2017 Women's Soccer Trip to South Africa
Day 1 Blog
Senior · Forward
Chesterland, Ohio / West Geauga
After 6 hours in a van, 9 hours of sitting in airports, and 19 hours in the air, the CWRU Women's Soccer Team has finally arrived in Cape Town, South Africa for our winter break soccer/service trip. For most, the journey began the morning of January 3rd in Cleveland, OH, where we piled our luggage into fifteen passenger vans and headed off to the Chicago airport to meet up with the rest of our teammates. Naturally, I spent most of the van ride worrying that I forgot to pack something crucial and checking every 30 seconds to make sure my passport did not somehow magically escape from my book bag. Soon, we had made it to Chicago.
Once at the Chicago airport, we met up with the rest of our teammates, got our boarding passes, and headed to our gate to depart for Munich, Germany. The 7-hour flight was filled with excitement, nerves, surprisingly delicious airplane food, and many attempts to sleep despite our close proximity to not one, but two crying infants.
In Munich, we passed our 7 hour layover by going back and forth on the moving walkways, reading, playing cards, and of course, buying unnecessary and overpriced items at the shops. As we boarded the plane, it finally became real that we were just 11 hours away from the beautiful coastal city of Cape Town, South Africa.
Fortunately for me, the woman next to me moved to another section about an hour into our flight, leaving me an entire row to myself. Whether it was my awkward attempts at conversation or the fact that I hadn't showered in 40 hours that did it, I will never know. One inspirational Morgan Freeman movie, ten episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and several hours of fitful sleep later, I had made it through the night and we were landing in Cape Town at 7:30am. While many people on our plane were returning to their homes in South Africa, we were just getting ready to embark on an incredible journey. Although our bodies had no idea what time it actually was, our exhaustion was muted by the anticipation for what the next 8 days had in store for us.
We traded in our US dollars for South African Rand, and then headed off to the Baphumelele Orphanage. Although Cape Town itself is fairly affluent, the poor outskirts of the city looked a lot like how I pictured African villages would be. Tiny shacks lined the freeway for miles and barbed wire surrounded each neighborhood. When we arrived at the orphanage, we were introduced to the program director and she told us the history and future goals of the Baphumelele projects. We then got to interact with some of the children, who ranged from infants to age 18. Although we had fun with the kids, this was also extremely eye-opening, as we experienced the harsh conditions millions of South Africans face every day.
Next, and my favorite part of the day, was the infamous Table Mountain. Wearing our very touristy but snazzy matching t-shirts, the team piled into a cable car and rode 700 meters up to the top of the Table Mountain, which was newly crowned one of Earth's Seven Wonders of Nature. From the top, we could see in all directions, the beautiful city and coastline of Cape Town on one side, and mountains poking through the clouds on the other. Looking through my photos, I realize I took about 200 of the same exact picture, but the views were too breathtaking to ignore. This was hands-down one of the best experiences of my life, and it is only day one of our trip.
Tomorrow, we will take a boat to the famous Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 27 years before becoming the first black president of South Africa. Later in the day, we take on the University of Cape Town for our first soccer match. It will be a day full of history, sunshine, and soccer - what more could we ask for?