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!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sorry I haven't updated until now...

We didn't have any internet access until yesterday at our hostel in Durban, so I haven't really been able to update until now. I also typed up a blog entry and saved it on my laptop, but I can't copy and paste because I'm using the computers at the SIT office (I'm too lazy to get out my computer and set it up at the moment). Anyway, after a ridiculously long flight in which I sat next to this weird woman who did absolutely nothing (literally, she just sat there and looked around!), we arrived in Johannesburg around 5:00 pm on Saturday, where our group got together and we took our mini-bus to this lodge/hostel where we stayed until Wednesday. The lodge used to be a seminary school where Desmond Tutu used to attend until it was shut down after it lost funding for refusing to teach requirements under the Bantu Education Act during apartheid.

Our stay in Johannesburg included a trip to the Constitutional Court (one of only 3 in the world), Soweto, and the Apartheid museum. The Court was really cool and also had an art gallery that represented the apartheid struggle. Later that afternoon we went to Soweto where we saw Desmond Tutu's and Nelson Mandela's homes. Although we didn't actually SEE Mandela's because the property was all boarded up. His house was turned into a museum and is currently being renovated. We also went to the Hector Pieterson museum that commenorates the student protests in Soweto in 1976 in which many students where killed by police while they were peacefully protesting. Hector Pieterson was famous because of a photo that was taken during the first major protest- he was shot in the mouth and a fellow student carried him to a clinic where he died.

On the way back from Soweto, we also got to see two stadiums that will be used for the World Cup in 2010. The major stadium, which the name has escaped me at the moment, is still under construction, but it still looks really neat! They're also building one in Durban (I saw it today). We also stopped at a really cool sabeena for lunch in Soweto and they had the most amazing bread ever! I wish I had some right now!

On Monday, we mostly stayed at the lodge to go over basic safety stuff and we had our first introductory Zulu lesson. We also ventured to a mall to buy cell phones and other things (my number, should you really want to call me is (27 071-061-8714). We also took a tour of the school next door to us, and then watched a movie about the influence of apartheid on African music. It was really interesting because many of the songs they sang were upbeat but said things like "Watch out police, we'll kill you" and the police had no idea what they were saying because it's in a different language. We also learned about this dance called the Toyi Toyi, which is pretty much an intense march, that they created in the 80's.

I'm not quite done with telling about all of my Johannesburg adventures yet, but I have to get going because we're leaving for dinner. I am in Durban now, though, so it will be much easier for me to access the internet and update. I'll try to get some pictures up soon, too! Bye for now!