You know, my thoughts were all jumbled up in South Africa. Then I started getting my bearings and making a bit of sense of things. And then I flew back to America. The cycle begins anew...
To say that "coming home" provides the warm, fuzzy feeling you perhaps assume it will is to be just damn naive. Sure, it was an easier plane ride back than on the way to S. Africa. And reuniting with Danny was the best. But (not to be a Debbie Downer) not everything is unicorns barfing rainbows (thanks, Nate). For instance, I have to take my dog to the vet tomorrow, because the anxiety that my absence presumably induced is prohibiting him from keeping food down. I'm still jet-lagged. I feel mildly disoriented (don't ask, hard to explain). Starting a new semester one day after returning is unequivocally NOT FAIR. I'm hooked on anything on facebook related to our experience (comments, pictures, whatever). I swore I saw Anthea from MaAfrika coming out of a Perkin's today. And don't get me started on the weather.
I know we were told, before we ever left Minneapolis, that the return would not be easy. But I guess I just thought....well, that it wouldn't be all that bad. Nonetheless, we're back. We're attending class. We're randomly running into each other on campus. We're going about the normal order of things. But I would be remiss to not acknowledge the strange feeling of longing. It could be something as simple as the African sun and the view of Table Mountain. And it could be more complex, like the shared experiences with the kids from Delft and our daily experience as a class community.
All in all, there is an emptiness that seemingly can be better filled by continued interactions. We know what we saw. We know what we experienced. We know that such things are nearly impossible to describe in words. What I am trying to teach myself is that it is ok. Arrival back in the states does not mean I fade into ambiguity and wallow in my misery. Instead, I have to reach out to my peers. Keep the communications and connections alive. We are so strong as a community, and that strength will keep us going... even through another Minnesota winter.
January 2011 Archives
You know, my thoughts were all jumbled up in South Africa. Then I started getting my bearings and making a bit of sense of things. And then I flew back to America. The cycle begins anew...
Our trip to South Africa was filled with funny, serious, intense, challenging, exciting moments...everything I could have possibly gained from this Global Seminar was achieved and surpassed. So many simple things I will miss and remember, so lets reflect everyone :)
-Walking to pick n' pay to get grocceries (for most that ended up being everyday!)
-Having iced coffee in the morning after realizing that it wasn't...ok really wasn't....tasteful drinkning it just black.
-House 7's small kitchen table that was filled with all of us every morning
-Being blessed to get an AMAZING view of Table Mountain every morning, I mean who honestly gets to wake up walk down their driveway and look at a mountain in the distance everyday. That's a blessing that never got old
-Derek is quite sassy! haha (along with Greg....ok and I guess me a little bit!)
-Ellen won the Mortal Combat fight against Derek
-The sun here is seriously no joke...one minute you are soaking it all in the next your stomache looks like a tomatoe
-The vans here are made for 12 but I'd say can seat 20
-Imagine 20 people in the van first....then 20 people singing in the van together (we were quite musical during the trip)
-Every topic can somehow come back to Justin Bieber :) haha
-Apparently I was called a rabbit since I can eat raw veggies plain?
-The exit signs in South Africa are a picture guy running...clearly you need to be in a rush when you leave a premisis
-Aquello and Bonaqua water = pop....best sparkling water ever
- Interstudy people are amazing!
- We had awesome van drivers (especially Brown sugar with his strobe light!)
- Delta 4.....enough said..so glad they joined us in Cape Town eventually
-Charles from Interstudy had some phrases we all will be using back at the states....so don't think its too weird if we say things like "Doooooootz, my girl, my man, chyaaa, and you're on point" along with common phrases like "Howz it? cheers, and pleasure"
-You really can go three weeks on a trip without having your Smartphone attached to your hip
-I am going to miss playing snake on the nokia phone we were given
-Kelly can make awesome animal noises
-Ellen would be happy to show you her gun dance anytime
-Having free wii fi at one of the houses made it quite a hot comodity at night for facebook, emailing and skype.
-Lemons here are actually green, not yellow
-Anthony, Greg and Nate love their drums they bought here and are quite talented at playing them
- Noodles and toast become quite a common meal choice...cooking extravagent meals was too much work!
- The fresh fruit was so so so so so so so so so so so yummy!!
- Megan can't handle a toaster...she'll put a cheesy mini pizza in one. That didn't go over too well
- Due to matching outfits one day, Derek, Aurora and I called ourselves "the family"
-Traveling for 24 hours to get to our destination was definately worth it
-Joe Bergs is the best place ever
- Charissa's famous quotes...."RESPECT YOURSELF" and of course "LOOK AT YOUR LIFFFFFFFE"
-South African people can dance and sing extrememly well..they are so musically talented
-Once Christina starts crying...everyone will follow
-Mini buses aren't as intimidating and scary as they seem....."Cape Town??"
-All members of this group brought forth inspiration, reflections and experiences that I have learned from
-Who knew it would be so hard to say goodbye
- I will be back in Cape Town again someday
- I am proud to say I beleive we formed our own community. We shared vulnerabilities, hurt, frustration together along with extreme happiness and excitement
-I wouldn't have changed anything about this trip...I was extremely blessed and fortunate to have gotten the chance to get to know these people and share such a powerful and impacting experience with them
Thank you to everyone who was apart of this trip with me...Nate you did such a fantastic job at putting this together and I am so grateful.
sooo....whens the first reunion???? :) I miss everyone already and know that what happened these past three weeks is something I have grown from and will impact the person I evolve into.
p.s. Comment any other things I forgot from the trip that are memorable!
Well... today is our last day in South Africa and it is certainly bitter sweet. Our journey here has lead us on many ups and downs, ins and outs, and now we are packing our things and preparing to head back home. This experience has been nothing short of absolutely AMAZING.
I first chose to apply for this trip because I was looking for something new. I wanted a chance to get away from my normal day to day and experience something completely different, exciting and uncomfortable. I don't know how to explain it, but I have always felt that there was a part of me that was hidden within myself. Don't get me wrong, I love my life at home and all the people and experiences within that, but I always knew that there was a whole world full of things just waiting for me to experience and this trip seemed to be the perfect opportunity to dive into what this world has to offer. I've always felt that there's no better way to truly learn something than through experience. How can you travel to a completely different part of the world, with different customs, people, scenery, a whole different way of life, and not come back changed?
I have changed. I have changed. I have changed.
Something in South Africa and this experience has taught me more about myself than I ever could have imagined and my life will be forever changed because of it.
Unfortunately we literally walking out of the door, headed to the airport so...
To be continued when I get home...
I woke up one night in the hours of darkness,
I sat up straight in my bed to find a shimmering light in my closet,
But their where no lights on in the room,
I got up and went slowly toward the closet,
To find a pair of gold wings,
An angel was standing by my side,
"What do I do with these gold wings?" I asked the angel
"Put the wings on my child." Answered the angel
I put the wings on flew to a place that had many stars,
The angel then appeared and said, "Follow your heart, your goals and your dreams."
Only you know what is right for you
Anything is possible
Miracles do come true ,
Hope and dreams are a reality if let them be,
Life can be wonderful if you let it be,
On this blog there are many poets, though I am not a writer I truly appreciate poetry and the depth in which they can speak to you. This poem speaks to me because it embodies exactly how I feel about life. Things are really what you want them to be, dreaming and hoping is real and if you are making the right decisions about your life and what makes you happy you will find that you can make your life as amazing as we all are. The fact that I made it on this trip brings tears to be eyes because I would have never thought that I would get an opportunity like this. Most people don't and it am utterly fortunate to have made it. I know that I am where I am in life because I pushed myself toward my dreams and it really is hard to accept in reality when it actually comes true. I can see this poem in the faces of each and every child at MaAfrika I hope that they figure out their dreams and chase them. I have never seen hope like I have seen hope here in South Africa. It's not like people are running around the streets spilling their stories but you can feel it in the presence of people you get to know. The staff at MaAfrika doesn't at all cry a story of pity for the families and kids that they work with, they see promise and have faith like I've never seen in their country. Knowing the whatever part they play will make a difference even if they only help one person and I will carry that in my spirit.
So this entire trip the word "community" continued to show its face. In our text that we read, the blogs that we wrote and the conversations that we held. But it wasn't until yesterday, that I felt we were an authentic community. If it's one thing I've learned during this experience is that community is messy, its ugly and sometimes its distant, but that doesn't make it any less of a community. Before our "community problem" I felt we were simply getting by or tolerating each other because we had to, but last night showed our strengths as well as our weaknesses, our fears as well as our triumphs. We were a community because we balanced each other out, where one was weak the other was able to hold that weight and vice versa. Though we had ugly moments, the calm after the storm proved what this team is really about, and I am forever grateful to be a part of that.
Nobody knows what it's like to be you, and that's the beauty.
I can't know you unless you teach me.
Show me that ways of your heart and the darkness of your soul.
Show me how to love you even when love is not what shows.
Reach out your hand, ushering me into your past and I will follow.
Oh how I love to get to know you.
For the more I learn about you the more I get to know me.
We are one with two different avenues, two different paths two different trials to lose.
And it wasn't until I got to know you that my flaws made since.
Because you are the part of me that I once missed.
Together we make a whole being, wrapped up in intelligence, and sealed with the perfect kiss.
Without you I don't know all of me.
Nobody knows what it's like to be you, and that's the beauty.
I can't know you unless you teach me.
But I hold a piece of you, it's how I live, it's how I came to be.
One thing that I want to take from this trip is the fact that time must be appreciated and used wisely. During this entire time I could barely figure out what day it was or what time it is because here that is not a concept that is of high importance. As a result the level of stress is not apparent in most people, they aren't yelling at the minibuses about the fact they have somewhere to be when they make a thousand stops. Though I know that I would be unable to completely ignore time at home it is my hopes that I can take more time for myself to reflect, learn, and absorb my surroundings. We all feel like we are always on the go and there is nothing that we can do about it but there is. I survived without my phone for 3 weeks and that is astronomical. Before this trip my blackberry was glued to my hand at all times if I wasn't texting, talking, or sending an email I was probably in the motion of reaching for my phone again. That is one key thing that I want to change. All of the face to face interactions were the most important parts of this trip and will be the most important parts for me. As a society I feel that people isolate themselves from human interactions and blame it on technology or not having time but that makes it even more important for people to make sure that they have human contact because it proves to impact the soul.
I know that a big question for everyone is going to be what now? Are we going to go on to our normal lives as if nothing happened or will we be changed? For me I feel that its going to take going home for me to realize that I have been changed. Though I feel I have been the product must be produced for me to feel that it's real. So my answer to what now is to wait, wait for an impact, wait for a changed and embrace it openly as I did this experience. There are many thoughts that run through my mind all the time. Especially at the farewell dinner when looking out to the window and watching the peacefulness of the water helped me reflect and I found myself drifting off and I feel that I might just stay in that state......
Relationships was a dynamic of the group that was interesting to me whether they be changed or altered in anyway, formed as they are new, or made to strengthen. My house which I deemed the "Brown House" got extremely close. There was commonality in our problems and we were able to identify with each other and in turned it helped us all grow. Throughout the trip I remember hitting Kiarra and kept saying we really made it. This was one of the relationships that strengthened as well we now have another common thing to add our list but a bond we will cherish for sure. But I also want to shed light on the relationship that we formed as a group. I honestly can say that I'm not the closest with everyone but I definitely knew that I would defend and make sure that my group was ok and we stuck together. That is one of the deepest bonds that I feel can happen between people when you are willing to go the distance to protect them.
1. On the plane from Chicago to London, a rude woman in front of Mary shoved her chair back in her face and I proceeded to call her out and alert the stewardess.
2. During our security check-in in London, this man was agressively yelling at his sons by saying: "Respect yo self!" The poor boy was only being antsy! It is now a big inside joke with our community.
3. I decided to take my braids out around the country of South Africa which resulted in tumbleweeds in various places.
4. At the beauty shop, the womans daughter was misbehaving so the woman decided to scold her daughter by saying "LOOK AT YO LIFE". The poor daughter is only 3.
5. Courtney and her theatrical and dramatic explanations are ALWAYS funny.
6. Greg discovering what 'dougie' means.
7.Every eating experience had some kind of hilarious outcome,
8. Late night conversations with house 14.
9.Getting to meet new people and build new friendships.
10. Studying abroad and having so many monumental experiences.
Long days turn into tiresome
Nights that is filled with
Thoughts that have no
Focus of where I am
Going with my new perception of life
I am confused yet I feel
Accomplished about all of the things
Completed and all the rewards I have
Received so many lessons from this country and I will not
Leave behind any memory
Forever South Africa has left a lasting impression
On my heart because I was so unhappy and now
I feel content with my life and decisions
I am at peace even though
There is change
I often feel challenged but
I am not defeated
With knowledge history cannot be
There is a sense of whole and as someone once told me
You have to have faith before you can
Have hope and I completely agree thanks to
What these people invested in me
I live to duplicate their strength
Today is the last day of our journey in Cape Town, right now, I have a mixed range of emotions. What I know is that I couldn't have asked for a better experience and location to learn about social justice. This trip has opened my eyes in so many ways that I know I have been changed for the better. Previous to this trip, I was naive about issues locally and globally. Upon return I want to work on educating myself so that I can become an actively involved citizen. It has also opened my eyes to the value of community. We have truly lived through Ubuntu (I am who I am because of you). We have all gone through this 3 week seminar together and it is together, that we will heal the wounds we have endeared this far.
Something I do know, is that this is not the end. This is only the beginning of something that we must work at for the rest of our lives. Having a socially just community is not easy, but with the lessons we have learned, and the mentoring we have recieved, it makes it easier to take a step on the path of less taken.
I woke up this morning realizing that this is it. We leave tonight. If I get out of bed, the day will launch into fast forward. Hence, why I am currently still in bed as we speak.
I have a good deal of thoughts running through my head that I can't possibly begin to make sense of or even make into complete sentences. So let's just talk about recent events, reflect a little, and try to bring this experience to a satisfying close...
Yesterday we had our last class on the UCT campus. We discussed the US's role in Apartheid (and it was a significant role, Mr. Reagan) as well as our potential plans upon return to Minnesota. We committed to anything from better communication with family, to volunteer work, to opening a non-profit center. We have also committed to stay in touch as a group and routinely gathering together to keep our spirit of service and community alive.
Following class, we departed for dinner at the Top of the Ritz restaurant, where we were treated to 360 degree views of Cape Town from 21 floors up. And at sunset, it cannot be beat. InterStudy treated us to the lovely dinner, complete with chocolate mousse.. haha.. you had to be there.. so many inside jokes, so little time. All in all, fan-freakin-tastic. InterStudy has been very good to us, and I think I speak for the group when I say that their guidance, care and friendship has been invaluable.
So here I am. A day away from home, with a bit of packing and cleaning to do. But the real difficulty lies ahead. Sure, the plane ride is no walk in the park, but I have to leave this place and these people. The goodness that lies within the South African people is something that is remarkable. But let me not forget to include the goodness in my American comrades as well. They have taught me so much in my short time with them and have made me feel a part of our community. I look forward to fun, fellowship and social justice activism with them in the future. Things can only look up from here, as we have much to do and the abilities to accomplish so much. So a few "thank yous" to those near and far....
Thank you, Nate, for constructing an experience that was able to change lives. Your thoughtful planning and preparation did not go unnoticed. I am more motivated than I've ever been, and this entire experience has done that and so much more for me. Also, if I ever need a cat herder, I know who to call.
Thank you to my classmates (you're so much more than "classmates").. SA friends, how about that..? Your bold personalities, out-of-the-box thinking and enthusiasm makes me want to be more like you. I'm so proud of you all and what we have done here together. I am excited to see the positive things we can accomplish in the future.
Thank you to my parents for always being supportive and motivational. This time was no exception. You could have talked me out of it. You could have told me I can't afford it. Instead, you said "why not?" Even at this age, you have a huge influence on me, and I thank you for your encouragement.
Thank you to my good friend, Denise. Quite honestly, lady, you just saying that I'd be crazy not to do this was like the nail in the coffin. Live life to the fullest, right? This is only the beginning of the adventures, and next time you're totally coming with me.
And to Danny.. Thank you for everything. Even though we knew this would be tough, you were still so excited for me. It helped ME be excited for me. Thank you for looking after that hairy beast that lives with us, as it's quite the job. (Has he started paying rent yet?) Thank you for hanging in there with me and touching base. You keep me going when I feel weak, and you share in my joy even when you can't be here. Thank you for your love.
Last but definitely not least.. Thank you South Africa! For your beauty, your spirit and your people. I have spent the majority of this trip purely amazed by it all. I will do all I can to take back the love and charity you have shown me in these past 3 weeks. I am a changed person, and all credit should go to this extraordinary place.
With that, dear friends and family, I am off. Not just off to the US, but off to bigger, better, bolder things. See you back home!!!
Things I will miss about South Africa...
I will miss the hospitality; the people here smile as if smiling was equivalent to breathing, effortless.
I will miss MaAfrica, oh how I love those kids, and their hearts. Though I have learned a lot from them, leaving or saying good bye has never been something that I've been good at. This is hard, my feelings are wrapped up in the future, but my mind is still trying to conceptualize today. They will forever be in my hearts, and I pray that their spirits hold hands with mines and walk with me for as long as I walk this earth.
I will miss community. Not a particular community, but just seeing community in the most pure form everywhere I go. From the townships, to the pizza place, it was obvious that community was in the hearts of those people, by the way they interacted with each other as well as with 25 American students.
I will miss the ability to be vulnerable. In a place where people are happy with God, family and self, being vulnerable was a given. You wouldn't be judged, and your past didn't walk in the door with you, therefore people were really just getting to know the real you. That felt good. Though there were bumps and bruises along the way within our group, the ability to be vulnerable presented itself in those moments. That's something that wouldn't happen at home. Most are too afraid of being judged, or afraid of their past speaking for them, and it never comes out as genuine as it could. South Africa has shown that being vulnerable, being genuine, being true even when it hurts, is the best way to grow. Therefore it's the best way to live.
I will also miss the hardships that I personally had to go through. Being here as taught me a lot about myself, and how I could be perceived, and going through those hardships has shown me how I can get past some of those imperfections. Though I am ready to share my knowledge with those at home, I feel as though I have so much more to learn. If I learned this much about myself and the world in 3 weeks, I can't help but think about where I would be in 3 months or 3 years.
Leaving is bitter sweet, I will miss a lot of things about South Africa, from the people to the plants, but I will also take a lot with me. I will go home with a piece of South Africa in my heart, and I look forward to spreading that across my many communities.
I have come to a place that most people would classify to be filled with poverty and sorrow. A place that is misunderstood as much as it is fanaticized about. A place that most call the Motherland and can only dream of walking on her soils. A place that bares the scars of Apartheid and racial divisions but yet and still smiles. I have found in this place peace, serenity, strength to cope with my daily stresses and grief's, pure contentment, envy for simplicity yet admiration for the ability to downsize life's complexities. I have found a true spirit of giving and forgiveness without expectations of reciprocity. most would ask where on earth would one find these great elements, and I have been blessed with the ability to utter SOUTH AFRICA! It is a place that will leave anyone regardless of status or stature speechless. It is a place that will make the most prideful of men and the most knowledgeable scholar, surrender all that they have come to know and bask In all that is foreign, yet in so many ways familiar. This place embodies a type of familiarity that is neither common nor familiar due to experience, but rather more it rings as a long desired familiarity. Most would love to be familiar with the ability, to forgive the unforgivable, to give when there is nothing material to salvage and to smile regardless of your circumstance. Yes this is something that we ALL wish we were accustomed to but sadly we come from a place where it is not only common but promoted to gloat on all that you do not possess, to despise those that have more than you and to never be truly content with your own blessings. It is not the fault of the people solely however, for we are only following the status quo or so some like to say "keeping up with the jones's" but I have broken free from the air of an unsatisfactory and ever growing atmosphere of GREED without RETURN, I have been granted a dual perspective on life, I have been given the ability to CHOOSE whether I will perceive my shortcomings as loses or smile and know that what I am meant to have and accomplish I will. I can look myself in the mirror now and I can honestly say with all faith in my words that I AM THE KEEPER OF MY HAPPINESS! I attribute those words to the true discovery of FREEDOM I HAVE BEEN FREED FROM MY OWN NEGATIVE MIND TRAP! I may be leaving this place of sheer joy tomorrow but I worry not because I have a souvenir that will keep me whole and grounded for the rest of my days. I HAVE FOUND HONESTY, LOVE, REALITY, GREAT SORROW YET GREATER FAITH AND STRENGTH, these in turn have made me a HAPPIER person, and I am so thankful. I now know that regardless of the size of your struggle if you faith and strength overshadow it, you will make it through. I HAVE BEEN CHANGED!
SO...........before departing for South Africa I had mounting anxieties about exactly how the Post-Apartheid racial divisions would impact me being an African American woman that is a minority in the U.S. I was told that my race would not matter, because my nationality as an American would overshadow everything. I was told that I would be assumed to be African until I opened my mouth and my accent gave me away, but then I would be embraced by the South African people. THREE WEEKS LATER AND ABOUT FOUR REALITY CHECKS OVERDUE! I have experienced all of the above mentioned and a lot more! I have received much positive attention from the men of South Africa and have been labeled as "exotic" by most of them. I have had interactions with some South Africans that have told me that I could never be mistaken as a South African that my body language and my appearance give me away. Of course these type of statements raise questions such as WHY? and WHY NOT? And unfortunately most of my questions were met with a " I don't know, you just don't" I am not bothered so much by it, I just embraced my differences. I can say that I find it interesting that the perception of African American people as a whole is based on what South African people see on television. I have been told that shows such as Judge Joe Mathis, Housewives of Atlanta and Glee are the sole representation of African American people and our culture. While I am just as saddened as I am interested in this fact, I took this lack of knowledge of my people as an opportunity, I know that I am only one person and that I do not embody all that is an African American in my being, but I made sure that I represented myself well while here.
"We accord a person's dignity by assuming that they are good, that they share the human qualities we ascribe to ourselves." -Nelson Mandela
Morality what exactly is it? To be with morals is what I have come up with. There are morals and values that are embodied in every culture, nation, and "racial group" however it is ASSUMED that in this world there are COMMON MORALS which in large are based on religious commandments. With this said if morality is so common then why is it that this very morality is glorified when exemplified in ordinary figures. Figures such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and dare I say Barack Obama have been glorified for doing "the right thing" they have been made into monumental beings for having MORALS. They are all also minorities from societies that have a history of what is "white is right" and many of these men became who they are known to be in these times of discrimination. They stood up against what was wrong and elevated oppressed people to follow them in the pursuit of equality. Their actions have only been classified as extraordinary because they went against the grain in a time when the majority was SEVERELY morally flawed and to be frank without morals. This for me has brought into question just how horrid and dark the times of trial were that majority of these men endured. IT is further mind boggling to think that the oppressors truly believe that there actions were morally just and that they were doing "the right thing" I guess this is the reason that MORALITY MAKES HEROES! Cheers to the heroes of our past and present that have made it possible for people such as myself to stand for what is right and not what is popular!
I am crying...
Scars on the inside...
Internally bleeding, dying, suffering from the inside out.
I am crying quietly....
In the corner of the classroom.
Every time the teacher glances in my direction fixing her lips to say my name even when my hand isn't raised is the least of my fears.
No I didn't do the assignment, my options were to cradle my little sister to sleep, protecting her ears from her mother's screams, forced out by the blows her new boyfriend was feeding her, or do my homework...
The decision was made for me, so I sit in the corner of the classroom, trying to blend in with the shadows, hoping if I held my breath long enough, the noise from my inhales would disappear and they would forget I was even there.
I am crying loudly...
On the corner of your main street.
You see me daily, trying to cover your eyes with the latest newspaper, missing the latest story staring you in the face.
I am 12, not 21 but 12.
My father doesn't know me from his girlfriend, so I tend to suffer the consequences of his confusion on a Saturday night after his drinks makes him numb to my screams.
But I take it, cause if I don't he would move on to my 9 year old sister and I cant handle that.
And every time I wake up I look up to the sky as if to say "wasn't last night enough" and I walk to this same corner.
Holding my sign up, asking every car that drives by for money, looking into the eyes of the humans operating the car, hoping I could gain some fulfillment from their souls.
We are crying so loudly that the walls in which we go to for protection have ran away in fear...
I am your classmate, neighbor, daughter, son, mother, father, your friend, I am an extension of you and if you wanted to help, if you really wanted to know the story beyond my tears, all you had to do was ask.
Unfortunately the time has come where our stay in South Africa is coming to an end and we are beginning to wrap things up. We will have to say our goodbyes soon, but with this comes a time of self-reflection for all of us. I (Kelly) have so many thoughts and emotions going through my mind that it is extremely difficult to process and put into words. I know that it will be days after we get home to Minnesota until I truly realize what I have learned here and what I can do with it. Wednesday was our last day at MaT and instead of feeling sad to leave, I am grateful for being able to be there and help out. The workers there sang and danced for us which was one of the most beautiful and touching moments that I have experienced here in SA. The people at MaT are the definition of heroes. They carry out some of the most difficult work everyday because they truly love what they do, which is something that I hope to have in the future. So for our last day at MaT we were able to have really nice closing talk with Anthea where some of us were able to express what we have learned from our time at MaT. We also helped with the lunch packing and baking that the kitchen wanted us to do.
A love has been developed because the people here are so warm, welcoming, and loving. It is naturally innate for these people to do onto others as they would like others to do onto them. Upon meeting Anthea, the additional staff was remarkable. Although many tasks we were asked to complete felt like hard labor, it demonstrated the strength of the Delft townships because these people do task like this on a frequent basis. The children at the site were not there for our final day but we learned so many life lessons from them. I (Charissa) am sure as of this moment all they thought they taught us were a few dance moves.The children of the community are definitely going to be strong leaders in the near future. These children are strong, versus where we come from the children who are underprivileged are also blessed with materials items. Here, the children don't need a Nintendo DS or a Wii to have fun. These children are enjoying simple things in life like jumping rope, learning ballroom dance, creating new games in with their friends. There is no television being used to babysit these children. They are so self-efficient. The children of the Delft Township are very independent and strong. One thing that touched me was the children said a prayer in the beginning and the end of class. These children are facing daily obstacles, yet they keep the faith. Children all over the world are amazing but I have no doubt that the country of South Africa is harboring some future social change leaders with strong minds and strong wills.
Robben Island was monumental to see. It was a moment to reflect on the trials and triumphs of the people fighting for social change in South Africa. These people are all historians that were willing to share their stories with whoever was willing to come and listen. I appreciated the opportunity to explore the previous prison and read the stories of the prisoners/victims of the Apartheid. When they reflect on their entire struggle, I feel by visiting the site, their struggles were not done in vein. It has exposed how ignorance and inhumanity can go hand in hand. Without people fighting for social change history will repeat itself and inhuman people have the opportunity to oppress and inflict unnecessary pain on individuals in society.
Everyone that we have met in South Africa, the kids and the adults have been so kind and welcoming towards us. They were willing to share their music, dance, and even cooking techniques with us! We have all had such a blast, gaining memories that will never leave us. The willingness for the people of SA to open their arms to us and show us their lives takes is so shocking and amazing at the same time. We are all walking away from this experience with a new outlook and hopefully we will be able to share this outlook with everyone back at home.
By Kelly & Charissa
A relatively eventless day with a most monumental feeling.
Yesterday's day off was treated as such. I read out in the sunshine for hours and ran an errand to the grocery store. Bitchin'. The evening's events were where it was at.
Our house transformed into Glam Central when most all of the ladies (I say "most," meaning "except me") got all dolled up to play hostess. As the African winds have proven, they are unpredictably STRONG. And most everyone switched to sweats before most of our braai guests arrived... but not before a solid amount of photos had been taken, naturally. Before you could say "Are we gonna have a grill??," the grill arrived and so did all the people. Most everyone from MaAfrika, DJ friends of Nate, the peeps from InterStudy. It was a full house, full of energy and good vibes. We ate heartily. Props to MaAfrika for frying up a donut-like pastry covered in sugar and coconut.... it was some of the happiest food I've ever eaten. Charles headed up the grilling with some of the MaAfrika guys. The music brought on dancing.
Fave part of the evening, by far (as well as easily one of my fave parts of this entire trip) was the fellowship around the fire pit. Drumming, guitar-playing, singing.. it was incredible. I found myself incessantly recording the sounds on my camera, so as not to forget once I return home. It's an indescribable feeling being in that moment. A culmination of the philosophies we've been taught on community.. the ideas brought to life.
I think the catharsis is moving on in. I don't want to welcome it until maybe the plane ride home. I've gotta enjoy this day, with our final big dinner together and time out in Cape Town. But last night was unforgettable, no doubt. I really do love these people. And, man, do they give great hugs!
Waking up this morning I had a strange feeling running through my thoughts. I was trying to figure out what this country has done to me, and I can't put a finger on what it is exactly...but I know it's profound and strong. I found myself reflecting on how my experience has been here, and in light of the huge braai (American BBQ x 10) we had last night I realized it is the people here that have carved their own space in my heart. The beauty of South Africa, and its sense of Ubuntu is revealing itself more and more as my departure date looms in the (very) near future. At our braai last night we had visitors from all walks of life. Nate's friends (who were white) intermingling with our diverse group, and about 12 of the MaAfrika staff ranging from ages 20-65 and were Coloured, Xhosa, and anything else. People from every class, race, age, and gender were together celebrating nothing other than the beauty of life and good spirits. That community feeling, the sense of humanity was raw and untouched. I loved the fact that even though we had only met these people a handful of times yet we enjoyed each other's company like no other, and that our goodbyes were only "see you soon's" with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
During many conversations I was asked when I would be going back home to the states and I always solemnly replied, "On Saturday..." with a frown. I noticed that every time I had this conversation the next question would be, "Well are you coming back?"My reply is always that I have no choice but to come back. I knew who I was before I came to South Africa but my experiences here have illuminated who I thought I was, allowed me to challenge it, and have made me a better person because of it. On New Years, as we were celebrating with the locals on Long Street, I made a resolution for the future and promise to myself that I will come back to this astoundingly wonderful place. And I do not break promises.
Last night, a woman part of the MaAfrika Tikkun health department and I talked about what she has learned from us being here. We always talk about the wonderful things we as a group have learned and what we have been given, but Doreen opened my eyes to a different side. She explained that we have given so much to the people we have come in contact with simply by being here. She said that we motivate her, we motivate the kids that we met and we motivate all of the people in the townships that we visited - just by being there. It made me seriously question what really needs to happen in order to induce 'change'. She also stated that a big part about her work is that education is everything. I agreed wholeheartedly, and became proud of myself in that moment for everything I have accomplished in my life. I was appreciative of my privileges, and where they have led me.
While on the brink of going home to the states, I am trying to figure out how to describe South Africa and how my experience has been to those who are inquiring. Well family, that is close to impossible because no words, pictures, videos, or journal entries can properly depict the beauty and wonder that is South Africa. It is the untold feeling that I have had the privilege to experience. It is the history and remembrance of then, versus now. It is the hope and faith in forgiveness that is healing the Rainbow Nation. It is the music that echoes through the valleys of Table Mountain. It is the food that is made and given without asking. It is the fact that the people here live like humans, and don't change for anything - or anyone.
It is all of this, but so so so much more.
When I came to this beautiful country, I did not know what to expect.I knew the hardships caused by the apartheid could have caused the people of this country to be bitter and upset, yet they strived for social change. I visited Robben Island and I saw this land mass that is now considered a musuem. The prisoners of Robben Island do not want the place to be seen as a place of struggle, moreover they want it to be seen as a place of triumph over ignorance. I have always heard of the tragedies that took place on this island, but once I stepped foot onto the land, I learned that this is a place was definately a monumental step towards social change and hope for the future. Being able to enter the cells of the prisoners on Robben Island and read their stories and see their valuables, allowed me to have an intimate connection with this island. I no longer saw it as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and served his sentence. I saw this as a place where spirits where not easily broken, a place where social change was a priority, a place where hereos of many creeds and races were willing to die for.
So... my computer is "on the fritz" and the hard drive may be broken so my tech communication has been minimal. That aside, the past few days have been great and the past few weeks have been refreshing, eye opening, and just down right awesome (sorry to sound like a 13 year old).
Yesterday some of us enjoyed the great American college pastime of talking at a coffee shop. It was a beautiful thing to sit with Kirstin and Cassy and realize that about month ago I didn't really know either of them and now we have shared this great experience and from that friendships have been formed. I had this same feeling/reflection sitting around the campfire listening to people sing and drum. We may not be "besties" for life but we will never forget our time spent here and the conversations, and that will always connect us. I will stop before I get to sound to much like Dawson's Creek but it has been a beautiful experience.
Today was our free day to just go out and explore. We decided to go downtown and also to Camp's Bay. We took minibuses for the 1st time and it was interesting. All the hollering and screaming was a lot to deal with but the rides were quick and cheap so it worked out. Walking around downtown I got to see so many beautiful people and things. On one of the minibuses there were fun facts and it said that S.Africa is one of the most diverse countries. It surely is true, these people are BEAUTIFUL. I've been looking for other words but that is the one that works the best. They are so courteous and polite for the most part, even their accent is intriguing. Going back to the beach was something that I really wanted to do and we were able to take a bus around to view the area again and got to get onto the beach. Though it was not my intention to get wet at all the waves shocked me and I was soaked but It was ok because the time spent there was amazing. I never ever thought I would be somewhere that was so breathtaking but I was able to and am so grateful.
Before I jump into this South Africa trip, I feel I need to lay foundation on my mind-set and where it began.
I took a Global Seminar to Mexico last year, same time and everything (shout out to Mark Bellcourt). The focus was on how tourism is effecting the environment. As my environmental justice side was sharpened, my social justice side was waking up. I was introduced to small villages surrounded by garbage, self-made homes with limited resources, extreme poverty, but across the street are these resorts and mansions resting on the beach front. These conditions parallel to those here in South Africa, but I must state they are more extreme here. So coming into South Africa with that experience has made me more accepting to the conditions and enabling me to see behind it all.
The state of mind I began to have when I came back to the home from Mexico is one that lives and breathes in the communities we have visited here in South Africa. It so seems that most cultures, other than ours in America, have a foundation around community; caring for one another just because that is our human nature. Before coming to South Africa, I was challenged by the in-humane nature of our American culture and got angry when a person did not say excuse me, disregarding my very existence. What could seem like tiny situations transcend into the condition of an entire society. How we interact with one another sets up what type of community we live in. So I was questioning my very purpose and what I am trying to accomplish in life. I almost felt that if I had to continue living in America, I had to conform to this capitalistic mind-set at which was being challenged by my mind-set once I came back from Mexico! So I was in all sorts of uncertainty and discontent with my surroundings. But I managed and felt this trip would bring my mind to where it needed to be, which it has so far. I can continue my mind-set with reinforcement from the ideas, practices, and history I've learned here.
First-off, I want speak on the South African proverb "ubuntu", and how it ties in so well with me. This concept is the root of the culture here; "I am who I am because of you", "I am a person through other persons", or "I am because we are" are all phrases that capture its meaning. Coming back to how it fits me, is the idea that the type of friends you carry reflect yourself. I believe this with my heart to the extreme. My best friends Myles, Andra, and Greg reflect exactly who I am and I love it. On another spectrum of how it fits in with me is how I treat others. Whether it is someone familiar to me or just a stranger, I have respect and acknowledge them as another human-being. It is funny how what I just said seems like "duh Ant", but that is what challenges our American society. Americans in general live with this "mind your own business" attitude, and so we negate our natural human instincts to interact with one another. Seems crazy, but that's how it is. So I have been ecstatic upon learning "ubuntu". Another cool fact is that it ties in with my tattoo I got in Mexico. The brown band on my arm symbolizes the reciprocal relationships we must have between human-nature and human-human. This is a common theme in how the Maya civilization lived and now how ancient tribes in South Africa lived. I will continue to practice this way of living because it brings ultimate happiness.
This is a long blog. This is what happens when I don't reflect in a timely manner. I'll be back.
This is my shadow on the path to the southern most point of Africa, Cape of Good Hope
Yesterday a group of 4 of us had the opportunity to experience the views of a 60 years old couple that had been married for 39 years and had close to 30 grandchildren. We first heard from the man who was a leader of a mosque in Delft. We were there to work in the soup kitchen for a couple of hours, but instead, we were schooled with knowledge about life, relationships and the Islamic faith in a township in Cape Town South Africa.
The man started his informal lecture with historic information about his family's ownership of land. His great grandfather was of European descent and owned a significant amount of land. Through the years during the Apartheid Regime, his family land was taken because his family was now mixed blood and "colored". He later explained that during post apartheid, he was able to repurchase some of the land that his family once owned. This is now where the mosque and soup kitchen stands. He plans to use other parts of the land to build and orphanage. He said that there are a lot of orphans out there and they need a place to be safe and taken care of.
The man also initially approach us with an explanation of how there are different kinds of Muslims. It almost seemed as if there was an attempt to convince us as Americans that all Muslims are not bad and that we probably have misconceptions of who they really are. He explained that are extremist and fanatics that do bad things in this world, but he is a Sunni Muslim and they are very peaceful in their practices in life. He talked about the use of prayer and the commitment to do good for all of mankind. He also talked about how people of other faiths were welcomed to use their mosque for prayer. We were able to see some of this peacefulness and kindness through the work he was doing for the community through the soup kitchen and the way we were welcomed into his home.
He invited us to his home which was only a couple blocks away from the mosque. We did not even realize we were going to his home until we got there. We went into the house and he informed his wife that they had company. Our group later talked about it and felt there were some clearly identified gender roles. This was indicated by the expectation that this woman who was clearly tired and was not expecting us was supposed to get up and entertain us based on Muslim custom. Auntie Pradu, a stout woman that does not show her 60 years of age, came out of the back area of the house to greet us. She made sure that we all were provided with a beverage and then she began to speak with us. She asked us all where we were from, our ages and what we were studying in school. She paid us all complements on our appearances and then shared with us knowledge about her take on life.
She talked about her relationship with her husband of 39 years and the importance of communication and understanding. She also spoke about the value of family and living in a way that promotes responsibility and care for each other. She also talked about the importance of living space and provided a comparison of small spaces that the shanties provide and how the home that they now live in used to be much smaller. They found it important to build a larger space so that as she said "the spirit and individuals in the home have room to grow". She talked about being self reliant and the different ways that she was able to work to make money for her family. She is a very skilled cook and this is the skill she used to help make money for the family.
Their home was not very big, but was nicely kept and there were nice things and nice furniture in it. They employed a cleaning lady that helped to provide a living for that woman. Auntie Pradu talked about the importance of education and how she has helped to financially support her children through school. She said that she is actually still taking courses herself. She believes that education helps to develop the community. She said we must exercise our mind or we are dead. She also emphasized the point that they felt that they did not need to have a lot of things, but just the things that they need. We thought this to mean that there was no need to acquire more than you need to be comfortable.
Clearly with a sense of obligation to family and community, we had the opportunity to meet a 10 day old baby that Auntie Pradu had brought home from the hospital to raise because the mother is strung out on drugs. She welcomes the mother to come and see the baby, but said that the mother has only been to see the baby 2 brief times in the 10 days. She spoke of the practice in their family and community to take in orphans because they feel that someone has to take care of these children; "We must do things because we care about human life". She also attributed all of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to helping her stay young.
Before we left their home, Auntie Pradu said that she wanted to cook for us and asked how many students were there with us. She then told us that she would cook lunch for all 25 of us the very next day. We then said our goodbyes and headed back to the soup kitchen. We felt very welcomed in their home and amazed but appreciative of her offer to feed us.
Our group met up again with Auntie Pradu's husband and he shared a little more information with us. He talked about the condition of our hearts being viewed by our creator and that this is where the goodness of all of us exists. He said that we should do good, be good and good will come back to us, but not in a way that we should be looking for it to come back. This is what his faith teaches.
"Good manners supersede knowledge". This was a quote from the man meaning that anyone can be kind to his/her fellow man/women. You don't have to have tons of schooling or money or status to be good, caring and sharing to your neighbor. We all believed that this is what we understand to be Ubuntu - we are who we are because of each other. If we do good to others we are doing good to ourselves.
We were all a little taken back when the man shared some of his views about apartheid and how well it worked to keep order in the communities therefore providing safety. He explained how aspects of the communities have deteriorated because of drugs and alcohol. He talked about the profound affect this has on children, families, ability to work, and the overall condition of the community.
Lastly he talked about the importance of forgiveness and in our lives. Even though it was a lengthy lesson filled with lots of information and a rather strong religious overtone, we found the sharing of his knowledge to be refreshing, enlightening and full of optimism.
A common concern expressed in our talking circle last night was the feeling of not doing enough for MaAfrika Tikkun. Myself being one of those individuals. At our final visit with the organization, their director, Anthea, expressed her gratitude for all that we had done. I felt that we hadn't earned the acclaim. 20 hours of random work coupled with our presence during site visits? Was it really enough? I felt the Schindler complex of "I could've done more."
The second half of the day involved the long-anticipated trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and loads of other political prisoners were incarcerated. Let's just say the boat ride out and back is a story in itself. It would be even more of a story if I was able to get on top of the boat (it was full :( ). Robben Island has been a museum and world heritage site for about 14 years now. Previous political prisoners serve as tour guides and share more of the general details rather than their own personal stories. Realizing that great thinkers, teachers and revolutionaries were all contained within those walls was almost baffling to me. It was said in our group yesterday that Robben Island just goes to show the power of an idea. And that, in order to suppress the idea and idea-makers, literal walls were constructed for containment. Yes, we saw Nelson Mandela's cell. Yes, it looked like all the others. No, we couldn't walk in it, thanks to goons in the past who have stolen things. Yes, it was still gripping in its own way.
Our group has reflected lately on our own personal transformations. South Africa has done and is continuing to do crazy stuff to us. The people, the places, the strong feelings associated with just being here have all contributed to a palpable change within us all. I know I'll have more thoughts on this in the coming couple days as we prepare for departure. But for now, I'm marinating on the ideas of the evolution of community, the notion of selfless service, the constraining idea of "enough," and the powerful lived experience.
Today is a day off. Tonight our group is hosting a Bring 'n Braai --- aka. a tricked-out Minnesotan potluck. We've invited our friends from MaAfrika, some of Nate's local friends, our friends from InterStudy and some potential friends from the U of Illinois. Should be interesting. But it should also be a great way to celebrate those who have given us so much during our time here
Tomorrow, our last class, our last big dinner and our last talking circle. "Last," ugh.. not digging it.
A common theme has been brought up in many of the class discussions we've had throughout our time here, and that is the theme of happiness. The people of this country have an extremely noticeable amount of happiness in their lives that could only be felt by actually interacting with them. Whether it be the elderly woman sitting on the steps of a home in the townships, or a child splashing in the dirty water of a nearby puddle, happiness is something these people are definitely not lacking.
I think the reason we are in such awe of this obvious abundance of joy these people possess, is because at home, we tend to associate happiness with money and success. How many of us can honestly say that we love the work that we do? How many of us can say that if we had the option to do something we genuinely enjoy and not get paid, or do something mediocre and get exceedingly paid, that we would pick the first option? To be honest, I can say that before coming here I was definitely one of the people who would pick the latter. Everything in our society is so money driven that we forget about the things that truly put a smile on our face. We neglect the people we love, and reject the simplicity of sitting down with a cup of tea and reflecting on the day.
The people are simple. Not regarding the depth of their intelligence, but with regards to the expectations in their lives. They are truly content in their lives. They make the best of the situations they are faced with and hold their heads high. The amount of pride these people hold for their communities is truly amazing.
This genuine appreciation for life and the ability to happy with the simple things, is something I most definitely intend to take home with me from this experience. Since I have come here, my stress level has dropped dramatically and my spirit has lifted to places I have never been before. I can whole-heartedly say that this experience has given me a gift that I intend to keep on giving... the gift of true happiness :)
1. Dairymilk Chocolate - specifically white chocolate because it's my favorite, but they are all amazing and I hope we can find this in the US because we are all obsessed with it! However, not the Turkish flavor.
2. Hunter's - South Africa's version of a Woodchuck or Crispin. The lemon-flavored kind is the best. Yummmm
3. Not having my cell phone - I do have a provided cell phone to use here but never use it and it is very refreshing to not be constantly checking my Blackberry for texts/calls/emails. Hopefully I can get out of the habit when I return without annoying people for not responding in due time.
4. Pick n Pay - That is the name of a popular grocery store here where I go almost every day! It's been fun trying new brands of food and experiencing part of a South African's everyday life.
5. Charles - Dooodts!!! He works for Interstudy and has been so great at making us feel comfortable here and just being a fun friend to hang out with.
6. Being a tourist - Yes it is awkward feeling like a tourist in a place like this, but there is just so much history here and so much to learn that it is necessary. The places we went were so amazing and if we had not done the touristy things I feel like I would be missing out on a lot of what South Africa and Cape Town have to offer.
7. Walking next to an ex-political prisoner - Today at Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned, our tour guide was a former prisoner himself and I walked next to him for a bit. It was very humbling to just be in his presence and know how strong of a man he is for all he went through and what he is able to do every day. I wish I had gotten to know his story.
8. The Muslim family in Delft - I was lucky enough to have been able to learn from a family about their views of South Africa, their Islamic faith, and how they tie in together along with some great wisdom about how they live their life. They were the kindest people I've ever met and I wish I had more time with them because in just the short time we had they were so inspiring.
9. Anthea and those at MaT - They have been absolutely wonderful teachers to us without even being teachers. I feel like they have been of greater service to us than we were to them, and they are truly inspiring people who I will strive to emulate.
10. The feeling I get from people in South Africa - This was a common theme in talking circles recently. I haven't ever felt so welcome anywhere at any point of my life, let alone in a foreign country. The people here are all so kind and like Nate said, are very moral-based. They are just good people. It doesn't matter that we are from the US, they are kind to us and smile and give and teach and we have learned so much more from them than they could learn from us.
One of the first things we noticed about South Africa was the hospitality of the people wherever we would go. We're still astonished and soaking in how they live their life on a more simple scale than us. There is a strong sense of community here and giving with out expecting something in return. At the same time, everywhere you go in South Africa you will find barbed wire fences. In our opinion this holds back the idea of community and reinforces a sense of separation the apartheid left. With this negativity there is also hope that holds this whole country together which has left our entire group inspired.
- Ellen and Samra
Today we started out by going to MaAfrika Tikkun. Our group split into three separate groups for different tasks. One group sorted and organized things in their stock room, one group peeled potatoes for the kids' lunch, and the other group continued the task of weeding the garden.
After some time doing those tasks we got together and went to a Delft community center that teaches job skills. First we learned that the building was vandalized a while ago and then it was rebuilt in 39 days. It was a very beautiful center, and the facilities were very up-to-date with great resources. The purpose of the center is to help those who are uneducated and give them the knowledge and skills they need to get a job and hopefully a better life. There was a room where they taught clothes-making, a room teaching sales and business, and we saw a class of students learning about retail, and they all seemed happy to see us and even asked some of us for autographs! Not sure if they were serious though but it was funny. There was also a really cute daycare room for those who have children, giving them the opportunity to learn and get good childcare. The daycare was very colorful and had lots of toys, stuffed animals, and even super cute tinkerbell curtains. It was great to see such an awesome center that is doing great things to educate people so they can make money. It left us with a very positive feeling of the community.
Then we went to the police station. In the police station we were able to sit down with the chief and ask him questions. He explained what the crime situation today is in delft and how it has changed since apartheid. There has been a steady but slow decline in crime but there is still a lot.
Then we went to the Muslim family's soup kitchen/mosque/daycare where they graciously made a delicious meal for our entire group plus some of the people from MaT. Greg, Anthony, Kirsten, and myself (Chelsea) were fortunate to spend some time learning from them yesterday, and it is their custom to always serve food to their guests. The food was more than we could have expected; it was delicious and the fact that they were able to feed almost 30 people with one day's notice was so awesome. They are truly special people and we are going to try to stay in touch with them.
Then we went back to MaT and handed out some of the school supplies we brought for them. A lot of kids from Delft showed up to get school supplies, because word spread that we were giving a bunch out. It was a bit difficult to split up the supplies so we could give some to everyone, and some parents ended up being upset. But what we learned from this was that we did what we could, and when you are trying to do something good there will always be people who think that you could have done better. In the end, all of the kids did get something and that was the goal so it still felt successful. The kids were happy and we had a good time with them!
Today we were able to get some work done for MaT and the community of Delft. We also learned about some of the good things being done for the community and met some of the people who are doing great things. Their hospitality and generosity was shown in the delicious meal we were served in the mosque. We also learned about some of the challenges and frustrations you can go through when serving and trying to do things for others. All in all, we'd say it was a positive day that gives us hope for the future of the community. Good things are being done by good people, and by learning from them we can better serve our communities.
- Derek and Chelsea 1/11/11
Today we worked with MaAfrika and most of my day was spent chopping onions, probably ten pounds of onions or more. We were chopping up vegetable for the next day's meal that is prepared in the soup kitchen for the clients in the family support program. Our table was in the courtyard where we could see the kids dancing so from time to time I would break and watch the kids and they have not stopped amazing me. Watching them interact with each other is nothing like working with kids their age in the US. They are the most courteous and mannered kids I've seen in a long time. There was a part of their dance lesion where they got into a semicircle and one child would go into the middle and do some sort of freestyle dance. They cheered and clapped for every single person that got into the middle. Back home you just don't see the same type of encouragement from kids. I figured by the end of the time we would be working with them we would have seen at least one fight or argument amongst them but that has not happened.
I know that this has to be a part of the culture. Though I was in a tearful state from the onions I could clearly see that there is a difference in the manners they these children embrace. Another interesting conversation that I had was from a woman named Michelle. She walked up to us while we were chopping onions and jumped right into conversation about everything, where we were from? What we were doing here and how we liked it thus far. So we engaged in the conversation and learned a bit about her as well. Her children play at MaAfrika she lives close to the center and she also does some volunteering there. She told us that she is so blessed because she has a job and she doesn't fear her children's safety. So because of her many blessings she volunteers her time and loves to give.
Michelle's statement hit me so strongly; she expresses her gratefulness for the basic necessities in a way that is truly appreciative. Whereas in America people don't realize that they are fortunate and decide to give up time and energy for people that are less fortunate. During this experience I felt great about the work that we are doing with MaAfrika but to hear this story was so touching and realistic. It truly makes me question what the hell are Americans are grateful for? All these thoughts coming from tears and onions.
The past two days looked something like this on our agenda:
Monday -- 9am MaAfrika Tikkun
Tuesday -- 9am MaAfrika Tikkun
Excitement, right? I know. I'm the one who two days ago committed via blog that I was going to hammer out these couple days as best as possible... despite the uneventfulness of the schedule. But as this trip has shown me and continues to show me, never trust the mundane. Expected the unexpected. (ouch, cliché)
So here we are. Latter part of Tuesday. Mind officially blown for the 470,000th time. I have experienced a sort of gratification that comes in serving others, but also in seeing how they serve each other. I have learned that a 3-day gardening project is sweaty and dirty and produces one hell of a beautiful, useful plot of land. I have learned that there's always a spare minute to drop one's task-oriented nature and do the Cupid Shuffle. I have learned that I can chop an inordinate amount of onions in a half hour. I have learned that I have much to learn from my peers/classmates. And today I learned that, on any given day in South Africa, I WILL meet someone who makes me believe more and more in pure, loving human nature.
We had the opportunity to meet with Nate's colleague, Mark Gamble (previous COO of MaAfrika), last night. He did us the great service of sharing his experiences, his opinions on various matters and his fascinating outlook on issues facing South Africa. With much of the emphasis of this trip being on issues of race, it was refreshing to hear from a white, native South African. From a heavily racist upbringing, he has come out as a great advocate for social justice. This man has done and is doing great things for this part of the world, and I look forward to seeing what he does next. Our time with him was too short.
Due to our group being split up for various tasks at MaAfrika yesterday, I was unable to visit a mosque/soup kitchen/day care/home in Delft. But because of the new association with my peers, the family who runs this facility invited us all back today for lunch. Yes, overnight they prepared a full meal for about 30 people. When we arrived, we removed our shoes and sat at a table with a beautiful, white tablecloth. After distributing the dishes and utensils, multiple plates of curried rice and lamb(?), vegetables, chicken, fruit and a dessert of Jell-o ("jelly" in SA) and pudding were placed before us. It was incredible and easily one of the best meals I have ever had. Sure, it tasted fantastic, but there was a love and care in that food that supersedes most anything else I've eaten. For most of the meal, the room fell quiet. We could hear singing coming from the mosque in the room next door. It was the sweetest sound. The door leading outside to my right was eventually opened, as our hosts' granddaughters brought our desserts in. I then saw local community members, mostly children, holding empty plastic containers as they waited in line to be served from the adjacent soup kitchen... less than 15 feet from the immaculate table I sat at. This family and these people treated us like royalty while simultaneously extending a generous hand to their community. That is true compassion. It is more than a one time experience.. It is something I will, personally, take with me as an example of how to be.
I hate to blow through this next part, but it's taken me quite a while to get this far in the writing... Prior to our time at the mosque/soup kitchen/day care/home, we visited a Delft community center and the police station. I mean, really, could we get more diverse in one day? And also, could I totally see myself sending in my resume to the community center upon graduation? Uh... yeah! They are doing things there that are benefiting their community and its residents in brilliant ways. This is honestly where I saw myself. This may have been a glimmer (or a spotlight?) of what I've been looking for. There is no room for heavy hearts and pity here. They provide education, child care, social time, entrepreneurial opportunities, life skills, food. Ultimately, they provide hope. It was wonderful to see this sort of care for their fellow human, and deriving satisfaction from helping without expecting anything in return. Welcome to non-profit, right?! ha.
Before I sign-off, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Gadija from MaAfrika who showed us around today. She is so heavily invested in the community of Delft and proves her commitment day after day. I have only come in contact with her on a couple occasions since we have worked with them, but I am smitten with her. As we walked across a sandy path laden with broken glass and rocks on our way from the community center to the police station, she expressed how she makes that walk every day to do her work. She has pride in her community, a sharp sense of humor and a boisterous style of speech that I am captivated by. She knows the people in her community. She makes connections. She does not merely show up to work. She is nothing less than fabulous.
And tomorrow I have to say goodbye to her... and Anthea... and the kids of Delft. Not sure how that'll go, but we'll all have to lean on each other. With a trip to Robben Island immediately following, it should be one emotionally draining day. But I'll keep on pressing through.
So much for that sparse, little agenda...
Now you should listen to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wog9630VCM after reading this. Just sayin'. I'm trying to amp up your experience.
I want to write about the Pick and Pay, or maybe it's spelled Pic and Pay, I don't really remember right now, and I don't want to make the effort to find out. Just due to laziness/not wanting to get up right now/whatever. Anyway, my brother recently got a job at a Cub Foods, and I've noticed his growing obsession in grocery stores and comparing them to Cub, so I thought that I'd take a minute to describe one of the major grocery stores here for him, so I don't forget anything.
The shopping carts are real different. There's this contraption that looks like a cart that you can stack baskets on vertically. They have mostly the same food, the deli meats are kind of different. You don't seem to get as much meat in one package. They don't keep eggs in the cold stuff, they keep them on a shelf by the dry foods. Which seems odd, I didn't know you could not refrigerate eggs. They also have this stuff called "life long milk" which they also keep on a shelf and not in the refrigerated section. And it comes in cardboard cartons. So you buy milk warm in a box. The milk that I bought one of the first days here, so like December 30th let's say, hasn't expired yet; and it wont until the 16th of January. Yogurt lasts pretty long around these parts as well. Which, by the way, is spelled like "yoghurt". They also have "life long juice." And in addition to that, they have bottles of concentrated juice that you can buy. So what you do is buy this concentrated juice and dilute it in a glass, much like we have in the US. BUT they call concentrated juice "squash". It was confusing at first to see juice labeled "lemon lime squash," thinking that there was some sort of squash flavoring in the juice. The lemons here tend to be green. They must be picked earlier or something. But even lemon-flavored things are green. Lemon dish soap is green too. So I don't know what that's about. And when you buy produce, a person weighs it for you at a scale in the produce section and the weight of whatever you're buying dictates how much you pay. And the cashiers have chairs. And there's no conveyer belt thing to move your groceries along. And they charge you for plastic bags too. Which I think is pretty cool. That's about all I can think of.
Had a hand drumming session with my boys Anthony and Nate. It was refreshing and impressively collaborative. We'll have to do it again real soon guys!
Today was not a day I necessarily expected, but regardless, I have learned so much about things I never thought I'd learn about in South Africa. Today I have realized the power of voice, and even more, the pure raw information and different viewpoints and outlooks from simply opening up one's ears and listening. I think it is just human nature to be able to voice one's opinion and make your voice be heard, but shutting up and taking it all in is most worth our while. I may regret saying this years down the line and may someday completely think differently, but I have learned more here from the individuals I've listened to than any time spent in a classroom taking notes on lectures or doing homework. People are fascinating, and as cliched or corny as that sounds, every person (and that does not just mean traveling thousands of miles to SA to meet random people) has a story, and from that you can open your eyes and truly believe that there is a HUGE world out there and there is SO much we don't know. That open-mindedness is not always easy, since most of us our content in the ways we live or simply don't care enough dig deeper and feel how others are feeling. I always considered myself a good listener, but today definitely tested my patience and ability to perceive the information given to me.
Today at MaT we were split into groups to finish up the weeding in the garden, cut vegetables for the soup kitchen, and go to another soup kitchen in the township to help out. I was one of 6 who walked down the road a bit to the other kitchen. Here we were greeted by a few men and took a look around the place. Inside was a decent sized kitchen, a small daycare that just opened today, and little did I know until arrival, a mosque. A man (I'm awful with names) introduced himself and quickly asked where we came from. I don't know whether he continued talking about the Islamic faith, history of South Africa, and the way he lives his life because we were American and the past we've had that seemingly conflicts with extremist Muslims, or if he just wanted to talk, but either way I was definitely in for a treat and a new aspect on Apartheid and positivity within the practice of Islam. The three others I was with and myself were going to blog on the experience together because we all had to take in so much information, but it didn't happen tonight so possibly look for that post in a few days. I won't go into detail now, but he was one passionate, caring, interesting man and I am so incredibly lucky to be able to listen. One thing that really stuck out to me was when he was when he was talking about being comfortable. He said to only do what is expected of you because if you go above and beyond you'll never be satisfied. This comment made me think a lot, because in our American culture more is kind of always better, and it kind of ties in with the greediness we see in America day after day. I've always thought of overachieving as being beneficial, but I understood this way of thinking because it leaves more time and effort for things in life that matter. Even though this man taught me so much more, I'll try to wrap it up. The hospitality of this family was evident when being invited into him and his families home where grandchildren were running all over the place. He said it was custom to invite us over for food, so his wife is cooking us, all 25 of our group, an entire meal tomorrow. That kind of thought and giving is beautiful, but was definitely not expected. One more thing! His wife has had seven kids and the oldest I believe is in his upper thirties, but she just took in a child who is 10 days old and was born to a mother on meth. If that doesn't tell you the type of person she is and they are as a family, then I don't know what does.
My second experience today outside the Muslim community to listen was with Nate's friend Mark who I was drawn to because of his just...how do I put this...his life in general. He was just fascinating. Until then, we didn't really get the white male perspective of growing up during the apartheid, and his ability to be influenced by wonderful people has changed his outlook on life and continue changing other peoples' lives in the future.
I'll just leave you tonight by saying give the people around you every day a chance to talk and just listen.
Love and miss you Mom, Dad, Bin, and Audie :)
These past few days have been incredibly reflective for me on a subject that I don't usually talk about - my race and what it means to be mixed while in the context of South Africa. Knowing that there is a group of people here classified as a race and culture on their own only because of the fact that they are "mixed-race" is definitely interesting to me, because I am. These instances have made me realize that when visiting another country the people see you, and all of you. No matter what walls you might have put up to the world, no one can see that.
On Saturday, our group went down the street to hang-out and have a braai (bbq) at Charles' house - someone who Interstudy officially calls a "student mentor" but who we call a great friend. One of his friends was over there and through conversation we eventually came onto the topic of race. He asked what I was (a common question) and I asked him to guess. Puerto Rican, Columbian, Moroccan were his first tries. After explaining that I was a rainbow of Black, White, and Native American, he asked in response: "soo, are you coloured?" It was my understanding that Coloured means that you are mixed within Africa (meaning mixed with White Afrikaans and whatever else), so hearing this statement from an educated mid-twenty year old puzzled me a bit. That part of the conversation ended quickly, but was nothing in comparison to what I experienced this evening.
Going out to a family sit down restaurant with a small group from our community is nothing out of the ordinary. Stepping in the door we quickly picked up on the strong Native American theme; complete with pictures of tee-pees, Natives with spears and bow and arrows in their hands, and a place-mat explaining the "story" of Spur's restaurant. From my course work here I've learned that there are no Native Americans in South Africa...so this was different to start with. This was actually a two hour long experience with a lot of details, but basically we were made into an extreme spectacle because we are American. But what realllly hit me hard was when the manager who hopped into our conversation when he realized we were American, told me directly that I looked coloured and that I was from Cape Town. Simple observation on his part and not a big deal, it just caught me off guard. A little while later he brought over his staff from around him to me and kept pointing directly at me and talking about how I looked coloured. I know that everyone is different in different contexts, but this is one of the first instances where I have been blatantly pointed out for my race as a whole, not for its separate pieces.
So my identity struggle carries on! Learning and reflecting more and more each day. But one thing can be sure, I am going home with a heart full of experiences that have challenged me and allowed me to think critically about my world as a whole - and for that, I am truly grateful.
Through our work with MaT, we got the experience of working at a daycare located in a masque in the Delft Township. We began our work there by meeting two women who had just started their daycare today. Seating was sparse and the children had a small rug to play on. This is the only daycare that Delft has to offer, and it was opened a week early to accommodate the working parents. The kids we worked with today ranged in age from about 1 to 6. They had few toys to play with, but they found the joy in the simplest things. The children were entertained by playing with our hair or throwing around a ball. They were very curious and hesitant of us at first; however the two women made sure that they children gave us respect. As the day went on, the teachers began referring to us as "auntie. The children soon began to follow this term of endearment and this resulted in a union between communities. When certain material instruments lacked they made do of what they had. For lunch they rolled out a piece of paper that would serve as a table. They are working hard now to find donations for these essential items. Lunch was comprised of a bowl of mashed up beans that the kids were not hesitant to try. Most were just thankful to have a well balanced meal. We both got the opportunity to feed two 1 year old boys which was absolutely adorable. They really appreciated the help that we were able to provide. When it came time to leave, they were sad to see us go. The experience was really rewarding in the sense that we were able to spend the day with them and enjoy the innocence that the children provided. It was a great opportunity to be the start of something new.
By Kaitlyn and Megan
This video shows the kids at MaAfrika Tikkun rope jumping. They showed us new styles of jumping rope, and havun fun.
I've already blogged a bit on the New Year's celebration, but just wanted to add a little more reflection to try and stay somwhat chronological in the reflections of my thoughts.
Long Street celebration for 25 newly assembled U of M academics about to embark on some pretty challenging topics of racism, segregation, inhumane treatment, poverty, oppression, and disease. We were also going to be able to see some the most awesome displays of natural beauty my eyes will ever see....but until then, we party with the South African locals. We enjoy the beginning of the South Africa Global Seminar community building through the festive celebration of bringing in 2011 together.
Smiling, laughing, trusting.
we came in as beats,
now forming a heavy melody.
Pat pat pat
as we play our own tune
rhythms reflecting our blueprints
each beat so unique from the rest
aligned on the staff
a portrayal of harmonic diversity
beauty found in the dances response
non-stopping rhythm reflected throughout
the children's laughter and innocence
20 days the Hands were gently placed
cautiously over the stretched hide
recreating stories through sound
no beat is its own
we are all one
This is the beat of our drum.
Roaming the Cape of Good Hope, the ominous screeches of baboons taunted us, but we were unable to find them. It was the group's dream to see a baboon today, but sadly they did not want to see us. We searched frantically to get a glimpse and got nothing. However, the spectacular views of the diverse flora, and merging of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean mesmerized our minds. It was indescribable to see the incredible shorelines, cliffs, Dassies (an endemic rodent), black colored lizards, and a few ostriches. Even though it was quite the work out, it sure was worth it to hike to the most southern tip of the continent. It's a crazy feeling to be at the end of a flippin' continent. Even driving along the edge by the ocean was a weird feeling. I don't know what it is, but being at the very edge of something is real nice. It's terrific to be removed from society and noise pollution and other people in that way, at least for a little while.
Penguins on the other hand were in full effect, looking fresh in their tuxedos. Such excitement was felt since - who had a clue penguins were in South Africa? They were mostly chillin' on their stomachs, wobbling to an unknown destinations, and swimming with locals. We followed the adventure of 3 penguins that were best buds; Ron, Paul, and Jimbob, thus becoming the 3 Stooges. We added commentary to them as well, really amping up the situation. When it began, all 3 of them were on this rock chit-chatting about the day. Paul, who we feel was the "ring-leader" decided to shimmy down the rock to another location. With hesitation but determination and flapping of the wings, Paul slid down safely. Once one goes the rest follow. Ron stretched his neck and wobbled to the edge; looked down and contemplated on his decent. His first attempt failed so he stepped back and took a couple of deep breaths. Jimbob notices this and steps up, picks a point to slide down and goes. With newfound faith, Ron slides down that rock like no other penguin. We all opened in celebration. Later, right before we left, we saw the 3 Stooges still wobbling together, reflecting the ultimate goal we want to attain as a community.
Upon our return from the Cape Peninsula Tour, which was a long drive, a jam session ensued with Nate, Greg, and myself (Anthony). We busted out our drums that we bought and banged till our souls were content. Our rhythmic sounds ranged from unified beats and intense motion to solo outbursts and furious taps. Playing together, we bounced off of each other and learned new techniques. We're sure the whole block was bumpin' to our soulful sounds.
From Christina & Ant, with love.
Let me just tell you guys about the beauty of a child's smile. My classmates and I have the amazing opportunity to spend a good chunk of our time here, working with a group of young kids living in the Delft Township of Cape Town. These kids are definitely the highlight of my trip. They are so full of life and energy. One of the little girls has so much rhythm it's crazy. You can definitely see why this is the birthplace of a lot of the dances we have back home. They are just born with a natural rhythm and fire that I truly do envy and wish our country had more of. On Friday, we put together a playlist full of different dance songs from back home and played them for the kids. They LOVED it and caught on to every dance almost instantly. They're so curious about our lives and what life is like back in the states, but all I wanna hear about is their lives and what they like to do and what they're hopes and dreams are. Conversation is always fun with these kids. You can't imagine how rewarding it is to ride up to the site and have all the kids greeting you smiling and waving! Indescribable.
So it has been a whooping two weeks and one day here in South Africa and one aspect that is sticking out to me is the tremendous amount of hospitality that this Country embodies. I dropped off my laundry yesterday in my duffle bag for the price of 77 Ran which translates to about 10 U.S Dollars and in exchange my clothes were washed, dried, folded very neatly, organized by article type and packed neatly back in my bag. I couldn't believe it! Where does stuff like this really happen at! I was all too prepared to bring my clothes into the laundromat and wash them myself and dry them as well. I ABSOLUTELY HATE TO GO TO THE LAUNDROMAT! The clerk at the business was so genuinely pleasant and he was excited to have our service. A group of us dropped off clothes, as most would imagine after two weeks, clothes pile up to the ceiling. I also had a beautiful experience at the African Braiding Shop that myself and Kiara M., Cymone and Greg all went to yesterday. I am a regular customer of African Braid Shops back home, but my experience is always horrible and due to the high demand for that style of braiding I am usually treated like just another customer. The owner of the shop that I usually go to are less than concerned with my satisfaction or my time. The women that braid my hair are also African but have been in Minnesota for some time. I honestly expected for my experience to be similar if not worse. TO MY SURPRISE! my hair was washed then blow dryed then oiled and then I was given a scalp massage. All of these things included in the price of 490 Ran, which translates to 73 U.S Dollars and is half the price of what I would have paid back home. My hair was then started and completed within three hours which was exceptionally fast, and the supervisor made sure that my stylist put her best effort forth. I am 100% happy with the finished product, and I honestly am humbled by the hospitality that I have received while here!
On January 8, some students and I went cage diving with Great White Sharks! This was something I had wanted to do since I arrived here and I finally accomplished my goal. What an experience! It was a beautiful sunny day, which made the experience that much more exciting. Before we departed on the boat our guide warned us that this isn't shark season so the likelihood of seeing a shark was slim. We all were a little disappointed to hear this, but we hoped for the best. Fortunately, we were able to the great white sharks! The excursion was set-up with about 40 people on the boat. Once we got to the prime shark area the crew lowered a large metal cage into the water that hung off the side of the boat. About 7 people could fit in this cage at once. Because it wasn't shark season, we did have to wait awhile for them to come around, but once they did the trip got so intense and exciting! Getting into the cage as sharks were swimming within arms length was quite a rush. It was so cool to see these animals up close! For anyone whoever has the opportunity to go, I would definitely recommend it! There's no experience like it! I have never been so excited and nervous at the same time before.
One thing I learned is that sharks definitely aren't the animals that movies make them out to be. They really had no interest for the humans that were beside them in the cage, all they wanted was the Tuna bait that the crew was tossing out. I only spent about 20 minutes in the cage, as there were many other people who needed to get in the cage. I certainly didn't mind relaxing on the boat and catching some rays on the Atlantic Ocean. All of us who went certainly got those African tan lines we were hoping for!
Today was another awesome day. We visited the Cape of Good Hope. I must say that standing at the top of a mountain looking out at the Atlantic Ocean to my right and the Indian Ocean to my left was a breath taking experience that words cannot describe. I was completely overwhelmed by the pure beauty that was surrounding me. This place should definitely be on everyone's list to visit! (Also, this was the 2nd mountain I have climbed since I've been here...so yes, I've definitely gotten in some good workouts while I've been here)
We also visited the penguins today! They were so small and cute and just living there life. There were hundreds of penguins on the beach and on huge boulders. I was able to take so many pictures of the cute little tuxedo guys!
My only complaint of the day was that I still haven't seen a Baboon! There were signs EVERYWHERE saying "Don't feed the Baboons" and "Be aware of Baboons" and so on... and unfortunately we did not see any... I'm still waiting! ☺
Hey, have I mentioned how beautiful this country is? I did? Well too bad, because this country is freakin' gorgeous!! Just when I thought we had done all the touring and sight-seeing that Cape Town and the surrounding area could offer, we saw more. Oh, so...so much more..
Our day began with a long drive around the Cape Peninsula. The low-lying fog gave the hillside and ocean an eerie sort of effect. I was completely taken by the steep rocks rising up around us as we weaved through the narrow roads. It was a solid drive that took at least 45 minutes. Then we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, a Table Mountain National Park. First, we enjoyed a super swank lunch at their restaurant. Sidenote: I had the Fish of the Day -- Blue Nose. Needless to say.. Ah-may-zing. We then walked it off in spades on our trek to the far end point of the peninsula. Many burned calories later, we made it. And if I may say so, it was exquisite. Eventually, descriptions and pictures will be shared. But I apologize, nothing will do it justice. A total "you had to be there" moment. We literally made it to the end of the continent. And the view? Infinite.
We also made a venture to check out the Cape penguins. A charming, ridiculously cute bunch of stout animals that live in this temperate climate. We were so close, we could touch them. Apparently they bite though. boo. I think that I took more pictures of those damn penguins than of anything else on this trip so far. figures..
Most people's great disappointment of the day was that not a single baboon appeared for our amusement. Well, their amusement. Quite honestly, after the descriptions I've read and the stories I've heard, I have little to no interest in coming in contact with the tourist-hating creatures. 5-feet tall? Fangs? Purse stealing? Sorry, I'll pass.
If there were a list of the top ten most romantic places in the world, I think I have seen at least 7 in the past two weeks. This land is unbelievable, well-preserved and protected. There is clearly pride in the natural beauty that South Africa holds.. and rightfully so. To taint this place with acres and acres of beige cookie-cutter homes and mega malls, would be to steal away and destroy a natural, perfect gift. I acknowledge that the US has a great number of fantastic sights and scenery, but I also believe that we have let our capitalistic tendencies get in the way. America is a beautiful land, but I'm finding that others, such as South Africa, seem to hold a greater value and love for theirs. Bold statement, perhaps... but my experience thusfar is pushing me towards this opinion.
The next three days will be pretty busy. Heading back to Delft to help at MaAfrika, with class in the afternoons. I feel like it'll be intense, as the majority was last week. But that remains to be seen. As much as I'm feeling homesick and missing Danny and Dweez terribly, I know I need to tackle this service-learning head-on. It's an irreplaceable experience that has already taught us all so much. So I'm looking forward to it. Onward to Monday!.....
To be alone in a room full of people is terrifying.
To be alone in a room separated from yourself is soul freeing.
I found myself in both states of minds simultaneously.
My name is Kiarra R. McCain.
Not because that was my birth giving title, but because I own it.
Because I realize that I don't know me,
I want know me
And the purpose is not to come to a conclusive me, but a
More controlled me
Better communicated me
Loudly charismatic me
A reflective calming me
A more Christ like me
More careful me
A piece for connecting me
A community of me
Embodied in one, I am better because we are better.
I am better because I heard your cries, because I worked on cures and my tears show I care.
We care, all of me.
To be alone in a room full of people is terrifying,
To wake up and realize it was just a dream, a state of mind, a lost moment...
To wake up and realize you needed that moment to awaken, is the moment you become...you.
The moment I became me, the moment you and I... all of our insecurities, are misfortunes, our weakness, our painful pass, and fate futures a moment when our mistakes combined, our hearts became in sync and our blood flowed at the same rate.
At that moment, that very moment you, you, you, you and you became we.
The last few days have been a lot of fun. On Friday we went up table mountain and the views from up top were amazing. Then yesterday a small group of us went shark cage diving and survived. Today we went to cape point which had another amazing view and then we went and saw some really cute penguins. The next few days we are going back Delft. I think everyone is excited to get back there to do some more work for them and to see the kids. Keep warm back in Minnesota.
Today we were granted a free day so me and 4 other students decided to go shark cage diving. After seeing youtube videos on this place, I was very hesitant, but all and all, I'm still alive!! We left our place around 9:30 to take a two hour drive to the great white shark capital of Africa. After a small orientation type thing, we were off to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The workers explained to us that they are "eco-friendly" and marine biologists, and they do research on the sharks as we're trying to see them up close. They explained it is not in any way detrimental to the sharks (which was good to hear since a member of our group decided to worry me and say it was harmful...). It is also not the great white shark season and I was worried that we wouldn't see any out there, but I was quite wrong. After waiting for our turn, I started getting antsy because no sharks were coming and I decided to cool off in the water. A staff member said it was okay, so I climbed into the cage by myself with only half my wet suit on and took a little dip. 2 minutes later, I was surrounded by three workers saying "close the top, close the top, there's a shark!!" I freaked out, had enough time to get my wetsuit all the way up, and there indeed, in a matter of seconds swam a great white shark. It was real scary once you're in the cage...but I am soo happy I did it. We met some pretty sweet people along the way too. And after getting off the boat I realized my skin was awfully painful. I have NEVER been this sunburned in my life. I feel like a lobster and look like one too. 15 sunblock does not protect against the African sun...and I'm just hoping this goes away REALLY soon. Ouch.
It was a great day off! And mom, I'm not missing any fingers.
Peace & Love from Cape Town.
This past week has been a week that has sparked an immense amount of personal growth and reflection upon myself.
We began our service learning work at MaT, and met the children from the Delft Township. It was incredibly refreshing to see a group of youth who are so full of energy and joy even if under the circumstances that they may live with. As I played with them, I couldn't help but want to know what their lives were like outsides of this playground area. I wanted to know what obstacles each of them faced outside of MaT, and how they would prevail. It put into retrospect for me, that our happiness should not be measured by the material possessions and the achievements we have encompassed, but instead about the people who support and love is unconditionally is what is most important. While everyone can probably agree that this is true, getting to know the youth made it have a deeper meaning for me.
While most of you may be freezing back at home, we have been suffering a heat wave here in Cape Town that has made being out in the sun for long amounts of time near impossible. I have personally developed a tan that has made me a few shades darker (no complaint). Nonetheless, I am grateful to be experiencing warm weather. One day this week we did some weeding out in MaT's garden (Let me add I do not have a green thumb by any means) however; it was good to be able to give back in the littlest way possible, and made me feel like even though I can't fix the problems of the world, I am making a difference little by little.
We lightened our load a little yesterday, and were able to go to Table Mountain. It was by far the most beautiful view I have ever seen in my life. Pictures won't be able to do this view justice. I think that yesterday was a great day for all of us to step back and just absorb and put into perspective all that we have seen and experienced in this trip thus far. I have begun to get so accustomed to living in Cape Town that even while I miss you back at home; it will be hard to come back in less than a week.
Ah yes.. the well-deserved break. 'Tis upon us. Yesterday and today have provided us with the opportunities to explore, discover and freakin' relax.
The visit to Table Mountain exceeded our expectations and our minds were blown. I was mega proud of those in our group that conquered their fears and made it all the way in the cable car up Table Mountain. Once there, it was pure amazement. Oh sure, we've all been high enough that we see some scenery. But not this, man, not this.. This is life-pondering, enlightenment type stuff. You can see Cape Town from every side. Every side.. It's hard to describe in words. And come on, the pictures are merely pictures. This is a beauty that must be experienced firsthand. Few places in the world can compare to this.
The other half of our day was spent at the V&A Waterfront. Tourist delights abound. I bought some South African music, which was cool. Then I went in the mall and overspent, not so cool. Sidenote: I didn't feel like an outsider. No one was staring at me. The only time I was singled out was when I was making a purchase, the clerk saw my Wells Fargo debit card, and asked where I was from. Then my feeling of inclusion made sense... I was surrounded by a mall full of affluent white people.
We checked out the Two Oceans Aquarium, with ocean life from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. There's stuff there that could never be seen in the states. A couple faves: the jellyfish, the penguins, and the ROCK LOBSTERS! (shout out B-52s) I totally appreciate the aquariums emphasis on animal rehabilitation, and not making this just another crappy zoo. They even featured art and photos on the effects of human waste (plastic, glass, etc). Eye-opening stuff.
Today was a complete and total day off. So about 12 of us decided to head downtown to Greenmarket Square to hang out without agenda. The Market has tons of vendors who will barter with you till you find the right price. Sure the products quickly start to repeat themselves, but you have to remember, this stuff can only be found here. The real adventure was traveling by mini-bus to and from downtown. On the way there, part of our group was squished into an already packed mini-bus. It didn't make the little, old lady to my left very happy. Which she expressed in a series of expletives before turning to me and apologizing for her crassness. I told her it was cool and to go right ahead. I mean, really, Angela was sitting on my lap for god's sake!! On the way back, all 12 of us were able to take one van. Thing is, two people who were already in the van waiting to leave were instructed by the driver to switch to another van to make room for our group. This pissed me off. And it clearly pissed off those two passengers. Perhaps the people here roll with that kind of rudeness better than we would in America. But honestly, you just don't do that! We're all paying the same amount of money!
Nonetheless, we made it back. We're chilling now. Tonight? Who knows.. I think I'll take it easy and do some laundry.
What? You expected me to have some deep, meaningful entry today? Nah, nah.. gotta have a day without worry, concern or thought every now and then :)
Tomorrow, Cape Peninsula Tour and Cape of Good Hope. Oh, and the potential to SWIM WITH PENGUINS. Yeah you heard me!
Back from my writing break. I have been experiencing this seminar from several different perspectives. I am a student attempting to learn about the history of South Africa. I am a teaching assistant and fellow learning about the logistics and planning that goes into leading a global seminar in the hopes that one day I will instruct my own. I am also a social scientist interested in group dynamics and how groups and communities construct themselves. We have an incredibly dynamic and diverse global seminar community. It has been a joy thus far observing, engaging and developing with this amazing group of students.
I have had several conversations with multiple sub-groups about their interpretations on how small groups within the big group are established. Here we are in South Africa where racial segregation has been a significant part of their history in policy and practice. We are a small diverse group of college students from the U.S. as a part of a global seminar community, but given the choice still manage to experience segregation. We wonder how does this work? Is it more natural to gravitate to those that are more like us? If so, to what degree would that "more like us" look like? Race, gender, age, and/or status/position. Could it happen by majors, fields of study or classmanship? I don't know of any solid answers to these questions, but just thought I would throw it out there to possibly engage some dialogue around segregation and similarities.
For many that know me well, and not so well, I have been viewed as a person that over analizes things. There is much truth to this form of processing I do - Everyday! One might imagine that this visit to South Africa has got my mind working overtime. It is true. Today has provided us with a much needed day off - a time for reflection - to attempt to organize the multitude of overwhelming thoughts and emotions evoked from this Global Seminar experience thus far.
Forgive me if I get to bouncing around with the sharing of my thoughts, but I hope it all comes together to make some kind of sense. This morning I awoke a bit groggy, but somewhat excited because we don't have anything scheduled in the way of seminar curriculum - a free day! A few of the ladies and I set up hair appointments right down the block at a convenient store/beauty salon.
The store owner walked down the street to a neighboring salon and called a couple of friends to make sure accommodations were made for all of us to be able to get our hair done. An impressive community effort! My dreads were done by a young man that completed his work faster and with craftsmanship than anyone that has ever done my hair. I was very pleased and tipped accordingly. The whole group of stylists were very appreciative of my gratuity. Their smiles were very bright and long lasting.
I returned to my living area to find that everyone had gone somewhere, which I greatly appreciated in order to really be able to engage in my reflection process. I made myself something to eat, did a load of laundry, tidied my sleeping area and then sat down to construct this writing.
Some of us started our trip with enormous disappointment. I will refer to us as the Delta 4. We are the 4 global seminar participants that with the help of Delta Airline, missed our scheduled flight out of Mpls International airport. 6 lines, 5 hours, and a few assertive conversations later, we were rescheduled for a flight leaving 2 days later. In my experience that day, there were relationships forged between the 4 of us and I felt a sense of responsibility for this group to insure their safe arrival to Cape Town. 2 lengthy flights later with a stop in Amsterdam, we landed safely in Cape Town.
I experienced great anxiety, frustration, fatigue, anger, helplessness, exhaustion, impatience, and hope during our challenging airport ordeal. We were instructed on several occasions by Delta personnel to stand in various lines of great length only to be told that we have to go to another. My feelings of anger and frustration were subdued only by the thought of my need to maintain to avoid ending up on the " no fly list". It ended up that we all persevered by getting tickets for a new flight, and agreed that we would arrive back at the airport on the day of departure 4 hours early. The flights were long, the food was mediocre, but the flight attendants were incredibly pleasant.
In order to not make reading my entries too painful with too many lengthy stories at a time, I will stop here. I will continue to share about my reflections in a somewhat chronological format and continue to hope they make sense.......stay tuned.
I can't imagine leaving these kids and going back to Minnesota. We haven't even spent half of the time scheduled yet with them and I am in love, head over heals, crazy in love with these kids. Everything about them is so beautiful. I could name thousands of reasons why, but I will just go into 1. They have nothing to play with, nothing to read, no shoes, nothing, and they have more fun then any kids I have ever seen play in the U.S. You can't go into a restaurant in the U.S. without seeing a family sitting at the table while each kid is playing with their OWN gameboy. They aren't even coloring on their paper place mats. These kids come to MaAfrika everyday for a reason, and it clearly isn't because of the wealth of toys and games. I have seen these kids dance for literally hours doing the same dance over and over and over again, and LOVING it. These kids have amazed me in so many ways, and I still have so much more time with them. I have learned so much already, and I can't comprehend how lucky I am to have met them. Leaving them will be the hardest thing I will have to do in a very long time.
I probably should have said this in our group circle tonight, but I'm not very good at vocally expressing what I want to say, but I just want to thank everyone in our group for talk circle tonight. We all have had and are still having a really difficult time processing the past few days. Walking into Mandela Park was difficult for me, but the moment that really just put me in the moment was when we walked into the women with diabetes' home. And all I could think about was "I want to run out of this place, I want to go home, I just can't deal with this anymore." And if I wasn't physically trapped in that room, I probably would have ran out. And although it was incredibly difficult, I am thankful I did not leave. And after that, I checked out. It was just too much for me. But, anyway, I have been avoiding thinking about the past few days...I just didn't know where to start, and am still working on my own personal processing, but tonight really helped. And I just want to thank all of my group members for just being there to help me through that process.
Ma Afrika Tikkun is beautiful.
The kids there are terrific. They are so curious and have so many questions and most are outgoing as all hell. When you get them on the dance floor, they have this beaming confidence that you cannot find in most grown people. What amazes me is that the kids spend their days entertaining themselves on this sort of patio outside and they are just happy. They don't have a lot of toys, they don't have a lot of anything. And yet, day after day they are there having a great time. They take each day as it is and don't ask for much more. They are teaching me so much. The kids there are terrific.
Secondly, the staff who spend each day providing a safe and fun environment for these children are amazing people. I can't imagine dealing with what they deal with every single day. All of the trauma and pain and suffering that happens in the townships, along with glimpses of joy and happiness and light that happens there as well. It's an emotional roller coaster that they ride on day after day, without any question or doubt. I hope that they know that what they are doing here is not only appreciated by those they directly interact with. What I am learning from them has affected me and will stay with me forever. They are doing something great here, and they do it every day.
WOW what a day it has been! When we heard the news yesterday in class that our rain-checked visit to the top of Table Mountain was moved to this morning, it created an insane amount of excitement and anxiety for all of us. We braced ourselves and traveled up an EXTREMELY STEEP mountain peak via cable car with a crazy rotating floor. I was sooo excited to get to the top! The view was absolutely astounding. So it's not surprising why there were ads everywhere around the site asking to vote for it to be one of the 7 world wonders. I took a seat and used my beautiful surroundings as a vice to allow me to just "be". The reflection was very much needed; these past two days have been extremely trying - emotionally, physically and mentally.
After lunch at the café on top of the mountain we went to the V&A waterfront - a tourist-esque area with a lot of great shops. When I was in the V&A shopping center, I was fortunate enough to find out some of the stories of the venders that I went bought trinkets from; which is something that I have really really enjoyed. A group of us also went through the Two Oceans Aquarium - also located at the waterfront. It was sweet because the surrounding oceans are a mix between the Indian and Atlantic which creates some craaaazy wildlife. I am not a fan of fish, but I love aquariums and this one is definitely in my top 3. I touched all kinds of underwater plants, saw the biggest crab I have ever seen in my LIFE and hung out with some penguins.
I don't feel like an invading tourist anymore - it's a great feeling. I am incredibly comfortable here! (don't worry parents I AM coming home). Some people here will ask where I'm from and are always extremely friendly when I say I'm from the states, which is so welcoming. I love how our trip as been - little but necessary "touristy" excursions, and hard core social justice work other than that. I also know I am not by myself when I say that I miss our kids from MaAfrika Tikkun. We've only had 2 days with them and I can't wait until Monday when we get to see them again.
Have a great weekend everybody, I know we will! :)
1.) Teaching the little kids at MaAfrika dances, as well as having them teaching us their dance
2.) Having our cab stall in the middle of the highway and no cops stopping for us.
3.) Courtney's photos.
4.) Getting on the wrong train, resulting in a 55 minute walk home.
5.) Derek busting a move on new years.
6.) Pulling weeds and painting in the HOT HOT heat at MaAfrika.
7.) Pizza and wine night that turned into a talking circle.
8.) Visiting Mandela Park.
9.) Touring the clinic in Delft.
10.) Having the kids constantly put smiles on our faces.
By: Emily Holland, Chelsea Skwiera, Christina Rosemeyer, Megan Lobner, and Aurora Zosel
Today started at MaAfrika painting and gardening was on the agenda. We also brought music from home to share with the kids since they taught us the dance that they were working on the previous day. But first we had to do the real work, we split up into groups and had more work cut out for us than we thought. Gardening was a challenge and most of us don't do much of that work at home. Some of the areas meant for weeding were entirely filled and nothing was being grown there, so it was great to clear some space for potential vegetables to be grown. The vegetables are used at the soup kitchens in which are located around Delft for the community. Although we didn't finish all of the weeding because of the EXTREMELY hot sun, it looks so much better than before. The painting was being done in the kitchen, they wanted it painted a bright yellow and we added the idea of the kids putting their hand prints on one of the walls to add a personal touch. While some of us kept painting the rest went out to teach the kids a dance. We taught them the Cupid Shuffle and they loved it, they got right in and it didn't take long for them to get the hang of it. After that we just played more of our music for them to dance to. Hours went by so fast because everyone was up and dancing around with the kids. It was the perfect way to end the day of work at the center.
Later that afternoon we had class that was centered around forgiveness, this was such a difficult concept to grasp when using it in context with apartheid. We watched a documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which survivors of apartheid could go and tell their story as well as confront their perpetrators about family members that lost their lives. Perpetrators were also their given the chance to tell the truth about what they did to receive amnesty. Desmond Tutu led the proceedings because it was his belief that by hearing the stories there was a chance to heal the nation. What was extremely hard to wrap our minds around was the fact that actual people brutally killed others during this time and showed little remorse. Our conversation after related our own lives to the concept of forgiveness and how hard it actually is to forgive. Many mixed emotions that arose during the conversation ranging from anger, hatred, sorrow, but at the same time a sense of hope. The fact that South Africans have come so far from the hell that they went through during apartheid in 15 yrs is astonishing. Forgiveness is something that we will all need to work into our lives, in the words of Desmond Tutu "Without forgiveness there is really no future" and thats the message South Africans are teaching us.
Today we got a lot of work done at the township. We painted a room, pulled a lot of weeds, and taught the kids some dances. The last few days have been physically and mentally exhausting. Tomorrow we get a nice break from the classroom and are going to table mountain. We might do a little shopping for all you back home also. I think everyone here is having fun while learning a lot. Take care and keep warm in Minnesota.
So I was about to launch into a diatribe on the past two days until I read Kirstin's last blog entitled "Reality Check." If I may, I would love to refer you to that fabulously written account of Tue and Wed. Then, I invite you to come back and join me right here for the add-ons from my own experience.
Thanks! And I'll see you in a few....
Oh, you're back! I missed you. No really, I did.
So I've gotta toss humor aside for the moment, as well as my usual courtesy of language censorship. For that, I apologize to my people who aren't so keen on the 4-letter words. But right now I can't help myself.
As you read, this week has been quite unreal. Not just for me and Kirstin but for the group as a whole. We have been confronted with something more tangible than images on TV or newspapers. This shit is surrounding us, touching us in every way. Literally, all senses affected. The sight as I take in the juxtaposition of a modern highway flanked by shacks made of scraps. The smell of garbage and sewage. The sound of languages other than my own. The taste of fruit and vegetables untouched by pesticides. The feel of a child's trusting embrace.
I can't get over the GOVERNMENT PROVIDED sheet metal, one room, hot-as-hell shacks set upon acres of dirt and gravel. These are people's homes. This is life as they know it. They see us, they stare -- Why are these strangers here? Why are they staring back? .............How can they not wonder? We clearly don't belong.
I have an aversion to crying in public. That will to suppress was not strong enough following our visit with the man affected by TB and HIV. Couldn't freakin help myself. I'm wearing a face mask, standing in this man's fucking house, while his nurse tells us about his condition. Couldn't help myself.
The visit to Delft's medical center was fascinating. How could all of these people, with their myriad of health concerns, all be treated in the same place and NOT BE TURNED AWAY? In a place where a human is a human is a human. Not in America! No, not in the place where good healthcare is earned not given. Where a human is defined as one with the right amount of money, privilege and luck. The medical center visit brought my issues with the American "healthcare" system to the front of my mind (and mouth, as my roommates will tell you). This facility was staffed with hard-working, smart, passionate individuals who treat the whole person. Like Nate said, these are the true heroes. I couldn't agree more. America, you could learn a thing or two or 12,000.. (and if that healthcare law is repealed by the time I get back, I'm turning back around. for real.)
We're getting our hands dirty at MaAfrika Tikkun. Literally. I gardened/weeded A LOT in the sweltering sun, did a little re-painting of a room and hung out with the kids. It felt really good to do a bit of everything they needed help with today.
These kids at MaAfrika are blowing my mind. They have such joy and trust. They clearly love that we're here and we love being here with them. Kirstin mentioned their rehearsed ballroom dance.. One young boy repeatedly kept asking me to dance throughout the afternoon and I obliged. He had such poise and posture. At one point he even turned it up a few notches and seemed to challenge me with some moves. Yeah, I kept up.. fo sho. A few of my friends said, "Amanda, your boyfriend better watch out!" Just sayin, Danny, just sayin.... Today we saw boys around 4- or 5-years old poppin' and lockin' better than grown men! Could not get my jaw off the floor.
So, you see, it ain't all bad. My humor is still around (as I know that's been a concern for some back home), and we're getting through the hard/awkward/weird times as a group. It is undoubtedly a unique experience that we're launching into without reservation. I'm proud of the group and myself.
Tomorrow, Table Mountain. Finally!!!
Ill take you to a place where the children run free
I bet you'd never guess what kind of place this could be
Scrap metal and trash
As far as the eye can see
Mixed with friendships
And the true joy of family
Follow the dog that limps to the shade
To see images that weigh on your heart
And cause your smile to fade
Witness the horrors of HIV/AIDS
Then follow the child
With the questioning gaze
Into the extreme warmth
Of the warm summer rays
There you will find that inspiration is here
And feel the power to wipe your face full of tears
Because within the sadness anger and rage
Lies a book full of hope
If you just turn the page
These people are strong
And have a lesson to share
Happiness can be found in the darkest of places
If you take the time to embrace the story that's there
I've been debating writing this entry for most of the night because the last two days have been some of the most difficult days of my entire life, and I don't know if I can put it into words. I feel a lot of what we've been seeing is only believable if you are here. Being here makes all the problems about HIV and townships around the Cape Town area seem real, blunt, and in your face, and that's entirely in a good, eye-opening way, but it is so incredibly difficult to deal with.
Going to a township, Mandela Park, was the first experience our entire group had in a neighborhood built of metal, scraps of wood, and pieces of basically anything found to block the rain or sun from coming in. It was very emotionally hard walking through the gravel streets of this neighborhood as we were stared at by the locals who probably were wondering what the hell we were doing there. It gave me an uneasy feeling because thoughts of disrespect for the townships' people and embarrassment on my part for just going to observe this place when I have so much back home made it difficult to continue walking. The experience of seeing the townships didn't really slap me in the face until we drove to MaAfrika Tikkun in Delft, where we will be doing our service learning every morning. On the drive, I just stared out the window. I was truly speechless of what I saw. Miles after miles, there were metal shacks continuing far past my eye could see. It seemed to be never ending. Piles of garbage lined the streets with random horses planting their faces in it, and still yet, the metal shacks seemed to not stop. I just can't believe that people can drive past these neighborhoods every day and not do something about it to help. It's mind-boggling to go from Camps Bay where their is a gorgeous resort and shopping area along the beach that is surrounded by multi-million dollar houses, then see the true SA of endless metal shacks and barbed wire fences. I can't even begin to describe what it looked like or what I was thinking on that 20 minute drive.
Excitement overcame me as our first morning at MaAfika began, and we were greeted by children ballroom dancing in a quaint roofed area. MaAfrika Tikkun is an organization in which brings people of the Delft township together and provides a safe place for children throughout the year. Although that is a very lame description of the organization since they do SO much more than that, I want to tell you that the people working there are truly heroes. I very much thought the day was going to be spent at the central MaAfrika Tikkun buildings, but the staff members wanted to show us more of their town and other things they do during the week.
We were taken to government housing in the township and they were all made of metal as well. When getting out of our vans, I did not know what we would be doing and a staff member began to explain the at home care they do throughout the township to people who are dealing with disease. She asked us if we would like to see her patients, and without really thinking, I grabbed a mask and I was suddenly standing in front of a man, laying on a bed who was very sick of tuberculosis and HIV. He probably weighs less than 100 pounds and the best way to picture this is like the horrifying pictures of people during the Holocaust when they were not fed. You could see every bone in his body. The staff member began explaining that he refuses to go to the hospital and take his meds and she believes its because he doesn't think it is that bad.
Not only was that difficult, but we were next driven to the only hospital in Delft to take a tour. I could talk for hours about this hospital because it was so...wow. Literally, the hospital was jam packed with people needed to see a doctor. There was hardly an room to walk in the place, it was FULL. We were explained that this hospital now has reached its full capacity of doctors and nurses and still there is just an overload of people needing care and absolutely no more space in the building. It would have to take an entire day to get in to see a doctor. The truth is, people here, 1 out of every 6, have HIV/AIDS which means in order to get the medicine and care they need, they need to see a doctor often and it is almost impossible to do so. Like I said, I could continue talking, but I can't put the words together. It was so hard to see.
I now believe the only thing that could get me out of this strong mixture of emotions was exactly what we partook in after the hospital tour...and that was the joy, innocence, and happiness of children. I had a chance to jump rope, laugh, talk of American celebrities, and future dreams with African children. They are truly beautiful and fascinating, and it is so amazing that a place like Ma T provides this safe environment where they can just be kids. I am so excited to be working at this organization for the next week because this is one place that brings hope to the struggling South Africa.
Ringing in the New Year Cape Town style was definitely a night I will always remember. I've never experienced a warm new years eve! To start off the night all 25 of us went out together. We basically all took over one club and rang in the new year in the street which was filled with people singing Ole and hugging each other left and right. It was a great bonding experience with the entire group and I had such a fun experience.
After the New Year it was time for work to begin here in Cape Town. We started off the 2011 by taking some tours of very important historical places including the District 6 Museum, St. George's Cathedral, and the Slave Lodge. Everyone felt mixed emotions that day and it was definitely quite a shock for my self. These were all places dealing with the apartheid, which is still very real and prevalent in Capt Town today. We also started our classes here, which have been very interesting thus far.
Another place we were able to go was the Green Market Square. This is where many street vendors sell all sorts of items. It was interesting to see all the intricate woodcarvings and all the other hand made things they have. Because I love to shop, I definitely enjoyed this experience!
Today was by far one of my favorite days. We began working with the children at the MaAfrika Tikkun. It was so fun interacting with all the kiddos, after all this is the main reason why I'm here. When we first arrived they had prepared a dance performance for us, which was beyond adorable. They then taught us the dance and we spent some time just playing, talking, and enjoying their great energy and happiness.
Here in Cape Town there has been a record high heat wave passing through. Today it got up to almost 100 degrees! It's been very hot and sticky, but I'm not complaining...soon enough I'll be back in the freezing cold again.
One last note...I still have yet to see a baboon!
1. Time is not really a necessary thing. Tell someone to meet you at 10:15 and don't be surprised if they don't even leave their homes until half past 10. The flow of the day is more important than what exact time it is.
2. They drive on the other side of the road here! So when you cross the street, look to your right first. Or maybe it's to the left. Or just whatever is the opposite of where you would look if you were in the US.
3. Oh yeah, and CLEARLY pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way here. If a car is coming toward you, it will not stop to avoid hitting you.
4. The sun in the mid-west is not the same sun that shows up in Africa. If you are of pale-European decent, as I am, you will most likely roast. It's best to slather pure zinc on your skin if you don't want this to happen. Just saying.
5. America is a nation of picky eaters. Or South Africa is a nation of non-picky eaters (As so phrased by Amanda, I believe). Whichever way it goes, the food is different. Expecting to buy strawberries that are the size of your fist? Well, you won't find them because, remember, strawberries don't naturally grow that big.
6. Kids are still kids. Despite poverty and other external elements that could dictate their way of life, kids just want to play. Kids just want to hang out and play; they are still just as curious, just as loving, just as funny, just as sweet, and just as amazing as any other kids. Maybe they aren't as video game-obsessed as kids in the US, but their personalities are still the same.
7. Bartering with street vendors is not so scary after all. You just have to let them know what you want and for how much. They will usually comply.
8. The world is a familiar place after all. This is something that Nate mentioned first, I admit that I totally absorbed this idea from him. But it is so true. You would be surprised at how many things you see and find yourself thinking "hey, this is just like_________from back at home."
9. The differences aren't so scary. When preparing to head off to a foreign country, there is much hype of a condition formally know as "culture shock." It is not as intense as it sounds. At least this is how I feel. Sure, things are different here, but I don't find myself in a state of shock. That sounds so serious and harsh, am I right? It's more like recognition of differences followed soon after by an understanding of them.
10. Lastly, embracing being a tourist is flippin' IMPORTANT! If you spend all your time worrying about how obviously of an outsider you are, you will miss out! I promise you! So just embrace the awkwardness of it all, and dive into the experience. You cannot change your tourist status because that is what you are. So flaunt that fanny pack, Hawaiian shirt, socks with sandals, what have you. And enjoy yourself.
These past view days have been heavy. What we have encountered in Cape Town is real, everything from the coast line and massive houses to the train , townships, and clinics and even more real are the people. The individuals who have gone through and are still working through the issues of South Africa have faces and names.
The District 6 Museum is a place for people to remember and give tribute to the people of a district that was thriving and vibrant and then destroyed because of greed and racism. It is important to educate yourself about events and you hope to learn from them. I left feeling heartbroken but to hear our tour guide (a former resident of District 6) talk about fighting for issues of social justice and relating what he has learned from his experience to current issues gave hope because has he found a way to live in the after math and also helps provide a lens for people learning about District 6 and apartheid.
Not knowing any idea of what we were doing today after spending time with the youth, we set off in different vehicles and headed into the Delft Township. Greeted by stares, head nods and waves a somber but hopeful feeling is always evoked while entering these miles of metal shacks. Mind you - as unattractive as they are on the outside, there is a beauty that is evident and strung through the clothes lines, onto the childrens faces and through the one line of electricity going through each home. We were led by Anthea, a program director for MaT, and broke up into 2 groups. One went to visit a woman in her home who has diabetes, and the other group (the group we were in) strapped on face masks and went to visit a man who has been diagnosed with TB and is HIV positive. The nurse in MaAfrika Tikkun that caters to his needs explained to us that he has refused to take any medicine for the past few months so it was extremely hard for us to see this 36 year old lying there, practically skin and bones. Recently though he decided he wants to go to a clinic, so the nurses are trying to figure that out for him.
After we gathered everyone up we went to the Delft community hospital. A small, but very lively place where hundreds of patients are taken care of daily. A woman gave us a tour of the whole facility, and naturally the stares came rampant at our group. Normal for us now, but still tends to catch us off guard. We walked through in a single file line through every unit not excluding the trauma unit. As we walked past it was hard to not notice a small puddle of blood on the floor. On a brighter note, if you looked at the faces of the nurses behind the desk all were happy to be able to work at such a great facility. You could feel the energy through the hard work and patience that they clearly have to face each day. We passed many units were there were at least fifty people waiting for their service. In a place where disease runs widespread it is necessary to take advantage of free health care. You could tell that most were grateful for the benefits they receive. Although this was a heavy place for us to visit, it shows hope for the Township of Delft.
Getting back from the hospital we gathered in MaT's multipurpose room to attempt to debrief about everything we had seen throughout the day. Through the glitter in Anthea's eye you can see the passion she has developed for her work. She is such a strong woman, and inspiring none the less. She calmed our anxiety and nervousness with the relaxing tone of her voice speaking simple lessons that she has learned to a silent group of college students. We sat quietly, and tried to absorb everything that we possibly could. In the words of Anthea: all it takes is a simple Thank You to make someone's day better, you think you cannot come and do what I do but you can - you really can. The people I work with say you give me strength and I say no you have it all wrong - you give ME strength. You all are so strong for coming here already. Don't be scared to cry - talk about it, it is normal to be overwhelmed. I get up every day and I'm excited - you have to give your all every day even when you think it's the last shot and if you give up that could have been someone else's last shot. You do something good for someone, and they do something good for someone else and it keeps going and going.
After we finished our debrief we decided to end our day at MaT with the youth. We spent the remainder of our time regaining our strength in the energy of the youth. We mingled with them all and took pictures, they really enjoyed taking pictures with our cameras. It was an opportunistic moment to see the world through their eyes. We took turns jump roping, dancing, kicking balls around, and enjoying a Popsicle, a brilliant way to end a very trying morning.
Upon our arrival to our respective houses we quickly gathered our lunches and set out for another day of class. We were pleasantly surprised to find air conditioning in our intimate classroom. A brief discussion about Ubantu (I am who I am because of you), and a viewing of the film Amandla! (which means Power) is how our class time was spent.
We miss you all and hope that you're enjoying the cold weather :) we are all at least two shades darker! (Even Nate!) ;)
This message has been brought to you by your mixed race roommates Mary and Megan :)
P.S. SHOUT OUT TO FELLOW FAMILY MEMBER ANTHONY FOR TURING 20 TODAY!!!!
wow...I can't even process still what has been happening these past couple days. A lot of things have slapped me strait in the face. It is hard for me to descibe the complete transition between dancing with this kids during our service learning project with MaAfrika to visually seeing where this happy, care-free children live. I am having a difficult time grasping how they are able to fufill and obtain such a lifestyle that is clearly extreme poverty. Many will get the chance to see pictures yet physically being present in the situation is what left my body feeling numb. I feel like I have heard many times the challenges these people face each day yet when you are first hand witnessing it so many more emotions of astonishment and feelings of powerlessness come forth.
I came on this trip expecting to be challenged and presented with moments that I would want to ignore and brush off....and I've learned that I am doing more than just witnessing how these people live their lives. I am interacting with these people and in return learning from them. I will admit initially, and even still a little bit now, I feel like an intrudor. However, I have been able to be around the people and they are constantly smiling, greeting without judgement, and openly telling their stories. Being willing to express and be grateful for what they are given is such a powerful characteristic that I to this day need practice with. The kids I was around today brought a sense of euphoria I feel has been contained in my past due to fear of judgement. They provided me with an environment full of willingness to be around me even though I was unfamiliar to them....I realized you can learn so much for kids. They are so blunt, straightforward and sociable without worrying about how others would view their opinion. It was so funny to have a girl come up to me and ask why my skin was faling off! I had been peeling on my shoulder from the sun and a simple question she didn't need to think twice about or contimplate beforehand..sometimes you just need to be genuine and real and I'm beginning to develop that personality trait around these kids.
There are so many things I could go on discussing about what has been going on these past few days yet I am finding it extremely challenging to articulate what I am trying to say. I think there is still much self processing I need to do to truely reflect upon my time here. I am so thankful for being allowed to be a part of something so influencial even though it is so incredibly challenging at the same time.
Busta Rhymes and his infamous "Flipmode Squad" crew has always found pride in taking the proverbial hip-hop phraseology and ideologies, and "flipping them on ya!" That has been our experience the past two days. It's safe to say I "flipped" it on the students. We're in the "flipmode." A very confusing, scary, and eye opening place but with some hope in the heart (and a truly open-mind), a wonderful place.
It wasn't necessarily my intent to have such a laissez-faire beginning with a sharp turn towards "reality" but it worked that way thanks to the holidays. It only made sense to have students get their feet wet, find their way from A to B, learn that the people of Cape Town will help, and settle the mind after a long trip. But the time has come to get to work.
Yesterday, as blog readers have gathered, we visited the District 6 Museum, St. George's Cathedral, and the Iziko Slave Lodge (with side trips to Greenmarket Square and a wrong train station that required a long walk to get home). We also simply happened to be in the city center during the Cape Minstrel Carnival parade with more HERE
Today was added exposure to "reality" and the stressed group cohesion (after very hot-button conversations) has made us all revisit the ideas of "community" that we started class with just days ago. I hope the students remain patience with each other and tolerant of their ambiguity of this place and experience.
I had to make some very quick arrangements (and confusing arrangements for many of the students) to nab a quick opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds of Imizamo Yethu aka "Mandela Park" on the outskirts of the beautiful "Republic of Hout Baai" (it's not a Republic but the locals might argue differently; they even have their own "passports"). "Hout" in Afrikaans is "wood" and "Baai" is "bay," meaning: bay of wood. The surrounding pine tree forests give it this name.
Some estimates put Mandela Park at 33,000 people but that's always up for debate. Yet, it is your typical informal South African settlement with no major infrastructure, including water facilities, sewage, bathrooms, electricity, and more. This area is also known as having the worst E-coli levels in the nation, but this is only found in the Disa River that runs near the township. But, let's put negative aside for a moment.
Imizamo Yethu is also a vibrant community, a place of art, color, and life. It is a place I once called home and seeing Auntie Ba and other familiar faces today brought me back to the truth (or at least my truth) of these areas. We tend to attach material items to human worth whether we like it or not. It causes many of us to feel a sense of pity, embarrassment, anger, and sadness to see these poverty stricken areas (to say we don't feel these things is not being honest with ourselves - for we are human). Yet, if we sit in these emotions for too long we can begin to forget our common humanity, stripped of the materialness of our world. We pay more attention to the "shacks" and garbage, and less attention to the "people." People who are proud of their homes (like we); who wish for something more (like we); who struggle with family (like we); who are dealing with daily life (like we); who want you to see their shacks after a good cleaning (like we); who have a pride in their community (like we); and who work hard if given the opportunity (like we).
I will never forget or ignore the fact that my loved ones in Mandela Park were handed an appallingly raw deal yet I will also never be afraid to hug them, visit their proud homes, eat at their table, learn from their experience, discuss world views with them, and work with them to find a common agreement on how to change OUR lives for the better, whether in Hout Baai or Minneapolis.
This day was rough. Emotionally, mentally and physically. Earlier in the day, I had so many things to say to you. Tonight (well, 12:03am) I can't do it. For that I apologize. We're all going through things here, very immediately, that are challenging us, angering us, and causing us to question. This is very good. It is also very difficult. I am blessed that these people are here with me. I am blessed to be here. I am even blessed to be experiencing the confusion and frustration. Just know that what is going on here is changing us, changing me.
For the day's events, I encourage you to read my co-authored blog written today with my friend Kiarra McCain titled "Lights camera actuality." Kiarra has written a beautiful poem that expresses feelings from a very trying part of the day. I tried my best to depict what was seen and experienced throughout. To call it a brief overview is an understatement. This may be the best I can do in describing the situation for a while, as I don't believe I will process this all very quickly. For now, I just hope I did it justice.
Danny, Mom, Dad, Denise, friends and family, I love you.
Yesterday was a very busy day one that produced deep thought and a stream of different emotions. The first tour of the day was to the district six museum and the guide that led the tour was a man of colour that lived through the entire apartheid movement. That was truly like a breathe of fresh air, as the history of a tragedy is usually recapped by the oppressor or an outside party. The story behind the district six destruction is very similar to many American tragedies, but I was shocked at the fact that the history is still so fresh and the people who were affected are trying to coexist as one.
After Distract 6, our group then visited the Cathedral, one that was viewed as a "safe zone" for all races during Apartheid; however, that was not always the case, as we learned that many of key figures of the church were arrested multiple times. I think one important piece that I took away, as a white girl, from the cathedral was the role of white people, especially women. The amazing experience bestowed upon us from the first tour guide, as a man of color, during the Apartheid gave us a phenomenal experience; however, at the same time, I think it is important to recognize that the white women who gave us the tour of the Cathedral were also a part of Apartheid. Although during Apartheid a lot of white people did some horrendous things, at the same time, there were also some white people fighting for what was right. I also think it is important to point out the role of religion in power. From what we learned, it seems as if religion was used as both a justification for the whites and a defense for the Africans; as in, depending upon what side of the fight you were on, religion could take a whole different meaning.
We also went to the slave lodge and I can say that my response to the slave lodge was much similar to the district six museum. I found two points of the tour that spoke volumes to me, there was a video that was played that summarized the slavery in South Africa, and then there was a point in the film when the Afrikaans were glorified. I found this to be frustrating being that the Afrikaans were the oppressors of the slaves and the root cause of the apartheid movement. I also thought heavily about the glorification of men of color throughout history such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, Ghandi for doing what was right. It just highlighted the amount of wrong doing and moral corrosion of the majority that have caused so much of the oppression throughout history.
Courtney Bell & Cassy Sadowski
Kiarra McCain & Amanda Wittkopp
January 4, 2011
"Lights camera actuality..."
Lights camera actuality...
Flashing lights contrasting the beam of sun.
No body noticed.
No body seen the souls behind the lens smiling with scars
No body seen the sores in front of their hearts bandaged with hellos.
No body seen
Lights camera actuality....
Focusing on the forgotten, forgetting to forget.
No body went deeper then brown eyes, no body seen pass the hospitality.
Confronting this community with cameras was chaotic.
Snapping shots for frames,
Capturing human frames, leaving their souls behind, leaving their stories behind
But we walk away the same
that's a shame.
Lights camera actuality
Flashing lights contrasting the beam of sun
No body noticed with notices on their doors.
Today we did something that wasn't already planned for the day. It was a sort of impromptu experience we otherwise would not have had. We met a good friend of Nate's who he previously worked with and who has lived in the Mandela Park township. When we arrived we saw thousands of shacks made from various materials. Paved streets ran past the houses with street lights marking the way. Large, ugly electrical boxes that stood above the homes, connecting them to a main power source. Garbage was strewn everywhere. Random dogs ran around the streets licking up waste water. Many residents sat outside their homes in the hot morning heat. Nate ran into a woman he used to know named "Mama" and was able to briefly catch up. She waved and greeted our group. This was a most uncommon reaction, as most of the townspeople stared and spoke amongst themselves. A woman and her family, who Nate's friend knows, spoke with us and invited us into her home. It was a small, 3-room home. We noted that most of their belongings were basic, but they also had a television and stereo system. There are convenience-type stores, countless barber shops and cell phone repair shops throughout. Most all of them are shacks, like the homes, with handmade signs designating their purpose. It was a community unlike any most of us had not only ever seen but actually walked through.
Later we stopped off in a marina with souvenir vendors and places to eat. Some ate lunch, some shopped. It was a bit of mindless activity, considering where we had just come from.
Our last major plan for the day was to visit the MaAfrika Tikkun site in the township of Delft, where we will be doing our service-learning. Delft has mostly government housing, so the homes are constructed from cement and have actual shingles on the roofs. The drive to Delft was interesting for part of the group, as our van stalled on the road en route to the site. Thankfully, one of the other vans came back for us and we proceeded on our way. The entire way we passed other major townships and squatter camps. Horses grazed freely near the side of the road. Children swam in a pond lined with garbage. Graffiti creations decorated walls -- one of note said: Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand. (A Patti Smith quote)
At MaAfrika, we were orientated by Anthea Jansen, the head of the program. She told us about the wide variety of activities and services they offer to the people of Delft. We still do not know what we will individually or collectively be assigned to do when we start tomorrow. It could be anything from playing games, to working a soup kitchen, to gardening. No matter what, we are willing, available, able and ready.
Poetry by Kiarra
Narrative by Amanda
Today we went over to Mandela Park also known as "Imizamo Yethu" and we saw the poor part of South Africa. For the past few days I have been saying that I can't believe that I'm in Africa because everything looks rich and expensive but today I actually saw the real part of Africa, and I can't really put it in words because it was so sad to walk through the townships. There were dogs and children everywhere and the place looked dirty and sad. I just can't believe how these rich people that live the other side of the mountains can live knowing there are poor people on the other side. I was speechless, there was really nothing I could say but to walk through the townships and see how many people lived in this situation. Some lived in brick houses but majority lived in shacks. As we walked through, there many kids that smiled and waved at us. Our tour guide is friend of Nates and she showed us around and took us to one of her friends who invited us in to look around her place. And she kept saying "the outside looks bad, and dirty but as you look inside its livable and nice" Which it was, she had bathroom, kitchen, queen size bed but the place was small. I felt like everything was squeezed together because there was no space between the shacks. Today the weather was extremely hot and sweaty and I was thinking how they can live here knowing it get this hot, and not having enough water and food. I still have all this mixed emotions, and as we continue our days here, we learn new things about South Africa that surprise you, and get you speechless. But after seeing the township we went out to eat at this seal island and we got to see seals and I got to buy some key chains and wrist bands at this market. The place looked amazing and beautiful and it was somewhat refreshing after coming from the townships and so much to digest in one day. And we also got a chance to go to the orphanage that we will be volunteering for the next few days, and tomorrow is our first day so happy!. I can't wait till we start working with the children cause then I can feel like we are here to help and make a difference to these people some way.
Today we visited a couple townships and it was very depressing to see. I have known that these places existed but it was another thing to actually experience it. It was a jammed packed area of shacks with dogs and little children all around. The hardest part was the fact that this neighborhood is in the middle of a rich area. You have a beautiful city with nice buildings and homes nestled between mountains and ocean and then you have these areas with horrible poverty. It is hard to understand why this happened and is not an easy thing to experience. It is hard to put it all into words and am still a little shocked. Tomorrow is the first day we are doing our service learning so I am excited to work with children and help those communities that need so much. And to those in Minnesota most people were complaining of it being too hot here today, i think it got up to 90.
Reading through all my fellow group members' entries, I feel like they have all so well expressed the thoughts that I feel like I do not have the words to explain. This place is just unbelievably beautiful - and anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a hue nature person. I feel as if back at home, I am just so busy that I miss the natural beauty in things, and it is difficult for me to think about, because I am from a small town, and I really felt that difference moving from that small town to the Cities...and it was hard for me that I could no lhe longer see the stars at night, but now, being acclimated to the Cities, I'm too busy to notice I don't see the stars at night. Anyway, waking up every morning and looking up and seeing that mountain, makes me so thankful for my life and for God allowing me to have this amazing, breathtaking experience. And it's not even just the mountain, it's the oceans and the beaches, the plant life, and the community...it's everything!
But I'm not gonna lie, it is a struggle for me to get used to a lot of things here. One being the whole concept of time, and "just now" - being South Africa's commonly used phrase, of "it could be in the next 10 minutes to tomorrow depending on the circumstance." I feel like if I lived here, and I had to experience that, being used to America's high paced society, I would go crazy! But thinking about that and how laid back and just happy everyone one is here...you have to know that they are doing something right that we are not.
It looks like so many people already wrote about today's events, so I am also not going to recaputre that but I definitely agree that it is so much to digest. It's like I don't even know where to begin...but being here and experiencing their history, and seeing the parallels between here and Jim Crowe, and then even my own definition of what it means to be white and dealing with what people of my race had done. Like, racism is so institutionalized in the U.S that so many people don't even see it - but here, everything is so recent, we are literally engaging with people who lived through overt racism, who were tore out of their homes, it is just so real....it's just so difficult to think about.
This is just a phenomenal experience, and I am so thankful to be here with the people that I am here with!
What a great way to start off 2011..storming into a South African club 25 people deep, singing Dynamite, owning the place and as a group connecting and experiencing such a unique opportunity. All of us we didn't think would have imagined our study abroad experience to look like this so far. We created our own community, something extremely emphasized here, in such a short period of time. We had our own lived- experience on New Years living in the moment and realizing and reflecting upon this bodily experience later.
It was such a positive thing when all of us celebrated an important and emphasized holiday without our family and outside our element in a completely foreign environment. It was during New Years we felt like we shared these discomforts together. It felt as if we were just going with whatever was to come and enjoying eachothers company. We realized that we wouldn't have come together like this if this trip hadn't been put in place. That night all of us branched out of our comfort zones, let loose and allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment we were given! And believe us when we say South Africans can celebrate New Years!
Throughout the night we were our own community, watching out for one another and really feeling like guards were let down. Each day some more of our genuine selves are exposed to one another and that just draws and brings us closer together for as we learned a true community is built through the vulnerabilities and honesty within one another. We cannot wait to continue to celebrate our happines, but also show empathy for ones vulnerabilities, and admiration in the strength for openess. Bring on 2011 because we goin' light it up like its dynamite!!!
Aurora and Emily
Amanda has given a great summary of everything we did today, so I'm not going to give you another recap of that. All I do know is that in this trip, my brain has constantly been filled with question after question, and endless information. Although this has led to a lack of sleep the past few nights because I can't turn my brain off for a few hours, I am trying to ingest every moment and every small detail of Cape Town. After today and visiting the District Six museum, I feel a closeness with this country because I am beginning to understand the Apartheid more in depth and what the people of SA had to deal with and still have to deal with today. Hearing first hand from people who lived here during that time really begins to make it feel real and not just something we heard on the history channel or read in a textbook. I have continuously thought in my head, and although it is a simple question, it cannot be answered: How can people be so cruel? Our tour guide at the museum said that entirely there are no divisions between people of different skin colors because we are people of one race, and that is being a human being. Many of the things he and many people in our small group discussion brought up were small concepts, yet I couldn't full grasp it until someone just upfront said it. I don't know if that makes sense but it was one of those moments like "wow, I wish I would have thought of that because that entirely makes sense". I had a lot of those moments today, and have plenty of quotes from our tour guides lingering throughout my head.
I know I have said this before, but people (meaning me basically and me assuming you think the same) don't know how extremely beautiful this city is. Everyday I see a new kind of tree that resembles something from a fairytale animated film, or a huge plant that I never thought gorgeous colorful flowers would grow from. And then I see a parade of enthusiastic people dressed in all sorts of colors, and receive a simple smile from a woman on the street who has a baby strapped to her back. This country is full of beauty.
I absolutely love little art and craft fairs, so I was especially excited to see some homemade African art at the Green Market Square. Although I've realized how pushy some sellers can be when debating whether to purchase something, I'm pretty dang good and arguing my way into getting an item at a lower price. I literally wanted to by everything there, but I would need to buy a whole other suitcase in order to do that and I'd enjoy eating these next two weeks. One of the guys selling items today was very friendly and right away asked if I live in Germany. I have never once been assumed that I came from somewhere because of my appearance before, and it was interesting to me. Yes, I do have blonde hair and blue eyes, and I am part German, but I kind of enjoyed that in this country it isn't a negative thing to be asked about where we come from. And I know this may seem like a pity thing, but I am white and race or assumptions about where I come from or how I appear has never has come up in my short 18 years of life.
Quickly changing the subject and wrapping up, the word hope has become prevalent in my definition of the new post-apartheid South Africa. This country is full of it, and hope is something we all need to have for our futures and to better our world.
Tomorrow is a new day, and we will be experiences our first township firsthand in SA. I am both nervous and excited for this since this too, is a major part of this city.
Today gave me a lot of food for thought. Enough that I'm having trouble even starting this blog entry. So maybe I'll give you the canned "what we did today" version, and perhaps later I can organize my thoughts and get back to you.
This morning our group went back to the City Center to visit some historic sites. We began at the District Six Museum. It commemorates the expulsion of thousands of non-white South Africans from the heart of Cape Town to outer areas (townships) of the city. Our guide was a gentleman who was born in the city and expelled when he was in his late-20's. His passion and firsthand knowledge was captivating. He brought the experience so much to life that I felt sadness and frustration through his storytelling. The exhibits were comprised of donated materials from past District Six residents. As I was looking at framed recipes (many embroidered works) of varied, local dishes, a young German man struck up a conversation with me. He was looking for a specific curry recipe and wanted to know if I saw it on the wall. I was of no help, unfortunately, but it was fun telling him why our group is here. Sidenote: He thinks German is way harder to learn than English. (Uhh....yeah! Thank you, German fellow, for the validation!)
After that, we went to St George's Cathedral, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu used to preside. Apparently, he still attends worship on Fridays. It is easily one of the most beautiful places of worship I've ever seen. Its history as a sanctuary for all races during apartheid was fantastic to learn in detail. Plus, it doesn't hurt when two older ladies with thick British accents are leading you around. too cute!
On our way out of the cathedral we came upon the beginning of a parade put on by the Cape Minstrels, a variety of groups of Coloured musicians. They were supposed to put the parade on on New Years day, but were denied... This was their protest of sorts. Nothing beats an unplanned event like this one. The outfits were colorful, the faces were painted and the music made you want to dance.
Next, we went to lunch at a lovely outdoor café. We had to walk through the Company's Garden to get there. Kind of like the equivalent of Central Park in NYC. Super beautiful and completely full of people. Anytime we go out to eat, we have quickly learned that with almost 30 people it will be quite the long event. Today was difficult because we had a giant table of starving people and one server. We knew it wasn't going to be quick or easy. Eventually, we all ate though and continued on.
Our last stop was the Iziko Slave Lodge, also located in the same area. It is where slaves from South Africa and neighboring and non-neighboring countries were housed. Know American South history? Real, real similar. Families were divided. Many died of disease, starvation or murder. It was also very saddening. Once slavery was "abolished," the structure was turned into a government building. Which is exactly what it looks like today. It's really very beautiful, but with no remnants of its original past... until the museum came to be.
Part of the group continued on to Green Market Square to do some shopping. I went home with the rest. Souvenir shopping another day for me, I suppose. I'm still being a bit of a tightwad. Tonight we have another talking circle, where we get together as a large group and each person gets to say anything that's on their mind. I think I'll be saying something about my appreciation for my mom.. At the District Six Museum, there was some discussion on the great roles women had, because men were working and never in the home. Of course, everyone's responsibilities were immense, but the women carried huge burdens of providing and caring for their families. Granted, my family never underwent anything of this magnitude, but it gives me an even stronger appreciation for what my mom has done for my family in the past and still now. Which is, honestly, too much.
So, uh, this was long. And seriously, I could say so much more. Tomorrow, service-learning orientation.. we're all very excited. Now, reading and journal writing.
CanNOT believe I wrote this much...
The students are wonderful and since the holiday season is coming to a close, so is the party lifestyle they've already become accustom to in Cape Town. We begin our "work" today with class recitation beginning within the hour. I sense that students, overall, are now dealing with some lessons of "familiarity" and sensitivity to privileges attached to us all as Americans. As most people know who have been to South Africa before, there is LITTLE difference between the infrastructure of Cape Town and those of the most beautiful American cities we know well.
One must remember that Cape Town was built for, by, and to benefit white South Africans during the Apartheid area. Cape Town was their oasis in the midst of African disparities. They could escape the "real" Africa in the cities - their skyscrapers and multi-million dollar homes and shopping districts are proof of this. Before 1991 (or just a little after that), the city was white only with Africans only being allowed in the cities with signatures from their white "bosses." Travel into the cities without passbooks equated to a new home in jail. But, with the money that flowed through white South Africa, the cities - from their very foundations - are ALL that we know as "familiar." The beauty in today's changes could certainly be felt during New Year's Eve, when we all traveled down to Long Street and rung in the New Year with immensely beautiful diversity - an opportunity bestowed on us thanks to the changes that occurred here post-1994. It's truly an amazing thing. I think the students understand this.
But, South Africa still has its complicated challenges - from the HIV/AIDS epidemic (about 1-6 suffering from the disease) to the test of self-worth for many Africans (self-oppression), particularly men who are quickly losing their "manhood" due to unemployment, deficiencies, the need to leave home, illness, a major influx of African immigration to South Africa, and drug abuse in some of the poorest townships in Africa. Their (men's) ability to take care of "house and home" is restricted and this certainly does not mesh well with their very proud culture. The smallest of things (to us) - for example - like obtaining a drivers license prevents employment, licenses can only be obtained for hundreds of US dollars (2,000+ Rand), and corruption is rabid causing a R2,000 fee to be insufficient for certain needs of employment.
I know for a fact that the students are very much ready to dive into these challenges over the next few weeks and we begin today.
New Years had a 4th of July feeling to me, I kind of expected to see fireworks and maybe smell grilling. We went to buy some groceries about a mile away at the Pick N Pay and decided to take the minibus back. It was a cool experience and it was really cheap, R5, 5 Rand which is equivalent to 75 cents. Today we have our first official recitation on the middle campus at the University, woot!
Although it took some trials and tribulations to finally get here, the experience has already been so great it's indescribable. We haven't even begun doing what we came here for! It's just humbling to actually be here and experience and see what we've been learning about in Minneapolis, when it seemed like we'd never get here. But it's real life and we are actually on the continent of Africa, even though it feels like a dream! Like I'm sure others have said, pictures just do not do Cape Town justice. It's beautiful! Table Mountain is almost everywhere you look, and you can see the ocean, cityscape, and mountain all at the same time! Is it just me or is that completely unreal?
But we've just scraped the surface. We have yet to see the REAL South Africa: the biggest effects of Apartheid. That's going to be an eye-opener.
I'm excited to get going with the class and service-learning. This experience has barely begun and we have everything still in store for us. This group of people I came with is amazing and I'm excited to learn with and from everyone! Our first class is in just a few hours! We also start service-learning this week! So there will be much more to come!
This one's a bit random, but here you go.
So we've had our fair share of random little bugs creeping into the house. Flies, ants, whatever. But you want to keep the door open, so what can you do? Then, a couple nights ago, we had a mouse friend give Emily the stare-down and then bolt out the front door. He hasn't been seen since..
Yesterday I heard a whole new one. This story is now about fifth-hand, mind you, but I'll try telling it. Baboons. No, we haven't seen any yet, but a few people got to hear how to take care of them in the event that they make an appearance at your next backyard get-together. First, know that baboons tend to travel in small groups (small groups, Denise! ;)). So, the key is to rid yourself of the entire group. You do this by capturing one of the group members.. you'll need about 4 people to do this. Once you get him, you paint him some obnoxious color. Yes, paint the baboon. All of him. Then you release him to his friends. When they see him, they'll think "Oh man! I don't wanna be seen with that guy! That color looks awful on him!" So they'll run away from the painted baboon, because he'll keep trying to keep up with his friends.
For you, problem solved. The question that rose yesterday?... Where do all the lonely, painted baboons go? We hoped they all find each other and form a new, more colorful group. yay.
Cape Town.. this is BY FAR the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my life. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing experience.
Spending NYE here was fabulous. We brought in the new year with a bang, screaming and dancing in the streets of downtown Cape Town. And the clubs.. let me tell you my trip commrades know how to get it in! Everybody was genuinely enjoying themselves, dancing, singing and partying together!
As far as the men in South Africa, they LOVE them some big women! My girls are over here gettin all the love. Marriage proposals, neck kisses, the whole shabang! I've laughed more here than most people laugh in a lifetime. My roommates are hilarious and have really made this trip a great time thus far!
My mind is all over the place here and I love it! There's so many new experiences and things to explore and everyday I am excited and ready to get outside and see something new.
Home sick? psh! NOT ME! I'm loving it here and can't wait to start the next week.
Not much else to say at this moment, but stay tuned people! Our journey is just getting started..
Love from Cape Town,
Last night will forever be remembered as the best birthday ever. Not only did we get to celebrate in the streets of Cape Town, I got to hear the entire group of amazing people joining me on this journey sing "happy birthday" to me when the clock struck midnight in the middle of Long Street. Let's just say it was pretty awesome.
I've really begun to love this place. This country is filled with incredible people, and if you are willing to go out of your comfort zone to make conversation, they're willing and happy to talk. We took a double-decker bus yesterday and although it felt awfully touristy, it was great to see and hear a little bit more of the history behind the places we drove passed. A man sat in front of me with his family and he kindly asked where I was from (even though I'm quite sure most people assume long before they know that we are indeed from America). It was his first time bringing his two boys to Cape Town, and he was originally from Johannesburg, but now lives in West Virginia. He was eager to find out what we were doing here and give his input on what to see and do before we left. Me, being the curious person I am and not trying to be rude by asking too much, asked him why he left South Africa. He moved to America because of the apartheid beginning and concluded by saying it was a perfect time to do so. He was one white man who did not believe that what was happening was okay, and us alike, was a social justice fighter. I didn't want to ask too much, but he made my brain go crazy with thoughts. To think, to actually be there while that was happening, and to actually live day to day in a country where the minority conquered the majority and had control of everything. On the bus too, I was surrounded by people of color, and quite frankly there was not many white people walking around downtown. To think that during the apartheid blacks could not step foot downtown without getting arrested is mind-boggling. It is so hard for me to imagine and hard for me to picture South Africa without seeing the great amount of diversity.
One major step for me was seeing everyone out on the town last night, and realizing how incredible far this country has come in 15 years. I was around people who did not have the same skin color as me, and we were dancing, singing, and giving each other hugs bringing in the New Year. What an amazing thing.
I also just want to mention Camps Bay beach. I'm in love with water, but this beach was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I always thought the aqua and turquoise colored ocean was fake until I saw this beach. Talk about natural beauty.
There is so much I want to do here and we only have 2 weeks left! Gosh has time flown by already. Our scheduled class actually starts tomorrow and I'm very much looking forward to that. Within our group, I can learn so much as well.
Happy New Year America!! Wishing you all the best from Cape Town :)
I don't where to start or how to explain what took place this couple of days. NYE was amazing. I never had so much fun on NYE before, and celebrating here in SA made it even crazier. Everyone was on the street, jumping, laughing, takin pic, and just being humans. I really loved that, it shows peoples true colors. We went wild and celebrated in African style. We went out to eat a couple of times, and their food is so different from America. Today we went down to McDonalds, and i went ahead and order crispy chicken..man that was different. I think i was expecting it to taste the same but when it didn't that that throw me off, and there is NO PEPSI..i dont do the whole coke thing, and now im just sticking with orange juice. Im having a great time, and really like my group, they are amazing people. I was really nervous and uneasy but now I after getting to know everyone..i feel like i couldn't have gotten a better group of people. So far Cape Town is really agreeing with me..its sunny and hot and i take this place any day then MN snow. We haven't seen the poor part of South Africa yet, but im hoping we can soon because then i can really feel that im in Africa and not some rich island. Today we just relaxed and went out to buy some groceries. I actually made a decent meal other than just sticking with the whole toast, cereal. For those who know me; i stick with simple food. But after that grocery shopping, i didn't know what to do with all that food I bought and I feel guilty every time i throw food away. I kept telling myself, "this is Africa, people dont have enought food, and water". I'm trying hard to focus on small things i do that might seem really offending to others. But people here are really friendly and nice, and when we tell them that we are from America. They start lecturing us, and giving us advice about our safety. That was really nice, and sweet how they are really looking out for us. So far everything seems amazing but i cant wait till we start with the service learning and met the children we will be working with at the orphanage. I miss everyone back home, and i wish i could share these moments with you. But this is for know..love ya
1. If you don't have Ray Bans...you are out of style
2. ...Same with anything Puma
3. Americans are loved here
4. ...But definitely not all the time
5. Having a view of a mountain in my backyard isn't so shabby
6. Diet Coke = Coke Light in South Africa
7. Even with a past of extremely corrupted government, SA's progress to make jobs for those who need it is 100 times above the U.S.
8. European influence in architecture is world-wide
9. No Chinese take-out boxes can be found in Cape Town on New Years. There's no time to eat! Just celebrate, with people of all races.
10. You can find family everywhere. The sense of community here is incredible.
Cape Town has been amazing so far. The only problem I've had is not being able to sleep. So if anyone has suggestions to help let me know. The first few days we have just been relaxing, enjoying Cape Town and getting to know each other. Cape Town is easily the most beautiful place I have been to. We have all taken lots of pictures but they really don't do it justice, so I would definitely recommend coming here at some point in your life to experience it. The diversity here is pretty incredible. There are people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds and races. You also have the extremely rich and extremely poor. You can definitely see an American influence on things. They listen to American music, eat KFC, and drink coca-cola just to name a few. This next week is when we begin class and start our service learning so I am really excited about that. I think this is a great experience for me to learn a lot and hopefully become a better person. I hope everyone back in the states is staying warm and shoveling the snow for us and i wish everyone a happy new year.
My experience thus far has amazing and I'm not sure where to begin or how to describe everything I have done and encountered. Arriving in Cape Town, South Africa was wonderful for 2 reasons; I no longer had to sit through 12 hour plane rides and I was finally in the place where I would be studying, learning, and interacting with the people of South Africa. I definitely had some culture shock when I went to the grocery store for the first time and had to try and figure out their form of currency. Another frustrating element is trying to charge all of my electronics. No adapters or converters I bought have worked so I've had to spend more money buying converters and adapters here (so not ideal).
One thing I was expecting was the vast similarities between here and the United States. They love KFC here. There's one on every corner! Also, the food is not to different from what I'm use to eating. I have enjoyed the cuisine here I must say! (Although for all of you who know me, they like coke here. Not a Pepsi friendly place!)
The first full day we was here we all went exploring around the neighborhood where we are staying and visited the beach. This involved taking the train for the first time (very similar to the light rail at home). We all were taking pictures when a man came up to us and told us that security would confiscate our cameras if they saw us using them...kind of weird, but we all put them away quickly! While on the bus a jazz band hoped on and starting playing. This was really fun and everyone enjoyed listening to the live music while on the train. Getting to the beach was such a wonderful experience because we were at the Indian Ocean. Such a pretty sight to see!
The next day we took a sight seeing tour of Cape Town. This was very cool because not only did I see the city, but I got to sit on a double decker bus which was AWESOME!! While on the bus tour the highlights for me were driving up table top mountain which had such breath taking views of the city and ocean. The highlight of this trip though was stopping and Camps bay for lunch. Here we saw the Atlantic Ocean. We all ate lunch at a café that overlooked the beach. So cool! I also got my first South African tan lines!!
One thing I am still anticipating is to see a baboon. Many locals talk about how they see them all the time, but I have yet to see one! (Expect a blog entry and picture when I see my first one ☺!)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! And what a time it was. But let's back up...
We started our NYE in classic tourist style: the double-decker bus tour. That's right. But hey, it's the most comfortable I've been taking pictures yet. We got the full tour of Cape Town, even part way up Table Mountain. This city is breathtaking. Without knowing its history, you would still be in awe. We stopped off at Hout Bay, the "see and be seen" area of Cape Town (at least according to my audio tour guide). The houses and resorts made me think of Miami, but even better. If you're wondering where the money resides in this town, this is it. Our whole group had a fabulous lunch and then enjoyed a walk on the beach. I met a painter named Jack who showed me his gorgeous paintings and I couldn't say no. I'm excited to show everyone back home the painting I bought. The colors are fantastic.
Then came night. I could try to explain it all, but it would take all day. Just picture a street (Long Street) covered with revelers. We did some club-hopping first. My favorite spot was a tiny club that played local house music. There was nowhere that wasn't packed full of people. Our guide from InterStudy, Charles, did an amazing job of showing us some good places to go... and he deserves all the credit in the world for keeping track of everyone. Once midnight hit, there was screaming, singing and dancing in the streets. I've never experienced a celebration so huge. Random people came up to hug us, saying "Happy new year!" I made buddies with a little guy begging for change. He called me "sister" and lingered near our group for quite a while, doing little more than standing near us. I felt bad that I couldn't help him more, but hoped that he felt included even though I didn't provide him with what he ultimately wanted. Sidenote: he had dazzling silver sandals.
All in all, one of the best New Years on record. When asked by one of the girls if I was having a good time, I said absolutely, only that I wish I could be sharing it with those I love too. Hope you all had a fabulous New Years as well. Here's to 2011 :)
Greetings family and Friends,
As if it has not been reiterated enough, Cape Town, South Africa (SA) is an amazing place.
Yesterday was an incredibly fun-FILLED day full of activities and knowledge filled experiences.
Our group took a tour of Cape Town where we learned some of the history of SA. We had the opportunity to see the site of District 6. This is an area of SA where black Africans were forcibly removed from their homes by the apartheid government and relocated to far away townships. Their homes were bulldozed over to insure they would not try to return to the area.
We also traveled up the famous Table Mountain (under consideration to be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) and witnessed the beautiful expensive homes built along the mountain sides. We learned about different parts of the mountain like Devil's Peak, Lion's Head and Signal Hills. The city view from the top the mountain is breath-taking.
We had lunch at a cafe on the beach at the foot of the mountain. It was on the Atlantic Ocean side of the cape. The food was excellent and the water was cold and wavy. There were many street vendors selling their goods (arts, crafts, jewelry etc.). These locals like to engage in bartering prices for their goods.
Cape Town is truly rich in ethnic diversity. The diversity was greatly felt/seen during our New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Cape Town. Black African, Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Dutch culture make up the ethnic diversity of Cape Town, South Africa. You can hear it in the music, taste it in the cuisines and see it in the dress and appearance of the people.
I was often greeted and seen as a "Rasta" because of my darker skin and dreads. It did not mean that I had to have a Jamaican ascent and an affinity for the gonj, but just my color and "good" long hair:) I felt quite welcome and a sense of belonging - even respected. They didn't even know me. Best New Year's ever (at least to date)!!! South African's really know how to party. It was like Mardi Gras on the downtown streets at midnight and well after. Stay tuned..........