Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lauren's Experience

Hello from South Africa! I am writing this on my last night here in South Africa. As I write, I look back on what an amazing and life changing experience this has been. I am so grateful to my parents for allowing me to partake in this once in a lifetime trip, but also I am beyond grateful to be apart of the Ursuline community. I am proud to say I go to Ursuline, and this trip has really brought the phrase, “we are connected to Ursuline communities all over the world” to light. We so often hear that phrase, but I do not think one truly realizes it until they experience it for themselves!

My favorite part of this trip was the time we spent in Cape Town. After a long day of traveling, we arrived in Cape Town in the evening, and made our way to the hotel. I was so excited about what was to come, I had trouble falling asleep! We woke up the next morning and went downstairs to eat breakfast. I had the most amazing breakfast, and tried strawberry juice for the first time. Then we made our way to our first stop in Cape Town, Table Mountain. We rode a gondola up the mountain, and the floor of the gondola spun in a circle while it was carrying us up. I had never experienced anything like that, and it made my stomach drop a few times, but the view at the top was completely worth it!

After that, we stopped on a street where the houses were previously owned by slaves that could not read or write. Since they were illiterate, they had to find a way to differentiate between the houses without using numbers or letters. So they painted each house a different color. Our last stop for the day was the District 6 Museum. I learned a lot about Apartheid at this museum. District 6 was one of the largest areas that was declared white during Apartheid. This means every person who was not white had to move out of this area, leave everything, and find another place to live. District 6 really brought Apartheid into reality, and gave me a closer look into what people endured during that time.

Our second day in Cape Town was jam packed with things to see and activities to do! We began the day with a boat ride out to an island almost covered in sea lions. The island was such a neat thing to see, but the boat ride there and back was rough. We were going over 20ft waves; I am just happy I do not get seasick easily. When we got back to shore we piled back on the bus and began our way to the Cape of Good Hope. On the way, we stopped for a photo op. in the most beautiful place. We were on the side of a mountain, looking over I could see the water and the stunning scenery.

The Cape of Good Hope was our first baboon and ostrich sighting. On one side of the street there was a gang of ostriches, and on the other side was was a bunch of baboons. On the way out, we saw baboons climbing on peoples’ cars, and our guide told us if you do not lock your car, the baboon will open it and take any food you have! After we left the Cape of Good Hope, we made our way to the beach with all of the penguins. This was the highlight of my day! The penguins were so cute, and there were so many of them! It was so different and such a cool thing to see.

The last day in Cape Town was my favorite day of the entire trip. We visited the Langa Township. This was the first time we were exposed to real poverty while in South Africa. At first it was a shock, and I had to take a step back because I had never witnessed this type of lifestyle. Our guide grew up in Langa, and spoke about the hardships the township faces, but also the benefits of living in the township. There are many hardships including lack of a good education, difficulty to obtain a job, and poor living conditions. There was an area with man made “houses”, they were essentially huts made out of scrap metal, wood, and anything else the people could find. What really hit me was when our guide pointed out a row of shipping containers and told us several families live in each container. The living situations, among everything else was shocking to me, but it truly opened my eyes and exposed me to what life is like for so many people in South Africa. As the tour went on I realized there were so many amazing things about the township. The main thing was the community. As we were walking around, I could feel how tight knit the community was, and it was such an amazing thing to witness. On one side of the township was an area with really nice houses, and our guide explained how the people from the township who were successful moved to this area so they could still be apart of the community. He also explained how they are a symbol to the young people that success is possible. Langa Township was my favorite part of the trip because although it was a culture shock, if you looked deep enough you could see the beauty in it.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Erin's Experience

Howzit from South Africa. Over this whole trip, I have I encountered countless experiences and made memories to last a lifetime. Often I think people picture South Africa all as a barren desert with wildlife and huts everywhere, but that is only half true. In South Africa, there are cities, just like St. Louis, with stores and many fast food places of their own. Yes, there are parts of South Africa where people are living in huts with no heating or air conditioning, but there is so much more than that. South Africa is amazing and has many big cities such as Sandton City.

This weekend, I went to Sun City, a resort about 2 hours away from Joburg. Most of our time there was spent in Pilanesberg National Park where we drove around by ourselves and also went on a game drive. We were able to see 3 out of the Big 5: rhino, elephants, and buffalo. Unfortunately, I never was able to spot a lion or leopard, even though we spent over six hours in Pilanesberg. There is a water park similar to six flags called the “Valley of the Waves” where we spent the day relaxing and going on thrilling slides. I also traveled to an elephant encounter and was able to feed, pet, and walk with an elephant, trunk in hand. It’s very true that elephants are “friendly giants” and it was not even scary to me one bit when I stood side by side one; one even kissed me on the cheek. 

Throughout the whole time I have been with my host family, I have grown very close to them and their five dogs. I have experienced many cuisines such as biltong, koeksisters, rusks, springbok carpaccio, green creme soda, lamb, malva pudding, and pap. I also picked up some slang such as shame, braai, joll, robot, hectic, and somehow there is a difference between now, now now, and just now. Also, everyone can just understand when they are talking about chips like chips or chips as in fries. They thought it was funny I couldn’t figure out which kind of chips they were talking about. All in all this has been a wonderful experience and I am saddened by the fact there is only two days left. My time here in South Africa is amazing and I hope one day, I can return on my own.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Abigail's Experience


It has been nearly two weeks since we left, and this experience continues to enhance my knowledge of the the world. When we first arrived, the excitement and anticipation of exploring the city trolled me. I absolutely could not wait for our first full day of venturing through the beautiful Cape Town. On our first day we went to Table Mountain, which holds the most spectacular view overlooking the city. The phenomenal view easily distracted me from the fact that it was three degrees Celsius on top of the mountain. 

The following day we went to the Cape of Good Hope which was absolutely breathtaking. During our time in the park we went on a hike and saw many animals including ostriches, baboons, penguins, and more. 

On Friday we went to Langa township where we saw life inside one of the many townships South Africa has. This township was a culture shock. There were people who lived in huts, others lived in apartments, and some even lived in storage units given to them by the government. This was a true eye opener as to what some people in South Africa experience compared to the lifestyle I was about to experience with my host family. 

When we arrived at Brescia School in Johannesburg Friday evening, I was beyond excited to finally meet my host family. My host family is nothing less than outgoing, kind, and exceptional. On Saturday my host family took me to the Lion Safari Park where I was able to see countless animals in a realistic environment for them. I saw cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, lions, ostriches, and warthogs. After the safari my host student, Tarryn, and I went to pet lion cubs and a cheetah. Holding a lion cub is a moment in my life that I will never forget.

On Sunday I got the full tour of Johannesburg. This city is massive, and my host family and I explored every inch of it. I saw many interesting things including the stadium built for the 2010 world cup, the different levels of poverty, and the university my host parents attended. On Monday we spent our time at the school. It started with a tour of their gorgeous campus and continued on to attending classes with my host student. On Tuesday there was a focus on history in South Africa. We went to an apartheid museum that was truly eye opening in a sense that it sugar coded nothing. I saw the brutal reality that apartheid had on people in the place that it occurred. We continued on our day by visiting Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto, as well as the Number Four prison on Constitution Hill.

The following day, Wednesday, was spent at Brescia school attending classes. Brescia is very different from Ursuline, yet they hold some similarities. Their school day starts at 7:30 with devotions each and every morning. Some mornings they sing, while on other days they have a student read a devotion to the high school. They have most of the courses we have as well as consumer studies, which is a cooking class. Their school day ends at 2:30, which makes the school day an eight hour day, just like Ursuline.

On Thursday we went to St. Ursula and they welcomed us with open arms. Everyone was so kind and welcoming. While at the school we sat in on the vote for head girl and head boy. Each year they elect an eleventh grader to become the new head girl and head boy for the upcoming year. This is something new and completely different from Ursuline in St. Louis. The head girl is just like the head of the school, equivalent to our student body president.

On Friday we went to Liliesleaf, where Nelson Mandela and many other liberation leaders hid during the liberation movement. This was very eye opening and it is a part of apartheid history I had never heard about before.

Compared to previous travels, I feel at home here. I don’t have to travel from hotel to hotel, I have home cooked meals, and I feel very comfortable. My family is amazing. They have introduced me to rugby, new foods, new people, and a new environment. The people here are so kind, there is such a diverse community, and this city is amazing.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Lauren's Experience

This morning we made a trip to St. Ursula’s school. There they gave us a tour of their school and showed us what their school has to offer. From grades 8 to 12 they have all sorts of classes to offer, including math, business, sciences, and English. 

After the tour, which was given by students, they took us to Maropeng. This is the site where they believe the first humans lived.

 We did this amazing boat ride that took us through all four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. For water they had a waterfall of water shooting down from the ceiling. To show fire they had a bunch of fake fires sprouting from the sides and ground. 

After this we walked through the museum. We saw a replica of “Mrs. Ples”, which is the best example of an adult Australopithecus ever discovered. We then watched a video on how the continents have evolved over time, and learned what happened to the super-continent Pangaea. 

We also saw Lucy, which is the most well-known hominid skeleton in the world. She was founded by Dr. Donald Johanson and his team in Ethiopia. 

After seeing Lucy, we watched a lady remove fossilized bone from rock, which was very interesting. 

The last thing we saw were the bones they have from an early human. After this we went back to St.Ursula’s for lunch, which was a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and salad. We then attended an assembly where they voted for their class representatives and sang for us. Brescia House hosted a dinner for all the girls and families. We gathered with teachers from Brescia House and St. Ursula’s school. After a delicious dinner, we had a final prayer to wrap up the ceremony.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Caitlyn's Experience

Before Johannesburg, we explored Cape Town, South Africa. Unexpectedly it was frigid and cold, temperatures no one was anticipating: temperatures I never imagined South Africa would receive. Shortly after, I realized that there would be so many unexpected sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that I would come across and have to adjust to.


On one side of Cape Town there were completely mesmerizing views and attractions such as Table Mountain, a mountain that towers over the luxurious city exposing the beautiful oceans and countrysides, and the Cape of Good Hope, a lighthouse that once again had a spectacular view of the countryside, including animals such as Baboons, Ostriches, and Penguins. However, the other side of Cape Town was home to many townships where people struggled everyday to simply find food for dinner. Although not appealing to the eye, visiting the Langa Township was one of my favorite memories from Cape Town. The Langa people had close to nothing in material possessions but yet they were rich in culture, community, and found strength in family. I had never been introduced to this type of extreme and heart breaking poverty before, but I came with a full heart because I realized that everyone there worked together to make positive memories, accept, love and care for each other through every struggle. It re-opened my eyes to see that to be happy not everything revolves around money, technology, and class, but around strong relations between family and friends.

Cape Town was only our first stop on our South Africa experience but already it became a once in a lifetime trip that I will never be able to forget. Not only did I make new friends and memories with my Ursuline sisters but I also learned so many lessons from the people and South African cultures we were introduced to. Cape Town was truly captivating and I am beyond blessed that I get to experience it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

“Nomadic Notes” a blog post by Sydney Kirchoff

The day awoke with the chime of an alarm playing from the bedside table at the pure hour of 7:15am. Eager to explore Cape Town, the awakening transition was found easy! The girls gathered around the table with Mr. Master and Mrs. Jones to have one last meal in the great city of Cape Town! We left the hotel with our two tour guides that were to show us the townships of Cape Town. We were informed, the townships were apart of the 1923 Urban Areas Act that was enacted on the native Africans in Cape Town during the apartheid. The townships are places the government forced people to live. Fifteen years ago the South African government set up cargo boxes for living quarters, and the people ever since have tried to escape their living situation, attempting to find affluent jobs that lack existence. From the year of 1923, the lives of those in townships have been stricken by poverty. Poverty within townships is hard to combat due to the underlying apartheid roots and lack of education towering over their motivation to find work. As we stepped into the townships, the sense of community was easy to recognize. Despite the difficulty of survival, us girls came into agreement that the people living in the Township of Langa, are warriors. It was fascinating to see people that were living in the worst conditions, come together and manage to find joy in the smallest elements of life that us Americans, surpass every second.

The mud seeped into our leather soled shoes at the same time a child walked barefoot in the cold mud beside us. At this moment, we were exposed to reality. We could have easily avoided the negative
parts of South Africa, and focused on the photogenic cafes and lush scenery. However, we were immersed in a experience that will forever move us. As we left the Township, we drove to the Cape Town international airport where buses swarm, jobs are found, and water flows. Only a short 10 minute drive away from the airport, is the Township of Langa, where money is rare, and hope trickles as happy stories are told. After the township experience, we had a 2 hour flight to the city of Johannesburg to meet our beloved Ursuline family. We have all met our families and feel at home. Thank you for tuning into our adventure, today has been magical, and we have changed.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lucy's Experience

September 8-9 

Hallo from Johannesburg, South Africa! I can’t even put into words how much this trip has changed my perspective on culture. I came into this trip not knowing very much about the country, but from what I have seen it has made me take a step back and examine everything a bit more. I find some things in their country a little odd to me. One thing that I find confusing is how they drive on the other side of the road. It is sort of cool to look around at the roads and highways to see the ways that they travel. When I was around them, I noticed that they were speaking in German which is very unusual in South Africa. A lot of words and phrases are different here. For example, chips are called crisps, cookies are called biscuits, traffic lights are called robots, elevators are called lifts, bathrooms are called toilets, and a trunk of a car is called a boot. My host family also loves to use the words ‘shame’ and quite. They tend to just say the word ‘shame’ after they hear something horrible or sometimes they might use the phrase, “Oh what a shame!”. In almost every sentence, my host sister would say the word ‘quite’ and we both laugh and bond over that. I am adapting to their culture because I have even found myself saying ‘shame’ and ‘quite’ on my own!

This weekend I have done a lot of exploring! On Saturday my host family took me to the Lion and Safari Park. There, I got to see countless animals from hyenas to giraffes that were 100 feet away! After we went through all of the animal enclosures, we got the chance to pet baby lions. That was by far one of my favorite things that I have ever done! Just being able to be that close to them was really a chance of a lifetime. On Sunday we went to the Farmer’s market for brunch. It was very interesting to see all of the different kinds of food that they have. I wasn’t expecting South Africa to have as many ethnic food choices, but boy I was wrong! After a quick stop at the Farmer’s market, we headed over to the Crocodile Park. We got to see many crocodiles there, but I was very surprised that there weren’t that many in the water. I also got to witness the feeding of the crocodiles. The last time they fed them was the second week of May! My host sister and I also took on the challenge of going zip lining over the crocodile exhibit. I have to say that I was very scared at first, but looking back it wasn’t that big of a deal. We went to a show there and I got to hold a baby alligator, a small corn snake, and a huge anaconda snake!

I definitely went out of my comfort zone this weekend because snakes are something that i have always been very terrified of. St. Angela has a quote that states, “ You need not be anxious if you do your best” I think this quotes speaks great volumes for me on this trip. Although I may be anxious at times, St. Angela always brings me back.