Somehow it is already time for me to be writing my FINAL blog post of my ACE experience. These three weeks have truthfully flown by — I feel like I was just getting off of the plane in Cape Town yesterday!
Despite being out of chronological order with my most recent blog post, I’d like to return to some experiences from my first weekend here in South Africa before reflecting on the trip as a whole. As several of my group members have already spoken about in their blogs, one of the most enriching experiences of the trip thus far has been our tour of Langa Township, the mother township of South Africa. From our extraordinarily knowledgeable tour guide, we learned about a concept that deeply resonated with me: inner wealth. Taylor, one of the Stanford participants on the program, provided me with a quote from our tour guide on this topic: “We do not call people without wealth ‘poor people.’ They may live in a poor community, but that does not make them poor. To us, you are only poor if you envy others for things you want or look down on others for what they do not have… Only then are you truly poor.” As our tour guide explained, this concept of inner wealth defines the Xhosa people of the Langa township and has helped them prosper in times of great hardship.
The following day, after visiting the Langa township, we visited Robben Island and the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27-year jail sentence as a political prisoner. We learned of the tactics used by the ANC leadership to continue to send and receive messages from prison, of the horrendous living and working conditions the prisoners were subjected to year round. By far the most impactful moment of the prison tour was when we learned that our tour guide standing before us was himself a political prisoner for over seven years at this same prison. He explained that being a tour guide helps him talk about what happened years ago and is therapeutic in a sense. He was an older gentleman, which made me sad to think that in 20 years, if I were to bring my own children to Robben Island, they may not have the opportunity to hear this information in a first-hand account. This made my trip to Robben Island significantly more meaningful.
“I wish to express a great deal of gratitude both to our Program Director, Emily Durham, and our community partner representatives from GVI, Katie and Alice. Without them this program would not have been possible, and I am deeply grateful for the wonderful experiences they have provided me with.”
This past weekend, rather than visiting historical sites, we had the opportunity to see modern South Africa and the liveliness of Cape Town in addition to Table Mountain. Visiting the Old Biscuit Mill and Route 44 food markets were very, very fun. I had some absolutely incredible meals: mac & cheese balls, oysters, feta pastries, eggs Benedict, a “man-dog” (a hot dog with bacon and arugula), and a pizza cone, among many other delicious treats. I definitely spent a few too many rand, but it was worth it!
These past few days we held a sports enrichment camp for ACJ Primary School, where we gave our presentations the first week of the program. The goal of the camp was to introduce the students to different track and field events and hopefully foster enough interest such that ACJ can start a team this coming January. This camp provided a slight challenge for me because I was assigned to teach an event that I personally have never done before — javelin throwing. After watching a number of YouTube videos with Trevor, the other ACE participant assigned to javelin, we designed a number of drills to teach the students how to throw javelin. I was very happy to find a small number of students really excel at the javelin, since it isn’t the easiest skill to pick up. I encouraged them to try out in January when they begin to assemble the team.
Overall, as I reflect over the experiences I have had over the past three weeks, I wish to express a great deal of gratitude both to our Program Director, Emily Durham, and our community partner representatives from GVI, Katie and Alice. Without them this program would not have been possible, and I am deeply grateful for the wonderful experiences they have provided me with. I would similarly like to thank all of my readers who have checked in to see how my trip has been going!