Helen Thompson at Stanford Lake School in South Africa – Week 1

I boarded a 7:55 AM flight for Washington D.C. Dulles from SFO. That flight was about five hours long and I had to find my way around the trains and terminals to connect to my next flight. We left D.C. at 5:30pm Eastern Time for the 16 hour flight, with a stop in Dakar, to Johannesburg. My host family, the Majuba’s, picked me up from the airport. Here they drive on the left side of the road and the drivers are on the right, which was very disconcerting the first time I sat in the front seat.

Chikho, my host, and her dad and cousin took me out to dinner that first night. The next morning we went to Good Friday services in a Presbyterian church in a township, which was quite an experience. There was a lot of singing and clapping and a bit of dancing. I even had to introduce myself to the entire congregation. Almost everything was spoken in Tonga, one of South Africa’s 11 languages. I met Chikho’s father’s side of the family and we had a barbeque, or a bry as they call it here. I ate a traditional staple called “pap” which is basically boiled corn flour and water.

Over the weekend, we went to the Sterkfontein caves, where the most complete “Australopithecus africanus” skull was found. I went with Chikho’s aunt, uncle, and cousin on the tour where we saw an underground lake. On Sunday we went to Easter services with Chikho’s aunt at the Anglican Church. We also went to the Apartheid Museum, the Mandela House, the Hector Peterson Museum, and Soheto. We had a chill day on Monday, in a “location” which is more open with large parks and low, smaller buildings. In the park there was a small stand where a guy would fix your shoes or sell you fruit.

On Tuesday we had a long drive up to school in the Limpopo Province. Stanford Lake College is mostly a boarding school and Chikho and I board during the week and go back to an aunts house with 2 other cousins on the weekend. We somehow fit all of our things into the back of our pickup truck and drove to school from Aunt’s house to move into the dorms. Here they call the dorms the “hostel” our Hostel’s name is Ken Shuter House. There are girls in grades 8-12 here and I will be rooming with another exchange from India who gets here next week. Here there a lot of rules, like even your hairbands have to be a certain color! Everyone wears a uniform of a skirt, tights, black shoes, collared uniform shirt, ties, sweaters and blazers. I look kind of silly in my jeans and t-shirt so I bought a uniform shirt or two to fit in. Today, Wednesday was the first day of school. We had a tea break midway through the morning and on Wednesdays school gets out early, so I just chill out in the hostel. Classes are very different especially because it is so formal, every teacher is referred to as Ma’am or Sir. I hope to try out for some sort of sport, such as netball soon.

I’m having tons of fun and can’t wait to tell everyone all about it!