Helen Thompson attends the Round Square African Regional Conference

This past week and a half has been such a fun time!! I had a normal, chilled week until Tuesday April 24th. That was the beginning of our pre-conference trip to Cape Town, before going to the Round Square African Regional Conference.

We left school at 5:30 am in a small van and had to squish all 12 of us in with all our stuff. We drove for four hours from school in Limpopo down to Johannesburg and took a two hour flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. In Cape Town we stayed at a hotel that used to be a prison and was within walking distance of the waterfront. We spent the afternoon shopping and walking around the waterfront and piers. The next morning we took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain.  We also took the ferry out to Robben Island for a bus and walking tour. Both sites were super cool, Table Mountain for its view and natural life and Robben Island because of its sad but important history. That night we spent on the waterfront eating seafood and watching street performers. On Thursday we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium and had a talk on sharks in their ecosystem. From the aquarium we took our little bus to the beach even though it was super foggy.

Then we were on our way to the actual conference. We stopped in Stellenbosh, a little college town for lunch on our way to Bridge House School.

Bridge House School is in Franshloek in the Western Cape. Our delegation was 11 students, plus Rona McGaffin, the Round Square Coordinator. Five of us were exchange students from New Zealand, India and, of course, America. The first day of conference we registered and played African games with other delegates from all over Africa. Most of my group and I stayed in an off-campus boarding house where middle schoolers usually lived. The girls in our hostel, Huguenot House, were from two different schools: Penyrn College and St. Georges Grammar School. Thursday night was the Opening Ceremony, which included a flag ceremony and speeches by Heads and important leaders at Bridge House such as the Prefects and Deputy Head girl. We all started to learn the first conference song “Rain In Africa” before heading off to our hostel for the night!

On Friday we started the day with taking the conference photo. All of us got shirts with the conference logo and theme, Breaking Chains, Forging Links, on the first day. We listened to a keynote speaker, Mr. Pie Pacifique, who told us his incredible journey from Rwanda to South Africa to escape the genocide. We had discussions with our Baraza groups and went on a service outing in the afternoon. My Baraza group, Shona, learned gumboot dancing with some local boys and men. Gumboots are basically rubber boots (like rain boots) and you stomp and slap your boots in rhythm. We had an open mic night where local community children and delegates from each school performed.

Saturday we woke up early to do the Dela Draf which is a local 5km or 10km run. I walked the 5km, but then danced to Afrikaans music after it started raining. My Baraza group went to the Silvermines for our environmental outing. We hiked up a mountain and got to crawl in caves where you only fit if you lay flat on your stomach and army crawled. After a nice shower and lunch to refresh ourselves, we gathered to listen to Lewis Pugh.  He is an amazing speaker.  To raise awareness about global warming, he was the first man to swim one kilometer at the North Pole. I even got a signed copy of his book!! That evening we had a night market where local craft makers sold little souvenirs and they served hamburgers, Indian food, sushi, and pizza. There was also a “Disco” that night. 🙂

On Sunday we went on a hike with the entire group and created a rock formation on the hill. Then we drove to Drakenstein Prison, where Nelson Mandela walked free in 1991. I was in the group that toured the house that Mandela was held in. We had a typical prison lunch of soup and bread and then drove back to Bridge House School.  That afternoon three different speakers talked to us about sustainability and we discussed this in our Baraza groups. That night there was a Closing Ceremony with another flag ceremony, our final performance of “Rain in Africa,” thank you speeches, musical performances, and a slideshow of pictures from throughout the conference.

On Monday we had a short baraza meeting to discuss our conference pledge.  The pledge was then shared and mixed with other groups to create a final conference pledge to continue breaking chains and forging links beyond the conference.

Over all I had an AMAZING time on conference and I hope to do more!!