Charlotte Whitelaw arrives in South Africa

As I first came to South Africa, I was immediately immersed in the culture and beauty of the country. My host, Tanya, and her family have been extremely kind as they have made me feel comfortable in their home. Tanya has a little sister named Marcelle who has become my little sister as well. I have been a younger sibling my whole life. This new experience has taught me how to be patient and avoid confrontation, while giving me a new perspective on being a sibling.

For my birthday, Tanya, her mother, and I went to Cape Town to visit an art museum. We continued to walk around the V & A Waterfront where there was the Watershed, which contained multiple little stores selling everything from beautiful African art to fresh juice. Over the next few days I met some of Tanya’s friends who were all very welcoming. Before arriving, I was worried about how I would present myself to Tanya and her friends, but it has been very easy to fit in and be myself with a completely new group of people. I did not know if I was shy or approachable, but I have learned that I revert to conversation which allows me to avoid awkward situations.

During my first weekend here, Tanya and I went to the Bastille Day Festival in Franschhoek with her friends. We walked around a market and passed lots of people in berets celebrating the French Revolution. I learned a lot about Bastille Day because it is not celebrated in the states. After celebrating, my host family and I drove north to Knysna where we walked, rode, and learned about elephants in an elephant sanctuary. We then went to Monkey Land and saw different kinds of monkeys as we walked in their enclosure. The week ended with more animal adventures such as petting a cheetah and going on safari. On safari I got to see the Big Five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and Cape buffalo

South Africa has a lot of country side that I was able to view during our long car ride north. In the Bay Area, everything is mostly developed but there are a lot of farms and open land in the Western Cape. With so much open land, everything is very spread apart, which makes our drive to school 25 minutes compares to my 10-minute commute to Athenian. Bridge House School requires uniforms while Athenian lets students wear what they want to express themselves. At school we must address our teachers by their last name and at Athenian the students address teachers by their first name. There are many differences between California and South Africa, but I have mostly adapted to this new place and am excited for the rest that awaits.