Penguins at Boulders and in my arms!

September 9th 2012
Published: September 9th 2012
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Even though I am bone tired, I am determined to see this travel blog thing through, and since it has been three days since my last post I am dangerously close to falling out of the habit, so here we go!

Since my last post, I have now had 2 days off and one day back at work. My first day off was pretty relaxed. I went grocery shopping, which I seem to do fairly often. I did a more major shop this time, but there’s only so much you can carry when you have a 15-minute walk home. I also got organized, cleaning my little corner of the Aviva house. I had to do things like put away laundry, which we send out (40 rands for 5 kilo). I also talked with my parents a little, which was really nice. I got a Gus and Charlie report, and with the exception of one “Gus incident” things are going fine.

The AVIVA house was busy again. Right now there are a total of 13 people staying here, including myself. Three of us are doing the penguin project. I addition to myself there’s a Japanese woman named Eri and a Philadelphian named Zack. There are seven university students from Norway who are volunteering at an orphanage. At another orphanage is 2 others (Sonia from the England; Miriam from Germany). The most recent arrival is Jo, who is spending a “Cape Town Week” with us before continuing on to do a project with elephants and horses. So, we have a lot of activity. But, the orphanage work is shift work. The volunteers are 3 days on and 3 days off, and when they are on they live at the orphanage. All 9 of them are either staying in the house or gone. As you can imagine, it’s bustling when they are here but super quiet when they are gone.

Because they are back, the major activity for the day was meant to be going out to the bars and clubs in Cape Town. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it out. I played a few drinking games with some of the others in the house, and I think I lost. 😊 Drinking games seemed to have changed since I was in college – or maybe my tolerance has. Either way, I had a blast playing with them. But, it all caught up to me in the cab on the way to Cape Town. So, after everyone else hopped out, I asked the cabbie to take me home. Everyone here at the house had a good laugh when I showed up again 40 minutes after I left. I’m pretty sure that I could have made it the whole night, and I probably would have had some good stories to tell. But, it seemed safer to call it early, especially since I had fun. Plus, I still have my first night out in Cape Town to look forward to!

The next day was the first of 3 tours that are pretty standard for people staying at Aviva. The standard tours that most people do are: the peninsula tour, the cultural tour, and the wine tour. Yesterday (Saturday) was the peninsula tour. This tour included some places that I had already been, which was actually awesome. Not only are they beautiful spots that I would never get sick of, but also it was really nice to go somewhere familiar. There has been so much “new” over these past 3 weeks, it was nice to “go back” to a few places. The tour starts out by going to Haut Bay, which is a fishing village where we took a boat out to “seal island” to check out some seals. Then, we head up through the Garden Route, making a stop at Chapman’s Peak (Absolutely beautiful.). Then we had lunch in Simon’s Town, which is home of the famous Boulders Beach (aka the African Penguin’s natural habitat). After Simon’s Town, we headed over to the Cape of Good Hope.

The day was perfect weather wise – warm, without being hot, and sunny without a hint of humidity. Furthermore, the spring flowers have begun to bloom, painting the landscape with the most amazing colors. Five of us from the house went together, and we had a super good time. For me, the day had two major highlights. First, it was so cool to see the penguins on the beach. The penguins only came to Boulders Beach in 1988, and people say that they “don’t know why the penguins picked that spot to make their own”. Well, one visit convinced me that penguins are no fools. Boulders Beach is amazingly beautiful, with crystal clear waters. Why would you want to go anywhere else??

Another major highlight for me was the Cape of Good Hope, where I climbed a “scenic walk”, which would have been better named as the “scenic climb”. It was a decent hike and the view was spectacular. It was enhanced by the fact that I felt pretty strongly connected to Emma for the first time in South Africa.

Overall, the tour was a major hit. I seriously love South Africa – if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a full day of travel away from home I would want to live here. And, it was great to do something really fun on my day off.

My first day back at work was intense. It’s a Sunday, so several staff members had the day off and we had fewer volunteers. We didn’t set up any stations to clean oiled birds, but at this point we have almost 300 birds to take care of – which is a LOT. We started working at 7:45, before we even had our morning meeting, and we didn’t stop until after 6:30. The woman who seems to be in charge started us off with a resounding pep talk – “ Today is going to be a long day… We have even fewer people than yesterday… But, I think we’ll be ok”. Hilarious. Mostly, I just helped where needed (re: cleaning pens and syringes). But, I was officially assigned to the “ICU”, where I was being trained by Noele (a transplant from NYC). She taught me how to handle the birds!! So, I held my first penguin today, which was totally awesome. I think that this is just the beginning, and I’ll be feeding them and showing off my bites soon! I got to carry 1 adult, but mostly very young penguins. They were chill. Another major highlight was that I happened to be walking by when Romy, another staff member, was feeding the permanent residents. It’s so cute, she just whistles and they all come running for their fish.

So, even thought today was a long hard day, it was also incredibly rewarding. I can’t believe I held a penguin.

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