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Gail Exchange - South Africa

We arrived late on Tuesday night and headed straight to the hotel.  We awoke, refreshed, showered and ready to explore this beautiful city.  The sun was shining and we had an amazing gondola ride up the 1000m high Table Mountain overlooking the city.  The view was breathtaking! We then headed to District 6 where Coloureds and Blacks were forcibly removed to make way for Whites wanting to live close to the city centre and to ensure all different ethnic groups were separated under the apartheid system.  It was depressing that such a thing could happen to everyday law abiding families and communities.  Our final destination for the day was Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.  We learned a lot about the conditions they lived in – cold, wet, hard labour, terrible food and the struggle to gain more rights.  The island is now a heritage site and we saw an old leprosy centre (which was what the island was first used for).  After a rough ride back on the ferry we did some retail therapy and headed home.

On our second day (another stunning sunny day), we drove up the coast to Cape Point.  After a visit to a small local market, we climbed up to the lighthouse in Cape Point and saw lots of baboons along the way, which was fun.  After fish and chips for lunch at Simons Town we saw 100’s of penguins (such as the Rock Hopper) and drove around the beautiful coastline in the afternoon.  The coastline is very beautiful, and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet here. We saw Mr V’s old Primary School that he was the Principal of, which was nice.  We also briefly saw our friends from Kimball Union who were also in Cape Town doing a tour of the coast. 

Our third day was dedicated to visiting 2 particular ‘development projects’ that help people  in the townships. We first visited a project helping families grow vegetables to eat healthy foods and / or sell to earn extra money.  It was called “Soil for Life” and we learned a little about how all sorts of everyday objects can be used to help gardens grow.  After lunch, we visited a Day Care centre, that looks after 27 children from babies until 6 years old – children that need to be separated from their families for a while, until they can look after them better. The centre was supported by an NGO called “New Kids on the Block” – a group of friends that help renovate child care facilities.  We played with the children in the afternoon and performed some songs and played games before we left.  Everyone loved meeting the kids and spending time with them.  It was also interesting to hear how at risk children are cared for in South Africa – the rules are very strict.  It was a special day, driving through the townships, seeing the formal and informal housing communities and getting a better picture of life here in Cape Town.  We finished the day with a dinner at a restaurant called “Gold” which had a drumming workshop before our 11 course meal – small tapa style dishes from all over Africa – it was amazing music, face painting, drumming, dancing and a very scary ‘puppet’ person that gave everyone a fright!  We met up with Kimball Union Academy again for this experience.   

Our final 4th day in Cape Town was a free day – for everyone to do something they were interested in.  The weather turned bad, and much needed rain fell today – there is a huge water shortage in Cape Town (Level 4) .   Greer and Evelyn went to the Heart Transplant museum and learned all about the very first heart transplant that happened here in South Africa. The team spent the afternoon in the waterfront enjoying the shopping and different activities available.  One highlight was the dog adoption stand, with lots of cute dogs, here at the Waterfront, needing adoption.  We patted and cuddled them which was lots of fun.  We walked back to La Splendida Hotel in the rain, laughing and enjoying the windy coastline experience!

A 7am wake up call as we head to the airport – home we go!

Final thoughts

South Africa has been amazing - here are some of our final thoughts about what we have learned from this trip and what we have enjoyed the most….

Ms Sarah Wakeford – I have learned that young people can connect and make friends instantly when given the opportunity.  While it may seem like they are connected to their phones, that doesn’t mean they can’t make powerful and wonderful friendships with people from all over the world when given the chance.   The highlight for me was our “end of convention party”, great music, awesome energy, a powerful message and lots of fun – just what GAIL is all about!

Taylor - Along this journey I have really discovered myself and what it means to be a part of a culturally diverse group of friends. GAIL is something I will definitely keep close to my heart forever and will never forget all the amazing connections I have made. Creating wonderful memories with strangers on the first day that over this short journey have soon blossomed into loving, caring, friendships. The energy, vibes, music and laughs were defiantly the highlights of this trip. If there was another chance to take part in a GAIL convention I would take up the offer in a heartbeat because from what I have learnt, GAIL has really helped to shape me as a person and shaped my views on the rest of the world.

Evelyn – From this experience, I have learned how such diverse cultures can come together and bond so strongly in a short amount of time. GAIL was definitely a once in a life time experience that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life. Being able to form friendships with people from around the world is definitely a valuable asset in terms of knowing about their culture, their life and experiencing how other people live their day to day lives. After GAIL, I was disheartened, yet interested to see what a typical lifestyle is like for a South African and comparing socioeconomic groups as we travelled from Johannesburg to Kruger and to Cape Town. Nevertheless, this trip has been unforgettable and I hope that many others are given the chance to experience something so worthwhile and humbling.

Mr Andre van den Bergh - A highlight for me was to see how our students looked after each other during this trip.  We all enjoyed doing the activities together.  They were interested and engaged. When we gave them to option of downtime as they were quite tired, they opted instead for one last experience before going home. They will return very tired but richer in so many ways.

Arianna – A highlight for me was on the first Saturday when we arrived at Prestige, and we had just met everyone who had arrived. All the girls were gathered in the lounge of our dorm, and we started talking to each other. It was so much fun hearing the different accents and meeting everyone else from all the different schools at the GAIL convention.

Emily - One of the main highlights of the trip for me was being immersed in such a different culture to what I’m used to, and learning about it. I absolutely fell in love with South Africa’s people, culture, and landscape which I encountered at the conference, and during the rest of the trip. GAIL deepened my understanding of the world and showed me that people from such different backgrounds can connect easily and make long-lasting friendships.

Greer - Honestly the whole experience of travelling to South Africa was something that has changed my perspective on life. Probably my favourite day was on the Monday of the convention, when we went to the Cradle of Human Kind. Here I became good friends with a girl from Australia called Rikki. Not only this, we learnt about the human races’ early beginnings and linking this to the theme of Ubuntu. Because of this I appreciated the whole expedition of the day more because of my newfound companion.

Shania -  GAIL has been the best experience of my life so far. It was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the Friday when we arrived and went to Gold Reef City. The rollercoasters were great. I also really liked watching the debates on the last full day at Prestige School. They were quite funny and kept me interested. Everyone got along so well and it was honestly such a good experience.

Ginevee – I’m so happy that I was able to take part in this amazing experience. I have enjoyed it so much and it was everything I expected it to be and more. For me one of the best parts was meeting and getting to know everyone from all over the world and making life-long friends. Another highlight for me was the service day where we visited a child foster centre. I really enjoyed playing with the kids because when I’m older I want to work with children.

Nathan – I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, it has taught me many things and I have had a great time. One of my favourite things was Table Mountain, I loved seeing the stunning views and it was cool to visit a modern natural world wonder. Overall, the whole trip has been a great experience.

Ben - Words can’t describe my time on this trip. From the relationships we have built to the experiences we have had together with everyone from all parts of the world.  The experiences we were exposed to at Prestige College challenged my thinking and what I have learnt through the process of learning and bonding is that this international community has changed me forever.