The Most Life-Altering Text Message I Have Ever Received.

Sometime in the summer of 2011

“Hey, this may be a weird question and I don’t mean to offend you, but are you bi or gay? I’m kinda getting that vibe” This was probably followed by some emoji to relieve some of the tension.

“Hahaha no I’m not.” I didn’t think so.

People made “gay” jokes towards me while growing up, but I never took offense to it because I genuinely didn’t believe I was gay. I also went to a Catholic elementary school, so I guess the jokes were really only jokes in my head. Flash forward to the summer I was going into 10th grade – the first time I began seriously questioning my sexuality.

Were people right all along and I never really noticed?

I had girlfriends in middle school. I know that doesn’t really count, but it still says something. At this point, I’ve realized that attraction and sexual orientation are two seperate things.

October 31, 2011

I celebrated Halloween night the way any 10th grader would. I went to a local elementary school with some of my friends then walked around the town and did 10th-grade stuff.

“Hey, Tom. Where are you? Want to meet at the middle school playground?”

“Hey! I’m walking back to my friend’s house now. Once we get there, I can probably sneak away.”

This was the first night I had ever made out with a guy.

Making out with boys is the same as making out with girls. I don’t think after this night I knew I was gay, but it furthered my understanding of the difference between attraction and sexual orientation. It didn’t feel wrong. I didn’t feel uncomfortable. For me, this night verified that I’m attracted to both boys and girls, but I was still figuring out the whole sexual orientation thing.

November 2, 2011

“Tom, want to come over and watch some TV?”

“Sure! I’ll be over soon.”

I don’t remember what we watched, but I remember we made out again.

I wasn’t very sexually active at this point in my life, so I had a boundary that I wasn’t going to go any further than making out until things were exclusive. Remember… I was in 10th grade. But after this night, I began to catch “the feels” for this guy and it was way different than with any girl I’ve been with beforehand. I never felt the need to be sexually active with a girl, but now, I was starting to feel like I wanted to be. It was weird af for me. I finally began understanding what sexual orientation is.

I had been told being gay was wrong while growing up. Well, maybe not that it was wrong, but I always got the hint from teachers, family members, and my parents. I grew up in the age where “You’re so gay!” was yelled at someone who wasn’t doing what was desired. And I can’t forget to mention how my mom would mutter snarky comments under her breath if we ever saw someone who was “feminine” walking around in the stores she dragged me into. C’mon mom, we’re in Khol’s. What do you expect?

I never really thought about it because I guess I was never encouraged to. I wasn’t ever in a situation where I felt like I could explore the thought of myself being gay. Not that I was suppressed by any means, I just was never put in a situation where I felt like I was gay. So, why even think about it?

December 4, 2011

“Hey, Mom. I have something to tell you…”

Not going to lie, I chugged a whole 4 Loko in 5 minutes after doing this. It was 10th grade.

The next year was the hardest of my life so far. My dad then found out, then my brother. “Don’t you dare tell your sister.” Constant tension in the hallways of my house. Texting fights so no one could hear. I never felt suppressed until this time of my life by the person who mattered most.

Strangely, things started looking up when I brought my first “boyfriend” home to meet my parents. Maybe my family was seeing that I’m still who I was before coming out and it’s not a big deal. Everything was all out on the table and my dad started making jokes about it. I’m the type of person who likes to laugh at myself, and these jokes weren’t offensive. It became normal. It got better.

It’s better than ever before.

We’ve never been living in a better time in terms of the views on LGBTQ+. Yes, the big guy in the White House isn’t necessarily the ideal candidate for this community. Yes, there are so many tremendous problems in our world due to ignorance for other communities of people. Yes, we could be in an even better time. This may be just my opinion, but being part of the LGBTQ+ has never been so, okay.

We still have a long way to go until America is really “great again.” People need to stop killing other people; people need to start respecting each other. We’re all alive for a reason. It’s time to encourage each other to fulfil our passions and let each other do it in their own unique way.


What was your coming out story like? Are you part of a suppressed community in modern society? I want to hear what you guys go through because the more we know, the more we can feel empathy for each other. Please share your stories in the comments below.


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A Personal Letter To Danceworks as My Time As President Comes To An End

“Congratulations, Tom, you are now officially the President of Danceworks Productions.”

Around a year ago today, I was inducted as President of the most incredible club I’ve every known about. For those of you who don’t know what this club does, let me briefly explain. Danceworks Productions is the largest organization at Hofstra University with over 150 member. It is also a completely student run organization. We audition choreographers and select 11-13 dance pieces which will be in our production. A few days later, we hold dancer auditions where these choreographers show their dances and select their casts after a four-hour process. As the semester continues, each dance has an hour and a half rehearsal once a week leading up to the show.  As all of this work is being done, we participate in multiple social events to build a bond amongst the club and the Hofstra community, as well as a handful of philanthropy events where we raise money for various charities. We, as a club, do this every semester (so twice per academic year). There is no other club on Hofstra University’s campus that does all of this – it’s truly remarkable.

From Fall 2015-Spring 2017 I served as the Publicity and Promotions chair. I promoted the auditions and shows through various mediums, as well as designed all of the apparel for those two years. Following this role, I had the privilege and honor to be President of this incredible club. At the point in time I am writing this, I only have around 24 hours left as President of Hofstra University Danceworks Productions President. As I reminisce about my time at Hofstra, Danceworks has been the heart and soul of why I’ve loved my time at Hofstra University.

I’d like to take the time to write a letter to Danceworks – more specifically the members of this club who I’ve grown from because of their footprints left on my heart. If you were in Danceworks anywhere between 2015 to Spring 2018, this one is for you:

Dear Danceworks,

I’ve dedicated three years of my life to you. I’ve sacraficed a huge part of my free time, missing family events, and breaks within the academic schedule to fulfil my responsibilities to you. I’ve been on call 24 hours/7 days a week for years to jump on any situation I may have to mediate or rectify. Yes, most of the time I’ve had to do things at the most inconvenient times when I wanted to do almost anything else, but in the end, I loved every minute of it.

When I started at Hofstra University, I was a commuter. I absolutely hated it and my first semester I wanted to transfer. I looked into it and started talking to friends who attended other schools around the nation. I knew it was best to finish out the year so I sat on the option of leaving to pursue a different experience away from home. When my second semester started, I decided to audition for Danceworks Productions. At that point, I hadn’t really danced since I was 10 years old; I danced like the Tin Man does when Dorothy first meets him at that first audition. I didn’t get into the show that semester, but I wanted to take advantage of the other 66% you participate in. I hung out with you alone at the first social event and from there, everthing fell into place.

Within a month I was offered a room in an off campus house occupied by your members. I couldn’t believe it and I jumped on the opportunity. I continued to participate in anything I could and I even helped with selling tickets at the shows. I knew this club was something I wanted to be part of regardless of what I was doing. This mentality led me to run for Danceworks Productions executive board as Publicity and Promotions Chair. Long story short, I was elected and then re-elected the following year.

As I mentioned before, I hadn’t danced in a while. I wanted to grow as a dancer, as well as a leader of this club. I practiced and focused a majority of my time at Hofstra to getting better and eventually be casted into the shows. After another semester of not being casted, I had the privledge of being selected into the Spring 2016 and have been since. Once I was casted, I focused my attention on diversifying my abilities away from only doing hip-hop dances to eventually also dancing in contemporary and jazz pieces as well.

A few weeks before the elections for my senior year, I decided to push myself even further and run for President. What? I met you as a below average dancer and now I’m going for President of a dance club? This was no where near what I thought my time in Danceworks would lead to. I wanted to create a higher meaning of this club for myself so this was the perfect opportunity. I worked hard on my speech as I did everything involving you up to that point which resulted in my election as Danceworks Productions President.

My time at Hofstra has taught me five things about myself which I would have never learned if I didn’t audition for this club back in 2015. They are:

DANCE

Like I’ve discussed, I didn’t have a thorough background or training in dance. I took the time to listen to my peers in the club and, from that, I gained a better understanding on how to dance and how to look at dance from a technical standpoint. Your members are among the most talented dancers at Hofstra and this made it easy for me to see how to dance properly through observation and immitation. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me how to connect my mind and body, which I’ve applied to all aspects of my life.

PERSISTENCE

Many members don’t get casted into your shows, especially their first semester or two auditioning. This is inevitable and dance is competitive, therefore I had to learn how to take the rejection and grow from it. Many people have problems doing this but when you do, there are many more pros than cons. I learned how to take a “failure” and make it a positive. I didn’t get into the show my first two semesters, one of which I was on the executive board for. I could have dropped the club and sought a different avenue to get involved, but, let’s be honest, doing just that shows immaturity and lack of character. I used this rejection to become an even better dancer than I would have if I stopped trying to get into the Danceworks show. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me that failure is an opportunity to be better than if I was successful in the first place.

COMMUNICATION

Being on e-board means we are responsible for the operation of a club of over 150 of your members. Inevitably, I have had to communicate with almost each and every person in the club every year for three years. As President, this duty only increased and I had to mediate hundreds of conflicts and situations. This was extremely uncomfortable at times, especially because I’m friends with most of these people. But my time on e-board has taught me to have those difficult conversations and deal with circumstances I didn’t feel comfortable doing. As I dealt with these particular conflicts, I grew to understand I am capable of having these tricky interactions and have an effective outcome. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me how to handle conflicts in a mature and effective manner, especially when it involves friends.

 PRIDE

Imagine auditioning for something you worked really hard on for a year and you got shut down twice already. You’d feel pretty defeated. Now imagine you go into the following audition and get casted into, not only one, but two pieces! I didn’t know it then, but the rejection only allowed me to experience exuberance I would have never felt if I wasn’t shut down beforehand. Taking a step away from focusing on the dancing aspect of the club: the kid who had trouble getting into the shows a few times was elected President his senior year. I know back in 2015, no one ever expected that to happen. As I’m creeping on 24 hours left as President, I am the most proud of myself I’ve ever been. I don’t think I’ve ever been proud of myself until this past year as I’ve constantly reflected on my journey in the club. I believe I’m the only male President of Danceworks in history of the club and I think I’m one of a few, if the only, President of a dance club that didn’t have significant training throughout my life. I’m usually humble but I’m unique in this aspect and that’s an honor to say. Thank you, Danceworks, for teaching me to be proud of myself.

CONFIDENCE

Confidence. I’ve been in leadership positions throughout my middle school and high school careers. I have even taken leadership in elementary school when the teacher was obligated to handle a more crucial situation. I know I am a type A personality, but I’ve never been completely confident. Through all I’ve accomplished and grown as a dancer, friend and leader, I’ve been more aware of my confidence as a person. These past few years have put me in the best and worst positions of my life, but I’m still breathing and after careful reflection, I realized that my confidence has sky-rocketed. I’m taking this confidence and I’m in the process of creating my own business. Without this club, I would have never learned crucial life lessons of rejection, failure, success and discomfort. Thank you, Danceworks, for giving me the confidence to set up my life for success and prosperity.

These are only a few things I’ve learned from participating in Danceworks Productions and working my way to eventually become President. You have given me so many opportunities to grow into the man I am today and I’m beyond grateful for the things I’ve learned through meeting such incredible and talented people along the way. The members of this club have pushed me beyond what I thought I could achieve. This is something I will cherish forever and utilize as I take on the real-world post-graduation. I’ve watched this club become better and better each year and as I leave this organization in the hands of Morgan, I know you’re only going to get better. I cannot wait to see the club grow along with the members of this club. Thank you for everything you’ve given me, Danceworks, and continue to do so for as many people as possible.

With much love,

Tom Fraher

To the members of Danceworks who are graduating, coming back next semester or thinking of joining, you don’t know what you have until it’s (almost) gone. Be mindful of what Danceworks is giving you along the way and reflect on what you’ve taken away from this club. The more meaning you give the club, the further you will grow.

 

A Personal Letter to Hofstra University from a Soon-To-Be Graduate.

When my alarm went off this morning at 10 am (exactly an hour before my class starts), I decided to take the L for the day and miss my first class. I wanted to get to the gym but I didn’t want to go at night. I rested my eyes a little longer then checked my phone. 10:22 am. Alright, fine. It’s the last full week of classes ever and the second to last class for the course. I’ll go… I fumbled out of bed, got ready and dragged myself to class. I shared my mental struggle of the morning with a few classmates as I logged into the Hofstra computer. I’m in a social media and web design class so I’ve spent about 4 hours last week working on my ficticious company’s website home page. My last task of the assignment was to export it and upload it to a website simulator. 5 clicks and I was done! “Could not complete request because an unexpected end-of-file was encountered.” Lit.

My original vision of the day involved getting stuff done and skipping class. A “thriving” type of day one might say. But I changed my mind to go to class. A “responsible” type of day one might say. As the days pass, I catch myself verbally reminding myself how many days I have until graduation. “17 days,” I said as my professor told me to “start over. It’s not that complex.”

Despite the beginning of my day, I had the most amazing 4 years of my life at Hofstra University. I started as a Psychology major to get prerequisites done for a Physician Assistant Graduate Program. After one semester, Hofstra extracted realization I don’t want to fucking do that. (Side note: Professor BIO 12 and Professor Daniels are the reasons I came to this epiphany.) I spent hours in the library and still getting 60s or worse on exams. I don’t take it as I wasn’t smart enough for it, I simply realized that my brain doesn’t think the same way one does in the medical/biology field. I ran with this lesson and swithed my major to Marketing.  From there, my life fell into place.

Appreciation encompasses my feelings towards Hofstra as my time comes to an end here. What better way to show this than write a letter to Hofstra discuss my unfiltered opinions about the university itself? So, here we go.

 

Dear Hofstra University,

First of all, there really wasn’t anything you could do to get the bars back?  I feel like there was definitely some sort of agreement between you and McHebes.  Whatever, I’m not here much longer anyway.  I wanted to take the time to express my gratitude regarding my experience over the last 4 years as a student of this beautiful university.

I want this to be a mainly positive letter, therefore I’ll start with my complaints. Frankly, we all feel like you’re constantly trying to get money out of us. One time you took $4,000 from me without telling me. You also charged me $100 because you didn’t approve my loan efficiently and it didn’t get processed to you until after the due date. Aside from that, I only went to an advisor twice.  During my freshman year, I wasn’t sure how to do my schedule so I went to her to discuss what to do.  She told me to take a spanish credit because my college credit from high school didn’t fulfil the requirement. Guess what, Hofstra, it did. I wasted a semester in Spanish 3. It seems like a tactic to get as much money out of me as possible. Another complaint has to deal with, and I’m sure you get this a lot, the parking. You’re in the process of assembling a building in the middle of one of the parking lots. You had a parking issue to begin with and this construction is not helping whatsoever. Oh, and one last thing, HofUSA used to be tight; now it’s iight. I understand it’s a business and you were probably going to get more money out of it, but you’re thinking short term. You’re beginning to build a poor reputation which will wind up losing you more money in the long-run. Some friendly advice and my opinion as a consumer.

I would also like to share something else. I received an email about a month ago with the headline saying “We’re offering a new course – you may be interested!” Of course, it’s a social media marketing class. Long story short, I’m diving into the social media marketing/management field upon graduation. It’s not your fault, but I spent the last four years getting a degree and the semester proceeding my departure you’re offering probably the most useful class I could have taken; more useful than any class I had to take as an undergraduate student. I’m just being selfish because I understand it is a new and growing industry, therefore I want to thank you for providing this class to students. It could spark their interest in a growing industry and that’s ultimately the goal of college.

With that being said, let’s get back to the main reason I’m writing. Thank you so much for the experiences I’ve had here. I rerouted my career path and I’ve never been more excited about a job. I’ve made friends with hundreds of people who have made an incredible mark on my life. I joined Danceworks, I moved into their home, I became family with members of the club and I currently am the President of the club. This is one of the most impressive college organizations in the world which has taught me tons of things about myself as a person, professional and leader. I’m insanely honored to have worked for this organization and proud of my sucesses. I’ve also recieved an incredible education. Although sometimes many of them are of no interest to me, your courses are tedious and they establish a work ethic I never had before attending. I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in myself as a result of who I’ve become over the years as a Hofstra University undergraduate student.

I appreciate everything you have provided to mold my mindset and life. The friends, knowledge, empowerment, confidence, determination. I’m completely prepared for whatever life throws my way. Unfortunately and inevitably, it’s time for me to go.

Hofstra, we’re going to be homies for life. I will perpetually look back on these past 4 years with fondness and appreciation. Without you, I would have never learned crucial lessons about myself and the world around me. I will succeed because of this experience and for that, I thank you.

Stay Positive,

Tom Fraher

 

Life is about the experiences we have and the lessons we learn from them. The more we learn, the better we evolve as a person.  Hofstra University has given me the experiences I needed to lead a successful life after graduation. Positivity radiates around campus as everyone is waiting for summer. I, however, radiate positivity as I wait to begin my life.

 


 

Are there any other undergraduate students on the verge of graduating or have already? How do you feel about your undergraduate experiences? I’ve been having this conversation with my peers and the positivity keeps me going!

 


 

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Danceworks Productions is More Than Just a Club

Starting college is like jumping off of a cliff into dark waters; you see the water but the water is a mystery. Is the water going to be fresh or salty? Is it going to be warm or cold? Is it deep or shallow? For me, I jumped in with my arms out and mind wide open. I hit the water and made a fantastic group of friends. From there, it’s been nothing but a deep, warm, fresh water lake. I’ve learned a lot about myself. However, I couldn’t have done this without becoming involved in Hofstra’s largest club on campus, Danceworks Productions.

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Me posing for a dance recital around the age of 7.

Fortunately, I had a mom who wanted me to do (almost) everything. She made me, my brother, and my sister do dance for at least one year. My brother dropped it after the first year, but I continued to learn how to dance. I dance for around five years (ages 4-9). It’s not that I lost interest in it, I actually was annoyed by another dancer in my hip-hop class and decided to stop. Although that was it for dance lessons for me, I never stopped dancing whenever I was listening to music.

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Dancing at my high school’s Battle of the Classes in 2013.

My first semester of college was the shortest amount of time I ever learned so much about myself. I was thinking about changing my major and figuring out how I’m going to leave my mark at Hofstra. My lab partner was a dance minor and got me to go to the fall 2014 Danceworks show. I had an amazing time in the audience; in fact, I went to both shows. Watching the professionalism of the students and the energy I felt throughout planted the idea that I wanted to be up there someday.

Just before the auditions for the following semester’s show, my lab partner texted me to remind me. We met up and both went to the auditions. This audition was much different than a normal audition; everyone created a welcoming environment and it was an amazing time. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it into a piece that semester.  However, Danceworks does more than just dance – it is also a social and philanthropic club. I went to hang out with the club members at their off-campus house by myself for a social event. Every member welcomed me with open arms. This was the start to how the rest of my college experience was going to pan out.

 

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Hanging out for one of the first times with Danceworks Productions!

I commuted my freshman year and I hated it. I loved everything about Hofstra, except for the fact that I had to drive 20-40 minutes one way each day. This prompted me to apply to be a residence assistant. I got through both rounds of interviews and was awaiting the email regarding the decision made. On February 24, 2015, I woke up for class with a Facebook message from one of the Danceworks members. The message read, “Hey Tom I was wondering if ud be interested in living in the DW house next year?” I explained how I would love to but have to figure out the finances and logistics of living there. She told me to just let her know as soon as I figure it out.

Danceworks has club meeting every Monday at 6:00 PM in the Student Center (room 142 to be exact). I had class until 5:55 PM, and on my way to the meeting, I had received an email informing me that I did not get the RA position. YES! I know – not a typical reaction to not getting something you interviewed and worked hard to get. The RA job would have given me free room and board, which I would have saved a boat-load of money. However, deep down, I really wanted to be living off campus. I entered room 142 and gave the girl who offered me the room in the house the thumbs up; she knew exactly why.

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The night I was inducted into Hofstra University Danceworks Productions’s executive board in 2015.

I continued going out with the club. I began to get to know many members and became an active member of the club. As the semester dwindled to an end, elections for executive board positions came around. At this point, I had decided on changing my major to marketing, so I figured I would run of the Publicity and Promotion chair. Luckily, I got elected which enabled me to become even more involved in the club. I served as the P&P chair for two years (my sophomore and junior years). My involvement in Danceworks has been nothing but positive and I am grateful for the experiences each member contributes to my college experience.  Because of that, I ran for and am now the President of Danceworks Productions at Hofstra University.

I couldn’t tell you where I would be right now if my lab partner was not a member of Danceworks and urged me to come to the shows back in 2014. I would not have the family of friends I do now, have had the opportunity to grow as a dance, and have the honor to part of such an amazing club.

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Me featured in Kevin William’s Danceworks Productions piece in April 2016.

 

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South Africa (Day 1)

Typically, 5:45 am is not my favorite time to wake up.  I’m just completing three hours of sleep when my iPhone alarm goes off and I force my eyes open.  I stretch for a second and turn to see my packed suitcase just a few feet from the door.  This only means one thing… it’s travel day.

As I’m driving to my parent’s house, my boyfriend, Brandon, and I are pretty quiet.  First of all, it is 6:15 am.  Secondly, I don’t even know what to say.  There are so many thoughts going through my head.  What is Cape Town like?  How close am I going to get to a lion?  Ugh, a 14 hour flight followed by another two hour flight.  My mind rambles as much as it can for having only three hours of rest.

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“Have the bestest time ever!” my mom yells in my ear as I’m getting set to board the bus to depart for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.  I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her, “I love you.”  I do the same to Brandon and step on the bus to begin my adventure.

The hustle of JFK Airport starts to fuel my excitement.  Everyone is scattering to find where they have to check-in.  Everyone is rummaging through their bags for their boarding passes and passports.  Everyone is going somewhere different in this gigantic world.

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I double check that my ACIS Educational Tours luggage tag is fastened to my suitcase before putting it on the scale to be weighed.  Yes!  It’s not overweight!  I scurry over to Wendy Way, my travel guru and tour leader, after I’ve completely checked-in.  She tells me that the flight is delayed two hours.  Oh well, South Africa isn’t going anywhere.

The whole group successfully makes it through security and to the gate.  We have some time, so we disperse to find a snack before we embark on 17 hour expedition to Cape Town, South Africa.  As time creeps closer to boarding time, I feel the grip of excitement around my heart getting tighter and tighter.  It isn’t until the flight attendant says, “thank you, enjoy your flight,” after I hand her my boarding pass that I feel the relief in my chest – I’m on my way to South Africa!

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With two flights down, one connection complete, and 17 hours since we took off from John F. Kennedy Airport, we have finally made it to Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa.

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A huge weight is lifted from my shoulder as I see my suitcase turn the corner of the carousel.  I use all of the energy I have remaining after the long travel to pick it up and wheel it away from the crowd.  I open it, grab a change of clothes along with my contacts, and run to the bathroom.  After the change, I feel refreshed and recharged.  I’m ready to start exploring Cape Town, South Africa.

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Our first stop, Table Top Aerial cableway to the top of Table Top Mountain (one of the new seven wonders of the world).  Our whole group crowds into one car (34 people plus other adventurers trying to get to the top of Table Top Mountain).  The five minute journey embarks.  To my surprise, about 30 seconds into the trip, the floor begins to rotate!  As we climb up the 1,089 meter mountain, the car makes a 360 degree rotation.  My breathe is sucked out of me as we reach the top and I can see various mountains and waters surrounding the beautiful town of Cape Town.

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I wish I could put the feeling of exploring Table Top Mountain into words better.  After breathing recycled air in the airplane for so many hours, my lungs open widely when I inhale as I looked out into the Atlantic Ocean.  My chest became lighter and I felt so small.

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After the ride to the bottom of the mountain and a short bus ride, we were finally at Meloncino.  YES!  A meal that wasn’t airplane food… finally.  My friend and I (we’re both 21 years old) shared a bottle of Pinotage with our incredible dinner.  I had Yellow Tail fish over rice.  Amazing.

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As dinner came to a close, I found my mind beginning to fog.  At this point, it had been many hours of restless flying and exploring.  I was beat.  We all piled back onto the bus and fought to stay awake until we arrived at the Sunsquare Cape Town Hotel.  We got our keys after a slight speed bump in rooming assignments and off to bed I went.  Until tomorrow, Cape Town, South Africa.

 


 

To see the highlight video of the day, click here!

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