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Tyler’s Travel Diary

Monday, 24 Mar 2008

Location: South Africa

MapI know I am a month into the trip and havent gotten around to setting this up. But wanted to post some pics and give you feel for our life here.

I am gonna try to update it one more time before I leave, but this is more for those of you who wont be around Rye when we get back to share this with you personally.

The Hostel

The Hostel we have been living in is great. It is run by a couple, Jaime and Liz, who are really relaxed and have a beautiful place. Jamie took me out the first day I was here and showed me the wave, the rocks, and also quelled most of my fears about “the big fish.”
A lot of the people we met here have stayed here for a while. It has a kinda magnetic vibe that is hard to get away from. It is the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in, and is right across from the wave.
I actually found the place when I was looking to do some volunteer work, and it made it super easy. The owners have a partnership with a project in town called the Joshua Project, which is a school and soup kitchen for street kids in the area. Once I told Ry what I was up to, he felt like he needed to come and see it for himself and get involved as well, so both brothers are here helping and charging the surf.

The Project and Volunteering

I guess, to be honest, I had no idea what to expect with the project. I read what I could on the website and tried to get a feel from the people who had volunteered before, but it was still all a shock when we got there. We didn’t really get to interact with the kids much during the day cause they were in class, and because we were here for such a short time that we would have been a distraction. So we scraped and painted the building during school, but got to hang with the kids after school or during lunch. We didn’t get a lot of time with the kids, but in the time we had I feel like we were able to make some connections. Especially during the afternoon when we taught a surf school for all the kids. I got real sick, so couldn’t go unfortunately, but Ry, Jaime, Lara, and Ed took all the kids out and killed it! They got boards donated in town and had a solid hour session where all of the kids got up. Pretty Stoked.
I can’t fully explain what these kids go through each day. I have seen some rough areas in my travels, but nothing compares to what I have seen here. And what is scary is that South Africa is one of the more stable and prosperous nations in Africa, so this is merely a glimpse into the hardships that are endured on a daily basis throughout the continent. I can’t really explain it to you in an email, and may not be able to in person either, but it was too serious an experience to minimalize it by explaining it in this posting. But needless to say, both Ryan and I were profoundly impacted.
The bright side is that there really are a ton of incredible people here. There is a 20 year old girl who has been here now for 3 years volunteering everyday at the project and at the hospital, which is pretty serious bearijg in mind what I was doing at 17, ha ha. Another couple sold there house in Holland to come and work with the project for the next 5 years. They told me that property values are sky rocketing here so they are lucky they got a home when they did in Jeffrey’s Bay. When I aksed whether they were going to sell there house here after their missionary time and buy a home in Holland again. They respinded that they planned on giving all the appreciated value of their home to the project when they sold and start from scratch when they returned home. It is hard not to be inspired around people who are so selfless.
Probably the most influential person we met just happened to be visiting the project while we were working. He came by to talk with one of the girls that attends his church and struck up a conversation with me and one of the girls that was working with us. He had recently moved from Washington State with his family to help at a church her and give his life to charity and God. He invited us to dinner at his farm outside of J Bay with some of the local members of the church as well. It was really incredible, because we got to hear first hand what was happening in the township (the ghetto here) and what the major problems facing the community were. We met one couple, Keith and Marlene, who had recently lost their only son, and decided to open their home to some local children who were being abused or whose lives were in danger. Many of the stories were even harder to digest, but too intese to go into now.
We tried to get an idea for what life was like for people in the township and for Dave. Dave’s life is pretty incredible here. I asked him what it was that he actually did. He replied, “I just look for people to help, and help them. Around here it is not too hard to find people in need.” Basically he walks or drives around the township and helps anyone and everyone he can. Sometimes it is crisis management, sometimes it is just lending a hand or giving someone a lift to work. It is an amazing way to help, and a good philosophy to live your life by.
We actually got the chance to go to a church service last Sunday which was really cool. Certainly a lot more energy and dance than St. Theresa’s in rye! There was an awesome live band and serious dance jams. Right up our alley. And before the service Keith took us through the township to meet some of the people in his neighborhood and give us a feel for what life was like there. The government is trying to provide housing and infrastructure to families that were displaced and disenfranchised during aparthied, but progress is slow. It took five years for Keith and his family to get a proper house, and running water is still unavailiable. We were lucky keith took us around, because apparently it can be dangerous if you don’t know the people and cant speak Afrikaans. But our experiences were all positive and the people were incredibly inviting. Actaully, anytime I had my camera out everyone wanted to get in a picture, which made it really easy to interact with the locals and the kids.
And last week, after the volunteering at the project was done, dave invited us to come on one of his tours throught the township. We went and helped level the front walk way for a woman that had Neuropothy in her legs as a result of H.I.V., and we went to the hospoital to get her a wheel chair so she could actually leave her tiny home. We also visited with a boy in the hospital who had been abandoned by his parents, and had not had a single visitor in the six months he was in the hospital until dave came to see him. The boy has TB and H.I.V. that he had gotten from his parents. He was only 11, and his family had not been back to see him since they admitted him to the hospital. I feel like this was only a glimpse of the need that is out there. In reality, Dave is no more qualified to help these people than the next guy. In fact, he doesn’t even speak the languauge, but has found a community that really needs him. We were truly lucky to have been allowed to work with him, visit their church, and really explore the township with Keith. Keith actually said something which really hit home. He said, “That just having you guys come into coloured (this is the proper termonolgy for mixed raced South Africans) and Black people’s home up here is a huge step towards reconciliation.” For these people, it was the first time a white person had entered their home, or shown the initiaitive to see what their lives were like, which is a huge deal. The fact that we were making an effort to come to their town and their homes helped in some small way to try to bridge the gap between the races. Keith told us that few, if any South African whites were ever seen in these areas. So, we felt truly blessed to have had this experience.

Fun Road Trips

We borrowed our friend Lauren’s car to get down to stroms river, an hour or so drive to the south, where there is the world’s largest bungee jump, zip lines, and lots of other cool stuff. The drive was epic, but ran into some minor car problems when we got there. Actually, the CV joint fell out and the entire gear box dropped. Pretty standard really when we hit the road. But we got it fixed and were actually able to drive it home.
Luckily these two twin brothers from the town, Kanyilhee and Kanyhiso, helped us find a mechanic and a hostel. We actually had to push the car to the hostel, which went pretty smoothly until one of the boys fell off the back of the car as we were heading down a hill. No serious damage, just a bump on the head. Actually he didn’t even cry, and I would have been balling.
But eventually got there and the place was truly beautiful. We did a zip line over water fall and did the bungee as well. And let me tell you, 216 meters is a pretty big fall. Ha ha. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. I jumped out as far as I could, and then it feels like a hand is grabbing your chest and just pulling you down as far and as fast a s possible. You reach speeds of 120 k. That is serious. Ryan actaully lied to them and told them he had jumped before and they let him go backwards off the platform. You will see his face in the pics, it will give you a good feel for how serious the drop is. They actually hung him over the edge by his harness and then just let him go. It was totally insane. We also have video that is priceless, but the pics will give you a bit of a feel.

More to come soon. Much Love, Ry and Ty