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!