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!