So, I am having real troubles lately. Schoolwork has been hard to do, I procrastinate and have a hard time concentrating, I have a hard time getting to sleep and an extremely hard time getting up in the morning. Also I fatigue very easily these days. I have watched 5 movies in the past 3 days, instead of studying. Here are the logical conclusions:
-I am burnt out and need a break from TUKs, which is starting to frustrate me.
-I have an animal protein deficiency, because I only eat meat once or twice a week, mostly because I am too lazy to cook meat (salad and pasta are so easy) rather than any sympathies for chipmunks or whatever.
-I have an iron deficiency, for the same reason, plus I eat a lot of carbs (PASTA) here.
-I am homesick and have pseudo-depression….yay?

It’s probably a factor of all of these and consequently I am forcing myself to eat meat at least 3 times a week and going to eat more broccoli I guess. I think I need to skype with people back home a little more than the lack of that is occurring right now, so if you wanna skype or ichat, let me know. First quarter is almost over and April recess is at the end of the month. I am super excited for that, it will be an excellent break. The first week, Imke and I are going to do a camping safari trip and go to a nature reserve in Botswana, either Chobe or Okavango, and then go to Victoria Falls. Then we will meet the other girls out in Cape Town for the last week of recess, do some history, wine tasting and relax at the jazz festival. Woot!

Well, I guess I’ll talk about the Clarens trip last month since I never did that. Sorry I am a bad blogger.
Clarens is this small town in the Free State and is filled with little restaurants, tons and tons of art galleries and little kitschy boutiques. It’s a cute town that is cocooned by the mountains and grasslands of the Free State. Edwin told us on the drive over that Clarens, and the Free State in general, is one of the Afrikaans heartlands in South Africa. It was originally a Basotho (Bah-soo-too) area but they were pushed out by the Boers into present-day Lesotho, which borders the Free State, and the Afrikaaners, mostly English farmers, moved in and farmed and ranched the land. They acted as a buffer zone between the rest of South Africa and the Basothos. Many of the same families still live in the area and either farm or participate in tourism.

It took about 5 hours driving to get there and the first night we, the 32 out of 40 exchange students, had dinner at Mrs. Lindique’s house. She is the accommodation supervisor at Tuksdorp and was at her cottage for the weekend and week and graciously offered to cook dinner for everyone. We ate a home-cooked meal and some of us crashed at the hostel and others went out to the pub. Problems arose as the sensible group began to unpack and settle in. We were 5 beds short in the girls’ house. Three girls nicely offered to go stay in the boys’ house and the other two found places somewhere, I have no idea because I had fallen asleep already. When some of the other group came back, they weren’t the quietest but it wasn’t so bad. Then, one of the boys, I won’t name names, ran in after all of them were in bed, flipped the lights on, stole a blanket from one of the empty beds, and ran out, leaving the lights on and door wide open. We were pissed. Poor Karen came back to no blanket, but luckily someone had an extra or something so she wasn’t left blanket-less. We’ve all had a word or two with him and he’s lost a lot of favorable sentiments. He’s the butt of a lot of jokes and frustrations now.

The next morning some of the group slept in and went hiking in the Golden Gate National Park later, while most of us went trail riding. Half the trail riding group went to breakfast and my half ate granola bars and bread with PB at the hostel and left on time for riding. It took forever to get 20 horses saddled up but soon everyone was matched with a horse. We got separated into an unexperienced group and an experienced group. I got placed in the experienced one, as I have ridden a horse quite a few times, but I was nervous because a couple of the girls were really experienced riders. We took off and headed out into the hills. We rode for about two and half hours total and the experienced group galloped or ran at least 5 times. That was scary. I’ve ridden a horse and even trotted them but never ran. It was crazy and scary but fun and exhilarating. I’d do it again.

My horse was named Sunlight, like the soap, and was anxious to run and didn’t like listening to me. But we liked each other, I think. On the ride, all of us saw the impressive landscape, wildebeest, springbok (a kind of antelope), and zebras. We got pretty close to the zebras and got some good pictures that are on my Mobile me. The horses were a bit nervous around them understandably– zebras are ornery.

After riding, Imke, Cayci, Krista and I wandered and got lunch at a place called the Artists’ Café, but I didn’t see any artists, except Krista of course (She is a visual arts major). After, we did some shopping and looked at art in the galleries. We hadn’t showered yet so, although we looked presentable, we probably smelled funny. We went to this candy, gourmet food boutique called The Purple Onion. Krista bought ginger candies, Imke bought a meter of licorice, and I bought kiwi jam along with some sodas. The kiwi jam got finished last week and was absolutely delicious.

We were leaving the next day but in the morning, early, the four of us, plus Rosa, Emily and John went for a 2 hour hike at Golden Gate. Never before have I seen such beautiful mountains. They remind me of something out a tourist pamphlet for Ireland/Arizona/New Zealand. It was breathtaking. The wind was light and cool and sun played perfectly on the different layers of rock and the green vegetation that covered the mountains. When they say Africa is the cradle of humankind, Golden Gate is infallible proof. This country is so rich and so diverse, I have no words for the joy, calm, beauty, hope, vivacity and the peace that is in the land here.

When we had all loaded up and were driving out, we went to the lookout point and got out and enjoyed the landscape. Edwin said to us, “This is my country, isn’t it beautiful?” I couldn’t agree more.