Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Make Every Day A Mandela Day".

“I cannot pinpoint a moment when I became politicized, when I knew that I would spend my life in the liberation struggle. To be an African in South Africa means that one is politicized from the moment of one’s birth, whether one acknowledges it or not. An African child is born in an Africans Only hospital, taken home in an Africans Only bus, lives in an Africans only area, attends Africans Only schools, if he attends school at all…His life is circumscribed by racist laws and regulations that cripple his growth, dim his potential, and stunt his life. This was reality, and one could deal with it in a myriad of ways…I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight.”

Monday, March 21st, was Human Rights Day in South Africa meaning both a day of celebration and reflection. And for me, a day off school.
Warning: History lesson ahead.
The public holiday commemorates the establishment of the South African Human Rights Commission set up to promote respect for human rights and protect the development of those rights in South Africa. Introduced in 1996, it also pays homage to the events that occurred on march 21st in 1960. Due to the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952, Africans had to carry a refrence book at all times or else serious trouble. Since, the Pan Africanist Congress(PAC) didn’t stand for such a thing, they proposed an anti-pass campaign beginning on the 21st. African men were to participate and present themselves to the police for arrest. Unfortunately, at the Sharpeville police station the growing crowd caused a scene, trampled wire fences, and police began shooting. The result was 69 dead and 180 wounded. The anti-aparteid movement always honored the day and now all South Africans remember it as a symptom of the oppressing system that they’ve overcome.

Of course, watching the march of 20,000 school children through downtown Cape Town on Monday is a reminder that the sideefects of aparteid still exist. The children marched to Parliamnet for access to better education. They protested the lack of infastrutre in township schools and the need for computers and functioning libraries.

"A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire.”

On Sunday I learned about a different education system in South Africa. Robben Island.

“Education is the great engine of personal development…It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that seperates one person from another.”

Each one, teach one was the motto of the political prisoners of the island. From exchanging information at the lime quarry to discussing it in the blacks-only toilet, a network formed to informally educate one another. The discussions during these times became the backbone to the country’s constitituion and billof rights today. Our tour guide, like all the tour guides on the island, was a former political prisoner who benefitted from this pedagogy.

“As a leader, one must sometimes take actions that are unpopular, or whose results will not be knwn for years to come. There are victories whose glory lies only in the fact that they are known to those who win them. This is particularly true of prison, where one must find consolation in being true to one’s ideals, even if no one else knows of it.”

Mandela, Sislu, Sobukwe, and our tour guide straight chillin'
Since I was FINALLY getting to visit one of Mandela’s homes, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of history resting heavy in the air on the island. Unfortunately, my tendency to make inappropriate jokes didn’t disappesr because of it. Note to self: calling the penguin colony scurring around recarnations of the ANC will not make your tour guide smile and pretending to be locked in the jail cell of Block B will only warrant glares from the Sweedish couple. In other news, Paul Waters should be proud to know the Irish made it to the waters in Cape Town, mounting a celtic cross on Robben Island.

Luckily my house all made it back on the last ferry in time to watch the sunset on the V&A Waterfront and to PASSOP’s Night for Rights.

Want to know what PASSOP is?

A Little More Mandela...

“I learned that courage is not the absscence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

 “As a leader, one must sometimes take actions that are unpopular, or whose results will not be knwn for years to come. There are victories whose glory lies only in the fact that they are known to those who win them. This is particularly true of prison, where one must find consolation in being true to one’s ideals, even if no one else knows of it.”

“The policy of aparteid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt. But the decade of oppression and brutality had another, unintended effect, and that was that it produced the Oliver Tambos, the Walter Sisulus, the Chief Luthulis, the Yusef Dadoos, the Bram Fischers, the Robert Sobukwes of our time—men of such extraoidenary courage, wisdom, and generosity that their like may never be known again. Perhaps it requires such depth of oppression to create such heights of character. My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.”

*All quotes from A Long Walk to Freedom

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home Sweet Homestay.

Cultural experience: Check.

This past weekend, I got a lot of taste of home. Or what home is like for one particular family in Oceanview, a colored township near Fish Hoek. Put together by CIEE, almost my whole program invaded the vibrant community on Friday evening to meet our parents for the following 48 hours. We were ushered into the (sole) local high school and left to find our families. Right off the bat I knew I’d love spending time with my mother Niz and her husband Raymond. In their matching green shirts and grins, they peppered me with questions and threatened to send me up on stage for the talent show that was going to be our dinner’s entertainment. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction! I also got to meet my sister, no not a Kappa, but another American named Kayla from Penn State who’d be staying with the family. Luckily, I quickly learned some important things about homestays…

Don’t judge a township by its talent show.

The program for first night included: Three 12 yr old girls shimmying and shaking to a mash-up of “Womanizer” and various other Britney hits while wearing boas, an almost fatal pyrotechnic routine, a Michael Jackson tribute done impeccably by a 9 yr old boy, opera-singing by one of our R.A.s, two guitarists with original numbers I didn’t know whether to laugh or move my feet to, the high school’s “band”, dancers inspired, and I quote, “by the one and only Foxy Brown”, and the voice of an 11 yr old angel.

After the performances, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I did, however, feel comforted by the warning Laline, a woman I met in our first visit to Oceanview during orientation, gave to Niz to keep me safe and out of trouble, and of course well fed, before we climbed into the car to go pick up the children.

A Boy by Any Other Name Would be just as Sweet.

We sped away from the high school in a hurry in order to pick up Luke, 8, and Noah, 3, from Raymond’s mother’s house. Apparently she called during the night anxious for us to arrive. I soon found out that meant anxious to force feed us sweets and coffee and stories. After a twenty-minute ride, we arrived in a neighboring township teeming with activity on the streets. We went to find the boys and found ourselves in middle of a family reunion. I was immediately pulled into the festivities and introduced around. Naturally, I loved it. What I loved more though was my first few moments with Noah. The little rascal was shy for all of about a split second before calling me auntie and dragging me by hand to the adorable kittens in the corner. The three kitties were so tiny they could fit in the palm of my hand and the pocket of my sweater (yes, I did attempt to steal one for Highstead). Anyways, Noah couldn’t have been cuter and I instantly knew we’d be fast friends.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, still say it.
Once we piled back into the car after extended goodbyes, Noah passed on Niz’s lap and I began to really get to know the family. Granted, my incessant questioning probably is why it happened. The car ride was spent discussing Luke, mainly because he enjoys talking abut himself. He currently plays the trumpet, loves his soccer team, has two best friends, will turn 9yrs old in a week, and his favorite WWE wrestler is John Cena (horrible flashback to my brothers’ trying out clotheslines and asking me to “tap out” in the basement). When we got back to their house, and I use that term loosely, I realized Luke also rocks at chess. He challenged me to a total of ten games during the weekend, six went his way, four went mine. The losses are still raw.

My favorite part of Friday occurred after the boys (Ray included) went to bed. Since Kayla faded fast, Niz and I stayed up until well past 3am talking. She told me about her life, how she’s lived in the same house since she was born. She told me of both her parents deaths when she was 17 and the lack of communication she has with her brother who is 11 yrs older despite the fact he lives one street away. She explained the issues of Oceanview, about the drug use, the paychecks being blown on alcohol, and how no one tries to uplift one another but instead they use their neighbors as stepping-stones. I almost pictured a Lifetime movie with the realities she faces and wishes to overcome, only I know her story and the loose ends that keep her fighting to make her daycare profitable won’t be ties up and the happy ending she wants would mean a whole restructuring of the community she lives in. It was definitely hard to hear her worry about Luke and Noah’s future especially with high level of crime and gang activity going on around them.

After our talk, I climbed into my bunk bed I was sharing with Luke for the weekend and couldn’t wait to wake up…

Take the Road More Traveled
There is a reason people rave about South Africa and Cape Town in particular. I had about a million reasons on Saturday. We woke up to a delicious breakfast (they take their food seriously in Oceanview) and an energetic Noah racing around the house before we set out for Simon’s Town to watch Luke’s soccer game. On the drive there, Ray told us about the forced removals of colored family’s from Simon’s Town to Oceanview under apartheid and pointed out the houses some his friends used to live in. The ocean front property was definitely a far cry away from the concrete slabs they now call home. When we reached the field, with a scenic backdrop of the Atlantic, I couldn’t help but already feel like part of the family. We set up shop on the sidelines, started cheering and delighted in the match so much we stayed for the following one. 


It was a perfect jumpstart to our fabulous day of:
Playing with penguins at Boulders Beach. Otherwise known as peng-guns by Noah.

Driving the coast to Chapel’s peak

-       Having a picnic lunch at llundudno beach. Which turned into a cricket match, which turned into me being teased mercilessly for my lack of knowledge on the sport, which turned into Noah tackling me on the sand and me secretly wishing the day could last forever.

Rebel Without a Cause
Watching the sunset at Signal Hill. A Cape Town must.

  Eating a family dinner of fish n’ chips in Fish Hoek

-    Learning some Afrikaans before pillow talk with Luke about why he hates school and subsequently trying to convince him its worth it

The early bird catches the cyclists.
Every year the Cape Argus Cyclist tour comes through Oceanview and the community celebrates it as a “National Drinking Day”. Since according to Niz, it’s just another excuse for the people to forget their problems and pretend drinking all day is okay (she obviously hasn’t visited colleges in the states), we forwent the drinking and woke up early on Sunday just to watch and cheer on the cyclists. While everyone braai’d around us, I subtly stalked Noah, knowing I had to leave him later in the day. His thrills came from the helicopters that flew overhead. Oh, and the sticks on the side of the road.

We were back at the house by 2 in time to pack up, eat lunch, have the best dessert I’ve ever eaten(a typical colored dish of shortbread, caramel, chocolate, and pudding), exchange numbers, and head out. I had a bittersweet goodbye with Noah, mainly because of the melted chocolate on his face, and got on the bus.

It’s true what they say, There’s No Place like Home

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"I'm on another FREQUENCY".

In the spirit of Lent, I’ve decided to reflect on the 7 Deadly Sins of Cape Town

You can find it at Monday night rugby games at UCT or Saturday soccer matches or the South African flag covers on every car’s sideview mirror.
The antique’s at Kalk Bay are seductive. The surfers at Muizenberg aren’t bad eye candy either.
More like my wrath but really the constant public smoking is upsetting. In bars, restaurants, public toilets, and even doctor’s office. Thank you General Surgeon for the warning but it apparently hasn’t reached Africa yet.
I’m greedy to do everything here! Things currently on my radar include: Crystal Pools, drinks at Julep, and Hermanus.
Skipping class for a lazy beach day at Clifton 4. Classic.
People actually get to live here. Luckyyy.
The divine brunch at Shelley’s on Kloof St., the burgers(veggie for me of course!) at Royale on Long, Steer’s ice cream cones after a night out in Rondesbosch, the Coffee Crush at CocoWaWa on Main, the burrito from Poncho’s in Obs, the 6 Rand grapes on campus.

Overheard at Highstead…

Friendly, elderly neighbor:
“These damn American kids come here for six months, party it up, split my ear drums, and leave the mess for us to clean up”.
Sorry for partying. And continuing the stereotype. But really, it was Mardi Gras and only half past 10 at that point.

New co-worker:
“Hi, I’m a Socialist”
While wearing a shirt that reads, Barbarianism or Capitalism?. Made me question my, Hi, I’m Megan.

“Hipster is the new modernism”

My recently acquired class-friend:
“You go to school in Los Angeles? I heard that’s real hectic. You must have given up sleeping a long time ago. I know I did.”
Explained his eye twitch.

“Okay so we have to have this house meeting and we actually have a lot on the agenda. Namely, why the heck are guys so crazy? I mean really, can we act like young adults once a week.”
The median house age is 21. The maturity level is 2. Think newly acquired BB guns and all the furniture in my room being turned upside down twice, then maybe you’ll understand my Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Some People Dream of Heaven...We Live There".

This is my attempt to break down the past two weeks of Real World: Cape Town...

There’s a First Time for Everything [The Garden Route Edition]
Renting a car. Red Mercedes from Klauss of German Auto Cars circa the love child era and crank windows. Pros: automatic, perfect size for four USC gals(Melissa, Sarah, Haley, and myself). Cons: doesn’t do hills well. Our raging craisin is still kicking it though and with an eclectic collection of cds(i.e. Cuban, scratched mix that plays 4 songs, and Goldfish) and a recently purchased ipod adapter, it’s a party.
Staying at a hostel. Backpackers in Mussel Bay is where it’s at. Made friends with a 35-year old German entrepreneur on vacay, two British chicks more into tequila than sobriety, a drop out of Colorado Boulder now working for a safari company, Carl F. & Lindsey of CIEE, and Wesley, the ever gracious owner and stereotypical beach bruh.
Bungy Jumping. Hands down best thing I probably won’t ever do again.  Funny thing is Mel, Sarah, and Haley didn’t even think they’d do it at all until fate (or me convincing Sarah to just go check out the bridge) led us to Face Adrenaline. My feeling abut the whole affair was go big or go home and Bloukrans Bridge is the world's highest bungy so I think I succeeded. Granted, I didn’t purchase the video of my jump because the terrified look on my face, the audible repetition of the phrase “I don’t want to, I don’t want to” until my toes were on the very edge,  and the distasteful pump-up music playing in the background do not need to be re-lived. I doubt I will soon forget the crazy after-shock or high-on-life feeling anyways.
Surfing in Jeffrey’s Bay. Every surfer’s dream is getting to ride the waves in this mecca and it was AMAZING. I looked utterly hopeless for the most part but that’s beside the point. A group of twenty of us took lessons from Andrew, a gnarly South African so chilled he put Cali beach boys to shame, and we had the time of our lives.
Galloping on the beach. With no liability waiver signed and a helmet optional policy, horseback riding across an epic stretch of sand dunes resembling what I would liken to the Sahara desert, I definitely saw my life flash before my eyes. Per our B&B hostess’ recommendation, the girls and I trekked a little off the main road to this clutch experience. I felt like a beach cowgirl on my white horse, appropriately named Tinkerbell, while we galloped and trotted for two hours with the wind whipping in our hair and waves crashing right next to us. Now, before I sound too much like a romance novel, keep in mind this was Melissa’s first time even on a horse, talk about fabulous firsts! I’m not even exaggerating about how incredible it was, case in point, a newlywed couple on their honeymoon were doing it for a second time they loved it so much.
Seeing a Billabong store on every block. They’re J-Bay’s Starbucks apparently.
Exploring the Garden of Eden. A casual stop in a place I’ve read about since I learned right from wrong. It felt sinful to leave this gorgeous nature reserve.
Eating an Oyster. Okay, not my first time. Haley, the southern belle, had never had one but her experience is now on video. It was also her first time getting a South African waiter’s number. Thank you Knysna and Dornell, Darnell, whatever.
Riding an ostrich. Or attempting to.  The second fastest animal behind the cheetah can hardly be tamed by jockeys.  It’s hilarious to even hop on one. Interestingly though, a 200lb man can stand on an ostrich egg without breaking it.  After going to the farm, the other ladies also feasted on the bird, apparently it’s a very lean and delicious meat, but definitely not my style. The town of Outdshoorn where most the ostrich farms are located definitely is though. It’s an idyllic area set in the mountains about an hour off the N2. With cotton-ball clouds dotting the clear blue sky and stretches of greenery interspersed with sparkling lakes, I can’t imagine a more beautiful drive. Soundtrack of the drive was equally pleasing(think "Life is a Highway").
Other Garden Route highlights: Tea time in Swellendam, watching a family of baboons frolic on the side of the road, Delfino’s on the beach, Nina’s in J-Bay, getting a ticket for crossing the yellow island and passing the white bakkay(which a college student can avoid fines for by writing to the police about insufficient funds due to studies), Dennis’ Irish Pub in Knysna- famous only for it being open on Tuesdays and its Leperchun and Salty Kiss shots, Happy, a barista who lives up to his name, in Plettenberg Bay, and the most picturesque sunset on our drive {home}

Once one adventure ends, another begins... 

My first week at University of Cape Town by the NUMB3R5.
SIX things I’ve learned about UCT:
-Dressing in work out clothes for class is unacceptable.
-There are more blondes in Cape Town than in California.
-They use condoms to clean scratched DVDs.
-In order to make it to class in time, allow 20 minutes to climb the mountain.
-Vula is South African Blackboard.
-The Jammie steps are where one eats lunch, catches up with friends, and kills time during the meridian not where one actually catches the Jammie.

FIVE things I’ve learned about the U.S. :

I’m loosely using the term "learned" in the context that through my lectures, tutorials and talks with South Africans these are commonly held beliefs here.
-We’re a model of modernity and democracy that S.A. is working towards.
-Our president is colored not black.
-We are all from the Upper East Side but if we're not, we still live out the plot of "Gossip Girl".
-Our government was most likely involved in 9/11, this isn’t  a conspiracy theory, it’s a widely accepted and written about thing.
-We use Ritalin to brainwash children.
FOUR ways to spot an American:
-Jean shorts.
-Backpack, usually North Face.
-Unsure OR overeager expression.
THREE classes I’m taking:
-Advanced South African Politics.
-Poverty, Development, and Globalization. Mind you, it’s an 8am.
-Genocide: African Experiences.
TWO clubs I’ve joined:
-Habitat for Humanity.
-Art of Living Hartha Yoga Society.
ONE Excuse for everything
When in Africa!

And just for kicks.
Things I’m KEEN on:
No shoes, no problem. Being barefoot is in. They’re not necessary so why wear them? Makes me wonder about the concept of Toms…
Savannah Dry. Why cider isn’t popular in the United States dumbfounds me. Why it’s almost unacceptable for girls to drink beer in Cape Town does too.
Old Biscuit Mill. A farmer’s market every Saturday from 9-2 that may be heaven on earth. Food to kill for and an atmosphere to write home about(or blog about, either works). I recommend the Sangria, sampling the pesto,  a nutella crepe, and whatever else you fancy because it’s all delicious.
Yo Yoga. A place to do Bikram. Done and done.
Lion’s Head Hike.  A 45-minute jaunt to an insane 360 view of the city.
Beluga. Half price sushi and cocktails on Sunday, enough said.
Cecil Rhodes Memorial. Super close to campus with a high chance of seeing wild zebra.
M’zzoli’s. THE place to be on Sunday. Our Highstead house went and had a blast. It’s essentially a meat lover’s paradise but the environment is what I enjoyed. In a township a 20-minute ride away, it’s definitely a tourist attraction but more importantly an experience.
Cape Times. The most reliable paper for current events and conveniently located at Cocoa WaWa.

Things I’m FROTHING to do:
1. Start volunteering
2. Hike Devil’s Peak
3. Memorize my South African number
4. Take more pictures
5. Finish the last fifty pages of A Long Walk to Freedom

It will officially be one month this Friday, kind of crazy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Endless Summer.

"Watch skippers try to navigate the treacherous waters surrounding the Knysna heads"-Guidebook
"That sounds cool but like I have no idea what it means"- Melissa
Guidebook:1 Melissa:0

Driving through a storybook has its perks.
Some crazy kids.
And my lack of expertise with technology permits me to flip it...
Casual day at Camps Bay.
Before signing our lives away. It's all about the Shawz though.
Too legit to quit.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm an AfriCAN, not an AfriCAN'T.

I figured I’d be as short and sweet as possible about the insanely incredible time I’ve had since my whole “living in the moment” has deterred me from updating this blog as of yet!

Winning London a.k.a. the most epic layover (thanks Lexi Medina):
Snapped tourist photos at Trafalgar Square
Rode the tube to Picadilly Circle
Waved to the Queen at Buckingham Palace
Passed by Big Ben
Enjoyed the view of London from the Eye
Sipped on my first legal drink
Got butterflies for my next stop—Cape Town

Since arriving in South Africa, it’s been a non-stop whirlwind of events and activities with each adventure topping the next. So far I’ve:
Climbed Table Mountain jet-lagged
Visited Cape of Good Hope
Walked to Cape Point
Fallen in love with UCT’s campus
Played with the South African Penguins
Explored Clifton Beach
Relaxed at Camp’s Bay(both at the beach and the notorious St. Iyves club)
Paid half a bill at a Mexican restaurant for lack of alcohol in our margaritas, four wrong dishes, and the blatant lies of their manager to the fourteen American girls there (side note we were advised not to pay for the whole thing from the waitress!)
Been to a braai
Helped plan a braai
Go Braai or Go Home
Listened to dub-step
Realized the nightlife in Cape Town is unlike anywhere at home
Pronounced almost everything wrong
Suffered from FOMO(fear of missing out)
Learned “Americans live for questions”
Worn more sunscreen than per usual—shoulders already peeled though
Introduced some South Africans to drinking games i.e. flip cup
Had an amazing dinner in Stellenbosch
Danced to Waka Waka
Moved into a house with 28 people but seriously got the sweetest single in the place
Felt confident that I made the best study abroad decision ever

As soon as I figure out how to actually upload pictures this blog might get more interesting and more frequent. Getting used to not having automatic Wi-fi is definitely an adjustment though!