This isn't goodbye...It's just until next time Part 1
Hello avid readers (however many there are of you)! I have arrived in Cape Town this evening at about 8-ish PM our time. It was a small plane...one that you have to take a trolley out to on the runway and board! I have never in my life done so. Thank god the plane ride only took an hour and a half, though. There were a few bouts of turbulance which I was not too thrilled about. But, we took off well and we landed safe and sound.
Today was kind of hard. Why? We had to leave our ppeer educators. I started to become really close with them, and having to leave them behind and go to Cape Town wasn't easy. I knew I was going to cry, and once I hugged the two peers I was getting really close with, I lost it. Ever since day one, we all, peer educators (who we would rather call our South African buddies, or SABs) and the Americans dove into each others cultural pools and didn't stop going. It was almost like making friendships on overdrive, but in an awesome way. Without them, I don't think the experience would have been the same. I don't think that our group would have collectively come together as a whole. So, as you can imagine, it was difficult leaving these new found friends behind in order to "vacation" in Cape Town. I know now things aren't going to quite be the same as they were before in the group dynamic...=( I think many of them will be becoming life-long friends of mine..or at least so I hope.
But my first impressions of Cape Town seem to be pretty impressive. We are at the Waterfront, probably one of the safest parts of Cape Town where it is rather upscale. The hotel we are residing in until Thursday (oh my God, I have to go back to the States? I don't want to!) used to be a jail. So, take a jail cell size room, put two beds in it and a closet, and you've got the room we are all staying in pretty much. I'm rooming with Tiffany, a fellow South African blogger. Now, just picture a really tiny room without a lot of room for movement, especially with two rather large duffle bags and two backpacks from each of us. Oh, and plus two bodies. Yeah. Thank god the next few days are going to be rather busy so we won't be spending too much space in a cramped up room. But, it is what it is, and I'm just thankful I'm still in South Africa...even without my SABs...=( South Africa has become my home...I know I'll be coming back at some point in my life. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
It is going to be so weird going back to the States. Hopefully I'll be able to blog my way through Cape Town with you guys since there is an internet cafe in the hotel literally down the hall from me. But, we shall see what tiredness + journal writing + other things occur in the mean time...I will try to blog once more before I leave, though.
Until next time...(which reminds me of what I told my SABs...)
PS. Love to - Mom, Dad, Joseph, Gma, Papa, Granny, Oma, Opa, Liz Muffin, Megan Muffin, Tom, Comfort, Charles, Rob, NhlaNhla, Bongi, Ori, Darren & Jessica. Miss you guys!
Good afternoon to my fellow Americans, where currently is appoximately 3:45 in the afternoon, and about 10:45 at night for me. Everything has become such a blur, I have to sit down and work with my tentative itenirary to expand on things we have done! I believe this is a good thing because it means we've been doing so much and doing so many constructive things with our time here in South Africa...and we haven't even gone to destination #2 of the trip yet. We've been busy, but I believe it was time well spent!
Tonight was interesting. We were able to watch President Barack Obama in the restaurant we went to tongith for dinner at Trumps Grill. I got a sirloin steak with some form of garlic sauce-it didn't quite taste overly like garlic, but it was good. :-) Anyway, I think it is quite the opportunity to be able to see such a thing in another country. Even our peer educators from South Africa have been awaiting this day. One of the tour guides, in fact the one that took us around Alex, told us that he cried the day that Obama was elected because it gave the people so much hope. Another fellow peer said the same thing: he was a black man elected into office (although he's part white, but the black shows through), which seems to become an inspiration to many in South Africa. What I did not realize, or what never really sunk in, is how much of a role model the United States is for the rest of the world. If our economy tanks, the rest of the world seems to go under to some degree as well. I was discussing this with a friend on the trip, and I said that I didn't believe this was so healthy for the world. If the world depends on one power and cannot stand up individually on their own country's pedestals, isn't that a wee bit dangerous? In one sense, it's great for our country to have these reliances; but in another, as I just slightly discussed, it can become problematic. However, the world, or at least South Africa, is extremely excited to see how Obama will pull through in his presidency of the US, no matter what the reason. Obama is giving people in the USA, and all over the world, the hope that many of us may need for the world in its state today. I just find it astounding, also, that the USA seems to be oblivious to the rest of the world and yet the world is so focused on the USA. You think we would begin to care enough about other countires and learn more, but no, it seems we are more igorant of the world than they are of us.
But anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear my complete ramblings on about that. Today we visited Katlehog, another suburb on the outskirts of Jo'burg. I was excited because this was supposed to be the day where we went to two schools in the area and meet and play with the little ones. Alas, we only got to go to one where there were only 5 children becasue they were not fully opened yet and the other one we didn't have time to visit. So, the day was a little disappointing becasue of that, but interesting nonetheless. WE got ot see a divinations with a traditional healers; basically we all crowded around in this extremely small living room while two of us got to go through a divination. A divination is basically a kind of ritual where a healer goes through a who spiritual process in which she (and yes, a she! I was quite shocked of this...I was expecting it to be a man!) gets in touch with the person's ancestors and helps predict the future/read into the person and her troubles. It was really fascinating to actually witness it, especially the reactions of my two peers! They said that the healer was pretty much right on target, even though the first one seemed more generic, whereas the second person that went seemed to have a more in depth version about it all. I could go into a whole psychological analysis about it (or at least what I think you could call a psychological analysis of it)...but I am getting rather tired, and I need to wake up at 7 AM my time (aka midnight you time) and prepare myself for another day in South Africa.
Until next time, sometime soon, I promise! Hope all is well in the States,
PS. Love to Mom, Dad, Joseph, Granny, Gma, Papa, Oma, Opa, Liz Muffin, Megan Muffin, LaMartha, Tom, and Mel! I love and miss you all!
Hey family, friends, and random people who would like to read this! SOOOO much to write, and I forgot to bring my notes in order to help me outline everything...well I'm going to try to remember as much as I can. I've been in South Africa since Tuesday at 3:30 PM (South Africa time) after a long 14-hour ish ride. And by long, I mean I got about an hour and a half of sleep and was watching the movies they provided on the plane, watched the sunrise while coming into Africa from the Atlantic, and listening to music. We got to our houses that we're staying in while we are in Jo'burg, settled in, and we were off to our first taste of South African restaurant life at a place called Soulsa. I tried ostrich and ate a great plate of lamb! Restaurant life here is much more social and takes longer than the typical restaurant in the US; which I like, except when you are running on an hour and a half of sleep and wanting to go to bed. I was literally falling asleep at the table. But the food was amazing; I was stuffed to the brim with lovely food in a nice atmosphere. Soon after, I got back to my room and literally passed out until I heard the birds singing at about 7 AM (again, South Africa time). I slept very well, and considering I stayed up more than 24 hours, it made sense. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast...mango juice is big here and I've been having it every morning. It's soooo good!! =)
Meeting the peer educators was amazing. It was a little awkward at first, like first meetings are, but by the end of the first day with them, I felt I've known them my whole life. I'm learning so much from them, not only about South Africa, but their own lives and pasts. Nhlanhla, Comfort, Bongi, Toka, Jessica, Darren, Robert, among the others, are all amazing people with wonderful personalities and different traits that make them a great group of people to get to know and work with. We went to the Origins Center at the U. of Witswaterand (aka Wits), which was absolutely fantastic. It took the out-of-Africa theory and expanded it into a whole museum pretty much. Something that I didn't know that I learned from the museum that there is evidence that people started migrating from southern Africa, specifically the San people. Just knowing that I was in a general area to which humans have moved from to other parts of the world was rather shocking to me.
Justice Edwin Cameron gave us a lecture about his life being HIV positive along with some of the history of the HIV epidemic in Africa and also specifically South Africa. It was just amazing to see someone of high power (I believe he is the top-notch judge of the highest court in South Africa, the Constitutional Court) take time out of his busy life to give an hour lecture to a small group of students from the USA. He was a very down-to-earth person. Being HIV positive, he looks and is a rather healthy, fit man who has been living with it for nearly 23 years or so (diagnosed 1986). He's got that kind of silent power, but the respected kind of power that is not authoratative like you think someone from higher up in the law system would possess. It was such a great honor to see him, to listen to him, to ask him questions, not to mention get a picture and a warm wish in my book I bought for class "Witness to AIDS", of which he wrote.
After that we went to Alexandra, part of Jo'burg (just like Manhattan is part of NYC). Seeing Alexandra was a heartbreaking experience. I went around seeing all these old people at an "old people's home" that housed about 88 people in these horrible conditions: no family to take care of them, no family that wanted to come back and visit them, little if any money, no doctor on staff, professional nurses only, pigeons surrounding the place. I was so overcome with emotion I didn't know what to do. These conditions were horrible, and I felt lucky in one regard that in my country, this wouldn't be so horrible. I wanted to cry, I wanted to reach out to them, I wanted to talk to them, but being my first real "uncomfortable" situation down here, I was just coiled up in myself. I did talk to one lady in a wheelchair, though. She was knitting a hat, and we talked about knitting for a bit. She spoke so quietly, though, it was hard to hear her; not to mention accents aroudn here sometimes are hard to understand. Perfect example is my buddy Comfort. He speaks a mile a minute and English is either his second or third language (I'm not quite sure), but he is originally from a tribe around the area and grew up spoking that tribal language. Now, let me tell you what a tribe here is like...it is not necessarily these primitive looking people-no they are more equivalent to our Native Americans who have several different tribes around the country (Seminole, Cherokee, Lenape, etc.). We actually talked about the difficulty of understanding him sometimes, and he told me that once he learned English, he just took it and kept talking in it and talking in it until he became so fast. One of the Americans on our trip told him she thought he spoke even faster than she did! haha
Anyway, back to Alexandra. The shanty parts of town are devasting. I'm talking about pieces of tin metal put together with rocks, string, and garbage (i.e. broken bikes, anything heavy really that could hold the roof down in place). You could not even walk between them all that well! Don't worry, we didn't walk throught them, although I really would have loved to. We did stop at a playground though and gave the children some sweets and played with them for a little bit. I asked one of the little boys where he lived, and he pointed across the river to the horrible shanty place, saying, "There." I just was like, "Oh. Would you like more sweets" I didn't know what else to say...I was at a loss for words that children could live and survive alongside their families in such conditions! Garbage is literally thrown anywhere; South Africa, at least in the Jo'burg area does have some serious littering issues that should probably be attended to, because it is literally everywhere. Again, the experience at Alexandra was a very eye-opening experience. I knew what was there, but it didn't really set in until I was actually there, seeing the reality in front of my eyes. Seeing Alex also made me see how lucky I am to live in the US.
The Apartheid Museum was interesting...and guess what!?! Michelle found her freedom! Better known as I found a sign that said "Freedom" and took a picture under it. Haha. But it was really interesting to see more history behind the apartheid, the struggle, and the elections that brought South Africa (finally...although I'm not sure if quite entirely for the better...) to a democracy. I'll expand some other time to those who really want to know.
Last night was the first night we actually went out on the town pretty much collectively as a group. Charles, who I really haven't talked to, taught me how to dance in the clubs South African style, and it is not really as hip-moving as in the clubs in America. It was a great time, and I came back at 2 AM and called back home because I hadn't been able to get to the internet. I'm actually using my professor's computer because none of the internet places are open or are closed down around here.
Being homesick hasn't really been an issue because I've been so busy with everything here that I really haven't had time to think about it or miss it. Are things different here? Certainly. They drive on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. Crossing the street has been somewhat weird becasue you look to the right first instead of the left. The accents are sometimes hard to get through, although I"m sure mine is not easy either to them. All the soda tastes different. Traffic lights are called robots, among other words that mean different things; I just can't think of them right now. Haha I took a nap on the bus, and I'm just pooped because we've been so busy. I'm so glad that we have free time tonight and a lot of free time for most of the day tomorrow...maybe I'll write more tomorrow (if I even can). I've got quite of catching up to do with my field notes for class! I've been working on the 15th's entry and I haven't done yesterday's entry either, not to mention today's! So, hopefully I can do that and do a little perusing (sp?) with everyone. :-)
Until next time (who knows when that will be),
PS. Lots of love to Mom, Dad, Joseph (even though I've talked to you 3 this morning at 2 AM you lucky ducks), Gma, PaPa, Granny, Oma, Opa, Liz Muffin, Megan Muffin, and Twin!
Finally, it is the weekend! This week was quite jam-packed with information. I did not realize quite how much I learned in a 4-day learning period until I got on the phone with my mother last night. I was spurting off facts left and right, explaining what I had learned in quite a bit of detail; I felt like I was a History Channel or Discovery Channel special! It truly surprised me how much I absorbed in the past week alone; I went from just knowing what I had read in Nelson Mandela's autobiography Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom and a rather brief history article to learning a lot from A to Z. I mean, I know I'm nowhere close to being an expert on South Africa, but I got more of a feel of what has happened there and what I'm going to be seeing/dealing with/etc.
Just thinking about this whole trip, as you probably saw in my previous entry, is just so exciting. But now I'm starting to get nervous about it all. I've never travelled abroad before, and I'm not quite sure what to expect from myself being put into a culture I've never been unaccustomed to. Am I going to get some severe culture shock? What about this 19 hour plane ride? Am I going to adjust to the time difference all right (it's 7 hours ahead of US Eastern Time for those who don't know)? Am I going to get along with our peer educators when I get to meet them? Am I going to be judgmental or am I going to be able to open-minded about certain situations? So many things have come up and are on my mind, and what I've listed here isn't even half of it. I got one worry out of the way yesterday, though. As people back home know, I am very much an over-packer, and we have 44 pound weight limit for our checked luggage and 15 pounds for our carry-on. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to have room for any souvenirs because I would pack pretty much almost to the limit. But, despite my worries, when I weighed myself, I was 24 pounds underweight for the checked luggage and 5 pounds underweight for my carry-on; definitely surprised me. But I'm glad I've got plenty of room...now let's hope that the money I've set aside is enough to fill the "souvenir space" as I will coin it. :-)
Now, I just have a weekend to enjoy with my friends before I leave them for pretty much 2 1/2 week completely new experience, or chapter as I would love to call it, in my life.
Until Jo'burg, <3 Michelle
PS. You probably want to know a little bit about me. Well. Obviously I'm a psychology major, and I would like to become a counseling psychologist, but I'm still toying with ideas. I'm also contemplating either double majoring or just simply minoring in sociology, the latter of which is more likely. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I pretty much live 30 minutes away from NYC (depending on traffic). Although I have New York City right there, I never really go, unlike a lot of peers back home. I'm just not much of a city person, although I can function in it if I need to; so it will be interesting when I throw myself into Jo'burg (it's a city comparable to NYC in South Africa). I have a mom (who will be reading this everyday I'm sure..Hi, Mom!), dad (hey-o Dad, I hope you're working on your computer skills reading this ;) <3), and little brother (14 and 6 foot...so I guess not so little) who I live with. I have 2 pets back home, my cat Tiger Lily and my puppy Angel (OK, she's 7 years old, but seriously has the mentality of a puppy still). I still have two sets of grandparents, which I'm very grateful for (one of which will also be reading this...Hi Gma Rose and Papa Choo-Choo!) and my great-grandmother (Hey Granny!). My family is a big part as to why I did this blog, but I thought it would be interesting the let the rest of the world my experiences...or at least those interested to know. I'm a big fan of music; it has a healing power that nothing else quite seems to grasp. I'm a fan of John Mayer, Bob Marley, Frank Sinatra, and depending the day Dave Matthews Band. I tend to listen to everything though. My favorite food would have to be ice cream. My favorite color is aquamarine because it combines blue and green together into quite the lovely blend. I love to laugh, and apparently I have a very hardy, infectious laugh; as they say, laughter is the best medicine. Why I'm going to south Africa of all places is, well, Professors Klaaren and London pretty much convinced me; and ever since I started learning about sociology and anthropology in high school, I always thought it would be great if I ever got the opportunity to go, I should do it. Well, obviously, opportunity arose and I'm off on a plane to Jo'burg at 5:40 PM!
J-term classes started today, which means that my journey towards South Africa has commenced (finally)! I must admit, I'll be on a plane about 2 1/2 hours into the flight this time next week, which makes me quite anxious about it all. It pretty much snuck up on me, although I have been thinking about South Africa ever since my last final at the end of fall semester. Our syllabus for this week is a little bit intimidating: every day this week (minus Friday) we meet 9 - 11 AM, 12:15- 2:15 PM, and 3-5:30 PM for either the psychology, anthropology, or joint classes. In addition to being in a classroom for about 6 1/2 hours each day, we have a lot of reading to do. By lots of reading, I mean we got two rather large packets of readings in addition to excerpts from the 4 additional books we bought for the courses. Friday, we have one class in the morning, no class in the afternoon, and our exam in the evening. This is going to be an intense week of working hard. But, I know it is going to pay off once I board the bus next Monday at noon to take us to Washington-Dulles airport. The tentative itinerary looks jam packed with a lot of fun and exciting things to do that reinforces what we will be (and are) learning in class, along with some fun things, including an all day safari trip to Pilanesberg. I'm very excited to be going to Cape Town for our final days down in South Africa as well; if anything, that is the most tourist-y part of our trip, and to be near a beach at the end of January when I'm used to the cold Northern Hemisphere temperatures at this time of year will just be awesome. So, most of you will be shivering in the cold weather while I will be basking in nice warm/hot weather in South Africa the whole 2 1/2 weeks I'm there for. =) There is no one word that can describe just how excited I am for next Monday.