Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Birthday Blog

I celebrated my 21st birthday a couple weeks ago, and it was the best birthday I’ve had yet!  To start off, I had my service learning class, which I always look forward to.  Friday was the first day we took the train to the township of Lynedoch where we teach and are taught, which we’ll be doing the rest of the semester.  It felt good to arrive at the township by train instead of university vans.  It definitely made me feel like a part of the community instead of just an American swooping in to rescue the township, which is not our intention.  We were doing our usual “check-in” activity with our professor, Grant, when the whole seventh grade class filed into our classroom.  Grant spoke quickly to them in Afrikaans, and then they sang me Happy Birthday!  They finished with the lyrics “God bless you today, God bless you today, God bless you to-dayy, happy birthday to you!”  So sweet, and of course I almost cried.  Turns out my friend Corie, who is placed in seventh grade, had arranged it for me – such a sweetheart!  The rest of the day was also great, filled with stories of the township told by Grant.  They were definitely stories of hardship and sometimes were difficult to listen to, but I tried to take away a message of hope instead of sadness. 

After seven hours at Lynedoch, our driver, Georgio, came to pick up the AIFS students.  He seemed a little apprehensive about us at first, but after four hours in the van and listening to Family Business by Kanye about 150 times, we were all the best of friends!  Everyone was already at the Cederbergs when we got there, having left long before us.  We were greeted with hugs, ‘drinkies,’ and an amazing braai!  We were told we’d be camping, but it turned out to be more like GLAMPING (No, Aunt Kathy, there weren’t makeovers like at Mona’s birthday party).  Later, when I was looking up at the stars with some friends, I realized that the whole group was surrounding me, and there was Mama H, our AIFS director, with cakes and candles for me!  So cute, love her, and everyone in my program!  That night I saw four shooting stars!  It was the best night sky I’ve ever seen, absolutely incredible.

view from the van- awesome!

baboon crossing!

The next morning we woke up bright and early and went for a hike (Wolfberg Cracks, google it – beautiful!!)  It was so cool, we had to climb through the mountain itself.  There were beautiful views too of course.  When we got back to the campsite we went for a swim in a beautiful African river.  It was absolutely incredible.  We went back and got changed, then had a wine tasting!  The wine was amazing, like all of the wine in this beautiful country. 

Mama H and I share a moment on the mountain

I already miss it!

With fellow SMCer Meg in the river!

Corie and wine tasting!

The next day, Sunday, we went to check out some San Bushmen cave paintings – so sick!  They were about 6000 years old.  It’s wild that they’re so well preserved after all this time.  There was also a cave with names written all over it, and it’s rumored that it was a secret meeting place.  The names included at least two former prime ministers of South Africa, D.F. Malan and P.W. Botha, as well as poet C. Louis Leipoldt.  Some don’t believe that the names were written by the men they belong to, but I think I’d like to believe it!

photo cred goes to Corie since I forgot to charge my camera..

Overall, I had the best birthday EVER.  The Cederbergs were so beautiful, probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  There is such a serenity surrounding the area, it’s so easy to feel at peace there, just gazing at the mountains or stars or vineyards.  For most Americans, the 21st birthday is a bit hazy, but mine was one that I will definitely never forget!


  1. Sammy - Words fail me. What a beautiful weekend, you deserve all the experiences and beauty you describe. We miss you so much but there is no doubt this is exactly where you need to be. xo

  2. hahah I wish I was there to spend your bday with you GLAMPING! You know some type of make overs would have been involved even in Africa! Thank you for sharing this. I am so jealous. I never, ever thought I would want to go to Africa. After seeing your experiences I now wish that someday I would be able to go! LOVE YOU SO MUCH! xoxoxo We will GLAM it up when you get home for your 21st! xoxoxoxoxoxox