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Spring break for the books

Alissa Gutierrez
May 21, 2017
Elephants crossing in Kruger National Park

           As winter has officially begun in South Africa, and warm days are seldom and well missed, to say our Spring Break was long-awaited is an understatement. We started our Spring Break with a two-hour flight to Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa. In only a few hours of travelling, I found myself sitting in the back of a safari jeep, awestruck by the animals surrounding me. I was stunned by the harmonious nature of the wild, with each sight a breathtaking experience in itself. We spent hours driving through the bush as we watched as families of elephants crossed our paths, followed by pairs of giraffes that moved gracefully along treesides. We sat intently, gazing across land that stretched for miles on all sides, filled with the sounds and smells of  animals hunting in the distant. This safari was more than an opportunity to see the beauty of nature’s habitat but it was an experience that left us connected to a different aspect of South Africa.

            After seeing the Big 5: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros, a great challenge in African safaris, we spent the night in cabins in Kruger National Park, just steps away from the wildlife. We slept to the distant sounds of animals hunting in the distant and rose to the sweet calls of birds rising in the mornings. Kruger National park left us filled, and wondered by both the simplicity of nature yet the complexity of the cycle of life. This experience will be remembered in snapshots of grace; each encounter a fond memory of the beauty and fearlessness of the wild. 

            After one of the most memorable adventures of my life, our spring break had only just began. After a night in Johannesburg, visiting the Apartheid Museum, we were off to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We watched in awe at Victoria Falls, truly one of the most beautiful and largest waterfalls in the world. To have visited one of the wonders of the world is truly as incredible and worthwhile as it is said to be. We spent the remainder of our Spring Break in Zimbabwe, where we were a quick drive away from Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana. These countries left me awestruck; stunned by the culture and languages spoken in countries with such close proximity to South Africa. Each country that we visited introduced us to a new experience, shifting my understanding of race and identity, in countries that constantly challeneged these facets of ourselves. This experience also gave me a better understanding of the way in which other countries view the power and privilege of Americans. Visiting Zimbabwe made us aware of our privilege in even living in Cape Town, as even small things such as cash currency are seldom and difficult to find due to the poor economy. Each day broadened by perspetive on the world and introduced me to an understanding of myself in relation to the struggles around me. It opened my eyes to the proponents and setbacks on many African countries, yet it showed me to appreicate beauty in small moments of grace.

This Spring break taught me how to live; to say yes to day-trips to different countries, and challenged me to understand cultures and beliefs that are so different than my own. There are many beautiful places in this world, but there are not many that are as culturally rich and as breathtaking as South Africa.There are not many that will give you moments that make your heart swell, and your mind grow, but South Africa is certainly one of them. 

Alissa Gutierrez

<p>Hi! My name is Alissa; I am from NYC and am studying politics and psychology at Catholic University in Washington DC. I am unbelievably excited to be studying abroad in South Africa, and truly want this blog to reflect on the emotional, cultural, and intellectual experiences that Cape Town will lead me towards. Hope my blog will do this justice!</p>

Term:
2017 Spring
Home university:
Catholic University of America
Major:
Political Science
Psychology
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