and... We're off!
The study abroad trip to South Africa has finally reached its departure period. The group is assembled at the airport and ready to get this semester of cultural learning underway. Of course like any trip it had its hiccups. A few lost reservations according to the airline corrected by lots of running around. An attempt at causing an international situation with one lady's mistake of attempting to bring modeling supplies in their carry on, knives are a no no Glenda. Along with the general lack of directional skills from an Eagle Scout. Can read a map out in the wild but cannot seem to understand that the boarding pass actually tells you were you should be so you do not walk around for two hours hoping for rescue. This must be the reason for the three hour early arrival.
At last though the group is assembled and in the right location, after a short covert mission from Glenda. (pictured below) We're Off!
Written by Sean Howard
Photos by Glenda Fletcher
Greetings from Germany
The first of many flights is over and we have arrived at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. Its a beautiful snow covered airport with an industrial look about it. (check it out below) The most dreaded leg of the trip is upon us, the twelve hour wait until the next flight. Its a warm -6 degrees Celsius or 21 degrees Fahrenheit. That is pretty cold for us Aggies. While weighing what to do with our time here some of us decided to take a short trip and visit the sites around Frankfurt. While a few others decided to stay indoors where it was warm, the sissies.
The group that decided on the trip to Frankfurt embarked on their journey to find a way to town. We quickly discovered a very convenient train just two floors below, and a very inconvenient ticketing system that lead to many hassles. After spending close to two hours trying to find a way to take a train just two stops down the line Ruben found an tourist information counter that made our endeavours come to fruition. Finally we were set and on our way, map and boarding passes in hand.
The group, having not been around to witness his previous follies gave Sean the map, of course everyone that has ever met Sean knows what is about to happen, but for those that do not, I'll let you in on the full story.
We are all sitting on the first train that comes our way and start heading into town. We get to the first stop and see nothing but little cabins that look to be nothing more than a door and window measuring no bigger than 3m x 1.5m (10ft by 5ft). It was here that we realized we need to figure out which stop we get off at, so we look at the map and figure it out and at the next stop, no sign. Figuring it could not possibly be the right one we go down two more stops just to realize it had been our stop and we must now backtrack.
Aaron, Ruben, Liliana, and Sean arrive, for the second time, at the train hub in downtown Frankfurt and begin their tour of Germany. First thing we notice, its COLD! We stop right before we go outside and start buttoning up, Liliana grabbing a Dallas Cowboys blanket as a shawl. As soon as we leave the station the cameras come out and pictures start to be taken.
Sean being the navigator decides that perhaps it would be best to just follow the walking path listed on the map as it goes past what could be a very worthwhile tour. So the little group of four takes off and almost immediately the path being followed gets a bit away from them. No worries though as this is quickly remedied and the tour continues.
A few photo opportunities present themselves and before long the cold starts to get through and hunger sets in. Temporarily the tour becomes a secondary mission and food is sought after, just so long as its not one of the many outside only eating areas. Being lucky the group finds a little place with a great variety of entrees and settles in. The bull and bear proves to be a good choice in location and as can be seen from the pictures below was thoroughly enjoyed.
After the meal and comments from all about finally being able to feel toes again we embark on continuing our journey. having misread the map, of course you would Sean, the group gets lost for a moment. Finding its bearings again though the group heads out to witness the opera house. Sadly being misinformed on their previous direction the group ends up wandering the street hoping to find an Opera house that is in the opposite direction from their current trajectory.
Wasting an hour in the cold we finally ask for directions from a kind local lady and her baby we get set straight. To ensure the continued success of this venture though Sean is relieved of his duties as tour guide. Ruben takes over and we finally arrive at the Opera House. Our last destination it is decided as it becomes difficult to open the map any longer.
After a quick stop at a souvenir shop to prove our trip to any naysayers we return to the train and head back to Frankfurt International, or so we thought. The map being brightly color coated lead us to believe that as long as we got on a train going the right direction and being the same color it would take us the right way. We were wrong, again. After going halfway down the rail in the incorrect train we figure out our path go all the way back to were we had just been and find the correct train to take us to our destination. Only an hour later than we had planned to be back.
With our adventures in Germany complete we settle in to the remainder of our layover, three more hours. But Wait! Due to a late departure from Tel Aviv and Egyptian Refugee runs our plane is now an hour and a half late!
Written by Sean Howard
Photos by Sean Howard
Last Long Flight!
Nothing can ever be simple can it. The flight finally arrives and we all settle in and get ready to go on our last long flight. Everyone by now is tired, although from what is any anyone's guess. Is it the lack of sleep from the plane ride previously? The twelve, no wait thirteen and a half hours staying up watching your belonging in a foreign airport, or carrying it around with you in downtown Frankfurt? Or the very bumpy, child ridden plane ride to Cape Town. Whatever the reason we are all anxiously awaiting the beauty and splendor that we all saw in the pictures and stories that were told of South Africa.
Written by Sean Howard
Our House, K22, Khoi Island, Thesen Islands. Knysna, ZA
The exterior and basic structure must adhere to strict homeowners’ association guidelines and residential coding of Knysna, creating a relatively consistent style that is similar to a South Florida resort community. These homes respond to the environment by being oriented to receive the most Northern exposure during the cooler months, while avoiding the hotter summer sun. The conditions are opposite of the US.
This is accomplished with a T, H, E or F floor plan, overhangs, multiple patios with partial or total coverage as well as sun blocks created by adjacent homes and landscape. The materials selected are brick, concrete plaster, some wood structure and horizontal siding. Wood used for exterior patios are not treated with chemicals. Picket fences are used for all houses, and no privacy fences are required due to the location of adjacent structures.
Construction methods are intentionally very labor intensive to assist in local employment. Exterior walls that create the structural support are basically constructed as dual brick walls with a middle cavity creating a vapor barrier. Houses have a height restriction of two stories and all have metal corrugated roofs. This creates very consistent vertical and horizontal roof line. These height restrictions are partially done to provide a non evasive view of the lagoon and other landscape in the area.
Some of the sustainable qualities are the use of local brick, local labor for construction and maintenance, non treated exterior wood, pavers and gradual site elevation that manages the rain water through controlled channeling and bio swells located in the interior roadways. Other energy conserving qualities include dual thermo pane aluminum clad vertical casement windows to encourage ventilation and reduction of heat and air transfer, all houses also include outside wash basin with a “solar clothes dryer” (clothes line).
The interior responds to human comfort in conventional and traditional methods. The outside interior walls are super insulated resulting in support walls to be approximately 12 inches wide, plastered to a smooth finish, and colored with very light flat paint that prevents the lighting from being too intense, creating a softer more pleasant natural environment. The floor plan is open and focuses on convenient access and encourages ease of air temperature control. The interior outside walls are approximately 65% glazed, with floor to ceiling windows and doors that are finished with operable shutters that control light allowed throughout the day. Additionally, the location of the windows and doors allow natural ventilation making artificial air conditioning unnecessary.
Each outlet and ceiling light has a switch to control individual usage. The gas appliances are supplied by individual bottled gas. The new building codes are requiring all hot water to be heated by solar. All floors are finished with ceramic tile to assist in balancing the air temperature throughout the house as well as longevity of materials.
A house like ours sales for approximately $3,9M. ($530,000). More to come next week on Thesen Island’s concept, unique construction methods, adaptive reuse, and environmental restoration and preservation techniques.
Reduce, Recycle, Reuse
Written by Glenda Fletcher
Photos by Glenda Fletcher
Local South African Cuisine
When we leave home, we also leave the comforts and familiarity of where and what we eat. At home we know where to go for our favorite burger or what to expect at the local grocery store. When you travel to another country, you quickly realize that the usually easy task of finding something to eat is now a daunting challenge. Where do you eat, what do you eat, and will you like what is available? When you add the fact that you will somehow have to overcome this challenge for an extended period of time, you begin to worry. After visiting the local grocery store and eating at local restaurants, I soon realized the food here in South Africa is actually very good and not too different than what we eat at home.
The first experience with food was at Pick-n-Pay, a grocery store in town. Though some things are named differently, food is generally similar to what you see in a grocery store in Texas. One thing to note is that the quality of the food seems to be better, as the fruit and vegetables are more natural and fresh and are grown close to where they are sold. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to cook for ourselves everyday. As part of the study abroad program, lunch and dinner is provided four days a week at Jaime Blue, a local restaurant here on Thesen Island. We choose what we eat for lunch off a menu and it usually consists of salads, sandwiches, egg rolls, and even breakfast. What seems to be the oddest thing on the menu is beef or chicken rapped in a pancake and covered in white gravy. Though it seems like an odd combination, it is quite delicious. Dinner is usually a surprise but has never disappointed. Though sometimes odd, the food at Jaime Blue has been very good.
New Food Experiences:
Boerewor (seen at right)– A type of sausage popular here in South Africa. The name is Afrikaans for farmer’s sausage and is made up of beef, other meets, and various spices. It is a favorite of Dr. Mills.
Coastal Oysters – Much like oysters you would find in Texas. However, these are harvested from the ocean. Knysna is known for their oysters and even host an annual oyster festival.
Written by Ruben Esqueda
Photos by Ruben Esqueda
Este año se inauguró una nueva actividad que sustituye al banquete tradicional que antes se ofrecía. El jueves por la tarde un grupo de Instructores presentó una serie de demostraciones en el Campo Brayton: un programa de materiales peligrosos, una operación de rescate y ejercicios de combate de incendio industrial. El evento, abierto al público, atrajo tanto a residentes de la comunidad local como a familiares de los instructores y alumnos presentes. Las demostraciones fueron narradas en español y grabadas en cientos de teléfonos celulares y cámaras de video de los concurrentes.
Written by Aaron Ogletree
Photos by Aaron Ogletree
Here is a Unique Story!
Meet PEGGY, a self trained artist who has quite fascinated a few of us (especially Sean.) At first glance, her work seems pretty OK & interesting. But it is only upon being exposed to the person that she is, her philosophy in life, her understanding of African cultures and her interpretation of art, does one really begin to appreciate her art and the artist that she is.
Peggy believes that South Africa is but a recent phenomenon. Each country on the African continent is but a part of the 'whole'. Her sense of style and her artistic acumen is based not on what South Africa is today, but rather on the complex dynamics that exist on the whole continent. She explained that her travels to various parts of South Africa & neighboring countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique & Tanzania have much influenced her to feel this particular way.
Peggy's art isn't merely a way for her to earn the money to support herself and her whole family's livelihood. She seems rather interested to further understand African culture & be able to depict it in her paintings for everyone else to see. There is much symbolic meaning in the trees & the shady figures that she paints, the colors that she uses & the time of the day she expresses.
The paintings portray life & manner of living this life, as experienced in the African culture. Her use of color is extremely intriguing since she has a wide palette ranging from monochromatics made using black & grays to vibrant multi-colors depicting the culture & complexity here.
Her only regret she says is "not being able to study art formally." She goes on to cheekily say that “I care about fame, about spreading my art; never about the money.” and agrees to sell Sean a painting at a much lower price than what she’d originally quoted. She hopes to make it big on the art scene someday and be able to improve her work and spread her traditional art style throughout the world.
I congratulate her for the impressive art, but more importantly salute the spirit that she exhibits. Peggy has taught us the intricacies of human existence and instilled a sense of belief and hope in each of us. She has been through several horrid times through her life and has now reached this juncture. We wish her a successful future & help in our own little way to promote her message of “one Africa” to all ‘aggies’ back at home.
Written by Akshay Sangolli
Photos by Akshay Sangolli
The Downtown in Knysna
I would like to talk about downtown in Knysna, where we have to buy some food to survive as well as where we should be interested in for studying about Knysna. The city center of Knysna has a nice downtown with many shops, restaurants and pubs and a small waterfront with the opportunity for boat trips on the lagoon. This place is very unique and exotic unlike anything experienced before in College Station. The downtown in Knysna is the most crowded place in Knysna. There are a not only a lot of tourists people but also citizens go shopping and visit public facilities such as the city hall, police department.
We can buy some food such as milk, cornflakes, juice, and fresh vegetable and fruits in Pick N Pay which is the biggest grocery market in Knysna. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the market from our sweet home by foot. There is one bridge connected to the downtown. We do not know how many times we walk on the bridge to get to downtown. However, walking in Knysna is great because we can see beautiful coastal beach, fishermen, great blue skies, and even wild animals while walking on the street. Nevertheless, you may pay attention to be in the downtown of Knysna. You have to keep your valuables and do not move strange places freely for safety. Besides, I will do not recommend to walk alone on the street.
Written by Hyeoncheol Jang
Photos by Akshay Sangolli
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Thesen Islands. Knysna, South Africa