Hello from Cape Town!

Blog post – Cape town

Hello All! I’ve landed safely in South Africa, and after a 14 hr flight, I can safely say that airplane seats may not be one of the more comfortable creations of mankind. Cramped legs aside, South Africa is gorgeous! I flew into Johannesburg, then took a connecting flight into Cape Town, and the drive to the hotel where I’m staying was breathtaking. As you may know, the soccer World Cup was held all over South Africa last year, so the roads were amazing, and I was able to catch a glimpse of one of the stadiums used.

Cape Town was the first stop on the journey, and we started the program by visiting Robbsen Island, the prison where many of South Africa’s political prisoners were kept. About a 15 minute ferry ride from Cape Town, the island was originally barren, and has a long history of being used as a dumping ground of unwanted peoples. We toured the prison and island, and learned much of its history. As surreal as it was to see the prison cell where Nelson Mandela was kept for much of his 30 year confinement, our tour was guided by a former prisoner on the island, which added another layer of depth to the visit.

The next few days went by in a blur, it seems. We had class discussions on impressions of Cape Town and South Africa, presentations from South African higher education officials, and began to get a feel for the unique city. My overwhelming impression of Cape Town was one of dissonance. Although we were in Africa, Cape Town is labeled as an international city, and for good reason. There are Western style buildings and cars, and overall it felt hard to say that I was truly in Africa. Given the recent World Cup, it makes sense that the city would be more developed than other areas, and historically, Cape Town has been more of a destination for the world and a major draw for tourism in South Africa.

Our group got a chance to see just why Cape Town is celebrated, through a tour of the city. For my California friends, imagine driving along the Pacific near Malibu, with the vibrant blue ocean on one side, and gorgeous mansions built into the towering cliffs on the other. We passed by communities where international celebrities had homes, including Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Arnold Shchwaezeneggar, which should give some clue to how exclusive and beautiful the area was. On the way to our final destination, Cape Point, we even passed by baboons and ostriches on the road, and believe me, an ostrich is an animal you don’t want to cross in a dark alley! Something about that huge body and the powerful legs that can disembowel with a single kick is amazing…from a distance.

Cape Point was gorgeous! This is the spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, and I was able to climb to the top of the mountain to the lighthouse where as far as the eye can see is the ocean, clouds and the distant mountain peaks of South Africa.  The pictures can’t do justice to the landscape, I highly recommend this as something to visit if you ever find yourself in Cape Town. Speaking of beautiful sights, I also got the chance to see the sunrise from Table Mountain, a mountain that was nearer to our hotel, and gave a breathtaking view of Cape Town itself.

As I mentioned earlier, Cape Town was a place of dissonance for me, and one of the last parts of our journey in the city was visiting a township, just a few miles away from the ocean front mansions. As a brief history lesson, townships are areas in South Africa where Black South Africans were forced to live during the apartheid years, and have become a symbol of both poverty and opportunity for change. In the township we visited, Langa, we were shown examples of the housing conditions under apartheid, where 12 families would be forced to live in a 6 room apartment, with 2 families per room. Under the post 1994 government, there has been renovation of the homes to be only 2 families per apartment. Even with the renovations, the townships were a marked contrast to the other part of South Africa we saw during the tour and while in Cape Town. Although apartheid was officially over in the early 90’s, the effects are still very visible in the townships and provided a reality check for me, because I can see how deep the scars were upon South Africa’s society. The township visit wasn’t all negative, as we were able to visit a community center where members of the township were able to both be trained in skills and provide support for members of the community. We were able to see young schoolchildren, on winter break, learning a song and dance routine to be performed in school when they return, and a skill training project where pottery making was being taught. The center allows the students and members of the community to sell their crafts, which ranges from pottery, to jewelry, repurposed art, and much more. (Even with a favorable exchange rate I’ve found it hard to resist spending every rand I have on the amazing jewelry and woodwork!) Townships aren’t limited to Cape Town, and though they are a distinctive mark of South Africa, I find that there is much to be studied about them.

Another amazing experience we had was visiting a vineyard on our last day in Cape Town. South Africa is known for its vineyards, and though its winter, being able to sample wine on the South African mountainside is an experience I will never forget!

After 5 days that flew by, we boarded a plane to Johannesburg to begin the next leg of our journey. There are so many experiences I have to share with you all, but I hope I’ve been able to give you glimpse into my journey so far!

(Some classmates and I on our way up to Table Mountain in Cape Town)


Summertime, and the living is easy!

Hello all!

Sorry for the long delay, but I am back and officially done with one year of graduate school! Time really does crawl by when you have tons of papers to write.

But, now that one year is down, my focus is now all about South Africa! In preparing for the trip I somehow overlooked the most important part – the passport! So, thanks to the US Post Office and expedited fees (ouch), that’s been taken care of. I’ve traveled before, but going internationally is a much different process, a little daunting, but exciting as well! In addition to the passport, there’s the matter of insurance, student traveler’s card, registering with the NYU student abroad directory, and a host of other matters that go into making this trip run smoothly.

With the break from classes, I’ve taken the time to enjoy the summer time out here in New Jersey, and we’re in a nice period of warmth with little humidity. Speaking of weather and of South Africa, here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that the wintertime for South Africa is actually our summertime? Yup, that’s right, and July happens to be the coldest month of the year. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know what it is! So, while I dreamed of walking around in safari shorts and sandals, the reality will be more like pants and sweaters.According to southafrica.info, the weather will be dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights, so its similar to the fall. (I’m packing a pair of shorts in case we get a hot day!)

I’m actually more a mild climate person, give me a little bit of warmth and I’m happy. So, I’m making sure I enjoy the warm weather out here before heading off into the South African winter!

What season do you prefer the most? And have you traveled anywhere where the climate is drastically different from where you came from? How did you deal with it?


We’re mobile!

Hey everyone! Happy Sunday and Happy Mother’s day to all you mothers out there!

I’m excited to let you all know that I can now post via Blackberry, gotta love technology!

I’m currently in a Panera in Hoboken ‘studying'(eating lunch) and people watching. A friend of mine that traveled all over Europe for 2.5 months recently let me in on a traveler’s secret: coffee shops and the like are great places to really get to know an area. People are relaxed, and the true community vibe can be seen. Hopefully there’ll be an opportunity to get the coffee shop experience at least once in South Africa.

Well, this paper won’t write itself (nor this sandwich eat itself), so I gotta go!

Have you visited a coffee shop recently? Try it sometime, its quite fun!



57 Days…

Happy Saturday everyone! Thank you to everyone that has donated, sent words of encouragement, and checked out the blog and twitter, I appreciate the support!

Currently in the middle of finals, so this post is short and sweet: 57 days left until I hop on the plane for South Africa! Here are some pictures of what I hope to see:


Beautiful right?! I’ll be visiting schools and universities while in South Africa, but I hope to get the chance to explore the country and see some of these sights for myself.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?



My motivation…


July 1st, and South Africa, seem to be a lifetime away! To keep myself motivated as I prepare for this trip, I’ve found that South African music makes me want to get up and dance, and be productive.

Freshlyground is a group I’ve been following for a while, and you may have heard of them from this song:

My personal favorite by them is this song:

And as these things often work out, Freshlyground will be in New York  right before we leave for South Africa! If you’ll be in the New York area on June 26th, make sure to check out Freshlyground’s concert (I’ll be the girl in front singing offkey!)


What motivates you when achieving your goals?

Sala kahle (which is Zulu for Goodbye!)


May 2nd, 2011

Dear Friends,                                                                

This summer I have an amazing opportunity to go to South Africa and see firsthand the power of education in changing and transforming a nation. With 22 other classmates including teachers, student affairs professionals and students, I will be able to explore South Africa from July 3 to July 31st , and study social reform focusing on the medium of education. I am very excited to go, for the opportunity to learn more about education outside of the United States, and to meet individuals who have dedicated their lives to such a necessary human right and change the nation with their work. The professor heading this trip has worked in the Ministry of Education under Nelson Mandela, and is still influential in research and practice, so there will be incredible and rare opportunities to interact with key figures in South Africa’s educational system.

Specifically, I will be traveling from Cape Town to Johannesburg to Pretoria, major cities in South Africa. While there, I will be studying and developing a research topic related to social reform and education through interviews and on site research and this experience will also count as two courses towards my masters degree in Higher Education. As I explore the path for my future career, I believe this experience will help me find the focus and passion to which I can dedicate my life. I’m excited about the opportunities this program provides to learn about education, social reform,  Africa’s youth, and more!

There are many ways that you can help – most importantly, you can send words of encouragement and advice! I’ve only traveled internationally once before, and South Africa is a much longer distance from home than New York.  Another very important way you can help is through financial support. I’ve worked hard to cover the cost of the program, through part time jobs, serving as program assistant to defray costs, and saving every penny I can! I’m more than halfway to my goal, but I still have to raise about $5,000 to cover my flight and expenses while there. Whatever you can give will be greatly appreciated, and no amount is too small. You can donate online at www.mercystudyabroad.chipin.com/mercyworldwide  , or via check addressed to Mercy Daramola.

While preparing for the trip and throughout my time there, follow my journey here and on twitter twitter.com/worldwidemercy

Thanks so much for your time, and thank you for partnering with me in this!

Mercy Daramola