So today was my first day of school – thank goodness. I feel like I haven't done school in forever. I had around a month and half off between the end of last semester at St. A's and today – and I was so ready to get back into the swing of things. All my friends here were sad that our free time was going to be gone – but I was so excited to start school. After all, that's why I'm here.
I will be taking 3 classes while I'm here. I am taking a course called "An Overview of South African History" and "Public Theology in South Africa." These are courses that I am taking through the International Office and I will only be in class with other international students. I had the option of taking a mainstream history course which would have been with South African students, but the courses offered were on topics I have already studied and they also didn't fit in with my schedule. I'm excited for both of these courses. I had the first history class on Tuesday, and except for the fact that the room was a million degrees, it should be very interesting. I have my first Public Theology class tomorrow (Thursday) and it should be very fascinating.
But the course I'm most excited about is Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement. This course is the reason I came to South Africa and to Stellenbosch!! Every Monday and Friday I travel to the village of Lyndoch, which is about a 10 minute train ride from campus. The University has a close partnership with the village and has been doing a lot of work on sustainability, the environment and the development of the village. I'm not exactly sure what they have been doing, but I'm going to find out!! We go to the school that is in this "eco-village." The children that attend the school come from the surrounding Townships and are very poor. Most of their parents work on the nearby vineyards or are farmers. There are 25 international students taking the course.
Here's how it works. Every Monday we have what is called our practical. I am working in a first grade class with 2 other girls from America. We spend about three hours (with some breaks) teaching the students different things depending on the grade level. Because I'm working with first graders, we're going to be doing a lot of arts and crafts and teaching content like colors, sharing and educational basics. On Fridays, we have our actual lesson. We listen to a lecture and have presentations each week. We have class from 9am – 5pm!!!
This Monday was just an orientation. Grant Demas (our professor) had us up and shouting "Singing in the Rain" and dancing around within the first 15 minutes of arriving at the school. The school itself is beautiful It's relatively small, but is filled with natural light and the walls are a lovely shade of periwinkle. It's surrounded by trees and vineyards and there mountains and the ocean visible in the distance. It's definitely not as fancy as our schools back home, but it's simple and serves its purpose and is beautiful in its own way. After our dance party, we had check in. We're going to be doing this each morning. Grant gives us a topic and we have to draw a picture and then talk about it in front of the class. Monday's theme was our favorite childhood memory. After each presentation, Grant would comment on our picture, thank us for sharing such an deep part of us and either sing a song that fit with our theme, tell a story of his childhood or say something very deep and profound. For the rest of the day, we talked about some of the logistics of the course and other initial set up concerns. Everything he said was so profound and insirpational. It seemed to touch my heart more than my brain (how's that for deep!!). All I know is that the course is going to be great. It's going to be hard, a lot of work, emotionally draining, but super rewarding. We get to meet our class on Friday and I can't wait!!!
After class, we went to the first rugby game of the season. I've never watched rugby before, nor do I know anything about the game itself. But it was fun to watch the crowd and guess with my friends what was happening. I have never been to a sports game with so many people before, so the whole atmosphere was very thrilling. After the game, at our nightly braai, one of the guys from France who plays explained some of the rules to me.
The only other exciting thing I've done this week is rent a bike!! Everyone here rides bikes, and all my friends have one, so I gave into peer-pressure and rented one. I went for a short ride after I got it with one of my friends. We got into the more residential part of Stellenbosch which was kind of fun to see. I only had one near-wipe out, but didn't get hit by any cars – so the ride was a success. The cars are on the other side of the road and drive like crazy people. I know one girl that was hit by a car (she's fine), but crossing the streets is kind of terrifying. Pedestrians do NOT get the right of way at all!!
But now, I'm off to the library to do some homework (some of which requires coloring!!!)