South Africa: Last Two Days

Hi everyone! The team has arrived at Culver after two long flights, and we are all exhausted.

For the last two days in South Africa, we first headed to Pilanesburg on Sunday morning. On the way to Pilanesburg, we stopped at Lesedi cultural village. Lesedi means “light,” and at the village, a guide led everyone on a lovely tour for about an hour. We were able to learn a lot about the local groups and their respective customs, traditions, and ways of life. Our guide even showed us how to grind food and we were able to enter local huts as well. We were all really impressed that these different cultures coexist in such a small area, and we all learned a lot from the experience. After the tour, we also had a chance to shop at the stores in the village.

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The adults at Lesedi

After we left the village, we drove for around another two hours before we arrived at Bakubung Bush Lodge, where we had a great buffet lunch. We rested for a couple of hours before departing on the game drive at Pilanesburg! Everyone was incredibly excited for safari and we all came very well-prepared. We were very lucky to see a lot of animals on safari, including a very close encounter with an elephant, a couple of white rhinos, and many zebras. After a few hours on safari, we had a great Boma Bush dinner, where we looked at the stars and had really great meat and bread.

The next morning, we left for safari at 5:30 AM. Everyone was extremely tired but excited to see the animals in the morning, as it is one of the times when the animals are the most active. We were fortunate to have some really great spottings again, from a family of lions to a whole herd of elephants including a baby one. We also saw another rhino from up close. Everyone got a lot of great pictures.

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A lioness that got really close to the safari vehicles in the morning

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Some of the many elephants we saw

It was still early in the morning by the time we got back from safari, and we headed to breakfast before we left Bakubung Bush Lodge. After lunch at a local restaurant, we went to the elephant sanctuary, which was something that many team members had been looking forward to. At the elephant sanctuary, they provide a home for elephants that have been mistreated, and it was great to be able to interact with the elephants.

Most of us got “kissed” by the elephants, which was very uncomfortable because we were left with dirt that came from the elephants’ trunk on our faces. We also got to walk the elephants and feed them an afternoon snack.

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The team at the elephant sanctuary

The next day, Tuesday, we all got to sleep in for a little bit. Some of the team went on a brief excursion, with people going to the post office, the mall, as well as a local craft market. After lunch, we headed to the airport for a long flight to Frankfurt and then another flight to Chicago. We finally arrived at Culver on Wednesday evening. Everyone learned so much from the trip and we are so grateful for our trip chaperones, our parents and everyone who made it possible for us to go to South Africa, and everyone who has contributed to the trip in any way. Thank you so much and we know that everyone had a wonderful time and learned so much.

South Africa: Johannesburg Tour

Today was a packed but very poignant day for all of the Culver students. Our new tour guide, Tifo, took us around Johannesburg and we all learned a lot about South African history and how it has impacted the country today.

We started the tour by visiting Nelson Mandela’s house that he lived in until he passed away in 2013. This neighborhood was segregated before 1994 and the only nonwhite people who lived there were domestic workers. In front of the house, there were memorials dedicated to Mandela, in which visitors wrote messages to Mandela on stones.

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As we continued driving through Johannesburg, we noticed a very fancy school called St. John’s College. The students were wearing blazers and there was a rugby game. We also saw a huge amount of graffiti, often reflecting South African politics. Tifo said that graffiti is extremely common in Joburg and there are many artists who use it to spread a particular message.

The next stop was Soweto, where we walked through a market and viewed a monument dedicated to the 1955 Freedom Charter, which put forth the ideals that were wanted for South Africa–such as “the people shall govern” and “the people shall share in the country’s wealth.” Soweto is the location of the infamous 1976 uprising that brought international attention to the struggles of apartheid. The National Party, which established apartheid and was in political control throughout the apartheid years, wanted to make Afrikaans the national language and introduced Afrikaans in schools in the Soweto township. Hundreds of students were killed, and 12-year-old Hector Pieterson was one of the first victims. We were able to visit the Hector Pieterson memorial and the museum.

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Here is a reflection from Erin Postma ’19:

Soweto was an amazing experience. The museum helped put a lot of things into perspective and show the brutality of the shooting. As a senior, I am always very worried about college, but in Soweto, students my age had to fight for their right to be educated in a language they understood. One thing I did not know before visiting the museum is that after the shooting, the police searched for students involved in the protests and shot them. This represents the brutality shown against the innocent students. The museum also included a lot of eyewitness accounts and quotes from people involved in the shooting. It helped me understand what people went through. All in all, it was a very moving experience and I learned a lot factually and emotionally.

Then, we stopped for 20 minutes at the Nelson Mandela house, where we learned more about Mandela’s family life and were able to step into the house, which had a lot of the original furniture when Mandela lived there.

After lunch, we were able to explore the Apartheid Museum. We all agreed that the museum was incredibly well put-together and organized. The tickets to the museum were cards that randomly sorted us as white or non-white, and the people with different tickets had to go through different doorways. Inside the museum, there were very detailed descriptions of South Africa’s history starting from the time before the arrival of Portuguese and British colonists. It explained the events leading up to the creation of apartheid and had many sections that illuminated how terrible apartheid truly was.

One room that really struck the Culver students was the exhibit about solitary confinement. There, the museums replicated the tiny jail cells that visitors could go into to experience, for a brief moment, what many political prisoners had to endure for years of their lives. The museum also had a casspir, or an armored vehicle that was used in many townships by the police, that we were actually able to climb into and sit in. We were completely shocked by how large the vehicle was.

Other exhibits that really left an impression on us were the Political Executions, Truth and Reconciliation, and South African Voices After 1994 exhibitions. The political executions exhibit showed that while dozens of South African activists were killed in detention, the government often tried to hide this by declaring their cause of death to be “death by hanging,” “suffering from a stroke in the hospital,” or something along those lines in the official record.

I was really impressed by the way that nothing was sugarcoated in the museum and they did their best to portray the reality of apartheid and even demonstrate that many of our heroes were not perfect. Understanding the awful human rights violations that occurred during apartheid and confronting the country’s history, the museum believes, is key to moving South Africa forward as a nation. Although the exhibitions about post-apartheid South Africa demonstrate that there are definitely many unresolved inequalities in South Africa, especially with regards to land, it is really important that the museum seeks to confront this past while acknowledging that the present is not perfect either. All of us learned a lot from the tour of Johannesburg today.

After visiting the museum, we had an incredible dinner and are heading to Pilanesburg for our safari! Stay tuned, and if you are reading this, I really encourage you to read about the Soweto uprising and the system of apartheid. It is something that has profoundly shaped South Africa and is essential to understanding the country.

South Africa: Last Day at Christel House

Sorry about the delayed post—we had a busy day of travelling and Jenna and I have been sick for the past couple of days!

March 29 was our last day in Cape Town and at Christel House. Once we arrived at Christel House, we started with tea time with the students from Christel House, talking to them while taking pictures and exchanging contact information as it was our last day with them. Although we had only spent a couple of days with the Christel House students, everyone felt incredibly connected with them and genuinely wanted to stay connected.

Then, Ali facilitated a fun activity that all CGA students are familiar with. We all got in a circle and tried to sit down on the lap of the person behind us. It worked pretty well!

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After the activity, the four houses of USA, Mexico, India, and Jamaica gathered to prepare our performances. Needless to say, they were all very entertaining–there was a lot of singing, dancing, and clapping. We ended with performances from both the Culver students and the Christel House students. We sang the Culver song and “Home” and the Christel House students sang their school song and the South African national anthem, and in the end all of us gathered in a circle to sing “Lean On Me.” It was a very fitting conclusion to our week at Christel House.

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Before we left, we also went around signing our white LCA shirts that each Culver and Christel House student was given.

20190329_114928After lunch, we said our final goodbyes before departing. It is astounding how we were able to make such amazing connections with this wonderful group of students in such a short amount of time. It was an incredibly valuable experience to interact with their humility, vitality, and passion for learning.

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After leaving Christel House, we stopped briefly at a beautiful beach where a lot of us enjoyed ice cream and dipped our toes in the water.

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Rose, Sophie, Ellie, Erin, and Paloma at the Beach

After that, we picked up Abby and Mama Dee and headed to the airport to fly to Johannesburg!

South Africa Wednesday and Thursday: A Review

Guest contributions from all of the healthy members of Team SA19, it is not to the usual amazing standards but many members of our team made this happen.

Taylor took this great picture of the rainbow we saw the other morning

After getting a bit of a late start to the day on Wednesday, the team arrived at Christel House and was greeted with smiles from our new friends. Our warm up for the day was teaching the students how to dance to Cotton Eyed Joe. Even though it was a bit difficult of a dance, the students picked it up and enjoyed dancing along.

On Thursday, the group began by playing a large game of concentration with categories such as countries, animals, and colors. Once the workshops were up and running Mrs. Strobel went with our guide and bus driver to buy blankets and we were able to donate 36 blankets to the social worker department from the donations team members like Abby, Ethan, and Sophie collected.

Most of the blankets we donated to CHSA thanks to donations from Team SA19 family and friends

Here are some summaries from the past two days from each of the workshop teams:

Team Building: Following the warm up on Wednesday, everyone was split up by house with House Mexico joining Team Building for the second workshop session. Our activities for the day included zip bong/pterodactyl, ships and sailors, Colombian Hypnosis, counter balance, and finally table-circle-door. Table-circle-door was a huge success! In attempts to accomplish all the tasks given to them during the last activity, we gave them the hint that all the tasks needed to be accomplished at the same time. House Mexico approached the activity in a way that the Culver students has not thought of before. The most common way of accomplishing the activity is to move the table and the circle into the doorway. However, their unique way of accomplishing the the tasks made the Culver students see the workshop in a new light. They worked with each other and placed the various colored papers in the three locations, but not all the papers were in the same place at the same time. While this was not the traditional way to complete the activity, it technically fulfilled all the students’ tasks. The final portion of the workshop was a reflection about what was learned throughout the day. As a group, the team building leaders felt that this day taught both Christel House and Culver students what it means to be vulnerable, to trust each other, and to be a true leader.

Team-building practicing for Friday’s performance

On Thursday, House USA joined Team Building for the final workshop session. We went through the same activities but with new students came new perspectives, especially when it came to table-circle-door. At first, the Christel House students just put their papers on their respective locations according to their task. When no one placed their cards in the doorway, the Culver students quickly realized that some instructions had been left out. Ellie grabbed a paper for herself and joined in on the game. The minute she did, chaos erupted as she stole the papers of the other students and sat determined in the doorway. The other students were confused on the instructions and weren’t quite able to complete the instructions. After a couple of hints from the other team members, one student, Rafika, figured out how the tasks should come together. It took a couple seconds for the other students to really listen to her and be able to trust her to have everyone’s best interest at heart. All in all, each group taught the Culver group something new!

Strengths: For the strengths workshop, we worked with Team Jamaica on Wednesday and Team India on Thursday. Both groups were full of amazing students who were very excited to work with the Culver students and be engaged in the activities. Due to our extended workshop time, we were really able to dive deep into activities and conversations surrounding what each of their strengths are. Through the “Me at My Best” stories they told, they were able to self reflect on some strengths they see in themselves. The 360 activity, which allows their peers to give feedback to them about their strengths, gave each person more insight into what strengths they show. By the end of the workshop, every student was able to identify their top strengths and share about why they chose them. Overall, the strengths workshop had a successful couple of days.

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One of the strengths activities

Communication: Despite the loss of some facilitators of the communications workshop, Wednesday and Thursday went smoothly. Wednesday, we were paired with House India, followed by House Mexico on Thursday. Despite House India not solving the pipeline activity, it was still a hit with all the groups. We received wonderful feedback from both of the teams regarding simultaneously fun and education the Communications Workshop was. The Christel House students learned as much as we did about communication. It was so entertaining to watch the different approaches each house had for the activities, especially pipeline and the rubber chicken. Overall, the Communications Workshop had a successful couple of days.

One of the communications activities

Compassionate Listening: For Wednesday’s Compassionate listening workshop, we worked together with the students of Christel House to explore and gain a better knowledge of compassionate listening. Throughout this process, both Culver and Christel House students were able to better understand and apply skills discussed in the workshop and ideas in their social lives as well as in their leadership roles. We also had the misfortune of not having one of our teammates, Jenna, due to illness. However, other members of our team were able to execute the workshop in a very efficient and productive manner. Thursday, we worked with Team Jamaica. We had a great day sharing insight into the importance of compassionate listening as both the sharer and the listener. A couple of the students from Team Jamaica shared on a deeper level and the whole team felt as though they were able to take something away from the workshop. Even though tears were shed as emotions presented, smiles crossed the faces of the students when all was said and done. After the workshop, we were able to take a group photo in front of the classroom. We all very excited for Friday and the assembly but realize that it will be bittersweet as our last day at Christel House.

Compassionate Listening with House Jamica

After School Adventures: On Wednesday, we were able to take an excursion to the top of Table Mountain. To get to the top of this seventh wonder of nature, we could either hike the mountain itself or reach the top by route of the cable car. The view from the mountain was incredible. One could see everything for miles and miles around. The entire city of Cape Town seemed to be visible from the top, which featured both a cafe and small gift shop. Several of the students (and our tour guide Paul) opted for ice cream to counteract the heat of the sun at 1,360 meters above sea level. The group took lots of pictures and there were smiles all around the team. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Table Mountain, a group on the top

View from the top of Table Mountain

So long from Cape Town, South Africa. We are looking forward to our last day at Christel House tomorrow and know that it will be sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We have had several team members ill and are hoping that rest and some medication will get them all feeling better.

South Africa Day 5: Smiles and Sunshine at Christel House

Hello again! The Internet is going strong and we have quite a few stories to tell today.

Today we officially began our workshops at Christel House. After arriving to the school, we were greeted by smiling faces, students and adults alike. We immediately went into the cafeteria for the morning coffee time. Being able to speak to new friends was a great way to start off the day.

We then moved to the auditorium to do a little warm-up, which Ellie, Cady, and Rose led. The students loved the Cupid Shuffle!

After dancing our nerves out, we broke into workshop teams, while the Christel House students divided themselves into their respective Houses.

We spent about two hours facilitating workshops (You can read a reflection about each workshop from our leaders at the bottom!), which was an incredibly meaningful experience for both us and the Christel House students. After taking group photos, we all returned to the cafeteria for lunch.

The workshops definitely brought everyone closer together, so lunch was bustling with energy. It was wonderful to converse with the students, and we exchanged information about our respective countries and languages.

By the time lunch was over, we only had a bit of time to spend with the students before they had to be bussed back to their homes. It was time very well spent! Ali led a large game of Concentration, and the Christel House girls introduced some fun games with us. Most of them included singing and dancing.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Strobel told us on the bus that Table Mountain was once again closed due to the gusts of wind. However, we instead took a short visit to Langa, the oldest township in Cape Town, and went to a community center with a wonderful mission. The center aims to teach people skills such as painting, pottery, and drumming so that they can become self-sufficient. They also welcome tourists to come and interact with them and even buy some crafts that the people belonging to the community center have created.

It was sort of an impromptu stop, but I’m glad we were able to visit Langa, especially because many of the Christel House students call Langa their home.

After we arrived back at the hotel, we again split into groups. Those who were tired or sick (Unfortunately, some sort of illness has started to spread within our team) stayed behind to rest at the hotel, while others visited a women’s craft market just down the road, or checked out the beautiful park with Dr. Buggeln.

We enjoyed a dinner with our workshop groups in order to debrief on the day and hash through some rough edges. Overall, though, we learned in our nightly team meeting how successful the workshops were and how excited everyone is for tomorrow.

Workshop Overviews

Compassionate Listening (My reflection): Compassionate Listening is the most serious workshop. It is about being able to listen to others’ conflicts and stories with a non-jugmental, empathizing perspective. Through exercises such as a Silent Walk in which students had to greet, communicate, and thank each other nonverbally, we built a foundation of trust and vulnerability. And through deep, self-reflective conversations in which the students searched for fact, feeling, and beliefs, we were able to create an atmosphere and bond like no other. Hopefully our workshop will go just as smoothly tomorrow as today.

Team Compassionate Listening

Strengths (Sydney): The Strengths workshop is all about empowerment and self-discovery. The ultimate goal is for the students to recognize their strengths and utilize them in leadership, as well as become aware of others’ strengths and encourage it. Through exercises such as Human Knot and Bull Ring, we were able to notice the strengths of the students that they may not have known about themselves. We encouraged observing others’ strengths by passing around papers with everyone’s names and having the students write the strengths they saw emerge in someone else. Tomorrow, I’d love for there to be a bit more self-reflection time.

Team Strengths

Team Building (Becky): Team Building is pretty obvious – it’s all about cooperation and bonding within a team. I loved how the students could share their opinions on how communication and trust is within a team and how to really cultivate that. Our exercises included Ships and Sailors and Counter Balance, which really encouraged cooperation and synergy within our group of students. We’re very excited to continue the workshop, but we’re hoping to include a moment of discussion after every activity so that it can really sink into the students’ minds.

Team Team Building in action

Communications (Angela): Communications aims to share the significance of communication in relationships. Communication is not only about speaking, but also listening and showing interest through body language. Most importantly, knowing how to stop yourself from interrupting is huge – you don’t want to cut off the communication process. When we did the Pipeline activity, everyone listened so carefully to all opinions and ideas, and it really made the exercise very efficient. Tomorrow, I want to break the ice more quickly, and be more enthusiastic about the workshop.

Team Communications

As you can see, the workshops are unique and yet, overlap in certain characteristics. We think that the four workshops really encompass different aspects of being a leader, and we’re excited to improve ourselves and create an even better experience for the Christel House students.

-Jenna Pae

South Africa Day 4: First Day at Christel House

Welcome back! I’m sorry this blog post couldn’t reach readers sooner. We had some issues connecting to the Internet last night.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day we visited Christel House, and we woke up bright and early in order to get ready. After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel (we’re counting how many croissants we can eat this week), we loaded the bus and drove for about forty minutes to get to the school.

The school was very pretty, and we were so excited to finally meet the students. When we entered the auditorium, about forty students from 11th and 12th grade were sitting in chairs that faced empty chairs for us.

The students excitedly introduced themselves, and afterwards we each stood up to introduce ourselves and our background. (Everyone shouted in surprise when Ethan started talking with his deep voice.)

We went to the dining area to have coffee and chat with the students, and immediately warmed up to them to engage in conversation.

The coordinator for Christel House broke the teams into their Houses (House Mexico, Jamaica, India, and United States) and paired them with our workshop groups so that we could go on tours. The students led the tours of their beautiful school.

Then, we moved things back out into the auditorium to do some fun icebreaker activities. Although unplanned, the impromptu dance party definitely got everyone smiling and clapping along.

Ali, Janelle and Erin led the icebreaker activities, which included talking to the Christel House students in two circles, and creating unique handshakes.

Soon, it was time for lunch. The kitchen staff were so friendly, and they served breaded chicken with a mushroom gravy and seasoned potatoes. Lively conversation was heard at lunch as well.

Unfortunately, it was time for the students to be taken back to their homes. By 1, we had to say goodbye, although it was more of a “see you later.” We loaded onto our bus and left with some good memories and newfound friends.

The weather made it too dangerous for us to go up to Table Mountain, so we decided to shop with some of the money we were donated. At a supermarket, we loaded up with nonperishable food items and paid with our tour guide’s card, earning him some serious points.

After we arrived back the hotel, we branched off into multiple groups in order shop at a street market, rest at the hotel, or go to a beautiful park. (Ethan recommends the park, as it’s full of national monuments and exquisite flower gardens).

We wrapped up the day with dinner, and finished it off with a team meeting that reflected on our short time at Christel House. Many team members expressed how excited they were to create a stronger bond with the student leaders.

Sophie and Ali told us about how amazing it felt to give a portion of the donations they collected to the social worker at Christel House. Although they hold leadership positions at Culver, it meant a lot to them that the social worker expressed how this act of kindness was genuine leadership. Ali said, “It felt like we were something so much bigger.”

We’re definitely excited to go back to Christel House today and begin our workshops. We want to exchange our leadership strategies with them and create lasting relationships.

-Jenna Pae

South Africa: Seals, Penguins, and Cape Point

Today was an excellent second day in Cape Town! Everyone got a good night’s rest, and we started our day with an 8:45 boat tour aboard the Naticat from Hout Bay, where we embarked on a brief journey to see a seal colony. We all had a great time looking at the seals and taking pictures.

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The seal island!

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The boats at Hout Bay

After getting off the boat, the team had our first chance to buy souvenirs, and we all brought back an eclectic collection of items, from paintings to jewelry to masks.

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An awesome piece of artwork we saw

After leaving Hout Bay, we enjoyed a gorgeous view as the bus drove through Chapman’s Peak and Boulder’s Beach. The team saw hundreds of penguins at a local penguin colony, and it was wonderful to see the penguins in their natural habitat.

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An adorable mother and baby penguin

Then we shopped a little more at the local market before we headed to lunch at the Seaforth Restaurant, where we enjoyed amazing fish or chicken and discovered a great dessert called malva pudding.

After lunch, we got to enjoy the beach and had fun dipping our toes into the water. Later, we headed to Cape Point, the most Southwestern point of the African continent, where we took the iconic photo in front of the sign that every South Africa GPS trip has taken.

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Cady, Becky, and Jenna at the beach

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The team at the Cape of Good Hope sign!

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The team seniors Ethan, Ellie, Erin, Janelle, Ali, and Sydney at Cape Point

The team also climbed to the lighthouse at the top of Cape Point, where we saw the magnificent view from higher up. Before we started the hike, we were warned that there were wild baboons (or bamboos, as Mama Dee called them) on the trail and told not to bring any food or water, as anything edible or drinkable could be attractive to the baboons. Needless to say, we saw a lot of tourists ignoring the signs not to bring any food or water up the hike, including a man sacrificing his Fanta bottle. Luckily, we made it back with lots of snacks on the bus and had dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant next to our hotel.

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The view from Cape Point! It was a little foggy today though.

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A close-up of one of the baboons on the trail!

The students also had the chance to get together with their facilitation groups, as we are facilitating workshops at the Christel House school related to Compassionate Listening, Communication, Strengths, and Team-building. We will be starting our first day at Christel House tomorrow and are incredibly excited to get to know the student leaders! One thing we were reminder of today is that rather than teaching or educating the students at Christel House, we are bringing some of our leadership activities to them and learning from each other, and in doing so continue a partnership with Christel House that LCA has had for many years. Stay tuned for our adventures at Christel House in the next couple of days and we hope to make connections and learn as much as we can from their student leaders.

special thanks to Mrs. Strobel and Sydney for the pictures!