Pray Hard, Play Hard

Alexandra Szotka
March 14, 2014

After the Naked Bike Ride this Saturday, the whole IES group was invited to go to the Township of Gugulethu to participate in a homestay. The whole gang piled into a huge van and took off to go to our new “mama’s” houses for the night. We got to the main coordinator, Mama Nok’s house, and from there we were in for a surprise. A second after we all put our bags down, a million kids charged at us from the front yard.  For the next two hours, at least 20 kids where constantly playing, charging, hanging or attacking me at all times. All the mamas were supposed to come to pick up their students, but Payal and I’s mama was really late to pick us up.

Apparently I am actually in Japan?!?

Payal and I in front of our house!

The sad, sad type of areas that kids play in…

The neighborhood

When she finally picked us up, we were sad to leave all of the neighborhood kids even though we were exhausted. We jumped into our Mama’s car and drove not even a quarter of a mile down the street to our house for the night. The exterior of the house was much nicer than some of the more shack-like structures that are a common place in the townships. From what I could gather, our family had worked very hard to earn enough money to be able to buy this type of house. Sadly our mama didn’t speak English all too great, so we spent most of the night playing with the little man of the house named Seetoe. This definitely isn’t the way that you spell it, but that is the best I can do.

Our number one fan: SEEKO!

We basically had to do whatever Seeco said. When he said “let’s go on a walk” that somehow turned into running laps, we just had to go with it. Or when he made us play a very twisted play shooting game, we had to suck it up and accept death by machine gun. It would be an understatement if we said we were tired by the time dinner rolled around. Our big sister Natasha made us a vegetarian meal of “pop” which is basically ground up maize that looks like grits or cream of wheat and lacks much taste. In addition to that we had carrots, cabbage, and some sort of sauce. After dinner our dad came home and we heard all about the crazy things he sees in his job as undertaker. He also happened to be a pastor, but sadly the company we were with didn’t allow us to go with them to their church the next day. The rest of the night we talked on and off with Natasha and Mama about how expensive college was in the U.S, divorce and Indian arranged marriage. These were all very strange topics, but ones that we all were somehow interested in. Eventually, our younger sister Seto, who was 15, had us watch Vampire Diaries with her, which was funny because even though it is a U.S. series, I haven’t ever watched it in the U.S. By the time 10 o’clock rolled around we were ready for bed. We took some last minute pictures with the family and then hit the hay.

Our Papa!

Our Mama and Papa!


Baby Payal and I!

The family, minus about 5 people!

The next morning we woke up at 8:30 in a state of panic. For some reason both Payal and I were EXTREMELY sore when we woke up. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong until we realized we were probably sore from the hundreds of kids who had just hung off of us the day before. We quickly got dressed in our Sunday best and had a quick breakfast of cereal. I was expecting the cereal that we have in the states, but instead I saw two granola bars sitting in a bowl with a pitcher of milk beside it. I surveyed the situation and waited to see what Seeco would do. He poured the milk into his bowl and then used his spoon to crush up the bars into small pieces to create our type of cereal. I followed his example and ate every last bite. Our family then walked us back over to Mama Nok’s house to join up with everyone for church. We said by to our family and then we looked around Mama Nok’s jewelry store, which featured necklaces, bracelets and earrings that she had made herself to help support her family. After satisfying my shopaholic tendencies and buying not just a necklace, but a necklace and a set of earrings, the whole group walked down the road to the local church. Now I expected a huge church full of loud Gospel music and a really great sermon, however what I got had a very missionary vibe. We only sang a couple of low-key songs at the beginning and then we proceeded to listen to the white pastor preach for 2 hours. By the time he was done even his OWN congregation was falling asleep. I did find it really cool that there was a man that translated the whole sermon into Xhosa for the primarily Xhosa audience. I think the main reason that the church wasn’t my cup of tea was because the pastor did seem very relatable to the audience. There church didn’t really have a community feel to it and that made me kind of sad. If the congregation had more say, I think that all the members would feel more at home at church.


A vegetarian’s worst nightmare! AHHH

Lily eating like a pro!


After church we all walked on over to “Mzoli’s” which is a well-known braai (South African BBQ) restaurant in the Gugulethu Township, known for its great assortment of meat. Luckily, being a vegetarian wasn’t so bad because the four other vegetarians and I received a huge platter of assorted veggies and fake sausage that was probably even more delicious than the meat. My favorite part of the meal was the “fat buns” which are these doughnut-like creations. Basically a yummy fried dough roll. After we all ate, we walked on over to the dance floor and had the time of our lives. I LOVE to dance, so the general vibe of this place was a perfect match for me. Even though we all wanted to stay longer, we ventured out to the van that was set to bring us home at 3pm, and as we drove back to our flat, I was thankful for a very successful weekend.

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Alexandra Szotka

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alexa is a sophomore at Ithaca College studying both Public Health and Politics, while also hoping to dapple in her new found interest in gender studies. She grew up in Windsor, Connecticut, famous for being the first town in Connecticut. When Alexa doesn&#39;t have her nose in a book, she can be found singing, eating (especially anything pumpkin), being sarcastic or exploring the fantastic world that we are lucky enough to call home. Studying in Cape Town in a dream come true, and Alexa is ready and willing to soak up every last bit of adventure that comes her way!</span></p>

2014 Spring
Home University:
Ithaca College
Health Studies
Political Science
Explore Blogs