I am proud to be an American and celebrating our nation's birth this last month was just one more reminder of how lucky I am to be here. After being in Africa for 2 months I don't know that I have ever been more grateful on the 4th. And what a 4th it was...but first I need to back up and finish up the rest of my African adventure.
We were in Mozambique until June 18th...I think. The weeks I spent there were incredible and I learned a lot. I feel like it is similar to the mission in that when people ask me how it was, the one sentence response of "It was great" just doesn't do it justice. But most people don't have the time or they don't really care to hear just how great it was. My students were all sad to see us go and they gave us a parting gift of a capulana and hair scarf. So great. The highlight of the last week there would have to be getting my hair braided. Yep, I actually put braids in my hair, and not just my hair, I had extensions, so I had about 4 times my original amount of hair. It was quite a painful process...I don't know how they do that all the time. The girl's in my class each redid their hair at least twice while I was there. We decided we wanted to join in the fun so me, maggie and Ellen all got it done. It took 3 girls about 4 hours to get mine done. Wow! I can't say I would ever do it again but I'm glad I did it just for the experience. Here are some pictures of us getting our hair done, the finished product, and then what it looked like when I took them out. Hello I look like a lion! I decided that since I had the amazing hair, I needed the makeup to match. But that was after I returned from Africa. I kept them in until I got home so the fam could see.
As for our last week in South Africa, it was a dream come true. We started out on Monday morning, taking a bus from Maputo to Johannesburg where we were blessed to stay with some friends of Maggie's who were just as nice as could be. Then we headed out early the next morning for Jeffrey's Bay. Those of you who are surfers should recognize the name, it's apparently one of the best spots in the world. Well Brian is a surfer so that was one of his dreams. We drove all day and arrived at our amazing hostel called Cristal Cove. If you ever make it to J bay you should definitely stay there. A stones throw from the water, great rooms, nicest people ever, and they arranged for us all to have surfing lessons the next day. You can't be in J bay and not go surfing. It was my first time and it was great. I'm not that good, but I loved it. It was tempting to drop out of life for a year and just become a surf bum. But we all decided that probably wouldn't be fulfilling enough for us. The whole experience was great. The other best part of J bay was the billabong factory store where I purchased a garbage bag full of clothing and could have gotten more if I would have had room in my suitcase. Loved it!
We headed out Thursday morning to get to Cape Town by that night. We drove along the coast which is called the Garden Route and it is beautiful. But nothing was as great as Cape Town. We crossed the peak of a mountain and we were all of a sudden looking at the lights of Cape Town with the sun setting perfectly behind Table Mountain. It was an amazing sight. We ended up staying at a hostel called The Backpack right at the base of table mountain and so close to downtown. It couldn't have been more perfect. The first day there everyone else wanted to go sandboarding but Mags and I wanted to tour the city. It is a booming metropolis, which I wasn't expecting. I think in my mind Cape Town was still just this little historic city like the one I have read about in my history books. But it was a perfect outing. There were beautiful gardens, a great outdoor market, and we ate lunch outside at the Sundance Cafe. In the afternoon we all met up to go up Table Mountain. I don't even know where to start to describe that experience. It felt like we were on top of the world. And as such, Maggie and I sat on a rock and listened to the Carpenters sing "On top of the World" on my ipod. It was one of my Africa highlights, no questions asked. We were up there for several hours, it's huge park up on top, and then we watched the sun set over the Atlantic ocean. :) It was a perfect day. But it didn't end there.
Saturday we drove around the entire cape. The pictures say more than my words ever could. It was raining and cold but the clouds did amazing things with the light on the ocean. It couldn't have been better. Standing at the tip of the cape, I had to ask myself "am I really here? standing at a place that has so much historical significance? Incredible!!" We discovered that there is a perfect open beach for horseback riding, if only I would have known sooner. Next time, that is number one priority. But we did get to see the African Penguins. You can actually swim with them but the weather was not ideal for that kind of activity. So we just stopped and stared for a bit. It was a long but great day.
Sunday we went to church in a random ward and the weather was still pretty stormy so we decided to drive out to the other point of False Bay called Hangklip. My reason was that I wanted to see the light house...I have a thing for light houses. And I had seen a picture of the one there. The problem was that it wasn't actually street accessible...the road was closed off. So we started hiking around this little point, not sure exactly where we were going to end up. Rain was threatening to pour any minute, but it was all worth it when we came around that corner and saw that beautiful light house. :) I was one happy camper. Even when it started raining on us before we got back to the car. It was a great adventure.
The last stop before heading home was Kimberly where the first diamonds were discovered. There is a big hole there that was dug entirely by hand with picks and shovels by men who were hoping to find their fortunes. They have a great museum that is brand new that gives the history not only of the big hole but of the diamond world. And it tells a little about the cruelty that was used in the diamond mines as well. My favorite part was a timeline on the wall that said things like "such and such diamond purchased by Joe Dimaggio and given to Marilyn Monroe for her birthday" and things like that. Liz Taylor apparently has quite the collection. I can't even imagine...but as they say "diamonds are a girl's best friend"!!
Well this is quite the long winded post and I'll be surprised if any of you even read all the way through it. But for those who did, I'm glad. And if you have any questions or comments, you know that I am always willing to talk more about it!