This past weekend, all students who traveled through Arcadia’s Study Abroad program went to a South Africa Township, Gugulethu (it’s still a bit hard for me to pronounce). Gugulethu is different from other Townships. The population ranges from those that are very poor, to a growing middle class division. Also, successful professionals and business people stay in Gugulethu because it is a strong community.
As we rode through the streets of Gugulethu, the locals waved to us. The children were so adorable they even danced for us. The houses were colorful, jammed together along the blocks, and they were all one story buildings. On Saturday, when we arrived, we met Mama Noxie. (In their culture you have to address each other as Mother, Brother, Sister, etc.) Her home was so large and homey. This is where I had my first home cooked meal. IT WAS LEKKER ("Lekker" means great or delicious)! After that, we visited an orphanage. The manager of the orphanage gave information on how he started the organization and then explained the stories of how some of the children got there, typically because of dysfunctional families and/or health problems such as HIV/AID’s, which is a huge issue in South Africa. Nevertheless, the children ranged in age and were very welcoming to us. We would say to each other “Moloweni” or “Molo Sisi” which means, "hi to many people" or "hi sister".
For the rest on the night we each were split into groups and stayed with a host parent. My host parent was Mama TiTi. Her house was pink and beautiful and the food was great. We even had a chance to sit in front of the heater to talk and watch soccer.
The next morning we went to church, JL Zwane. Everyone was very welcoming to us and they were dressed to the nines with their church dresses and suits! It was cool to see how they sang the songs and loved being in their church. Most of the service was in their native tongue so we just clapped when they sang, and sat when someone spoke. The women in the church helped us learn the songs but we just sat there laughing because some words are so hard to say.
Lastly for lunch, we became carnivores. Seriously. We were taken to a place called Mzolis, a huge place where locals came to eat, dance, and have fun. We were dancing and having fun with the locals waiting for the food. No one really knew what the food was going to be like, we were just told that there is a lot of meat. . . Boy, they were not lying! Within a few minutes a guy came out with a huge bowl, the size of a tire. In the bowl there was long handmade sausage links, lamb, ribs, chicken wings, chicken legs and drums. I tried telling everyone to wait for napkins and plates. Next thing I know, fingers and hands were ripping the meat apart for us to share. I was not used to that- everyone digging in with no forks or knifes. But I was hungry so I just grabbed a napkin and some chicken. It was the best I had ever tasted since being here.
Every time we have great moments like this weekend I still think to myself we are here in Africa! It was great being exposed to a new set of cultures and people. Being here has really taking me out of my comfort zone, but I am starting to get used to it.