Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sixth day in Cape Town!

We started off our last full day in Cape Town by going to the brain imaging center in Cape Town! This was a real privilege for all of us. We were allowed to see the space where they do FMRIs or MRIs of people's brains! Currently they are only being performed for research studies. We even got to go inside the room with the machine and learn about it! The FMRIs are done through magnetism and we got learn and experience the magnetic field! It was really cool to see an active brain research place and learn about all of the work they do there! 
After the brain imaging center we went to the Trauma Center for Survivors of Violence and Torture. This was an incredible place for all of us to visit and impacted everyone. Historically this was the place where freedom fighters were rehabilitated after being tortured. This was also the place where their families stayed when they were going to visit them at Robben Island. Winnie Mandela stayed there many times when she was visiting Nelson Mandela. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was instrumental in the establishment of this center, and ensuring it continued operation after the struggle for freedom. The center now still works with political prisoners, and has expanded ther work to domestic as well as sexual trauma survivors. We met with some of the therapists and counselors at the center, and they are the most increhble women. Many of them are torture survivors themselves, from working as freedom fighters and now they are helping others recover from similar traumas. The center really put themselves out in the community trying to combat sexual and domestic torture and trauma. It was a really impactful visit for everyone, and we are in awe of the strength of that center. 
After the center we went to Robben Island. We took a ferry out to the Islad and then go a tour of the island. We saw the mini prison set up for Robert Subukwe. He was placed in a isolate prison on the island because the apartheid government saw him as the most dangerous man, as the founder do the ANC and wanted to isolate him. He was known as the loneliest man on Robben Island. We also saw the lime quarry where the prisoners, like Nelson Mandela, were subjected to hard labor for 13 years. We also saw a cave in the quarry where the prisoners would meet. Our tour guide said that South Africa's first parliamentary meetings were there, and that's such an incredible thing. We then go a tour of the inside of the prison. Our tour guide was a former political prisoner who had been imprisoned on Robben Island personally, for all of us having him as a tour guide was the most powerful experience. We saw the census office where their letters were censored as well as the courtyard where Mandela buried the manuscript to Long Walk to Freedom. We also saw Mandela's cell, which was extremely powerful. Our guide ended the tour by telling us his story of his role in the freedom struggle and why he was imprisoned at Robben Island. There is really nothing more forceful then hearing a story of life in Robben Island and the struggle for freedom while sitting in Robben Island. 

Last day in Cape Town!!!

Our Global Engagment trip has officially ended, and although we are exhausted it was a life changing experience and so many of us plan on returning to South Africa. 
We spent our last day in the country at a Safari!! We saw zebras, wildabeests, ostriches, lions, elephants, springboks and rhinos!!!!! It was sooo incredible, and although it was wet, windy and rainy we still had a great time!! 
After the safari we started our journey back to the US!! We had a good flight from Cape Town to London, as well as a good flight to Boston! 
Thank you for following us on our adventures and global Engagment in South Africa!!! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fifth day in Cape Town!

Today was our Fifth day in Cape Town! We started off the day by going up to Table Mountain!! We took a cable car up to the top and the view was amazing. We could see all of Cape Town, the ocean and all of the mountains of South Africa. We were basically above the clouds. Table Mountain is a part of the new 7 natural wonders of the world, and it's earned it's spot there. We are constantly amazed by the sheer beauty of this country. 
After leaving Table Mountain we went to the Green Market in central Cape Town!! The market was so much fun, there were vendors and stalls everywhere selling everything from tapestries to traditional drums! We all really enjoyed it and we got to practice our bartering skills! 
After the market we went to the Center for Public Mental Health and met with one of the psychologists there. This was a really incredible opportunity for all of us. It has been really neat to met with different psychologist teams who are focusing on such different areas of study. This center focuses on mental health for the public and bringing mental health to the community. It was really interesting to hear about all of the differnt projects the are participating in all over the world. One of the projects focuses on bringing mental health to different rural areas, like Ethiopia, Uganda, India, South Africa and Nepal. It was also neat to hear about the different struggles the center faces with bringing mental health to the public such as dealing with stigmas of mental illness and communities preferring traditional healers over western medecine. Overall a very insightful day!

Day in the Townships

Our Cape Town township tours began yesterday morning with the tour of Imizano Yethu which was extremely powerful for all of us. We were able to walk through the majority of the townships, and experience first hand the poverty there. But we were also able to witness the hope that the people had, there were new schools being built to inspire children. As well as preschools and business schools being supported by communty members. We were also able to visit a communty run after-school center, as well as a leadership workshop being run for teens in the township. We were also shown the community center, which offers so much support for the township and with such little funding. While walking through the shanty homes and shacks, we also witnessed the resiliency and strength of the people of Imizano Yethu.
We started off our day by going to church at Langa Baptist Church, in the Langa township. It was a really cool experience for all of us. We got to see the impact religion and spirituality has on that community, and how much their faith means to them. Which was really impactful for everyone to witness. 
After mass we toured the Langa township. At this township we toured the Langa community center, where they offer after school activities for children as well as programs for the unemployed. It was really meaningful for all of us to see the strength of the community in Langa. We also got to participate in a traditional drum lesson and saw their pottery workshop!! After the community center we toured some of the old hostels in Langa, that was really powerful for us to see the level of poverty that was present and still is. We toured the home of a traditional healer, and were so privileged to meet her and be invited into her home. 
After touring Langa we toured the township of Gugulethu. This was probably one of the most impactful experiences we have had on the trip. We started off the tour by seeing the memorial to the Gugulethu Seven. The Gugulethu Seven were seven freedom fighters who were brutally murdered by police in the anti-apartheid movement. This memorial is extremely forceful and we were all affected by it. After that memorial we visited the grave site for Amy Biehl. Amy Biehl was an Amercan Fulbright scholar who was working in South Africa for a summer during Apartheid. Amy was driving her friends back to Gugulethu when her car was caught up in a violent mob and she was tragically murdered by the mob because she was white. This was an extremely powerful and emotional stop for all of us, Amy was a college student like us and she was trying to help end Apartheid but ended up becoming a victim of it. What is most remarkable about her story is that after her death, her parents came back to Gugulethu and started a community foundation in Amy's name to help children. One thing that made these two memorials so powerful was that both these murders happened on the same road in the township. After seeing these two memorials we participated in the traditional community event of drinking Mchumbuti, a traditional beer. We were all so honored that we were so welcomed into their community, and allowed to participate in their traditions. After this we went to orphanage in the township. I think it's safe to say this visit to the orphanage was one of the most impactful things we have done so far. We spent the afternoon playing with all of the children there and laughing with them. The children were some of the happiest we had ever seen, and yet they had so little. When we got there they were literally using a plastic bag full of sand as a soccer ball. We have never seen such poverty, and yet we also had never seen such joy. We were also in awe of the fact that although many of the younger children could not speak English, we were still all able to laugh and play together. Saying goodbye to those children was extremely emotional and difficult, so many of us were asked to return and see them again. And I know that we all will try our hardest to, and untill then cherish those kids in our hearts. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day in Cape of Good Hope!

Today was an extremely busy day for all of us, but we had an amazing day! We started off the day by going to a township. I am going to talk further about that township tomorrow, because tomorrow we will be visiting 3 more. But the experience in the township today was extremely impactful on everyone. 
After the township tour we went to Huot Bay and explored the market there! It was really neat experience to see a working a fish market and see all of the different vendors. The weather was cloudy but we still got to see the amazing view of the mountains and the ocean! 
After our visit to the bay and market we went to an Ostrich Farm!!! There were so many ostriches all over the farm, and it was really cool to see a South African farm. We also got to feed the ostriches which was really cool!!!!! We all had so much fun!!! 
After the farm we went to the Cape of Good Hope, which although it was raining and windy was still beautiful!! We hiked up to the light house at the top of the point and got an incredibly stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains of the cape! 
After climbing to the top of the light house we went to the bottom of Cape of Good Hope, or the most southern point of the African Continent!! The view of the beach and cliffs was amazing. Although it was incredibly windy, we could even see the spot where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean met!! 
We then went to Boulder Beach, home to the African penguins!!! Although it was rainy and cloudy we walked down the path to the beach and saw some South African penguins in the wild!! It was really amazing to see, and we all loved watching them waddle!! 
Over all a really amazing day in the Cape of Good Hope, and we all got a sense of how beautiful this country is!! 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day in Central Cape Town!!!

We spent our day today in Central Cape Town. The weather has been beautiful, blue clear skies and wonderful temperatures. We started off the day by going to Charly's Bakery, a famous bakery in Cape Town. The bakery had very brightly colored cakes, cookies and cup cake that were delicious! 
Our next stop in Cape Town was to the District Six museum. The museum is dedicated to District Six Cape Town that was demolished by the Aparteid Government in the late 1960s. The museum is focused on the culture of the district and it's community. The museum was established as a meansto remember    that lost community culture. It was really incredible for us to walk
through the museum and read so many personal stories from District Six. We were really able to comprehend the community and culture that was lost there. We then got a tour of what used to be District Six and saw what the government put in place of the district, which was extremely powerful. 
After our visit to District Six we went to the Slave Lodge museum. This museum was incredibly powerful for all of us, the museum is inside a converted slave lodge, which oldest slave lodge in South Africa. The museum is structured following the Atlantic Slave trade, and the history of the enslaved people. It was really powerful to walk through the exhibits and hear those stories while walking through an actual slave lodge. It made us realize the true horrors and pains of the slave trade. The museum also featured exhibits on Oliver Tambo, history of music in Apartheid Resistance, as well as historical clothes of South African women. It was an extremely powerful and interesting museum for everyone. 
Our final stop today was to the Bo-Kaap museum and neighborhood. The museum focused on the history of Muslims in Cape Town and the growth of the Islamic neighborhood there, or the Bo-Kaap region. The museum had many different artifacts and it was really incredible for us to learn about a different side of South African and Apartheid history. After the museum we experienced a traditional Indian meal, and we were also able to cook a portion of the meal which was really fun for all of us!! It was a really great cultural experience for everyone! We then got a walking tour of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. We saw the multi-colored houses Bo-Kaap is famous for, as well as the schools. We also visited a spice shop and tasted as well as purchased many traditional spices. We finished our walking tour with a visit to the mosque in the neighborhood, it was the oldest mosque built in the Southern Hemisphere. For many of us it was the first time visiting a mosque and it was a really great cultural experience. 
Overall an incredible day in Central Cape Town and now we are off to dinner at a traditional African resteraunt!