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January 30, 2012
"Qu'est-ce qui se passe dans notre pays?" someone wondered aloud as we watched the news on the television. This past week has been one of stress, disappointment, and unrest for the people of Senegal. Saturday the 21 of January we watched as Senegal's equipe de foot lost its first game in the Coupe d'Afrique; even so, we held onto hope through the 93rd minute of Senegal's second match, only to be disappointed by losing to a spectacular goal from the opposing team in overtime. Keeping to the rules of the Coupe, we had to suffer through one more losing game yesterday afternoon before being officially eliminated from the Coupe.
Meme si, l'equipe de foot's poor performance was not the first thing on the minds of the Dakarois. Schools have been on and off strike since before I've been here, and last week there was also a transportation strike for a few days, suspended only out of necessity because of the approaching birthday of the prophet Mohammed (4 February).
However, truly the most important thing that is currently underway involves the recent finalization of the candidates for the 2012 presidential elections. Last Friday, 27 January, it was announced that the constitutional council had accepted current president Abdoulaye Wade's candidacy. In reality, there was little doubt that his candidacy would be accepted, but on paper it was under question because of the new(ish) constitutional ruling that one person may only serve two terms as president, which Wade is currently in the process of completing. However, the five people who officially ruled whether he would be able to run again or not were, of course, chosen by none other than Wade himself, so naturally he will be on the ballot 26 February.
All day last Friday, the air was thick with tension in Dakar. Nothing extraordinary occurred that I had the chance to witness, though there were demonstrations and protests in numerous parts of the city from midnight to morning thanks to the constitutional council's announcement. All weekend roads were blocked by students and protesters upset with Wade's acceptance. Even now, Monday night, gendarmerie sit in groups at the roundabouts, by bridges, and at other hotspots in the city just in case. Again, nothing serious has happened yet, but even the weather tells of unrest in the people with heavy clouds and a cool, dry wind. Tuesday will bring more protests without a doubt. On verra; di na baax.
Nevertheless, life continues in this sleepless city. School continues for the MSID students, transportation has started again, the call to prayers is as consistent as ever, and the wind still gets sand in my now-tressed hair. Tomorrow I will discuss Senegalese French poetry, speak Wolof, drink ataya with my guard friends, and live life in West African Internal Time. Alhamdulilaay.
January 26, 2012
Aside from everything else that I love here, learning Wolof is quite possibly the coolest academic part of this trip. Wolof is the nearly universal African language in Senegal; it's the primary language of the majority of the Dakarois (people who live in Dakar), and apparently people of other tribal origins and in other parts of the country generally still speak or understand Wolof.
On Monday, we had our first official Wolof class. The prof, Sydy/Twiggy/Willow is the most adorable, jolly, interesting, and intelligent wisp of a man. He worked as a Wolof teacher of PeaceCorps volunteers for a long time and has quite the stories to tell from those experiences. We spent the first two days of class learning different greetings, salutations, conversation starters, and information questions (where you live, your names, etc.); I have a feeling that even after spending two class days on them, there are still more greetings to learn. In Senegal, greeting a person and discussing for a few minutes their condition, the condition of their family, their dog, their plants, what have you, is extremely important. Should you choose not to spend the time to properly greet someone and inquire after their health a bit, oftentimes they will simply ignore you. They're not being rude, though. The mentality is that, if you treat me like a tree instead of a person by not greeting me like a person, I will act like a tree and not talk to you.
Now that I know and can use a bit of Wolof, it's fun to greet people as I walk to and from school. As soon as any of us toubabs (white people) pull out the "Salaam Maaleekum" standard greeting of peace, the people we have greeted love to throw back rapid questions in Wolof to see what we know. Generally I just stumble through saying "Maangi fii rekk"and keep moving, but occasionally it's nice to stop and try a few more phrases.
Because of our willingness to greet and the Dakarois love of toubabs, my American neighbor Vera and I have made friends with the guards who work in our quartier. Every day on the way to and from school we exchange niceties, and often they invite us to sit and have ataya (tea) with them. While doing ataya, they like to tease us and teach us things to say in Wolof. Thanks to them, I can now tell people who ask that I have four husbands--this is truly a useful response because anyone and everyone will ask early on in a conversation, "Madame ou mademoiselle?" And by early in a conversation I mean right after names and salutations comes the married or not question. Should I choose to respond by saying that I have four husbands, everyone just laughs and tells me that's too many; or, as happened with one of my guard friends, they tell me in Wolof that they want to be the fifth. By giving such an outrageous response as "am naa niente jeker," I can respond to the question, lighten the mood, make a friend, and ignore giving actual information all at the same time. And that is a very useful cultural skill to learn here.
En fin, the point is that not only is it fascinating to delve into a language so entirely different from my own, but also it allows me to become more a part of this beautiful culture in a way I never could merely as a tourist.
Ba beneen yoon!
January 24, 2012
La Famille et Teranga
Family. Family is so important to the Senegalese. Perhaps only after Allah, family is the most important thing. They will be there for you no matter what, no matter when, no matter why. Even without blood relations, the people you live with are your family, your neighbors are your family, your friends as well, and for most people here all of Senegal is just one big family. It's part of the openness of this warm and welcoming culture. In Wolof, this is called Teranga. It implies hospitality, acceptance, and a culture of giving even when you have not. There is always room for one more at the dinner platter, no matter what.
My Senegalese family confused me profusely for the first few days: the layout, who was who, the connections, the whole shebang. At my house, I have Maman Rama, my brother Babacar, two nieces of Maman who are both named Rama as well, and two renters, Fatou and Jean-Luc. For about a month, we also have a German woman named Rike (Frederike) who lives with us. Aside from Rike and the renters, everyone in the house is related in some manner, but for me, everyone is a brother or a sister--it is so much simpler just to consider everyone a member of the family, especially since that is how it feels anyway.
Now, let me explain why the family confused me at first. On Saturday, Maman took me to a house-warming party of sorts; her niece (?) was married last week and was putting on her first big party as a married woman. There. Were. So. Many. People. Holy dustbins. Some people were introduced, some were not. Most were blood-related, but all were family. Even me! There were the endless siblings of Maman, some from the same parents, some from different parents. Some people were Maman's children, apparently, and I think I figured out the ultimate matriarch and patriarch, but I cannot be certain. There were some random Italian travellers there as well, and tons of children who got very excited when I danced the uza, this year's most popular dance style. I kept trying to keep everyone straight in my head, to remember names, to separate the French-speakers from the nons, to organize how each person was related, and to continue to smile and to interact in an almost chaotic situation. Yet, in retrospect, I realize now that knowing the exact details of the family simply doesn't matter because everyone is loved, everyone is family, no matter the connection. If I forget something or make a mistake, someone will remind me, laugh, and move on. People here really believe in being warm and kind, and they seem to be infinitely patient with the silly toubab that I am. And, as Babacar always says, c'est tranquille.
January 19, 2012
Bienvenidos a España
¡Hola a todos! I'm studying in Spain all semester (Spring 2012) and will be Eurotripping for the rest of the summer. Should be a good time.
For those of you who'd like a little background on where I'm living currently; Granada is one of the oldest cities in Spain. It's in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula in the region of Andalucía. Granada is the spanish word for Pomegranate. This city is amazing for many reasons, especially its unbeatable history- it was the last Muslim stronghold during the reconquista of the Reyes Católicas (Ferdinand y Isabel). There are very distinct barrios in the city, from the modern bustling city center (Centro, where I'm living with a family) to the quieter and picturesque Albaicín, the old Muslim neighborhood with the steep and narrow streets. Granada is also home to the Alhambra, the red palace. Granada maintains an Arab influence in architecture, food, clothing, etc. It's amazing. The people, the history, the sights and sounds of Granada are beyond real.
At the point that I'm writing this, I have been in Spain a mere 2 weeks to the day. WOW. So far I've been in Granada and in classes even less. Spain is amazing. In true Minnesotan fashion, I have to comment on the weather. The weather is mostly great (better than Morris!!) so I've been wearing light jackets and bumping up against frozen Spaniards in full on FUR COATS. Not kidding folks. To the locals, it's a brutal 5 degrees Celsius, meaning a balmy 41 degrees F. The program directors and my host mom keep telling me to bundle up, I can't help but chuckle.
Granada is a fantastic place, describing it in words only does an injustice, but I've got to try it any way. From the terrace of my host family's piso (apartment) I can see the Alhambra in front of me and the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains to my right. Everything is tall, cobblestoned, old, colorful, loud, exciting, simple, complicated all at the same time. I'm not at a point where I can really tell you what I'm doing with my life, any future plans or such, but I can tell you that I'll report back the most exciting news.
For now, the most important things for you to know are thus:
1) You only lithp the c's and z's in the middle and ends of spanish words. not the s's.
2) Is it a horizontal surface? It's a road. Motos and cars and delivery trucks. You don't think that ice truck with fit in this alley along with all the pedestrians?
3) Buy a €2 beer, get free food. They're called tapas; don't die without eating some.
4) Spanish women are my idols. Not only are they often working wives and mothers of adorable children but they always look damn good and they get everywhere (from kid schlepping to grocery shopping) on foot . Not just on foot, anybody can do that, but in heels and on cobblestone. You're not human if you're not impressed.
5) Churros con chocolate y café con leche.
6) Granada Fútbol is not a joke. Even though their color is Pepto-Bismol Pink. These fans are crazier than Real Madrid's.
7) The hipsters in Granada are so cool. For hair styles they all have any possible combination of: shaved head, total or partial, dreadlocks, rat-tails, mohawks. Usually the two later are made of dreadlocks that reach to their midsection. Almost all are musicians.
8) Teterías- all are cozy and wonderful, some have free hookah if you buy enough delicious and cheap tea.
9) The cheek kisses are not actual kisses, but 'cheek brushes'. Don't caress the person's face if it's your first time meeting, or ever probably. I may or may not know from personal experience.
10) Olive oil and oranges. I woke up one Saturday morning to a bowl of olive oil with some beans in it. Not the best meal I've had. At least the orange was great!
Now that you've learned 10 (or more) new brilliant things, I'll leave you with an awesome song. You don't need to know Spanish to love it. It's called Todos los días sale el sol, by Bongo Botrako. follow the link! If you're a good enough detective you can download this and other albums for free.
More to come later! Once I've gathered my thoughts and such, more organization...
Bonjour tout le monde!
Day four of the MSID Senegal Spring 2012 program and all is well! We have all successfully moved in with our families and are beginning to settle into a rhythm. It is pleasantly warm here, very sunny, a little breezy, and thus a very nice and snowless winter.
Today's blog theme is transportation. To get to school every day, I walk with Vera, another student in the MSID program who lives very close to me, and sometimes my brother Babacar walks with us. Thank goodness Babacar is so flexible with his time because we live almost an hour away by foot!
If we ever don't feel like walking, we could take a taxi, a bus, or a car rapide. The taxi drivers here remind me a little bit of taxi drivers in NYC because of the way they drive. They have extremely good control of their vehicles (all Toyota Camrys), and in spite of their slightly dilapidated condition, they work quite well. I've noticed that none of the drivers here, taxi or non, seem to pay attention to lights or signs; instead, they pay very good attention to everything else around them: other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and medians. Though the rules of the road all seem to be unspoken and a little intimidating, it feels really safe using the roads on foot or by taxi because people are simply aware of everything. A horn honk here is not so much a "get out of my way" as a "be careful because I'm driving and you are fragile."
I haven't taken the bus or a car rapide yet, but I've seen them. Both types of vehicles are essentially 16 passenger vans, but bigger. People cram onto them or hang off the back; just like the Senegalese culture, riding a bus or car rapide is casual and no one seems to be pressed for time.
Another thing that impresses me here is the manner in which people walk in and out of traffic. During rush hour, lots of boys or young men weave in and out of cars, holding up bags of fruit or phone cards for the passengers to buy. Of course, they have to carefully avoid the motorcyclists who drive in between lanes of cars like knives through butter.
I really enjoy the Senegalese mentality of transportation. Everyone has an agenda, naturally, but road rage does not seem to exist and people are okay with being flexible with time. Everyone pays attention to the people around them because that is so much more important than being on time or in the quickest lane. And, luckily in addition to these two good characteristics, everyone knows the unspoken rules and is excellent at transporting themselves with great skill.
A la prochaine fois~
January 16, 2012
Salaam Maaleekum -- Peace be with you.
Welcome to the MSID Senegal blog! We safely arrived in Dakar, Senegal, this morning after a short and comfortable flight from DC and were immediately swept up in a whirlwind of orientation, en francais bien sur. As I lie here in my hotel room, my stomach full of Senegalese hospitality and my head anxiously awaiting tomorrow afternoon when I will meet my host family, I can hear the sounds of people being called to evening prayers. The electricity just went out through the entire city, an occurrence almost as regular as the call to prayers, apparently.
No worries though! The warmness of the people and their laughter and sense of humor makes up for trifles like power outages (and it just came back on anyway). Earlier today before both lunch and dinner we were all at a momentary loss as to what we should do with the few minutes before the food arrived. So, naturally, we had a dance party! People just seem to be sincerely joyous and light-hearted here, and so full of life. Even after one day here I can see why this country is so well-loved by all who visit.
For the rest of the week we will have a thoroughly busy orientation (aka not a lot of time for the interwebs), touring the city, learning more about the culture, and visiting Ile de Goree. Next week when classes start we'll learn more Wolof, so of course I'll share some of the knowledge as we go along.
Speaking of knowledge, did you know that the meal-time culture here includes eating with your right hand directly from the communal dish? It's a far more intimate and sharing way of eating, plus there are less dishes to wash in the end. After meals families often do ataya, a type of tea consumed in three rounds that goes from strong to strong/sweet to very sweet. Ataya can take hours because people use that time to sit around and discuss anything and everything.
This has been the quick run-down of a simplified version of what one can learn about Senegalese and Wolof culture in one day. There is so much more to discover :)
Until next time,
Maaleekum Salaam -- Peace only.
January 13, 2012
6 January 2012
Title: Feeling family
On Friday, we went back to Afrika Tikkun and broke into three groups. I was in a smaller group that headed to do a home visit further away. We went to visit a granny whose daughter had passed away and she was taking care of her daughter's four children. Kelly, Ky, Hana and I showed up and granny warmly welcomed us into her home. We had brought a puzzle, a lot of face paint and a ball. The children, ages 13, 7, 5 and 3 were really shy at first, so we cracked out the puzzle and got the ball rollin'. Granny was asked to babysit three more children and we ended up having more kids to play with. All of the kids wanted face paint, including one of the older children who really didn't interact with us. It was a great feeling to be able to be around a sense of family again.
Going into this house with the granny really reminded me of being home on the rez with my own gramma. She is one of the strongest women I know; she has been doing foster care for as long as I can remember and within the past year, she has taken on the task of raising my three cousins, all under the age of 14. It is hard to watch my gramma revert to acting as mother to my cousins, but knowing that they are safe and healthy is worth it.
January 8, 2012
Forgiveness is hard, bru
I got my debit card stolen. Long story short, I let my guard down and thought the guy was showing me how to work the ATM. As I waited for my card to come out, I relized I had been played. I'm glad that only my debit card was stolen ( and so far $185) because it could have been so much more could have been stolen. I'll probably get a refund for the stolen money and a replacement card for free. So for taking advantage of three unsuspecting American girls, three men got away with roughly R2800 or $400. All I can hope is that they needed the money. I lost a hundred dollars at Morris this past month. I feel more stupid about that one as it was completely in the open for anyone to go into my purse and take but it's making me question why I am so trusting of people I don't know. I guess it's just my need to want to please or help people. But really, I want to talk about forgiveness. The Truth and Reconcilliation Commission (TRC) was created to help heal the atrocities which the country faced during Apartheid using a process by applying for amnesty. I mean, in the long run, I think that the TRC will help bring South Africa into a more community-like state. I really believed that the TRC was the best thing that could happen to South Africa after Apartheid ( aside from the world cup being here last year), until we watched Bill Moyer's Facing the Truth: Part 1 in class. When I was able to see the families and friends of people who's lives had been taken during Apartheid their pain became more real. I think it would be extremely hard to forgive someone for not only killing your loved one, but for applying for amnesty just because they believe they won't have to go to jail. None of the families in the video had been apologized to by those applying for amnesty.
Forgiveness is hard. A country can work toward a better future by accepting the problems of the past as the guilt can be spread across plenty of people. I find it hard to believe that individuals find it so easy to forgive the wrong-doers. I believe that with the support of a community, one can find it easier to forgive as they will have someone to fall back on through the difficult times that may lie ahead. I'm not really sure I have ever forgiven someone for a large issue.
Yesterday we went on a safari!!! The second I saw that big ole elephant walk right past our 4x4 I was so excited that I literally didn't stop smiling until I realized how much my face hurt. We then went out to dinner for Courtney's birthday which was super fun. Today we went to the Waterfront, where we spend a LOT of time, and had breakfast with Nj, one of the program coordinators. Afterwards we went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in prison. It was really eerie. I could tell that there was such rich history surrounding the island and it was really just a great experience overall. After almost getting sick on the ride back to the mainland, a few of us went out for dinner and shopped around ( I got a swimsuit top!). While checking out, the lady asked me if it was the seventh or the eighth today. I still have no idea because I have lost all track of time in South Africa. There's a joke that you never expect South African to be on time. If you say let's meet at seven, you literally have until seven fifty nine until they are late.
Tomorrow we got back to Delft, the township we volunteer in, and I am so excited to go back. On Friday we did home visits in small groups. The house we went to had seven children living in it with no parents. After an hour of playing around with the kids, a drunk neighbor showed up claiming we were doing this for the media and that she would take pictures of us and put them in the South African media showing everyone how terrible we are. She then told us it was rude to play with people's lives like that. I had a great time until this happened. I'm really trying to focus on the positive aspects of the situation, but this rude, drunk lady was mad that we were playing at the house with no parents around and not at her house with her kids. I had a great time dancing, face painting and playing soccer with the kids and I cannot wait to do it again.
I also decided that I'm not leaving South Africa. :)
January 5, 2012
A Call to Action
I haven't blogged much yet because I keep forgetting that this trip is educational, not just a vacation abroad. I knew that I would end up blogging today - in fact, I tried to blog before we went out to Africa Tikkun about how I was ready to come in right with an open heart and an open mind.
Today we went and visited the Delft Community Health Center. We saw hundreds of people waiting for treatment. A sister who ran the whole center, who's name I forgot already sadly, talked to us before we got a tour. She said that they serve roughly two thousand people per day with roughly a hundred workers for the whole clinic. That was when I got emotional. I have been talking about going to medical school for almost five years. The past two months have been rough for me in my decision to go to medical school. This whole trip for me was about figuring out about who I am and what I want to do with my life. With every step I take in Africa, I feel myself coming together. From feeling powerful climbing a mountain with EducoAfrica, to visiting the Delft Community Health Center, to even just the simple fact that our classroom in South Africa is in the fucking medical school. I don't believe in God, but man is that a sign from above or what?
People travel for miles to get to the Delft Community Health Center just to get considered to been seen. That doesn't happen in the United States. Health care is so immediate that the idea of waiting is bothersome. The sister let us know that they just got a respirator for their "resuscitation room" or emergency room. Think about your breathing. Your lungs. We just learned about lived experience and taking mundane every day things for granted. Now that I've said something you're probably thinking about your breathing pattern.
As I was leaving I thought about how much I wanted to remember the Delft Community Health Center and the sister who lead us around. She was such a strong woman in the community in a role that almost demanded respect that I just couldn't help but want to be her. We were all hugging goodbye and as the sister and I hugged I was just so overcome with emotion I started crying. I let her know that I was going to medical school and that I would be thinking of her the whole way through. She and I hugged for a good minute crying to ourselves. When we said goodbye I said I would try to keep in touch via email and she kissed me on the cheek and said she was praying for me. We left the Delft Community Health Center and I couldn't help but think, wow, this woman has never talked to me, I've literally been in her presence for roughly fifteen minutes and who the hell am I to deserve her prayers?
I cannot believe that this trip has already given me what I need. Africa has given me hope for myself and my future.
5 January 2012
So, more about Nate Whittaker Boot Camp.
We leave our houses at 8h30.
We get to Afrika Tikkun at 9h00.
We volunteer until 13h00.
We have class at 15h00.
We leave class at 17h00.
We have Talking Circles at 20h00.
It's not bad. It's just intense after coming from the mountains with no regiment or regard for time.
So, Afrika Tikkun. What an absolutely phenomenal place! We work with Anthea, who is similar to Aggie, the housemother at Isithembiso. It appears that she and Liz, along with Michaela, are the inspirational glue that holds this place together. Obviously, I'm sure there are others, but these are just the ladies we are working specifically with.
On our first day there, we did some orientation and got familiar with some of their programs. They have computer and art rooms for kids. They have women that work in the kitchen and make one hot meal for anyone within the township. For free. They also have a social work system. They deliver meals. They do house visits and set up family plans. Everything they do leaves me speechless. Today, on our first real day of service at Afrika Tikkun, Anthea told us that they needed help with the garden. Now, I'm not a real rough and tumble, dirt under my nails kinda gal, but I've been to an indigenous farming conference, so I get the idea.
The Bean and I headed off in one direction and just started pulling weeds. As I was pulling out these evasive plants, I was just noticing the amazing root structures that they had. Between the ball of thorns and snails that I had to encounter, I really started enjoying myself. I'll admit it; I think that having an actual garden someday could be more than just a fantasy.
While the weeding was physically taxing (I was getting sun blisters), it was nothing compared to the emotionally taxing second part of our morning. We left the safe space of Afrika Tikkun and headed to Delft Community Health Centre. There we had a tour guide, who everyone has taken to calling "The Sister That Showed Us Around." She was such an inspiring woman! She has three children and works 13 hour days, 7 days a week. Her phone is always on, at church, while she's asleep, I'm sure even in the bath. She doesn't do it for the pay, or the benefits (if there are any), she does it out of her passion for the people. She was telling us stories of the youth with STI's that she sees; they don't come in until there are warts covering their genitals, until it is literally the worst that it can get.
Her stories tug at your heartstrings, each and every one of us touched by the words of this angel among us.
She then brought us on a tour. We saw everything: the resuscitation room (the er, essentially), the HIV care sector, the TB hall, the ante-natal care, the pediatrics...but most of all, we got to see the people. As we walked the crowded corridors, it was hard to look people in the face. It was hard; who were we to have the gift of opportunity to be able to walk these halls and see the reality behind the statistics? I don't deserve to see the line of babies that need vaccinations to be able to grow into healthy adults, or the adults that are sitting and waiting for their 12 minutes to pass after they've taken the HIV test to find the results. Why do I get to see this?
Why was I the one who was fortunate enough to be the only one in the ER on New Year's Eve? I was so humbled by this experience. There are no words to describe to look in people's eyes at the health centre. Although some are sitting in queues longer than I have ever had to wait in the hospital or clinic, these people still manage to be the most beautiful assortment of people I have ever seen. This is their reality. They have to wait in these queues and lay on mattresses on the floor. This is hard for us Americans to cope with, but life in the townships isn't all doom and gloom. Life happens there. Beautiful, happy, vibrant life. Passion for life and exuberance I first experienced when I visited my friend Zianda in the Red District of PE.
While visiting the Delft Community Health Centre may have been emotionally difficult, it is also uplifting. The fact that anyone in Delft can hop in a taxi and head down to the clinic and receive care for free is amazing. South Africa is doing many things right that the US is missing and health care is one of them. In fact, this morning, Rick Santorum said "People die in America because people die in America. And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don't go to the emergency room or they don't go to the doctor when they need to," he said. "And it's not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit. Mr. Santorum, how would you expect unemployed people without health care to go to the emergency room? And who do you expect to pay for that.
America, we've got some lessons to learn.
(Here is the link to the article written about Rick Santorum and his beliefs on health care: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/santorum-no-one-has-ever-died-because-they-didnt-have-health-care/politics/2011/12/06/31304)
familiar places, unfamiliar spaces
3 January 2012
Title: familiar places, unfamiliar spaces
Since Educo, we've been experiencing Nate Whittaker Boot Camp, and its been great. We got back on New Year's Eve and didn't waste time hitting up the mall at V&A Waterfront in search of accessories for the celebration. But, I didn't end up buying anything, which could have been a sign for my evening. I ended up going to Long Street with the rest of the group, but after a while, I wasn't feeling well. And it wasn't like I was sick from drinking the water or sick from being in a car, it was a pain I knew all too well: my friend kidney stone had returned. We haven't seen each other since August, but it made sense; I had been in the mountains, doing vigorous activity with little care about my hydration and I sweat a lot.
Two of my friends brought me home while I was crying in pain in the backseat of the cab. Luckily, one of my friends, Kasey, who I happen to live with, had had a kidney stone before. She stayed cool and calm and collected and there's no way I could ever repay her for being with me. Nate ended up driving us to the hospital and sitting with me and Kasey after getting an IV and morphine and anti-nausea medication. I was the only one in the ER so I had like three nurses around me, rubbing my back and holding my hand, calling me lovey. Evidently at one point, the nurse had touched my back and I had thought it was Nate.
When we were getting ready to leave to hospital, Nate, Kasey and I were the victims of crime. That sounds so intense. Really, we walked out, Nate tried to start the car and lo and behold, the battery was missing. At 5 am, you really take the mundane things like car batteries for granted. Since then, the car and the battery have been replaced and the three of us made it home safely.
When I first visited Cape Town with Papa Shahz, he brought us to District Six Museum to learn about forced removal in South Africa. Great minds do think alike because I found myself there for a second time. This time, though, Nate brought us to the sites our tour guide had talked about, the Tech College, the flattened space where hundreds, if not thousands of homes used to stand, now hundreds of homeless people spend their days. The location is considered a World Heritage Site, but is littered with glass and well, litter. Third world South Africa located right in the heart of the First World Cape Town.
We hit the ground running and headed off to St. George's Crypt, which was phenomenal. Although, I don't remember a huge amount of the information provided for us there due to my medication, I remember being in awe of how religion motivates people.
Another familiar place was the Eastern Food Market. I remember eating there when I was in Cape Town for spring break. Its sort of a bizarre bazaar for food with everything ranging from shwarma, which was delicious, to chicken fried rice.
We then hit up my second love in the world, Mr. Price. Of course I got some clothes and two pairs of shoes, but it's so cheap, who could resist?!
comfort in rocks.
1 January 2012
Title: Comfort in Rocks.
We had barely gotten off our plane and we were packing up for bush camp. We met Mark from Educo Africa at our houses and headed up into the mountains of the Western Cape. On the most frightening ride of my life, we drove a good three hours, passing ostriches and listening to Matt and Scott's woes with women. When we first arrived, we picked houses, grabbed sleeping bags, unpacked the vans and explored our new area. Logistical stuff. As we were given a tour, I thought to myself, this is a total hippie compound, Morris people would be at home here. They use only biodegradable soap, they have a biodigester they use, I'm pretty sure they compost, they recycle everything. Just...very Morris. From that moment on, I knew that I would be comfortable here. From hiking, to watching the sunrise, to watching the sunset, to swimming in a little hole in the middle of the mountains in Africa, everything blew my mind how willing I was to participate. If someone at home tried to get me to hike in the mountains or swim in a natural pool, I wouldn't think twice about saying no.
I just want to take this time to say a few words about Mark and his family. His kids, Emma (11) and James (7), spent a good chunk of the time on the mountain with us. They live in Cape Town and go to a Waldorf School, which is more like an arts school. We were so lucky for them to have the ability to spend some of their holiday off of school with us. They live with very little media influence; they don't have a tv or a computer. Its amazing to me how intelligent they are, and I'm telling you its not just the accents. I very much so envy their lifestyle. Without the influence of tv or computer, and being able to escape with their parents to the mountains, I can just imagine how close their family is.
After interacting with both Mark and his wife, as well as Emma and James, I really began to miss the members of my family that aren't here with me in Africa. While I will always talk about how fortunate I am to have the Bean here with me, I cannot express in words how much I long sometimes to be in Disney World with my parents and little sisters. It's so strange how homesick I was when I first came here; a freshman, moving out on my own to Africa. I was always talking (or complaining about one thing or another) to my parents at St Cloud, but I lost all of that ability here. I, for once, had to rely on myself. It was an eye-opening experience.
home is where the heart is.
28 December 2011
I have so many feelings.
I love being back in South Africa. I love being able to get a Hunter's Dry and go to Pick N Pay. I love getting a Steers Cone for R3.50. Buying Airtime. Buying internet. Buying electricity.
Everything feels so much more natural and comes so easy to me here.
My room has the only skylight in the house. it's pretty neat. I thought I'd miss having a roommate because I often get lonely in my own room at school, but I'm finding that I hang out in the living room with Kasey, Shira and Andrea a lot. I can walk outside and see Lion's Head Mountain from the road. The beauty of the nature here astounds me sometimes.
I keep thinking about the last time I was here. Obviously not in the same places, but similar. I miss PE a lot, but I'm partial to Cape Town. Living at Osborne is more independent than Annie's and we have a lot more space. I remember being one of the youngest in the group last time. One who was inexperienced with drinking and 36 hours of airports and driving on the other side of the road. Now its almost the opposite; I'm one of the veterans, helping people with what they should get for groceries, doing conversions in my head for rand, working the plug ins. I know I've only been here for less than 24 hours, but I'm considering not coming back. I was scared for this.
I woke up a little early and walked around Mowbray with Andrea, Shira, Scott, Carla, Daisy and Angela. We discovered that there are a lot of hair places around here. We found essential things like the indian restaurant and the laundry place. When we got back, we had a little time to hang out and at 11:30 we had orientation at the bed and breakfast next door. I sat in the sun so i could work on my base. After the 2.5 hour orientation, we were all starving. it was perfect that interstudy had planned a braai for us. There was chicken skewers, which kelly loved, boerwoers, and lamb steaks. it was alll so good. I've missed braais. We then packed up 3 minibusses and headed for UCT's upper campus. There were absolutely gorgeous views.
They then took us to PIck n Pay where we grocery shopped for food for when we return from our three day retreat. I picked up some candy, juice, naartjie sparkling water, pasta, still water, and vitasnacks! The bean and I finished shopping early so we ran across the street to Steers. We got Steers Cones, which are the absolute best ice cream in the whole wide world. It was like I was 19 again. Then some of us were hanging out in the kombi and Shira was teaching us all about keeping kosher. Legit stuff. I'm learning more here than I expected!
Brittany Anderson, '12
Circle Pines, MN
14 November 2011
886 days have passed since I stepped onto the plane at the Port Elizabeth International Airport, leaving what I considered to be my newfound home. Since June 27, 2009, I have been searching for opportunities to return to South Africa. There are so many reasons for me to want to go back, and this opportunity fits almost every aspect of my wants. While in the Rainbow Nation, I had the opportunity to take a Community Service Learning course at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Through this course, I was required to volunteer 4 hours a week at Isithembiso Abandoned Babies' Home. Most weeks, however, I would end up spending time beyond what was required with the children, helping the housemother clean, bathe and feed them. These babies became my second family. I knew that when, not if, I returned to South Africa, I would need to volunteer my time and talents. Through my volunteer experiences in the US and South Africa, I have learned that working with people, rather than imposing upon them, provides people with power. With that being said, I am very excited to participate in the community service portion of this seminar. I also have designed my own major in Postcolonial Indigenous Human Rights in the US and Global Contexts, which emphasizes both the US and South Africa. The coursework specifically relates to this major. I also feel as though much of my yearning to return to South Africa comes from a need to return to a place where I felt most like myself. On my first trip, I was barely 19 and my experiences in South Africa have hugely shaped who I am today. So, even though I know I'm not going with the same people or even to the same place, I feel like going back to South Africa will be reconfirm this feeling that I have that I need to move there permanently.
So, I'm going to make a list of my expectations and hopes for myself. because a paragraph would just feel utterly redundant.
1. Feel comfortable in the culture
2. Share my knowledge and experiences from my previous time in South Africa with those who haven't been there.
3. Buy lots of cool art that I didn' buy last time at the market.
4. Drink delicious wine.
5. Experience the nightlife.
6. Gain invaluable connections to both the people who live in the volunteer with and the people I travel with.
(Just kidding. I've been watching waaaayy too much gossip girl.)