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!