Monday, May 23, 2005

Pictures of my Apartment!

Hello everyone!

I’ll be sending an email right after this one about how you can view my online pictures! So far, I’ve posted pictures of my apartment here in Durban. I use the online service called Snapfish, and to view my pictures, you need to have an ‘account’, which really just means you need to log into the site with your email and a password. The next email from me is one through their site so you can join from my referral? so, just read the next email, follow the link, and join to see my pictures! I hope to update it fairly regularly, so hopefully there’ll be some new pictures for you to see soon!

I know I haven't written in a little while, but it's been really hectic lately! This week at work was very fun because we visited the principals of each of the two schools we'll be surveying this week. Life has been good lately, and we've made some new friends. I will be sending an email about our experiences with the schools here and about our going-out escapades, so keep an eye out for them!

So, about my apartment (which is called ‘flat’ here, in the British tradition). I made a floorplan of the apartment that's included in the online pictures. It’s a three-bedroom apartment, with one being the master bedroom (it has two twin beds pushed together), and the other two each have a twin bed. Adrienne and I decided it wasn’t fair for one person to have the huge bed and room, so we’re using that as the ‘guest room’ in case we get guests (some come visit!). My room has a view of the Indian Ocean, but it's the smaller of the two rooms. Adrienne's room is larger, and has a nice corner window, but the view is another apartment building. The 'guest room' has a view of the Ocean, too. We also have a 'balcony', which is enclosed, but has awesome views of the ocean. We also can see the Natal Sharks stadium right outside our window (the Natal Sharks are Durban's professional rugby team). The bathroom facilities are interesting, because the toilet is in a seperate room from the sink and bathtub/shower. The living room also has a view of the ocean, and there is a little 'dining room' area of the living room. The kitchen is kind of small, but since there's only two of us, it works out fine!

There aren't really any chores we need to do, because our office has arranged for someone to come each Tuesday to clean our apartment... which is a little weird for Adrienne and me, but I think we can get over that :-P We do all of our own cooking (which surprised one of the girls who works with us, because the students who were here last year went out to eat a lot more than us). We're actually having an awesome time trying new things and pretending to know how to cook. Adrienne and I like a lot of the same foods, so it's been really great cooking together. I'll send another email later regarding our eating antics, though...

As with any residence, there are obviously going to be quirks. One thing that's different here is the toilet/bathroom situation, but we're ok with that now. The thing about the two rooms is that the light switches are in the hallway, so we're always running back and forth to turn lights on, off, on, off, but maybe that's good because we'll get some exercise. When we arrived, we wanted to start cooking, but after searching the kitchen, we realized we didn't have any pots (just one frying pan), no can opener, no cutting knives, tupperware... but we've gotten some stuff from where we work, and the woman who owns the apartment came last week and brought us some stuff. We're still waiting on a washing machine, though... it's breezy here, so we'll dry our clothes on a drying rack. I didn't bring that many clothes with me, so I've already had to hand-wash a load of laundry. That's some hard work! I'm still sore, and I did that on Friday night! Yeah... I know I'm a dork for spending my Friday night hand-washing my laundry... We do have a microwave, TV, and just got a CD player/radio from one of the women we work with. Our TV gets four channels, which kind of gets old quickly, but we're glad we even have a TV! We've been trying to learn as much about South African culture as possible, and as bad as TV and news shows can be, we have learned a lot of South African English and about the music scene here.

Overall, Adrienne and I really like our apartment. It feels very safe, especially because there's a gate to get into the grounds, a gate to get into the building, a gate on our door, and our door locks. So, we have to do a lot of unlocking to finally get into our home! We live in one of the safest parts of Durban, which is called Morningside. This is also the area where a lot of good bars and restaurants are, so we can walk to a lot of things. It gets dark here at like 5:30PM since it's approaching the shortest day of the year, and people at work and around town (mostly strangers) always tell us not to go walking around at night. We've gone out a couple times and it seems to be ok, and our friends tell us that we should be fine in our area. There's also an internet cafe a block away, so we're happy about that, too. We walk to the grocery store that's about 10 minutes away, and it's a nice little walk. We really do have everything we need right near us, and getting to the downtown area and the beaches isn't that difficult from where we are. We're still trying to learn the public transport system, but to no avail... hopefully we get it soon!

I hope this gives you a better image of my environment! I'm really having a great time, aside from missing people, and I can't believe how quickly these two weeks have gone by! The rest of the summer should be wonderful... and we're planning to go to the beach a lot more. I've updated my online photos to include some beach pictures and a couple pictures of Adrienne and I, so you can see how we're doing :-)

Write back and tell me how your summer is going... where are you? what are you doing? Any funny stories to share??

I miss you and hope to hear from you soon,

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Email Update from South Africa

Hello everyone!
It's been almost a week since we've arrived, and Adrienne and I are having a great time! We've done a lot of new things and met some great people (and been to the beach three times!). Monday was our first day at work, where we met Bashi and Janine, our mentors for this summer. They are super nice and have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to prepare our research for us. Our apartment is awesome, and completely furnished. I hope to have some pictures online in the next couple weeks so you can see just how pretty it is! It was missing some essentials, like a can opener, cutting knives, and a spatula, but we've ironed out the bumps and are eating like kings! We should be going to two schools to be issuing our surveys, and we visit the first one next week. The office, CRISP, is located in an apartment in a building where all the apartments are now offices. I like the atmosphere, and it has high-speed internet! That's helpful in getting more research articles and such to help us in our project.

Tuesday was a very interesting day, because CRISP organized a city tour for us to get to know Durban. We saw an apartheid museum, Zulu culture museum, the downtown area of Durban, a market with a lot of curios (beadwork, clothing, spices), a traditional healer's market, walked around in a township near Durban and had a traditional Zulu meal of mealie pap (which we ate with our hands and was EXCELLENT). Apartheid is South Africa's former legal segregation; the word literally means "apart-ness" in Afrikaans, one of 11 official languages spoken in South Africa. Afrikaans is a mix of Dutch, English, and some traditional African words, and it's interesting for me because German and Dutch are so close, I can understand some Afrikaans. The Zulu culture museum was interesting, too. It was in the home of a white family that did a lot of ethnographic work in local Zulu and other villages in the area, and the beadwork was amazing. Downtown Durban actually reminded me a lot of Lima, Peru, but I think it's because of the style and quantity of cars and taxis (both cars and mini-van/microbus style taxis). The traditional healer's market had a lot of things that I had no idea what they were, because everything was written in Zulu. There were a lot of types of chopped wood, incense, animal parts, and things I literally could not discern. The highlight was definitely the skinned monkey hanging in the breeze... but I'm sure it will be used for something! The tour ended in the township of Cato Manor. A township is where, during the time of apartheid, all the black people lived. Although apartheid officially ended in 1994, you can still see where and how it still exists. It's almost like in the US when segregation officially ended in the 60's, but there are definitely still very segregated areas today. We ate dinner in the township. Dinner consisted of mealie pap, which is a white, starchy meal, with spinach and a sauce made of fresh-sliced tomatoes and some chili peppers. We ate with our hands, which was something new for me. The pap tasted really great, though, and Adrienne and I might try to make some at home (but we'll probably use spoons and cheat!).

Well, it's about 7:30 here, and I'm getting a little hungry, so Adrienne and I are going to get going and make dinner! We may go out tonight, but you know it's Friday the 13th... so we'll see ;-)

Write back so I know YOU are doing ok, too... ok?

Monday, May 9, 2005

Winter Weather & Sandy Eyes

Hello from Durban, South Africa!
As you may or may not know or remember, I will be living and working in Durban (KwaZulu-Natal province), South Africa for three months this "summer" - it's in quotes because it's "winter" here in the southern hemisphere - and that's in quotes because the winter here right now is like our early autumn in Michigan! It's fantastic! After the three months, we'll be flying back home through Frankfurt, where I'll be staying (there and around Europe) another four weeks until August 24.

We left the United States from Detroit on Thursday evening, flying to Frankfurt, Germany (about 8 hours). We flew overnight, and then had a twelve-hour stopover in Frankfurt, so we walked around the city a little on Friday. We then flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, South Africa overnight on Friday night, arriving early Saturday morning (that one was about ten hours). Our final flight was a short one (only one hour this time!) from Johannesburg to Durban. I had never flown on a Lufthansa or South African Airways flight before, but I was very impressed with both - and the food was good! Not like, "gee, I won't die from the food" but "wow! that sure was some yummy chicken!" And the SAA flight had individual screens for each passenger, even in economy, so that was cool to be able to pick my own movies, pause when I wanted, and so on.

I arrived here Saturday around midday, and the last day and a half have been very eventful and exciting. Yesterday, we moved in to our beautiful apartment and promptly went down the hall to meet the neighbors (neither Adrienne, the girl I'm here with, or I are shy, so it was the natural thing to do!). They took us out to dinner and we met two more of their friends. Today, we went to the casino in town and then swam in the Indian ocean for a couple hours... salt water gets to you after that long! It was very warm, and we loved it. Hopefully we'll have more time to go tomorrow! :-D

Tomorrow we start work. Our primary objective here this summer is to do youth violence research. We will be going to a couple high schools in the city, giving the students a survey to fill out, entering the data in a database, analyzing the data and writing a paper about our studies. We met two of our work mentors yesterday when they picked us up from the airport, and they both seem very nice and super helpful. I am looking forward to working with them these three months! I'm excited to get to work tomorrow, because we've just done so much preparation for it, too. We wrote research papers on the current youth violence literature before we left, and analyzed our hypotheses based on last year's data set. I'm studying how violence exposure is related to school involvement (for example, there is some studies that say that the more you're involved in school, the less violent you will behave if you have been exposed to much violent behavior). Adrienne is studying how the family environment interacts with violent behavior.

If any of you are interested in calling or writing, I will be periodically checking email (we do not have internet access in our apartment). It is cheaper for people in the US to call South Africa than the other way, in case you're wondering :-P
Carrie Rheingans
(edited for the internet) Windermere Road
Durban 4001 South Africa

home phone (this will be cheaper to call): +27 (edited for the internet)
cell phone (accepts SMS/text messages): +27 (edited for the internet)

We're currently 6 hours ahead of US eastern time, and aligned with western Europe time. I miss you and hope to hear from you soon! I'll write again talking about food, work, and more fun :-)