Mama Karen visits SA!

My mama is my best friend, biggest supporter, and favorite human. If you’re around me long enough, you’re sure to hear me sing her praises again and again and again. Last time I lived in SA, the timing wasn’t right and she didn’t get to come see this incredible place that I have fallen in love with. This time, I knew I couldn’t miss another opportunity to bring her here and show the beauty of SA. “If there is a will, there is a way” one of mama K’s fave sayings and as cheesy as it is, when I think of it, I think of her belief in me and make s**t happen. Long story short, mama K and I worked super hard and found a way to get her here and every bit of it was magical (ok ok ok travel always has its hiccups but it was still a TON of fun).

DAY 1: Polokwane and a visit to school

The first day my mama was in SA she got to go to my fave place in Limpopo –Boetse Secondary school! My learners were ECSTATIC to meet her. We had the final round of a school-wide spelling as well as the debaters put on a practice debate for our parents (Lara’s parents were in town too) to watch. After the debate, one learner asked to take a photo and that was the end. The room erupted in selfie after selfie after selfie. There was lots of laughter and by the end our mouths hurt from smiling so hard. Mama Karen has visited my classrooms in the past, but it was extra special for her to meet my SA learners.

After school, we had lunch at the coolest restaurant/bar in Polokwane, called the Container. A few weeks before, this restaurant had a gin/beer festival. Like who knew Limpopo could be so cool????

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mama K at the Container in PLK

That evening, we went to the infamous Roccomammas (actually just a burger chain across SA, but its the first place we ate at in Polokwane and have since become regulars there, meeting the owner, several managers, and a few of the waiters have become friends outside of the restaurant too).

There isn’t much to Polokwane, but it has become a very special place in my heart. Mama K’s trip to SA wouldn’t have been complete without a stop in my little town that has brought me so much joy over this experience.

 

DAY 2-4: Blyde Canyon and Kruger

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Blyde Canyon is definitely my (new) top spot in SA. It’s the 3rd largest canyon in the world (behind the Grand Canyon and Fish Canyon in Namibia). It is incredibly stunning and a true gem of Limpopo. When Lara and I first visited it back in February, we were like, our parents have to come here. And we are planning to visit it two more times before we leave SA. Its¬†that cool.

We started the day in PLK and drove the 4 hours to Blyde Canyon. After checking into Marepe Lodge (if you ever go to Blyde you have to stay there, the people who run it are fantastic!), we went for a hike into the canyon. My momma isn’t a big hiker but she powered through that difficult 5miles and I was v proud of her. Then, we did the classic Panorama drive, complete with stops at Bourke’s Potholes and God’s Window (we ran out of time for Lisbon waterfall).

The next day we headed out to Kruger National Park! For a safari! It is still so wild/amazing to me to have the opportunity to share space with beautiful creatures. We saw elephants, an eagle owl, lots of impala (ofc), wildebeest, kudu, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, springbok and guinea fowl. No big cats, sadly. But it was still a day full of wonder and adventure.

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The last thing we did in the Blyde Canyon area was visit the Moholoholo Rehab Center. At this center, they take care of all kinds of animals that have been hand raised (and as a result can’t live on game reserves) or injured by poachers or farmers. It was amazing to hear about all the work they do to rehabilitate animals that have gotten stuck in wire traps or poisoned by poachers.

DAY 5: Joburg

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mama K at the cute cafe

The drive from Blyde to Joburg was absolutely terrifying!!!! There were so many potholes, I thought several times that we had popped a tire. At one point, I tried to pass a very slow truck, but then I hit a pothole and was almost hit head on by another truck in the other lane! I was so shaken up that my mom was like just pull over. We ended up exploring this cute little town called Dullstroom, going into a chocolate shop, used book store, and having waffles at the most adorable cafe. While we were eating, my mom and I discussed how sometimes during travel you stumble upon the greatest things that you never planned, like a little cafe with amazing waffles after you almost died on a sh*tty South African highway.

 

So, I watched this video a few months ago of a you-tube star’s tell-all of getting robbed at gun point in his airbnb. Every since, I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little (ok sometimes a lot) petrified of Joburg. And that fear was definitely intensified by the fact that I was taking my inexperienced traveller mother to a city that I didn’t know very well and didn’t feel that comfortable in. I was giving my mom all these safety tips as we drove to Joburg, like be careful taking your phone at for pictures, hold onto your purse at all times, be observant always, etc. Needless to say, she was completely terrified by the time we arrived in Joburg and was so happy we were only spending one day there.

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exploring the murals around Joburg; Pink is Power

During our one day in Joburg, we did a Soweto tour. This tour included seeing the FNB stadium, Hector Pieterson Museum, Freedom Square, Regina Mundi Church,¬†Chris Hana Baraghwranth Hospital, and the Apartheid Museum. My mom didn’t know much about SA’s history, so this day was packed full of knowledge for her (and me, never done learning). It was eye-opening for her to see the informal settlement and hear about how the settlements came to be. We learned of the student protests that sparked change and tragically ended some students’ life at the Hector Pieterson Museum. The Apartheid Museum is overwhelming, but every bit necessary to understand SA’s complicated history. My favorite stop was the church, which acted as a safe haven for the learners as they ran from the police during the Soweto Uprisings.

DAY 6-12: Cape Town!!

As y’all know from previous posts, I LOVE CPT. It has like 70% of my heart when it comes to places (the other bit broken even between STL, Indy, and NYC). So we spent half of Mama K’s visit in the Mother City, a city with mountains and beaches. Towards the end of the trip, mama k said something like “this city really has it all: mountains, beaches, and a large city center.” That’s when I knew the trip was a success and she truly understood why I loved SA and CPT specifically.

We did so much in those six days, it was insane. It rained like three of the days, but we still managed to squeeze in the maximum amount of adventure. She got to see all of my favorite CPT spots, hike, go to high tea, eat at a restaurant that is owned by a Food Network guru, and so so so much more. My new CPT faves from this trip was StarDust, a theatrical dining experience and Hout Bay Market. It was so hard to say goodbye to her at the end, but I feel so incredibly lucky that we got to experience this city together. I’ll never stop raving about CPT or Mama K, those are just facts in my life.

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All the Friends

Living anywhere would be mad boring without awesome people to experience everything with. I have been #blessed to meet so many amazing Fulbrighters and South Africans during my year here. And I was even more #blessed that my mama got to meet so many people that are important to me while she was here. Enjoy this slideshow of beautiful, kind, smart, and brave humans.

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I’ll leave you with this stunning picture of a CPT sunset. Stay awesome people and if you ever get a chance to come to SA, you better jump at that opportunity. This place will change your heart for the better.

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