Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...Port Elizabeth

From Thursday to Sunday, the two other COST students and myself went to Port Elizabeth. We stayed at a backpackers called Jikeliza. It was in the center of Port Elizabeth and close to the beach. Before coming to South Africa, I thought backpackers (aka hostels) were dirty places that I wouldn't want to stay in. However, they are actually very nice. Now you don't get your own room and bathroom like a hotel but you can't beat a 3 night stay $30!

On Thursday, it was raining so we went to the mall. There isn't a mall in Grahamstown so we enjoyed getting to go shopping. That night we went to the Boardwalk for dinner. The Boardwalk had a casino so we went and gambled like 10 rands (about $1.50) just for fun. There is a sports bar connected to the casino that had karaoke. We didn't sing or anything because half the songs were in Afrikaans. Luckily we met some people who were able to translate. One of the girls I went with named Diana is Italian. On our way out she saw a guy with a Roma jersey on. She went up to him to ask if he had ever traveled there before. We ended talking with these guys and it turned out they were professional cricket players, aka the South African version of the MLB. We were planning on going to the Rugby game Friday however they offered free tickets to the cricket game so we couldn't turn that down!

On Friday, we spent the day chilling at the beach and watching people surf. I am determined to learn how to surf while I am here! Friday night we went to the Cricket game with some other people at our backpackers from Europe. Wow, cricket is so much fun to watch! I entered the stadium not knowing how the game worked or if it was going to be any fun. I left a huge cricket fan. They played a version of cricket called 20-20 so that it is a short game. A cricket can last up to 5 days if they don't cap the overs. 6 "pitches" is considered an over. So by capping the number of overs, they are capping the number of pitches. At the game there was a small marching band and a concert band. So there was tons of music and dancing! So enjoyable! After the game, we went out with the team... I felt like a local celebrity with them!

On Saturday, we went on an all-day game drive! We got picked up at 9am and didn't return until 10pm! We went on 3 game drives. The first was a 2 hour game drive at Addo Elephant National Park. There we saw elephants, monkeys, kudu, leopard tortoise, etc... Next, we ate lunch and went on a 3 hour game drive at Schotia private game reserve. Here we saw giraffes, impallas, warthogs, zebras, wildabeasts, and rhinos. Next, we had an excellent dinner and went for a night drive. On the night drive we saw a whole pride of lions. 3 males and 5 females. It was absolutely amazing to be only 5 feet away from the lions and all the other animals we saw. Of course, we were sitting high up on a jeep so we were in no danger. It cost around $150 to go on all 3 game drives, lunch, dinner, tea, and all-you-can-drink! Totally worth every cent!

The only down side of the trip (giving the bad and ugly part of the title of this blog) was I got my wallet and camera stolen :( So here is what happened: Everyone here knows to leave absolutely nothing in your car because people will smash your windows and take it. Well, on Thursday night I accidentally brought out my wallet with me and forgot my purse. So when we got to the boardwalk, I decided to keep my wallet in the glovebox because I didn't want to carry it without my purse. Well when we got back to our backpackers, I forgot to take it out of the car along with my camera. We also didn't know we could, and needed to, take the radio plate out of our rental car. So some time between 3am to 6am someone smashed our windows to steal the radio and while they took that they ramaged through the car and took my wallet and camera. Even worse was that I had taken out my rent money and safari money so I had about $400 in my wallet. So stupid of my to ever carry that much money. LESSON LEARNED! and of course I now don't have a camera and lost all my pictues. Luckily we had already booked our safari but hadn't paid so they let me go complimentary because of what happened.

So despite getting my wallet and camera stolen, I had an excellent trip to Port Elizabeth!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


New term learned these past few days:
Foofi slide means zipline

This past Monday and Tuesday I went with grade 6 to an overnight camp to the African Imprint. Each grade from 5 to 12 goes on one camp a term (there are 3 terms a school year). The camps last from one night to a week depending on the grade and term. The goal of these camps is to work on teamwork and uniting the grade. Since Kingswood is private boarding/day school, many children attend the school from grade 1 to graduating. There are always a few new students every year too, so the teachers and students work hard to make sure they feel included. On the first day of camp, we went canoeing and did an obstacle course. Before leaving on the camp I promised all the students that I would do all the activities with them. Little did I know that the obstacle course would require army-crawling through a mud pit and trying to jump across a 5 foot pool that everyone fell in. Despite the ruined shirt and shorts, I loved every minute of it. The second day we went foofi sliding aka zip line. The zip line went halfway across the river. A boat would fetch you from the river and then push you into the water. Again, tons of fun. It was my first time zip lining too. Of course, I couldn't show any fear because many of my students were scared so I went first to show them that they would be okay.

Tomorrow is a short day before half term begins. There is a swim gala (meaning swim meet) in the morning from 8 am to 10:30 and half term begins after that. I don't have to return to the school until Tuesday. The two other COST students and myself are going to Port Elizabeth for half term. While there, we are going on a day safari, rugby game and a prickly pear festival. A prickly pear is a fruit the grows on a cactus. I haven't tried one yet...

While we are in Port Elizabeth, another COST student is coming to Grahamstown. She will be at a public elementary school until May. I am so excited to meet her! Our trio of Americans will become a quad :)

Something I found to be interesting at camp is people put warm milk in their cereal... maybe it's just me but when I first ate my cereal I thought I had old milk that had been sitting out too long haha Also people but syrup in the cereal...yes like pancake syrup. To me it's weird but to them it's weird that I have never done it before. I have to remember that I am the foreigner :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


What a busy busy week this has been! I am teaching full time now, which means I am teaching Afrikaans (well leading the class with worksheets at least since I can't speak the language), sciene, book education, EMS, maths and swim. By the end of the day my desk is completely covered with papers to grade, hand back, copy, etc... Yet despite all the chaos, I still love it. I love the humor of the students. Here is a priceless quote I received on Monday:
student: "Miss Heil, why do they call them roofies?"
me: "Pardon?"
student: "I think they should be called floories because you are more likely to end up on the floor than on the roof."
me: "Are you quoting The Hangover right now because I do not think that movie is appropiate for 6th grader."

The students also keep me on my toes. Since I am new to South Africa, I do not know what the students have learned in previous grades. It is not like the US where the teachers have an outline on what all they must teach. On Monday, I got observed teaching fractions. My teacher told me to start with the basics for a refresher. Well, I am glad that I made sure to have plenty of things to do in my lesson extender because when I gave a worksheet on matching a fraction with a picture (which I planned for lasting 25 minutes with a discussion), the students told me it was super easy and finished it in 5 minutes tops!

Some of my students have started a list of South African words that I don't know so that when I hear them I understand. Some of the new words they added to the list this week:

kyf means stole "Miss Heil, someone kyfed my pencil"
yebo means hello in Xhosa
skwif means skew "Don't skwif the story"
ayoba means cool

This weekend the other COST students and myself have decided to just chill in Grahamstown. Next week, we have half term from Wednesday to Monday so we only have to go to the school on Monday and Tuesday. I am going on camp with grade 6 to the African Imprint so I basically have the whole week off. Thursday we are leaving to go to Port Elizabeth for 4 days. While we are there we are going to watch a soccer game at the new Nelson Mandela Bay stadium built for the World Cup. We are also going to watch a rugby game. I have been told that people "tailgate" here too. They don't call it tailgating though.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't be dodgy

New terms I learned this week:
dodgy meaning creepy/sketchy
sho sho meaning hot
mark meaning grade... I learned this term the funny way. I was collecting an assignment from my 5th grade math class and asked my teacher if he would like me to grade it. He looked at me funny and said, "Grade it?" and I was responded, "Yeah, like check if it's right or wrong." He then laughed and said "oh you mean mark it."

I started my teaching this week and I learned a lot. I taught exponents and rooting to grade 7. I had to refresh my memory of some it and I found that it is hard to explain without using a lot of examples. I taught place value and number value to grade 5. I really liked the lessons I did because they were hands on and interactive. I used money to teach tenths and hundredths. I brought some pennies I still had from the U.S. and let some students keep them. They thought they were sooooo lucky to have American money. I told them unfortunately you can't buy anything with just a penny.

Next week my mentor goes out of town so I have full responsibility for his class! I am really excited to get the full experience! I also get observed by my COST supervisor on Monday. I will teaching a lesson on introducing fractions. I am going to bring in candy to let teh students discover how to explain parts of a whole using candy fractions.

This weekend, my crew (which is how people who know myself and the 2 other COST students refer to us) and I are going to East London. We are staying in a hostel Saturday called the Sugarshack. It only cost $12 per night! East London is known for having teh 2nd best surfing beach and amazing sand dunes. For $10 you can sand board and learn how to surf! I love the exchange rate because it makes things so cheap! From what people have told me, when you sand board you take 15 mintutes to hike up the huge sand dune only to enjoy a 5 second ride down. I am looking forward to a surfing lesson! I have never surfed before so it should be interesting! Of course I will post many pictures to my facebook!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kwantu Elephant Sanctuary

Today was an amazing weekend so far!

Last night, we picked up the rental car. It was quite entertaining to drive on the left side of the road. Auburn is the only one who can drive a manual, so Diana and I help make sure she stays on the left side.

We left at 8am to drive to the Kwanta Elephant Sanctuary. It opened only 7 months ago so they are still building parts of it. They have four female elephants that they rescued from being killed. Diana, Auburn and I got to ride the elephants for 30 minutes around the reserve. We rode with a guide that we held on very tight to! After we rode the elephants, we got to feed and interact with them. Of course the elephants know how to kick a soccer ball! We took TONS of pictures!

After we left the reserve around noon, we drove to the Kenton on the Sea. We got lunch then laid by the ocean. It is still surreal to think that we are swimming in the Indian Ocean!

In two weekends we are going to Port Elizabeth for 5 days. While we are there we are going to meet up with some other COST students living there!

Next week I start teaching so I have A LOT of work to do tomorrow!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I cannot believe that I have been in South Africa for one month already! I started my 4th week at the schools and next week I start teaching! Teaching here is going to be more difficult because I teach a different grade each class. For example, all grade 6 students have math from 9 to 10 am. There are 3 math teachers that teach the different levels the 6 grade math students are at. I teach grade 5, 6, and 7 grade maths so that means four different lesson plans a day! CRAZY! Next week, I am teaching place value and number value to grade 5, fractions to grade 6, and expontents and square roots to grade 7.

It is amazing how time flies by here. I cannot believe that tomorrow is already Friday. My friends and I have booked our first trip for this weekend. We are renting a car (or should I say "hire a car" as they say here) and driving to Kwantu elephant game reserve to ride elephants! They also have lions there and we get to hold the cubs! I am already charging my battery for Saturday. Later in the day we are going to the beach.

Next weekend, we are going to meet up with the other COST students in Port Elizabeth. There we will be doing a lot of sight-seeing and shopping.