Cura Personalis + Ubuntu = One Heck of a Study Abroad Experience

For my final project for my study abroad program over here in Cape Town, we had to create a Visual Diary to encapsulate and document our experience. The Visual Diary had to orbit around a central idea or theme which related to a notion we discussed in our Theology of Forgiveness class – a class centered on reconciliation after the Apartheid.
For my project, I originally chose to make my central theme “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu is a Ngunui Bantu term which roughly translates to “human kindness” or more literally, “human-ness.” It is the belief that there is a universal bond that connects all of humanity – and that this bond must be respected and valued. As I began my project, gathering photos to document my experience, reading through my travel journal and picking out blurbs from my daily entries, tracing the theme Ubuntu through these things was sufficient, but I felt like it was missing something. I felt as though Ubuntu only captured part of my study abroad experience here in Cape Town.
It was while I was assembling the Scranton page of my Visual Diary, cutting out photos of my friends from my Cura Personalis living-learning community, that I realized Cura Personalis was the missing piece of my study abroad puzzle.
Cura Personalis is a Jesuit buzz-word that means “care for the whole person.” It resonates with Ignation Spirituality, which emphasizes that one must actively seek God in the people they know and meet, and in nature.
Cura Personalis and Ignation Spirituality, along with Ubuntu have really shaped the way I have grown while studying abroad in Cape Town. Whether it is embracing the human-to-human bonds between my 19 housemates and I, seeing God in their actions and service to one another and to the Cape Town community, or finding God in nature on my hikes, at the beautiful beaches, and on each of my wild adventures here – these ideals are entwined in each experience I have had and relationship I have formed here. I feel like my University of Scranton world of Cura Personalis and Ignation Spirituality has collided with my South African world of Ubuntu, and from that collision has emerged a more well-rounded, open, and thoughtful version of myself. I could not be more grateful for this experience and the impact these ideals have had on my outlook on life. :)

Here are a few photos of my Visual Diary:

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Until next week!

Sarah :)

Pull Up A Chair For Hlengisa!

Keeping in line with The University of Scranton’s Jesuit emphasis on caring for others, service is a major component of my study abroad program over here in Cape Town. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I teach grade 6 English, History and Geography at Hlengisa Junior Secondary School in a township called Nyanga, which is located just outside of Cape Town.

Townships are usually underdeveloped living areas that, until the end of Apartheid, were used as a method of segregation. Townships are usually built on the periphery of cities. Generally, there is a lot of crime in townships, gang violence, as well as a lack of sanitation and infrastructure. Schools are usually viewed as a “safe zone,” where students can find refuge from the crime and violence.

Here is a photo of Nyanga:

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Like too many of the underfunded, public township schools, Hlengisa is extremely limited in its number of resources, more specifically, chairs. During the school day, many students are forced to stand or sit on the floor while learning simply because there are not enough chairs to accommodate the growing student population. This experience has meant so much to me, and I wanted to help create a lasting impact at Hlengisa long after I leave. So, my housemate and I, who both work at Hlengisa, decided to create a fundraiser, “Pull Up A Chair For Hlengisa.” Then, we stormed social media, sending the link to the donation page to our friends, posting in our various facebook groups, and encouraging others to spread the word.

In just THREE DAYS, we reached our goal and raised $1,000 USD, equivalent to about 11,005 SA Rand. Since then, we have made it up to $1,115 USD, equaling 12,271 SA Rand. We are well on our way to providing new chairs for every Hlengisa student, and could not be happier!

Overall, my time at Hlengisa has been extremely rewarding. Teaching grade 6 has certainly tested my patience, but has also opened me up to a new culture, a new language and a new way of teaching. I absolutely adore my students, and have learned so much from them. They make me laugh every day with their silly songs and jokes. They ask me about America and I ask them about living in Nyanga. I can’t believe that I have less than a month left here with them! I feel so fortunate to work with kids who are so eager to learn, and I feel so blessed to be able to provide chairs for them! :)

Here is a photo of one of my students that we took for the fundraiser:

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Until next week!

Sarah :)

Moments

If you flipped through my travel journal that I have written in every day since entering this beautiful country that I have come to call my third home (right behind my homes in New Jersey, and at the University of Scranton, of course), you would be amazed at how much I have had to write on. All of the little adventures, each of the activities and spontaneous trips, have left hundreds of imprints on my memory. Whether it is finding and exploring a new market, taking an impromptu trip into the City, or “into town,” as they say here, waking up and deciding to make it a beach day, or a hiking day, or a “let’s stay at home and do work but not really work because we are in the company of great friends” day, every moment resonates in my memory like a snapshot.
Here are a couple of reminiscences that I can throw you way. For any Harry Potter fans out there, this blog post can be a Pensive into my memory of a few of my favorite moments in Cape Town:
1. Hout Bay Market/Old Biscuit Mill/Vintage market
Markets are HUGE here, and my friends and I love finding them. Picture this: You walk into what quite literally looks like a hole in the wall, only to emerge into the Hout Bay Market – an indoor pavilion filled with life, live music, art, hand-made jewelry, clothes, and delicious food. Or, picture Old Biscuit Mill (lovingly referred to as OBM): Just a twenty minute walk away from home, it is “the place to be” every Saturday morning. Again, walking in you are hit with life and things to spend money on (and you will spend money, because you won’t be able to deny yourself a Cape Town painted canvas, custom jewelry, or – my weakness – bagels (I’m still a Jersey girl at heart). The food at OBM is worth the every-Saturday trip, and you’ll leave with a stomach full of bagels and potato pancakes and chorizo sandwiches and fresh organic veggies and coffee and happiness. Now let us jump over to the Vintage Market: Definitely a bit edgier than Hout Bay or OBM, the Vintage Market takes place in a coffee shop called “True Coffee,” which is factory-themed, with cogs and screws and piping everywhere. Individual vendors come and set up shop, where you can buy fashionable clothes for a fraction of the price. (Example: I bought a sundress for 80 Rand (roughly $0.80 USD). Hello affordability!

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2. Middle School dance-ish fundraiser
A couple Fridays ago, my entire house of twenty went to a fundraiser dance to raise money for the orphanage, Christian Revel, that two girls in my house perform service learning at. We got all dolled up and left for Athelone – the township where the orphanage is. When we arrived, we entered into a gigantic gym, decorated in a way remnant of a middle school dance. Except, instead of the tables on each side of the gym being flanked with anxious middle schoolers, the tables were filled with middle-aged men and woman, who had no desire to enter the dance floor. That, of course, did not stop the DJ from blasting Beyonce, Pink, and Madonna. So, my friends and I took it upon ourselves to “get the party started.” For a while, we were the only ones on the dance floor, but we had a blast anyway. Then, the DJ abruptly shifted to play “Tennessee Waltz,” and before you know it, the entire crowd was waltzing around the gym. My friends and I laughed the whole night long and had so much fun. This might have been my favorite night of my entire trip thus far.

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3. Full moon hike up lion’s head
If that was not my favorite night, this night could be right up there. Staring up at Lion’s Head, one of the “3 Peaks” in Cape Town, the headlamps and flashlights of the hikers wrapped around the mountain like a constellation. When we reached the top, you could see the entire city lit up. It felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world. One of my friends began to sing and her voice along with the stars along with the city lights along with the flashlights on the mountain lit up something inside me. I felt like I was in some other world – which I guess I was, if you think about it. I was in Cape Town – a world far away from Scranton and New Jersey and all the other worlds I had ever known. But I was also on the top of a jagged mountain, far away from the ground, and the street lights below. It felt as though I was closer to the stars, and that our headlamps and flashlights were just little reminders that we, too, can capture the light of the stars, if we climb high enough.
4. Camps Bay at sunset
Camps Bay: One of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Town. I say one of the most beautiful, because if you visit Llunuido or Clifton, you might argue that either of those is the most beautiful). Each of these beaches have big boulders and rocks, fine white sand, crystal clear water, and a gorgeous view of the 3 Peaks. While I love going to these beaches during the day, it is at sunset that I have created the best memories. One was with my girlfriends – we had a girls night, where we went to watch the sunset at Camps Bay, and the other was on my parents’ last night in Cape Town. Both nights were peaceful and beautiful, filled with laughs, deep conversations, and love.

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5. Finding the book lounge and Charlie’s in town
One Thursday, my friends and I spontaneously decided to go into town – the city part of Cape Town. We walked around exploring, and stumbled upon Charlie’s Bakery. There, I bought the most delicious cookie in the entire world. We sat down, ate, and enjoyed the quirky atmosphere. As we were leaving, we noticed “Humans of New York”-esque photographs of random strangers posted to a fence with clothes pins. We were unsure as to what the photos were for, but their diversity in age, race, and gender reminded us of how far South Africa has come politically, and how much more unified they are in their community now. It was really beautiful. After mulling around center city, we came across “The Book Lounge” – any English major’s paradise. Feeling like I had entered heaven, I spent probably around two hours in the book lounge, a two-story book store and coffee shop, reading books and browsing through shelves. To say that I love exploring Cape Town is an understatement.
6. Braai Day
Braai: The South African term for barbeque. Except much, much better. Braais are incorporated into just about every holiday, weekend, and event in South Africa. At my house, we hosted a braai in the beginning to start off the semester, and our program hosted a braai at our program leader’s house to say goodbye to our RA, who got an awesome forensics job in Johannesburg. Other US study abroad programs host braais every Friday (and call it Braai-Day). Basically, any excuse to hold a braai is a good excuse. Braais are a great was to connect with the community, see your friends, and eat some delicious food!

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There a plenty of other memories that I could go on and on about, but the point is that I have had so many fantastic experiences here and I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have them. I cannot believe how many spectacular moments I have had here in such a short amount of time. I also cannot fathom that I only have one month left! I wonder how many more memorable moments I can squeeze in before I leave. Shouldn’t be too difficult…:)

Until next week!

Sarah :)