“This ain’t a joke man, this is real”

It’s Alaina, Maddy and Jontai here and do we have a wild story for you! Full of plot twists and adventures stay tuned for the second to last update before your world travelers come back home!

We all awoke at 8am with bags packed to do another home stay, this time with an Afrikaner family. We had seen videos about a town called Orania and assumed that our long drive out of the city would take us to this controversial, all white “apartheid” town. Instead, we spent the evening in a very different way.

Our first stop of the day was Maropeng. Part archeological site, part art instillation, this is the space that is believed to be the place where civilization as we know it began. Maropeng is believed to be the cradle of humanity. The space is filled with copper and metal statues of important historical figures through the years, from the dawn of civilization to leaders of the anti apartheid movement. The women in our group were overjoyed to have the opportunity to learn more about the strong and brave female leaders in history including Lilian Nyogi and Ruth First. 
After journeying through the maze of statues and posing next to the historical figures we had researched during the school year we entered the museum. The interactive museum featured the bones of “homo naledi” which were discovered in by archeologists in 2013 in the Rising Star cave system. The museum also had other interactive elements like puzzles about evolution and a boat ride through the creation of the earth. We all could have stayed at museum for hours, but our homestay family was waiting for us. 
We loaded up in the minivan and started our two hour journey, most of us fell asleep. Before we knew it, we had arrived and Professor Griffith told us all to wake up and see our home for the night: Pilanesberg National Park! Everyone let out screams of excitement as we learned that we were actually going on a SAFARI! We stayed overnight in the chalets at this awesome national park and went on two game drives. The homestay with the Afrikaner family was just a front the professors told us to surprise us with this incredible experience, which many of us believed whole heartedly (good work Professor Griffith and Professor Kirby!) During the whole trip, we have joked about the fact that we were not going on a safari since we had been told that it was not possible, and being here in the National park seemed so surreal. In response to our shock, our guide Thulani told us, “this ain’t a joke man, it’s real”. 

The safari was a beautiful, crazy, once in a life time experience where we got to see giraffes, zebras, elephants, kudu, wildebeests, impalas, hippos, springbok, monkeys, and other wild creatures. We even saw an endangered black rhino. We speak for all the students on this trip when we say THANK YOU PROFESSORS for letting us go on this adventure, and for keeping it a surprise for the very end of this amazing trip. IMG_8802
Thanks to all for following us these past two weeks! We are boarding our plane now, so see you soon!

Peace and blessings,
Alaina, Maddy, and Jontai

What’s Your Art-Genda?

Hi Everyone! It’s Nathan, Ty, and Alyssa!

We started our day later than usual and got ready pretty quickly to begin our day in the city. Our first destination was Maboneng a neighborhood located within Johannesburg. Our focus of the stop was a market street that was lined on both sides with artistic murals and crafts. The location is a very up and coming area full of energy and style. The highlight was the many local artists that displayed their works for sale. They included canvas paintings, shirt printings, and soapstone carvings. We met very dedicated and talented artists including Snowchino and Sweet Potato, they were both willing to tell us their stories and the motivation behind their work. The theme of their art was political in nature, focusing on figures like Steve Biko, Winnie and Nelson Mandela, and Robert Sobukwe. The art did not just pertain to the canvases they were selling, additionally there were many figures and messages stenciled onto the walls of the buildings. Some of these figures were North American and Latin American such as Che Guevara, Louis Armstrong, Michael Jackson, Fidel Castro and many many more. All of these figures were being represented through stenciled graffiti which goes to show that all art forms can be used to relate to a wider audience. While we were there we took advantage of the opportunity to load up on crafts and gifts for loved ones as this is our last day in Johannesburg.

We then left Maboneng to meet Jo, our guide or the day. She took us on a graffiti tour around her hometown. She brought us around a very lively and hipster college community, which has been blessed with beautiful murals and works of graffiti. She passionately explained to us of the history of the art form as a whole and as it specifically relates to Jo’burg. She introduced us to the graffiti art of  of the Mars, Love, and Baez. Some of the artists were South African and some were from other countries, including the United States. The beautifully large murals were done by some of these local artists through city funded projects. These allowed all of the public to enjoy art that related to their everyday life and culture. Jo made a special point to say the Jo’burg police are very lackadaisical in enforcing the vandalism laws that are in the city.

We continued our tour with Jo to the Constitution Hill complex. The complex  featured the old fort, the black and white separated prisons, the women’s prison, and the Constitutional Court. From our perch on the hill we could see much of the city skyline. The neighborhood was surrounded by low income housing. This housing was much needed in order revitalize the city in the face of the economic slowdown of the 1980’s. Also in the 1980’s the prison itself closed after many decades of operation. Within the prison, in a part called Section 4, many black and colored political activists were held to serve out their criminal sentences or their time for  fighting against apartheid. Among the notable captives housed in section 4 were Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and some of the students involved in the Soweto riots. For many of us, seeing the filthy toilet and food facilities and viewing inmate stories as well as the many chambers of solitary confinement really affected us. Jo, our guide, showed us some graffiti etched into the isolation cell doors. She focused on these etchings for her master’s degree. While looking through the isolation cells it was very powerful as many prisoners would etch their names, the date, a message, and political slogans on their cells.

We’re ending the day with a South African  brai (barbecue)  hosted by Derrek (our driver) and Thulani (our program facilitator)! We have only two days left here in South Africa and it is definitely bittersweet to think of our trip coming to an end!

Shout out to my family, mom, dad, Corinne, and Thomas and all the friends back in Vermont. Love Nathan!

Oi Mae, Pai, e Justin! I’m still having a blast and cant wait to finally spend some time at home with you guys, te quero!

Quick shout out to – my mom, dad, doggos, Andrew, Walker, and all my loved ones back in the States! Miss and love you all! See you soon !


Two Sides to Every Story

Hello Everyone! It’s Lydia, Hannah, and Bryn!

Today was a relatively light schedule, but the impact of the events were immense.

To begin the day we toured Liliesleaf Farm, a safe house used during the resistance movement to allow meetings between banned members of the ANC. This historical site is described as a place of memory rather than a museum, detailing the lives of those who used the building and their eventual discovery due to a raid which netted numerous ANC revolutionaries. On July 11th 1963 Liliesleaf Farm was raided by the South African Defense Team who were in search of notable ANC figures. Of these figures, the number one target was Walter Sisulu who, based on a secret informant, was reported to be staying at the farm. Based on the informants info, the police determined that a white family had taken possession of the farm and allowed multiple politically charged individuals to hide and organize meetings on the property. In order to determine the truth behind this information, police decided to raid the property disguised as dry cleaners and surprised the political figures in the middle of a meeting. This raid resulted in the arrests of nine significant political protesters, plus incriminated Nelson Mandela in the movement to overthrow the government. The arrests resulted in terms of life imprisonment for Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gavon Mbeki, and most of the rest of the defendants. This operation would detain Mandela and his fellow prisoners for over 20 years until their eventual release which signaled the end of Apartheid.

The next stop was the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria which was built in remembrance of the Dutch-Boer history in South Africa. During our tour we learned that Voortrekker means those who moved forward, this is to symbolize their trek from the western cape to the Pretoria area which is in the northeast of the country. En route they had many encounters with the Zulu people which led to much blood shed. As years went by, many lives were lost on both sides, the Dutch, British, and Zulu tribe eventually reached a land treaty. The granite monument took 12 years to construct and features 27 sculptured marble panels depicting scenes from the great trek. Unfortunately the pieces depict a very one-sided version of history.  The last scene failed to depict the Zulu tribe at all. In the end the British took the Zulu land, gave them back a little piece, and gave the Dutch the remainder. So unfair!


Our final activity today was dinner at The Grill House in Melrose Arch where Andy Meldrum, who is the Africa Editor for the Associated Press, joined us. During dinner he talked about his connection and experience reporting in southern Africa. He also talked about many of the stories he covered featuring Nelson Mandela. Meldrum specifically talked about one of his most memorable pieces which was on the night that Mandela passed away. He told a story of people outside of Mandela’s house in Soweto celebrating his life. As a media oriented study abroad trip, it was insightful and engaging to learn about international reporting. It was also enlightening to hear about someone’s personal experience reporting within an apartheid government.


A picture is worth a thousand words

Hi everyone! Izzy, Jason, and Marlon here. Today we woke up and had breakfast with our host mothers and families before reconvening as a group. We were sad to spend only one night with our host families because we had such a great experience. After we said our goodbyes, we piled on the bus and got a tour of Soweto by Thandi aka Mama Thandi. Mama Thandi is a Soweto native who showed us around Freedom Square, the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial, Mandela’s House, and Regina Mundi (a church).


At Freedom Square, we viewed unique statues that outlined the rights of the people in the new South Africa. Some of the rights include, equality for all and the right to own land. Next, we went to the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial which sparked many emotions. Hector Pieterson was a 13 year old boy from Soweto who was shot and killed on June 16, 1976 during the Soweto Uprising. Many school children gathered and protested the government plan to teach Afrikaans as their primary language in school instead of English. The police forcibly stopped the protest and started shooting into the unarmed crowd. Hector Pieterson was an innocent bystander during the protest and only one of the many children who was unjustly shot and killed by the police. There is a famous picture of a bleeding Hector Pieterson being carried by a local Soweto resident named Mbuyisa Makhubu. The moving image shows Hector’s older sister running alongside Makhubu as he flees the horror carrying her dead brother. The picture was published worldwide making it possible for the world to learn what was really happening during apartheid South Africa.



After the Museum, Mama Thandi took us to Mandela’s home where he lived for 15 years before being imprisoned. Mandela lived in Orlando West, Soweto, at 8115 Vilakazi Street. The house was built in 1945 and he moved in the following year with his wife Winnie Mandela and their children. After Mandela was released from prison, he returned to his home and was only able to stay for 11 days because he had no privacy from the media. His home has been renovated as a museum and has original furniture and belongings inside. This famous street is also the home to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Interestingly enough this is the only street in the world to have two Nobel Peace Prize winners living on it, Mandela and Tutu.



Our last stop of the day was the Regina Mundi Catholic Church. This church was the site of numerous protest planning meetings after the Soweto Uprising. This church was symbolic during the Soweto Uprising because it was the only open building nearby the protest that students were able to run into seeking safety. Police followed the students inside and bullet holes can still be seen where they opened  fire on the church. The church opened in 1962 and is the largest Catholic church in Soweto. It can seat up to 2,000 people.


Overall, today was a great day! Physically being at the historical places where many important events happened during the apartheid era such as the Soweto Uprising, really put all of what we learned from class into a deeper perspective.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more! To our families, we miss you!


Izzy, Jason, and Marlon




May 23rd 2019

Tumelag Family’s!

Its Alaina, Jontai and Tiffanie here to share with you the wonderful first day we had in Johannesburg.

We started out the day incredibly early taking a plane from Cape Town to Jo’burg. The two hour ride went by quickly and some of us even had the opportunity to talk with South African travelers about their experiences and asked about activities to do and food to eat in our next destination. Jet lagged, hungry and sleepy we made our way onto our BRAND NEW BUS WITH LEG ROOM FOR DAYS!!! We also met our new driver Derrek! From the airport we drove to the Apartheid Museum and had quite the day.

The apartheid museum is a simple unassuming building, walking up to the gate each of us was given a ticket. The ticket was labeled simply ” This ticket was assigned Randomly” followed by either the phrase, “Blanke-White” Or  “Non-White” from there were we led to the entrance by our tour guide, there were two doors leading into the museum which corresponded with the words on our tickets.  We walked into the museum through two different entrances and saw two very different worlds. The white side of the museum entrance was filled with information and images, the non-white side was sparsely decorated, at the end of  the White section hallway there was a ramp leading to the full museum. The Non-white side of the museum had stairs. We recovered as a group to go thought the museum.

The Nelson Mandela Exhibit in the Apartheid museum showed the life and struggle of the President we have learned about throughout the class. In our time in the SMC media department we often talk about “Icons Of Change” which are images that have a strong impact on society and hold a special meaning in history. A Photo of Nelson Mandela hanging on the wall was re-created by over 15 artists within their own personal style, demonstrating how one icon, Mandela, can be interpreted in so many diverse ways.

One new exhibit to the museum was called “Damage” by Gideon Mendel. Mendel was a “Struggle Photographer” during the 1980’s protests in the streets of Soweto and beyond. Images Mendel took during the apartheid era were damaged, or so he thought. The film strips got wet, so never got them developed. After finding the strip again he developed them and shared the images with the public in the late 2010’s. He wanted to share the message that just because something is not perfect, it can still have value. The revolts and uprisings may not have gone perfectly and life right now in South Africa might not be everything people want it to be, but it’s still worth living.

The whole museum was filled with different art installations and it was very interesting to see the intent behind the works, many of the pieces were created using found material.  A piece by Gavin Jantjes, depicts an old coloring book that featured an image of the white National Party leader in the 80’s, he took this image and drew other militant, cruel and oppressive rulers like Hitler.

Another art instillation that was particularly impactful was the “Crucible” by Neels Coetzee. The piece was made out of melted AK-47 assault riffles. It was designed to look like the tree of life from one perspective and from another perspective looks like a coffin. This was used to represent how many innocent lives were lost because of apartheid but also how the community is growing stronger than before. The artist used metal from AK-47’s to make the piece because that is the most commonly used weapon against blacks in the townships when the police committed mass murder on their own public.

The museum also made sure to highlight rural resistance movements like those that took place in Witseshoek, Sekhukland and Pondoland. It discussed the issues that these more rural communities faced. At one point during an uprising in one of the rural villages the entire village was executed by police. The village was simply protesting in support of others who had suffered injustice around the country.  Around each corner there was more information to take in, we had over 2 hours in the museum yet we could have used hours more to soak in all at the Apartheid Museum. We all took away different things from the museum and had our own connections and experiences so make sure to ask your traveler about their experiences, personally I have over five pages of notes so I condensed thoughts for the blog. While this particular Blog post is focusing on the art of the museum there was also a lot of history and factual information throughout.

After packing ourselves back onto the bus we headed to the Township of Soweto to meet our new mothers!  (Don’t worry moms back state side we have not replaced you, just added on to our family circles!)

We arrived in the Township of Soweto and we were greeted by Lindiwe, who was one of the host mothers that we met. So, we get out of the van and we were told that we were going to have some supper. Yay more FOOD! We headed into the yard where everyone was waiting for us and WOW… we were met with open arms and with a song and, each of us going around hugging and shaking hands of the mothers and their family members.

We got to know our host mothers over a very delicious meal. May I mention again, a very delicious meal of South African traditional dishes, including chakalaka  and pap. So as we got to know our mothers, we took on new names which all had meanings. African names such as Bontle, which means beautiful and Malewatle which means loves the ocean. Afterwards we faced the task of introducing ourselves to everyone with those names that were given to us in languages such as Tswana and Zulu. This was a great experience because theses names were very unique and our stories behind the names we were given were amazing!

So after getting our new identities we carried on the night with a question and answer period where we asked questions of each other about life in our respective countries. We talked about our culture, music, and political systems.

After having a great conversation, it was only right that we ended the night on a high note. We were singing and dancing and we even got to show off our moves. The women sang songs in their native languages and explained the lyrics to us. It was a night to remember and they showed us a beautiful, welcoming, vibrant community.

Our time in Soweto was so much fun we didn’t want it to end!





Alaina, Tiffanie, and Jontai





Penguins, Kudu and Seals, Oh My!

Hello Everyone! It’s Lydia, Ty, and Maddy here to fill you in on our last day in Cape Town 😦

Today was the day we finally were allowed to sleep in a bit, due to protests in Khayelitsha. As we recently stated during the tours of the townships, life in informal settlements is typically hindered by lack of government effort. Residents experience many problems due to infrastructure issues. This results in protests in the townships to raise awareness of these situations and lack of support in the area. In order to get the point across, people in these settlements will stage protests, ones that typically restrict the flow of traffic around the township and entrances to the highway. Unfortunately, Thulani was trapped in the protests and was only able to exit through the township Mitchell’s Plane, an entrance on the exact opposite side of where he needed to meet us. By the time we all were ready to board the bus and start the day, it was well past 10:30 am.

The day was spent exclusively exploring the beautiful and awesome scenery of the Cape of South Africa. The cape consists of some of the most exquisite and pristine houses, beaches, and mountain ranges in the country, being most popular among the famous and elite rich.  In order to start our day of exploration, the crew enjoyed a tour along the scenic route of Chapman’s Peak Drive. This drive cuts through expensive neighborhoods, entering into a beautiful cliff-side drive that has mountains bordering one side and the seemingly endless ocean along the other.

At the end of this path laid the town of Hout Bay, a little sea-side community where we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant named Snoekies, named for the local fish used in many of its recipes. Right outside the restaurant, a seal was soaking up the sun and we obviously ran over to take pictures with it. It wasn’t long until he had enough of us and growled at us, making Tiffanie and even Thulani to sprint for their lives. After that, we decided it was time to leave him be and move onto our next location: the markets. Many vendors set up their handcrafted products on the seaside path hoping to entice passing tourists on their drive along the coast. We stopped by and loaded up on gifts for our friends and family, and of course ourselves! There, we saw more seals and Lydia and Professor Kirby even got to pet a much more friendly seal named Poppy.


Our next stop was one we had been looking forward to since we touched down in South Africa- the PENGUINS. The cutest little penguins occupy Boulders Beach, where we got to walk around and acquaint ourselves with the colony. Outside the beach, more shops, markets and even an acappella group singing traditional South African isicathamiya music greeted us. From there, we kept moving south to the southern most point of not only South Africa, but the entire continent. The Cape of Good Hope is where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and we hiked up to the lighthouse on Dangers Point where we watched the sun set over our last day in this beautiful place. On the way there, we got to enjoy a mini safari, seeing wild baboons, kudu (a type of antelope), and ostriches! Before leaving, some of us made sure to dip our toes into the water so we could say we’ve touched the Indian ocean!IMG_7701IMG_7677.JPGIMG_0616IMG_7787

Our last stop of the day was to get dinner at the Brass Bell in the town of Kalk Bay to meet Helen Douglas. The Counseling Philosopher, or philosophic counselor, originally from Canada,  moved to South Africa in the 1980’s to fight against the apartheid regime. She and her husband set up a safe house for ANC affiliates, especially Mac Maharaj. After we enjoyed our pasta, pizza, and rib plates she spoke to us about her involvement in the struggle and what attracted her to the fight against injustice. She read us her poem “The Housekeeper’s Tale” which we had closely analyzed and written about in our class assignment the night before. She discussed philosophical ideas behind war and oppression, love and liberation, how to relate to enemies, and violence itself. She was a very interesting, witty, and charismatic speaker which made her a great guest for dinner, we’re very appreciative and thrilled to have gotten the chance to meet her. IMG_0239IMG_0233

Our next adventure is taking to us to our home stays in Soweto, where we unfortunately won’t have access to WiFi. You’ll have to wait until Thursday to read about our first day in Johannesburg.

See you in Jo’burg! We miss you family!!!!

Lydia, Ty, and Maddy

“Children are our Greatest Treasure”

“Children are our greatest treasure, they are our future.” -Nelson Mandela

Hello all – it’s Alaina, Alyssa, and Marlon!

We started the day waking up bright and early. We left the hotel at 8:15AM to head to Kuyasa for a service day. Our program facilitator – Thulani works with the African Impact organization which aims to help children in difficult living situations. We made a quick pit stop on the side of the road to participate in the South African tradition of eating smiley, which is fire roasted goat’s head. (Almost all of our travelers partook in the tradition – vegetarians not included) After being briefed by Thulani on what was to come,  we arrived to Kuyasa, our first service location, it was an early childhood development school. Our team was divided into two groups – one worked hands on with toddlers teaching them colors, numbers, and building legos while the other half of the group worked with young children on other skills like puzzles, mathematics, and spelling. While everyone had a very impactful experience working with the children, Marlon expressed this part of the day best.

“There was this little girl who was 9 months old. Everyone was trying to console her and stop her from crying but no one could get her to stop. Bryn was rocking her and she asked me to come around and hold her. I gladly accepted the invitation. I came and held her. Professor Griffith started staring at me because this child was crying her eyes out not too long before I picked her up. She felt comfortable in my arms and likewise I felt comfortable holding her. The worst part was having to leave. the second I put her down she went back to crying and we had to go.”

After a delicious lunch at Khayelitsha Look Out Hill, we got back in the van and headed off to our second destination for the day – Grandmother’s Against Poverty and Aids or GAPA. The organization was formed by a group of grandmothers who, after losing their children to HIV/AIDS wanted to create a support system for themselves and their grandchildren as well as other youth who had been impacted by AIDS. While it started as a small organization it has grown into a strong and vibrant after school program for youth in the community of Kuyasa. The grandmothers make and sell crafts to help support the program so don’t be surprised if you receive a special handmade gift from one of us upon returning home, our shopping spree was for a good cause!

IMG_7449We played many games throughout the afternoon with the students at GAPA, including net ball with kids and other volunteers from the Netherlands. We also helped build block structures with them and had time for arts and crafts. We were very grateful that the sun started shinning bright in the afternoon as it allowed us to play outside with the students at GAPA. Here is a bit on Alyssa’s experience –

“So today I got a FULL workout in! Jason, Nathan, Marlon, Ty and I played competitive games of sharks and minnows and netball with the children. Let me tell you, we did not go lightly. Ty crashed into the garbage cans and ran into bushes in order to get the win. Aside from all the laughs and games it was a huge learning experience. Being able to connect and come together with children simply by playing games is truly eye-opening. When we played all those games, we forgot the language barrier and our different circumstances. Sports can be a really powerful way of bringing people together.”


After our day of service we came back and discussed our day. Then headed down to the waterfront for dinner and some shopping. Jontai finally got to buy his South African sneakers and a everyone had a wonderful meal at Quay Four. We sang along to the local band that was playing 80’s hits all night long!

After a long day we were all very grateful to be back in bed to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrows adventures! Stay tuned!


Thanks for following!

Side note to Alaina’s mum… its a few days late but everyone here down in South Africa wishes you a wonderful Birthday! I wish I could have celebrated it with you but I’ll be home soon enough. I’m still on the hunt for some good buttons to bring home! Love and miss you!