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!