HomeArticlesPrinceton Squash Visits South Africa

Princeton Squash Visits South Africa

Princeton, NJ — At the end of October, the Princeton women’s squash team travelled to Cape Town, South Africa. The team created a blog to share their adventures with family, friends, and fans below, and a different team members wrote an entry for each day of the trip. 

Saturday – Monday, October 27-29
By Hallie Dewey ’15

After an eventful day of traveling filled with 19 hours of flying, two fainting men, mini Poffertjes (Dutch pancakes), a 2-hour delay due to technical difficulties, and an almost lost wallet and computer (won’t mention any names), we finally made it to Cape Town on Sunday, October 28 circa 11:30pm.

The next morning we woke up and had a very delicious breakfast at the hotel before heading out to our morning exploration of Cape Town. We were supposed to take cable car up to Table Mountain; however due to excessive winds, although not as bad as Sandy, we were unable to go. Instead, we drove around and saw a beautiful white sand beach, went to Lion’s head mountain, and got to see the layout of the city. After, we went to a local cricket club to play squash and prepare for our match against a South African women’s team.  That night we went to an amazing dinner, which safe to say has been the highlight of our trip thus far.  We went to a cute outdoor restaurant called Moyo. Walking in, you are surrounded by huge canopy trees filled with lanterns. At dinner, we got our faces painted and bongo drummers entertained as we ate an incredibly yummy dinner of chicken, steak, springbuck pumpkin salad, and an array of desserts. It was an amazing night and we absolutely loved the people there and especially the drummers and singers. We couldn’t have asked for anything more on our first night and we are even more excited for what else lays in store on our South African adventure.

Tuesday, October 30
By Catherine Dennig ’15

We started the day off early with some omelets, oatmeal and cereal at the hotel. Hopping on the bus at 9:30am we traveled to Fisantekraal, an informal settlement in the Western Cape. We arrived at several daycare centers to which our trip made donations, where young children sang to us in both English and Xhosa about learning and life as Superkidz; we sang nursery rhymes to them in response. We played with them and gave them chocolates and candy and took lots of photos together.

Our tour guide, Chris, led us to one region with reasonably adequate sanitation, running water and solar heating. We also got to see a much more desperate side of the urban poor in Cape Town, where many more refugees live. These were the squatter camps, which had central water pumps and no basic sanitation, and consisted of completely government-provided temporary housing structures.

We then visited an elementary school, where children from informal settlements come to receive an education free-of-charge, entirely funded by the government. They had a room filled with computers that had access to the Internet to supplement their education. There were fences surrounding the school and barred windows to provide safety from poverty-driven, drug-related crime that occurs in these parts. They sang the national anthem to us (in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English) and we once again sang in return. We ventured next to a high school that was very recently built and much safer, and talked to the students in ninth and tenth grades who have exams coming up in a week and a half about business studies, material science and other classes they’re taking. It was fun to hear about their studies and aspirations and get to know them a little. Chris, our tour guide, and Eaton “Elton John” had taught us how to say thank you very much (baie dankie) in Afrikaans, so we made sure to say this a lot, especially to the principal of the high school! We moved on to the Fisantekraal multipurpose center for lunch with the senior citizens, who put on a play depicting abuse in daily life.

This experience was very humbling and eye-opening in that we were exposed to the lives and daily challenges of the urban poor in Cape Town. We will certainly remember this experience as we continue our journey in South Africa and beyond.

We quickly got geared up for our match against the women’s team of the western province (one of eight provinces in Cape Town) at the Western Province Cricket Club. All seventeen of us played, and we had a hard-fought 9-8 win, and enjoyed a lasagna dinner with the opposing team. The women we played were very experienced players and were extremely inviting, and we had a great night with them.

Wednesday, October 31
By Alex Sawin ‘14

Our day started out with an early-morning boat excursion on Hout Bay. Surrounding the bay, there were multiple vendors, where we quickly learned which teammates were capable barters and which members were sadly not. But there was no way we were going to leave South Africa without some traditional African paraphernalia. Some of our favorite purchases were multi-colored beaded headbands, salad tongs for our parents, and a wide assortments of bangles and colorful necklaces. We are definitely going to bring colorful accessories back to campus. After the bartering, we climbed aboard The Calipso Boat, which would take us to Seal Island, which was essentially a giant rock with hundreds of seals happily sunbathing and performing tricks in the water. Being the adventurous group of girls that we are, we initially sat on the bow of the boat, but quickly changed our minds after nearly losing our cameras by the waves that splashed aboard.

But the seals were not the only sight to see on that boat tour. Other tourists thought it was appropriate to take pictures of the seventeen of us rather than the scenery. Needless to say, our orange and black gear will be seen across the globe in many family trip albums. Following the encounter with the playful group of seals, we loaded the bus once more for a trip along the most beautiful ocean view highway where in fact Ferrari and Maserati car commercials are filmed. While driving, we were lucky enough to see a whale splashing close to the shore. We all jumped off the bus to take photos and take in the magnificent view of the oceans. This seems to follow suit with the theme of our trip, since most places we venture are certainly photo worthy.

The next stop on our journey was a trip to see the world’s largest bird, the ostrich. Although these creatures have a surplus of extremely beautiful feathers, we were informed by the tour guide that their brains are smaller than their eyeballs. The butt of many South African jokes implies that one has the brain of an ostrich. Some of our teammates decorated their backpacks with ostrich key chains to remember the occasion.

We ate lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant where we overlooked the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. While leaving the restaurant, our cameras were once again back in our hands, for a mama baboon and her baby were walking though the parking lot. It was a scene right out of National Geographic.

The highlight of our day was the hike up to Cape Point Lighthouse. After approximately twenty-five minutes of hiking up the incline, we reached yet another amazing view.

The last stop on our day three journey was a visit to a penguin habitat. The penguins were in the process of their midseason molt and were enjoying the sun on land as they shed their feathers. Although these penguins were not the exaggerated sizes, as seen in Disney movies, they were still equally as entertaining.

The day ended with a dinner at African café where we were presented with a feast of traditional African dishes, face paint, drums, and yet Happy Birthday song to Gail. Our day was definitely an action packed and memorable day in South Africa.

Thursday, November 1
By Libby Eyre ’14

Today we had an early start to a great day. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed onto our bus with our favorite driver, Eaton. We headed to Table Mountain since the first day it was too windy for us to go up in the cable car.

We could not have picked a more perfect day. We were the first ones to the mountain and took a small cable car up to the top, which some of our teammates who are scared of heights did not enjoy, but once we made it to the top the views were worth it. It was an incredible view with oceans surrounding us and a beautiful clear sky. We took plenty of scenic pictures that we will definitely enjoy for the rest of our lives.

After our Table Mountain experience, we headed to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for several years. We took a ferry over to the island and were met by our tour guide, who was at one time a prisoner on the island. He gave us a tour of the cells and we were able to ask him questions about the prison in general and his personal experience.

Then we headed on a bus and got a guided tour of the island with a descriptive history. It was a humbling experience since the prisoners were fighting for their freedom and it happened so recently.

We headed back on the ferry and got a nice suntan (some of us are a little red) and had lunch along the water at the marina and looked at some African shops. Next, we got on the bus and headed to the courts for our big match against the junior boys of South Africa.

Despite having an exhausting day and being drained from the sun, we managed to pull through with a 10-7 win, which the boys were not too pleased with. We had a delicious dinner at the courts and then headed back to our hotel. It was a long day, but we got to see amazing sites, learned a lot about South African history, and had a strong finish with our second win of the trip.

 Day 8, Friday, November 2
By Julie Cerullo ’13 (co-captain)

 Day 5 began with an early morning wakeup and hotel breakfast before heading to the Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve for a safari! We arrived decked out in full safari gear including hats and binoculars and were treated to some fresh mixed-fruit juice before boarding our vehicle. Unfortunately tigers are not native to Africa but out on the reserve we encountered lions, giraffes, wildebeest, springbuck, elon, kudu, zebras, and three-day old ostriches. We also saw two rhinoceros – the first sighting in two weeks – and we got within arms length of two male cheetahs!

After the safari we sat down to a nice lunch on the reserve before heading to our final match. On our ride over we stopped at Blue Mountain Beach for a photo-op. We enjoyed yet another view of Table Mountain from the soft white sand and some were even brave enough to dip their feet in the ice-cold Atlantic Ocean!

We had trouble keeping our eyes open on the long ride over but we re-energized after a quick nap on the coach. We arrived at Fish Hoek Squash Club run by former world number 23 Rodney Durbach and our match got off to an exciting start. With many close scores and several 5-gamers, the bottom half of our lineup clinched it for us in the end and we snuck away with a 9-8 win. We traded shirts with our opponents and sat down with them for a BBQ dinner at the club.

Our final win against Fish Hoek left us undefeated on our Cape Town tour and we look ahead to Ivy Scrimmages with great enthusiasm. We regret that tomorrow is our final day in South Africa but we’re excited for cheese and chocolate tasting in the Winelands before heading to the airport and making our way back to the orange bubble.

Saturday, November 3
By Casey Cortes ’13 (co-captain)

 Our last day in South Africa was no less exciting than the rest. Our first stop was in Cape Town’s wine country, at Fairview Wine & Cheese. Established in 1693, this vineyard is celebrated not only for its rich history and amazing wines and cheeses, but also for being the first carbon-neutral winery in Africa! We happily tasted some delicious Brie, cream cheese, blue cheese, and goat cheese as well as Ega, a bright red drink made from red and white grape juice, pomegranate, and rooibos.

After stocking up on plenty of treats from Fairview’s specialty foods shop, we headed to Boschendal, a winery established in 1685, where we toured the estate and had a beautiful picnic lunch. Our last destination was Huguenot Chocolates in Franschhoek, a small producer of Belgian chocolate. We loved learning about the fascinating history of chocolate, seeing a live demonstration of the chocolate-making process from start to finish, and sampling many of their unique, handcrafted chocolates. After our week of early-morning bus rides, all-day excursions, and close squash matches, chocolate tasting was a satisfying finale to our time in Africa.

We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience everything Cape Town has to offer. We would especially like to thank Western Province Cricket Club (Mark Allen, head pro) and Fishhoek Squash Club (head pro Rodney Durback) for welcoming us into their facilities and providing some great match play for us.  Many thanks to Jeremy, Chris, Jeff, Cledwin, and a special thanks to our excellent Transport Engineer Eaton and all at Zag Sports Team for organizing our trip and making sure our time in Cape Town went smoothly. We cannot forget to thank our amazing sport information person Craig Sachson who helped keep you all informed on our trip over the course of the week (in spite of Sandy’s fury). Above all, we are incredibly grateful towards Richard Hankinson (our volunteer assistant), Kathy Rohrer (our most special Faculty Fellow) and our coach Gail Ramsay, for all of the time and effort they put into leading our team through this experience. Finally, we can not forget to send our thanks to the Friends of Princeton Squash for all the support they have provided to our program over the years and specially the contributions that have gone into making this incredible adventure possible and so special. We look forward to your continued generous support and we hope to share many exciting results with you this season!

This trip was the perfect start to what will be a truly memorable season. Though we already miss Cape Town’s gorgeous scenery, our tour guide’s passionate personal stories, and the excitement of exploring a completely different part of the world, we arrived home energized and motivated to make this squash season the best one yet. We’re lucky to have gotten out of New Jersey before Sandy blew through and our hearts go out to all those affected by the hurricane’s destruction. We are glad to be home!!! GO Tigers!!!!


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