last year on Thanksgiving:

It was my birthday. And that morning, I did a turkey trot hike up Table Mountain. I went to the beach in the afternoon. And that evening, I attended a Thanksgiving day braai. All in Africa.

Not your traditional Thanksgiving, but one I'll never forget!

Glad to be celebrating stateside this year. But, such wonderful memories thinking back on last year.

remembering cape town

One year ago, today, I landed in South Africa after an 18 hour flight across the oceans. I was tired and having my first experience with jetlag, but boy was there an amazing week waiting ahead of me. It's a week I will never ever forget, and quite frankly I have trouble holding back the tears when I think on that week for too long in one sitting. If I get sappy over here, don't mind me.

I'm thankful for all of the memories and stories and friends I still hold dear after an entire year has passed in this place. What a beautiful picture. What beautiful hearts of such a precious team.

Last year I blogged all about my trip here: Big Apple Pear: Cape Town

cape town: top 10 photos

The one sad thing about it being March now is that it means my 29 Days of Cape Town posts are over. I really enjoyed documenting my trip and revisiting those 10 days in Africa that are sadly getting more distant as the time passes. For a final, wrap-up post (even though it's March 1!), I decided to post my top 10 favorite photos from the trip (er, 11 actually because I couldn't decide on only 10...). I will always have these to quickly look back to and remember all of the wonderful pieces of this trip. I hope you enjoy these particular ones, too, as much as I have.

day twenty-nine: from the air

These were my last views of Africa and first views of America. Bittersweet feelings.

view from the plane.

such a clear view of the townships in the lower half of the picture.

sunrise as we were getting close to New York.

day twenty-eight: boarding the plane

Although we were all exhausted and excited to be back in New York to our family and friends, it was a sad feeling when it came time to board the plane back to the US of A. We had a Sunday night flight back to American that arrived in New York at 7am on Monday morning. This is (part of) our team as we were lining up to board the flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the first leg of our trip. Lots of mixed feelings and thoughts to process as we left after such a wonderful 10 days in Africa...

day twenty-seven: signal hill

On our last day in Cape Town, as we were headed to the airport, we made one last stop to gaze at beauty on Signal Hill. As if the sights we had seen in the previous 9 days weren't beautiful enough already, it just got more beautiful! As you can tell, it was a bit windy though... 

This was the stadium where the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament was held!

day twenty-five: ethiopian dinner

This was my first experience with Ethiopian food, and frankly I was a little nervous. The rumors were that you eat everything with your hands; no utensils. I'm not one who's big on getting their hands dirty in any circumstance, but especially when it means eating dinner.

But I survived and I LOVED it. (Brendan and I actually scoped out an Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem recently to try it again.) The food was definitely different: different texture, of course different spices, and well, just different. But in a good way. And our team had a fun time experiencing this bit of African culture (albeit, Ethiopian, not South African) and it won me over. Fair and square!

this was an 8-course meal. see the 8 different blobs!

this is what we did to celebrate Lindy's birthday! and she got a free t-shirt!

popcorn and coffee for dessert. still not sure about this combo, but yum!

day twenty-four: gatsby sandwich

If you want to see a good idea for a sandwich, feast your eyes on this! One of the days that we helped out at Arise, they insisted that we try these Gatsby sandwiches; they obviously didn't have to twist my arm very hard.

It's a hoagie sandwich with meat, a delectable sauce and french fries right in the sandwich. It seemed like the most efficient way to eat all of my favorite things. I'm thinking about bringing these Gatsby sandwiches to the US... I'm craving one now!

day twenty-three: public school assembly

I loved the entire trip to Capetown, but there weren't many things that touched my heart like the experience on Friday of the trip did. Through Arise, we went to a nearby public school and held an assembly for the kiddos to teach a bible lesson. Some of the kids were familiar faces that we had met on Wednesday at the Arise after-school program, but many faces were new. They were all beautiful and eager and excited to see us, and we had a blast putting on a show for them! And, I apologize in advance for the large quantity of pictures included in this post - get ready...

check out that ham!

this is one of my absolute favorite trips from the entire trip! we said scream...and she did!

we passed these coloring sheets out to the kids, and they loved them!

I want to go back to this school.

one more birthday post!

Because I thought this was pretty special...and still think it's pretty special, I wanted to share a video of my team singing 'happy birthday' to me on top of Table Mountain the day we hiked to the top! You'll have to be patient through the first 0:25 seconds at the beginning of mild-craziness, but then it gets to the really special part.

day twenty-two: my birthday (!!!)

Not everyone can say they've celebrated their birthday - on Thanksgiving day, no less - in Africa. But I can! The whole day...on my birthday... in Africa, ah!... I kept thinking about how surreal and awesome it was to be celebrating there (and I've had 25 years of celebrating birthdays in a pretty special way). Not only did I get to celebrate in one of the most picturesque places in the world, I got to see the most beautiful landscapes and views I had ever seen, go to a really neat market, go to the beach (which has never happened before, since my birthday is in November), have a cookout (!!) and wear a sundress  (rainbow, at that)...all on my birthday!

I will admit, I was nervous before I left about why I had agreed to go to Africa over my birthday and Thanksgiving instead of spending the time with my family. Instead, I got a new type of family who loved and cared for me in the most special ways and made me feel so terrific on my special day. It was better than I could have ever imagined.

I should also mention that thanks to the encouragement of my team members, I decided to celebrate my birthday from the time it began in Cape Town (7 hrs ahead of New York time) until it ended in Alabama (my home state), so effectively my birthday was a whopping 32 hours long this year!

my special birthday breakfast: triple layer mousse cake from Mugg & Bean

spending a few hours at the BEACH on my birthday! you couldn't find a happier person.

these signs were posted all around my room at the hostel when I woke up!

birthday celebration at the braai!

Lindy and I celebrating our birthdays together at the braai!

In addition to celebrating my birthday on Thanksgiving, our team also got to celebrate Lindy's birthday the next day! (You'll see tomorrow what we did to celebrate Lindy's birthday.) It made it even more fun having another 'birthday girl' to celebrate with while on the trip. 

milk tart for birthday cake

birthday girls!

This birthday will go down in history, for sure...

day twenty-one: thanksgiving braai

Instead of a traditional turkey dinner, we had a Thanksgiving braai! (The word means "grilled meat" in Afrikaans, so it's how South Africans refer to a cookout or bbq.) And since it was summer there, it was the perfect time for a cookout. It included many South African traditional staple dishes such as pap and boerewors (in my opinion, very similar to grits and sausage). It was delicious, and a very fun, unconventional way to celebrate Thanksgiving. I've definitely never had a birthday dinner like this before! I would do it again any day...

boerowers and grilled chicken

There were so many people there to celebrate our "American holiday", there weren't enough seats. Good problem to have!

day twenty: the market

After we climbed Table Mountain, we went for a lovely afternoon at the local market in Cape Town. (I was so thrilled!) It was a festive place with beautiful things. If you don't believe me, take a look for yourselves! I love these colorful bracelets that Amy captured.

This baby's name was Courage. Adriana asked his mom if she could have him!

day nineteen: thanksgiving turkey

Because we were in Capetown on Thanksgiving day (and, because we had just hiked a gigantic mountain), we wanted a little turkey - even if it was just luncheon meat - to celebrate our American holiday. So, we ate turkey! Albeit one slice each, I felt like I had adequately celebrated!