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!