The end of the Semester

Trip Start Jul 14, 2007
Trip End Jun 23, 2008

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Monday, November 19, 2007

Hey everyone, sorry that this
message is very outdated. I meant to send it out before we departed (Nov 19) but
life became a little too hectic. Anyway, I am back from my trip now and plan on
sending out another message soon.
             Sorry it
has taken me forever to write something to post. Life in Cape Town has been hectic to say the least. A
lot has happened in the past month and a half; many challenges to overcome,
exams to write, and experiences to be had.
             As I sit
here composing this message I'm filled with relief. Today marks the first day
of my summer vacation. I wrote my last exam yesterday morning and can
officially claim to be free of school work until February! However, this relief
didn't come without a lot of hard work. I spent many days during the month of
October trying to finish up projects (my insect collection) and actually stayed
up all night in the lab working diligently a few nights in a row. At the same
time, I can't claim that I didn't have any fun while doing my school work. I
have recently discovered the beauty of 'studying' at the beach and all night
parties in the lab with my classmates (we seriously bonded)!
             Beyond life
in the classroom, I have kept myself very busy. The last week of September my
program took us to climb Lion's Head (one of the mountain peaks overlooking Cape Town). We went in
the evening and reached the top of the mountain right before the sun was
setting. Even better, it was during the full moon. On one side the landscape
was a brilliant fire orange, cotton candy pink and lavender as the sun quickly
was sucked down deep into the ocean extending in the distance. Upon turning
around, the other part of the city was a mysterious deep purple and blue,
glowing in the full moon light. The view was breathtaking and my pictures don't
do it justice.  
             On the 6th
of October CIEE took us sea kayaking. I was able to get into the first group of
students going out, which turned out to be the best time to go. As we paddled
our way through the oncoming waves we were met with many delightful surprises.
First, we were greeted by 2 whales, a mother and her calf. It was mind blowing.
We were probably maximum 20 feet away from these massive animals. Seeing these creatures
from kayaks was very intense and it put the size of the animal into
perspective. After seeing about another 4 whales we had paddled far enough down
the coast to find a group of about 25 seals. These animals smell really bad and
we caught them sun bathing in the water! Our kayak came as close as 5 feet away
from the seals. We were so close that if I wasn't careful my paddle could touch
them. On our way back, we were lucky enough to run into a group of dolphins in
active pursuit of a meal. They were jumping out of the water and swimming at impressive
speeds. I don't know how we did it, but we caught up to them. Well, at least we
got close enough to get a good look. Apparently, dolphin sightings only occur
about twice a month!
             I have also
made a few trips with friends to interesting places in the area. The first one
of these trips we went on was an afternoon in the Kirstenbosch Gardens.
This place is huge, and located next to the base of the mountain, providing for
a panoramic view of the city I am starting to call home! The garden is well
manicured and boasts plants that I had never seen before, and insects that I so
greatly wanted to collect for my project! We found ourselves getting lost in
the various sections before we found a nice quiet place to lay out a blanket
and loose ourselves in the beauty, a few games, and laughing at the occasional
tourist group!
following week we made a trip to see the penguins at Boulder's Beach. The penguins found at this
beach are the African Penguins (might sound a little obvious, but still). We
took the train to Simon's Town, but had no idea how far we actually would have
to walk before we reached these animals! After 30 minutes of solid walking we
found the protected beach. I have never seen so many penguins before in my
life! They were everywhere and even if I tried to count them all, I still
wouldn't know how many penguins were in the area. We came while they were
molting, so the pictures of penguins show weird feather tuffs. Regardless, it
was unbelievable to cross paths with these animals, and so often at that.
             The last
big weekend trip in the past month and a half was to Robben Island
to see the cell in which Nelson Mandela was held as a prisoner during the years
of apartheid. After taking a ferry across to the island, we were given a bus
tour of the island and some of the basic history of the location. Our tour
guide was a Xhosa speaker and Annie and I were able to impress him with our
basic Xhosa skills! We were the only people in the bus that understood some of
his language. It was exciting. After our bus tour of the island, we were given
a tour of the various sections of the prison. Our guide was actually an
ex-prisoner who would still be in his cell on Robben Island
if apartheid had not ended. It was interesting to see the prison and the
suffering that went along with this country's history. Also, we were able to
talk to political activists from that time and ask them questions about their
struggle, sacrifice, and reasoning.
             The last
big thing that happened to me in the past month and a half is a little harder
to talk about, but I am to a point where I can write about it. On the 25th
of October I was in a car accident. It was late at night and our taxi driver
was bringing us back from a club. A woman was trying to cross the road, our
driver didn't stop (either he didn't see her or couldn't in time) and we hit
her. She died immediately, but I have been struggling with her death and how it
was handled. It was just something I never thought would happen in my life,
much less while I was studying in another country.
a happier note, I leave for a 3 week trip on Tuesday morning. We are
off to see Southern Africa and experience new things. It will be nice
to see more than just the Western Cape.  I
probably won't write another update until I get back from my trip, which will
be December 13th, but should come back with some good stories! Until
then, everyone take care of yourself and I hope you are all doing well.
Sorry this message was vague; I did so many things it is
hard to go into any kind of detail without writing a book!
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