aB South Africa: Arriving in South Africa ‘surreal’

Nine members of the university community made FIU alternative Breaks history April 30, 2013, when they departed for South Africa to work with children and adults with HIV/AIDS. Theirs is the first aB group at FIU to travel to the African continent. FIU News will be following the team’s journey.

Girls in airportMay 1, 2013

Two connections and 22 hours later, we’ve made it to South Africa. The trip was definitely its own adventure. We arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport at 4 a.m. and checked in 19 bags. Each participant brought one personal bag of 50 lbs and one 50-lb bag filled with donations. Our first flight was to New York City. We spent most of the time sleeping in preparation for the longer flight to South Africa. The 16-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean was spent stretching, eating, trying to sleep and watching an average of four movies each. This was the first time I had been on such a long flight, and I slowly began finding myself more and more anxious. I learned the art of stretching and rotating your ankles while sitting.

Beach group shotArriving in Durban, South Africa, felt surreal. The view from the airplane consisted of jungle-filled hills, bursts of buildings and never-ending coastlines. It was a cross between flying through Disney’s Lion King and a Hawaiian dream. Once we landed, we boarded taxis to our hotel and received a quick tour from the taxi drivers of the World Cup Stadium and castle-like mountain top casino. Our hotel, Antsey’s Beach Backpacks, is an apartment-style hotel that caters to young travelers. It is situated right in front of the Indian Ocean coastline. This small beach town is known for its surfers and fishermen. Although our eyes were bloodshot red and outlined with dark circles, we couldn’t resist dipping our toes into the ocean and exploring. The hospitality at our hotel has been overwhelmingly amazing. They welcomed us with a handwritten sign, and as I write this, they are currently cooking a welcome barbecue for our group.Amanda and girl

Tomorrow our service work begins. At 7:45 a.m. we will be picked up by a van from the Blue Roof Wellness Center and will spend the day in training. A large part of that training will include learning more about the issues addressed and services offered at the clinic. So far this trip is a balance between discovering possibly one of the most beautiful places on this planet and realizing the necessity and possibility that our group can make in this town. From what we’ve seen walking around and in the taxi, there exists a clear distinction in this city between those who are well off and those who are not. As beautiful as our surroundings have been, tomorrow will define our trip and begin our mission to make an impact in this community.

— Amanda Garcia

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