So Friday started our weekend of no sleep, new people, and a lot of learning. I woke up early in the morning (because I can’t sleep late anymore-ugh!) and a big group of us went into the city. We took a mini bus straight into the city and got off by the city hall. We walked around for a bit and finally found the lunch place we were looking for. It was called the Eastern Food Bazaar and had incredible food. I had hummus and falafel on pita bread with three chicken samosas. I loved every second of eating it. After we walked around the city and stopped at a great store. We then took a cab home to get ready for our weekend at the Goedgedacht Olive Farm.
We all packed our stuff up for the weekend and boarded a HUGE coach bus parked outside of our house. Thinking the ride would only be an hour; we were on the bus for over two hours (making a quick stop in the city to pick up the eighteen other people coming on the trip with us). We got to the Olive Farm right as I was waking up from my nap. It was beautiful outside; the farm was on the side of a mountain over looking rolling hills and beautiful countryside. The farm was so cute, with old buildings and different kinds of lovely flowers. We brought our stuff to our rooms where most of us were paired with random people we have never met before. I was paired with a very nice lady named Lucinda, who I am pretty sure was a native Capetonian. Our rooms were so nice; they were even better then any room out of a hotel. They had super comfortable beds, with down comforters and soft sheets. The reason the rooms are so nice is because people will come and vacation on this olive farm. The farm hosts conferences and workshops just like the one we were at.
After we settled in, we got dinner (which was SO delicious) and I sat on the porch watching the sunset over the mountains in the distance. It was incredibly peaceful and it felt so nice to be disconnected from society. We then met up in a big open room to start our Human Rights training workshops. We did introductions and met everyone and just got comfortable in the area. That night many people just hung out and explored the farm. I had a nice peaceful night as well. The best part of the night and the whole weekend was how visible the stars were from the side of the mountain. There were no lights anywhere around and the sky was literally incredible. I felt like I could see every single star in the sky, including the entire Milky Way. It was such an awesome experience.
The next morning was hard waking up so early. We started the say off with a great breakfast and jumped right into training. We learned about the basics of human rights and were split into four groups, each with a different name of a country in Africa. I was in the Republic of Congo, and my group members were so much fun. Everyone else (besides our group of Americans) were between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, because youth ends at thirty-five here in South Africa. So I had so many different people in my group, each bringing something new and unique to the table. It was a lot of fun. The things we worked in during the workshop times were not really my thing. It was a lot of history and political stuff, but I didn’t hate it. We took breaks often so that was fun. On Saturday night each group was to perform a ‘skit’ as to model a United Nations meeting pretending to be our country. We were supposed to act as if we were wanted a 500 million dollar check from the UN for our country. It was really interesting because I learned a lot about other countries in Africa. But not only was it interesting, it was ridiculously fun. We had to have a cultural aspect to it too, so our group sang the Congolese anthem (in Portuguese) and also danced a Congolese dance. I was also dressed up in ‘typical’ clothing too (which was a sheet-as best as we could do). It was so fun! Unfortunately, Kenya received the check but we were second place!
That night after our performance was one of the most amazing nights of my life. Most of the people walked up to the dam to look at the stars. A lot of people were swimming too, so of course I jumped right in! Just laying on my back looking up at the sky in a dam while in the mountains was just incredible. We then changed quickly back at our rooms then went to the other side of the dam to a little house. It was right on the water and was fully furnished-along with blankets and a big dock to lie on. So a bunch of us (after doing the electric slide on the dock) laid down, shut off all the lights in the house and just watched the sky. I saw more shooting stars then I have ever seen before. I felt so peaceful and calm. As people started leaving one by one, I ended up falling asleep. By the end of our star watch there were four people left on the dock including me. At about 1:30 am my friend Maria and I walked back to our rooms. We were expecting it to be quiet and serene once we got back (because I was so exhausted) but we heard loud talking, as we got closer to the rooms. We walked into the courtyard and see Nicole and Nellie’s door wide open with people spilling out of it. Of course something would happen to Nicole. So we walked over and come to find out that there was a scorpion in their room!!! A real live SUPER poisonous scorpion lost in their room. There were people trying to find it, and people watching as if it were a show. I was laughing so hard and just watched as Nicole and everyone was freaking out. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the end, someone found the scorpion and killed it. Everyone was really on edge though because it was small and fast and can be found anywhere. I was nervous because it would be so bad to step on! Everything was settled though and they were finally safe to sleep in their room.
The next morning it was really hard to wake up. I finally dragged my butt out of bed, showered and headed to breakfast. Probably one of my favorite things of the weekend was for almost every meal; sit outside overlooking the entire mountains and farmland. In the distance was Table Mountain, a faint outline on the horizon. That morning it was just as amazing to do that. We had two closing workshops then packed our things and headed home. It really was a great experience.
Once we got home yesterday I was wiped out, as was everyone else I think. Today was great though besides being so incredibly tired the whole day. It was another normal day a Christel House (well…normal is a relative term). The kids were wild as usual, and im pretty sure I got half the hair ripped out of my head from our daily ‘lets play with Brandi’s hair’ sessions. It was still a lot of fun! The best part of the day was when one of my quieter students (who usually has a very serious face but when he smiles is so awesome) looks up at me and says, “miss talks like a child”. I stopped, thought about it, and just nodded and said, “yes, yes I do!” I couldn’t stop laughing. Its great how honest nine year olds can be.
All in all it was an incredible weekend. It was really good to get away from the hustle and bustle and just step back into nature. And it was also great to learn so much about a subject I have never seen interest in before. The people I met were great, and the stars at night were magical.
This is a quote from this weekend and describes my experience perfectly:
“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits.” - Wendell Berry