Service Learning in South Africa Sun, 27 May 2012 23:17:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Totesiens Africa, Goodbye Africa! by Leslie, Misti and Chelsea (composed on May 24) Sun, 27 May 2012 23:10:58 +0000 To begin this blog, we’ve decided to collect the top ten “Ask Andy” questions. Over the course of our time here in South Africa and Botswana, we have frequently asked and asked and asked Dr. Watts the following questions as if he knew everything.

  1. How long will it take to get there?
  2. What do we wear?
  3. What are we doing?
  4. Are we paying for lunch?
  5. When are we going to the craft market?
  6. What time is dinner?
  7. What time do we have to get up?
  8. How much is that in American dollars?
  9. When do we eat?
  10. Is Steve lying? (Steve = tour guide)

Our final day in Africa has come and once again we have awakened to darkness because it is so early. We had a morning safari planned where we met Steve and our bus drivers to journey through the bush. The biggest excitement on this safari was the sighting of a lioness roaming towards our bus. On the safari we also saw a herd of white rhinos and several wart hogs. After returning to the campsite, we met at Dr. Watt’s chalet porch for lunch and our last class. Our class began with the theme of class, “Questions That Matter.” Dr. Watts and Dr. Guske asked us to ponder on questions that have not yet been answered. Some students brought up topics such as race, gender roles, and government involvement in South Africa. We all discussed our opinions and thoughts on each question that was brought to the conversation. After the class was concluded, we had free time where some people got massages and others took a much needed nap.

At 3:45 our final outing began. Two safari jeeps were loaded and we headed back into the bush for another night safari and a bush braai (BBQ). While we were driving through the bush, we had high hopes of sighting elephants and to our great delight we tracked down a herd of them. Two of the elephants decided to put on a show in front of the jeep by intertwining their trunks together. There were also several baby elephants traveling with their mothers. One of the jeeps even saw a lioness pack. We also had the opportunity to star gaze while the tour guide pointed out many constellations that would be unseen in Nashville’s sky. We finally arrived at the braai that was prepared by the national park. There were delicious assortments of meats and vegetables. We were able to end our journey the way we started, around a camp fire.

Our trip to Africa has been an enlightening experience on many levels. We all grew as students and people. Perhaps, one of the greatest things that we will take away from this experience is the relationships we have formed with each other. Get ready we are coming home! See you in America after thirty hours of traveling!


Chelsea, Leslie, and Mysti


The Lion King Comes To Life by Austin and Sammy (written on May 22) Sun, 27 May 2012 23:06:05 +0000 Blanketed by a starry morning sky, our group departed the team house with excitement for the upcoming adventure in the bush, but sad to say our goodbyes to all the friends at the team house who enriched our experiences in Cape Town.  Stuffing our bags full of treasured souvenirs with fearful anticipation of meeting the baggage weight requirements, we all boarded the bus and raced against the clock on our ride to the airport.  Waking 25 young adults at the five o’clock hour is no easy task and we are amazed that we made the flight.  Luckily, we spent the rest of our travels catching up on sleep or journaling on the three hour drive to the Bakgatla reserve.

The Bakgatla reserve was formed by the Bakgatla tribe, who we visited earlier on our trip in Botswana at the Mochudi village.  Colonization set traditional boundaries distinguishing South Africa from Botswana, but the history of the Bakgatla people led them to settle in areas of both countries.  Upon British arrival, the Boers were pushed into northern South Africa and Botswana, which drove the Bakgatla tribe even further north out of the southern region of Africa.  The tribe remained there until Botswana became a British protectorate (DATE).  The history of the Bakgatla tribe is similar to what we learned about District 6, but the way they responded to their displacement through adaptation has had a positive impact on the tribe.  In Cape Town, we discovered that the area where we were staying (Noerdhoek), had in fact been inhabited by the very townships for which we were volunteering our services before they were driven inward from the coveted beaches and coastline.  These townships are not self-sufficient and are still seeking assistance from the government, whereas the Bakgatla tribe was able to recover their land and create the self-sustaining business that is now the Bakgatla reserve.  Many of us wonder why was it that the Bakgatla tribe was able to reclaim and recover while the townships of Cape Town still face the repercussions of Apartheid injustices?  In time, we hope that the townships can recover, like the Bakgatla tribe’s response to colonialism.

After a week of coastline city living, we are back out in the bush, living a rustic lifestyle surrounded by the wildest of life.  Soon after arriving, we immediately boarded massive safari trucks in order to take a pleasant evening game drive through the reservation.  Bundled up from head to toe, students eagerly searched for signs of “the big five”: leopards, lions, rhinos, elephants, and water buffalo.  After the first night, we could check the rhino off of our list.  In addition, we saw many wildebeest, springbok, antelope, and bushes that looked a lot like lions.  Our most exciting encounter was almost touching a giraffe who was snacking on an acacia tree that happened to be in the middle of our path.  In the dark, the star gazing made up for the lack of animal sightings on the way back to the lodge.  We tucked into our chalets, dreaming of all the wonderful animals we may get to see on another safari drive the next day.

Rafiki’s Clan by Bess and Adelaide Mon, 21 May 2012 17:48:37 +0000 Hello friends and family!

We began Sunday afternoon with tears - well, at least Bess did, when visiting the Boulders Penguin Reserve. (Penguins happen to be Bess's all time favorite animal!) Although the penguins were not in arms reach, they were just a fence away nestled in their sheltered coves. Even though Boulders is in a residential area, it is one of the few places where penguins can be observed wandering freely in their own natural environment at close range.

Next on the days agenda was Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. Once at Cape Point, a large group of us decided to hike up to the Lighthouse and enjoy the beautiful view overlooking the ocean. Little did we know that on the way from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope we would have a run in with a pack of Baboons! Did you know there is such a thing as Baboon Patrol? Well there sure is! We encountered this patrol in the midst of our drive as we came to a halt to observe and take pictures of the baboons.  

Although not much time was spent at the Cape of Good Hope, it was enough time to understand the meaning of surrealism. While waves crashed against the boulders we were standing on, we were all individually and as a whole able to experience the unimaginable beauty of the southern tip of Africa. Aime Cesaire, a postcolonial scholar, states that surrealism is a “permanent readiness for the marvelous” and “lifts constraints on the imagination.” Cape of Good Hope allowed us to tap into both worlds of the real and surreal at once.

This experience directly led into our 5th class. We began the night with a creative spin – a poetry slam. Each of us was required to write a 5 line poem as a means of self-expression of our personal journey. Everyone was anxious about reading their individual poems, but as it turned out they were all phenomenal - as you have seen with the previous post. As we continued through our class, we discussed the meaning of truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation. “Can you have one without the other?” was the main question brought to the table. While we had varying opinions it was one of the most stimulating group discussions we had had thus far, concluding what was a spectacular day.

Monday morning came too quickly. While some enjoyed a relaxing, free morning around the Team House, others ventured out on a hike up Chapmen's Peak. We gathered together around noon and headed to Hout Bay for lunch, followed by a trolley ride up to the tippy top of Table Mountain. We enjoyed the spectacular views of the entire city, as well as some hot coffee. We returned home for our final sunset on the beach and a delicious traditional African meal - Bobotie.

We are sad to leave this wonderful place, but more than excited about our Safari Adventure ahead! Off to pack for our 5am morning. Hope those wild animals are ready for our crazy crew!

Cheetahs, Chocolate, and Church Mon, 21 May 2012 06:48:52 +0000  

Through sniffles and sneezes we greet you! Though we have been enjoying sharing friendship, our immune systems have not!


The anticipation for this day has been building for months, or for some even years. The moment had come and we could barely control our excitement. Despite the rain, we ventured out into the elements in order to get to the destination. Unfortunately, our first destination ended up to be Cheetah –less! After some initial disappointment we arrived at the beautiful Cheetah Outreach Reserve. Our dreams of petting these beautiful creatures would soon become real!


During our tour of this amazing program we discovered that this reserve protects more than Cheetahs and most of the animals residing there were rescued from either being personal domestic pets, or being in un-survivable situations in the wild. Animals living at this reserve are ranging from: owls, falcons, meerkats (Sebastian and Minky were the only two living at this reserve), rams, jekylls, multiple different kinds of cats, and Anatolia shepherds.


Interestingly, the Anatolia shepherds (they were well-trained big balls of fierce hair with elegant, intense faces – google them!) were a part of a project that this reserve developed in which farmers are gifted with special and protective companions that help protect livestock. Sadly, Cheetahs are often shot due to farmers protecting their farm animals; however, most of the time these beautiful cats were not actually the ones killing the cattle, goats or sheep. Since Cheetahs are active during the day, these cats are often assumed to be the ones snacking on these animals due to the fact that they are frequently spotted roaming around by farmers. To protect the remaining approximately 7.5 thousand Cheetahs, these skilled dogs are sent to farmers to guard livestock. In the beginning, there was much skepticism concerning this program in the farming community; however, (now that the dogs have proven themselves to be man’s best and loyal friend) the doggies’ popularity is high and a waiting list has been created.


After our tour we had a delicious lunch at a café outside of the winery that the cheetah rescue was on. After our bellies were full, some of us went on a tour of the winery while others went to admire the animals. When the cheetah petting was done, we went on an adventure to a chocolate factory!  At this splendid place, Huguenot’s, we got to eat as much chocolate as we wanted to (well during our tour at least).  Later, we had a restful night-off despite our sugar high.


Waking from a wonderful nights sleep, we journeyed to a local church in the township.  We were welcomed opened armed by the members of this joyful congregation, which led to some thoughtful reflection about historical contexts and how inspiring this experience was in many aspects.  To quote Desmond Tutu, “a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterized by strife…and a future founded on the recognition of human rights…and peaceful co-existence.”  Most of these members were alive during apartheid so we were humbled by the acceptance of our presents. We all left with smiling faces after witnessing their spirit filled worship of song and dance. 


Don’t worry we are taking our vitamins! Bye bye now.



Poetry Slam Sun, 20 May 2012 19:19:45 +0000 The following four poems were selected from our "poetry slam" in class tonight to be posted on the blog. Misti's poem was voted most appreciated, while Sammy, Leslie and Alex tied with equal enthusiasm.


How do you explain freedom to someone who has always been free?

How do you describe to someone what it feels like to be dehumanized?

How do you explain  what it feels like to be "left cold"?

What is freedom to someone who has known nothing else?

-Leslie Deakins


"The Narrative of Table Mountain

"The view from up here is quite amazing

Although it has'nt always been this way,

Colonizing, apartheid, communities blazing

Things i used to see everyday

I am Table Mountain and i remain unaltered,

A symbol to them, humankind, to dine under me as, white, and coloured"

-Alex Logan


Tangled roots of prejudice, how deep do they reach?

Colonization, deception, oppression, segregation,

Confrontation, expression, aggression, detention,

Conception, termination, ascension, reconciliation.

The heart of civilization, a nation healing itself from within.

-Sammy Martin


"Hope Displaced"

The heat reverberates off this dry land,

consuming the hope of the people that once loved this sand.

The southern ocean waves could not quench the thirst of the oppressors,

nor wipe away the tears of the ancestors.

A spirit though broken and displaced cannot die,

for there will be a day again for it to thrive.

-Mysti Meese

Sammy’s Surprise and District 6 by Denman and Brittany Fri, 18 May 2012 19:32:14 +0000 Cheers from below the equator!

After working at the Red Hill township on Wednesday, we had a picnic lunch on the Glencarne beach, which was perfect. We saw a whale! It is a bit early for whales, so it was a pleasant surprise. A few daring students ventured into the water, which was extremely cold. Others were thrown in against their will, but no one’s day was ruined. That afternoon we took a tour of Learn to Earn, which is a non-profit organization based in the township Khyeltsha. Learn to Earn offers courses in such disciplines as sewing, business, graphic design, and woodworking. In addition to these courses, all students were required to take business ethics courses to teach them the basic knowledge of the work environment. The programs can get pricey, but Learn to Earn helps students gain sponsors to push them through. Fortunately for them, but unfortunately for us, many groups had come through and bought out their store’s inventory. We would later learn that one of the groups was another Belmont study abroad program! What are the odds – we actually ran in to them the following day at the District 6 museum.

That night (Wednesday) was a special event for Sam Martin. Sloane and Bess decorated the dining room with balloons and streamers for his B I R T H D A Y!!! We tried to give him a grand surprise, but he peeked in through another door and kind of ruined it. He told us it was his first surprise birthday in his 22 years and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Our excellent chef, Nadine, even made him a chocolate cake with Whoppers on top! According to Steve, a tour guide at the Team House (who could not stop blowing the noise-makers), said it was “Funtastic!”

The following morning, we divided into our respective groups and worked hard till lunch. Our afternoon plans included going to the District 6 museum. District 6 was a mixed race community in central Cape Town. During apartheid, the government decided they wanted to make it a white neighborhood, and so displaced about 70,000 blacks, Coloreds, Jews, Indians, and others, then tore it all to the ground. We were surprised to learn that our tour guide was actually born in District 6! It was yet another reminder that the terror of apartheid went on for years even after our own civil rights movement eased discrimination in North America. Nothing has been built where District 6 once stood. Should the land be given back to the families that were displaced? Or should it be used to memorialize the atrocities committed? These are just a few of the questions we are beginning to discuss.

Following the museum, we lightened the mood with shopping on the waterfront and then dinner. We ate at Marco’s African Place, a high end restaurant with traditional African cuisine. One of the tour guides ordered Smiley, a dish consisting of the head of a sheep, boiled whole. Most of the students were rather grossed out by it, but adventurous LT and Alex tried eating the eyes. They wholeheartedly agreed that it was experience not in need of repeating. Many people had the Pan African Platter for dinner, which consisted of steaks of kudu and springbok, both of which are types of antelope, and ostrich. There was a live band with dancers during our meal, and the dancers got a few of our group to come join them. Sloane and Allison were invited to play the marimba with the band. They couldn’t quite master Old McDonald, but everyone applauded their effort.

Real life is waiting, goodbye virtual world!

“If these walls could speak” by Luke and Madison Fri, 18 May 2012 15:18:34 +0000 The walls of the New Apostolic Church have been through a lot in the past four years since they were constructed at the center of Red Hill, an unregistered township in Cape Town that has suffered greatly due to the vast urbanization of post-Apartheid South Africa. During the last three days the majority of our group has been working hard, doing our best, in our own humble way, to be of service to the congregation and the community. We chose to share this experience with you through the perspective of the walls of this broken structure, and we feel certain that if these walls could speak, their story would resemble this one…

“It felt like another ordinary morning at my home on Red Hill. I woke early from the cool breeze of the ocean to find a large group of students walking down the hill toward me, with eager faces, armed with supplies, and a sense of anticipation for their day ahead. Little did I know, these students were here to work on me. They had come to serve my community by giving me a makeover! Despite the uninviting presence of some of the neighborhood dogs, questionable weather conditions, and the desire of some of the local children to help with their efforts, they accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.  They started by sanding and wiping my exterior walls, then gave me a new face with two fresh coats of a royal blue paint. They also sanded and painted my door frame and window seals. By the end of the second day, I already looked like a whole new me.

While these students were busy at work, I could see from my home at the bottom of the hill, that my friend, the Red Hill preschool, was getting a new roof! Two of the boys from the group were working hard at securing new panels to the leaking roof that had previously existed. I also noticed that there were very few boys in this group of students. In fact, I determined that the ratio was 4:1. Poor guys.

On their final day, seven of my favorite students returned to work on what matters most in humans and buildings alike, the inside. They painted my ceiling and touched up my trim as they sang along to the music (Justin Bieber, The Black Eye Peas, Ben Rector, and other fun dance music) playing on someone’s iPod. Two of the girls that are particularly creative painted a beautiful tree between my two windows. This tree represented the growth and life that these students were bringing back into me and the people of my township. It was out with the old, the mold, and in with the new, a bright new church in the midst of the struggles that exists in the Red Hill community.”

So this is what we imagined the walls would say, and you can imagine the rest.

Covered in oil-based paint and exhausted, the day is only half way through. These are our narratives, the fabric of our journey. So glad you could come along.

Love you, Mom and Dad. See you in a week!

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Group Photo at Waterfront, Cape Town Wed, 16 May 2012 15:06:25 +0000

Impact and Ideology by Allison and Shelly Wed, 16 May 2012 11:39:33 +0000  

Quick Recap: Today we toured the townships that we will be working in the rest of the week. Historically townships arose from Apartheid when the South African government forced all of the non-whites to live in segregated areas. The organization we are working with, African Impact, facillitates volunteers throughout Africa. We began our tour in Masiphumele which is a township that is predominantly Xhosa; Masiphumele means "We will succeed" in Xhosa. Masi originally was built to house 5,000 people, but today is home to about 72,000 people. Each township has different organizations that help to develop the community, and currently there are 40 programs in the works in Masi. The next community we toured was Ocean View where we will be building a jungle gym and doing some painting for a preschool. On the way to our last stop we took a detour by the beach. From where we were standing we could see mountains that reached down into the ocean and surfers swimming in the freezing cold. Our final stop was at another township called Red Hill that is a much smaller community than Masi and is home to 2,000 people. In this township we will be doing some construction work on school buildings.

After our tour we had lunch together and then set out for different adventures. Some of us enjoyed shopping at the farmers market while others went for a hike with our fearless leader Dr. Gustke. We gathered back together for dinner and class. During the class period we really talked about "Questions that Matter." Some questions we asked of ourselves were, "Can we make a positive impact in our short amount of time here?" "Even though apartheid has fallen, how are the effects of that regime still evident today?" "How has being in South Africa highlighted social problems in the US?" Throughout this class period we were able to not only make connections to our experience in Botswana last week, but also to each of our own personal experiences. In this discussion we realized that you have to approach service projects with the intentions of helping a community help itself rather than doing it for them: by bettering the townships' facilities we are progressing the projects they have already put in place. After our tour of Robben Island we were shocked to realize that the prisoners of apartheid were only freed in 1994. Knowing this helped us to better understand South Africa and made its history more relatable. We were able to recognize many parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for South African independence, democracy and freedom.


Sunset in Botswana Mon, 14 May 2012 18:04:05 +0000

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Crosstown traffic in Cape Town by Alex and Luci Mon, 14 May 2012 17:36:03 +0000 Seisoengroete…Izilokotho Ezihle Zamaholdeni…Ditakaletso tse molemo… Ditumediso tsa sehla sa maikhutso… Ditumediso tsa setlha… Tilokotfo letinhle kulesikhatsi semnyaka… mikateko ya masiku yo wisa… Ni vhe na nwaha wavhudi… Imibuliso yelixesha lonyaka… Izilokotho ezinhle zamaholide

Or Seasons Greetings (being it is winter here)

Yesterday was another early morning which is beginning to take its toll on all of us. We had to wake-up in order to make our flight to Cape Town. With the usual cereal and yogurt for breakfast we proceeded to make the six hour bus ride from Botswana to Jo’burg. Many of us took this opportunity to sleep, when we really should have been reading the five books that are past due. Soaking up the Lion Kingesque African landscapes, we arrived at JNB airport where some of us indulged in what we thought would be an American meal (at Subway, but ended up being nothing of the sort. Once on the plane, we settled into our seats and scattered all over the plane. Having been immersed in the culture for a week, we were able to develop friendships and engage in conversations regarding history, culture, South African philosophies, etc., transforming an otherwise boring plane ride into an insightful experience.

Once in Cape Town- the most beautiful city on earth, as proclaimed by our new bus driver, we rode in a combi to our mansion on the beach. When we say mansion, we literally mean five-star accommodations for up to 32. The world became smaller to each of us when we were welcomed by our team mom, Danielle, a native Nashvillian. After receiving our rooming assignments, we all filed in to the dining room for our family-style dinner where Denman and Madison assumed the roles of father and mother taking position at the head of the table, while the rest of us played the roles of their rambunctious children (we being the favorites- Luci and Alex).

Unfortunately, this morning we had to rise before the sun… yet again; however, we did have really exciting plans for the day. We made an excursion to Robben Island (the prison that held Nelson Mandela and other influential leaders and political prisoners during the struggle for independence).  We saw Mr. Mandela’s cell on the island… and some friendly creatures- penguins!! J After the choppy ferry ride back we headed towards Table Mountain, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Sadly the tram (gondola) was not working, but we decided to trek as far as our exhausted legs would allow before we reached rock climbing terrain. Needless to say, it was a very rewarding climb because we could see the entire peninsula of Cape Town.

We took a different route home- Chapman’s Peak Drive (GOOGLE IMAGE THIS!) It was breathtaking. Sorry but the dinner bell just rang so we must leave you- or else mom will get mad.


Totsiens…Usale kuhle …Sala hantle… Sala gabotse…Sala sentle… Sala kahle …Salani Kha vha… Sale zwavhudi…Sala kakuhle …Sala kahle

Or goodbye


Dancing, Touring, and Questions that Matter with Abby and Ali  Sat, 12 May 2012 15:26:08 +0000 Greetings friends and family!

It is officially our last day in the lovely country of Botswana before we begin our sojourn to Capetown, South Africa. While the team is much anticipating the new experiences on our second leg of the journey, we are sad to depart from our new friends and “home” at the Mokolodi Backpackers.

We thoroughly enjoyed the last week of touring and work at Kamagela and Holy Cross, but the past 24 hours has been a much needed time of rest and fun (and fun we had!). Last night we ditched our shorts and t-shirts and glammed up with our best dancing attire (Botswana has never seen so many Target Maxi dresses in one location in all of history) and headed to Bull and Bush restaurant and club. It was an excellent time for the team to bond in a new and laid back atmosphere.

The team who worked at Kamagela invited three of the school teachers to join us, allowing us to get to know them on a more personal level. What a treat! Speaking of treats, the wide variety of cuisine offered each of us everything from fish and chips, to pizza, to a whole rack of ribs (which impressively and much to everyone’s surprise, petite Sarah finished ALL by herself), to every type of steak imaginable. To say that our table was filled with happy campers is definitely an understatement! The rest of the night allowed us to soak up the local vibe and get to know people from around the world. Through the hoppin’ dance floor, riveting conversation, and very competitive pool games, it was an enjoyable evening. Our guide, Steve, even taught us some great dance moves!

On a different note, this morning began a day of sight-seeing and history lessons that no classroom in Nashville could top. The tour began with the film sites of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a course text, which is also an HBO television series based on the novel. The set is located across Gaberone and is comprised of Mma Ramotswe’s office, the barber shop, auto repair shop, Patel’s movie theatre, and SOS, one of Gaberone’s orphanages for children whose lives have been affected by HIV/Aids. In our opinion, the sights accurately portrayed our imagination’s views of the author’s depiction in the book. We have been reading and discussing the novel all week and this was a concrete way to delve into the text on a deeper level. The book truly came to life (pun intended)!

Our last stop (besides the essential refueling of chips and water at the gas station), was the 3 Chief’s Monument, outlining the historical events that led to the independence of Botswana. The tour guide walked the group through various time periods marking crucial milestones in the country’s history. The focal point was the massive statues of the three chiefs from separate tribes, who united to request aid from the Queen of England to protect their common land from Dutch colonization. We learned an ample amount of new information and now have an even greater respect for the people of Botswana and the many hardships woven in the country’s past.

After reflecting on the day’s events, questions began to arise regarding our experience at the SOS orphanage. To further explain, we dropped by in order to see the film sight and ended up staying and playing with many of the kids for about thirty minutes. The kids were extremely open and came running towards us ready to intermingle the moment we arrived. After kicking the “futbol,” jumping on the jungle gym, and holding children galore, our time came to an end. The kids were obviously enjoying themselves and did not want to see us go. After asking us for more gifts and climbing on the bus and wanting to join, we finally peeled ourselves away and resumed the tour.

The trip was a surprise to everyone and while we had a bla

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