Rachel Vernon
Rachel Vernon
South Africa, 2022
Hi, my name is Rachel, I will be going to Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months to work with Volunteer Solutions. I plan to work in elementary schools with sports development and work in a local clinic. Read More About Rachel →

Happy Holidays from Cape Town!

Sophia and I spend a lot of time together now that she’s home from school

Hi everyone! Here is the life update since school ended. Don’t worry I haven’t been just sitting around all day, every day! The week of the 11th I have been helping around the house. Since the holidays are around the corner, we have been deep cleaning the house much like our “spring cleaning.” We have cleaned everything from the carpets to the back cupboard in the kitchen. Every inch of this house has been cleaned, which if you know me, I love a clean house. We also went Christmas shopping to gather nonperishable items. We filled an entire car with food and drinks. They take Christmas seriously here! Since everyone is home, we have all been pitching in to help around the house. All three kids, Sophia, Rozano, and Ronaldo all passed and will be moving to the next grade. I still don’t understand the grading system. How can 30% be considered passing?

In other news, I got food poisoning. It was from a restaurant that came recommended to me. It was a miserable 24 hours. Yonga took really good care of me, so I am glad she was there to help! Fortunately, I am feeling much better and am trying to take it easy. I have never been this sick in my adult life. Although I missed making Christmas cookies, I was a part of putting up the Christmas tree; it was so much fun with a 3-year-old! We all wore matching reindeer antlers and took turns putting on Christmas ornaments.

The latest update about my other volunteering opportunities: I reached out personally to the special care clinic, but there was a miscommunication with a third party, so I won’t be able to volunteer there due to the holidays. I have also reached out to two private hospitals about possibly volunteering there. Hopefully, I can get a chance to visit a hospital. The medical sites that Stay Africa send their students to include two local clinics, but I was hoping to get into a hospital, as the patient population is much broader. The students volunteering at the clinics have mentioned that it is boring because the patient population is limited to dehydrated patients, HIV testing, and common colds. I was hoping for an experience in a hospital with more complex patients. So, we will see what comes of these two local hospitals that came recommended by Auntie V.

Home life here is just different than home life at home, and I am finding myself missing home more. I am ready to come home, but I can’t leave without saying goodbye to the kids. I recently learned that there was more miscommunication about when the students will go back to school. I originally thought it was the 11th of January, but that was last year’s schedule. This year the students go back on the 18th of January. So, I am pushing to get into a hospital and keep myself busy because as much as I enjoy working around the house, I want to get out and help within the community.

I can’t believe Christmas is here! On Christmas eve we do most of the cooking for Christmas brunch. I peeled 28 potatoes! Unfortunately, since Yonga works in the food industry she will have to work on Christmas. I suggested changing Christmas to a different day, but that was a stupid idea. Even the guy fixing the kitchen said, “You mean do Christmas on like Saturday evening, NO WAY!” Here tradition is very important and will have Christmas on Christmas day whether you’re there or not.

Church with Auntie V

On Christmas, I went to church with the family for the first time. I have been meaning to go, but Auntie V doesn’t have her driver’s license so they go when Jade is off work (Auntie V says that if she gets a license, it will make her have more responsibilities, so she relies on Jade to get her and the boys around). Church was a very interesting experience. The church is apostolic, so I had to always cover my shoulders and head, and the men must wear suit jackets. They mostly spoke Afrikaans, so I didn’t understand what they were saying most of the time.

Christmas lunch feast

After church, we had a big spread of food. We had (listed from top to bottom): potato salad, corn beef, pasta salad with curry seasoning, butternut squash, cauliflower with white sauce, akhni (a rice and chicken dish), mince curry in a roti (which is like a tortilla, also one of my favorite dishes she makes), meat pie (similar to chicken pot-pie), leg of lamb, and fried chicken, which they call KFC because they love KFC here). I tried to pace myself and serve a little of everything, but I was still stuffed at the end of the meal.

Christmas lunch with everyone around the table

Following lunch, we opened gifts and had dessert. Auntie V, Jade, Hinse, and I did a secret Santa. I chose Hinse, and I was so excited because I has a bunch of ideas. He said he wanted a girlfriend, a degree, and a driver’s license. Although I can’t give him any of those, I made him a fake diploma and got him a Captain America pj set, so he can think of me when he goes back to Belgium. For dessert, we enjoyed a trifold (layered with Jell-O, cake, and custard), a yogurt pudding with canned fruit, and a peppermint tart. Then we all went to our rooms to lie down. As much as I miss being home for the holidays, this is one of the most interesting and memorable experiences. I FaceTimed my parents to watch them open gifts and read the Christmas story.

Today is what they call boxing day. This is an old tradition where people used to go to the beach, have a little to drink, and box. Although there is no more boxing, people wake up before sunrise to get to the beach to get a spot for the day. Since we have a pool, we stayed at home. We also invited friends over to bring their leftovers to have a friend’s Christmas. I even tried cows tongue... wasn’t too bad.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are not freezing with the crazy cold weather there!

Geseënde Kersfees! (Merry Christmas in Afrikaans)

One thought on “Happy Holidays from Cape Town!”

  1. Hello Rachel! Merry Christmas! It seems you have been learning about customs in South Africa in an up-close and personal way. That is the best way. I like their idea of deep cleaning, but I usually do some of that in the winter since I am home most of the time. I was very interested to see and hear about their Christmas food. I imagine you have had a good time trying lots of food that you have not had before. Since you tried cow’s tongue I think you are very brave!! I am so glad you were able to Facetime with your family. Enjoy your last few weeks in Africa! Love, Pa and Grandma

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