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“A lot of my favorite moments of the program have taken place on a medium-sized blue wraparound couch. Who knew that this couch (and the corner that gives rise to many a nap) would play such a special role.”

When everyone from home asks me how I like South Africa, I always respond with one word. Obsessed.

Reasons for this include:

1.     Amelia

My roommate Amelia, who I have spent a continuous 192 hours with (and counting). We are also paired together for all of the instructional activities, which makes our inseparability complete.

2.     Enthusiasm of the kids

Every morning the kids get assigned into small groups to work on their technical skills for the sport we do that day. After they are divided, Amelia and I always start with a group bonding activity, like a chant of RED TEAM or a huddle.

3.     THE COUCH

A lot of my favorite moments of the program have taken place on a medium-sized blue wraparound couch. Who knew that this couch (and the corner that gives rise to many a nap) would play such a special role. All 10 of us squeeze onto this couch every ounce of free time we have. We play catchphrase or card games, watch World Cup or just talk. The couch brings us together physically of course, but also has helped me learn more about the people I am working with.

4.     Nutella

Being surrounded with student-athletes, one might assume that everyone eats chicken breasts and salad. One would be wrong. I knew I was among my people when three of us separately bought Nutella at the store on the first day, and we used all three containers in the first day.

5.     Our GVI Leaders

Sian, Andy, and Jack are our three leaders who work with GVI. Sian and Jack are from England, and Andy is from Australia. Working with them has been easy and enjoyable. They challenge us to do our best, but also are fun.

6. The word “niche”

We have developed an entirely new vocabulary based on the unique slang that everyone uses. One of my contributions has been the word “niche” (as in “that is a niche reference”). This has been highly applicable because we all know a lot about each other’s lives now, so we can make references to funny and random things that have happened to each other.

7. Being flexible and spontaneous

The weather has been very rainy lately (good for the people of South Africa and the drought, but hard for planning activities). This has been difficult, because we have had to cancel a lot of activities like going on a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, but because our group is amazing we have had fun no matter what.

8. Side hugs

Because of strict GVI and Stanford rules for minors, we are not allowed to give front hugs to the children, but as we leave sometimes we get swarmed with kids trying to hug us. It is an art form to switch a child from a front hug to a side hug (acceptable) casually.

9. The word teacher, usually chanted continuously and loudly

While a lot of the kids do not know our names personally, they do recognize us as teachers. As we walk into the school, the kids in the daycare across the road shake the fence posts and yell “teacher, teacher” until we are out of sight. This word has been a constant refrain throughout the program, whether kids are trying to get our attention or give us a hug.

These are all small snapshots of why I am obsessed with South Africa and the 9 other students I am lucky enough to spend my time with.

Signing off,

Anja Zehfuss

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