Monthly Archives: January 2019

Day 12: Walter Sisulu Garden, Goodbyes, and Reflections

Today’s Blog Writers: Everyone!

On our last day at ALA, we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical gardens for a picnic lunch and to reflect upon our time in Johannesburg.

We had a thought-provoking discussion about social media and our ability to both perpetuate and dismantle a single narrative of South Africa, and Africa as a continent, through our various platforms. We were able to reflect on how some of our own choices throughout the trip could have contributed to this stereotyping, and we discussed what we can do differently moving forward.

We also had time to enjoy the beautiful day and take a stroll to the nearby waterfall.


After that, we returned to campus to exchange gifts and bid our friends a fond farewell.


On our way to the airport, we asked the students to reflect upon their experiences. Here are some responses from the group:

What is one thing that stuck with you from our conversation, today, on social media and portrayal of your experiences?

“One thing that really stuck with me from the conversation about social media is the fact that what you post really matters in supporting the single story. What you decide to post can either truly show the side of a place people don’t normally see or support the stereotypes of that place.” – Brooke

“One thing that stuck out to me was that social media only portrays the good and not the hardships. I realized that one of the reasons I was not really happy at the start was that I was seeing other people do fun excursions while we were at school, and I felt sad and like I was missing out. In reality, I just did not see the amazing opportunities around me.” – Mayrra

“I never realized how much your social media matters and how saying it’s “just one post” can create a butterfly effect.” – Sarah

“In the future, I will definitely pay more attention to the perceptions of the places I’m going and how they are portrayed in the media.” – Evie

“One thing that stuck with me today about the conversation on social media and portrayal was that a majority of people only post animals when they visit an African country.” – Alexia S.

“One thing that stuck with me from our conversation today was the difference between searching the #america and #africa on Instagram and seeing some similarities but mainly extreme differences. This stuck with me because after seeing Johannesburg I knew that the photos of Africa showing all poverty and tribal areas were not true representations.” – Cassie

“Even though intentions can be good, the impact can still be bad.” – Anna

“Social media has the ability to perpetuate stereotypes and give one facet of a story. We as individuals can end the perpetuation by sharing stories on social media that add another perspective and truth.” – Jenny


What is one way you have changed or grown?

“I have changed as a person because I have been open to new experiences. I tried new foods and met new people.” – Eliza

“One way I have changed is that I really did go into everything with an open mind, which is something I’m usually not good at.” Jackie

“After seeing and experiencing things outside of my everyday life and typical comfort zone, I am able to fully appreciate everything I have and have discovered a love for traveling.” – Grace

“I have grown in my ability to communicate across different cultures.” – Anna

“Throughout this trip, I have leaned into discomfort and took in every moment to the fullest.” – Lex C.

“One way I have changed is the way that I now challenge my assumptions. I think that I am able to look past my initial thoughts and try to see a new side of things.” – Brooke


What is one thing you have learned?

“One thing I learned was not to make assumptions and go into everything with a clear mind.” – Mayrra

“I have learned the importance of interacting with kids from a variety of backgrounds and countries.” – Sarah

“I learned a lot about the history of South Africa and a bit about the counties that students [at ALA] are from.” – Evie

“I have learned that no matter what cultural differences separate us, I still have so much in common with people who live in countries halfway across the world from me.” – Katje

“I’ve learned that being out of my comfort zone is necessary for growth.” – Willow

“I’ve learned more about all the resistance and persistence during apartheid specifically when visiting Soweto and the symbolism shown in the Hector Pieterson Museum.” – Lex C.

“I have learned that there are so many different perspectives and backgrounds to each and every story and opinion. Having conversations with a group of people who come from all different backgrounds helps you to recognize those complexities and understand your position as well as the topic overall in a much more complete way than before.” – McKenzie

“Looking back, I have learned a lot about the importance of being inquisitive and to always ask questions because nothing is ever what it seems. My trip here has pushed me to look beyond the obvious. “ – Jenny


What one thing you will remember?

“I will always remember the memories I have made here, especially with my chommie.” – Eliza

“One thing I will remember is our trip to Maboneng, because art is something that is very important to me and I found all of the street art very exciting and interesting.” – Jackie

“I will remember my chommie and the people at ALA for how welcoming they were and how interesting seeing all of the different points of views were.” – Grace

“I will remember exploring both the urban and rural areas of Johannesburg that allowed me to see the many aspects that makeup South Africa.” – Katje

“One thing I will always remember is the day in seminal readings when everyone in the room talked about different aspects of their culture from their home. It was so amazing and I learned so much that day.” – Alexia S.

“I will always remember my chommie and how she was so extremely welcoming and kind to me. She will be a lifelong friend to me and I will never forget her.” – Willow

“I will remember the time my chommie, her roommate and I sat on the ground of the room and they played guitar and ukulele while we all sang to some of my favorite songs as well as theirs. This was one of my favorite times at ALA because we bonded so much and grew so much closer.” – Cassie

“I will remember the welcoming attitude of every single person we met while in South Africa, but most importantly the ALA basketball team. That team made me feel wanted and like I was a part of something as soon as I stepped foot on the court at ALA and the relationships I formed with the girls will definitely stay with me throughout my life. I am so incredibly thankful to have met them and to have shared such an amazing experience with that team.” – McKenzie



Thank you, to our dear friends at ALA, for opening their homes and their hearts to us!


And wheels are up and the South Africa group is on their way to New York!

After a full last day at ALA and tearful goodbyes, the group is finally in air and en route to JFK International Airport on South African Airways flight #203. They are due to arrive on time at 6:40am EST tomorrow (Saturday) morning and should be back in Farmington by 10:45am.

Stay tuned for additional blog postings over the next few days as the students arrive back in the US and share their final reflections on their individual journeys over the last two weeks.


Day 11: Exploring and Game Reserve

Today’s Blog Writers: Everyone!*

Cassie and Lex 

Today while visiting Kwalata, game reserve, we saw multiple beautiful giraffes along with many other animals. The lighter colored giraffe is the female compared to the darker colored giraffe which is the male. In contrast to many animals, giraffes walk with both the front and back legs of the same side!


Katje and Willow

While on the safari, our tour guide pointed out these giraffes as they walked in front of our ranger. He noted the difference between the female and male giraffes, as the males have ossicones (large horns) and the females do not. We loved learning about the animals we saw because we gained a better environmental perspective!


Jenny and Anna

During our game drive, a three-day-old zebra stopped right in front of our vehicle. It was too young to realize to be wary of the truck, so it stood there for a whole minute observing the truck.


McKenzie and Evie

We visited a daycare run by local community members. Children ages 1-6 attend the program Monday-Friday while their parents work and take care of other issues. We sung songs with them and gave high fives. The center was built with money raised by the wildlife reserve as a way for them to give back to their community. Before the donations, the program was run out of a one room facility, but today is run out of 2 beautiful new buildings. It was amazing to see what the reserve was doing for the surrounding community.


Jackie and Eliza

Today was a long day starting with a 3-hour car ride. The game reserve was worth the trip because we got to see many animals including giraffes, zebras, gazelles, ostriches, and wildebeest. It was really cool to see these animals up close and in person. We also went to an elementary school and got to sing with adorable little kids from age 1 to 6. That was a highlight of our day. We also got to go to an old age home, meet more people, and sing to them. Overall, today was filled with new and fun experiences.


Mayrra and Sarah

We had an amazing time on the game reserve today! We were able to see and take lots of pictures of gazelles, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches. This was the excursion we had been looking forward to for the whole trip and it exceeded our expectations!


Alexia and Brooke

One of the things we did today was visit sights that the game reserve assists. Our favorite place was the school/daycare! It is for kids 1-6 years old and they have 5 classes. We sang songs with the kids and taught them “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” as their teachers translated it, which was really cool. Brooke and I enjoyed singing and playing with the kids and it made us really excited to see them welcome us with their song!


What a great day!

~ IM South Africa

* All photos taken with consent of the game reserve and day care personnel!

Day 10: Classes and BUILD Presentations

Today’s Blog Writers: Mayrra Sardjito & Sarah Wagner

Today we had a fairly simple day, and we focused on ALA classes as well as our BUILD presentations. The Porters students were given the opportunity to join any class of their choosing, diverging from their chommie’s schedule. We went to various classes such as African History, Creative Arts, English Literature, Entrepreneurial Leadership, French, Philosophy, etc. Through these fascinating classe,s we were able to see the ALA students’ political and social awareness and love for education. The African Philosophy class got into debates and discussed topics such as should babies be killed, while other classes like International History had a review day and played games to recap events from semester 1. The students were able to have heated debates, while later laughing and joking together. We believe the motto for the day would be: attack the idea not the person.

Right after school, we had BUILD. Since we had a big presentation in front of judges after dinner, we spent two hours making slides and prepping. We were all super excited to present the ideas we had been working on since coming to ALA. The five groups presented issues on: supported formerly incarcerated people in the workforce, ocean pollution, women in the workforce, mental health, open-mindedness, and transparency between students and teachers. It was super helpful to get feedback from the panel of judges to revise our BUILD ideas. Overall it was a great day and we enjoyed hanging out with the ALA students!

Some pictures from the day:

Day 9: Soweto

Today’s Blog Writers: Katje Knoblauch & Willow Quine

Today we boarded the bus from ALA to the town of Soweto (South Western Townships) for our second visit. When we arrived, we were greeted by local guides who welcomed us by singing traditional songs. Soon, we were on our way to a 4-hour walking tour that provided us insight to the communities of the towns and the history behind them.

On the tour, we got to visit the home Nelson Mandela lived in for roughly fifteen years and where his family lived for over forty years. Our guide provided us with information about his historical importance and we learned a lot!

Next, we saw the memorial site of Hector Pieterson, who was the first student to be shot in the Soweto uprising in 1976. We also were treated to ice pops called ice lollies.


Then we were provided with an amazing meal at the camp sights! We got to feast on traditional South African food, consisting of corn, meats, bread and vegetables, all made with organic homegrown food from their own garden!

We then got to stop at a local mall and buy ourselves South African snacks to try. Then we went out to dinner at Mozambik, a restaurant serving Afro-Porto (African-Portuguese) cuisine. We all laughed a lot and had a great time!!!!!!!

Overall, today was a complete cultural immersion and filled with eye-opening aspects tied to both the historic and present societies of this town. From the outside, Soweto is very different than the sheltered oasis that is ALA. However, our tour guides and the many other locals that we interacted with today helped us understand the historical importance it has to the culture of South Africa. Seeing it from the inside helped us appreciate this even more! Finally, exploring the local supermarket and enjoying a delicious dinner added a relaxing end to our day.

Katje and Willow

Day 8: First Day of Classes

Today’s Blog Writers: Eliza Kandrysawtz & Jackie Witt

Today we had our first day of classes at ALA! We shadowed our chommies to all of their classes today, some including African Studies, Entrepreneurial Leadership, Writing and Rhetoric, Business, and more. Most of these classes were based around BUILD, which is the concept we have been working with for our group projects. After classes, we had an assembly where we learned a little bit more about the community at ALA as well as watched a video about the Tunisian Independence. After that, there were sports, so a few of us went to watch soccer practice. Later, we went to BUILD and continued to work on our projects that focus on issues in our communities.

It was interesting comparing the classes taught at ALA to the classes at MPS. Many of us were in classes that we are currently taking or have taken at MPS. The discussions were similar and insightful. It was also interesting to learn more about another country’s culture at the assembly. We got to see what some of the Tunisian students wore for their Independence Day and their national anthem. After the assembly, a lot of us relaxed or took a nap since we felt tired after our first day of classes. What an eventful day!

Day 6: Founder’s Day!

Today’s Guest Blog Writer: Evie Usich

Today, we participated in the ALA Founders Day! During Founder’s Day, the house teams compete in various races and a mascot parade to win points to go toward the house. Our team, Amazon, competed in all the female events and placed 2nd in the 4 x 400 race and the frisbee throwing contest. Linked is a video with some highlights from Founder’s Day.

After Founder’s Day we had some free time before our second BUILD session. During BUILD, we talked about issues that we are passionate about and from that discussion, we got into our groups for the project. For dinner we got Indian food to celebrate Meena’s birthday and later in the evening we went to a party at ALA. Today was another opportunity for us to be welcomed by the ALA community.

Day 5: Seminal Readings Closing, Soweto Entrepreneurs, BUILD, Founder’s Day Prep, and Happy Birthday Meena!

Today’s Guest Blog Writers: McKenzie Roller & Grace Smith

Here is a video that McKenzie and Grace created to recount Day 5:

Photo Highlights

Primary School, Soweto

Street Art, Soweto

Government-owned property that Shumani and Thabang are trying to reclaim to create a community garden, Zone 2 in Soweto

Porter’s with Thabang (left) and Shumani (center), Zone 2 in Soweto

Art in the performance area of Trackside Creative, Orlando West in Soweto

Street Art outside of Trackside, Orlando West in Soweto

Porter’s with Mabila (orange shirt), Nthabiseng, and the rest of Trackside Creative, Orlando West in Soweto

Porter’s students on the Quad, ALA

Happy Sweet Sixteen, Meena! 🙂