africa

Bulembu, Swaziland, Africa

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The second week of our study abroad trip was spent in Bulembu, which is a small town located in Swaziland. Although it was previously a mining town, Bulembu has been completely renovated and converted into an orphan village. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Swaziland, there is a major orphan crisis. As a non-profit organization, the vision at Bulembu is to raise leaders & restore a town for a sustainable kingdom transformation. They plan to do this through enterprise & community care. Community care includes providing child care, health care, and education for the children of the town. Community enterprise includes sustainable business through the town's enterprises: Bakery, Creativity Center, Dairy, Honey, Timber, Water. These two entities work hand in hand with the hopes of creating a sustainable business for the community. Bulembu also accomodates guests who are interested in volunteering or simply visiting the town for a couple of days. We were fortunate enough to stay in this town for a week. I can honestly say that it was one of the best weeks of my life. It was a true "vacation". I was able to relax and completely renew my soul. Without cell service, I got the chance to develop & build relationships with those around me. It was amazing to witness this town & to see the vision that Bulembu has for the children of Swaziland. We were surrounded by beauty the whole week.

I had so many major "moments" during my stay in Bulembu. Moments of pure bliss, moments of joy, moments of sadness, moments of clarity, moments of pure gratitude, moments of guilt, moments of misunderstanding and many more indescribable moments. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to visit such a special place. I am even more grateful for the bonds that I formed on the trip.

Since we were at an orphanage, I often times found myself feeling guilty. Guilty about what? My privilege. The privilege of being able to sit in my apartment on my computer and talk about my trip to another country. This is all such a luxury and I definitely realize that. Its hard to truly grasp why some people are born into better/worse circumstances than others. Life isn't fair & we all know that. However, I also realized that feeling guilty doesn't do anyone justice. The best thing that we can do is use our resources, privilege, and opportunity to help create a better quality of life for others. That's what I took away from this trip and I honestly say that it was life changing.

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I'm grateful that I had a week to practice "being present". Since I had zero cell service this entire week, I got the chance to appreciate each & every moment. I'd look out into the mountains and be like, "Wow! I'm really here". Those moments are necessary. At night, we'd go into an abandoned building with a few guys from Bulembu to just sing and dance. It sounds so odd, but it was so much fun! We'd be in a old,dark building with a flashlight harmonizing, salsa-dancing, and trying to pick up popular African Dances from our new friend Andrew. Just pure, simple fun. Its kind of interesting how we have all of these "things" in the US and we still manage to feel "bored". So this trip shined light on a lot of things and brought a lot of issues to my attention.

Oh & If you're wondering why there are no pictures of the children, it's because we weren't allowed to post any photographs of them for the sake of their safety/privacy.

If you're interested in learning more about Bulembu or getting involved in some way, visit http://www.bulembu.org/. You can choose to support an enterprise, which will flow into their sustainability fund. You can also choose to donate/sponsor a child. Bulembu brings in volunteers or interns as well. After spending one week in this mining town turned orphanage, I was able to witness first-hand the heart that is put into this place and the hearts that are impacted in return.

South African Adventures

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Admittedly, I didn't know what expect before arriving in South Africa. I tried to keep an open mind so that I wouldn't be disappointed if things weren't exactly how I expected. After being back and reflecting on my trip, I can honestly say this was one of the best trips of my life. It sounds odd, but its honestly hard to believe all that we did. That's when you know that you're living in the moment. I was sure to be mindful of the people around me and the places that we visited so that I could get the most out of my experiences.

We did some really cool things and I was able to knock quite a few things off of my bucket list. I was fortunate enough to spend my 22nd birthday in a different country with people that I'd just met and it was still so special. To start off the year, we headed to a Lion Park, where we were able to play with Lion cubs freely. I also learned so much about the different animals in the park as our tour guide Sipho told us some crazy things that he's experienced in his time working there.

We witnessed the unfortunate and terrible events that took place in Johannesburg during apartheid. As we drove through the squatter camps of Soweto and learned about the injustices that took place not so long ago, I felt a deep sadness for the people in the town. I also felt a sincere connection to the black Africans. With Nelson Mandela's recent passing, we were able to view his home and see the major influence that he continues to have on the people of South Africa.

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We stayed in the cutest lodges and bungalows where we were able to leave our windows/doors open and allow the breeze to flow through. Without cell service 90% of the time, we were able to step away from our "normal" lives and build relationships with those around us. We were able to actually live in the moment, which can be so difficult to do sometimes.

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The long drives were always enjoyable as we road through the magnificent mountain passes. Our drivers Sifiso and Musa made the trip that much more enjoyable as well. We conquered the Big Swing(18 story free fall!), learned traditional Zulu dances, got intimate with elephants, drove through an African Safari, did alot of hiking and so much more. The best part about the trip wasn't even all of the crazy things that we did, but the wonderful people that we met along the way. The moments we shared with each-other made this trip unforgettable.

I had the time of my life and I encourage everyone to put South Africa on their travel list! I definitely plan on going back. Hopefully next time I'll get the chance to visit Cape Town.