Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Namibian Adventure

Greetings from the Cape

    While in South Africa, I have had a desire to venture out into another country located in Southern Africa. While doing some research about the surrounding countries, I came across Namibia.

     So, a group of four of my roommates and I (one other American, one German, one New Zealander, and one brave Swiss woman who traveled with us four men) road-tripped it to Namibia. We have all decided that there could not have been a better group to share this experience with. Thank you to Sam, Miles, Ben "Wild Card" Hameen, and Annina for making the most of this experience that will stay with me forever.

     It is fairly easy to venture to Namibia from Cape Town, and the ride is absolutely amazing. Namibia is a vast desert country, and when I say "vast" I mean "VAST". When you travel along the coast of South Africa and Namibia you begin to realize just how big Africa really is. Additionally, Namibia has one of the lowest density populations in all of Africa, coming in second to West Sahara with 2.2 people for every Square Kilometer. It took us two days to travel from Cape Town to our northern most stop in Namibia.

    Together, my roommates and I rented a car and road-tripped it along the B1 highway for most of the trip. The first night that we had to find rest, we stopped of at  the Vastrap Guest House in Grunau. This was a traditional Afrikaner guest house that was literally in the middle of no where. We had a free dinner under a detailed Milky Way that was not tarnished by light pollution, but illuminated by the darkness of night. We rested in the lodge, and then continued our adventure north in morning.

     Our second stop was at the Sossusvlei Campsite, where we had a nice facility and oasis pool in the middle of the Namib Desert. Sossus meaning "dead, or no return" and vlei meaning "marsh," together Sossusvlei means "dead marsh." Sossusvlei looks like an extremely dried out lake bed, but it is surrounded by dunes that are close to 400 meters high. It was an incredible sight, and great experience to hike up these massive dunes. Additionally, Namibia receives anywhere from 0 to 500mm of water a year. It just so happened that we were able to feel a downpour on one of the only days it will rain in Namibia this year. It was a great and rare occasion.

     Our final stop for the night before heading back to Cape Town was a stay at the Felix Unite Resort, located on the South Africa/Namibia Orange River Border. We were able to camp at a nice outdoor facility, and then in the morning morning we went to wade in the Orange River. Then we hit the road until we saw the outline of Table Mountain, then we knew we were home.

      This was an absolutely amazing trip, and I am still shocked at how inexpensive it was to participate in this adventure. Thank you to the people of Namibia for your kindness and hospitality, and thank you to my fellow Namibian adventurers. Again, from my previous post I want to encourage other students to research different international opportunities that exist or can be created. There is no better time than now.

Look Into Cape Town

     I was visiting the prison where Nelson Mandela was held  for 18 years, Robben Island, or The University, as Mr. Mandela would call it. Robben Island was the home to many of the political activists working to topple the Apartheid regime. When people ask, "If you had one night to have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose?," I think I would have to say Nelson Mandela. Just think, a man who spent 27 years of his life incarcerated, is freed and elected president, and also promoted forgiveness and peaceful reconciliation throughout all of South Africa. It is a truly incredible story. This visit to Robben Island also made my think about all that South Africa has to offer through its history, cultures, and sites. I would like to use this post to promote South Africa and what it has to offer.

    If any of you are looking to have an international experience, I would highly recommend creating one that is located in South Africa; specifically, Cape Town, South Africa. If you are interested, I would like you to explore some of the sites and activities listed below:

Hiking: Lions Head, Devil's Peak, Constantia and Table Mountain
V& A Waterfront
Monkey Land
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
University of Cape Town
Kite Surfing
Kruger National Park
Southern African Tours
The Garden Route
Bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge (The world's highest bungee jump)
Township tours
Mzoli's in Gugulethu Township (Best meat you will ever have)
Wine Tours
Beautiful Beaches: Muizenberg, Clifton 1,2,3,4, Hout Bay, and Sea Point
Museums: Iziko South African Museum, Slave Lodge, Bo-Kaap, District 6, Castle of Good Hope
Countless festivals

And many other sites and activities...

   I do not believe that IUPUI offers a study abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa; however, that does not mean you cannot create your own. If your schedule permits, I highly recommend visiting Cape Town and diving in to all that it has to offer. Nevertheless, whether it is China, Argentina, Europe, or South Africa, I feel that it is important for students like us to get out into the international sphere and learn what else the world has to offer. There is so much outside of the U.S. that we do not understand, but we can improve our understanding through interaction with diverse people who have a different perspective then our own. I believe the international experience is vital to our education. So, try to get out there and experience.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Greetings from Cape Town,

     The Cape continues to treat me well with all of its wonderful people, sites, and sounds.

     The staff at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement have been hosting me very nicely as an intern; showing me how they do work pertaining to the non-profit sector and philanthropic giving. I have been able to improve my understanding and skills of working with different social media tools that can be used in non-profit advocacy. I am working on a project to inform fellow non-profit organizations about current legislation that will adversely affect the non-profit sector. The first step in this project has been to simply create an informational chart that describes the path of a legislative proposal in South African Parliament. I created this information chart using the social media tool Infogram. Similar to Instagram, Infogram allows you to be creative with charts, data, and text when creating a visual presentation piece. I have found it to be an easy and creative way of completing projects. I will most definitely use this tool in the future. Take a look: http://infogr.am/Parliament-Procedures/

     I have also been able to continue working with the Community Works Program of Hanover Park. Together we have been working with high school dropouts and at-risk youth, in order to get them to start thinking about their future and the successes they can create through an education. We had a former gang member, Easton, come in and speak to the youth, so that they could hear the horrific stories of life as a gang member. Easton had spent 27 years in prison, and now he works to get youth to start thinking about the consequences of the choices they are currently making.

     Along with the youth work, I have been able to help facilitate a leadership and team building workshop with the Community Works Program staff. The supervisors felt the group needed to focus more on their duties and the responsibilities they have to the program and to each other. They seemed to enjoy the activities, and the supervisors felt that it was beneficial for the group as a whole.

Good to post. More to come...