Tag Archives: Apartheid

Angels, miracles, and soup

I finally have a couple of pictures of the “girls” with their home stay hosts. However, this is still an incomplete report as super-host-mom, Sabine, was not yet home when I took the one of Kym, Jen, Crystal, & Courtney. You will see them with Yul, Loren, & Tia…I will do my best to add a photo of Sabine if I see her again. Also, here are Kjersten & Kelsey are with their adorable hosts, Patrick (Patty) & Beryl. When we asked for the photo, Beryl exclaimed, “Oh Erin, you should’ve let me know so I could’ve had my hair done!” :) These hosts have been fabulous to our girls…we are grateful to GHS and their good care of us.

Wednesday was another day of practicum experiences. This week I went to Little Angels on Owl Place (such cute names). This is a day care center for children of single mothers. Today there were six little angels there (one was already napping and isn’t in the photo), as well as three “big angels” in Kjersten, Kelsey, and Jolene, the amazing woman who takes care of these wee ones each and every day. She does a wonderful job of establishing a routine for the crawlers and toddlers, and I saw a lot of evidence of healthy developmental strategies. It is a brightly colored, stimulating place where nourishing food, good naps, and lots of fun are present. The photos show this well through the healthy faces…the sweet nappers are Lolli with Kelsey and Devotion with Kjersten.

Next I went to Miracle Kidz, which is a new site at which several of the girls have already volunteered, and I think they all will during the remaining time here. The super-host-mom, Sabine, facilitated this opportunity for supplemental practicum experiences. It is a safe house for babies and children who have had a rough start in life. They can live at Miracle Kidz up to a year, at which time they would transition to foster care. I couldn’t take photos of the children, and Elsie, the woman in charge, was at the doctor with some of the kids, so the only photo is of Crystal and Courtney by the sign. In my short time there, I could easily tell that it is a very special place with people doing incredibly important work there…facilitating miracles.

I spent the afternoon helping at a soup kitchen in Cape Flats, specifically Mitchell’s Plain, a low-lying part of Cape Town that was a racially segregated area during apartheid. It was one of the areas people were forced into when they were removed from District Six. This soup kitchen was established in 2009 by the son of Stanford, our kind GHS driver (he was in the photo of the girls in front of the van at the airport back on May 27).

Tragically, this eldest son of Stanford – Quinton, age 45 – was killed in 2010, right in the neighborhood where the soup kitchen operates. The family has kept the kitchen going…just barely. They can only afford to feed the community once per week. Either Stanford’s wife, Lillian, or daughter-in-law (i.e., Quinton’s widow) make 100 liters of soup each Wednesday. Adults get 3 ladles (along with 2 slices of bread) and children get 2 ladles (plus 1 piece of bread). Stanford said he’s sure Quinton smiles down from heaven every Wednesday afternoon.

This was a very touching experience, reminiscent of the mealie meal I have dished out in Swazi preschools. The people are so grateful for the small portion they are given, and then the kids just want to play. :) This was the majority of our time spent – holding kids, dancing, playing street games, taking pictures. They were hungry for our affections, as well as the soup. I believe it was just as nourishing for me as it was for them.

My students were at their practicum sites, but I was accompanied by seven other Good Hope students to the soup kitchen. They are all here learning English (as that is the function of GHS), and were a bit puzzled by why I am here. The composition of our group was as follows: two guys from Switzerland, one guy from Spain, one girl from Angola, one girl from Sweden, one girl from Colombia, one girl from Brazil, and me. The girl from Angola said my accent is like that of a movie star. On the drive home, we shared tongue twisters in our native languages. They REALLY liked my “she sells sea shells by the sea shore” bit…they roared with laughter as they attempted to say it. :) It was a fun afternoon together, serving in this truly global community…I’m so glad I went.

Test & Township Tuesday

Tuesday started with our second test in Global Psychology. You can see the students writing away in the first photo (along with our new classroom at GHS, and Rosie the GHS cat in another photo). This test covered topics such as indigenous psychologies (i.e., understanding people in a cultural and global context), alternative psychologies (e.g., liberation psychology of Latin America), qualitative research methods for a global psychology, and psychotherapy within a cultural/global context (being a clinical psychologist, this was my favorite topic and I rambled on quite awhile).

After a break, we launched into the final segment of our “term” and then worked on a group project for awhile. They are working in pairs to investigate websites of organizations with a global focus (Crystal & Kjersten are reviewing Pathways to Peace and Kym and Jen are looking at One). On our last day of class, they will make brief presentations on what they learned, including a recommendation for how the organization could improve its impact based on things we’ve discussed in class. Also, they will write individual reflection papers on the experience. It’s hard to believe we are just over a week away from our last class (i.e., next Thursday).

Rashied collected us at half past one and took us on our long-awaited township tour. We drove to Langa Township, where around 350,000 people reside, and there is a 42% unemployment rate. This area existed as a work camp before Apartheid; men would go to work there and live in crowded “hostels.” Then it was used to segregate blacks during Apartheid. We first stopped at a community center, where we met our local guide, a woman my age named Mpumie (say “Poomie”). She took us through the center, and we saw a pottery project where the proceeds benefit the community. Children can come here to learn crafts and other trades for possible future employment. Very practical.

We began our walking tour with Mpumie on this cloudy and chilly afternoon…we were quite the spectacle walking down the streets, often drawing looks, waves, and smiles from the children who were walking home from school. We learned that the people of Langa live in one of three “classes” (i.e., low, middle, and upper [referred to as Beverly Hills]) and corresponding types of homes with various levels of government ownership and subsidies. Before we went into the homes, we were educated on the delicacy of sheep heads and got to see a bit of the cleaning and de-braining process (gulp). I was very thankful we weren’t offered a sample.

The low class residents live in the old hostels, which were pretty challenging to behold. Inside these run-down concrete structures, 16 families live in each unit. Two or three families share each bedroom, and there is a communal dining room (see photo of the concrete table) that doubles as a sleeping area for children over age 8. Mpumie talked a lot about how children engage in sexual behaviors at very early ages due to what they see in these living conditions. This contributes to high rates of teen pregnancies and HIV/AIDS, among other things. These hostels were dark, cold, and depressing, though Mpumie reminded us that they have running (cold) water and flush toilets, so they are better than living in the rural villages.

The middle class homes are better, of course, though still very small and simple. Some were in better shape than others. Teachers might live in such accommodations. The upper class homes are nicer, yet understated by our American standards. Mpumie said that doctors, lawyers, and nurses live in these types of homes. They stay in the area because it is where they are from…Langa is their community.

We continued to walk on and got to the shanty part of the township. I was prepared for what we would see, as Reed and I toured a shanty in Soweto, a segregated part of Johannesbug, about six years ago. Shanty towns are where the structures are made out of whatever materials can be gathered…wood, corrugated tin, cardboard, etc. I guess it is a lower class than the low class hostels, as there is not running water or flush toilets in the homes. Again, it was hard to behold these living conditions. However, Mpumie said she chooses to live here over the hostels due to the less crowded living quarters. She moved from the hostels with the birth of her first child, nearly 20 years ago. Wow.

She told us about how rain water runs through the homes, as does the wind of course. People were standing around open fires outside for warmth, and she said that the fires are brought indoors this time of year, and often the structures catch fire and are quickly consumed (& firetrucks can’t access them). Mpumie also spoke of their “friends,” the rats. She proudly noted the row of clean toilet facilities (i.e., like our honey buckets/port-a-potties) and water taps around the shanty town. There was also a community gathering place where you can catch up on all the latest gossip. Some things are universal, aren’t they? :)

We had one more stop in Langa: to the “Sangoma,” or local healer. A sort of medicine man, he is the one people turn to in times of sickness, possession of evil spirits, and romance problems. We all entered his dark, strangely smelling cargo container (what most of the small business use for a structure). I saw our guide slip him some cash, at least 100 Rands. We sat and listened to him tell us tales of his ancestors, snake oils, and potions. I felt skeptical as I saw the many empty vodka, gin, and whiskey bottles, but at the same time I believed in his importance to the local people. He clearly is someone they turn to for hope and healing amidst the suffering and despair.

When we got back into the familiar and comfortable setting of Rashied’s van, a few comments and observations were voiced. Jen thought her brother would have loved the animal bones and snake skins hanging from the ceiling. Kelsey offered to share with us her good karma as the Sangoma had just whisked away any lurking evil spirits from her with his buffalo- and cow-tail hand brooms. Courtney honestly exclaimed, “I could have lived my whole life never having done that.” :)

The next part of our tour was a drive through the Guguletu Township; a nearby community of around 280,000 colored people. Remember that this term is not used as we do, with a negative connotation, but rather to describe those who are neither black nor white. Many Muslim families reside in this township, which looks to be more of a middle- and low-class blend, though not quite as impoverished as the hostels and shanty towns of Langa. Rashied said it is where the Langa people would go if they could afford a dinner out with friends.

As Rashied delivered us home to our suburban residences, we had much to think about…I learned a lot from Mpumie about choices, priorities, and quality of life. I saw a lot of entrepreneurial and creative spirits surviving in living conditions that would probably do me in. I observed a lot of people living with a lot of disadvantages. I think of them now as I type this on my iPad, in a lighted comfortable (albeit chilly) home, my belly full from a warm dinner of vegetables and meat, almost ready to brush my teeth and go to sleep in my private quarters (under five blankets).

Why do I complain about doing laundry, vacuuming, or getting groceries? Why do I moan about traffic-jams and busy-ness? Why would I ever not want to go to work? Why does not having Internet at my home stay frustrate me? Why does my routine get me down sometimes? Why do I reach for my water bottle with the slightest thirst? Why am I grumpy if I don’t find a good parking spot? Why do I whine about ANYthing? I am blessed far beyond I deserve…far more than most of the people in the world.

May this time in Langa today – just as my time in the countryside of Swaziland last month and again in a couple of weeks – cause me to be ever mindful of what I have been given. Much is asked of me; of us. May we not be idle but be active participants in our global community. May we see a need and meet a need each and every day. May we continue to ask, what can I do at this point in time for this one?

District Six Museum & Greenmarket Square

Our group was reunited Tuesday with the recovery of Kelsey & Kjersten. Their hosts have been excellent caretakers of them, so I am very grateful for that. Being sick in another country is absolutely miserable (I swore I was going to die in a Dublin hotel room last summer). We are all very thankful to have them back in action (& not contagious).

We had a good class Tuesday morning, and now I have exams to grade. :) After everyone had finished and we took a short break, we moved on to the next section of our book…no time to waste when you’re doing a three-credit course in four weeks! Courtney had a good volunteering experience at a child protective service type of agency…lots of kids and babies to tend to (runny noses and all). At 1:30, Rashied collected us all and we headed downtown to the District Six Museum…

District Six was an eclectic community in Cape Town where people of diverse races, colors, and religions lived in harmony. However, in 1966 under Apartheid and the Group Areas Act of 1950, it was declared a “White Group Area.” Over the next 15 years, more than 60,000 people were forcibly removed, their homes demolished – literally bull-dozed down – and they were forced into townships, i.e., racially segregated neighborhoods (we will visit one or two Thursday).

Our museum guide, Noor Ebrahim, told his story passionately…he lived in District Six and was forced to leave with his family in 1976 (he’s even featured in my travel book!). He explained the map on the floor and how relocated families have noted where their homes were. He told us how a man saved the street signs that now adorn the museum. He described the cruel nature of apartheid and how kids today have it so much better. I am glad we met him.

After our time in the museum, Rashied took us to Greenmarket Square, which is an outdoor arts and crafts type of shopping area where bargaining is expected. We have the whole spectrum of bargainers in our group, from Kelsey who enjoys the sport of it to Jen who happily pays full price. :) We helped the local economy by getting many cool souvenirs and gifts, and we enjoyed “show and tell” on the drive home. We all agreed it was a great day, and we were thankful for our “Baby Gumby Monday” since it meant that Kelsey and Kjersten were with us on our excursion.

On to practicum placements Wednesday…(& exam grading for me). :)

Robben Island at last

We made it to Robben Island this morning with the 9:00 ferry. There were large swells in Table Bay, but no one got seasick, thankfully. The ferry ride was about 45 minutes (one-way), then there was a 35-minute bus tour of the island, and finally a 45-minute walking tour led by a former political prisoner from Robben Island.

We learned quite a bit, though we agreed much more was left unsaid. We saw the leper graveyard (Robben Island has been used for banishment of many kinds since the 1600s), and the limestone quarry where hard labor punishment was carried out. The pile of rocks was placed there by former inmates, including Mandela, in February of 1995, one year after their release. We saw the dog kennels that housed German Shepherds in bigger quarters than those in singe cells, like Mandela and other political leaders who spoke out against apartheid.

We learned how living conditions were very hard, including how everything, down to food portions, was divided along racial lines. We saw Nelson Mandela’s cell. It was hard to imagine real life there, now that it is a World Heritage Site, but I’m glad we have the opportunity to ponder it.

Quite a few pictures are below…too many to fully describe with limited wifi time. You’ll just have to ask one of us to tell you more when we’re back home.