Day Seventeen-I Am Water written by Eric Zhou

Last day in South Africa, we woke up in the early morning and ready to snorkel in the cape point bay. After a light breakfast and one hour drive, we arrived the beach, which is protected area because penguins nest on the beach nearby. The activity is hosted by an organization called I AM WATER, consisted by a free diving champion in South Africa, few marine biology scientists, and some free diving lovers. Before we go into the water, the trainer lead us to do some yoga moves to stretch our body and lung. I am impressed that she has bigger lung than a big rugby player in national team. She told us a skill that breathing in 8 seconds and breathing out 10 seconds can keep the heart rate down when diving or in panic. We did some breathing skills to expand our lung in order to get ready to snorkel. After warming up, we are divided into two groups. One group go snorkeling in the sea first, and my group go the near shore to observe some marine animals and watch penguins. We saw a starfish, some sea snails and sea urchins. Then we walked on our bear foot to watch penguins. There are lots of small rocks and sticks, we felt like did a painful foot message, and it felt so great step on soft sand afterward. The penguins are adorable and we saw a penguin sitting on the egg in a brush. Couple minutes later, it is our turn to go into the water. We put on the diving suit, and it is a real challenge to do that cause it is tight. After putting on masks and snorkels, we are assigned to different coaches. My coach is called Ben (maybe), he taught briefly about how to snorkel and led us into the water. We saw some fishes with protective coloration similar to rocks, sea snails, starfishes, sea weed (forest in the sea), and luckily an octopus. The water is super cold, I felt panic at first putting my face into the water. However, using the skill of breathing out longer, I felt better and enjoyed the view under water. At last, we sit in a circle and- discussed the challenge we encountered and the things we learned. The challenges are mostly the cold water, keeping clam under water,and putting on the suit. We learned that the world in the ocean is beautiful and it is our duty to protect the ocean with even small actions like stop eating fishes in danger and polluting waste into the ocean.

We arrived our hotel at 3pm. Having a good rest, we met in the ‘lobby’ and presented about the township projects we did yesterday. Every group gave a wonderful presentation. For dinner, we had a group dinner in a traditional South Africa restaurant and tried 14 local dishes.  We ended our trip with good food and great memory. 

Day Sixteen-Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope, Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach written by Yuqing “Bill” Wang

Today is our first actual day in Cape Town since we landed yesterday. After a delicious breakfast, we left the B.I.G backpacker at eight. Despite it was the second time for me to actually be in this city, knowing we will be visiting Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, and the penguins still excites me, because I knew as a fact that I will be learning something new today.

We first arrived at the Table Mountain. As one of the new seven wonders of nature, Table Mountain in known for its incredible views of the city, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. In the afternoon, sometimes we could see sea of clouds pouring down the mountains like waterfalls. In the old times, Table Mountain were used as a land mark for the Europeans travelers to know that they have arrived Cape Town. Table Mountain and its surrounding area is known for their unique flora kingdom as well. Thanks to the flammable shrubland, a diverse and unique floral kingdom was created with 69 percent of its plant species being endemic. We took a cable car to the top of the mountain. What is unique about this cable car is that it can rotate 360 during its ascend, and we got to experience entire view without moving inside the cart. With the howling wind blowing, we saw the most incredible views with one side of the mountain being the city of Cape Town, the other side with the oceans and some other mountains covered with sea of clouds floating. On the rocky mountain itself, plants and flowers are all over the sites. Animals like the dassie and various kinds of birds are playing freely inside the protections of shrub like plants. Unfortunately, with the tight schedule, we had to leave this place and head to meet the Penguins.

Cape Town is a city currently experiencing a severe drought. Even though it is right next to the ocean and its sky is full of clouds, there has been not a single drop of rain coming down from the sky for the past months. It is one of the biggest drought in 100 years. Everywhere we go, soils are not brown. Soils in Cape Town are just like sands. According to our guide, Cape Townians had introduced Australian plants, which were already adapted to this kind of soil conditions, to slow down the desertification of the land in Cape Town by holding down the soil with its roots. It is a brilliant idea to introduce another species from places far away from our planet to adapt the changes in local environment of what could possibly be one of the consequences of our human activities. However, there had to be draw backs from this activities.

After another half an hour drive, we arrived at the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. Being known as the easiest place on earth to meet penguins, the first thing I have noticed is that the sands are incredibly soft. With the creamy look of the sands, the beach itself is a pleasure to look at. After walking through the gates, we are walking on the wooden platform above where the penguins stands. All the African penguins, the only penguin found on the African Continent, are taking their time under the sunshine of South Africa. One thing I noticed is that for those penguins, instead of making their own nest, they lived in those big plastic tubes human prepared for them. It was later that I understood that people did that in order to attract the penguins to the continent of Africa, not only for tourist attraction, but also for the protection of penguins by giving them a safe place to lay eggs. Penguins usually nests on islands no land, in fact, this is the only place where penguins are reachable on land.

There is a sign that caught my attention. It showed how invasive species effected the habitat for the penguins. In fact, the invasive species is from Australia, the exact same species that were used to prevent desertification here in Cape Town. As it turns out, this species is not flammable unlike any local plants. This was an floral system based on the easy to flame shrubs. However, the introduction of inflammable Australian plants had a strong advantages over the local plants and is in fact taking over the local plants. A huge portion of the plants we saw at the Penguin Colony is invasive species. People here introduced foreign species intended to help the local system turns out is harming the local sustainability. A interconnected globalization brought convenience to Cape Town, but at the same time, it’s killing what made Cape Town special, it’s unique Floral Kingdom.

After the Penguin, we headed towards the Cape point, the Cape of Good Hope. Being known as the southernmost point of the continent of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope is the point where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean merged. It is call the Cape of Good Hope is because of the reason that for the European trading ships headed towards Asia, the Cape of Good Hope means that they have past the Atlantic Ocean, and they are now in the Indian Ocean where the currents are calmer, the most dangerous part of the journey is over. Instead of taking the little train up the hill, we walked up the hill. On our way up, we have noticed the Baboons here were extremely aggressive towards humans. In fact, we even saw them robbing people. After they robbed people’s backpacks, they straight up throws them on the ground. After a fifteen minutes’ walk, we have arrived the top of the hill. The view is incredible once again. With the freezing wind blowing from the direction of Antarctica, it’s hard to imagine how much did the European explorers were willing to risk in order to get the species from Asia without the Suez Canal. The little museum at the top of the hill next to the light house future explained the risk of going to Asia, and how many ships were buried forever here.

After walking out of the little museum, I am glad that I was born in the 21st century. No matter how far apart humans are, they have always find a way even with the greatest obstacles to unite, to connect, and to share. At the same time, I am also worried about challenge 21st century brings. The globalization give solutions to almost every problem we faced. Sometimes it is too easy to only see what it could bring us in the short run without looking at the long term effects of this rather easy solution. As one of the many global citizens of the 21st century, it is our mission to appreciate what 21st century brings us, yet at the same time, to sustain the planet of ours and everything in it.Table

Day Fifteen-Cape Town Townships written by Hitomie Irie and Marlon Liu

Today we visited four Cape Town Townships where people run various projects and businesses for sustainability. The first place we visited was a garden in a primary school called Ikhaya. In the primary school, they started gardening project in 2013 and they have been keeping their garden until now. Their purposes for the gardening are to get their sources and giving inspirations to kids. Their main philosophy is that nature is foundation of everything and humans are losing connection with nature. So, they believe that gardening is the best way to connect human and nature. In their garden, they also are focusing on recycling. They reuse everything that can be use for planting such as plastic bottles or milk packs. Also, they have ping pong table in their garden and the reason why they have the table is that to give interest in their garden to kid. The table has paintings which were painted by kids and the garden helped kids to have ideas for paint by giving them some inspiration. Through this project, they made us to think that we should appreciate nature around us and care about our environment by reusing everything that can be used again. The second place that we visited was called eKhaya eKasi which was for woman project. They make profits by selling handmade crafts such as necklaces, small arts, bracelets, and dolls. They get the materials from Cape Town and often promote their goods by attending events and markets. And after they collect money, they send the money to their woman house and community around them to support their lives. We learned from their busines that we should find what we can do to other people who need help.

After lunch, we went to an Islam style shrine. This shrine is of great historical significance. It is a reminder of the rich legacy of forerunners of the Ahli-Sunni-wai-Jamaa’ah in South Africa. At there, we met local ceramic maker. He talked us something about South Africa and some of his ideas. He explained to us that in South Africa half of the kids cannot go to school and part of them will drop out school when them around 11 years. Those kids cannot stay in school, they will go to find a job to help their family. However, that is not those kids’ error, this society and this community influenced those kid. Also, he said something that I agreed with. First, he said: “I have nothing but I have everything.” That meaning they have nothing in the begging but they use their own power made their life batter. Like South Africa, they let more people want to came to here and travel around this country! Also, he himself used ceramic to help people and made his life better. Second, he talked to us a lot of people when they became rich they never move their house, but they will rebuild their house and made it better. Because the home meaning is where you stay and who stay with you or around you, that is home. I am totally agreed with him. In the end, we saw and play some ceramic drum. He made those drum and sale those.

After that we went to an after-school sports program and a lot of kids came here after school. Because their parents do not have time to stay with them after school. Those kids can play soccer, cricket, basketball, rope skipping at here. Also, we have a soccer game with those local kids.

Day Thirteen Beach Day in Durban written by Paloma Lin

Today we were at Durban, a urban city with a beautiful beach. The hotel is in front of the beach and have an amazing view, the weather was also great, so part of the group went snorkeling and some people stayed to go to the beach or to the swimming pool.

The day started good, we had a good breakfast at the hotel, and started today’s activities. I went to the beach with some people, the sand was soft and the water was so nice, never saw waves like that. We stayed by the beach for some time, playing with the sea waves (and the life guard called our attention…), and ended the morning going to the swimming pool.

By the afternoon we went to a shopping mall spend some time there. We walked around, shopped some stuff, and some people had dinner there. It was a huge shopping mall, with a lot of stores. By the end of the day we went back to the hotel.

Day Eleven-Service Day of Work at Thanda written by Qisen Hong

Today was a work day for us at Thanda. We dug holes and half-buried rubber tires in the side of a hill for a climbing wall. We also prime painted a building that was just built. It really made us become happier than before because this is the first time for us to do the physical community service actually do something we were hoping for at Thanda. And for me digging today, it was a new experience for me because I have never dug hopes before. After we finished digging, we were creating the tool for young kids to play, and finally we went to play soccer. We had a great time playing soccer. Tomorrow we will be leaving the Mantis and Moon and traveling to Durban.

Day Nine-Obidi Gorge written by Rachel Tao

Today, it is our rest day. In the morning, we went to a beautiful mountain place named Obidi Gorge. We went on a scary bus journey at first because the mountain road is very narrow and our bus had a hard time riding on narrow roads and turning around because of its big body. We went off the bus and had a stretch break by the river. We took a lot of good pictures. The nature is very fresh. We went back into the bus after the teacher figured out solutions. We finally arrived onto the top of the mountain. We enjoyed the great view a lot and it was my first time to eat on such a tall mountain. We could enjoy the beauty of nature and good taste food at the same time. I ordered rump steak. I think lamb curry is the best one. The cafe name is Leopard Rock cafe. The family who owned this cafe are very nice and they had a very cute puppy named Ladybug.

In the afternoon. We went back hotel and went to the beach. I told Mr. B the sea view is the most beautiful one I have seen. I like the special feel when I was embedded in the blue sky, ocean and South African colorful culture.

Day 10-Thanda Project written by Sam Qin

As high school students who comes from different part of the world, it is our privilege to come to Africa experiencing a different culture. Today, March 1st, is our second day with Thanda Project organization. We did several interesting activities with the facilities in Thanda and with kids from different grades. A veteran called Eugene gave us a wonderful speech at first. He joined the military since he was 17 years old. Eugene shared some heroics and impressive stories with us. The main point is that the war is fully of absurdity. There was a lot of paradox in the war that people look at different perspectives. For example, some people think a height of 5 feet 9 inches as an adult is tall while maybe a basketball player thinks a height of 5 feet 9 is very short; people in the United States called the Vietnam War while Vietnamese called it the American War. As human beings who never went to a war, we do not know what exactly is a war like. Same as viewing a culture, something you heard is never the same as something you observe. Interacting with the local is the most efficient method to get rid of the stereotypes and identify a culture in a objective way. We realize it is our pleasure to meet with the kids in Thanda.

In the afternoon, we hung out with the 2nd and 3rd graders helping them learn the idea of what is sequence. Furthermore, we cooperated with relatively big kids, working together and creating a dance that express our feeling. We found that they are extremely talented in dancing. We really enjoyed our time with the kids. Although there are some hard time for communication, there are energetic, friendly, and open-minded. We bravely shared and discussed about our thoughts during the sessions. The kids and us have a fun time in addition that we are looking forward to spending time with them.

Day 8 Thanda Project written by Yuki Li

After breakfast, we want to Thanda Project for community service. It is very close to the places that we live. (30 mins drive) The first thing we do when we arrived there was visit Thanda and children. All the children was in classes and they only speak logic language. Moreover, we was listened to a man telling stories under the trees and we went to art room. Each person have to make a mask that represent yourself and present in front of everyone. Afternoon, we have 30 mins to eat lunch. After lunch, we was playing football with children. Then, we each person make a painting with one or two children’s. It was very differently to talk with children, cause we speak two different language. And we used body language to communicate. That is all we do today.

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