see what comes out in that one. So many emotions.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cape Town Living

About a week ago we moved into the Bo Kaap, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Cape Town known for its colorful houses. Salwa, Ziyaad, and Rakhana are my new, crazy, wacky, all over the place, homestay family. They have made my Cape Town experience one of a kind. They bicker and argue about who left the empty milk carton in the fridge, and it makes me feel at home. Ziyaad is my 16 year old “too cool for school” host brother, Rakhana is my 24 year old host sister and Salwa is my amazing, sassy host mom. She cooks phenomenal Cape Malay curries for us and supplies me with endless amounts of tea. She has been through so much in her lifetime and hearing her stories has been so inspiring.

She was married and had her first child at the age of 19 and divorced her husband 6 years ago at the age of 38 when he chose to take a second wife.  She has fought hard for everything she has, and has provided her two children with the most wonderful lives and hasn’t let her experiences turn her into a bitter or unhappy woman. She is inspired, empowered, and beautiful.

“I do my own crazy, silly, stupid thing. And I don’t answer to anybody.”
“I don’t share my men, I don’t care if it’s in my religion.”
“I still believe in love at my age. Can you believe that?”
“Love is about PILLOW FIGHTS.” – my favorite Salwa quote

South Africa is GORGEOUS. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful. The mountains, ocean, people, music, it’s so much to take in. Everything is picturesque. HOW is this a country torn apart by crime, disease, and inequality?

Of all the cities we’ve travelled to this semester, Cape Town is definitely the most “outdoorsy”. A group of us hiked for two hours to the top of Table Mountain and saw the most beautiful view of what felt like the whole world. Holly and I hiked Lion’s Head a few days later for sunset, ate vegan chocolate and met two amazing human beings who helped us hike down. Yesterday our whole group took a tour to Cape Point where we explored the southern most tip of the continent of Africa. NOTHING can compare to that view. INCREDIBLE.

Only 8 days left in South Africa. I can’t believe how far I’ve come. My life is crazy, how did I end up here? Yesterday as I laid on my friend Steph’s roof and stared up into the clear blue sky I thought, what if I never came on this trip? I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with everything I’ve learned in the past four months, but it’s going to be good. WATCH OUT WORLD. 

Sad to leave my friends and family here, excited to see my friends and family at home. So soon. AHHHH

Colorful homes of the Bo Kaap
Sunrise view from my window every morning

View on the way up Table Mountain

Top of Table Mountain

Lion's Head sunset

HI Cape of Good Hope

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Molweni from ZW

ZWELETHEMBA. How do I explain this place? How can I explain how my life, the way I see things, the way I feel, everything has changed? I am fulfilled and I have never ever felt like this before. It’s frustrating that I can never completely explain to you all the things I have seen and felt and the people I have talked to, but I will try.

When I first arrived in Zwelethemba after spending a few days in Simon’s Town with penguins in the Eastern Cape, I was confused about EVERYTHING. We had just spent 3 days getting hard statistics thrown at us about the danger that is in Capetown and South Africa. Rape is everywhere. HIV is everywhere. Apartheid is not over, it’s everywhere. The whole existence of Zwelethemba is based on the apartheid and nothing has changed. I met my host mom, Olga Macingwane, and she told me her incredible story as a bomb victim and her experience with The Truth and Reconciliation Committee. An unbelievable, reserved, hard to read woman, with so much suffering in her life. She takes care of her 1 year old grandson, 16-year-old grandson, 18-year-old granddaughter, and alcoholic boyfriend. Why does she do it? How does she do it?

“I struggled everyday, and I still struggle.” - Olga

The first thing that anyone can notice in Zwelethemba is the unreal amount of elderly and children, and an entire mass population of middle-aged people missing. Grandmothers taking care of their grandchildren because their mothers and fathers have died from HIV, or have alcoholism, or simply cannot support a child. Children are born with HIV and babies have TB. It’s just so hard to wrap my head around these things. Children walking barefoot on streets covered completely in broken glass, homes (including mine) that don’t have ceiling, just a tin roof.

The moment that I realized everything had changed for me was when I was sitting in Olga’s church, a shack made of metal and cardboard, with the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Everything came ALIVE. Olga wrapped our heads with scarves and we were smiling like little kids. We got to her church and the pastor greeted us and we sat inside where everyone was already singing and moving and vibing. Some of the women smiled at us and I felt safe, for the first time in a long time. Plastic chairs and a makeshift altar. The priest came over with his notebook and wrote down our names and hometowns and managed to get an interpreter for the service just for my two roommates and me. I have never felt so spiritually moved or connected with people before. The things he was saying were UNREAL. He said that God had blessed them with our presence and that we were angels of God. He told the people to pray for us everyday so that we can achieve our dreams. Everyone was praying with their entire soul.

I prayed for the first time in ages. I prayed for them. I thanked whatever force brought me to that place and that moment. The priest called us three up to the altar and personally blessed us while the congregation sang with their hearts and souls. It was magical. WHY ME? These people have spent the majority of their lives hating white people and yet they were able to open their hearts to me and give me so much love and kindness. Unbelievable.

10 days, bucket baths, strange meals, cold nights, and so much endless love.

I’ve come to realize through my experience in Zwelethemba, that sometimes even though situations may seem so daunting and confusing and the world might seem like such a horrible terrible place, there is good, and sometimes its as simple as a cup of tea, or a smile, or holding a hand. So thankful.

Open eyes. Open mind. Open heart. Open soul.

Simon's Town 
Some penguin friends

Zwelethemba homies
Mama Olga and Invico
Sunday church service fam
Hardcore Zwelethemba citizens
My little blue home

Monday, April 15, 2013

Olga's Story

My name is Olga N. Macingwane living in Zweletemba Township. My residential adress is 29 Busa Avenue: Kwez Worcester. I was married but now I am a widow. My husband was passed away in 2003 May 23 by a car accident. I have got three children two boys and a girl. I decided to wrote this story about myself because of the painful I have. This happened about thirteen years ago, but it’s still a pain to me because of the difficulties I still facing. What makes me so angry it’s when I see my children suffering. So I cannot accept my life like this. I try by all means to counsel myself but it doesn’t work. It is very difficult to grew children alone without someone helping. In all what I can say I thank god in every step. I also thank my husband’s family they always on my side. But what I can say is this, I cannot accept this life. My life is not alright. Briefly let me tell you what happend at that Christmas Eve. It was a sad day in the afternoon. I was accompanied about my husband. We left home at about ten o’clock in the morning because my husband was going to De Doorns by train. I left my husband halfway to the station. I go back to Ok Bazaars making some shopping.....


I enter at Shoprite Checkers everybody was happy. I try to ask what is this bad smelling but nobody answer me. I took the trolley making some groceries. When I finish I try to go to the teller. I see all the tellers are full. I try to go to the other I find the teller not full. I stand behind a coloured man. He was paying four litre cool drink. I stood behind him. When I finish taking all the groceries out of the trolley, I open my wallet. I took the money, about three hundred rand because the groceries was about two hundred and something rands. She was a lady who saves me. When I gave her I didn’t know what happened. There was a big blast and it became pitch black. After some time I tried to stand up I couldn’t stand up it was so painful to stand. I didn’t see even the lady I gave her some money, I see only myself. At the back of Shoprite bakery I hear someone saying to me ‘come here.’ I couldn’t stand up. I walk with my knees until at the back. I go out with a back door. There were two guys who were passed away, they pick me up to the end of the road. I said to them leave me here. After a few seconds I hear another big blast. It was where I didn’t know what happened. I was unconscious from that time, it was around about +/- 1:35 pm in the afternoon because I was inside Shoprite Checkers around 1:15 pm.

I woke up 6h00pm in the evening at Eben Donges hospital. When I woke up I tried to ask the nurse who was beside me, asking her what happened. She told me that, “did you know that there was a Bomb blast at Shoprite Checkers?” I was very afraid starting to cry because I didn’t see the bomb we only see it on the TV’s. I was afraid starting to cry and thinking of my children and I left home at 10h00 am in the morning because my husband was going to De Doorns by train. He is going to take the train about 12h00 am. I ask the doctor to discharge me even if it was so sick because it was a Christmas the next day. After Christmas I go back to the hospital. I was treated the whole year. My both legs were damaged. I was using the walking sticks. My backage was painful. My both ears were treated. I hear a big blast for a long time. My left ear even now there’s something fluid passing out. It’s a yellowish in colour.

The Impact of the Bomb Blast

I cannot sleep the whole night, two hours is enough for me. I cannot sleep without using paintables. Sometimes I like to be alone. I cannot work because I cannot stand for ten hours per day. Especially at summertime my both legs are swollen. I am suffering to grow up children alone, because my husband was past away in May 23 in 2003.

My children didn’t finish at school because I am not working I am suffering financially. I have got three children. But I like to thank my husband’s family they help me a lot but not regularly. Even now they stay there to my husband’s family but it is not nice to stay without your children. I like one day to stay my children if God can help me.

Ups and Downs of Life Until I Met German People

On the 28 October 2009 there were two guys called Toney and Richard came in Worcester. They came oversea. They invite the victims of the Bomb blast. It was me (Olga) and the other lady who was walking at Shoprite Checkers and the mother of the late Sweetness Busakwe who was also a victim and was working at Shoprite Checkers. We meet at Zanokhnayo Educare Center at Mrs. Ndomoyi’s place. These two guys asked someone who can share the story of Shoprite Checkers. The two ladies refuses, they say “No,” they are tired of everybody coming here wanting the story. When these two guys asked me what are my views about this. I said to them Yes I am willing to share the story. They asked me when I come the next morning to share the story at Shoprite Checkers alone. I said to them I am willing to share story. The next morning they came to pick me up to Shoprite Checkers. I was accompanied my Mrs. Louis Gertrude and Mrs. Elvin Ndomoyi. We go to Shoprite Checkers. It was around by ten o’clock in the morning. We arrive at Shoprite Checkers about 10.15 am.

When we came to Shoprite Checkers these two guys took there cameras Televising everything there. I show them where I was standing and told them what was happening. It was a sad day because when I tried to tell the story I collapse again in front of the teller, because I tried to show Tony and Richard what happened. They televised the whole story. We left at Shoprite Checkers at 12h30 pm afternoon. We came to my house about 2h00pm. They interview me from 2h00 pm until 3h30 pm inside my house. After that they took me some photos. I showed them the papers I read in 2002 it is where I know that my perpetrators were being sentenced. I told Toney and Richard that I didn’t know their appearance in court. We didn’t know nothing about the case. The whole thirteen years. They told me that did I aware that these perpetrators want the Forgiveness and they are going to appear in court the next week which is 10 November 2009. I said to them I didn’t know that. I told them I am willing to go to Pretoria but it is a short notice and I have got money to go to Pretoria. The day they visited me it was on Wednesday. My perpetrators are supposed to appear the next Tuesday. On Friday night the same week I receive the phone call from Toney and Richard saying that they prepare me a hired car to come and fetch me and they told me that they already booked a hotel for me to come to Joburg....

They ask me that I am fit to go to Pretoria Prison.

I said to them “Yes” because I want to see my perpetrator for almost thirteen years ago. We arrived at Pretoria Prison about 2h00 pm in the afternoon. Toney and Richard televised outside the prison. They ask me how do I feel now because we are here in the Prison now? I said to them I cannot say anything now and I cannot unless I can first meet Stefaans Cotzee. When we enter the Prison the management didn’t allow us to come in with the cameras. We left the cameras in the entrance. We go inside without the cameras. It was a sad day for me. When we get inside we saw this young man here we didn’t expect that he should be him because he was to young. When we enter the room the management, Social assistant head Prison, Toney, Richard, Maje, Harris Sebeka, Olga Macingwane, Elvin Ndomoyi and Gertrude Louw. We introduce each other firstly. I was very surprised to see my perpetrator as a young man like Stefanns Cotzee I expect a man with a big body and the man with a middle ages. Everybody who was there he ask Stefaans the questions and he was a brilliant somebody he wrote down the questions and he answered each and every question. When they finished they asked me to question Stefaans. The first thing I ask is me to pray. After that I ask Stefaans Cotzee Why he do so bad thing to me. He answered me saying that I hate the black people. He said that his parents also hate the black people.

He told me that he was trained by the Wit Wolwe people to do bombd, trained to shoot, he was living on the farm in Beaufort West. He has been deploy to attack people to plant the bombs over the world. He said he was not involve in the bomb who was blast in Shoprite Checkers. He sad he was very surprised. He sad he planted the bomb at the Taxi Rank of black people, but it does not blast. He planted there because he knows that the black people are there and are busy with shopping. I ask him Stefaans what are your intentions about your future. He said he like to be the father one day and he like to be married so that he can teach his children the right way to live. I ask him again ‘ Stefaans if I can forgive you and what did you promise to do for us as a victim. He said Olga I promise nothing because I was here in prison from eighteen years old I’ve got nothing so I cannot promise anything, but what I want I want to change my life and I want to go back to my community and teach other young people how to live. He said he do something he in Prison to train other young people. He talked to me with tears in his eyes. When I leave here in Worcester I told myself that I cannot forgive this person because I have a pain, but when I talk to Stefaans and told me the whole story, I started thinking of my children and I told myself that if it was my child what would happen. I said to him Stefaans I forgive you. He doesn’t believe me that I forgive him. I said to him really Stefaans I forgive you. After that I said to him whether Stefaans this story you told me is true or false it’s up to you. It is only God who knows that you are telling me the truth or not. I said to him I am not your Judgement, your judgement is your God. I said again to him Stefaans I stand up now, I hug him in front of the people and I feel pain with tears on my eyes, I said to him I forgive you. But I am not taking the decisions for the other victims I do this for my own sake. Everybody in this room was full of tears on his or her eyes. It was a sad moment but after some few seconds everybody was feel alright. We talk to the Head Prison that we ask Stefaans one day to come to Worcester, so that he can come and share his views with other victims. Stefaans promise to write a letter to other victims asking forgiveness and told them that he was very happy to meet with Olga. The other thing makes me to forgive him is because I ask him where are these people who trained you, are they come to visit you here in prison. He said “no” they didn’t come to visit him. I ask him about his parents’ Are your parents come to visit you? He said his parents didn’t come to visit him in the prison. We shake hands with eachother in the room. We stand up and go....

I told them I feel good now because after thirteen years I have seen my perpetrator and I have asked the other victims to come and visit Stefaans because they can be healed.

This was written by: Olga N. Macingwane
And signed by: Olga N. Macingwane
On the day of 20th August 2010

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ciao Ciao BA

It's time! 33 estudiantes take over a plane once again and head to SOUTH AFRICA. After a perfect last night out in Buenos Aires, and a lovely breakfast and tea with my host madre at our favorite little organic tea shop, I am ready. I will miss Buenos Aires and the people I have met here so much, but I'll be back. I'm excited for a new place with new people and new everything. This is it, our last destination. How did I even make it this far? For the longest time this trip was just an idea in my head, something in the future. It felt like South Africa was so far away, but now it's here. So many emotions and jitters AHHH.

SO I decided to keep the trend going and made a little list of what makes Buenos Aires... Buenos Aires (for me):

- dulce de leche
- Carolina (crazy country coordinator)
- Palermo (home)
- Parque de Las Heras
- Mate
- Leather
- Vino
- Ciao
- Alfajores
- Fer (lovely club promoter)
- Running on Libertador
- Best gelato at a little hidden cafe
- Nueve de Julio
- Soy + pesticides
- Environmental injustice
- "Universal" healthcare
- Guia T
- Sitting in cafes to get wifi everyday
- Tea
- Pick Market (organic and fun grocery store with amazing sandwiches)
- "Que divina" - classic Maritina line
- Carrefour trips
- the platformed sandal things that all the girls wear here
- Pick-pocketers
- El Ateneo - beautiful bookstore
- Teatro Colon
- Disparity
- Coexisting socioeconomic classes

There is so much to say about this lovely city. I want to come back and explore the country further and understand the areas outside of Buenos Aires more. There's something so inviting about South America and the Latino culture, I love it. CIAO Buenos Aires.

So, the next month is going to be very very different from what I've been doing so far. South Africa is a beautiful country with a tense history and interesting health situation. Just like coming to Buenos Aires, it will be another crazy transition. We arrive in Capetown tomorrow and will be traveling to the Oatlands which is very close to the sea. After three days of prep we will be moving on to Zwelethemba, a township about 4 hours away from Capetown. My communication will be very minimal (if any) throughout these 2 weeks. On April 20th we will head to Capetown itself and stay there with homestay families in an area called Bo Kaap which is predominantly Muslim. I can't wait to explore and tell you all everything about it.

Until then, besos from BA one last time,


Monday, April 1, 2013


I had a blog post written but I didn't like it anymore so I decided to bullet point some things I've written in my journal in the past week or so:

- I feel normal and natural in BA

- Buenos Aires makes me feel like ME. I am happy, exploring, learning, seeking, dancing, eating, living.

- Met a guy named Maximo. A must-do in BA.

- I'll be back here.

- I baked cookies for Easter with Maritina (host mom) and it felt so cozy and familiar. I miss home.

- Certain moments/songs/people remind me of Boston life. It's the strangest feeling.

- "the crazy thing about BA is that there is no geographical divide between classes, we coexist." - doctor at community health center

- Ambulances refuse to enter shanty town.. How is that okay?

- Ummm why doesn't anyone know about cardiovascular heart disease? (Case study observation)

- Teatro Colon is unreal/gorgeous/magical

- Never going to feed my future babies transgenic, chemically treated, pesticide infested stuff.

- "La mejor traducción entre dos lenguas es un beso."

- Holly and I found a massive book about South Africa in El Ateneo (beautiful old theater/bookstore) and I'm so excited!!

- Countryside visit plans were changed because buses/cars can't make it through the mud to get into the villages. Hmmm social determinant of health?

- It's April 1st. Where did the time go?

Time is officially flying. I can't believe that in a little more than a month I'll be landing in JFK and going back to real life. I'm not even sure what that means yet. I'm excited to disconnect for a bit when we get to South Africa and take in every moment before its over.

Feliz Pascua amigos, muchos besos.