Since being in South Africa, I have not had the opportunity to go to any big cities, except for the one night I spent in Johannesburg when I first arrived. My neighbor, Eugene, wanted to make sure that I understood that SA is more than just what Mthatha has to offer, so he offered to take me to East London for the weekend. East London is the nearest “city” to Mthatha, nothing as grand as a place like Durban or Capetown, but it has more to offer than the rural place we’re living in, and it is less than a three-hour drive to get there. So, at 9am on Saturday morning, we hoped in his car and made the trip!

East London is situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean, it’s a clean city with shopping malls, movie theaters, fast food restaraunts, all of which I havent seen any of since leaving Rochester in January. When we arrived, we met up with some friends, had lunch at the mall and did some shopping. Afterwards, we went to the beach and then headed to our “backpackers” accommodation where we would be spending the night (backpackers=youth hostel). The place was….ok….but a little sketchy, the door to my room didn’t lock and the place kind of smelled like smoke…but whatever, it was just for one night and I have been in worse places.

At night, several of Eugene’s friends from Mthatha had also driven to East London, and we met up with them to go to this fancy dance club called “numbers”. Most of the people lined up to get into the club were WHITE…I admit, this was a bit of a culture shock for me because in the nine weeks that I have been here, I have grown used to being the only white person anywhere I go. For the people I was with, they were nervous about going into the club because they didn’t know how to dance to “white person” music…haha. But we went in anyway, the place was pretty cool, two stories with a dance floor on the bottom and a bar at the top. The DJ was pretty good and there were lots of lights, smoke and special effects. Some random Xhosa boy kept trying to awkwardly dance with me, eventually he asked for my “numbers”…I gave him my US number…haha…his loss!

The next day, Eugene and I hung out on the beach where I soaked up my last few rays of South African sun. We also went to a little craft market where I picked up some last-minute souveneers…then we made the trip back to Mthatha. Eugene picked up two hitch hikers a long the way to help pay for petrol. Hitch hiking is a lot more common and (I guess) more safe in SA than in the US. Whenever you travel somewhere, there are lots of people lined up on the sides of the roads holding out cards with letters on them that indicate where they need to go (for example, if someone needed to go to Bedford, they would hold out a card that said “XG” on it…I have no idea what these codes mean, but apparently most people around here understand it perfectly). In any event, it was neat to do this trip with Eugene because I think I got a different perspective traveling with someone who is more of a “local” than just another Bedford voulnteer. It was a good trip and nice to get to a “city”.

Upon returning home, I went for a run…this time I had 13 boys following me, I think it was a whole soccer team of middle-school aged boys, all laughing and yelling “umlungu!” (white person) and trying to talk to me in Xhosa…it must have been an interesting site to see. I will miss going for runs when people actually wait for you to pass by and either cheer you on, or just start running with you…this place is so cool.

Today is “human rights day” here so I have the day off of work. This week I will be spending my time packing and saying goodbye. I am ready to leave, but I will really miss the people here. What a great time I have had! Hopefully I will be able to write one last blog before I leave, but for now….”Sala Kakhule!”

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