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.
Recently in Amanda Wittkopp Category
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...
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!!!
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!
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.
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.
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!.....
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!
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!!!
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.
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 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...
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.
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 :)
Today I woke to a bright, beautiful African sun! The temp was around 77 degrees and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. And the view from the street in front of our house of Devil's Peak?.... amazing.
Everyone got a good night's sleep last night and are starting to feel caught up. Our potential plans to go up Table Mtn fell through due to the high winds. Sounds like we'll just have to make another go later in the trip. So the alternative was a little excursion to the market and then the beach. Nate has been encouraging us to just go out and experience things on our own. We all had a bit of intrepidation to walk down to the grocery store and bank, but with Nate's encouragement, we went for it. As a large group of Americans, mostly women, we get stared at a lot. And as a white woman, I'm very much in the minority. In fact, it's hard to tell exactly where everyone fits in. Rest assured, I don't feel intimidated or in harm's way. Instead we all just keep on walking, aware of our surroundings, but with the acknowledgement that we are in a foreign place.
Nate took us all by train to Muizenburg (a community south of where we are staying that is on the Indian Ocean). I would compare this train to the Mpls LRT's dirty cousin. An interesting choice of transit, but honestly, a preferred one. During our trip south, a 5-piece jazz band hopped on played for change. They were incredible. Nate told us that their music was just like "township jazz." A little banjo, a little sax and an up-tempo. fabulous.
In Muizenburg, we dipped our toes in the water, window shopped and had some lunch. Most everyone arrived back to the houses with that good ol' Minnesotan sun glow. I put on SPF 30, but come on, you all know me...
Now we look forward to our remaining 4 group members arriving any minute. I sincerely hope their flight went off without a hitch and that they can mesh right into the group. We have lots more to experience and we need them to partake in it.
Tomorrow, NYE.. should be interesting. And with that, I wish you all a good night (or a good afternoon in most people's case) and I cheers you with my glass of Western Cape Pinotage ;)
So it may have taken 2 days of travel and a day to get connected to the internet, but I have arrived and can finally communicate! The trip over went without a major hitch, aside from waaay cramped seats and the inability to sleep pretty much at all. Unfortunately for 4 members of the group, things weren't so smooth and they're arriving tomorrow. Total travel time for me was over 24 hours. Once the second group arrived at the airport, we headed to our housing. We're all situated amongst 3 houses with some single and some double rooms. I ended up stealing our TA, Greg's, bedroom, because the one I was assigned can't be entered through the house only from the outside. It freaked me out at night, hence the thievery. Hopefully Greg doesn't mind... he hasn't arrived yet. The housing is pretty nice. Our host group, InterStudy, is amazing. Absolutely on top of their game. They did a South African Braai today (aka. an American BBQ). Curried chicken kabobs.... hello! We visited the University of Cape Town, where we'll be having some class time. UCT is on their summer vacation right now, so the campus was pretty desolate. Since the weather has been overcast and very windy, it's not hot at all. We're looking forward to the sun peeking out and the mountain fog to dissipate, so we can get a good look at Table Mountain. What I can see of it has already blown my mind.
The city is absolutely huge and your eyes can't take it all in. But I look forward to seeing as much as I am able. Because all of our group hasn't arrived, we won't be adhering to tomorrow's schedule... which makes it a day off. What to do..what to do.. Not sure yet, but I'll let you know ;)
I'm missing everyone back home already, but I think I'll be all right. There's a lot coming up and I'm ridiculously excited to do it all. But before all that.. I'm getting some more sleep! Holy Jet Lag, Batman!