Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm Done!

I'm finally finished with my ISP! Hooray!! All I have to do is print it out, bind it, and turn it in tomorrow morning. Yesterday I took a bit of a break from all the writing and went to a mosque in downtown Durban. It was really pretty, and I learned a lot Islam that I didn't know before, so it was very interesting. We also went to a used bookstore, and then a very small group of people went to a Korean restaurant right next to the Gateway mall. We also had our last braai at the backpackers, which was a little sad. I don't think that it's really hit me yet that I'm leaving in a week! Today after I print everything out, I'm gonna go back to Cato Manor for a little to give my family some pictures that I took while I stayed there, and tell them goodbye. I wish I could visit my other families, but I think Cookie is still off traveling somewhere, and I don't really have time to go all the way back to the rural areas. My friend who I lived with in the rural areas is staying a little after the program ends, though, so I gave her some pictures to take them as well. Tonight a few of us are having a celebratory dinner at the Roma revolving restaurant. I think it will be a lot of fun and a good way to finish the ISP period.

Things I will miss about South Africa:
  • All of my homestay families
  • The Hostel and the people there
  • The people in my program
  • The Botanic Gardens
  • The beach
  • All of the different Markets
  • The laid back amosphere
  • Florida road
  • The rural areas
  • The mini-buses with their ridiculous names and designs
  • Braais every Tuesday, Thursday, AND Sunday
  • Rugby!
  • Random adventures and not knowing what's going to happen next
  • The game drive and the hike at the South Coast
  • Zulu
  • Beads!
  • Everything is pretty inexpensive because of the exchange rate (yesterday $1 was worth 10.32 rands!)
I think this probably will be my last entry because we have presentations of our projects tomorrow, then leave for the Drakensburg mountains on Sunday. Then I'll be going to Cape Town for a few days, and then I will be coming home! I still can't believe it! Thanks for reading blog, I hope you enjoyed it. Sala Kahle!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ISP has taken over my life

It's crunch time. I've spent pretty much my entire weekend working on my ISP, aside from a Sunday break trip to Ushaka Marine World. It's an aquarium/water park, but we only went to the aquarium because it was cloudy and a little cold. It was a lot of fun! We saw a stringray feeding, penguin feeding, shark feeding, and a dolphin show! It was a nice break. I also booked tickets for my 2-day excursion to Cape Town the last two days of the program. We're planning on going to Robben Island, Table Mountain (weather permitting), and doing a tour of the Cape Peninsula before catching a flight back to Durban and heading home. Anyway, this is only a quick update because I really should get back to editing my paper. Sala kahle!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day

Well I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! It was a little strange not spending it with my family at home, but I also doesn't really feel like Thanksgiving or the Christmas season anyway because the weather is so drastically different here than it is in the U.S. My mom said it's already snowed three times at home, and here it's extremely hot and humid. The other day they put up a whole bunch of Christmas decorations lining one of the main streets downtown, and it looked so bizarre to me because I always associate Christmas with cold weather. I think I'll get quite a shock when I get off the plane in New York in 2 weeks.

Anyway, for Thanksgiving our academic director invited our group over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone made some sort of dish (I successfully made some quite delicious mashed potatoes), and we had so much food! There were four, yes four, turkeys, two different kinds of mashed potatoes, tons of stuffing, green beans, rolls, cheesy bread, and lots of fruit and veggies. We also had about 5 different desserts. So much food! We all had a great time relaxing and a few of us went swimming in the pool. It was a lot of fun!

Now is crunch time for my ISP, so I probably won't really be able to update much from now on because I have to get about 40 pages written! Our papers are due by the end of this week and then we have to make little presentations on our projects before we head out to the Drakensburg mountains for a few days for some hiking and our final program evaluations. After the Drakensburg, a few of us are signing out of the program a little early to use our two free days at the end of our program to visit Cape Town, and then I'm coming home! I can't believe I'll be home in less than two weeks. It's a really bizarre thought. Sala kahle!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Super Busy

Sorry I haven't updated in a while, I haven't really been in much of a blogging mood. My weekend wasn't too exciting. We went back to the Essenwood market and I got a bracelet from the same lady I got some earrings from before. I also went to the African Art Centre down the street and went on a gift shopping spree. I suddenly realized how much time was running out and I still needed to get some stuff for my family members. Afterwards there was a braai and rugby game. It was supposed to be a really intesne match ( a re-match of the rugby world cup last year which South Africa won), but South Africa pretty much massacred England. The only points England got were from penalties. It was a really fun game to watch though, especially went south africa scored a try by running basically all the way from their endzone. I'm really starting to enjoy and understand rugby, even though it is a little vicious.

Sunday we had yet another birthday celebration for one of the girls in the program. She really loves to cook and we all call her a domestic goddess, so she had everyone over to her flat for a birthday brunch complete with homemade bagels, french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, and of course, cupcakes! It was so delicious! We told her that she should start her own bakery. And that we should all get a special discount for encouraging her to do it. After the brunch a few of us decided to check out a market down by the beach that we hadn't yet been to. There was some pretty random stuff there- they had everything from beads to pots and pans.

The rest of my week hasn't really been all that exciting thus far. Although I did get some cookies from one of my friends at Richmond on Monday, so that was a nice surprise! I also had two interviews today for my ISP, and I have another one tomorrow. It took me forever to get ahold of someone from the municipality! I was getting really frustrated but this woman finally agreed to meet with me tomorrow morning.

For Thanksgiving, our academic director has invited everyone in our program to her house for a thanksgiving celebration. Everyone has signed up to bring some sort of food. My contribution will be mashed potatoes and my apartmentmates are making stuffing. I've heard that there's going to be 4 turkeys, which sounds like a whole lot to me, but maybe the turkeys here are smaller? Also they have to be special orders because turkey just isn't a really popular meat. Anyway, I better go because I need to go grocery shopping for dinner and Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving break! Sala kahle!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Adventures

The rest of my week has been filled with a lot of random adventures. Tuesday wasn't too exciting, I spent a lot of my time at the internet cafe researching for my ISP, we decided to buy a used movie at this movie rental place about a block away from our hostel, and it was one of the most bizarre movies I have ever seen. I think it was called "Edmond" or something. It was just so weird. I also realized that day that the cleaning lady threw out the papers I had saved about the U.S. election that my friend and I were in. It was a very sad realization.

Anyway, on Wednesday, I finally had interview for my project. I met with a woman who works for a paper in Durban who has been covering World Cup stories for the past 3 years, pretty much since South Africa got the bid. I got a lot of really useful information from her, and some more contacts for potential interviews, so it was really exciting. The newspaper building itself was a little strange, I thought. Basically, all the newspapers that are printed here all come from this same building, and a lot of people from different papers work side-by-side. I also tried to get a back-order issue of the paper that the cleaning lady threw away. I got what I thought was the right copy (it had the same cover story and everything), but when I opened it up, the article wasn't in there. I think the woman at the kiosk gave me the earlier edition of the paper instead of the later one...oh, well.

On Thursday, I met with a man who heads the KZN offices of the Tourism Enterprise Partnership, which works on bulding up small businesses and helping people who have been historically disadvantaged. They're trying to get more businesses, especially in the tourism industry to be prepared for 2010 and he seemed really positive. I also later went to a B&B Association meeting and talked to some women about their opinions, but they were really not happy about the FIFA regulations and things like that. There's an organization called MATCH that does ticketing and accomodation for big FIFA events and they basically buy out big blocks of hotel rooms to sell for the World Cup. For this World Cup, they're also buying B&B rooms in effort to help small businesses/tourism industries, but the women I talked to didn't like it because there were fixed rates involved and MATCH could cancel any time up to 15 days before the tournament. It was kinda funny to see two drastically different views back-to-back. It was an interesting day, and I felt very productive.

Today one of the guys in the hostel who works in a surf shop here was going to give my friend Adina and me a surfing lesson, but sadly, the weather did not cooperate. The wind was blowing in the wrong direction and there were basically no waves. We ended up going back to the Victoria Street Market and the bead market, and wandering around Durban for a while. It was a pretty random adventure because we didn't really know what to do. After an early lunch, we decided to head back to Florida road, and we went to an art gallery and checked out some stuff at a store close by. Then we walked down the road back toward the hostel. We stopped in a church along the way, because my mom told me that my Grandmother wanted to know what churches were like in South Africa. I hadn't really been in many aside from the half church/half house down the street from my house in Cato Manor. Anyway, we wandered in, and this old woman let us go inside and see . They had these two buckets on either side of the altar that had different color flags in them. We asked what they were for and she said that they danced around with them at their sunday services. She also told us that we needed to learn more about Jesus and that if we didn't we would never get into Heaven (I told her I'm not very good about going to church, and my friend is Jewish). I kinda wanna go to this Church on Sunday to see the flag-dancing spectacle. I think it would be rather interesting. We'll see what happens. Sala Kahle!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gallery Hopping, Gateway, and Birthday!

I have had such a great weekend and birthday! On Saturday a group of us went art gallery hopping on this free bus. We rode all around Durban and saw a lot of really cool things! My favorites were the African Art Centre and the Durban University of Technology. The Art Centre had a lot of really nice handmade crafts and the university had displays of absolutely gorgeous jewelry that students there designed and made themselves! I was really amazed by some of their work. The gallery hop took pretty much the whole day, so when I got home I rested a little before some people came to the hostel. A bunch of the people in the program wanted to see where we lived and meet some of the people in the hostel. One of the girls is really jealous that we get to meet so many different people. I really do enjoy the hostel.

On Sunday we didn't really know what to do, and one of the guys who hangs out at the hostel all the time offered to take us to Gateway (the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere). We had been before but hadn't really spent much time there. It is MASSIVE! We were pretty much in awe of everything there. They had a skate park, a wave pool, a climbing wall, and hundreds of stores! We ended up getting lunch at a sushi place where you sit at a bar and a conveyor belt goes around with all these different types of sushi on it and you just grab what you want. It was quite delicious. Then we decided to see a movie, "Body of Lies" and it was really good! I really enjoyed it, and it was nice to do something relaxing and mindless for a while. When we got back to the hostel, we braaied (like we do every Sunday) and chilled with the people at the hostel. They found out that my birthday was the next day, so they made me drink a "birthday concoction" at the bar. It was a glass of 4 different types of alcohol layered on top of each other and then lit on fire! It was pretty disgusting. But it was fun, and they all sang happy birthday to me!

On Monday, I went to the offices for a little bit, because even though it was my birthday, I still had to get some work done. I finally got a hold of this one guy who I had been trying to contact for almost a week, so that's good. Then I decided to go to the Musgrave mall, and get something fun to wear for my birthday dinner. I bought a really cute dress, and then met up with one of my friends to catch a mini-bus back to Florida Road. When I got back to the hostel, I was greeted by a really pretty bouquet of flowers that my parents sent me! The card was pretty funny because instead of putting "c/o Thekweni Backpackers," they put "The Thekweni's." We had a good laugh about it! For dinner a group of us went out to this really delicious Thai restaurant called Bangkok Wok, and we had a really great time! I had some very tasty Thai food and for dessert I got this chocolate sponge cake which ended up being very similar to one of my favorite desserts in the world: The Triple Chocolate Meltdown! One of the girls also bought candles that said "21" that they stuck in the cake. It was so much fun! One of the girls who really loves to bake also made me a very tasty cake, although she was disappointed in it because they apparently had some sort of icing fiasco. I thought it was still really nice of her though! I finished out the night hanging out with people in the hostel and having a guitar jam session. It was a lot of fun! Sala Kahle!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mama 2010 and Ethiopian Food

Today was so awesome! My advisor picked me up at my hostel, along with some other people in the program, and we headed to the World Cup soccer stadium in Durban. There's a little building right next to the construction site where Mama 2010 works. Unfortunately, she couldn't give us her normal presentation because someone recently stole all of their electronic equipment, but she did tell us a lot about the stadium. It sounds like it's going to be awesome! They're currently working on this big arch that goes across it and supports the roof and they're putting a cable car inside of it so that people can go all the way to the top and get beautiful views of Durban! They're also going to have big shops and restaurants as well. Mama 2010 was so awesome! She talked about how much she loved telling people about the stadium and that she loved us for visiting. AND she gave us some jerseys for free that say "Team Durban" on the front and "2010" on the back. We were all really excited. We also checked out the rugby stadium, which was right across the street, but we couldn't actually go look at the field because the gates were closed.

For lunch, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. One of the girls in the program is originally from Ethiopia (she's been living in the U.S. since she was little), and she's doing her ISP on the Ethiopian population in Durban. None of us had ever really had Ethiopian food, so she took us to this really cute little restaurant where she spends a lot of her time. It's a little hard to describe what the food looked like. It was basically a bunch of different piles of food- rice,lentils, corn, different meats, lettuce, etc. - served on top of a sort of flat bread or tortilla. It had a much different consistency from a tortilla, but that's the best way I could describe it. Anyway, we all shared the big platter, and to eat it you tore off a piece of the bread and used it to scoop up something from the piles. It was really tasty, and very different from anything I'd eaten before! We also stopped at the oldest house in Durban on the way back to the SIT offices. Although, it was actually only a replica of the oldest house because the original one had apparently burned was still interesting though, and they had some really pretty furniture and an old mail cart.

There's supposed to be a game of ultimate on the beach later today, but I'm not sure if it's still on or not because we had a torrential downpour complete with flash flooding and some hail. It's stopped raining now, though, so hopefully it's still on. I would really love to play again! Tomorrow I'm going on a tour of different art galleries with some other people in the program. It's free and it takes us all over the city to different galleries. It should be fun! Sala kahle!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Zulu-Portuguese Christmas Land!

I've had a pretty random last few days. On Monday afternoon I went with a few of my friends to a shopping center and an area called Davenport that has a lot of cute shops and restaurants. We ended up going to one restaurant that had free internet because one of the girls needed to register for classes. Unfortunately, none of the waiters knew the code to get access to the internet, so we didn't really know what to do. We ended up staying there for a while talking to these random Portuguese men. We talked about politics in the U.S. and things to do in Durban. One of them thought we were crazy for taking the mini-bus taxis. Another one started telling this really elaborate story about how a long time ago, Portugal used to own Durban as its port until the British took over. He told us that "Natal" means "Christmas" in Portuguese and that the name of the province, KwaZulu-Natal (a hybrid of Zululand and Natal) effectively means "Zulu-Portuguese Christmas Land." It was pretty funny.

On Tuesday, I went to an internet cafe with my friend Daryl. I decided to check out a website about 2010 that I hadn't looked at in a while, mostly because of my computer being on the fritz, and I found out about this "2010 Roadshow" hosted by this tourism enterprise. I decided to find more info about it, and figured I might be able to catch it when it came to Durban (the post I saw was from last Friday in Cape Town, so I figured they would be gradually making their way East), and I found out from the schedule that they were actually in Durban that day! I basically ran back to my apartment and changed into the nicest clothes I had and got a cab down to this really fancy hotel by the beach. Unfortunately, the program had just ended when I got there, but the woman who ran the program was still there, so I got to talk to her for a bit. She gave me some really useful information and some pamphlets, and the contact numbers for the provincial team in KZN. It sounds like a really cool program. They're working to help small business owners, specifically craft-makers, reach bigger markets and buyers. They also help bed-and-breakfasts advertise so that they can compete on an international level. I've been trying to contact the man who heads up the KZN team, but I haven't had much luck. Maybe I'll try again today.

In yesterday's paper there was an article about a woman who calls herself "Mama 2010." She works at this tourism office that's right across from the new stadium, and she gives tours of it. My advisor, some other students, and I have decided to pay her a visit tomorrow and check out the new stadium. I think it should be a lot of fun because this woman sounds really interesting and eccentric! I'm excited! Yesterday, I also went exploring on Florida Road (a big restaurant/shopping road right next to the hostel) with one of my apartmentmates. She had seen this sign for what we thought was a Victorian-style bath house (based on the name), so we decided to check it out. Sadly, it was not a bath house, just a showroom for really fancy bathtubs...we had a pretty good laugh about it though. I'm not really sure what the rest of my day will hold, but I'm sure it will be interesting. Sala kahle!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ultimate! Finally!

I am SO sore! My entire body aches because I played ultimate frisbee for 2 straight hours yesterday, but it was so much fun! I've really missed being able to play ultimate. It's not quite as popular in Durban yet (it's bigger in Cape Town and Jo-Burg) but they're working on creating a club team here. The people I played with thought it was really crazy that I played on a team at my school. They were really impressed. It was fun, and I got to meet a lot of new people! One of the guys there looked freakishly like my cousin David, but only when he had his sunglasses on. It was pretty bizarre.

The rest of the weekend I just relaxed and got rid of some stress from all the ISP craziness. I just needed some time off from it. On Saturday there was a big rugby game between South Africa and Wales. A bunch of teams from the Southern Hemisphere are doing a tour of Europe right now. A bunch of people came to the hostel to watch the game. It was the first time I had really actually watched a rugby game, so I didn't really know what was going on. It's a lot different than I thought it would be. I've decided that it's a soccer/american football hybrid. After the SA/Wales game (South Africa won!), New Zealand played Scotland. There was a girl from New Zealand staying at the hostel and she got everyone to gather around the TV to watch this crazy dance that the New Zealand team does. It involved a lot of stomping, chanting, and general intimidation. And then at the very end, all the players got bug-eyed and stuck their tongues out really far (Gene Simmons-esque). Apparently they adapted it from an aboriginal dance or something. It was pretty crazy. I also went out dancing with a bunch of people from the hostel, and we had a really great time! Several of the people who work there even came with us! I love how awesome everyone is at the hostel. Everyone is so friendly all the time and it's so much fun meeting people from everywhere. Sala kahle!

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Computer is finally fixed...sort of

Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me. I think it was just the accumulation of all the stress and the fact that I thought I was going to lose everything on my computer. The guy was replacing my hard drive, but he neglected to tell me that he didn't have any way of extracting all the files on my computer and that I would lose everything. I frantically tried to put as much stuff as possible on my flash drive to no avail. Fortunately we were able to convince the guy to let us take the hard drive to this other place to back up all of my files. And fortunately, our academic director had a copy of Microsoft Office so I can actually do work on my computer now. I still don't have a lot of the programs that I need, but I'll have to go to an internet cafe or something because we're not really supposed to download stuff at SIT. But yeah definitely a bad day yesterday. On the bright side though, I got a dvd slideshow from my summer camp and it made me feel so much better! I love camp!

But anyway, I feel much better today, and all of my work is done! At least until our official ISP time starts tomorrow. Then I'll have to get back to work. But for now I'm going to relax a little, (hopefully) play some beach ultimate, and hang out with people at the hostel. I'm really glad that I'm staying at the hostel instead of the fancy apartments where some of the other students are staying. I get to meet a lot of cool people from all over the world, and we have braais three times a week! The people are all so friendly, too! It's hard to tell who works there and who doesn't! Anyway, I guess I should go try to prep more for my ISP or something before I leave the office. Sala kahle!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No, really, I don't want to marry you.

This morning I was at the Workshop waiting for the shuttle to the office, and this random guy who was trying to sell something came up to my friend and me. Only, he wasn't trying to sell his product to us, he had very different motives. He asked if we had jobs, then if we were married. We both said no we weren't married, and when my friend said she had a boyfriend, he started trying to get my contact information. I tried to pull the whole "my parents are in America so you'll have a hard time getting permission" but he was really persistent. He started talking about how he could get a picture and video chat. Then he asked for my number and I told him i didn't have a phone. He wrote his number on a card and gave it to me and told me to call him from a pay phone later today. I promptly tore up the card after he left. It's really annoying how some people are so persistent sometimes. I've tried telling people that I already have a boyfriend but even that doesn't work because they'll just say "leave him and marry me!" Maybe next time I'll just tell them I'm married.

Anyway, I'm still working on my paper. I finished revising my proposal, so that's good, and hopefully it will pass this time. I got lucky with my revisions- I just had to change a few things. Some people had to write completely new proposals. All I have left to do now is finish my paper, which is almost done. I'm so sick of working at the SIT office, though. I really just want to work somewhere else, but my computer is STILL not fixed. The guy never came yesterday to fix it, and was supposed to have gotten here about 45 minutes ago. I'm getting pretty angry about it.

I'm just ready for tomorrow. I think I will finally be able to play some ultimate with the local Durban folk on the beach! I'm really excited about it! I'm not in the best shape right now, but it will feel so good to play ultimate. I really miss it a lot!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Yaaaay! I am so excited for America! I was telling people at the hostel last night that if Barack didn't win, I would seriously consider not coming back to America. But I woke up this morning and was very pleasantly surprised at the results! Our program was invited to the U.S. Consulate in downtown Durban for a results viewing party. It was a lot of fun! We got to watch Obama's acceptance speech, and meet other cool people. I even won a book for my knowledge of elections and voting in the U.S. They also had these really funny cardboard cutouts of both Obama and McCain. We asked the consulate if we could take the Obama one, but they said they needed it and that they would order us one from the embassy in Jo-Burg. I also got interviewed by a woman from a local newspaper- a lot of press people interviewed us. Hopefully I can find a copy of the paper this afternoon. It would be a fun momento!

Anyway, the rest of my day has consisted on writing a research paper due Friday and revising my proposal. Over half of the proposals got rejected on the first try, including mine. The board didn't approve of me going to Cape Town, so now I'm just going to stay in Durban and (hopefully) visit Cape Town with a couple of free days I have at the end of the program. We'll see what happens. So yeah, very busy. And my computer still isn't fixed, which is really frustrating. The computer guy was supposed to come this morning to fix it, but the part didn't come in. He's supposed to come in some time this afternoon now, but hasn't called yet. I really hope he gets here before 3, though. Otherwise I'll have to miss the shuttle back to my hostel. It's kinda annoying. Anyway, I better get back to work. Sala kahle!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Seriously, that's all I'm going to say today. Go vote. Be an active citizen! Besides, if you don't vote, how can you complain about the government if you don't give your opinion? Just do it. Go vote right now! Ok bye.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's November already?!

Seriously, I can't believe it's already November. This part of the program seemed like such a long time ago! We moved out of our final homestays this morning and move into our ISP accommodations this afternoon. We're supposed to leave around 1:00 pm, but I have to hang around the offices because a man is coming to fix my laptop. Hopefully he doesn't have to take it and work on it because I have a lot to do this week! I have to continue working on stuff for my ISP and we have a paper due on Friday. I find out tomorrow whether or not my ISP proposal has been approved. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The weekend was rather eventful. On Saturday, Cookie took us to a women's shelter near the South Coast to meet with the woman who runs it. We talked with some of the women staying there and talked with the woman who runs it. We also left a bunch of fliers and stuff about domestic violence. Then we headed all the way to the other side of Durban to go to a baby shower for Cookie's sister-in-law's sister. I'm pretty sure it was the first baby shower I had been to, and it was pretty interesting. At one point they made the mom-to-be wear a huge diaper. We also played various games like guessing the baby food, and guessing the number of jelly beans in a bottle. I won some candles and a bar of soap for listing the most animals and animal baby names (for example: Cow and calf) in 1 minute. It was crazy to see such a different area of Durban, though. Durban North is definitely a more affluent area. The house we went to had a pool and a really intense security system.

On Sunday we had a giant food feast since it was our last day with the family. Grace and I contributed nachos to the feast. We couldn't actually find tortilla chips anywhere, but we did find some tortillas, so we cut them up and baked them. They actually turned out really well. We told Cookie that we were giving her a taste of what she might eat when she goes to Mexico for the conference next week.

I'm really glad I got to live with this family, and I am especially glad to have met Cookie. I think she is a truly extrordinary woman. She was abused for years by her late husband, and was able to overcome so much adversity to get to where she is today. And she is so kind and giving to other people. I will definitely keep in touch with her. Well, I think I'm gonna go grab some food. Sala kahle!

Friday, October 31, 2008

My laptop could not pick a worse time to die.

That's right. My laptop. Dead. It was working fine Wednesday night when I was working on my ISP proposal, and when I tried to turn it back on Thursday afternoon, nothing happened. Keep in mind that my entire proposal is on my computer. I tried plugging in the power cord. Still, nothing happened. So then I called SIT and got the phone number for the people who fix their computers. I tried taking out the battery and putting it back in, and using just the power cord with no battery. However after both attempts the lights on my computer flashed and then it started making a realy obnoxious, loud beeping sound. So then the computer guy had to come to my homestay house, but he couldn't fix it. So then he took out my hard drive and connected it to his computer so that I could get all the things I needed for my proposal and put it on a flash drive. It was all very stressful. Fortunately, my computer is still under warranty so a man is coming on monday to fix it. Hopefully it's not too bad of a problem. And I was able to finish my proposal on the school computers. It was very stressful.

Last night my friend Grace (who is also staying at my homestay) and I went to a show at the playhouse called "Shall We Dance?" My host mom's sister-in-law was in the show, so her husband gave us a ride. I was a little skeptical when the first act was a dance to "When I Grow Up" by the Pussycat Dolls, but the show was actually pretty good. My favorites were the Irish dancers, a group of young boys who did a step performance, and this couple who won a dance competition in England recently. I also met this guy after the show who works for the KZN Department of Economic Development, and he's going to help me get in touch with some people for my ISP. Cookie's brother and wife took us out for a late dinner afterwards. It was nice not stressing out about my ISP/registration/housing issues for a while.

It doesn't feel like tonight is's really not very big here. But our academic director did decorate the offices and gave us all big bags of candy, which I ate a lot of it while finishing my proposal. I know there's a Halloween party at this restaurant that we all really like, but I don't have a costume, so I don't know if I'll go or not. Plus my homestay sisters invited Grace and me to some sort of youth group party. Anyway, I'm pretty hungry because I haven't really eaten in a while (except for candy). Sala kahle and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sorry it's been a while since my last update. I moved out of my Cato Manor homestays on Saturday morning and stayed the night at this really nice cottage/hostel place. We had a lunch banquet for all of the families there and it ended up being really crazy. One of the kids decided to jump in the pool but didn't know how to swim and started drowning. Our party wasn't by the pool, it was in our cottage, but fortunately there was another party by the pool and this man jumped in to save him. Our program director thanked him and told him that she would replace his cell phone (he jumped in fully clothed). It was pretty ridiculous.

Sunday, I moved into my new homestay in an area called Manor Gardens. It's like 2 blocks away from the SIT offices, and really isn't too far from Cato Manor. It's such a different experience, though. I'm living with a woman named Cookie, who runs the KZN Network on Violence against Women, and I'm helping her out this week. She runs the network from her house because they almost had to shut it down when they lost funding and their offices. I have 3 sisters and one of the sisters has 2 little boys, the youngest is only a month old! He's so cute and tiny! The other one is about 3 or 4. His name is J.J., but I call him "Piderman." When we moved in on Sunday we watched Spiderman on TV, but he can't make a "sp" sound, so he says "piderman" instead. He's really funny.

Anyway, thus far I've helped Cookie with a powerpoint presentation that she'll present at a convention in Mexico in November. I'm also helping her re-work the network's constitution. She recently got more funding for the next 4 years, so she's working on creating more structure and getting offices again. She goes to a lot of conventions to learn about new programs and share her own experiences. She works with a lot of partnerships since it's a network. Basically, she's awesome. It also feels pretty cool to know that something I helped make is gonna be presented in front of a bunch of people!

My updates might be few this week because my research proposal is due on Friday and I'll be devoting a lot of time to that. I'll try to give little updates though whenever possible. Sala kahle!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blackouts are not fun.

So on Wednesday night, I got home from school and my siblings were watching a movie about Halloween, and they asked me if I dressed up like the people in the movie did. I told them that yes, I did, and that it was a lot of fun! The movie really made me miss American things, especially when there was a Papa John's pizza delivery guy in it. I got really excited and I also explained the whole pizza delivery thing to my siblings as well. They have pizza delivery here but it's not nearly as popular here. Anyway, while we were watching the movie, the power went out as part of a scheduled blackout. The blackout was only supposed to last for 2 hours but it lasted for about 5. It was pretty miserable. We had candles and my flashlight, but there wasn't really much to do except sit around. Our dinner was pap and sour milk. I had never tasted sour milk, but I decided to give it a try, and it was the most disgusting thing I have eaten since being here in South Africa. It was gross. Even with sugar. I do not recommend it.

On Thursday our focus study group had more discussion about Trust Feed and our reactions. We also talked about how we might view the situation differently if we had heard Brian Mitchell's perspective. We also were given the task of applying what we've learned about the reconciliation process back home. We were given a hypothetical situation where we had to create a 3-year reconciliation program in the U.S. It got a little difficult because we argued about the "reparations" aspect of it, but I think our presentation turned out ok.

Later that afternoon I went to the Pavilion (another huge mall...they really like malls here) to get a going-away-thank-you present for my family. I got them some really nice chocolates, a couple of DVDs, and a pretty fruit bowl. I think they'll enjoy it, and it's something they can all use.

Today we went back to John's house to present our hypothetical reconciliation program, and we watched another video about the Trust Feed massacre where Brian Mitchell met with families and victims. It was really interesting to see, and it really seemed that they never fully reconciled with him. But there's so many problems in the Trust Feed area that I think it will take a long time for their problems to be solved.

Today I found out that the Induna (who is just below the chief in traditional Zulu hierarchy) of the area where we stayed in the rural areas, was arrested, charged with murder, and is no longer the induna. I don't really know the whole story of what happened, but it was definitely shocking to hear it! I don't know how the girls who lived at his house really feel about it either. It's a little crazy.

I still can't believe that it's my last night in Cato Manor! This part of the program seemed ages away when I got here, and now it's actually happening. I hope that my homestay next week will be just as good. Sala kahle!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trust Feed

Yesterday we went over to John's (our professor) house for our focus study discussion. We talked mostly about the amnesty committee in the TRC and the conditions under which people could be granted amnesty. The amnesty process was sort of a way of legitimizing the new democratic regime and denouncing the apartheid government. Under the conditions for amnesty, people had to admit that they had committed a wrong and feel remorse for it. There were also other conditions, like political motives, the object/objective of the crime, whether or not the person acted on their own or whether they were told to do so or not, etc.

We're focusing this week on a specific amnesty case involving a man named Brian Mitchell. He was granted amnesty for the murders of 11 people that he ordered killed in 1988 in a small town outside Pietermaritzburg called Trust Feed. They were supposed to be attacking a secret political meeting of the UDF, but accidentally went to the wrong house and ended up killing people who were at a wake. He was sentenced to death during the apartheid negotiation period and applied for amnesty after spending several years in jail. A lot of people argue that he shouldn't have gotten amnesty, but that because his trial was earlier in the process, he might have been given it to appease the apartheid supporters. He says however that he does feel a lot of remorse and has worked within the Trust Feed community to try to reconcile with them.

Today we actually went to Trust Feed, where we met the son of one of the victims, and he took us to a memorial that was constructed for the victims at the sight of the massacre. It was cool to see, but it was also kinda sad because it was unfinished, and didn't really seem like it was used much (although the pastor who let us into it said that they used it for small religious ceremonies sometimes). It also didn't really seem like too many of the people in the community really cared about it that much. This December is the 20th anniversary of it, and they aren't even doing anything special to commemorate it. I think the people are also really disappointed with the involvement of Brian Mitchell, because I think they wanted more money from them than they have actually received. The son was also afraid to be there for too long because apparently people in the community like to hound him for help or money (since his mom was a victim, they think he gets special treatment from Mitchell. He moved closer to Pietermaritzburg to escape them). It was pretty bizarre.

Last night my Baba said I should just stay with my homestay family forever. I told him I wouldn't be able to do that, but that I would definitely have to visit. I still can't believe that my Cato Manor homestay is almost over, or that I'm over halfway done with the program, or that ISP starts really soon. It's crazy! I'm excited about experiencing new things though. Although, I really don't wanna leave without Mama teaching me how to make steam bread. She usually makes it on the weekends, but didn't last weekend for some reason. Maybe she'll show me tonight? I don't know. Sala kahle!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Adventures

This week is my last week with my Cato Manor family before we move into our participant-learning homestays. I'll miss my family, but I'm kinda ready to move. I feel a little constrained by living with my families, especially since people in Cato Manor go to bed SO early! No joke, people go to bed at like 9:00. Sometimes my mama goes to bed even earlier than that. It's ridiculous. On Saturday I went with some of my friends to an area called Davenport and we had lunch at this all-organic restaurant called Earth Mother. It was so good! Then my friend Daryl and I went to the Davenport square to find an ATM, and we wound up staying there a while because Daryl wanted to get some pictures developed. The guy who owned the store was really nice- he kept the store open for us, and even gave us a ride to where our other friends went because it was a pretty long walk. Ah, the joys of hitchhiking! Later we went down to the harbor to an area called Wilson's Wharf for dinner, and we at on the pier at this really delicious Thai restaurant. Then we headed to the Bat Centre to see the Urban Voices poetry slam. SIT subsidized the price of our tickets, and it was really good! There was a Zulu man who told a poem where every word had a "q" click in it (which I think is the hardest clicking noise). I was really impressed. We also saw an American poet and two people from Jamaica. It was a really good show!

On Sunday, my mama told me that I was making dinner, so I had to make a quick run to a grocery store to get everything I needed to cook. Daryl and I wanted to go to the Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding, but we found out that it took a really long time to get there, and since we both had to fix dinner, we didn't want to be late getting home. So instead we had A.Kay take us to the Botanic Gardens (which is now my favorite place in Durban) and we threw my frisbee for a while and got some reading done. We also saw some monkeys, and one of them had a baby monkey clinging to its stomach! It was SO CUTE! I think we must have taken about 40 pictures of them, until they started attacking our feet.

For dinner for my family, I decided to make spaghetti with meat sauce. It took a lot longer than I expected because our stove apparently only has one working burner (which I found out last night). I even made the sauce myself and I was really proud of it! I also grated a big thing of Parmesan cheese. I think my family was a little skeptical at first, but they ended up really liking it! My mama saved some of hers to take to work today to "show my friend that you can cook!" and my bhuti took some of the leftovers for his lunch! Daryl and I made a joint dessert effort of brownies and ice cream with chocolate sprinkles for our families, and they really liked that too. I was really proud of me because a lot of the other students who made dinner for their families weren't nearly as successful as I was.

This week we started our group focus studies. I'm in a group with 7 other students in the reconciliation study, and we're focusing on the amnesty process of the TRC. We're even going to make a trip to a town where our case study crime took place (close to Pietermaritzburg). It's definitely going to be a good week. I'm excited. Sala kahle!

Friday, October 17, 2008


I realized right after I updated that I completely forgot to talk about bunny chow, and I couldn't fix it cause I had to leave. If I have time I'll try to talk about it at the end. My bad.

Yesterday we traveled about 40 minutes out of Durban to visit The Valley Trust (TVT). It was created in the in the 50s/60s originally as a health clinic and has evolved into a large organization for rural development. They train people in the community to be community health workers and teach people how to cultivate land and create a sustainable community. It was interesting, but I think we're all a little sick of these intensive lecture workshops, and to be honest, it's getting hard to focus.

Today we went to ACCORD, which I can't remember at the moment what the acronym stands for, but it works with conflict resolution within Africa. It was orginially started at the end of the apartheid and worked on finding ways of resolving conflicts between different groups. They hold workshops to create peace-keeping faciliators and encourage reconciliation. They're currently working with a large number of African countries including the DRC, Burundi, and Somalia to name a few. It was really interesting, and it works because of their grassroots focus and their patience. We had lunch at the Gateway mall, which is the largest mall in the Southern Hemisphere. It's massive. My lunch consisted of sushi and cheesecake, a winning combination. But yeah the mall has about 300ish stores, an Imax theater, the largest indoor climbing wall, and a surfing simulation thing. We're planning on going back there at some point to explore some more. We finished our day back at SIT with our weekly group seminar discussion.

Ok, so now I'll talk about bunny chow. I don't really know why it's called Bunny chow, but it has a cool history to it, and is a unique part of Durban. Basically, it's any form of curry (veggie, chicken, whatever you want) served inside of a hollowed out loaf of bread. It's very tasty, but I learned that it was created during the apartheid era to serve blacks and coloreds. Since they weren't allowed in certain restaurants, they were created as means of getting take-out food. That way the people could still enjoy the food from the restaurant but wouldn't be breaking any of the apartheid laws. And it still remains a really popular dish today. You can get it at basically any Indian restaurant you go to. Well, it's almost time to go. I'm hoping to play ultimate this weekend, but we'll see what happens. Sala kahle!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bunny Chow

I'll be honest...yesterday wasn't all that exciting. We visited the area in Durban where Gandhi used to live, and the house he lived in is now a museum. Our professor warned us ahead of time that the museum wasn't really all that great, and it wasn't. It was an empty house with some random pictures of Gandhi in it. It was still cool to see where he lived though. We also got to see where he kept his printing press to write articles, which was also pretty cool. From there, we went to the Inanda school for girls. It was the first school for African girls that was founded at the end of the 1800s. It managed to survive during apartheid because the government didn't really see women as a threat (they thought wrong). The school today still has pretty much all African students, but they don't discriminate against other races. We heard a lecture from this guy who's wife is the chaplain there. Now, he was cool. He's traveled all over the world, AND he once had tea with Mugabe (the crazy dictator/president of Zimbabwe). Some of the students took us on a tour of the school, and then we had lunch with the students. One thing that really shocked me about the school was the dorm situation. 4 girls share a room that has no door. It's so loud in there, and you have pretty much no privacy. I don't know if I would be ok with that or not.

Today we went to the Institute for the Healing of Memories. The organization was originally created to help people who had been abused under the apartheid system, but has since adjusted to help refugees or HIV/AIDS victims as well. They have also actually started working with victims of domestic violence in the U.S. The workshop was really interesting, and we did a sort of condensed version of their normally 3-day workshop so that we could get an idea of what they did. The institute was at this really pretty monastery that we got to explore a bit.

The plans for my ISP are coming together. I'm going to spend 2 weeks in Cape Town and 2 back in Durban. I've been doing some research on finding a good hostel and such. I'm excited! Well, I better get going cause we're going out to dinner for a girl's birthday. Sala kahle!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Durban Walk Cont'd, and the Weekend

Anyway, the walk turned out to be a lot of fun. We walked all the way to the harbor and then stopped to get something to drink at the Bat Centre before going home. The centre doesn't actually have anything to do with bats, it's actually a place for arts. They have a few galleries, a black box theater, and some craft shops. We're planning on going there next weekend to listen to some poets that our professor recommended. It should be interesting.

On Saturday, Daryl and I were planning on going to the mall for a little bit and then exploring, but we were both a little sick of the mall. We asked A. Kay (this really awesome taxi driver who gives S.I.T. students discounted fares) what we should do for the day. He dropped us off at this open air market in a park. There were a variety of different little kiosks. We met this really cool woman who made jewelry by firing copper. She told us some fun things to do in Durban, and I bought a really pretty pair of earrings for only R30 (less than $4!). We also had the most amazing bread pudding I've ever tasted in my life. Thank you, A. Kay! After we left the market, we decided to wander around the neighborhood and explore a little. We walked down several blocks and wound up at the botanical gardens. We decided to go in and explore them more since we didn't really get a change to before. They had a lot of really cool plants and an insane amount of birds. I truly believe my mom would be in heaven there. It took me forever to finally find the tree that's the only one of its kind. There's only a male species of the tree and no female species, so the only way they've been able to make new ones is by cloning the original one. It was fun exploring Durban. It was a lot better than spending the whole day in the mall.

On Sunday, we had absolutely gorgeous weather, so we headed to the beach for the day. We ended up hanging out with the girlfriend of our driver/Zulu tutor and her friend. It was nice to hang out with some people who weren't in the program, just to be different. The weather was so nice though, and the water wasn't too cold. It was nice to relax.

Today we went to UKZN for a workshop on race and identity in South Africa. We talked about why people classify others and how it affects the way we act towards them. We also watched a video about interracial adoption. The workshop was very interesting, and it felt nice to actually be on a college campus. The campus is on top of a really tall hill, and we had lunch in this park that had a gorgeous view all the way to the harbor! It was a good day, in all.

My bhuti finally came home last night. He hadn't been there since I got home from the rural areas, and I asked where he was on Thursday. He was apparently visiting his grandmother and cousins. I asked my sisi if he was missing school and she said yes. I feel like a week of school is a lot to miss if you're just visiting family and going to the mall. My sisi didn't seem to think like it was a big deal though...ah the joys of South African education.

I'm really excited because my mama is going to show me how to make steamed bread. It's quite possibly the most delicious bread I've ever eaten in my life. It may even be better than the rolls served at camp (gasp!). The next time she makes it, she's going to show me how do it, so that I can make it when I get back to the U.S. She had to check to make sure that flour existed in the U.S. first before she agreed to teach me, though. I assured her it did. I'm excited. Sala kahle!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Durban Walk

I'm using an internet cafe in a mall, and I only have a few minutes left, so this will be a short update. Yesterday, we went on our rescheduled walking tour of Durban. We started off at the Musgrave mall (where I am now), walked down through the warwick junction markets, all the way through to the harbor. We had a really eccentric tour guide who literally described bird poop on the sidewalk as a natural Jackson Pollack painting. I was a little skeptical of him at first, but he ended up being pretty cool. My favorite part was walking through the muthi market where they had traditional medicines and herbs and animal skins. I couldn't take pictures because they don't like photos taken there, but it was cool, I promise. Well, time's up...I'll write more monday!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Rural Areas!

We arrived home from the rural areas and Umfolozi game reserve yesterday afternoon. I had so much fun, and so much to tell about it, but I think that if I wrote about every little detail, my blog would be ridiculously long, so I think I'll start with a list of highlights from the past week and a half:
  • My homestay family which consisted of Gogo ("grandma" in Zulu), her32-year old daughter Gugu, and Gugu's 5 children: Lindo(14), Ntokozo(11),Cebo(9?), Sisi (6), and Sanele(5). We didn't realize until later the first night that Sisi was in fact, a girl (which makes sense because her name means "Sister"). It also took us a few days to figure out whether Cebo was a boy or a girl. He's a boy.
  • Gogo's amazing scones that she taught us how to make.
  • A traditional Zulu wedding gift ceremony complete with traditional Zulu attire. The bride and friends walked around with spears, and if they stuck them in the ground in front of you, you had to give the bride a gift and go dance with all the people.
  • The tractor ride to said wedding ceremony where we got splattered with mud and raced other tractors down the road.
  • Playing soccer and other games with my siblings
  • Visiting a South African prisoners as part of a rehabilitation program,and talking with prisoners, and playing one of the prisoner's guitar!
  • Going to a traditional court and meeting the Inkosi (chief)
  • Walking to the beach, climbing up sand dunes, and chasing crabs in the surf.
  • My gogo took some of my friends and me to the top of this small but spectacular canyon.
  • After a strange scratching noise on our window one night, Gogo slept in our room with us an brought a plastic gun in an effort to protect us from potential intruders. She also started telling us randomly before bed that life starts going downhill after age 20 (I guess I'm done for) and that we should get married by the time we're 26 or 27, but that married life is horrible. Awesome.
  • Visiting an orphanage and attempting to learn traditional Zulu dance from the children there.
  • Meeting an inyanga and an isangoma (traditional healers).
  • Creating a braai (bbq) with an old rusty wheelbarrow because we didn't have an actual grill.
  • Going to my Gogo's hometown for a 21st birthday party (very similar to the wedding gift ceremony). We trekked through the muddy roads wearing garbage bag skirts to protect our clothes from the rain, walked down to the highway, and hitchhiked to Gogo's town on a tractor-trailer. It was nuts.
  • The game drive and boat ride in Umfolozi where we saw a large variety of wild animals: Giraffes, Zebra, Impala, Water Buffalo, Rhinos, Buffalo,Warthogs, Hippos, Crocodiles, etc!
  • Getting an actual shower at the bush lodge after the rural homestay. It was glorious.
  • Going to the Albert Luthuli (former ANC president and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Museum and getting to meet one of his daughters who just happened to be visiting that day.

I wish I could go into so much more detail about things, because it was so much fun and I did so many wonderful things, but I think that my blog entry would go on for days. I'm really going to miss my rural homestay family, because they were a lot of fun, but I'm not going to miss having literally no personal space. I thought I would be ok with the whole personal space thing because of my counseling experiences, but at camp you can set boundaries and there's no language barrier to deal with. I'm also going to miss having showers (at least for another few weeks). I definitely will not miss the cement block pit latrine though. Or the cockroaches that were crawling all over it. Yuck. But overall, I had a really great experience and it was fun learning about a new culture! Tomorrow we're going on our rescheduled Durban walk, and then I have no idea what I'm going to do this weekend. I guess I'll update again on Monday at some point, but I better go work on my rural methodology paper at the moment. Sala kahle!

Friday, September 26, 2008

My last update for a while...

Sorry it's been a few days since I updated. Wednesday we didn't have class because it was a national holiday (Heritage Day) and yesterday the internet wasn't working for anyone. But since my last update, the government has gotten things together again. The best part would definitely have to be that the secretary of health (who doesn't believe in AIDS) is no longer the secretary of health. Yesss!

Anyway, on Wednesday, a group of us went downtown to a marketplace called the workshop. It was nice to walk around, and I got a really cute pair of earrings. Nothing to exciting or interesting that day. We were gonna go to what we thought was a concert at a park by the workshop, but after listening for a long time to an AIDS activist, we decided to go elsewhere.

Yesterday we had some really interesting lectures about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Xenophobia. John, our academic coordinator, was actually a researcher for the TRC, so it was really cool to hear first-hand experience. The TRC is just such a unique process and I find it really fascinating. It was the government's way of acknowledging their apartheid past, and it almost seemed like catharsis for the whole country because it was so emotional and provided closure for a lot of people.

The Xenophobia lecture was given by a refugee from the DRC who works for the KZN Refugee Center. I didn't realize that such a large refugee population here was from the DRC. While overall, there are more people from Zimbabwe and Namibia, about 80% of the refugee population in KZN come from the DRC. It's really hard for refugees to find housing and work, especially because the South African government does so little to help them. They face a lot of adversity, but the Refugee Center has helped in reducing Xenophobic attacks in the province. It's really amazing that they even have the center to begin with, because it's entirely run by refugees, and they have basically no funding. His lecture made me think about my DRC friends back in Lexington, and I talked to the lecturer about them and how they made it to the U.S. I would love to volunteer at the Refugee Center. I think it would be such a great experience.

Today we're finishing up more stuff about the TRC and we're going to watch a movie about it. We're ending class early today to give time for some people to shop if we need before tomorrow. Tomorrow, we're heading to the rural areas for a week-long homestay! It should be pretty interesting: no electricity, no running water, etc. I'm not gonna lie, I'm really starting to miss real showers. But I think the rural homestay will be a lot of fun. We'll even get to go to a tribal council! After that, we'll be spending a day or two at the Umfolozi game reserve (the 2nd largest in South Africa) which is farther north from the rural area where we'll stay. We should be back in Durban around the 8th of October. And obviously since there's no electricity really, I won't have my computer, much less internet access, so this is goodbye for a while. I'm sure I'll have a lot of interesting stories when I get back. Sala kahle!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A busy week

This week is going to be extremely busy for me. We finally heard back from my school's IRB and my fellow Richmonders and I have to have a general overview of our ISP topics to send to the school by this Friday. Normally, it wouldn't be due until October 7th, but we're leaving for the rural areas on saturday and there's pretty much no chance that I'll have internet access and/or my computer there. And on top of that I have a book review due Friday...awesome.

Yesterday, I was a little confused when I left for school because my baba was still there. Normally, he leaves at like 4 or 5:00 in the morning. Also, his taxi wasn't there. So when I came home from school, I asked if he was sick, and he was. He has a cold or something, and his ear is really bothering him. I guess someone drove his taxi for him or something...I'm not really sure. Anyway, when I was talking to my sisi and my mama, I said "Ubaba uyagula" (baba is sick) and they were really impressed with my Zulu skills. I was proud of myself. Speaking Zulu is fun! Although I still can't always get the clicks right.

Today we're having a bit of a different schedule because we're going to watch a video conference on Xenophobia that should be pretty interesting. We're also hopefully going to have some sort of Q & A with a man our academic director knows who works in Pretoria about the whole Thabo Mbeki resignation thing. Personally, I think it's ridiculous that they made him resign. He really wasn't going to be in power much longer, and I really don't think it would have made much difference in the long run. Also, Mbeki was a big factor in the Zimbabwe negotiations, and I saw an article that said they might fall through now that he's out of office. I really don't think that the Zuma reign is gonna be very good. I really think he's going to corrupt the government (moreso than he already has). We'll see what happens, I guess.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ngempelasanto (the weekend)

So, sorry I haven't updated. I don't really have computer access on the weekend and we left early on Friday afternoon so I couldn't update. The SIT computers don't have working internet, so a friend let me borrow her computer to update since the blogger website is only blocked on my computer for some reason (other people can't access certain sites on their computers, too. It's weird.) Anyway, Friday morning our whole group woke up extra early to go to a feeding scheme for a local primary and high school. We made well over 200 PB & J sandwiches for students there, and it was a lot of fun. Some people raced to see who could spread the fastest, and Halle, my friend who is allergic to nuts was proud of the fact that she sort of got to make PB & J (she spread the jelly) for the first time ever. Then, we came to SIT for our weekly group seminar discussion. Then our directors decided to take us to the Durban botanical gardens for a group dynamics discussion. Obviously, a lot of tension builds in such a large group, so it was nice to get outside and chill.

The botanical gardens were really neat, and I definitely want to go back there. They have a tree that is the only one of its kind, and this orchid room that has TONS of orchids in it. I'm pretty sure my mom would have been in heaven there because she has so many herself. And don't worry, mom, I took pictures of it for you because I knew you would want to see.

Later that afternoon we were supposed to go back to the schools to meet with youth from the area to talk about different issues, but no one really came because it was raining, and this woman in the library was on a power trip and wouldn't let us have the meeting room, so we went back home.

Saturday, we were supposed to go on a walk of Durban (to the markets, etc.) led by our academic director, who is quite possibly the coolest teacher ever. Unfortunately, it was extremely cold and rainy so it got canceled, but it will be rescheduled when we get back from the rural areas. Instead, I went to a mall with Halle and Daryl, and we sat in a bookshop/cafe and got some reading done. Later that evening a large group went back to Taco Zulu for dinner to celebrate a girl's birthday that had been the day before. It was a lot of fun!

On Sunday, I helped my sisi do some of the laundry. We don't have a washing machine, so we did it by hand. Although I'm pretty sure they don't trust me to do the laundry because my job was just rinsing and wringing things out. My mama laughed at my attempts to help, but I think she thought it was nice that I made an effort. Then Daryl and I took our sisis to see "Mamma Mia!" and that was a lot of fun. My sisi quickly picked up on all the songs and has started singing them all the time. And apparently, some worker at the theater told my sisi that he loved me. A lot of the girls in our program get comments like that. Some people have even been asked how many cows it would cost to marry them. It goes back to the tradition of lobola, where the groom's family paid the bride's family in cows in order to marry her. The practice still exists today, although they usually just give money instead of cows.

I made my spoon bread for my family last night, and they really liked it. I think my mama was a little skeptical at first because of the texture, but she enjoyed it and said she wished we could make more. I told her I would try to find a recipe.

Today was back to the SIT offices and class as usual. Nothing too exciting to report yet. Oh! I did take my first dose of malaria medicine on Saturday because we're leaving for the rural area this weekend. It's apparently supposed to give you really bizarre and vivid dreams, but I have yet to experience any. It's only been a few days, though. We'll see what happens. I better go read, though. I have a lot of work to do! Sala kahle!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Bhuti is in Hiding.

Yesterday was a short day for class, which was really nice. We had Zulu in the morning, followed by a lecture about issues involving the youth of South Africa. They make up such a large portion of the population, and they've been kinda messed up ever since the "lost generation" of apartheid. Basically, towards the end of apartheid, the youth started taking over in the fight against apartheid and missed out on their education. Many of them are now unemployed because they lack specific skills. Our lecturer showed us research and programs they were implementing to improve education and the lives of youth in general. It was nice to see that some progress is being made rather than just learning that there are lots of problems and not a lot we can do (like the housing issue).

We had the afternoon off, so I stayed at the SIT office to finish my paper about a cultural experience. I wrote about when a woman on the minibus taxi asked why there were white people on the bus. I wasn't entirely productive during that time, but at least I got some things done.

When I got home there was this big group of guys hanging out at the top of my house's driveway (it's at the top of a hill). I recognized one of the boys as my bhuti's friend who comes over a lot. I got into the house and my Bhuti was sitting there watching TV. I asked him if he knew that all his friends were outside and he said yes. Then I asked why he wasn't outside with them, as usual, and he said it was because he had a bunch of their DVDs and they wanted them back. He wasn't ready to give them back yet. "They can't know that I'm here!" he said. I thought it was hilarious. He even moved around slowly so they wouldn't notice him because the curtains were partially open.

We had a light homework night (which is highly unusual), so Daryl and her sisi came to my house and we all watched "Final Destination 2" together. What a ridiculous movie! It was pretty absurd and really made me wonder where people come up with these ideas.

This morning we had another Zulu lesson, and we'll be having a lecture shortly about the environmental issues in South Africa. We'll be heading out to the docks in Durban to see first-hand the environmental impact. There's currently a really big issue in Durban about building a marina. Someone built these pretty expensive beachside condos and they want to build a marina so that people with yachts can come live here and keep their boats there. A lot of people are afraid that it will have a large negative impact on the coastline. We're also going to a book launch for this book that discusses the culture of Durban streetworkers and how they've sort of become this cosmopolitan network through their relations with sailors. It sounds like it should be interesting.

Tomorrow morning, we're going to the KwaZulu-Natal youth empowerment center (the place where our tour guides for the Dropoff work) for a feeding scheme to provide meals to people. I'm really excited about working for the community and I think it will be a very rewarding experience. Well, I have to go start the lecture in a few minutes, so sala kahle!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quick Update

This will be a short update because I'm supposed to leave in like 5 minutes. Yesterday I didn't feel very well- a few people got really sick, we're not entirely sure some what. I just felt queasy all day. Although, I DID get to watch "High School Musical 2" with my sisi, which she absolutely loves. She can't wait for the third one to come out.

Our recent lectures have included things about the AIDS epidemic and government policy yesterday, and today we covered land issues. The whole land thing is pretty messed up because the government is trying to restore land to Africans who lost it during apartheid, but it's a very complicated process, and they're way behind. We also had a lecture abotu our ISP's and how we need to work on focusing on a specific research topic since we really don't have much time to do a broad topic. So that's pretty much all that's been going on...nothing too exciting to report. Well, I really need to go, now. Sala kahle!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The South/Wild Coast

This weekend, our progam went to a little resort at the South Coast of KZN for a little rest and relaxation after a grueling first week of classes. We stayed in a small town called Port Edward at the Merry Crab (funny name, I know). On friday afternoon when we got there a few of us walked out to the beach and I brought my frisbee along. At one point the wind caught it and it landed in the tide and got swept out. I dove into the ocean fully clothed because it's my favorite disc that I have, and I was able to get it back. Unfortunately I lost one of my rings in the process...oh well.

Saturday morning we woke up a little later than usual and head across the border to the Eastern Cape to go on an eco-tourism hike. We started off by canoeing in a little cove, and then proceeded to hike along the beach. We had a guide with us who showed us a petrified forest and lots of different fossils. The petrified forest was really neat because you could see how the forest used to be right by the ocean. Our guide also dug up part of this enormous crystal that is buried beneath the sand. Some of the fossils that we saw included a sea turtle, giant clams (we're talking almost as big as me), and animal bones. We also got to see some small caves that used to be hidden by fig leaves that fishermen used to store things. I found a really cool and intact sand dollar while we walked, and I'm hoping I can make it back to the U.S. with it.

From the beach we headed through some woods and saw some buildings and other spots where parts of the film "Blood Diamond" was filmed, and some of the views were spectacular! We hiked up some hills and through a village where we stopped for lunch, before going to see an Isangoma, a traditional African doctor. I didn't really know what was going on during the ceremony, but it was still pretty cool. Afterward, we went back to the Merry Crab to rest before our braai of American food. We even made s'mores for dessert except we had tea cookies instead of graham crackers because they apparently don't have them in South Africa. Who knew?

Sunday, a few of us woke up extra early to watch the sunrise on the beach. It was a little hazy, so you couldn't actually see the sun, but it was still very pretty. We then had a meeting about how our homestays are going and then headed to the beach for a couple hours before going home. My mama was really excited when I got back, and she gave me a big home and said "Welcome home, baby girl!" It was cute. I watched some TV with my bhuti and WWE wrestling came on and had to explain to him that they're professional actors and have extensive training because he thought it was real...ah the joys of Americanization. Well, I better go work on some assignments for tomorrow, so sala kahle!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kennedy Road

Wednesday night, I was hanging out at home and met my next-door neighbor who goes to UNISA (University of South Africa). We had a really interesting discussion about education and how drastically different education is here than in the United States. The majority of students who go to matric (aka graduate) are not prepared for college-level work, which I think is really sad. This girl sounded like she was working really hard to better her education by attending more lectures at a private university. I also helped her nephew with his math homework. He was working on fractions and I showed him how to reduce them.

Yesterday we had some lectures about Cosmopolitanism and Kennedy Road. The Cosmopolitanism lecture discussed how we're prone to group ourselves and seek out the differences in other people, but that we should be accepting of other people and look for the similarities, because when it comes down to the basics, we're all the same. Then we learned about Kennedy Road, which is a shack settlement that we visited later in the day. About 8000 people live in the shack settlements, with an average of 4 children living in each household. Most of the shacks were made out of large pieces of wood and plastic that people took from the dumping grounds next to the settlement. A lot of times, they had tires or other things to weigh down the roofs. It was a very humbling experience to see how the people lived, without electricity, only a few communal water taps, and very few communal toilets. One of the unique things about Kennedy Road though, is their sense of community. All of the people were so friendly to us, even though we were clearly outsiders.

There is a major community movement in Kennedy Road called Abahlali baseMjondolo, which consists strictly of members who live in the settlements who work for the betterment of the community. Abahlali has helped reduce crime in the settlements and even helped prevent the spread of Xenophobia and violence, especially during the violence that occurred in May. There were no violent outbreaks at Kennedy Road during that time. The organization constantly protests for running water and especially electricity. Because the people don't have electricity, the have to use candles and parafin, which frequently result in fires. There was a fire 3 weeks ago at Kennedy road in which 800 people lost their homes. When we visited, however, a majority of the shacks had already been rebuilt. These people don't have any where else to go because the government will not provide affordable housing within the city.

While we were there we also got to listen to an a capella group that has won a bunch of national competitions and they were absolutely amazing! They had such great harmony, and it was fun to actually pick up some of what they were saying from my newly acquired knowledge of Zulu. After they sang several songs for us, they said we had to sing for them in order to get an encore, so we sang the Body Song (the Zulu "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes) and they had a good laugh about it. I think that was probably my favorite part of the night. We finished up by having dinner as a group in the community center and then I headed home.

I got home way later than I normally do, and quickly started working on my Zulu homework so that I could go to bed (I go to bed really early here- like 10:30 at the latest). I got stuck on one of the words I had to translate, so I asked my baba what the word was, which turned out to be "Rhino." He said "Yeah, if you ever need help on your Zulu, don't hesitate to ask!" so I said "Ngiyabonga" (thank you). Then my sisi, Wendy, was heading off to bed, so she said goodnight and I responded with the same, but my baba quickly said "No, no, no! From now on, there is no 'goodnight.' There is only 'Lala kahle'" (sleep well). It was really funny. It was nice to interact with him, because he always leaves so early for work and get's home pretty late (He's a taxi driver).

Well, I won't be able to update for a while, because we're heading to the South Coast this weekend for some relaxation! Tomorrow we're going on an eco-tourism hike (which I am super excited about), and we'll be spending lots of time at the beach! It should be fun! Sala kahle!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Generations" and the Phandi Museum

A major part of Zulu culture is to watch tv. I know that sounds weird, but it's so true! The TV at my homestay is on constantly until everyone goes to bed. Literally. When I got home from school yesterday, my sisi was watching a dvd that has about 5 movies on it starring Martin Lawrence, so I sat down and watched it with her while I did my Zulu homework. But I would have to say that most people's favorite thing to watch here is soap operas, mainly a South African one called "Generations." This show comes on pretty much every night, and so many people watch it! A lot of the people in my program are really starting to get into it. I was only half-paying attention when we watched it last night, but I'll definitely have to really watch it tonight so I know what's going on.

Today we started the day off with yet another zulu lesson, which wasn't nearly as difficult as the day before. We just went over one noun class more specifically and learned how to say how you are sick. One of the thing we learned how to say is "I have diabetes" and the word for "diabetes" literally means "the sugar disease." Then we talked about development in different aspects of South African life. Then, as a break to get out of the offices, we went to the Phandi museum (prounounced pawn-di) that displays a lot of really intricate beadwork and traditional african dress and tools. A lot of the clay pots also had very intricate designs. They also had a lot of "ear stoppers" which are those giant wooden disks that many tribal people put in their earlobes. Some of them were enormous! Our guide also showed us "pillows" that many zulu women used to sleep on. They were not pillows, however, they looked like really small wooden stools. I do not see how sleeping on that would be comfortable. (It's times like these I really wish I could access my blog on my own computer, because then I could put pictures up...oh well)

We finished up our day here with a discussion about the economy and government intervention. I'm so excited about tomorrow because we're going to a part of the township that consists mainly of shacks, so it should be really interesting to see. While we're there, we also get to listen to different groups of singers who sing songs a capella and make them up on the spot. It sounds really cool, and I hope they don't let me down. Apparently the particular group we're going to see has won national competitions. Well, I'm gonna go start my reading because we have an insane amount of work to do for tomorrow. Bye!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Various Fruits and the ISP

Yesterday and today were our first two full days of classes. We had lots of discussions about our homestays: what they were like, what people did with their families, the strategy of bathing with a basin, etc. We also had Zulu lessons both mornings. I really enjoy learning Zulu, and I'm slowly improving on my clicks, but I feel that there's so much that they teach us every day! Yesterday, we learned the Body Song, which is a Zulu version of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." Today we learned about different noun classes because different words have different prefixes depending on the type of word they are or how they are spelled. It's all pretty complicated.

We also began more intense lectures of our Reconciliation and Development seminar. Yesterday, John, our Academic Director taught us about historiography and how history is different depending on who tells it, and we discussed the different historical views of South Africa. Today we talked about the ANC and it's major accomplishments and the things that it still really needs to work on. Our discussion many discussed the AIDS pandemic, education, and the unemployment crisis. South Africa is still kinda messed up, but it is significantly better than it was in 1994, and the ANC did a pretty remarkable job by keeping the country a single state.

Yesterday when I got home from school (I feel like a little kid because I get picked up and dropped off by a school bus every day and I have to be home by about 9:30) I sat with my mam and my sisi and we had a discussion about different kinds of fruit, and they just started listing all of the fruit that they knew of to see if I had ever heard of it. I knew the majority of them, but there were some that I didn't know at first because we call them different things. They considered sweet potatoes a fruit, and called them something else. It was pretty fun. They also asked me about foods that we eat in Kentucky, so I tried to think of special Kentucky foods like bourbon balls and hot browns. I don't know if I correctly described what a hot brown was to them, but they thought it sounded good. I realize now that I should have told them about Grits. I guess I still can.

Today, I sort of had an epiphany about what I want to do for my Independent Study Project (ISP). I had originally gone into the program thinking that I wanted to do something about the politicization of AIDS because I did a paper on it last semester for one of my classes, but I started thinking that maybe I should do something different and learn something new. So I started thinking about the World Cup, and how it's already influencing South Africa by creating jobs for building new stadiums, and giving incentives for cities to clean up and reduce crime. Durban is already working on ways to improve their safety by creating a new bus system called People Movers that has security guards at every stop, and provides people with really inexpensive and safe transportation. So I thought it would be really cool to do an ISP about how the World Cup is affecting the South African government and the socio-economic status its people. I'm pretty excited and John said he thought it would be a great idea. Yay me! Well, it's almost time to head back to Cato Manor for the day, so I think I'll try to get some reading in before I go. Sala kahle! (that means goodbye or "stay well" in Zulu)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Durban and My Homestay

For some reason, I can't access the blog website from my computer, but everyone else can access it from their laptops. It's kind of annoying. I'm just using the office computers for updates. Anyway, Thursday was our first full day in Durban. We visited the offices where we have class and met with a local doctor whose practice they send us to if we get sick. He basically scared us all out of our minds about health and safety issues. Fun stuff. Then a group of boys from a Cato Manor youth empowerment organization came to take us on tours of Durban called the Drop-off. Normally, they just drop us off by ourselves, but an American tourist got shot in the leg on Sunday morning, so they were afraid to let us go alone. I definitely felt safer with our tour guide. He took us all along the beach (which was covered in Jellyfish) and we went to some markets and a little shopping center. It was a lot of fun! We got a little lost trying to get back to our group because they didn't give us very specific directions on where to meet, but we made it back ok. When we got back to the office, we had a discussion of what we saw and experienced, and then we went to a kickoff dinner where we met more of our teachers who aren't majorly involved in the program (mostly Zulu instructors/tutors).

On Friday we had our first real day of class with our first real Zulu lesson and a lecture about Zulu culture. We also set up bank accounts because we have stipends for our ISP projects and some meals, and we got our information about our homestay families. It was a pretty lax day, because it was more of a preparation for this week and moving in for saturday. We spent our last night out going to a really delicious Italian restaurant that our program director recommended. Afterwards, a few of us went to a dance club called Casablanca since it was our last night of freedom before our homestays (you can't really go out at night because their culture really looks down on it, especially for girls). There was this really drunk lady who randomly started dancing with us. We all just started laughing because she was so ridiculous and awkward. She was really strange. But she certainly made the night more interesting.

Saturday we all moved into our homestays. I was one of the last people to get dropped off, so I kept getting really anxious as our mini-bus got emptier as we drove around Cato Manor. My family consists of my mama (although I feel weird calling her "Mama" because she just turned 25), my baba (Zulu for dad), a 17-year old bhuti (brother) named Phiwe and a 14-year old sisi (sister) named Wendy. Phiwe is baba's son from a previous marriage, and Wendy is actually his niece who lives with them so she can go to a good school. I stayed around the house for most of the day watching tv, which they do A LOT (they love soap operas and reality shows), and then we went shopping later on with my friend Daryl and her sisi who live 2 doors down from me. We got separated for a while at the grocery store and mama almost called the police, but it didn't get to that point (Thankfully).

Sunday morning I woke up ridiculously early because the roosters were making a ruckus starting around 4:30. I finally got out of bed around 7. At 9:00 Wendy and I went to church with Daryl and her sisi, which was quite an experience. It was in a house down the street in a small room with plastic chairs. Lots of singing, lots of people saying their prayers all at once, lots things I didn't understand. It lasted almost 2 hours! But the people were really friendly and afterwards, they greeted Daryl and me, and I got my first Zulu handshake! (They have a special handshake-it's pretty cool) And of course when I told people I was from Kentucky, they immediately associated me with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Later Daryl, our sisis, and I went to the beach and met up with some other S.I.T. kids and their sisis/bhutis. It was a lot of fun, but the current was really strong so I didn't swim out into the Indian Ocean very far. We stopped to get something to drink before heading back home. For transportation, we used minibus-taxis, which are quite possibly the scariest things I've ever ridden in. They're basically 15-passenger vans that people can take in and out of the city. They're the most common form of transportation, and it costs less than $1 US to ride. But we took one called "Scream," and there were times when I wanted to because it took turns so fast! Also, one woman got on, looked at us and said "Why are there white people on the taxi!?" We definitely get a lot of stares sometimes, but people are still friendly. Overall, it was a lot of fun. Then Daryl and I did our homework together because she somehow missed getting the reading packets on Friday. Well, we're about to head back to our Homestays soon, so I better go. I'll definitely have to talk about Nana next time. He's my mama's 2-year-old nephew, and he's adorable! Bye for now!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Johannesburg, cont'd.

Ok, so I have a little time before we start our lecture about Zulu culture, so I will try to catch everyone up with what I'm doing now! On Tuesday we went to the apartheid museum, and spent a LOT of time there. It could sort of be compared to the Holocaust museum, but not quite as depressing. I found it to be really interesting, and I learned a lot. I feel like when we learn about apartheid in school, it doesn't seem like some of the things that happened were that bad, but the museum really showed how it affected everyone. Also, fun fact: the new constitution was signed on my birthday in 1993! Pretty cool. That afternoon we took a tour of the school next door to our lodge that used to be run by some monks and nuns, and they still have some connections to the church. Then we rested a little before having a discussion about the apartheid museum and a lecture about Cato Manor, the area where we will be living. It used to be a thriving African and Indian community until the apartheid government ruled it to be in a "white area" and had the town completely destroyed.

That night for dinner, we had a braai (prounced like fry but with a "Br") , which is a traditional South African BBQ. We had this really good sausage, chicken, potatoes, corn on the cob, and lots of other good food! It took a long time for it to cook, but it was fun to stand out around the grill, huddling for warmth. It was pretty cold in Johannesburg. Also, it was one girl's birthday, so we had lots of wine and like, 3 different kinds of cake. Good times!

We left Wednesday morning for Durban, it was about an 8-hour drive, but it wasn't too bad. There was lots to see (we saw several ostriches, and some people saw a zebra!) because we drove through the Drakensburg mountains. We stopped at a lookout point and saw a whole family of Baboons! It was really cool! We had lunch at this random restaurant that I can only describe as a South African version of a cracker barrel- lots of memorabilia, and a really fun little country store that had all sorts of goodies. We arrived in Durban later that afternoon, and we were allowed out on our own for the first time since we've been here. We decided to try Taco Zulu, the local mexican was okay. We're currently staying in a hostel that has about 10 beds to a room, but tomorrow we move into our homestays! I'm pretty excited! My family consists of a mom who runs her own small business, a dad who is a taxi driver, a 13-year old sister, and a 17-year old brother. I think it will be lots of fun!

Well, I have class now, but I'll try to catch up and talk about my Durban excursions tomorrow. Bye!