<![CDATA[anna larimore - Study Abroad]]>Mon, 14 Dec 2015 02:46:44 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[{my final thoughts}]]>Sat, 12 Jul 2014 02:27:42 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/my-final-thoughtsPicture
Well...I've been home for almost 2 weeks now. Last week, I started to feel guilty about not writing this sooner, but after some tough times and deep critical thinking these past few days, I've realized that reflecting on my Cape Town trip right now, as opposed to right upon my return, is helping me to make sense of my world in a much more powerful way. Taking the time to let it soak in has given me a stronger sense of insight on how my growth experience abroad can connect to my here and now. So, without further ado...here is my final reflection of my Global LEAD study abroad experience.

Going into it, I expected this "life-changing experience" that everyone was talking about to just happen..."Global LEAD will change your life!" they said. "Cape Town is the most incredible place!" they said. "Studying abroad will make you grow as a person!" they said. But in the midst of jetlag and thinking way, way too hard about everything around me instead of being well-rested and taking everything day by day...I spent the first few days, maybe even the first week, waiting and waiting for this to happen. When will I notice that Global LEAD is changing my life? When will I fall in love with Cape Town? When will I feel like I have grown as a person?

The answer is easy: my first turning point was Table Mountain.

It was Friday of Week 1. We had just completed a week of classes. It's kind of funny; I can remember sitting with Charlie on the bus ride to the mountain and hiking up the mountain with Morgan and Anna. At the time, I really didn't know them very well at all. They were just super sweet, awesome strangers. Little did I know that some of these people would become my greatest friends on the trip.

I blogged in depth about my experience hiking Table Mountain, but to sum it all up...I have never conquered such a feat in my entire life. I've never felt such a "veni vidi vici" moment before. I came to Cape Town. I saw the mountain. And I conquered that mountain. I hiked all 3,558 feet of it. I was hungry, and I was breathing heavy, but I DID IT. I made great friends during the hike -- total strangers who were my biggest supporters. I saw the most incredible view from the top...overlooking the whole city, the beach, and the mountains. It was paradise. And it was because I pushed through and believed that I could do something that was difficult. What a metaphor for my life...a positive and motivating way to live my life. Push through. I can do anything.

The second turning point was even more emotional: The Amy Biehl presentation and tour. That was my longest blog post, but even still, I couldn't convey in words what I was feeling when I was listening to the presentation and going on the tour. Those feelings just overcame me and brought clarity to my perspective on service. By serving in Africa, I learned that there are so many more problems in Africa than just poverty, hunger, and AIDS. There are more problems than this everywhere. That is why it is important to get out into the world, explore, learn and listen...to educate yourself about what goes on in places everywhere and bring that knowledge back to your own community. I learned that this is what it means to practice global citizenship. It is our duty, as humans on Earth, not just in our local communities, to care about people and do what you can to help them. I learned the word "ubuntu" ... and it changed my life // the way I see the world. Because of the Amy Biehl Foundation... I am more compassionate than ever.

Most of all...I made absolutely incredible friendships through Global LEAD. I knew I would make friends, but I had no idea that I would be meeting future bridesmaids. Seriously.

Of course, everyone who has been keeping up with me on Facebook assumes that all I was doing over there was drinking with locals and jumping off of // out of everything under the sun. I won't deny these things, obviously...but the trip was so much more than that. When I'm asked what my favorite parts of the trip were, I think people expect me to answer with bungee jumping or shark cage diving. But I can say without a doubt, my favorite parts about the trip were the friends I made, what I learned from hiking Table Mountain, and what I learned from the Amy Biehl Foundation. If you'd asked me beforehand what I thought my favorite part would be, I would have probably said skydiving. And speaking of skydiving...

It was by far my favorite adventure out of all of the "adventure stuff" that I did. Something about doing it on the last day of Africa and having pretty much no fear at all while I was waiting for my turn just goes to show that I have learned so much about taking opportunities and not letting fear hold me back from anything. I crave thrill. It's a great quality to have. Life is too short to miss out on a good adrenaline rush as often as possible. Because of this skydiving trip {and also, I really, really loved the feeling...it was like flying...}, I've learned to seek adventure anywhere and everywhere. And that is an awesome and fun way to be.

I've been inspired to travel the world -- literally. I think when most people say they want to "travel the world," they mean that they want to go everywhere on their checklist. But I want to go literally everywhere...even the places I never imagined {or showed a particular interest} in visiting. If there's anything I've learned through Global LEAD...it's that we learn the most about people, life, the world, and ourselves when we are out of our comfort zones. Therefore: bring it on -- I want to travel the WORLD.

I've expressed such solidity in my ambition towards my dreams. My backpacking trip that I'm planning with Amber, my career plans to be a big-time writer, my goals to continue my education...the list goes on, and I believe in it all because of the motivation that was given to me through the amazing people I met in Global LEAD.

I have become a better conversationalist. I learned how to be a conversationalist. I learned to ask people questions that matter -- not just what sorority they're in, where they went to high school, and whether or not they are acquaintances with my acquaintances. Because really? Who cares? I want to know their passions, their interests, their family members, their goals. I learned so much by telling people my life story and listening to other people tell their life story.
I learned how to use my strengths to help me get where I want to go in life. I even did Strengths Quest with my officer squad on the dance team that I coach to help them become better leaders. I learned what my values are and why, and I crafted a vision statement for my life. I repeat, I'm 20 years old, and I have crafted a vision statement for my life. This class was way more insightful than anything I have ever learned in any other classroom. It was amazing.

I learned a little excerpt that represented not only this trip...but everything from which I
have built the foundation of my life:

Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

I flip through my Blue Book just about every day and read articles, quotes, and journals. I have a feeling that I will be inspired by the contents of that workbook for a really long time. It's all about interpreting what you've been given for what it's worth, instead of taking everything so literally all the time. Inspiration is everywhere. We must just keep an open mind.

Since I've been home, I've gotten the news of
both a diagnosis and a fatal car accident. The emotional capacity that I learned through Global LEAD, the way that I've learned to handle my feelings, has helped me to see these tragedies in a much better mindset. God's plan is something that we can't understand here on Earth, and that's why it's called faith. We must have faith that this life is exactly what God has laid out for us, and that when He takes us to be with Him, He has a bigger plan for us than we had for ourselves.

1 Corinthians 4:5

I made such personal connections with the staff, too. I even talked to my program director for a long time today. Global LEAD cares who we are as people. They care about our past, our present, our future. They care about our goals, our dreams, our talents, our passions, our strengths. They do not judge. They listen intently and they ask with honest concern. They are some of the best people that have ever come into my life. Wherever my career path takes me, I hope it calls for me to uplift people the way Global LEAD has uplifted me. I can't believe my trip is over. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and it will forever be one of my best memories.

It was the trip that opened my mind and heart, helped me to strengthen relationships that needed to be strengthened and eliminate relationships that needed to be eliminated, changed my way of believing everything I thought I knew. It made me who I am at this point of my life, and who I will be in the future. It brought clarity to who I've always been. By jumping {literally} outside of my comfort zone...I found myself. What could be more special?

This will be the last time I post on this blog page. To keep hearing from me in my personal life, check out the main blog.
There will also be a documentary published on my Facebook page in the next few weeks. Thank you so much to those who have followed my journey through my pictures and writing. It means more to me than you know. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I'm sad to let it go.

If you are interested in studying abroad, check out www.globalleadprogram.org and follow them on Instagram at @goglobalexperiences. You just can't beat it.

And for the last time, at least for now, I'll tell ya: Don't Just Go...LEAD!



<![CDATA[{week 5 in africa}]]>Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:42:45 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/week-5-in-africaWell, I'm home from Africa now, and I still have blogging to catch up on! TERRIBLE of me, I know!!

I'm going to do two more posts on this blog page. The first one, this one, will be just a summary of everything I did my last week in Africa. The very last one will be an overview of everything I gained from the trip and how much it meant to me. I need a few days to let all of this soak in before I can start writing about that. Give me a little bit.

SO...where did we leave off???!!!
High Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel. An amazing experience! The most perfect end to the most perfect weekend that I could ever imagine. It was by far the classiest experience of my life...and I loved it!!! I tried to take pictures, but it was so fancy that I felt American by whipping out my camera.

Afternoon Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel is a very famous and exquisite experience, and I feel really lucky to have gotten to go! We all felt a little bit out of place because we didn't expect it to be that fancy. It was gorgeous. Everything from the weather, to the architecture, to the intricate display of teas and desserts. We had champagne and a blend of Asian and African loose leaf teas. We helped ourselves to a huge table of desserts, but they also brought out finger sandwiches to our table. I especially loved the macaroons and the strawberries. It was divine. The cutest thing I saw was a little girl's birthday party...A DREAM!!! Amazing! An absolutely perfect afternoon with great food, great drinks, and great people! I love tea :)

Then we grabbed a bottle of wine and watched the sunset on the beach in front of our apartment. I took a little walk and brought my camera out there. It was incredibly peaceful and beautiful. Still on a high from it.

Thennnn we headed over to Camps Bay, my favorite part of Cape Town! The most beautiful beach you could ever imagine. Sunday nights are a popular nightlife thing here, so we went to this restaurant slash bar called Cafe Caprice for dinner and stayed there for a good while into the night. I met so many people from all over the world, and everyone agrees that Cape Town is just one of the best places on Earth. It is highly underrated. Kind of like the planet's best kept secret.

Monday we went to Camps Bay for the day, just a few of us. We had a relaxing lunch, did a little shopping, and watched the sunset on the beach. Then we went to our favorite restaurant, Belthazar, for dinner. There was a big group of us, at least 50 of us, there to say goodbye to one of our good friends, Zach. He had to leave early because he was in a wedding. Best meal ever. We got to sit outside in the candlelight and that was really pretty.

Tuesday we went to Charly's Bakery which is Oprah's favorite bakery in the world! It is very gaudy and decorated. I got some great cheesecake, a cupcake, all kinds of yummy treats. It was quite an experience. Their slogan is "Mucking Afazing."

In class, we had a presentation from a local foundation called Reading Rebels. It is an organization that takes misbehaved students in the schools and the community and offers them $20 to read a book and report back after reading the book. If they choose, they can read one book per month. They need this money, so they agree to reading the book, and then they realize that each book has a message about respect, hard work, kindness, integrity, etc. The students become better people, and now a lot of them volunteer for the organization! They came in to share their stories about how the program changed their lives. It was very cool.

We also talked about taking what we've learned in our service class and our service in Sir Lowry's Pass and other townships and applying it at home in our local communities. We had a discussion about CHOOSING to start. Giving time and energy rather than just money. Doing for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Going long-term, rather than short-term. The list goes on, but I've gained an incredible insight into ways that I can help local communities in the United States with my new understanding and appreciation of the importance and impact of service.

That night we went to karaoke at a place in Camps Bay called Dizzy's. Let's just say I got dizzy at Dizzy's.

Wednesday in class, we watched a video that I'm going to post here...take from it what you will.
The next noteworthy day was Thursday. It was our final celebration in the township. We put on a talent show for the kids, which they loved! I got the contact information from the families, and I am so excited to connect with them across the world and show them how much I still care about them even from far away. One of the daughters of my house mom, Portia, is expecting twin baby boys in October. I really want to send her a baby gift :) She showed me such kindness and compassion, and this is going to be her third and fourth ... and she's only 23. She needs my support.

Friday we went to brunch at this DELICIOUS place called Arnold's. I already miss gathering up a big group of us to come together to eat. Good food, good people, so fun. :( Then we went on a champagne sunset cruise that night! It was beautiful weather, and it was a really nice way to end the trip with the whole group.

Saturday was our last day in Cape Town...and I spent it SKYDIVING!!! By far the coolest experience of my entire life. It didn't feel like I was falling, it felt like I was flying. It was much more enjoyable for me than bungee jumping...haha.
We had a really nice goodbye dinner in the hotel, and the whole time I just kept thinking to myself how quickly this whole thing went by :( On Sunday morning we packed up and left...and I made it back on Monday, safe and sound, luggage too. Final thoughts will be in their own separate blog post in the next few days...when I'm finished grieving. Missing Global LEAD so much.

Don't Just Go...LEAD <3


<![CDATA[{the most relaxing weekend ever!}]]>Sun, 22 Jun 2014 09:23:46 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/the-most-relaxing-weekend-ever Hello friends!!!

One week from today I will be on a plane headed back to America! So bittersweet. This is one of the best weekends I have ever had!!! I am over the moon right now.

We left off yesterday morning. I didn’t go out Friday night, so I was well rested…took a nice shower…one thousand percent different than my roommates who went out and really wished they hadn’t. I was feeling clean, rested, ready for the day, and they, well…they were not. Nonetheless, everybody put on their big girl pants and headed to Old Biscuit Mil for breakfast.

It was a BEAUTIFUL day. Probably one of the warmest days we’ve had on this entire trip. It was also super sunny, which just makes the OBM experience that much more enjoyable. Walking around a marketplace in the rain isn’t as much fun. I got all of my favorite yummy foods…the eggs benedict with salmon, mini pancakes, strawberry bliss smoothie, and mimosas! We only have one more Saturday to go to OBM, and I am so sad. Best. Place. Ever.

Then we headed out and went to Table Mountain for the day!!! It could not have been a more perfect day to go to the mountain! The weather was incredible, and my mood had never been better! We took the cable car to the top, which I had never done before. Then we had a couple beers, took in the gorgeous view…and waited our turn to abseil down the mountain!

It was actually really difficult and super scary. I did this once before in Mexico, but it was absolutely nothing compared to the extravagance of Table Mountain. Amber and I got to do it together, just the two of us! This was really special because we really haven’t had any one-on-on time this trip. We made our way down the mountain, which was really physically challenging and also really scary, but the view was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! It overlooked Camps Bay, which is my favorite place in South Africa. I have never been happier! Now I can say that not only have I done that TALLEST abseil in the WORLD – I abseiled down one of the Seven Wonders of Nature!

Amber and I hiked back up the mountain, which was really peaceful. The sun was starting to set, the weather was still great, we had rich conversations… a perfect day! We had a few beers, watched the sun set at the top, and gathered up our friends! Then we took the cable car down the mountain and headed back to our apartment!

We went out to dinner to a restaurant none of us had ever been to before called Café Paradiso. It was gorgeous!! We had a reservation for the private room in the back called “The Bakery,” which was so much fun. I got the grilled calamari salad, the pesto and grilled chicken penne, and crème brulee. It was a fabulous dinner with fabulous people.

Instead of going out {I know, I’m lame, I have not been partying lately}, I went to bed. This has been the first part of the entire trip that I am back to my usual sleep schedule {fall asleep early, wake up early}. Even though it makes me a party pooper sometimes, I am so glad to be back on track. But what do you know…it’s almost time for a 24-hour flight, and then my jet-lag will throw it off completely once again.

Some people went out to a really fancy club last night, which I sort of have
FOMO about. But having this relaxing weekend was exactly what I needed to get back on my sleep schedule and kill this cold! Which I think I have finally done!

This morning I got up and went to the spa to have an exfoliation and a spray tan {my first spray tan...I had to do it, it's winter over here, and I feel so pasty!}
. Those who know me are reading this and laughing...I am such a diva when it comes to my tanning. I just needed something to feel pretty on this trip...between the wintertime and feeling sick, I was looking a little rough. Now I am just enjoying my green tea in the hotel lobby catching up on my blogging! "The Way You Love Me" by Faith Hill is playing, and I'm just in the best mood ever. This would be a great time to ask me for a favor. It's going to be a great Sunday! I think I am going to High Tea today at the famous Nelson Hotel in the city, and then going to Camps Bay tonight to watch the sunset on the beach with a bottle of wine, have dinner, and probably go to a club! I feel so close to Cape Town and to all of the people with Global LEAD, and it's so sad that now I have to start thinking about packing up and going home!

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend as much as I did! Love and miss all of you back home. Keep sending prayers for me over here!


<![CDATA[{service week part two: making melodies in my heart}]]>Sat, 21 Jun 2014 08:08:16 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/service-week-part-two-making-melodies-in-my-heart
Hello from Cape Town!

I can't believe that today we wrapped up week four. This is CRAZY! My time here in South Africa is going by way too fast. I only have a week left, and I am so sad! Today warmed my heart, though...in so many ways. Where did we leave off?

We ate at Woodlands Eatery Wednesday night which was fantastic! I got mussels and a cheeseburger...random combo, I know. Some of the best mussels ever are in this town, I swear.

At the township on Thursday, we did stations again. This time the stations were shorter because we got to visit with our House Mom for a little bit! I was so lucky to have Lee-Kayla at my stations, and I also had two tag-along girls...Kelly-Ann and Beyonce! {Yes...her name was actually Beyonce}. We ended up getting soooo close. I loved them as if they were my own.

Of course, the dance station was our favorite! The girls are so energetic and bring the biggest smile to my face. But the activity that resonated best with me was the reading and drawing. Just like the day before, we did an activity about "The Little Engine That Could." We gave the kids a coloring sheet that said "I think I can..." with a train on it. Lee-Kayla wrote on hers: "I love Anna. I think I can be a doctor. Anna thinks I can be a doctor." It was SO heartwarming!!! Kelly-Ann wrote: "I love Anna. Anna is my best friend. I think today is the best day of my life. I want to be a teacher." Teaching the girls to believe in themselves and leaving them with the confidence that someone believes in them was exactly what I wanted to do on this day. It actually felt like fate.

I went to Mama E's house to serve soup to the children. In the winter {it's winter here}, the "soup moms" {a group of mothers in the community} will make a pot of soup and invite children into their homes for a small cup. Some of these children don't know when their next meal will be. There is actually a foundation that was adopted through Global LEAD that raises money for the supplies for this soup. We got to watch it in action, and it was so eye-opening. These children scarfed down a tiny cup of soup, and they sang gospel while they did it, praising The Lord for an opportunity to have a meal. It really made me think about all of the times I've splurged on a really nice meal, thought nothing of it, and didn't even pray. You can bet I'll never do that again after seeing this.

We left that night and went to a burger joint on Long Street called the Royale Eatery. It is apparently pretty famous. I tried the ostrich burger. It was a lot different than I expected, and I probably wouldn't order it again. I came home and did homework.

The next day: Friday! The last day of Service Week in Sir Lowry's Pass. Definitely an emotional day. It started off with a pretty thought provoking class...

We talked about our values, our heroes, and our visions for the future. Never in my life have I analyzed these things so deeply. Without boring you to tears, I can honestly say that I understand myself now more than I ever thought would be possible at such a young age. Ok, actually, the reason I'm not going into detail is because I had to turn in my workbook for grading so I don't have my notes with me right now. But the assignments, readings, and lectures that we have in class have been so invaluable to me about learning who I am. All I can say is "wow."

We headed over to the township for a Field Day! I didn't have Lee-Kayla in my group, instead, I had a bunch of really misbehaved boys. It also made me look at discipline differently. A lot of these children in this township {and, of course, you will find this anywhere you go} have alcoholic and drug addict parents, and that's why they have no food to eat and no behavioral discipline. It was up to us to teach them what was acceptable and what was not, at least while they were under our watch. After all, who's going to teach them at home?

At the end of the field day, we all got in a big circle and sang "Making Melodies in my Heart" together! It was a really unforgettable moment. Such a beautiful song with such beautiful souls.

I got to have Lee-Kayla with me for a little walk. We exchanged so many great hugs and sweet words, but then it was time for me to head over to Mama E's! Most of the babies were there, which was a lot of fun. Mama E and her older daughters sang a lot of beautiful gospel songs for us, which was just breathtaking as always. We ended on a great note, and I know we touched their lives by simply getting to know them, caring who they are as people instead of just "serving" them. I really learned the difference between "service" and "service learning" this week. Needless to say, the township of Sir Lowry's Pass absolutely made melodies in my heart.

I know I haven't been writing about my Jesus Calling in this blog {If you know me personally or you keep up with my personal blog, you know what I'm talking about}, but I am still reading it every day. One of the readings during service week spoke to me so much. Here it is:

June 13

I am creating something new in you: a bubbling spirit of Joy that spills over into others' lives. Do not mistake this Joy for your own or try to take credit for it in any way. Instead, watch in delight as My Spirit flows through you to bless others. Let yourself become a reservoir in the Spirit's fruit.

Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you.
Don't try to control the streaming of My Spirit through you. Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together. Enjoy My Presence, which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace.

John 3:8
Galatians 5:22

This, to me, directly related to why we come TEACH them things instead of GIVING them things. Originally, one of the program directors thought of the idea to paint some of the houses in the township as a service project. But then they realized...that would be coming to SERVE them, and then just leave. That's doing something for a community to make ourselves feel good, not giving THEM the joy and teaching them something intangible that they can hold in their hearts and use forever.
Through experience and through the reading...I understand it now.

Last night we ordered in pizza, drank wine, and ate cheese while watching TED Talks...literally the  I had never heard of TED talks before, but here is one that we watched that I thought was really good:

It is my hope that my experience building a relationship with Lee-Kayla will be a lollipop moment. One day, I'll have gained a million more experiences in my life, and she just might remember something that I taught her so vividly and use it to guide her in her life. This would be a goal of mine. I'll never know if I achieve it, and I think that's the beauty of the lasting effects of the Service Week. It's all about the heart.

Today is SATURDAY and it's time for OLD BISCUIT MILL!!!

Gotta go eat some yummy eggs benedict and mini pancakes! Have the best weekend ever, everyone!! Go make melodies in your hearts... :)


<![CDATA[{i think i can, i think i can}]]>Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:34:58 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/i-think-i-can-i-think-i-can
Hearing from me twice in one day -- I know, it's been a while since that's happened! Today was Day 3 in Sir Lowry's Pass. It was, by far, the best day I've had there so far. It was raining, so we didn't play outside. Instead, we did four stations with them in the classrooms. Instead of staying put at one station, we got to travel to each station with the same group of kids. Because it was raining, not a lot of kids were out today. This was actually great because we got so much one-on-one time with the kids. Also, Amber got to be in my group, and it was a lot of fun for us to connect with kids together.

The first station was DANCE!! I know, my favorite thing! We played a name game, did a little warm up, and put the music on. The kids LOVED it!! Instantly, I connected with a little girl named Lee-Kayla. She was so full of exuberance more than any child I have ever seen in my entire life. It warmed my heart watching her dance around with me and loving every minute of it! I lead a stretch after that, and then it was time to move to our next station.

The next station was "Reading and Eating." We gave the kids a snack and read books to them/worked on their reading. Lee-Kayla said her favorite part of school was reading books, and that was so great for me to hear. I love reading, and I am so passionate about helping children become better readers! It is so important. Her face lit up on each and every page. She was so animated and engaged, and that was really cool. Also, it warmed my heart to give the kids a snack, even if it was just something simple. You never know when these kids' next meal will be. It is so sad.

We read many books, and one of the books that I read to her was "The Little Train That Could." This book makes me think of my Granny and how she loved trains. If you've never read it...the moral of the story is that the train believed in herself that she could go over the mountain, even though she was weak...and she did! I find it directly metaphorical that when asked in class yesterday what my ultimate goal was for my personal week in the township, it was to help a child find hope for their future...and here I am, reading a child a book {that is already special to me for my own reason} about following her dreams and pursuing anything you put your mind to. It's a simple book -- the tiniest representation...but I hope one day Lee-Kayla will read another child that book and think about how I read it to her and helped her with her reading. It's a great little story.

Next we went to crafts! I was so impressed with Lee-Kayla's artistic ability. She did not need my help, but she gave me little jobs to do so that I was occupied! It was so cute! She was great at drawing, and she finished the craft faster than most of the other kids. She thoroughly enjoyed the lion mask that she made, and it was really sweet.

The fourth and final station was games. We taught them a few new games, and they caught on pretty quickly. They even taught us a game! Like I said in my earlier post, when I talked about learning some Afrikaans, it was great to have them directly teaching us something to emphasize that we did not come to their township to take over...rather, to build relationships. It was a good way to end the day, and the day ended way too fast! The only thing that would have made Day 3 more perfect would have been to visit Mama E and Lathum! I am excited for our visit  tomorrow, though. Lathum says he wants to give me cornrows...HAHA! I will totally let him.

Lee-Kayla really taught me a lot today about the importance of making someone's day. She has a smile that I will never, ever forget. She embodies joy, and she personifies happiness. It was so precious when she was blowing me kisses and hugging me to say goodbye. She held my hand and wrapped her arm around me all day! Sweetest thing!

Tonight we are eating at the Woodland's Eatery, and I am so excited. It is supposed to be so yummy, and I'm starving. Actually, I caught myself saying "I'm starving" yesterday in the township and I felt horrible. No, I am not starving...THESE children are starving. We often forget that the word "starving" is a slang exaggeration. It makes you think about what else we might be saying that stems from someone who is actually suffering. Food for thought.

Coming back in a little bit to do my homework and go to sleep! It's going to be a great rest of the week in the township.



<![CDATA[{service week part one}]]>Wed, 18 Jun 2014 11:04:53 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/service-week-part-onePicture
Good morning from Cape Town!

Today is Wednesday, and it will be day number three in the Sir Lowry's Pass township. I have already learned so much about service learning and
how I can use what I have done to help these people in my everyday life forever, no matter where I am. But before I go into what I've been physically doing in the township, let's talk about the school part of school again. It's been a while.

On Monday, we were back in the classroom. It had been a full week since we were in a traditional classroom setting, even though we were having class in the evenings at the hostels on Adventure Week. We started by talking about the difference between "service" and "service learning." Essentially, "service" refers to community service, any one-time volunteer event, anything mandatory, etc. "Service learning" is much more meaningful. The main difference is that service learning involves the critical reflection to think about what you're doing and how it makes you feel. It entails participating in an organized service, learning through direct interaction during that service, and then reflecting on that experience. This lead me to think about what I've done in the past related to service...it's not to say that what I've participated in didn't help anyone, but did I ever really sit down and think before and after about what I was doing and why? I don't really think so. My perception of helping people in big ways and small ways is now transformed. Do everything with a purpose. It means a whole lot more.

We took a quiz on emotional intelligence, and I learned that I actually have a very high emotional intelligence in the areas of self-control, self-awareness, social skills, and social awareness. That being said, these are areas where I can absolutely improve, and in class, we learned effective ways to do so. Emotional intelligence is integrating emotional information into our thinking to make better decisions and improve relationships with others. In order to manage our emotions, we must think to ourselves, "what am I feeling? Why?" We must take control of our feelings by thinking, and then we must take the appropriate actions. This is a really important concept when experiencing something as powerful as week-long service in a township. Food for thought.

That day, we made our way into the township for the first time. When I got off of the bus, I felt like a celebrity. I started tearing up. Children were clinging to me, hugging me, high-fiving me, smiling at me, blowing me kisses, asking me to play and taking my hand. They didn't ask me for money, they didn't ask me for food and clothes, they asked for my time. This was a refreshing and surprising turn of events, because my experiences with African children on the streets are usually not with the same intentions. Then I got to thinking -- that's everywhere. People's intentions come from a wide variety and from a plethora of reasons that establish what they think and what they say. Always be mindful that everyone is different in their reasoning for doing and saying x, y, and z.

We played outside with the children, running around and being silly. To my surprise, I connected with the little boys better than the little girls. One of the little boys, Hayden, {my nephew and Godson's name}, absolutely clung to me from right when I got off the bus. I saw him crying because he was pushed by another boy, and when I took him into my arms and consoled him, he instantly felt comfortable with me. I love children, and it was great to run around and be with as many as possible on this day.

We then met our mother! Each of us are assigned to a Mom in the township. Our mom is named Elsa, but we call her Mama E. She is so well-spoken, warm, and intrigued by our lives. She has 5 daughters, 1 son, and more grandchildren than I can count. I've met a lot of them, and I am connecting with them so well. They are just so connected with one another and have a sense of community that is stronger than anything I've ever seen. Especially in living conditions like theirs, I find this so incredibly special.

Monday night, we went to a seafood restaurant at the waterfront. I got the most amazing mussels I have ever had, a salad, and a steak. We also got some phenomenal wine that I really enjoyed. It was a beautiful meal and a beautiful atmosphere. Our deep conversations at the table were just what I needed to top off this emotional day.

Then yesterday, the second day in the township! In class, we talked about preventing obstacles, and we all shared stories about some of our personal obstacles. Instead of giving you a lesson on how to prevent your obstacles, because that might be boring, let me share with you some of the great quotes that we talked about:

"A crisis should call you to your highest and best rather than your lowest and least."

"A crisis does not define you, but it will shape you."

"It's one thing to tell your story -- it's another to live your story."

"Trouble handled rightly will encourage those around you."

"Your mess will become your message."

"It's not what happens to us, but what happens within us, that shapes our future."

"Character is not made in a crisis, but revealed in a crisis."

"Although darkness surrounds you, darkness doesn't have to be within you."

"The last human freedom we possess is the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances."

"Our ability to respond rather than react will be a key factor in moving forward."

A lot of quotes, I know. Once again, it's getting deep over here. We just really emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with good people, anticipating decisions and problems, reaching out for help when it's needed, stop inviting chaos into our lives, using our strengths, and pausing in the moment. I try to think of these things when I'm in the township so that I can make an impact in the most positive ways possible.

We went back to the township for a second day yesterday, and instead of playing outside, we mostly played in the classroom, reading books and making crafts. I had an older group of kids yesterday, and it opened my eyes in ways that I did NOT expect. One of the children who was hanging and climbing all over me reeked of urine, had no shoes, and had the stickiest hands that she kept rubbing all over me. My initial reaction in my head was to panic and need to wash my hands. Then I realized...imagine being these people where that is completely the norm. Imagine how highly they value a shower, when we can take a shower five times a day if we choose to. It sounds SO weird, but I gained an appreciation for not just the material things that I have, but for the luxury of access to good hygiene. WOW. Another thing -- I saw a little baby walking around the street with no mommy or big sister or anyone to hold her hand, and cars were flying. She was used to this, and all of the children are, but my maternal instinct kicked in, and I ran into the street to pick up the baby in my arms. It makes me panic to see children in potentially dangerous situations, even if they are complete strangers. And a third...South Africa clearly has a stray dog problem. So many times yesterday I saw children rolling around with the dirtiest, sickly looking dogs. I would say to them, "do you know this dog?" and 9 times out of 10 they would say "no." Imagine one of those children being bit my a dog with rabies, which will kill you in a matter of days, and not having access to treatment. The simplest things can harm these people, and it's important that I'm making a difference, even if it's as simple as encouraging a child not to pet an unfamiliar dog or picking one up in the middle of the street.

Yesterday at Mama E's house, she taught us some Afrikaans! It was fun to learn their language, and I think she appreciated that we took a genuine interest in it. I think it helps to get on their level a little bit and connect with them in ways that are in their comfort zone to show that we are there for THEM. Not because it makes us feel good or because we will get a lot of Instagram likes or because we can put it on our resume. We are there to help them grow and improve as people, and something as simple as learning how to speak Afrikaans meant a lot to Mama E. We are also developing a really cool relationship with the oldest grandson, Lathum. He braided my hair yesterday...it was hilarious. The daughters really love us, and they are so cute and cool and interested in talking to us about fashion and parties and things that every girl is interested. It's important to remember that they are people, too...yes, we have to be mindful of what we say around them so that we stay humble, but we also need to realize that we aren't better than them as people just because I can afford expensive things and they can't. We have the same kindness in our hearts even though we don't have the same dollars in our pockets. For this reason, I love talking to the girls about anything they want to talk about.

Last night we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and I've come to the conclusion that Mexican food just kind of sucks here. It was a fairly good restaurant, but nothing compared to what I'm craving. I'm going to stick to the seafood and the steak.

This morning we had class and breakfast simultaneously in small groups, which was fun. Now we are just relaxing before we enter into the township for a third day of service learning! I am really excited to see Lathum and Mama E and see what they have in store for us today.

Something I keep thinking about...the first thing Mama E asked us after learning our names was what we wanted to be when we grow up. After telling her our answers, she went on this speech about following your passions. After reflecting on what we've learned in class and the relationship I've built with Lathum so far {10 years old}, I think that one of my ultimate goals here is to encourage him to look towards a positive future. He has a great foundation with his wonderful family, and if his grandmother who has pretty much nothing {tangibly} can give me advice about following my dreams, surely I can encourage him to follow his. The quote that I posted at the top..."We cannot save people, we just love them." In a week's time, I'm not going to turn Lathum into a rich boy who has all of the health and hygiene and resources and toys and best education in the world. But I can surely show him that he is loved, and it's my hope that it will make all the difference in whatever he decides to do when I leave.

Have a great day everyone!



<![CDATA[{adventure week}]]>Sun, 15 Jun 2014 19:02:18 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/adventure-week
WOW y'all. We need to catch up!!! It has been way too long, and I am sorry about that. In the words of Jen, "...so much happenin'..." This past week I left my apartment in Cape Town and drove 7 hours to the Garden Route of South Africa. A lot has happened, and I haven't had internet access. But before I tell you all about this past week, let's pick up where we left off...

I did a horrible job explaining the end of Week 2: The first vineyard and the Cape of Good Hope. I really apologize. That was a pathetic blog post. Essentially, I started to get sick with a really bad cold at the end of Week 2, and I had a tough time enjoying those couple of activities to the fullest because I just felt so under the weather. Afterwards, my experiences reminded me of Kevin Chaplin's presentation to us about the importance of attitude...even though I felt sick, if I had just pulled through with a little bit more positivity, I might have enjoyed it a little more. Nonetheless, it was amazing. It's ALL been amazing. The first vineyard was a nice introduction to wine tours, which was great preparation for this past weekend {we'll get to that}. The Cape of Good Hope was super, super cool...probably the most beautiful scenery I've seen so far in all of South Africa. OF COURSE that's the one day that I forgot my camera! I think it was a blessing in disguise, though, because honestly, pictures aren't capturing the beauty here. Forgetting my camera allowed me to take it all in and stop observing this beautiful place through a lens. Maybe I needed that.

In addition to the super awesome penguins, we saw baboons!!! The creepy part...THE BABOONS GOT ON OUR BUS! Two baboons climbed through windows onto our bus and started running around like crazy and getting into backpacks and snacks. They are so terrifying!! But how funny is that?! {Snakes on a Plane....Baboons on a Bus}.

Now we can start with the new stuff...last weekend: the RUGBY game!

On Saturday morning we went to the Old Biscuit Mill, as always. eggs benedict and mini pancakes...a dream come true. There is no breakfast this good, I am so convinced. We all threw on our jerseys {here they are called "bibs"} and took the buses to the stadium! In a parking lot we had a "braai" which is a traditional South African barbeque. We had sausages and South African beer, just hanging out and tailgating for the game! The coolest part of the game is that we got to see the national team play, the Springboks. I know absolutely nothing about rugby, but this was apparently a huge deal! It was beautiful, beautiful weather. We went into the game, watched as much of it as we could, had a lot of beer, and just had a GREAT time!

Sunday we went to the Hout Market. This was when I noticed that I was really, really sick. The marketplaces here are really cool, but I was just not up for having a long and draining day. I bought an authentic safari shirt which I thought was super cool {haha} and we just got lunch and coffee and listened to the bands. It was a cool experience and a beautiful drive. Once again, we had a group dinner that Global LEAD provides us every Sunday. It was a cultural spread of various meats and vegetables again.

Then Monday came along. This is when it began: ADVENTURE WEEK.

Let's go day-by-day. I'll do my best here. Keep in mind, I'm writing all of this after-the-fact, so I really gotta dig deep into my noggin to remember some of the details.

Monday: The Safari
At four in the morning, we made our way to the first stop: the safari. The trip, in total, was 7 hours away, but the safari was about 4 hours away. It was pouring down rain which was a bummer, but nonetheless, the safari was one of the things I was looking forward to the most on the trip. They gave us these AWESOME fleece waterproof ponchos that kept us warm and dry {for the most part} and we climbed into the Land Rover caravan for our first adventure! We saw springboks, the national animal, and we saw warthogs, like Pumba! Then we trekked into the more exciting animals...zebras, cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, and LIONS!!! The lions were my favorite. We were legitimately chased by several of them. It was so thrilling! I tried to take a video, but the truck was so bumpy that it just didn't really turn out.

After the safari we stayed in the lodge allllllll day, warming up by the fire, then we headed to the first hostel! We were provided with dinner and just hung out before going to bed. Our group {which is actually only half of Global LEAD} was split into halves for Adventure Week {so each group was a fourth of Global LEAD}. Amber and I were apart, which was sad! But at the dinners we got to see each other, which was nice. At least Jen was in my group! And I met some great new friends!

Tuesday: Cheetah Reserve
Our day started with the Congo Caves. We got a tour of them and learned a little bit about their history. Then we made our way over to the cheetah reserve...I got to PET a cheetah!! She was really calm and sweet and didn't really scare me, if you're wondering. Then I got to pet a Bengal tiger {pictured}...yes, I know, tigers live in Asia, but she was rescued and now lives at this reserve! She had the most beautiful eyes and her name was Princess :)

We made our way over to our first service project: painting with local children for a local charity. It was a good way for me to prepare for this upcoming week, which is our Service Week. We went back to the house for dinner again and had a really fun night staying up. But I am not going to talk about how I felt the next day.

Wednesday: Elephant Sanctuary
I was really feeling sick this day -- for more reasons than one. We started out the day at the Elephant Sanctuary where I got to ride an elephant! Her name was "Thandi" which means "love." I also got to walk her, and she was holding my hand with her trunk! It was so cool! We learned a lot about elephants, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. They are extremely smart and have an amazing memory. They are the only animal who will mourn each others' death, and they remember each and every person they come in contact with. Maybe I will come back to South Africa one day and see Thandi again :)

We went to another service activity at the end of the day where a bunch of us were playing soccer and hair salon with children at an after school program. It was a nice way to end the day and, again, a good preparation for Service Week. Our visits mean the world to them, and it really puts into perspective how important kindness and giving back is!

In the evening we switched hostels and went to a different hostel right on the beach. When we pulled up, I ran straight to the Indian Ocean and jumped in. The water was surprisingly warm. It was the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen, and there was a full moon. I think it was one of the most exotic and beautiful moments of my life.

Thursday: The World's Tallest Bungee Jump
On Thursday we had class in a national forest. It was so beautiful! The flowers and trees and beaches and rocks were just breathtaking. Then we made our way to the Bloukrans Bridge -- AND JUMPED OFF OF IT. Yes, I jumped off of a bridge. Willingly. Voluntarily. The tallest bungee jump in the world, and I did it! It was a beautiful sunny day, and they were playing great pump-up music. Everyone was cheering for each other which was so encouraging, supporting, fun, and amazing!!! I was not scared at all, I was so pumped and excited, until about 5 seconds after I jumped, and then I honestly started to panic. But after I fixed my crazy flailing form, I think I did it correctly, at least I hope so...and it felt so exhilarating. I honestly can barely describe it because it was the most indescribable out-of-body experience that I could ever imagine. It felt like a dream. I fell SO FAST and just saw the most beautiful scenery I could ever imagine. I lost my favorite headband as I was falling which was distracting, but all in all, I'm glad I did it, even if I was too confident and it backfired and terrified me. The first thing I said when the man came down and got me was "I will never do that again" but honestly, I think I totally would do it again. I was just so initially shocked that it felt like that. It was literally a leap of faith. Free fallin' like I could have never pictured.

We went to a bar after that and celebrated yet another veni vidi vici moment. A cold beer has never tasted so good. Both groups got to come together for this, which was a lot of fun. They provided us with a great meal. I am so excited to see the pictures and video of my jump! I am so proud of myself and of everyone in the group. We made our way back to the hostel and hit the hay. It was a longgggg day.

Friday: Shark Cage Diving
On Friday we had to get up very early and check out of the hostel. We had a long drive to the shark cage dive. When we got there, we ate and then got on the boat, heading toward the hotspot. What was cool about it was that it was the exact spot where Shark Week is filmed! I was the first one to volunteer, and I jumped into the cage only to feel the extremely cold water rush to my head. I didn't notice how cold it was on my body because it gave me an insane instant headache. This time, I saw a ton of sharks, maybe four or five. They got soooo close to the cage, but no scary action. It was the second time that I got in the cage {I was one of four people to volunteer for a second chance!} that two great white sharks came at the cage and bit it straight in front of my face. It was so incredibly awesome. What's interesting about sharks is that even though they are so incredibly deadly when you're under there and you see their crazy teeth, they are so peaceful when you watch them from up above on the boat. They are honestly just really interesting. I've never been into Shark Week, but now I'm so completely intrigued. It was a great way to end adventure week! We ate dinner and headed home! It felt amazing to be back in our sweet apartment!

...but we weren't here for long! Saturday morning we left for a series of wine tours literally the entire day. The first vineyard was my favorite...we did a wine and cheese pairing which was utterly delectable. Absolutely amazing. We then went to a family operated vineyard which was interesting, but the third vineyard was really cool, too. It had a really cool hipster-ish vibe and a really yummy restaurant. Needless to say, we were feeling good the whole day, and I have a whole new appreciation for wine.

We stayed in a hostel in the college town last night and went out to all of their bars. It was a crazy, crazy experience and I did not feel so great today. It was a lot of fun, but man was I in need of a shower, a nap, and a greasy meal.

Today was the ultimate relaxing Sunday. After a week with no Wi-Fi, we all sat on our computers responding to messages and uploading pictures. I still have so much to do, so if you haven't heard from me yet, you will, and I'm sorry! I also have a ton of laundry and homework to do. Service Week begins tomorrow, and you will most likely hear from me each and every day! I am really excited to stay put in my apartment in Cape Town and continue feeling better from my cold. It has been a crazy week, and I've learned so much about bravery and courage. I hope I can carry the positive attitudes from my adventurous endeavors into my everyday life. This week will forever mean so much to me!

That's all for now, you guys! We just came from dinner upstairs in the staff room -- homemade crepes from a vendor at the Old Biscuit Mill! YUM! I wish I could have written this post in greater detail, but I did the best I could. Starting tomorrow, you will hear from me so often that it will be as if you're right here with me. Keep sending me emails and messages! I love hearing from each and every one of you!

Goodnight! And Daddy, if you're reading this, Happy Father's Day!


<![CDATA[{happy father's day!!}]]>Sun, 15 Jun 2014 11:19:19 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/happy-fathers-dayWhere do I even begin?????...

I haven't been on this blog in SO LONG! This past week I was living in hostels all over South Africa, and it wasn't until this morning that I made it back to my apartment in Cape Town for good. But, before I make the longest post ever about everything crazy that I've been up to, I need to make a post to thank a very special someone for making all of this possible.

Happy Father's Day to my amazing Dad!!! Thank you, Dad, for working so hard to make all of my dreams come true!!! You have provided me with more than I could have ever asked for and always encouraged and inspired me to go out into the world and explore and live life fully and happily. I have learned so much about myself and about the world on this study abroad trip, and none of it would have ever been possible if I didn't inherit your adventurous spirit and your drive. I love you so much for all that you have done for us and given us! I have a whole new appreciation for life because of this trip, and it's all because of you. THANK YOU for sending me here, for supporting me, and just for being YOU!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am eternally grateful, and continue to love you more and more as I grow up and see even more things that you do for me and have done for me all along!

If y'all want to read about how much I love my dad...I did write a blog post about him on his birthday that you can read here. Warning: it's a tear-jerker, and he still reads it sometimes. BUT, even though it's Father's Day, there is another super special person that I have to thank for sending me on this trip: MY MOM!!!

I wrote a post about her on Mother's Day, but it was not as detailed or as long as the one I wrote for my Dad. I honestly don't know why, because I could write about this woman FOREVER. She is my EVERYTHING. Mom, I promise to write a better post for you on your birthday. But if y'all want to read the post that I did write for my Mom...it's here.

Thank you, Mom, for always working with Dad as a team, encouraging me to pursue my dreams but also teaching me to be smart and cautious and use good judgement. Thank you for your support in more ways than one, thank you for checking in on me at every hour of the day while I'm abroad, for seeing if I need anything, and for always being right there at any time of the day, not just during my trip, but always, to be the BEST MOM EVER! You are without a doubt the most selfless woman in the world, and I try to be like you every day in so many ways.

There is something that I meant to include in my Mother's Day post for her...and even though I forgot, I think it was kind of meant to be -- it fits better in this post!!

When I went away to school as a freshman in 2012, both of my parents moved me into my dorm, dropped me off, and turned around to drive 900 miles home without me. She sent me this text message {see below}...so I bought us mother/daughter necklaces for Mother's Day to represent that I will always be a part of her heart! I love you so much, Mom...I might be a part of your heart, but you are all of mine. I'm still wearing this necklace right now, across the world, and I know she is, too! No matter where we are in this great big world, we are always with each other.
Well, now I have to get to blogging about the past week and a half I guess! If you're reading this, thanks for sticking with me!! From here on out, there will not be any more gaps on this little blog!

Have a great Father's Day everyone! I hope everyone is doing something special!


<![CDATA[{...a vineyard! it's where you grow grapes to make wine. that's what we do...}]]>Sat, 07 Jun 2014 10:53:31 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/a-vineyard-its-where-you-grow-grapes-to-make-wine-thats-what-we-do
Hallie: "I live in Napa that's Northern California, and I live next door to a vineyard."
Girl at camp: "a what -yard?!"
Hallie: "A vineyard! It's where you grow grapes to make wine. That's what we do, me and my dad, we own a vineyard."

TOTAL Parent Trap quoting day for me when we did a wine tasting at a South African vineyard on Thursday. I could not stop thinking about it! Haha! Girls, don't tell me this didn't make you smile. Best movie.


Thursday we went to a vineyard! It was rainy, but it was still the most beautiful place I've seen! The mountains were gorgeous, and some of them even had snow on the very top! It was very cold. I had never done a wine tasting before or been to a vineyard, so it was a very cool and unique experience. South Africa is known for their wine, so it was really interesting to see where the grapes grow and learn how the wine is made. We even got to make our own wine toady! Best kind of class, right?!
Usually I only drink white wine, but most of this wine was red. I learned that I prefer Cabernet, and I learned a few tips and tricks about what to look for in tasting wine. I got some cool pictures throughout the whole place, walked around, asked questions, and just listened and observed. We ate pizza at a little restaurant in town and then made the trek back home. On the bus ride to and from, we listened to everyone tell their "life story." It was really insightful to hear everyone open up {especially after the wine}.

Like I told you the other day, you didn't hear from me Wednesday. We all got a ton of rest which was GREAT because this is about to be a CRAZY busy weekend and upcoming week!!! I got a lot of reading and homework done and got caught up on sleep. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner and just continued the whole "inspirational deep conversation" thing we've been doing.

Then we went to a nightclub called Tiger Tiger which is supposed to be really popular here. It was a lot of fun, but it was in a mall which was really weird...

Yesterday we went to the Cape of Good Hope which was sooo cool! The drive was out of this world beautiful. I forgot my camera which I am so depressed about. I got to see the Indian Ocean which is something I have always wanted to see -- incredible. We also went to Boulders Beach and saw the penguins...amazing!!!

I'm so sorry that this blog post sucks and that I haven't been blogging in detail this week or posting as many pictures! I will definitely be better about it like I was in the beginning. This morning we went to the Old Biscuit Mill again...amazing eggs benedict, smoothies, mini pancakes, and mimosas! Now we are off to the RUGBY game so I gotta go!!! Go Springboks:)


<![CDATA[{umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye abantu}]]>Tue, 03 Jun 2014 22:24:14 GMThttp://www.loveallthingsbritney.com/study-abroad/umuntu-ngumuntu-ngabanye-abantu
Note: This post is LONG but AMAZING and IMPORTANT. Read it ALL.

Today was one of the most powerful, eye-opening days of my life. We had a speaker named Kevin Chaplin, the head of The Amy Biehl Foundation, come in to give us an incredibly motivational speech about life, business, relationships, and of course, the foundation itself: what it does, what it stems from, and what it stands for. I would go ahead and try to explain Amy's story myself, but honestly, I could never do the story justice with just my words. If you have a little bit of time, read the article and watch these videos. They WILL change your life. This is the most important blog post I have done yet. I had tears and chills watching these videos and listening to the presentation. Please read and watch:
read amy's story here
Let's recap. Amy Biehl was a 26 year-old girl from America who had graduated from Standford University studying South African politics. She developed a passionate interest in Apartheid and made a trip to South Africa to protest Apartheid and assist in preparations for the first democratic election in South Africa. Two days before she was to return home, she was stopped in her car by a mob of black people in a township in Cape Town and stoned and stabbed to death while they chanted at her. Four people were convicted for killing her. Her long-term boyfriend was going to ask her to marry him when she got back, and she was going to get her Doctorate Degree at Rutger's University. After a few years of imprisonment for her murderers, her parents supported granting the men amnesty and forgave them for what they had done. They blamed Apartheid and its impact on the men for the death of their daughter; blacks had always been taught that whites were the enemy and that they should fight back. Her parents established a foundation in her name to live out her dream since she could not. They traveled to South Africa and created a program that would help these people in the townships have the best lives they could in order to keep them from turning to violence. Two of Amy's killers work for this foundation today.

Hearing Amy's story brought tears to my eyes for SO many reasons. I had so many thoughts running through my head when I watched these videos. Here are a few...
1) How scary and sad. A young girl, just like me, whose life ended in such a violent way. When her boyfriend spoke, I was in tears {I couldn't find that video to post on this blog, but I was sobbing}.
2) What an amazing piece of history to be present for. I admire her passion for making a difference, prioritizing her education, and turning it into a passion.
3) How ironic that she went to help those people, and she was murdered by them. She literally died for her cause.

It's amazing to me that her parents responded to this tragic and traumatic event by finding some good out of this, and living her dreams because she couldn't. I could only hope that my parents would follow my dreams and adopt my passions as their own if, GOD forbid, anything ever happened to me. It's so incredibly difficult to imagine forgiving people who murdered your child, but it's brings a whole new level to the idea of "forgiveness." If Amy Biehl's parents can forgive the murderers of their daughter, I can surely forgive people for everyday petty things.

In one of the videos, you saw Kevin Chaplin speak. He was our guest speaker today in class. He took over the foundation when Amy's father died and the family lost all of their money. Originally, a black person took over the foundation, but because Africans were not really educated during Apartheid, this person wasn't competent enough to run a business. Kevin used his knowledge of business, finance, and life to help this organization be what it is today. The motivational speech he gave to our class was truly life-changing.

He explained to us, amongst other things, the importance of our attitude. Attitude is contagious -- is yours worth catching? Don't just get up in the morning. Get up in the morning and want to do something great.
If you have a problem, address it. Be honest with others, and be honest with yourself. The only way to grow is to get rid of thoughts, habits, people, ANYTHING around you that is negative. Attitude is everything. If you harbor hatred, you carry your past into your future. You must forgive and move on.

He shared a word with us that he learned when he came to Cape Town. The word is "ubuntu," which is a universal concept that enhances the self-realization of others. The African phrase, "umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye abantu" means "people are people through other people" or "I am a person because of my people."
Amy's story helped me to understand this concept and this phrase.  We must learn to practice healing energy through combining independent hearts and spirits as a whole community in order to grow. How deep is that?

Today I went to the township where Amy was killed, and I visited two of the schools of The Amy Biehl Foundation. It was the most amazing thing ever. We actually saw the spot where Amy was murdered...
it was chilling.
I didn't bring my camera to the townships, but I did get a few pictures on the bus. I'm disappointed that I couldn't document what I saw, but I'm glad that it forced me to live in the moment and take it all in instead of living it through my camera lens. I've never seen such poverty in my life. Children, mothers, fathers, waving and blowing kisses at our bus, brothers and sisters playing in the streets with no shoes, skin-to-the-bone cows, goats, and stray dogs wandering everywhere, run-down houses covered in trash. It was just so sad, and I tried to imagine being Amy and LIVING this...not to mention, at the most dangerous time in the country's history.

When we went into the schools, it was amazing. I had tears in my eyes. The children were phenomenal at dancing, singing, and playing instruments. They played soccer with us, high-fived us, thanked us for coming...and most of all, they were just loving life despite their horrible living conditions. I am so in love with The Amy Biehl Foundation for supporting these children and people in all areas...academics, creative arts, nutrition, the list goes on. They need this. Without the program, they might have turned to violence or drugs because it's what they knew. This is why we help people. The history of a country teaches people to behave and think in certain ways, and it's up to people with a different grasp on the world to say, "listen, let me show you a way that I can bring out your talents, make you healthier, make you smarter, introduce you to people who can change your life and your family's lives in any way that you want to work on achieving so that we can reach your full potential and keep you safe." I've never really had an open-minded stance about helping out in foreign countries. I'd never participated in it. Until today.
Yesterday, I didn't blog. We spent the class focusing on different models of leadership and their components. In closing, we did an activity that required each of us to select something we're passionate about and develop a model for change for that passion of ours. Automatically, I didn't think of anything "political;" I thought of my desire to keep arts programs a priority in schools and to ensure that enough funding is provided so that children can learn proper techniques of all art forms -- keeping their minds creative and innovative, allowing them to explore within themselves and their potential as opposed to putting so much pressure on their math and science skills {which are obviously also important}. Specifically, I'm referring to dance because I was a dancer all my life. I completed two dance-related internships my senior year of high school that taught me so much about the importance of dance {and arts} education and what it can do for a person. I kind of felt stupid and weird for not thinking of a political issue like everyone else did. I was also surprised because I am usually a very political person, but still, this is what came to mind. I feel like this thought of mine happened for a reason: it ties into what I learned from The Amy Biehl Foundation. When I saw the slideshow that listed all of the areas that the foundation helps children, creative arts was one of them. I would absolutely LOVE to volunteer and teach the children about dance. I've retired from being a full-on class-only dancer, and I feel like this might be why. I love teaching. It's a way for me to combine passions and help other people grow. I just feel like it's my time to teach someone all that I know. I'm overwhelmed at the connections that I'm making here with Global LEAD. It's amazing.

If you want to learn more about The Amy Biehl Foundation, click on the link below. I've also posted a picture of my bracelet...these are one of the ways that people support the foundation and its funding,  but also support what it stands for.
The "R" stands for respect, responsibility, relationships, and reliability. To me, this bracelet represents everything that Kevin Chaplin taught us about life: find yourself through listening to your callings and doing the best you can, and everything that Amy Biehl taught us about death: there are times when people die for their cause an surprisingly open a door of good things. It's a really meaningful bracelet and a great way to give back. I saw firsthand what it supports when I went to the townships. Let me tell you...this program is molding these children into commendable, respectable, amazing people. Donate :)
official amy biehl foundation website
Yesterday, after class, we went to the Green Market. It was a traditional African marketplace in the middle of the city. We all bought jerseys {"jersey" is actually the word for "sweatshirt" here...but we bought actual jerseys} to wear to the rugby game this weekend. I also bought a pretty sweet pair of African pants. There were an overwhelming number of people trying to get coins and money from us. The city itself makes me a little bit nervous, actually. I told my friends that I feel more safe in New York City all by myself at night time than I do in a group of people in Cape Town in the day. Seriously. {Very fortunate that I'm not used to all of these homeless people}. Either way, I'm glad we experienced the market to just check it off of our list.

We went to dinner at a restaurant called Bombay Bicycle Club. It was so hipster and the vibe was REALLY cool. There were actually swings as chairs at some of the tables. The house wine was great, and so was my calamari appetizer. I actually ate it so fast that I cleared my plate before I realized that I didn't take a picture! The sides that my meal came with were broccoli, sweet potatoes, and some amazing potato concoction that was some really awesome cheesy unknown goodness. If we go back to the restaurant, I will probably order something different as my main course, though. I ordered the chocolate steak, which was recommended by both personal friends and the restaurant. A little too eclectic for me. I really enjoy a hearty, classic steak. Still a cool place, though.
There's a really bad storm tonight and we didn't go out to dinner...so I had my first South African McDonald's! It tastes different...the fries are cooked in a different oil, the menu wasn't as big, and my McFlurry was more of a cool whip taste and consistency. Still just what I needed, but interesting how such a large company is different from place to place. I love making those little observations.

One of the interns, Chris, just came in here and gave us the most inspirational talk. We just poured out our life stories to each other and talked about how we feel about Global LEAD and South Africa and just life and the world. If you know me...you know that this is my kind of conversation. I am in love with everything about this intellectual trip.

Y'all probably won't hear from me tomorrow. With the storm, I don't think I'll be doing anything exciting after class...just laundry and homework! If the class is really great, or if something comes up, I will certainly be online to tell y'all about it :)

Have a great night you guys...