Reading the Globe will lead 15 students and 3 faculty-staff members on a study-travel program.
Making the over 9,200-mile, 19-hour Reading the Globe trip are students Alexis Charles, Alexzandra Flores, Ana García, Tirza Guerra, Lauren Gutiérrez, Arely Hernández, Jihan Kuri, Rebekah Kawas, Trevor Neeley, Cristina Olivares, Rebekah Rodríguez, Juan Ruiz, Alexa Vázquez, Melissa Vázquez and Leah Wisner.
The world we live in is unreliable. It changes. Everyday. It is almost scary to hold on too tight to something because of the fear of losing it. However, almost unchanged through time, remains the power of a promise. This monument right here was the result of a promise made to God. A physical example of gratitude and a reminder that in an ever changing world, there are still basic principles that unite us all as children of the same Earth.
"The world is truly round and seems to start and end with those we love." -Nelson Mandela
South Africa is truly a country filled with so much love and hope. Walking the streets, you are greeted and welcomed with big beautiful smiles and hand shakes embracing the triumph the people have overcome. Peace, Love and Unity is the greeting that is used by the people in South Africa, embracing the triumph the people have overcome. No matter the circumstance of life, each day is a day to remember the troubles of the past, yet focus on the hope for the future. The love of the fellow man is taken to heart. No matter your race, color, or sex, you are considered a beautiful soul. South Africa is not only a country for South Africans, but it is a country for all
A very impacting and life-changing photo can be found at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, where we visited today. During the 1976 Soweto uprising, students rallied against the unjust laws of apartheid (one such law being the requirement of learning Afrikaans). Thirteen year old Hector Pieterson was shot and killed by police who became fearful of the young rioters and shot randomly into the crowd. In the photo, a young man is carrying the limp body of the boy. Hector's older sister, Antoinette, is seen running next to the man, fear and anger painted across her face. Hector was young, innocent, and unjustly killed, but he was not a hero, she says. His glamour was in his death. But if he had not died, would he still be seen as a hero? Hector only wanted freedom like everyone else. If he is to be called a hero, then so must each person that participated in the uprising that day-June 16, 1976. Defying bullets, police, tear gas, racism, and apartheid, these heroes - Hector Pieterson included - had the courage it takes to fight for freedom.
Every day we have spent in Johannesburg has been filled with learning. Most of this learning wa s different, but still significant in its own right. We visited Lesedi Village, where several South African tribes, such as the Sotho and Zulu, live together. The fact that despite their different customs and beliefs, they still live beside each other in harmony and respect amazed me. Toward the end of the visit, we were treated to some traditional music and dance from each tribe. With their respective performances, they continued their lesson of respect for others. Each tribe performed their respective routine, and at times mingled with the others. At the end, they invited their guests to join them. There were Americans, Australians, Russians, Kenyans, Canadians, Mexicans, and Bulgarians, among others. In that moment of joyful dancing, we weren’t any of those. We were united by friendship in a land far from home, but one that didn’t feel like it at all. Embracing each other’s cultures is an important lesson for all of us to bring back to our home countries. And I think it should be every nation’s goal.
When we arrived at the Rhino and Lion Reserve and we saw zebras grazing in the grass, it was a dream come true for all of us. Our guide Jay drove us throughout the reserve, so we could marvel at the wild animals like hippos, lions, zebras, and wild dogs (amongst many others). We were also allowed to personally meet, greet, and pet some wild animals such as a grown cheetah named Eddie, lion cubs, grown lions, and jaguars. My favorite part of the day was when an overtly playful jaguar named Onyx nibbled my thumb. Even though he seemed to want to keep it, it is still attached to my hand
As our South African adventure continues in Cape Town, we have had the fortune of viewing a scenery that cannot possibly be compared to anything you've ever seen. With the wonderful help of our tour guide, Dion, we've had the pleasure of standing on Chapman's Peak to witness Cape Town's mountains overlooking its beautiful city and blinding blue Atlantic Ocean. We have journeyed around the peninsula in hopes of viewing diving seals, gliding African Penguins, and hungry baboons. Yet, our adventure is not over. We anticipate what tomorrow might bring us.
Isn't it somewhat poetic, that after having traveled across many waters and vast continents, we reach such a sight at the end? Here in Cape Town, the sun glows behind natural wonders. It captivates my heart and warms my soul. This land has welcomed me. Here, on its shores, she speaks to me of earth's vision. At its end, a point where beyond this nothing exists, and beyond which nothing seeks to exist, the truth of life is told as this, my Africa, that the end goal of life is both beauty and peace.
The most beautiful thing about South Africa is the people. They are passionate about their history. South Africans remember the suffering under the Apartheid regime simply because they refuse to forget. However, the remembrance does not come with anger and sadness. Honor permeates from them as they tell us the stories of the hardships they've overcome. I have found that the people have no shame in their past oppression. Instead, they take pride in their present freedom. This is the South Africa I have come to know and will forever remember.
Robben Island, more commonly known for being Nelson Mandela's prison for 17 years, has officially made its impact on the students of Reading the Globe. The 15 of us walked its concrete halls with a tour guide that was an ex-prisoner of the Island at the same time Mandela was incarcerated. He led us to Mandela's cell and told us how he hated the Island and the segregation he felt after gaining his freedom. It was years later in 2001 that he decided to conquer his fears and began working for the Island when it became a museum. He releases his anger and creates his own peace by educating the tourists of today about the horrors of South Africa's past. It is with him that we discovered how to forgive, never forget, and move on for the better.
Our tour guide, Dion, took us today to Ethel's Place, a drug rehabilitation center for men here in Cape Town. It was a simple, long building under a blinding sun with a kitten curled up at the foot of the door. Ethel's Place has a program called TC, where men over 18 pay what they can to stay for 2 months to overcome their addiction. One of the men there who was recovering from his drug addiction told us of his problem and how thankful he was to be at Ethel's Place. It's comforting to know that there is always someone out there ready to help when they can, maybe even with a kitten sitting at their front step.
The highlight of my day was visiting a pre-school in Cape Town. The school teachers are actually volunteers and live off of donations from people and 50 rands (5 dollars) a month from the parents to meet the pre-school's basic necessities. The students sang and danced for us; we returned the favor by singing Las Mañanitas and Itsy Bitsy Spider. After we were done singing, the kids ran to us for photos. Their facial expressions were so heartwarming. They were so entertained with all the different technology (phones, cameras, etc.). Seeing them smile and listening to them laughing reminded me what little someone has to do to make someone else happy
Lauren A. Gutierrez
Today has been one of my favorite adventures we have had. We went to the Water Sprites Nursery School. Being with these children is unimaginable. The children are so pure and precious. We all got to hand paint one of their classrooms and play with them leaving a sign that we will always be there with them. I can see that all the children learn respect and how to play with one another and don't need material things for happiness. They all have a certain routine and know when to do things. All they need is each other. Doing this service for them has made me realize joy in myself. Watching them enjoying themselves was so comforting. I loved the environment and how it made them feel safe, including myself. We also had the opportunity to mark our names on a wall so that in years, our contribution will still be remembered. I have been inspired the whole way through. This is the moment that I will cherish forever.
Today, we visited Water Sprite's nursery school. It was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. As soon as I entered the nursery I was able to accept and reciprocate the love that seemed to explode out of each child. From one moment to the next I was covered in sand, laughing uncontrollably making "chocolate cakes." It was only after my "chocolate cake" was completely destroyed that I realized that I could feel my own adoration, their parents adoration, and even God's adoration for each smile. It was a transformative kind of love that I felt today, something I know now is unconditional.
We often have to tell someone or something goodbye in our lifetimes. Whether it's a loved one, a possession, or a place we adore, we must see the last of it. This trip to South Africa has been a first of many new experiences for most of us. We have made so many new friends and memories within these two weeks. We have learned a lot from this journey. We have learned about a country's valiant rise to freedom, a nation's thirst for equality, the perseverance of many iconic people, but most of all, we have learned to never take anything for granted. We are so blessed to live the lives that we live and to have this experience just opens so many new doors. This was a wonderful trip, but it is only the beginning. We now must bid South Africa a farewell, but we will be greeting life with a beautiful welcome
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm at a disadvantage to wrap up so many memories into just one paragraph. I think we were all truly blessed with an opportunity like this, and I'm eternally grateful for having such a wonderful experience. We met so many people that impacted our lives, laughed a little too much, and at times spoke a little too loud, but it's what made this trip a success. We made the best out of it and did as much as we could with the time we had here and every moment of it was perfect. If the food took too long, it just meant we had more time to chat and get to know each other more. If plans were canceled, it just meant there was something better we needed to see. This trip truly served us all for a great purpose and someday, I hope to be even half of what this country is. Everyone has struggled, but they put all those obstacles behind to make way for a better tomorrow. If I've learned anything, it's that you can never be too happy, or laugh too much, or speak too loud. There's always room for more, and it's even better when you share all that with others. So we offer our humble farewells to South Africa, and I'll speak for everyone and say that this is the beginning to a new chapter in our lives. I hope we all move on to better and bigger things with all the knowledge we gained on this trip and that we may always exceed the expectations. Let this not be just a memory. Let this be the first step to a better "you."