October 13, 2008

Linda Kang's first view of Cape Town, South Africa.

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LEWISBURG, Pa. – Where in the world is Linda Kang ’10?

Kang, who is traveling the globe this semester aboard a floating classroom for a Semester at Sea, recently landed in Cape Town, South Africa.

In many ways, it was an eye-opening experience. As the Bucknell University junior penned in the Study Abroad Blog, “I knew some part of me had just changed forever.”

Habitat volunteer
It was there that she visited one of the apartheid-formed townships that breathed poverty and spent three days working at a home-building site as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

That’s where she met “Playa,” a local man who had been working six months for Habitat:

"I must ask (crew leader) Rasta about getting some bread tonight," Kang quoted him as saying. 

"How much is bread?" Kang asked.

"Five to 10 rand,” he said.

Ten rand is about $1.25 U.S. and she gave him 10 rand without hesitating. He looked down at it for a moment before speaking.

"Thank you, thank you,” Playa told Kang. “This morning was really hard for me. I woke up and was very hungry, but I shook it off and just drank a lot of water. Then I came here.”

The experience was both humbling and troubling, she said.

'I cried'
“On the way back on the fancy coach bus, I cried. Silently, I cried. I really cried. Even when I was back on the ship, every time I thought about Playa more tears would run down my face,” she wrote. “I didn't try to hide my tears or red eyes either.”

That night Kang, a psychology and religion major, went to the grocery by the waterfront and spent 250 rand (about $32 U.S.).

“I bought nothing for myself though,” she wrote, “I bought a bag of potato chips, 12 bubble blower bottles, 21 lollipops, a Winnie the Pooh coloring book, two packs of crayons, three packs of colored chalk, a five-pack of sponges, immune system booster, a pair of working gloves and a loaf of bread (that I gave to Playa).

“That night my friend, Meagan, gave me some toys and pens and T-shirts to give them as well. My backpack was full to bursting when I left that morning for the third day of Habitat. It was empty when I left and I felt as though I should have given them far more than I had.

“I had never seen anyone react so positively to receiving a loaf of bread before. I had never expected to want to give a loaf of bread to someone so badly before. I cried inside behind my smile though, because after I gave it to him my mind was saying, ‘Today, I gave a man a loaf of bread, but I know I cannot give him bread for the future.’ ”

Off-campus study
Kang is one of the more than 40 percent of Bucknell’s students who spend a portion of their undergraduate life studying off campus.

This semester, she and seven other Bucknell students are chronicling their off-campus adventures – both in and out of the classroom. Read more about Kang’s adventures.

Contact: Division of Communications