Sunday, February 10, 2008

Day Trippin'

Friday night some of the WAC kids went out together. First we went to the Union (a bar/club on campus) for some drinks and dancing. Once that became overwhelming Grace and I headed to the Old Gaol. It's a really cool place. It's literally an old jail which has been made into a bar/hostel. Those who use it as a hostel stay in old jail cells, which I think it's the coolest thing! They were celebrating their 10 and 1/2 birthday and we got to see a reggae band. We each had a South African beer and listened to the music for awhile before heading back to get rest for our day trip on Saturday. Grace and I live on opposite sides of campus so we walked away in opposite directions and as I was walking up the main campus walk I could still hear the band playing and they started doing a cover of Bob Marley's "Jammin'" and as I walked in this midsummer heat past the beautiful flowers and palm trees back to my room, I finally felt at home...

Anyway, yesterday we took our first day trip with Ashwin. It was absolutely wonderful. In the morning Grace and I woke up early and went to an African farmer's/craft market at the Old Gaol. They had the most beautiful veggies and homemade sauces, chutneys and jams (which I will be purchasing next week). We bought a fresh, home-made loaf of olive, rosemary and garlic bread. It was still warm! It was SO DELICIOUS!! We munched on it most of the morning and luckily shared it with everyone else so it's not as bad as it sounds! We also had tea and toast at the Mad Hatter's, a coffee shop near the top of High Street in town. Around 11:30 we met Brian, the owner of the Old Goal who was our driver/guide for our day trip. We drove out of Grahamstown in a direction that we haven't gone before so we all got to see something a little different which was nice. We got to see a lot of the townships which are up on the hill while the campus and town are more in a valley. It was very interesting - extremely colorful.

Our first stop was the town of Bathurst. It's a small, old town on the way to the beach. There they have the claim to fame of housing the country's oldest pub, the Pig and Whistle. We went for drinks (no one booze it up, so I can't comment on the beer) and then continued on to a pineapple farm, or Bikini Bottom as I like to call it! Evidentially this is "Pineapple Country" and giant pineapples are what you find in Pineapple Country. This pineapple unfortunately does not house Spongebob Squarepants, but you can climb to the top and see all of the fields of pineapples and the surrounding landscape. It was a very fun and interesting stop.

Following Bathurst we headed to Port Alfred, a small coastal town. Ashwin told us that it is home to a lot of retirees. It was quaint and quiet, but very pretty. We only stayed for a few minutes. It was very windy, but really nice. Some other international students were staying there for the weekend and we were all talking about going back soon while the weather is still warm.

Next we drove down to Kenton-on-Sea. We arrived at this wooded area with virtually no beach in sight. Ashwin then proceeded to enter this forest and lead us blindly through the woods. After a rather challenging climb we reached the top of this giant, forested dune and we could see down to the water. It was beautiful. The journey still wasn't over, but from here it was all downhill. As we slid down the sand the beach became more and more visible and more and more beautiful. We came out to this private inlet surrounded by large cliffs. The water was absolutely beautiful. We all immediately put on our sunscreen and headed into the water, which was colder than expected, but much warmer than any of us would be used to considering we were at the beach in February. We spent a good about of time in Kenton. Grace and I make the trek to the top of the cliffs, followed by Kevin, Kate and Ryan. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking. I've never seen anywhere more beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen water this color in person, nor have I ever been on a beach so utterly untouched. It had such a pure vibe. It was amazing.
We stayed here for awhile enjoying the scenery and we then headed for lunch in a nearby town. Lunch overlooked a gorgeous river. The restaurant was home to several interesting animals including an African parrot, a beautiful, very limber black cat and an ENORMOUS pig. The pig was quite possibly the biggest animal I have ever seen up close and personal. It was gigantic.
On the drive home we got our first real taste of African wildlife. We saw giraffe, zebra, buffalo, impala and antelope. It was very cool. The giraffes were so cute. They were eating off the tops of the trees. These sightings definitely wet my appetite for safari. That's going to be another amazing experience!
In other, far less exciting news, classes start tomorrow. I am ready for them to start. I'm getting a little antsy, especially now that the horrors of orientation are over. It will be nice to actually feel like I'm accomplishing something on a daily basis. I did decide to drop Sociology, so I will only be taking Art History and Anthropology, as well as our mini WAC course which will introduce us to South African culture and history. Grace and I have anthro together, but I don't think I have anything with anyone else, except the WAC course, which is just the WAC kids. Luckily I am taking a third-year course (art history) so I won't be with freshman all the time like a lot of other international students are. That will be refreshing!