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It has been almost three weeks exactly since our plane landed in this foreign continent, country, and city. Some of the initial obstacles we faced were surprising but not immovable. Being laden by jet lag, shocked by how cold South African winters are, and tossed straight into our volunteer experience were just a few. After brushing those aside, it was time to take in what this beautiful country has to offer.

During weekends, long day trips were how we spent most of our time. By writing here about some of the road trips though, it will not be doing them any justice. The breathtaking views, incredible beaches, blue waters, and colossal mountains all play their role in the beauty of this country. It never got old to wake up, walk out of our front door, and see a big mountain being lit up with the light from the sun rising.

Some of the day trips we went on also had the purpose of teaching both the young and old rich history of South Africa. Going to sights like Robben Island and seeing where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned were pivotal to this trip. Having those experiences made sure we understood how far the country has come, but also how far it still has to go.

“Going to sights like Robben Island and seeing where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned were pivotal to this trip.”

After working with lots of kids over the past few weeks and getting to know them, the future for South Africa looks so bright. We have been exposed to some awesome kids with admirable aspirations and goals. I will always remember my time at both the ACJ middle school and orphanage in the township. As we worked in the orphanage during our second week though, I began to create a special connection with a young boy there. My first day he asked me my name, I told him and then asked him his. Since then whenever he sees me I know that without fail I’ll hear, “Teacher Ollie!” loud and clear. In return I always shout his name as he sprints full speed at me leaping and clinging onto whichever limb of mine he can wrap his little arms and hands around. This boy is one of the things to which I can undoubtably accredit the success of this trip. I always like to be reminded what it is in life that is truly important and he did that for me. Although cliché, it is always valuable to be reminded what is needed in life and what it really means to live happily. Seeing the kids at the orphanage each day with big smiles and singing their songs definitely did the trick of putting things into perspective.

ACE Student-Athlete Island View

Three weeks after I landed in this country, it now feels far from foreign. The way I got hugs from the kids when I told them it was my last day at the middle school or how I truly feel I made a difference while I was here is how I know this trip accomplished its purpose. It is a bitter sweet feeling knowing that I leave on Sunday but the sweet part of that feeling is full of belonging, joy, and hope.

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