BALTIMORE - The Loyola University Maryland women’s lacrosse returned safely from its foreign tour to London, England and Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday, June 11. For a recap of the London portion of their trip, click here.
After leaving England, the Greyhounds became the first NCAA lacrosse team to visit the continent of Africa and they experienced as much of the country as possible in their seven-day stay.
With it being winter in South Africa right now, weather continued to alter the original itinerary, with trips to Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned – and cage diving with great white sharks being canceled due to rough waters. The team did have the incredibly powerful opportunity to stop at Mandela’s statue that is erected outside the gates of the prison he was released from, though. His statue is on the same spot and striking the same pose as he did that monumental day that he was released as a free man.
Upon stepping foot into South Africa, the Greyhounds embraced the culture and scenery that the country had to offer. They became oriented with the city by driving up a small winding road to Signal Point, which overlooks the entire city and ocean, and stopped at the Malay Quarter, one of the oldest parts of Cape Town, on their way back down. Nestled against the steep slopes of Signal Hill, the Malay Quarter was originated during the third quarter of the 18th century, with the first of the colorful houses being built in 1790 by artisans and low-income families.
Loyola was also able to take a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain – one of the new wonders of nature and a place that Mandela once proclaimed was a “gift to the earth” - and a bus tour to the Cape of Good Hope (aka Cape Point), a declared Natural World Heritage Site. Along the way to Cape Point, the Greyhounds stopped at Hout Bay to take a boat trip out to seal island and to The Boulders to march with the penguins. Once at Cape Point, the most southwestern tip of Africa, the Greyhounds were able to take in some of the most breathtaking panoramic views of False Bay – where the currents of the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans collide.
Day eight was likely one of the highlights of the trip for most Greyhounds – as they ventured to Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve for a safari before heading to Newlands Stadium (which holds around 58,000 fans and is considered hallowed ground in Cape Town) for a rugby match between the South African Springboks (ranked No. 2 in the world) and the All-World team. On the safari, the Greyhounds chased giraffes on foot, took selfies with an ostrich, placed their hands inside the lion’s cage and even stepped inside a cheetah enclosure. To see these animals, in addition to rhinoceros, springbok, zebras, buffalo, blue wildebeest, among others, in their natural habitats was an incredible experience.
As a last meal on their last night in town, the team headed to the Africa Café where they experienced an authentic communal feast, complete with a 10-plus-course meal, face painting and African dance performers.
The trip wasn’t without lacrosse, though. The Greyhounds had a practice at a local seaside park one day, where curious locals were interested in the game being played, and they also carried their sticks to two local settlements. At the first, Fisantekraal, Loyola was able to sample a variety of places within the community, including the primary school, the high school, three different day cares – known as crèches – and an elderly home. Despite the poverty in the area, the joy and happiness throughout the entire community really put things into perspective for Loyola. The entire settlement was once composed of what is now the squatter section – homes pieced together by tin and scraps – before government funding helped build modest homes in the area.
The second community service project was in Mfuleni at the Afrika Tikkun Community Center – a private development center founded by a Rabbi, a businessman and Mandela. The center was built in the middle of another squatter settlement, with the children and families of the community extremely poverty stricken and underprivileged. The people work tirelessly with the mission to support and develop from childhood through career, though.
To see the pure joy and excitement on the face of every child in each of the settlements, especially when the lacrosse sticks and Loyola tattoos were brought out, is an experience that the Greyhounds will carry with them forever.
Overall, the trip was an adventurous, exciting and most importantly, eye opening, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It would not have been made possible without generous donations and external fundraising efforts.