Saturday, August 20, 2005

Last leg of my European tour...

Hello everyone,
I´m back in Germany now, until Wednesday when I fly back to the US!! I hope to send an email in the next week about my escapades in the UK and back here... I think I´m going out with Carina, my cousin (who´s also 23) tonight :-) I know I´m going to have a great time back here in Germany, though, because the first things I did upon returning were 1. eat yummy breakfast 2. sleep 3. eat TACOS!!!!!!!!!!! (my favorite food!) It´s been a great day so far :-D

I´m thinking of you and will see a large portion of you soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, oh my!

Stonehenge was pretty cool today, and so was Salisbury (oldest Gothic cathedral in the UK) and Bath (where there are Roman baths on a natural hot spring). I almost missed the trip, though, because I didn't get very good directions to where the pickup point was and had to pay £7 to take a taxi to the next pickup point since I was too late to the one I was supposed to be at! That's like $14! WAY too much >:O Oh, well, at least I got to go on the trip!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

In the UK now!

Hi everyone!

London! I really like London! I like it so much that I think I need to live there at some point for a couple months, at least. The city is really diverse, and every single person I talked to - met on the street, asked questions in underground stations or at Camden Market, other random people - was very nice and helpful. There's just too much stuff to see and do there to only have spent a couple days; however, it's just too darn expensive to spend more than a couple days there on my current budget. I did make the best of my time, though, because many things are free and the day ticket to the underground was economical for how much I used it each day!

I first arrived in the middle of the night, around 3:00 am, so I just checked in and went straight to bed, careful to be quiet so as not to disturb the other 7 people staying in my room. This ended up being somewhat in vain, though, because a few short hours later, two girls got up around 6:30 and decided to do their packing when everyone was trying to sleep... the crunching of bags and loud talking signified that they did not care (maybe they didn't notice?) about the other sleeping souls in the room... and I even had a dream about telling them off after they had woken me up! Needless to say, I was very tired when I woke up the next morning, but that was a moot point because of my shower. Now, I understand that not everyone in the world even gets a shower, let alone a warm shower, but I am spoiled and have gotten quite used to hot showers (not warm, HOT). So, this shower (maybe 5 deg Celcius?) was enough to give me some kind of shock and wake me right up! It worked and kept me up the rest of the day.

I went to Kensington Palace and the park and took a long walk around London today. It was really nice, despite the drizzle!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Funny Story from Rome

Hello everyone!
after a relaxing week in Florence, I'm flying to London tonight. I really liked the campground I stayed in this week, even though it rained all last night and yesterday. It was actually good, because it cooled the temperature down a little! Since I had been wanting to spend a week on the beaches in Greece, doing very little other than reading, I wasn't super excited about being in Florence, which is surrounded by mountains and had no beaches :-( I ended up walking around the city a little each day (except the first day, when I was catching up on sleep that I missed out on because of the overnight train!). I was feeling pretty introverted this week, and was not really in the mood to fight tourists, so I tried to avoid the touristy areas as much as possible... which means that I didn't do much touristy stuff. I did a lot of people watching and talking to people at the campground, though, and read a lot. I'm excited to be heading to London tonight and know I'll have a good time there. I think the weather is much better for me, even though it could rain every day, because it won't be so hot. Look for an email this weekend talking about what I experienced in London!

I will leave you with a funny story, though. As I was looking through my journal a couple nights ago, I realized that I didn't tell you the story of my friend Gregore Gabriel (or was it Gabriel Gregore?). When I was in Rome with Ellen and Frederick, we had one very funny night. First, we went to a small, less touristy part of town called Trastevere (I think that's how you spell it) to eat dinner. We found a very cute restaurant in a little alley and ordered some delicious red wine of the house and pizza (we were trying to be really 'Italian', I suppose...). The food was really good and filling, and we decided to walk around a little bit to work off the food, then find a pub and have one last beer before catching the last bus back to the city center and the place where we were staying. Well, things do not always cooperate with your plan (especially on this trip!)... While walking along the main road in Trastevere on the way to the bus stop, Frederick was stopped by a guy who looked our age and was standing next to a car that had its hood (bonnet) up. Ellen and I had been lagging behind, talking about something, and when we caught up, we realized that this guy knew no English and Frederick knew no Italian, but they were talking to each other just fine. By the smell of things, the car had simply overheated, so Ellen and I tried talking to this guy in broken Italian (Ellen had learned Italian for a year in high school) and Spanish. He told us his name was Gregore or Gabriel (I really am not sure which was his first name, or if he had two first names or what) and that that day 'yo e amore mio kaputt'. Ellen and I figured that he had broken up with his girlfriend that day, which was just fantastic, because here he was with a broken down car. Ellen and I tried a few times to stop people on the street and ask them if they spoke English and Italian so they could translate what we were trying to say to Gregore. Nobody ended up being helpful, so we eventually just went into the restaurant that was right next to where the car was parked (that was seemingly full of ROMANS that Gregore could have asked for help, who spoke ITALIAN... guess it wasn't that obvious to him though!) and asked for some water to put in the car. We filled the tank for water (which was fun to find, because it was written in German on the cap, and the only book of car instructions in the car was about the air conditioning, which was in Italian and German) with the water from the restaurant, but unfortunately heard it all dripping out pretty quickly under the car. Well, Gregore wanted to see it closer, so he whips out his lighter and gets on his hands and knees to look under the car with an OPEN FLAME. Ellen and I ran for cover while Frederick kept telling him, 'no fire! no fire near car!'. It was freaking hilarious (in retrospect, because at the time, we really thought he was going to somehow blow up his car)! Finally we convinced Gregore to park his car on the side of the road near where we were and just come back and get it the next day.

You may think this story is over, but no, ladies and gentlemen - it is just beginning....

So Gregore wants to thank us for helping him (did we even really help him that much? I guess!) so we walk along the road and we all sit down for a beer. It was actually pretty cool to be carrying on a conversation with Gregore in broken Italian, Spanish and English, with the random German word. As it turns out, Gregore's girlfriend is German, and had come to Rome for a couple days to visit before they were to fly to France for a month the following day. Sadly, Gregore broke up with her (at least that's what we think happened, he kept saying 'culpe mio', which is similar to Spanish) and she wouldn't answer the phone when he called her like every 10 minutes. After the first beer, Ellen and Frederick decide to buy another round, so we sit there for a little while longer and talk some more. Gregore decides we should see the beach, which isn't that far from where we were (apparently...). I was like 'how do we get there? there's no more busses' to which Gregore said that he'll drive his broken down car after two large beers. Riiiiight... Ellen and Frederick were like 'it's an adventure!' whereas I was like 'broken car + 2 large beers = I don't see us coming out of this alive!' So, we get in the car, which had cooled off by then, and drive in the direction away from the city center, where we were staying. After about 5 minutes, the car overheats again and we have to pull over. We're in the middle of this residential district, far away from central Rome, with a broken down car. Gregore is surprisingly still in a good mood, despite this possibly being the worst day of his life, and decides to open the trunk (boot) of the car and get out the beach umbrella and towels for him and Frederick to bask under the artificial lights in the parking lot. Ellen took some pictures, then Gregore decided he wanted to get some more beer. Well, by this point, it was like 3:00 am, I was tired and not in the mood for more beer, but what else could we do? We walked along the road and found a shop open (which I think must have been a miracle of this bizarre night, because things just aren't open that late in Italy!) and bought some beers. We walked a little along the road until we found a park and stopped there to drink the beers. Yum... When nobody was looking, I 'accidentally' knocked over my beer and kept 'clumsily' not being able to pick it up until all the beer was gone... It was all very cute and romantic for the four of us to be sitting on this park bench, facing the fountain. Ellen and Frederick were talking and somewhat cuddling, and I was on the other end of the bench, with Gregore. It was funny to try to talk, but I kept asking questions about what happened with his girlfriend and talking as much as I possibly could about Gonzalo, just in case Gregore needed to be reminded every two minutes that I have a boyfriend. At one point, Gregore told me I should be going to France with him the next day, and that he'd pay for everything. I refused a few times, but we were interrupted by Ellen deciding that she needed a bath or was hot (or something) because she got up and started walking around in the fountain. Frederick got up and started doing it too, and everyone was done with their beer, so we decided to leave the park and get our butts back to the city center. We found a taxi sitting by the side of the road and went back to the main train station to say goodbye to Gregore and walk to the place we were staying that night. We later compared stories and realized that Gregore was supposed to meet his girlfriend at the train station at 5:00 am, which we think is why he didn't want to go home to sleep or anything, just go to the beach and party all night.

So, I guess I should wrap it up about the Gregore story now. It was hilarious while it was happening, and still ridiculous when I think about it in retrospect. It was just one of those random things that you can't explain and never can expect... I hope that doesn't happen too many more times on this trip! Between the Gregore and the missing the ferry to Greece events, I don't think I need any more drama on this trip!

Here's hoping I make it to my youth hostel (backpackers) in London ok tonight and have a relatively uneventful trip to the UK!

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Drama in Italy

Hello everyone,
So. It was bound to happen... something went wrong in my trip :-( I'm lucky in a number of ways, though, so I'm in a good mood and thankful that I have food to eat and books to read!

Yesterday, I left from Rome to take a train to the other coast of Italy, to the city of Bari, where I would catch a ferry to Greece. My train unfortunately hit a person when we were about 10 minutes from Bari, and we had to wait 2 hours before a judge came to allow the train to move again. Finally we moved and arrived in Bari, though it was 8:40 and the ferry left at 8:00. While on the train, I started talking to the three girls sitting next to me. They were on vacation from Portugal and were trying to catch the same ferry as I. We stuck together when we arrived in the Bari train station and eventually shared a cab to the port since the bus to the port would have taken 20 minutes longer. I unfortunately had no cash at that time, because the train I was on was nicer than the ones covered by my Eurail pass, so I had to pay the only 20 Euro I had for the stupid supplement instead of the supplement for my ferry ride. Lucia, Susanna, and Maria Joao paid and told me not to worry about paying them back (see? people are good!). We got to the ferry port and learned that the ferry had just left, after waiting until 8:30, because the train had called ahead to have the ferry wait. Which means we were just a few minutes too late! It didn't matter anyway, though, because the ferry was full, as is tonight's ferry, and we found out that we can't get reservations anyway. So. They went back to sleep in the train station, and I was standing there outside the ferry ticket office, when I heard these two girls talking in US-ian English (their names are Alyssa and Melissa - yes, seriously). I asked them where they were going, and they said a hotel and asked if I wanted to share a cab and the room to make it cheaper for us all (they had been on the killer train, too). We asked the taxi driver, in broken Italian, English and Spanish, to take us to a cheap hotel, which he did and didn't overcharge us for the trip, either! The hotel was very nice for being so cheap, and we immediately dropped our bags and raced for some food. We were luck and found the best restaurant I've seen here (their house bread was AWESOME!), and they kept giving us free water and bread, which we eventually took home with us (I actually have some of the bread right next to me right now, to go with my peanut butter and water - it's a good lunch!). I slept well and today came to the internet cafe to check finances and to see what my Greece/Italy options were. After that, I had to check out of the hotel at 10:00, and when I was checking out, met this Austrailian couple (Michelle and Franz) who were trying to go to Greece from Croatia, but had to come to Bari first. We traipsed around Bari all morning, and finally they figured out a way to get to Greece and now I'm alone in an internet cafe again, figuring out my next week, and letting you all know I'm ok and going to be well-fed.

My new plans are to use my Eurail pass to travel around Italy, based in Florence. I'll be at the Plus Camping Michelangelo hostel (yes, tents, but they're like cabin-tents, not just pitch-a-tent-on-the-ground tents). Their phone number is 39(0)556811977 and email is if you need to contact them to contact me. My cell phone is still working (Shoshana just called me while I was writing this!), so you can call that if need be. So. Tonight it's off to Florence (Kathryn - we only missed each other by a couple days!) and maybe a day trip to Pisa or something. Maybe I'll learn more Italian by the time I leave - yea!

I fly to London from Rome on Friday the 12, to arrive in London around midnight. I'll email sometime in the next week and definetly after I arrive in London. Please don't worry about me - my lack of shyness should help me in not being alone in dangerous situations, and I can hang out with tourists that speak English, German, and Spanish, so my options are very wide!

I miss you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Ciao Roma!

Hello everyone!
I've only been in Rome for a day and a half, but have been lucky to have seen a lot already. I like how this city is actually smaller than meets the eye, so you can walk everywhere! I'm here with my friend Ellen and her boyfriend, which has been really nice so far. I think it's good to ease into this trip with some friends before I traipse off to Greece. Yesterday, before they arrived, I had already met three people who had given me tips on tours to take in Rome and offered to help me get around Athens... you know I'm not shy, so guess who initiated the conversations? ;-) That's why you love me!

The unfortunate thing here is that I don't know Italian. I really dislike not knowing the language of the people I'm trying to communicate with, even if they know English, so this has been frustrating for me. Fortunately, Spanish and Italian are close enough that I can speak Spanish with an Italian pronunciation and get by. I've also picked up some phrases and such, and have found a knack for picking the English-speakers out of a crowd...

Today was taken up by a sight-seeing bus ride all over the city, where we could jump off and on as much as we like, and yesterday we walked to the Coliseum. Tonight we're eating at an Ethiopian restaurant near where we're staying (we heard it has good vegetarian and is very cheap!) and tomorrow we'll be visiting Vatican City all day. Thursday, we might visit museums all day; there's a Botero exhibit and an exhibit about the Forbidden City in China that both interest Ellen, Frederick and me, so Thursday might be the most comfortable day as we'll be inside out of this immense heat all day :-) I'll email again sometime from Greece (I hope) to let you know I'm ok and loving the Greek food... because I know I will be!!

I miss you!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

In Germany now!

Guten Tag!
Well, I finally left South Africa and now am in Europe. Right now, I’m visiting Bettina, a relative of mine from the town my family came from near Frankfurt (and the keyboard is different, so I apologize in advance if I misspell things, especially things with z and y, because they’re switched from what I’m used to!). Tomorrow, I’ll be flying to Rome to meet my friend Ellen (for those of you who remember her from LHS!) for a few days. I’ll then be going to Athens, an as-yet-undetermined island near Athens, London, and Edinburgh until 20 August, when I return to Bettina and the land of beer, bratwurst, and the Rheingans family :-)

I fly back to the US on 24 August, leaving Frankfurt around 1700 and arriving in Detroit around 2300 that same day (flying through Washington DC, Dulles). Those of you who need more details than that will be getting a separate email later (dad, Gonzalo, Shoshana). Other than that, I hope to email a couple more times before I return to the US, though they might not be the monsters I’ve been sending from SA! I’m very excited about the next three weeks, and am looking forward to a different kind of independence.

I miss you and wish I could be visiting all of you in your various corners of the world!


PS: If anyone has extra cash laying around and wants to deposit it into my bank account, please email me for the details and I will gladly give them? eating on this trip will be a nice treat!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hi from SA: the end :-(


This will be my last email from South Africa, as I will be leaving Thursday for Europe. It’s sad to leave, but I’m sure I’ll be back some day, perhaps to live for an extended period of time. The working experience has been great, and we’ve been fortunate to have really learned a lot about the culture and consciousness of people here. We have also seen other parts of the country, and met people from many walks of South African life. I know we’ve made an impression on many of the people we’ve met, and I can’t begin to fathom the impression they’ve mad upon me!

It’s been a while since I wrote ? I think I sent the last email the day before Gonzalo arrived, right before we left to the airport to go get him. A lot has happened since then! We went to a poetry fundraiser, ate at lots of restaurants, watched some movies, visited the Drakensberg Mountains and Lesotho, went to some markets in town, and had a great time. Adrienne’s birthday was also last week, and we’ve had all of the presentations of our data.

Luckily for Adrienne and me, it didn’t take us long to analyze our data and make the presentations we need to give while here. Adrienne’s research topic is how the family experience affects one’s violent behavior, and mine is how one’s school ties affect violent behavior. My hypothesis ended up being proven, which makes me happy! We made a presentation on the 18th to the Chief Education Specialist, and she gave us feedback regarding what to say when we give our presentations to each of the schools’ principals. Those presentations went well, also. We gave some recommendations to each school, and at first, I thought they wouldn’t take my recommendations seriously. The reasons behind this are that we’ve made it clear that our program didn’t send us here to do major, groundbreaking research, and that I’m not from the communities in which I was doing the research. As it turns out, my recommendations of using the schools as community centers and having some training sessions for the teachers to be better counselors (the schools don’t have a staff member whose job is to counsel the learners) were well-received and the principals and their staff asked me for suggestions on how to do these things. I really thought they would already have heard these suggestions, but they were so interested in what I was saying and asking questions that I think they might not have publicly considered it. The second principal even asked for resources in the area that he could approach to help start some after-hours programs and other things he could use the school for. I made a joke to our mentor, who was with us during the presentations, about how she should employ me to help the schools initiate these programs. If I can get funding, I might be able to come back and work for CRISP (where we currently work)!! I’d like to work in the fields of HIV/AIDS education and outreach, though, which they also do through CRISP.

Gonzalo, my boyfriend, was here for two weeks, from 5 July - 18 July. He brought us so much food!! We were soooo happy that he brought us some tortilla chips, salsa, taco shells, good black olives, and flan. We had a taco dinner the first night he was here, which really made me happy :-) We still have some of the food he brought, so we’ve been having yummy meals for a while now! Gonzalo went to work with us a few times (boring for him), and just basically did the things we do every day here. We did go to the Drakensberg Mountains for the first weekend, and we went to a few activities, and I think he had a good time. Wednesday the 6th, we all went to GDTV again, because some guys had asked Adrienne if she wanted to be interviewed for a show called African Renaissance, which is about the current state of things in Africa and with the people of the Diaspora. It was interesting to watch, but as it was a GDTV show, it needed a little work in the organization area? the show was scheduled for 7:30 or something, but there was already a show going on when we were supposed to start (which was about abstinence and HIV/AIDS), and the station didn’t even have the African Renaissance show on the schedule! We waited around for a while, the show started, and it was ok. This show also has the opportunity for people to send SMS’s or call in, but I think maybe nobody was watching, because nobody did either of those. I felt so bad that I sent in two SMS’s from the audience so they had something to talk about! It was an interesting night, to say the least :-)

Thursday the 7th found us three going to the Gateway Centre, a huge monstrosity of a mall in Umhlanga, a very ritzy city bordering Durban. Our friend Menzi was performing in a poetry-fundraiser thingy for HOPE Clinic, a clinic in downtown Durban that does HIV testing, counseling, and education. We took a koombi to get there, which was an adventure, because it left from a different part of town than we’re used to going to, and Gonzalo isn’t used to koombis, so it was funny to see his expression sometimes. Eventually we got to the mall and found the place where this poetry performance was to take place. It was a nice show, but there was little attendance. At first, I was sad, since I knew some of the other poets (they were all from the BAT Centre’s Wednesday night poetry circle, the Nowadays Poets), but then I realized that having this fundraiser so far away from town really hindered the fundraising capabilities. I mean, the Clinic is in the city center, just like the BAT Centre, so it really would make more sense to just have it at the BAT Centre, so more people would come. Later, I was told that they thought that if they held the fundraiser in such a ritzy place, they would get more donations. I hope it worked out for them the rest of the weekend, because the fundraiser happened a couple nights in a row. After the performance, Menzi invited the three of us to eat with them and share a taxi home, so we hung out with the poets for a while and went home. It was fun, and Gonzalo had a good time, too :-)

Friday night we went to a restaurant called Past Brown’s to eat, and it was so delicious!! Adrienne and I had been telling Gonzalo about some of the issues we’d been having going out to dinner and such, and we were hoping that Pasta Brown’s would be nice and what we expect. It turns out that we had an excellent dinner, excellent service, and went back the following Tuesday for half-off pasta night!

The weekend of the 9th-11th was our Drakensberg weekend. The word Drakensberg is an Afrikaans word meaning “Dragon Mountains”, and the Zulu word is Qathlamba, meaning “Battlement of Spears”. It was so nice to get away for a little while and to see other parts of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the province we live in. We went with Tekwini Ecotours, the same company that we went on our city tour with in the beginning of May. Pieter was our tour guide again, so it was nice to see a familiar face. There ended up being 9 of us total, including Pieter. Adrienne, Gonzalo, me, and a girl named Erin were all from the US, Barbara was from Canada, and Evalyn, Susanne, and Marjolein were from Holland. Evalyn, Susanne, Marjolein, and Barbara were all volunteering in an orphanage near Durban, and Erin was working in Cape Town for a law internship for a couple months, and was just on vacation to Durban. It was fun for all of us to compare traveling stories and our impressions of South Africa. Susanne had also been to Perú before, so Gonzalo and I talked to her about what we had all done in Perú. On the drive out there, we stopped at a waterfall, which is in a river that eventually runs into the Umgeni River, the river that goes through northern Durban. It was a little dry, but the views were nice, and there was a rainbow in the mist by the pool at the bottom.

Pieter picked everyone up on Saturday morning, and we drove to Underberg, a small town near the Drakensberg mountains in KZN. We stayed at a camping place/backpackers (Khotso Horse Trails) that offered horse riding. We went horse riding our first night, and Pieter cooked dinner for us. It was so nice to be on a horse again! I hadn’t been riding in a very long time - and thank you to Aunt Yvonne and the lessons I had earlier that I still knew how to ride! I was glad, because my knee injury hindered me a little, even with the brace (since my leg was so weak), and already knowing how to ride was beneficial. The views from the ride were fantastic, even though it’s winter here and all the grass was yellowing. We could see the full Drakensberg from a distance, and some of the surround land and farming areas. It was beautiful, and the sun started setting on our way back, which increased the beauty. That night Pieter cooked a delicious pasta baked thingy, and we all sat around in our rondavel (a round house that we were staying in) talking about traveling, soccer, rugby, and what we all do (students, work at a communication company, etc). I couldn’t help but to go outside and look at the stars for as long as I could stand (it was very cold!! I could see my breath!). No words I can write will do justice to how incredible the stars looked. We were far away from any towns, thus affording us a great view. The Milky Way was very clear, and seemed so close I could touch it. I looked for the constellations that I saw at the planetarium show, and I could see the Southern Cross, Scorpio, Libra (my sign!!) and even Orion, on the horizon (which I wasn’t expecting, since I figured I wouldn’t recognize any constellations I’m used to seeing from the northern hemisphere). Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury were also visible, and it was really cool (literally, ha!) to see them so clearly.

Sunday morning, the 10th, was an early one, because we were going hiking all day in the Pholela Valley. Hiking was a particularly difficult thing for me, which made me frustrated, because I’m used to being in shape and able to do lots of physical activity. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and my leg was very, very weak. I was shaking at the end of the hike. Overall, though, the hike was amazing because of the views and the bushmen paintings. When we were in Cape Town, I made sure to thoroughly read the exhibits on the rock paintings in the Iziko South African Museum, so I could have a little background when we saw the paintings in real life. The scientist inside came out a little during this time, because I kept thinking of the materials they used for the paintings (animal fat and blood, charcoal, red and yellow ochre) and how the proteins and such in these materials had to be really strong to have lasted thousands of years. There were many paintings of the bushmen, also known as the San, Khoikhoi, and Khoisan (later known as the Khoisan, after the two groups of people merged). The Khoisan painted themselves in brown, and the Zulus in black. Interestingly, they also painted the white people that roamed around the mountains and that farmed in black, though on horses and with big cowboy hats. The paintings were mainly of things that were important in the lives of the Khoisan, so they were of animals they ate, battles they fought, and ceremonies they performed. One painting was of men doing a rain dance, and going into a trance to communicate with the other world, to ask for rain. These paintings were really amazing, and my imagination was running free when I was looking at them. Due to these paintings, the park/reserve in which we were, the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since November 2000). KZN actually has two World Heritage Sites, the other being the St. Lucia Wetlands Park (which we unfortunately haven’t visited). Our hike lasted for more than 5 hours, and we ate lunch at the top of some of the smaller mountains there, where the paintings were. Pieter, our tour guide, had recently broken some ribs in a motorcycle accident, so Gonzalo stayed back waiting for us two walking woundeds. It was worth it, though, to see the paintings. The way back was shorter, but difficult because my leg was so weak and we were going downhill. We stopped by a small river on the way up and again on the way back down, and it was perfectly refreshing both times. The water was so clear you could see individual grains of sand, and the water was clean enough we just filled our water bottles from the river? and nobody had a filter, and nobody got sick! We also saw some baboons on the hill at the beginning of our hike, and Pieter told us that one baboon is as strong as eight men! We decided to stay away from them, and just watch from a distance. The landscape was pretty, too, even though it was winter. I’ve made a pact with myself to go to the park and go hiking again when it’s a different season? maybe once in each season! You can go camping in the park, too, and sleep in caves if you want. I’m definitely going back some day!

Monday was our last day of the weekend trip, and it was the day we drove up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho (pronounced Les-oo-too). We went with Sani Pass Tours, which organizes people into 4X4’s to drive up the pass. It’s actually illegal to drive a non-4-wheel drive car up the pass without government permission. Gonzalo and I were in one 4X4 with a couple from Ireland, and the rest of our tour was all in another 4X4. The drive up reminded me a lot of driving up to Machu Picchu, though with slightly different vegetation. There were countless switchbacks and every turn afforded a different view of the valley. We stopped a few times to learn about various things about the pass, for example, how it used to be used before motor vehicles used it. This is the only path you can take from KZN into Lesotho, so it was a major trading route. We also learned about some of the vegetation, including that there are a number of different types of proteas, which are the national flower of South Africa. We also learned about the age and making of the mountains themselves. Interestingly, much of the mountains are igneous rock (volcanic), and you can still see in some places the layers where the magma bubbled out of the earth and built up. There was also a lot of sandstone as well. These mountains are some of the oldest in the world. We had to bring our passports to enter Lesotho, so we had to make sure we stopped at each border point twice. There is a SA-based border point and a Lesotho-based point, and they are separated by 8 km of what they call ‘no-man’s land’. This ‘no-man’s land’ was the steepest part of the drive, with the most amazing views. We were at such a high altitude that some of the springs on the way up were frozen! When we arrived at the top, there was a small Basotho village (the people of Lesotho are called Basotho, and speak Sesotho), and we went into one house and learned a little about how life is in the village. Our tour guide told us that the people in this town make about 1000 Rand a year, which translates into about $150/year. We also got to try some traditional sorghum beer, which I liked - it tasted really yeasty. We left the house and went to the highest pub in Africa (yes, really) for lunch. I had a curry, and Gonzalo had some soup. I also tried Maluti, the only commercial beer of Lesotho. The lunch was awesome!! I tried to buy some Maluti to take back with me, but it didn’t work out unfortunately. After lunch, we drove back down to South Africa and then drove back to Durban. When we were nearing the city, I got that sense of coming home again, like I did after I came back from Cape Town. It was a nice feeling!

The following day, Tuesday the 12th, started regularly, with Adrienne, Gonzalo and I going to work then volunteering. Gonzalo really had a great time going with us! I finally did my presentation about thinking in a win-win mindset when trying to solve conflicts or work in groups. It was difficult, because I think that I was using phrases that are common to things I’ve done recently at the University, or that seem really business-oriented. Adrienne kept interrupting me, also, when I was trying to explain things, which confused the youth even more. It was already difficult to understand my differently-accented English, let alone having two people talking to you. I think that the youth understood the concept in the end, after we had given examples that they could relate to. We also played a game, and I think that really demonstrated the concept of thinking win-win. During this presentation, Gonzalo was in the back of the room, playing with younger kids, kids that were too young to be part of the group we normally work with. He was taking pictures with his digital camera and showing them, which they loved! It was so cute to see them huddle around to see the pictures after we had taken them. They were also trying to teach him dance moves, which he did ok, but it was funny to watch. When we left to go back to the YMCA, our friend Menzi called Adrienne and I and invited us to go to what sounded like a reception for something he did. He called around 5:45, and this thing started at 6:00, so it was very last-minute. He told us to go to this house near the University of KZN, where the YMCA was, and he’d meet us there. Well, we arrived, and we didn’t have any idea what was going on or what to expect. All we had heard on the phone was something about this group called Pioneers of Change and that Menzi said he was mayor for a day. We had no idea what was going on, but we chit-chatted with the host (Muna) and hostess (Vanessa) and some other guests until Menzi arrived with three other people (two of whom we already knew from BAT Centre poetry). It turns out that this was a “meeting” (which Menzi called a ‘gathering’) of the group Pioneers of Change, which is an organization targeted to people who used to have idealistic notions but have gotten stuck in the rut of working and have abandoned their previous ideas. It was very interesting, to say the least, but one of those things that randomly happens to Adrienne and me here. If you want to learn more, go to After the ‘gathering’, we went back to Pasta Brown’s for some half-price pasta, which was AWESOME!!

Gonzalo was very sick on Thursday the 14th, so we had to leave work early and we went back to the apartment, where he slept all afternoon and I made him some soup. It was my first time making homemade soup from scratch, and it turned out really good and made Gonzalo feel a lot better. On Friday, we went back to Gateway Centre to watch a movie (Guess Who, with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher) and eat. We ate at Cape Town Fish Market, which was really delicious, and then watched the movie. It was a fun day! That weekend, we went shopping a lot, to the Victoria Street Market and the flea market in town, then Gonzalo left on Monday morning. It was sad to see him go, but it was great that he got to come here! We had a presentation on Monday, where we got a lot of good feedback, which helped us prepare for our presentations on Thursday to each principal.

Last week was very busy, because we had three presentations, visited a game reserve, had Adrienne’s birthday party, volunteered, drove to a rural area of KZN (Empangeni), one of Adrienne’s friends from UM came to Durban from Cape Town for the weekend, and our friend Bongi stayed with us for the weekend, too. Tuesday was the busiest day by far, though. We had to be up early to go with Bashi and Janine (our mentors from CRISP) to a game reserve (Tala) about a 45-minute drive from Durban. Then, we rushed back to go to volunteering, then rushed off home to prepare for Adrienne’s 21st birthday party. It was a really fun day, just really, really long and tiring. The game reserve was really cool, because we got to see some animals we hadn’t seen yet, and in person. My favorites were the giraffes and zebras, but some of the boks we saw were really pretty. There weren’t elephants or any big cats, but I’ll go see those next time I come here (to SA). We had lunch at a lodge there, which was quite a funny experience. Bashi and I ordered some lamb chops, which turned out to just be bones with fat on them. Janine didn’t like her venison stew, but Adrienne really liked her prawns, so that was good, considering it was her birthday!! We went directly to the YMCA after that, and it was probably the last time we’ll see the youth, which was sad. Dina, the woman who lives in the YMCA student center and organizes the youth to come to the center, had gotten a cake in honor of Adrienne’s birthday and our going-away present. It was very nice of her! We enjoyed it a lot. After volunteering, Ntsiki (one guy we volunteer with), his friend Bongani, and us all got a ride with Dina to go home and start making dinner for Adrienne’s birthday party. Since it was Adrienne’s birthday, I tried getting her to not do too much work, though she definitely helped a lot with the cooking and such! We made beef nachos, rice, beans, and salsita, and guacamole, all from scratch. We got so many compliments on the cooking!! We really wanted to share some of the cultural things we do at home, so that’s why we made those foods, even though they’re more generally American, not necessarily from just the US or anything. We also shared the cultural practice of celebrating someone’s legal drinking age at age 21, though we definitely did not go overboard (or even half-board? get it!? Haha, I’m not funny). It was fun to see all our friends one last time before we had to start focusing on all our presentations and packing.

Wednesday was a fun day, too. Adrienne and I went with Bashi and Thembi (a new person at CRISP) to Empangeni, a small, rural, farming town about 1.5 hours north of Durban. The landscape was different, which was nice, and the fields seemed so green compared to what we had been seeing. Thembi is moving to Empangeni this week to do work for CRISP as a facilitator in a cluster of five schools in the area. She’ll be facilitating around crime reduction in schools, and we were going there to meet the principals and teachers of the schools she’ll be working in. Bashi had invited Adrienne and I only the day before, because she knew we like meeting new people and seeing new things. It was really interesting to see the differences in the schools in the rural area from the schools we’re used to in the Durban area (KwaMashu). Most of the schools looked nicer than the ones in town, and the learners had a lot farther to walk most of the time. We also visited a sixth school on the way back, because CRISP is always trying to get new schools involved in what they do, and the principal of this other school has ties to East Lansing High School and Michigan State University in Michigan! We got his information and will stay in touch with him. It was really great to see more of KZN and South Africa.

I already mentioned the presentations we did at each school we did research in that we did last Thursday. The presentations went really well! We went to work on Friday for a little while, and Allayna, Adrienne’s friend from UM arrived that afternoon. They met our friend Keith to go to dinner, while I went to a rugby game of Colin and Aubrey’s. They had invited a friend, Precious, with them, and I hung out with her the whole night. It was fun! After the game, all of us went to a club called Tiger Tiger, which was quite funny. They played all songs I couldn’t dance to, and that came out when I was in middle schools. It was almost like a karaoke bar for me, since the songs were so old and I knew all the words? it was funny!

Last weekend we had two guests, Allayna and Bongi. Bongi volunteers with us on Tuesdays at the YMCA, and couldn’t come to Adrienne’s birthday party on Tuesday because she had to study for an exam she had on Friday. She came to spend the weekend with us so we can see her before we leave. The four of us went to lunch on Saturday, then to Gateway Centre to go go karting and shopping. We ended up getting home really late and cooking dinner really late, but it was good to relax after dinner. Sunday was a fun day, too, with our two guests making the day fun. We went to the BAT Centre to watch the championship game of the premier soccer league here in South Africa. They had a large-screen TV there for us to watch it on, and provided free food from Nando’s, a chicken place in town. It was awesome!! The game was actually in Durban, so town was really busy all weekend, and we could hear people in the stadium from our apartment. After the game, we just sat around and chilled around the apartment for the rest of the night. Yesterday, we had our last big presentation. It ended up being really nice, and we did very well. CRISP, the organization we work for, set up a meeting with all the principals and some people from the Department of Education about crime in schools. CRISP does a lot of projects in the area, so they updated the principals and the DOE about their projects and we made our presentation. It was really interesting to hear what the principals had to say, and to see what other projects CRISP has been doing lately. I really think I want to come back to South Africa and perhaps work for CRISP doing some HIV/AIDS education in the schools they work in. All I have to do is find some funding to hire myself! We’ll see how that goes?

As you’ve seen, I’ve mentioned that we’ve gone to Gateway Centre a few times. It’s a really nice mall, but I think it’s ridiculous! It’s a monstrosity, if you ask me? there is so much unnecessary junk in there that it actually makes me angry. And for us, we take a koombi taxi there, from a part of the city center that is very busy and has koombis all over. It seems like a poorer part of town, and half an hour later, we’re in the most overdone place I’ve seen in my entire trip! There’s just so much wasted space and unnecessary stuff there, like palm trees, overdone flooring, huge pillars with unnecessary patterns, not to mention the go karting track, a rock climbing wall, wave pool, trampoline area, movie theater, multiple food courts, and science center for kids. It’s like its own little city! When I look around, I see so many things that frustrate me. An example is some of the flooring is overdone, with intricate patterns and such, and I keep thinking that the money wasted on that could have been given to a few families of the youth we volunteer with in Cato Manor/at the YMCA to build brick houses. Many of the youth we work with have houses made of plywood, or any other wood they can find, corrugated steel roofs, no windows, no running water, no electricity? and it makes me mad that I can go from there to the Gateway monstrosity in a few minutes.

Recently, Adrienne and I went to the University of KZN to ask about how we could teach ourselves Zulu better. They suggested that we buy some of the books in the series that they university students use. We were lucky to talk to such a helpful person (whose name is Keri, and she’s left-handed!! Can you believe it?? She’s writing her master’s on Zulu language), and she gave us her contact info and said she’d even send us homework assignments! How cool is that?? And she offered to email sound bytes, also, so we can get used to hearing it and stuff. All for FREE! We went to the book store and bought some of the books and cassette tapes, so now I have something to do when I’m on crutches for a month after surgery the first week of September. Yea! I also saw a section in the bookstore about AIDS in South Africa, and I bought three books from there, too. One is about how to cross-culturally communicate regarding various medical encounters, which I think will be useful to me in the future, especially since it was focused on interactions between Westernized people of European descent and people of African descent, particularly Zulus. The second book is like a manual on how to do “better living” work (outreach, education, counseling) to persons with HIV/AIDS, and the research used and practices mentioned were based on work done in Cato Manor, Durban - the exact place where I volunteer every week! The last book is a text book-style book called “HIV/AIDS in South Africa”. There’s information on everything regarding HIV/AIDS here, the political history, updated figures, the scientific and cultural aspects, and more. This book will really help me learn what I need to know to come back here and do what I want to do. After this trip, I really feel like I want to come back to South Africa for a longer period of time (over a year) and do outreach and education around HIV/AIDS. My goals would be to also focus on root problems, too, such as poverty and education. I have to think more about this, but I feel really at home in the Durban area, and would like to move back here after learning more Zulu, saving some money, and gaining more experience in the HIV/AIDS field.

Well, I must end this monster of an email at some point, so this is it. I apologize for the length, but I had a lot to say (probably more, once I think about it!) and won’t get to email much while I’m in Europe. I’ll be sending out details of my trip soon, so keep an eye out. I miss you! I’ll be seeing some of you soon, others not so soon, but I still think about you nonetheless!

Until next time,

PS: Es tut mir leid, dass ich diese ganze emails auf englisch geschrieben habe, aber ich weiss dass ihr konnt englisch verstehen :-) Wenn ihr Fragen haettet, sagt mir einfach, und ich schreibe Euch. Ich weiss noch nicht genau, was ich in Deutschland mache, aber ich habe wenige Tage dort. Ich werde bei Bettina bleiben, und vielleicht nach Berlin gehen. Ruf mich an, wenn ich Euch meine neue Nummer gebe! Bis bald!

PPS: Lo siento que escribí todas las emails en inglés, pero sé que todos entienden el inglés. Si tienen usteds preguntas, diganme y trataré de escribirte. ¡Se puede ver que no escribo buen español entonces ? pero trataré! ¡Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

I'm so lucky!!

Life is still good here in Durban! Adrienne and I just took a week off from work to take a trip to Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, two other cities in South Africa. Adrienne’s younger brother played baseball with the son of the family we stayed with in PE, so we fortunately were pampered for the three days we were there? homemade French toast every morning and we even had a TACO night!!! We had a great time in Cape Town, too, and met cool people at the youth hostel and on the Robben Island tour (we met two tour guides who ended up taking us to play pool after they got out of work on Saturday! And they cooked for us!). We have less than a month left in South Africa, and we’re trying to cram in as much as possible before we leave. We’ll be volunteering at the university a few more times before we leave, and we’ll be visiting the Drakensberg Mountains (including visiting Lesotho, the tiny country completely enclosed by South Africa). In a couple weeks, we’ll be visiting a game reserve also. Gonzalo is here now, and he’ll be going to the mountains and game reserve with us as well!

Last week was a short week at work because we returned on Monday from our week off, and we are still ahead in our research. All that’s left for us to do is to analyze our data and make presentations to each school we surveyed and a larger presentation to the entire municipal area at a meeting of teachers, principals and people from the department of education. I’m interested to see how the schools differ in regard to students’ involvement in school activities and how this affects if they are more or less violent, based on their exposure to violence. Our goals are to analyze the data this week and finish our presentations next week, so we can be ready to present on the 18th, 21st, and 25th. We leave the 28th, which neither of us is looking forward to :-( Adrienne’s 21st birthday is the 19th, and we’re hoping to do something special with our friends we’ve met here thus far. Maybe it’ll be a birthday/going away party? we’ll see!

So, lately Adrienne and I have had this incredibly weird luck. It started on our trip last week, and has just continued and who knows how long it will keep going! It all started on Friday the 24th after arriving in Cape Town. After we had had a great time in Port Elizabeth being pampered and fed, we arrived in Cape Town Friday evening and were picked up from the airport by someone who worked at our backpackers (youth hostel). It was free, so that was nice! While we settled into our hostel, Adrienne called one of her friends who is staying in Cape Town for a couple months and she ended up going out with her that night. I stayed in the hostel and watched a little soccer on TV and met people, then headed down to the hostel’s bar and met more people! I noticed some books in our room (we had a 6-person dorm room, co-ed - don’t worry about the co-ed part, sheesh!) that were in German, and I eventually figured out who they belonged to so I could practice my German. Michael is staying in Cape Town for a while to take English classes? which I thought was interesting, especially since he’s from Berlin, but as he explained it, he has forgotten all of his English and never actually learned much (which he blamed on the former East German government). So that was interesting getting to practice my German with someone who actually knew less English than I knew German! I think that was one of the few times that’s happened? One guy there was cooking some ostrich stir fry type of thing, and offered me some, which I gladly accepted. It was sooo good! I need to get some here in Durban and make it for myself! It’s really healthy (compared to other red meats), like buffalo. At the bar later, I was the only girl for most of the night and the only person from the US, so it was interesting to hear what people had to say, especially when they heard that I’m learning/teaching myself Zulu.

On Saturday, Adrienne went to hang out with her friend all day, and I went to the South African Natural History Museum, Iziko (meaning “hearth”, in isiXhosa and isiZulu, because information and history are passed from grandmothers and elders near the fire at night). It was free entry on Saturdays (more luck!) and I wanted to see the planetarium show also (not free, haha!). The show was about the Hubble Telescope, which was nice, but I really wanted to see the night sky show about the stars in the southern hemisphere. I asked the woman taking tickets before the show which show we were to see, and after she found out what I wanted to learn, she asked the person running the show to do a short 10 minute ‘night sky’ show and hand out free star maps afterwards! Luck again! I was very happy about that :-) Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a chance to just sit outside and look at the stars since I learned about them, because I am in big cities and it’s been cloudy any time I’ve thought about it. After the planetarium, I went to a market near the museum and walked around in the botanical gardens. It was really pretty, despite the semi-cloudiness and cold (haha, just colder than Durban, not actually COLD, like a Michigan winter!). That night, I watched some of the Confederations Cup, Germany vs. Brazil, which was a really great game, but darn Brazil won (again, like the last darn World Cup). I was watching it alone in a restaurant, and all the male waiters kept coming up to me, not believing that I liked soccer enough to be watching it by myself because I’m 1. a girl 2. from the U.S. and 3. because the U.S. wasn’t playing. It was funny to see their expressions! It just wasn’t funny to see Brazil win :-(

The next morning, Adrienne and I decided to go on the Robben Island tour, because the weather still wasn’t super, so we didn’t think it was smart to go up Table Mountain (if the cable car was even running!). This is where some more luck happened, in a weird way. Adrienne gets sea sick, so on the ferry, she started to feel nauseous, and eventually went outside for some fresh air, along with her sea-sick paper bag in case of any vomiting action. The ferry ride is about a half an hour, and on rough seas, she definitely wasn’t the only one feeling sick. Upon arriving at the island, we get on a bus to take a bus tour around the island, to be followed by another guided tour of the prison itself (by a former prisoner). About five minutes into the ride, Adrienne had to get off the bus, because she was still getting a little motion sickness, and she sadly ended up missing the entire island and prison tour :-( The luck comes in, though, when I went to go get her to take the ferry back, and she was sitting in a van with some guys, including our bus tour guide, and they were talking about what was going on in town that night. She was fortunately feeling a TON better, and got some numbers of some of the guides, Tulani and Kent, who offered to meet up with us after they got out of work that day. Well, we all did meet up later and they took us around town that night and played pool with us (Kent and I creamed Adrienne and Tulane twice in a row!). They even cooked some pap and a nice gravy for us, too! We met up with them on Monday as well, after visiting the District 6 Museum and participating in a nationally-organized labor rights march in Cape Town.

Monday started nicely, with sunny skies, but we didn’t think we had enough time to go up the Mountain and we had already decided that we’ll be going back to Cape Town sometime in our lives and we could do it then (plus, I want to do lots more hiking than my knee injury would allow, so it’s better this way!). We went downtown instead, to go to the District 6 Museum, which is a museum describing the history of an area of Cape Town known as District 6. This area was a dynamic, multicultural area of town that suffered from the forced removals under the Group Areas Act of 1950. On the way to the museum, we saw people gathering for a march, organized by COSATU (Council of South African Trade Unions), to get the government to see that if everyone strikes, the economy won’t work for the day. They were striking for more rights and job security, but especially more jobs. Looking back a week later, I’ve read a lot in the news and heard friends talking about the strike and most people say it wasn’t as effective as hoped. I didn’t notice at the time, though, because there were a TON of people there, and we joined in the march for a little bit. It was pretty fun actually, and unlike any march I’ve ever seen in person (except for something that was going on in DC once when I was there, but it wasn’t as big as what was going on in CT). The museum was especially interesting after seeing the march, because I had labor and racial issues on the mind while there. After we left the museum, we got a call from two people, one was from Thulani, one of the tour guides, who wanted to see if we could meet up and hang out, and the other was from one of Adrienne’s friend’s friends, Sam, offering to take us up Signal Hill (a high peak near Table Mountain) and to the airport for free! What luck AGAIN! We had a good time and saw some spectacular views of both sides of the Cape from Signal Hill and were very grateful to Sam for taking us to the airport.

After getting back from CT, we even had some more luck, and got to share a taxi back from the airport, so we only paid half as much as we were anticipating. Last week was like a blur, because so much happened so quickly. It was really good to return to Durban, because we really felt like we were returning home. We were back in a place where we knew the city, we know the taxi hand gestures, and we know people. On Thursday, for example, we were on our way to the beach and at one of the bus stops and we saw Thokozani, the teacher that invited us to her birthday party, and we saw Keith, one of our friends we’ve been hanging out with a lot lately. When we got to the beach, we saw Colin and a bunch of his rugby buddies walking around! There’s a couple million people in Durban, so it was a little weird for us to see three of the very few people we know all within two hours of each other!

Tuesday, we went to the YMCA to volunteer again. Bongi was the leader of our session this week, and we worked with the youth to do a little drama and an impromptu skit. Today, I get to lead the group and we’re going to talk about thinking in a win-win mindset. I’ve organized a snack and the activities we’ll be doing, but it’s roughly based on the idea that everyone has something to teach everyone else and that if we all work together, we all win. There’s a Zulu proverb that says “ngumuntu ngubuntu ngbantu” meaning “a person is a person through other people”, which I will be incorporating as well. This idea is also sometimes called ubuntu (which is sometimes translated into English as ‘sense of humanity’). Needless to say, I’m excited for this afternoon! Adrienne and I also are going to be sharing some stuff about what it’s like in the US and what we think of when we think of home, and we’ll be having a dialogue with the youth about what they think when they think of home. I hope it’s fun!

Wednesday was another interesting day as well. It started fairly normal by us going to work. Since it was a nice day, we decided to leave early and go walk around the Botanic Gardens, something we’d been wanting to do for a while now. After that, we went to the poetry circle that we’re used to going to on Wednesdays now. When we arrived there, we were surprised to see people from GDTV (Greater Durban Television) there to tape some of the session and broadcast it. Adrienne was especially surprised, because she was planning on sharing and was nervous enough about sharing with our friends, let alone the whole greater Durban area! When the people from GDTV were getting ready to leave, they thought it would be cool to bring us to their studio to see how a studio works and to see if we could be on one of their shows! What is it with this random, weird luck?? We ended up being on two shows, one of which had people calling in to ask us questions. The first show was just supposed to be a random, non-scripted show where someone interviews random people. They thought it would be cool to have two girls from the US on, and I guess it worked, because they wanted us to stay for the second show (which I think is closely related to the first) and have people phone in. It was quite the experience! I have lots of pictures, so you should check them out when you get a chance!

This last weekend was fun, too, because the Vodacom Durban Beach Africa festival is going on for a week and a half. There’s a big horse race and fashion show, as well as a surfing competition. We watched some of the surfing competition on Saturday and met some new people (of course). One guy working the festival, Msiya, is going to get us some free T-shirts of the festival, so that’s awesome! And lucky again! Or something? Sunday, we were invited to a fundraising lunch of traditional South African foods at a park downtown by the people we met on Wednesday at GDTV. This is, I think, where our luck ran out - it had rained the night before and there was supposed to be a soccer match between some senior citizens and the youth at GDTV, but it was cancelled due to the field conditions. Lunch was supposed be served after the game, at 12:30, but it wasn’t ready until 5:00 PM. We were a little frustrated, especially since we thought there would be a lot of people there for the fundraiser and had to sit around and wait for lunch for 4 hours. Eventually we ate and the food was really awesome! The luck returned, though, when we got a ride home afterwards and didn’t have to pay for a taxi :-)

I remember mentioning the news that is happening out here in the last email. Well, there is plenty of drama regarding the firing of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who is having a trial here in Durban. My province, KwaZulu-Natal, has been a traditional stronghold for him, and many of our friends and people around here are very upset about what’s going on (ie Zuma was fired). Our friends speculate that the media is just trying to break up the support for the ANC, the current leading political party here. History was made again, though, when the President, Thabo Mbeki, appointed a woman as his new Deputy President - and she’s from the Durban area also! The G8 summit is all over the news here and people have been doing a lot of analysis about what will happen, which is interesting, since I have a better point of view about what’s important to the people of Africa, specifically South Africa. I’m lucky to be able to see this point of view!

I’m trying to upload some pictures right now of our trip to Cape Town/PE, and of the botanic gardens and UShaka Marine World, which we visited the Monday before we went out of town.

Right now I’m looking forward to our Drakensberg/Lesotho trip this weekend with Gonzalo, and then next weekend Adrienne’s friend from Cape Town is coming to visit. After that, Adrienne’s birthday is the 19th and we have our presentations. Another person we met at the GDTV station offered to organize a trip for us to Zululand, which is a more rural part of our province, and we’ll be able to stay with his cousin who does touristy things out there and can take us to some things for free. This is another example of that weird luck that keeps happening! We’re very happy about it, though!

I’ll be sure to keep emailing when I get to Europe. For those of you who know her, I’ll be meeting up with Ellen Lundkvist, who was an exchange student from Sweden at my high school, when I’m in Rome the first week of August! Needless to say, I’m super, super excited!!!

I love you all and am looking forward to hearing back from you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

sawubona! = hello in Zulu

Hello there!

I hope everyone is still doing well since I last heard! I am doing well and having a wonderful time. Our research is going very well and we’re ahead of schedule compared to last year’s group out here, which is allowing us to do some touristy things like visiting the UShaka Marine World in town and going to other parts of South Africa (Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, and possibly Johannesburg for an AIDS benefit concert). We leave for PE on Tuesday and will be staying with a friend of Adrienne’s family, and then we fly from there to Cape Town on Thursday, and return to Durban on Monday the 27th. One week later, on Tuesday, July 5th, Gonzalo arrives for a two week stay! Adrienne and I get a sponsored trip to the Drakensberg mountains and to a game reserve through our program, and we decided to schedule these trips when Gonzalo’s here so he can go, too. The Drakensberg mountains are actually the border between our province and the country contained in South Africa, Lesotho (also known as the kingdom in the sky). I’m really excited for all these trips and being able to see different parts of the country, especially if I can meet people from these places.

We’ve been keeping busy the last few weeks, and are lucky enough to have made some friends that have helped us really enjoy ourselves here. I mentioned the karaoke outing in the last email with our friends Keith and Menzi; they have been hanging out with us a lot lately. They are friends through a poetry program a what is known as the BAT Centre (Ballard (I think that’s the name) Arts Trust). The BAT Centre sponsors many arts and culture events and programs, and Adrienne and I have been going there quite a bit lately. We joined Keith and Menzi there two weeks ago, after a recommendation from Nkule, one of the girls who works with us (she actually met her current boyfriend, Mthobisi, there during the Wednesday poetry circles). Mthobisi took us there and we sat and listened to some poetry for a while? we were a little surprised, however, to learn that it was a poetry circle and not a slam, which means that we are supposed to go there as a forum for sharing our own poetry instead of just going to listen to what others have to say. Needless to say, we were unprepared, but fortunately it was very laid back and we weren’t forced to say anything. There were only three women there, two of which were us, so we got some glances when we walked in? not to mention that I was the only white person there. Someone actually shared a poem with a line in it about “fakeness, like a white woman’s smile in a dark, empty street”, which provoked a lot of glances in my direction. It was quite an interesting experience! We went back last week as well, and Adrienne was going to share a poem she had written, but unfortunately, one guy kept talking and talking and never let anyone else share? maybe in two weeks, after we return from PE and Cape Town! I am not much of a creative writer, so I probably won’t be sharing much? I prefer to channel my creativity into jewelry-making and visual arts.

Speaking of visual arts, the Durban International Film Festival is currently happening, until the 26th of June. Our friend Menzi is working at one of the main venues, so we’ve been able to get in very cheaply (=free) a couple times and may be able to get a free T-shirt? they’re blue! We went to the opening night movie called “Paradise Now”, which is about a suicide bomber/martyr from the West Bank and his decision to be a bomber. It was interesting to see the Palestinian point of view, because this is not often discussed in the media where I’m from. Another movie we saw was about a 13-year old girl who wanted to have a baby, which had potential, but the movie itself was not what I thought it would be or should be. It did have some funny parts, but overall, I was not impressed? We’ve seen two South African films, one called Red Dust and one called Zulu Love Letter. They both discussed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission trials, which just happened recently (about ten years ago) here in SA. The producer, director, and main actor attended the opening night of the Zulu Love Letter, when we watched it. It was the SA premier, which was great to witness. We were glad to see some South African films during the festival, so we could learn more about SA’s recent history and consciousness.

We’ve been seeing a lot of movies lately, actually, and one was Hotel Rwanda. I’d seen it in the US, but it was different to watch it with mostly Africans and being the only white person in the audience. I had a different perspective from this side of the Atlantic, after living here for a little while, and knowing some of the ideas people have about their place in the world and people of European descent. I still think it’s a great movie and that you should see it if you get the chance. I don’t remember hearing much about the genocide in Rwanda when it was happening in 1994, much like I don’t remember hearing much about South Africa becoming an official democracy in that same year? it’s true that I was in middle school and maybe not that interested, but it could also be the importance placed on international, specifically African, news in the US? what’s your opinion on this? (yes, I expect that question to elicit responses about this topic, thanks!)

June 16 is a national holiday in South Africa, called Youth Day. It commemorates the youth uprising in 1976 in Soweto, the largest township in South Africa. As you remember, townships are places where the apartheid government forced urban black people to live, and the conditions were not the best. On June 16, 1976, school-aged youth rebelled against the apartheid government and the education system that was intentionally in place to keep all the non-whites subservient. For example, education was only in Afrikaans, which was spoken natively by less than fifteen percent of the population (who were all white), and math wasn’t taught, because “Africans don’t have the mental capacity” to learn math (according to the apartheid government). The youth burned down schools and were generally rebellious, and some were killed by the all-white police force, mostly shot in the back as they were running away. Now, there are many commemorative events, and we attended a day-long performance at the BAT Centre and saw some of the Comrades Marathon. A friend from the poetry sessions, King Zorro (yes, that’s what he goes by, seriously), was organizing workshops all last week for street kids, to culminate in the performances on Thursday. Adrienne and I had a really great time watching the youth have a great time! The Comrades Marathon didn’t used to be in conjunction with Youth Day, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be, but I think they just schedule it for the national holiday so they know people will attend. The marathon is actually a double-marathon between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban, which reverses routes each year. This year the finish was in Durban, and there were parties all night and concerts and such. It was a really fun day! We of course topped it off with one of the Durban International Film Festival movies :-)

Something else that Adrienne and I have gotten involved with is volunteering on Tuesday afternoons with learners from one of the townships near Durban, Cato Manor. About 15-20 learners come to the YMCA at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and we do workshops or other educational, interactive programs. Our first workshop was about poetry, which was run by someone’s friend from Trinidad who is getting a master’s in creative writing. It was great to see the learners’ energy and hopefulness at learning about something they hadn’t before. We heard about the program from one of our neighbors, Sarah, who is a student in the Development Studies program at the UKZN. We’ve met a couple of the other university students who help with the workshops before, when we went out with Sarah, so it was a good feeling to recognize people out here! We met some new students there, too, and have hung out with one another time. Her name is Bongi, and she lives on campus, so we went with her this past week after our session and met some of her friends and saw what residence hall life is like at the UKZN. The university students just went on a six-week winter holiday, so many of the students left for home or are traveling, but Adrienne and I are going to help Dina, the coordinator, run some workshops in their absence. We’re lucky with the timing of the learners’ exams, which are last week and this week, because we would have had to miss this week’s session (due to our PE/Cape Town trip), but there isn’t one! If you have suggestions of things we could workshop, send them this way (be creative, because I can’t do many physically intense things, due to my darn knee injury)!

Another thing we’ve done recently is try to learn more about rugby. The University of Michigan students that were here last year for our research project met some guys that play rugby in Durban, and they gave us their contact information for us to meet them. Their names are Colin and Aubrey, and they’ve been really helpful and nice since we’ve met them. The first time we met them, a long time ago now, we didn’t really know what they looked like, but fortunately Colin was wearing a Michigan t-shirt so we knew it was them. They both play rugby still, and I’ve attended two of the games (Adrienne couldn’t make the first one, since it was when Tracy was here). Unfortunately, Colin is injured right now (a KNEE injury? I feel his pain!), so we haven’t gotten to see him play, but it’s been fun watching Aubrey play. He’s at least a head taller than everyone else on the field, so it seems kind of intimidating for the opposing team? Colin actually plays for two different teams right now, one of which is the junior team of the Durban Sharks, Durban’s professional team. Aubrey has played in Wales for six months before, too, and is looking at moving back to the UK. Colin will be moving to Ireland this autumn to play rugby, too, so they’re pretty good I guess! I’m still trying to learn to enjoy rugby, but the more I watch, the more I get and like it. I definitely still like watching soccer, football, basketball, and hockey better, but I’m trying! We watched the South African national team, the Springboks, play last weekend, against Uruguay. It was very interesting, because “normal” (similar to soccer and hockey are usually in the 1-4 range, basketball is around 80ish, and football is 20-30 range) rugby scores are around 20-30 points, but this game was 134-3. No, I’m not joking? South Africa beat Uruguay in a record-setting scoring game, in which one player for the South African side, who was playing his first international game for SA, scored six tries (which is similar to a touchdown in US football). I really felt bad for Uruguay, but maybe they should stick to soccer? The Springboks played France on Saturday and tied 30-30. That was much less of a blowout!

The South African national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, played Saturday in a World Cup qualifier against Ghana. The game was in Johannesburg, and we almost went, but it was difficult to find information about tickets and it was too last-minute to arrange transportation, tickets, and accommodation. We watched the game at the BAT Centre with King Zorro and Keith. It was a sad time, because we lost 2-0. There’s still hope for SA, though, if they at least tie and win their next two games (which they have a high probability of doing).

We’ve been keeping an eye on the news over here as much as we can. It seems that the South African press loves to talk about the latest court dramas? I definitely have heard enough about the Michael Jackson trial, and recently, the Deputy President of South Africa was fired by the President for his ties to someone who was found to be financially irresponsible in the government. There’s a lot of talk about how the ANC, the current reigning party (African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela), may break up due to this controversy, but we’ll see. Have you heard about this where you are? We’re also keeping an eye on what’ll be happening at the G8 summit coming up, because of two topics: the environmental disagreement between the US and the rest of the world, and African debt cancellation. Of course, the international games of rugby and soccer are also all over the news right now, as well.

Another interesting (small) thing that has happened is that we saw some monkeys walking in the street when we walked to the grocery store last week! It was weird to see animals I’ve only ever seen in a zoo just freely roaming about. On the way back, we saw them again, except this time, they were within six feet of us, walking on a wall above us. We stopped and looked for a second, then decided we better move on before they smelled our food and wanted to help themselves to some!

Other than everything that’s mentioned in this way-too-long email, we’ve been having fun at work and doing some other things to keep ourselves busy. I’ll write more later, after our trip (we leave tomorrow morning!). It’ll probably be just as long or longer than this email? oh, and if you have anything you want to give me, Gonzalo will be leaving two weeks from today, so you can give it to him to give me :-) Things I’d appreciate are Mexican foodstuffs you can bring into a different country (shells, tortilla chips, and meat seasoning? mmmm!). Mexican food just isn’t very big around Durban; we’ve been searching for some, since we both love it so much, but we’ve been unsuccessful thus far. I can’t wait for two weeks to pass so I can make myself some homemade tacos!!!

I hope all is well with you and that we talk soon! I was sad to miss Father’s Day, so happy Father’s Day Dad and Lynn! I love you :-)

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Email Update from South Africa

Sanibona everyone!

Thank you to everyone who has written me back - I’m still working on replying to some individual emails (some of you are really good at replying - you reply every time!), so keep an eye out! I received a letter in the mail from my cousin Julie, which was my first official mail here, so she wins the prize for that! What is the prize you ask? Only Julie will know! …but there are second and third place prizes, too, so get writing :-P

Since I wrote last week, we’ve finished surveying the students in the high schools and started entering our data (it’s not that exciting, so I won’t go into detail!). We also started to take isiZulu lessons from one of the teachers at one of the schools we surveyed. She teaches isiZulu there, and has been helpful. It’s always an adventure going to KwaMashu with the koombi taxis or the municipal busses? so we’ve been having some good times in that regard! We’ve also had some fun with some new friends and have started filling our wine rack with empty South African wine bottles :-) There’s a lot of really great wine out here! I’m trying to learn as much as I can about it while I’m here and it’s cheap.

This past weekend, Adrienne and I went to the township of Umlazi, just south of Durban, and spent the day with one of the teachers from the second school, Thokozani, for her birthday party. We had a really great time! I have new pictures that I’ll be sending out shortly. We tried some new food, most notably ujeqe (steamed bread), umgxabhiso (boiled tripe soup? tripe is cow intestines), and uchakalaka (similar to stir fried vegetables and VERY spicy). The soup was really great, and it only took me a second to get over the fact that it was intestines - it was chewier than other parts of the cow I’m more accustomed to. Thokozani invited a lot of friends over for her party, so there were many people there. We also had a barbecue, so after the soup and bread, we had barbecued meat, pap, something like cole slaw, and the uchakalaka. We only used a spoon for the soup, and no utensils for the rest. I must admit that I’m pretty clumsy eating with my right hand with no fork, but I didn’t leave hungry! After we ate, we sat around talking for a little while, then we listened to a lot of different South African music artists and danced. A lot of people from near Thokozani’s house came over to join in, and it was a really fun time. There were tons of cute little kids running all over the place, too. Thokozani’s house has a nice view of much of Umlazi, so it was pretty to watch the sun set and see how the view changed almost every minute.

On Friday, we had two friends over to hang out, and we ended up getting hungry and walking down the street to an Indian restaurant. The food was excellent, and our waitress was hitting on one of the guys we were with, Menzi (which was very funny to watch). After we ate, we didn’t know what to do, so someone suggested we go get some wine and sit around at home listening to music and see if Adrienne and I could learn more isiZulu. Well, nothing was open at that time, so we had to walk down to a bar on our street and buy wine from them. When we were in there, we noticed that there was a pool table and that the music was actually people singing karaoke! We decided to stay there for a little while and play pool, and, while waiting, sing karaoke. Adrienne and I sang a song together (it was a rap song, Eminem’s The Way I Am), and later, Adrienne and Keith sang Roses by Outkast. It was really funny, since both songs we sang were rappish/hip-hop songs and we were the youngest people in there by at least 15 years. Everyone else was singing such classics as Walking in Memphis, Piano Man, and Living on a Prayer. I think we took them by surprise! We really had a lot of fun, though, and we’re definitely going back - though I think we’ll sing some Madonna or something next time to fit in a little better :-)

We went to the market yesterday and bought some fresh vegetables, fruit, and spices to make some really great food. It’s funny to me that we get so excited about cooking, but we’re really having a lot of fun with it! We’re going to try to make some homemade soup and maybe some special marinade for chicken this week. If you have any recipes that you’d like to share, please do! Adrienne and I love cooking new things :-) We’re also trying to figure out what we can cook for our friends that we can say is something we eat in the US? any suggestions there? We haven’t really seen much turkey, so Thanksgiving dinner is out.

Another thing that I’m excited about is that World Cup qualifying is going on right now, and South Africa is leading it’s group in the African section. They just won their game against Cape Verde, and they play Ghana soon. I think one of their next two games is in Durban, so I might get to see them in a game!! It’s really nice to be able to follow international soccer so easy from here, because the World Cup is next summer (in Germany!). Most teams I care most about (the US, Perú, Germany, and South Africa) will probably be in the tournament next summer. Germany is hosting, so they for sure get a spot, and I think that the US and South Africa will also qualify. Unfortunately, I’ve been told not to hope too much for Perú, who hosted the American Cup (Copa América) last summer when Gonzalo and I went to visit his family. I still wear their jersey with hope, though!

Well, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to stop this enormous email, so I’ll do that right now. I hope you’ve had a good week and that I hear from you soon. I like to know what you’re doing, where you are, what your future holds (will you be going to the World Cup in Germany!?).

Ngiyakuthanda! (=I love you)

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Zulu, school visits, and raw eggs...

Hello again!

I hope this email reaches you in good health and sunny weather... because you'll need it, since this is soooo long! Since the last time I wrote, I’ve done a few new things and had some fun and funny times. Most notably, I’ve visited both of the schools we’re doing our research in and gotten to know some students from each school. Adrienne and I are learning the public transportation better now, so we can get to and from town for about eighty cents. While in town one day, we found a fabric store, and I wanted to buy some fabric to make a nice skirt for myself, but instead, we ended up walking to another place downtown to have a dressmaker make each of us an outfit! Adrienne also had a friend in town last weekend, Tracy, who was on our trip two years ago and will be working in Nimibia the next two months. We did some fun stuff as a group and met some of her friends from two years ago and expanded our friend circle!

In my last (very short!) email, I wrote that you should check out the pictures I have on the internet that are from the school visit at one of the schools. There are pictures there of the school’s campus, which is a main courtyard and another row of buildings behind it. There are over 1060 students at the high school, and I think there are a total of maybe ten classrooms. The average classroom size is over 50 students in a room! There are those desks in there where the seat is affixed to the desk, with a flip-up desk, and they’re made for two pupils. There are always three pupils in each desk, if not four! Every pupil wears a uniform in the public and private schools, which is very cute on the very young students we see around town. The two schools we visit will be in the fourth largest township in South Africa, KwaMashu. During the days of apartheid, the government made certain areas of the country into “Black areas”, which were later called townships. Today, after apartheid is officially (governmentally) over, townships still exist, mostly populated by black people. KwaMashu, “the place of Marshall”, was named after a man, Mr. Marshall, who did a lot of anthropological research in KwaZulu-Natal, the province we live in. Before we left, Adrienne and I each decided what aspect of youth violence we wanted to study. Adrienne is studying how the family experience affects later violent behavior and I am studying how school involvement affects later violence. We wrote a paper before we left based on research that has already been done, and we used last year’s data to test our hypotheses. What we have to do now is to go to the schools, hand out the surveys to the students, enter their answers into a computer database, analyze the data, and then use these analyses to determine whether or not our hypotheses are correct or not. We are at the point of data entry, so we’ve collected the surveys from almost all pupils, and still have to analyze the data after we enter it into the computer.

When we visited each school, it was very interesting to see how the students would react to us and how the schools’ organization structures were. Part of our research is to get to know the schools and use some of the background info in our final papers. To do this, we’ve talked to each principal a little bit and some of the students there. We talked to students during their lunch break and ate lunch with them. We’ve tried some new food, called isiQeda (which is like a homemade popsicle in a sandwich bag) and iGwinya, which is like a deep-fried ball of bread. At first, we didn’t know what the school’s small shop sold, and we of course don’t know Zulu, so it was entertaining for the students that were milling about to watch us try to figure out how to ask what was available and how much it cost in our 5 words of Zulu! Eventually some students helped us, and now we look forward to going back to the schools to eat the iGwinya especially :-) There are two girls from CRISP who go with us to help in the survey distribution and help answer questions, and when we walked in the classroom where they were sitting eating their lunch with the teachers, everyone’s eyes opened wide and they asked “what are you eating!?” It was really funny, because they didn’t expect us to be eating and enjoying something that the students ate every day! We eventually got to ask the students a lot more questions about what they think about school and what they hope to do in the future. The unemployment rate in South Africa is extremely high, and many students have little or no hope for their futures. We always try to encourage them to think positively, but it’s often hard to understand their point of view. Many students are the heads of their households, raising many younger siblings ? all while in high school! Their main concern is “how can I feed eight people tonight?”, not “I wish I am an airplane pilot when I grow up.”

As for Tracy’s visit, we ended up having a really great time. We all went to a dance performance on Friday night called “African Footprint”, which was supposed to be a history of South Africa, but it really seemed to be made for tourists. Parts of it were very good, with different types of drumming and dancing, but the scenes where people were just running around with spears seemed a little kitch. Before we went to the performance, we tried to eat at a restaurant down the road from our house. Tracy had eaten there many times when she lived in Durban, and said we should try it. We ended up not eating there at all, because of the service and food? Tracy and I each ordered “Steak Tartare”, which was described as ostrich meat mixed with spices. What we got was RAW ostrich meat with a RAW EGG on top! Nowhere on the menu did it say “raw”, “uncooked”, “undercooked”, “not cooked” or anything of the sort. It also did not mention a RAW EGG sitting on top of the raw meat! We took one look and said we’re need eating it and please take it back (all the while trying not to burst out laughing, which we did right after the waitress left to go get the manager? we were almost falling out of our seats!). A manager came out and berated us for not knowing that steak tartare was raw? “EVERYone knows that steak tartare is served raw” she informed us. Well, we most certainly did NOT know that, but eventually we talked to a couple managers and didn’t have to pay for the “dinner”. We were too scared to order anything else, so we didn’t end up eating there at all. We called a taxi, had the driver drive us to KFC (which are everywhere here ? seriously, EVERYwhere! And they serve ‘chicken’ burgers!), wait while we got edible (COOKED) food, and then drove us to the tourist show extravaganza. It was quite a hilarious night, and our sides ached after laughing so much all night. We also met a lot of Tracy’s friends from when she was here, and we’ll probably be able to learn how to body board and surf for free from the ones that are lifeguards and get into a lot of good clubs and jazz places with the poet-scene friends. It was a great weekend!

It’s been about three weeks since we’ve been here, and we’re starting to really get acclimated. Adrienne and I always plan what we’re going to cook for dinner and such, and it’s been really fun trying to cook new things. It took us a couple tries to get the rice right, but now we know how to make a really cheap meal :-) We’ve also been trying to learn the public transport here as well. There is a city-run bus system that is almost impossible to figure out, because nowhere is there a map or specific stops listed in any kind of guide or anything. We do not use that system. Instead, we use koombis. Koombis are Volkswagen mini-busses that can seat 15 people (usually more, though). It costs two rand to get a ride, which is about forty US cents. Metered taxis, which are like the yellow ones that you can catch in New York City, start at five rand and charge by distance from there, so just getting in the taxi costs more than going on two rides in a koombi! We take the koombis to town and back, and it’s sometimes interesting what people’s reactions are to see a white and black girl hanging out, then that the black girl doesn’t know Zulu and the white girl does? We’ve discovered that everyone thinks Adrienne is Zulu, and that it’s more confusing for them to hear her speak a few words of Zulu then switch to English than it is for me to speak a few words then switch. Everyone automatically assumes that I know no Zulu, so it’s been funny to watch people’s reactions when I can talk to them for five or six sentences. I can ask where a koombi is driving in Zulu, and the drivers always give me a double-take. My most-used lines are “Hello” (Sawubona), “how are you” (Unjani?) and “I don’t speak Zulu but I’m learning!” (Angikulumi isiZulu kodwa ngiyafunda). Zulu is unlike any language I’ve ever learned (and I’ve formally had at least one year of German, Japanese, French, and Spanish). Zulu has “clicks” in it, represented by the letters c, q, and x. Other languages in South Africa have more clicks, like Xhosa, so I’m glad I’m learning Zulu! The grammar is also unlike anything I’ve ever heard of, but it makes sense after studying it for a little while. We don’t have formal Zulu lessons any more, but we’re trying to get one of the Zulu teachers in one of the high schools we’ve visited to give us lessons. Nkule, one of the girls who works with us, has taught us about six lessons, but Adrienne and I really want to learn more.

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve gone to the city a few times with the koombis. One time, I was interested in finding some nice fabric to make a new skirt out of, and we ventured into a fabric store. We both fell in love with the same fabric, which is pretty thick and has a nice pattern on it in pretty autumn colors. We asked at the store where we could find someone who could help us make skirts and such out of it, and they directed us across the street to a woman named Mpume. She made me a long skirt and matching top, and Adrienne a strapless dress. With the extra fabric, she made each of us a shawl, too! I’ve put some pictures of me modeling the outfit on the snapfish site. I hope you like it!

I think that’s it for news as of right now, except for two wonderful things coming up:
1. Adrienne and I are going to Cape Town on 21 June
2. Gonzalo’s coming to visit the first two weeks of July!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll be sure to tell you more about life in SA and how our Cape Town trip went. I hope life is treating you well and that you are enjoying these (really, really) long emails.

Talk to you soon!