Just a quick post on our drive from Kruger Park into Swaziland. We don’t expect to be able to be online once there. We have had a fabulous experience here and have seen lots of animals, and we each have our favorite sightings. We were incredibly lucky to see five lions up close as well as two cheetahs with a fresh kill. Considering there are only around 200 cheetahs in all of Kruger Park (which is about12,000 square miles), the latter was very, very fortunate. More pictures are needed to tell the tales, but here is one of us so you know we are all fine and the lions didn’t eat anyone! 🙂
Just a quick update on this Friday afternoon before I leave GHS’ wifi…I was successful in finding both a South Africa flag and map! Even better, the flag guy remembered me…I liked that so I didn’t even bother bargaining with him on the price (& it was only $6). And, I was sure to select a map that has “Mhlosheni” on it. That is the rural community in Swaziland that our church partners with (via World Vision), and where I was prior to my teaching gig in Cape Town (& where I’ll return later this month with my family).
Mhlosheni isn’t on most maps, so I was quite pleased to purchase one that has it. If you’re not aware of the geography of southern Africa, two small nations -Swaziland and Lesotho (say “Luh-soo-too”) – are on the same map with South Africa as they are nearly surrounded by it (actually, Lesotho is surrounded by SA, but Swaziland also shares a border with Mozambique). End of geography lesson…& my Friday afternoon report. Happy weekend everyone!
While living in South Africa, we have caught ourselves describing something new we’ve observed or experienced and referring to it as “weird”…we quickly catch ourselves and switch out weird for “different.” I thought I’d reflect a bit on this in today’s post, since I don’t have any exciting news to report or sites to describe. Students, please feel free to reply and post other differences you’ve noticed.
First, a few differences related to race…
For instance, isn’t it weird, I mean different, how many Afrikaaner (white) families have black maids? Isn’t it different how the term “colored” is not derogatory here, but rather descriptive of those who are neither white nor black? Isn’t it different to perceive racial tensions in the air, even though we are 18 years removed from the official end of apartheid? These differences cause discomfort at times.
Second, a few differences we like…
There are very few SUVs on the roads (now that is weird!). People here drive itty bitty, manual transmission cars for the most part. Generally speaking, people seem more conscientious about conserving resources, whether it is petrol (R11+ per liter…have fun converting to $ per gallon), water, or electricity (homes are not heated!). We like the multiple languages we hear every day, as well as the diversity of people that surrounds us. We like how inexpensive things are, for the most part anyway. We like how kids wear uniforms to school. We like the dinners our hosts make us each night…yum.
Third, a few differences we don’t like so much…
Pedestrians are not valued very highly here! Those itty bitty cars race down the streets, and I have yet to see one yield to a pedestrian…even in a crosswalk (I kid you not). The sidewalks are often in poor condition with quite a bit of trash alongside (despite the frequently placed green “zibi bins”). The only photo today is of the sidewalk that I walk down every day…there has been a huge hole in it the past three weeks. Today I was glad to see someone barricaded it off with some big rocks and wrote “please fix my hood” next to it. I feel safer already. 🙂 We are not crazy about the minibus taxi drivers that yell, whistle, and honk (or hoot, see below) to see if you want a ride…they get annoying when you’re waiting FOREVER to cross a street.
Fourth, some different terms we’ve learned…
Nappy = diaper
Cot = crib
Pram = stroller
Bonnet = car hood
Hooter = car horn (we did convey what we usually refer to when we talk about hooters)
Robot = traffic/stoplight
Geiser = hot water heater
Esh = kind of like “good grief”
Comfort stop = potty/snack break on a road trip…we like that one
Toilet = restroom/bathroom…easy translation but we don’t like asking for the “toilet”
I’m certain there are many other differences yet to describe, but this is a start. Jen, Kym, Kelsey, Courtney, Crystal, and Kjersten can share more…
Our Sunday excursion to Hermanus was nice…we were so thankful for the return of sunny, warm skies. We drove along the coastal route on our way, first stopping for a photo op at Gordon’s Bay (a gruesome shark attack occurred here about three months ago…Kelsey & Kjersten can tell you all about it [from a 2-hour dinner conversation with their hosts]).
Next we went to Betty’s Bay, home of the Stony Point penguin colony. We saw a lot more penguins than we did at Simon’s Town, so it was a great experience (though more penguins = more stink). And, we learned that they are called “jackass” penguins due to the braying sound they make when they mate and mark their territory. However, most other kinds of penguins make the same sound, so they are usually called African penguins. 🙂
We also saw several dassies, which are cute, furry brown animals, kind of like big bunnies without the long ears. They look like the kind of animal you want to pick up and cuddle (though this describes pretty much all the animals these girls see!), but our guide, Marinda, said they often carry rabies and are “eagle food.” 🙁 ,
On a side note…we learned a new term today: “bunny hugger” which basically is an animal lover (this describes our group well). Sometime I will have to post interesting terms for objects/phrases we’ve learned. Anyway, also at Stony Point, there was an old shipwreck in the bay…I thought it was pretty cool.
Next we motored on down the road and encountered some baboons. There was a small group of various sizes, including adorable babies and the big “king” baboon. Our guide told us how when the young adult males try to vie for the position of “king,” they sometimes grab baby baboons by the head and rip them apart to show their dominance. Sounds pretty nasty.
Then we drove a bit more to Hermanus, the best land-based whale-watching spot in the world. Well, this day the whales were kinda hard to spot…we saw some from a distance, but no spectacular sightings, I’m sorry to say. However, we may be tempted to tell a “fish tale” (yes, we know whales are not fish) about midwife whales coming alongside a mother in labor and helping push out the baby whale (which was then named “Concordia Pacific” in honor of our students from CU and Warner Pacific). 😉 Even the “whale crier of Hermanus” with his hooter (another term that makes us giggle, this time meaning horn), couldn’t help us much.
We enjoyed lunch and gelato together, the beautiful views, and the warm sun on our faces. We also drove to a mountain-top lookout for another great view. Basically, it was a day of a lot of great scenic views just asking for fun photos to be taken. I have included many here…hope you enjoy.
Back to the books Monday…half way done!
Please feel free to skip this if you don’t care about a rugby report. 🙂 I must admit, I’m kinda getting into this sport. I wonder if one of our satellite channels carries rugby matches (Reed, please investigate and let me know)? Anyway, I am pleased to say that SA beat England Saturday night, 22-17. It was quite exciting, especially when watching with local fans, Sheila & Binci. Yes, once again a few “yum, yum, yum” comments were made about some players (not by me!).
In the TV photos, you’ll see that I thought the final score was going to be 22-12 (they play to around 80ish minutes), but then England scored another “try” after the “hooter” (the name for a horn here) to take them to 17. The guy at the end with the bloodied eye is the SA captain, from the Cape Town Stormers (a local hero), Jean de Villiers. He always seems to look like that after a match (as do others). It is pretty brutal…our super-padded & helmeted NFL players are kind of wimpy next to these rugby guys with no protective gear. And, I’ve heard soccer players referred to as “sissies” by rugby fans!
SA and England play each of the next two Saturdays, both in SA (first in Joburg, then in Port Elizabeth), so I’m glad I’ll get to take in two more matches. Even better, I will get to share the one on the 23rd with my family! Go Springboks! 😉
Wednesday was another volunteering day. I met Jen and Kym at Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital in Athlone. The stated objective is “to provide expert nursing and medical care in a homely and loving environment for children and infants who are recovering from acute medical and surgical conditions…these children are unable to return to their own homes for social or medical reasons.” That last part seems to be the key…it feels more like a medical foster home than a hospital. And the conditions seem more chronic than acute. Parents aren’t really around, so Kym and Jen (& other workers and volunteers) are so important in providing the TLC all the little sweethearts there need.
Jen and Kym are stationed in the baby room, and as the pictures show, they are very happy there and are making a big impact. The main conditions treated at the hospital are TB, HIV, and kwashiorkor & marasmus (i.e., diseases subsequent to malnutrition). I saw a baby this morning that looked like fetal alcohol effects might be present too. You’ll have to ask Kym and Jen to tell you about the babies’ personalities and who their favorites are (it happens…Kym is holding Tyana and Jen is holding Phelokazi). In my short two hours there this morning, I grew quite fond of Fatima, who was born July 5, 2011…I think the feeling was mutual.
The babies are delayed in their growth, motor skills, language, etc. As I sat there, I wondered who they are able to form attachments with and how this is affecting their emotional development. I often reflected on our daughter’s orphanage in China and the similarities…not much crying despite a room full of babies, very basic facilities, “staff” as caregivers. They are safe and looked after, but it is far from an ideal or even a “normal” setting that babies deserve. It was sad and happy all at the same time…bittersweet, I guess.
We have talked in class about having the mindset of what can I do at this time for this one. I truly observed that being lived out at Sarah Fox with every peek-a-boo game played, every dropped toy retrieved, every nappy changed, every nose wiped, every smile shared, every hug given. All six of these young women are doing great things – you would be as proud of them as I am if you were here and saw them in action!
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). 🙂
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.
I shared with my students how our World Vision U.S. coordinator, Ruth, gives out little Gumby bendable characters each time our teams travel to Swaziland. This is to have a tangible reminder of the need to be flexible throughout our time. Schedules change, tires go flat, people get migraines, etc., and we need to go with the flow. Well, I had my Gumby out in the table in our classroom this morning, and it ended up be very appropriate for the day’s events.
First, it was rainy & breezy. This makes a 15- to 20-minute walk a very different experience, and it seems to slow down the trains too. Second, combine that with a bit of disorientation when coming out of the train station and heavier rains, and you’ve got six very wet and rather late students. I was fine with them being late…I was relieved to see them waiting at the gate and thankful they weren’t lost for too long.
We collected ourselves, got some coffee and tea, and then had our first class. The discussion was good and already a lot was contributed based on experiences had so far in Cape Town. The home stay families are great sources of information, and we were able to discuss how world views (both ours and other people’s) impact us. I can tell that a lot of learning has already occurred, which is just why these types of experiences are so great!
You’ll see in the photos the guest house where our classroom currently meets (Abbadale), as well as towel-clad students, hoping for dry pants by the end of class. 🙂 Thankfully, we’re all girls and it worked fine, though without much heat inside, the pants (& socks & shoes & jackets) weren’t exactly dry by the time we left for Robben Island. A bit of microwaving of socks occurred, and then Rashied collected us and made a quick stop for some (dry!) pants, etc. to be purchased on the way to the waterfront.
Brenda had been checking in all morning about the ferry to make sure it was still running with the iffy weather. All signs were go until 6 minutes before departure. It was cancelled. “Disappointing” doesn’t quite capture the feeling. While waiting to hear from Brenda on the rebooking process, we toured the exhibit in the ferry hall. It focused on Apartheid and those who have fought it. Nelson Mandela was highlighted, of course, but so were Fred & Sarah Carson. I want to learn more about them. You will see some pictures from the exhibit, as well as the lovely waterfront.
The cancellation was puzzling as the weather had cleared. Here’s how Rashied interpreted the situation: the main (large) ferry was not in use, perhaps due to a maintenance issue. So, a smaller ferry was being used. With the questionable weather, the ferry staff probably thought not everyone who had booked would show up. So when we all did, there was not enough room for us all on the smaller ferry (basically, it was oversold). Now Brenda is left with the task of rebooking us…
So, Rashied delivered the students home and me to GHS for some emailing/blogging, but ongoing Internet problems plague this place. The tech guys are here now as I type; they’ve actually been here quite a lot since my arrival a week ago. Hope it’s fixed before I have to leave for the afternoon.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) the students go to their practicum/volunteer placements. I think they’ve enjoyed the tourist role, but are ready to become servants. Courtney and Crystal will be at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Kym and Jen will be at the Sarah Fox Recovery Hospital, and Kelsey and Kjersten will be at the Little Angels Day Care Center. I will rotate through all sites over the next three weeks, in the order listed here. It is likely that they will experience some tough stuff through these placements, so please say an extra prayer for the students.
All in all, it was still a good day, despite the Gumby moments…maybe even because of the Gumby moments. (I assured the students that in a few days, this will be a funny story, worthy of a laugh.) It is good to be flexible…it always seems to come in handy. (Like now when the wifi remains down and it’s time to go…)
The last picture is a bit of happiness in a cup…a fairly decent latte I picked up on my walk home for R14 (~$1.75; the exchange rate is improving). Who needs Starbucks?! Haven’t seen one since I left PDX…I like that.
P.S. The colorful Muslim neighborhood is called Bo-Kapp (the name escaped me on my last post). Also, Brenda successfully rebooked our Robben Island tour for Thursday morning, thus shifting our class to the afternoon. Here’s hoping for brighter skies (& no overbooked ferry!).
First things first…finally a picture with ALL six students, as well as our Good Hope Studies (GHS) hostess, Brenda (then from left to right, Kelsey, Crystal, Kjersten, Jen, Courtney, & Kym). Also, our lovely lunch spot, “Crave,” in Cavendish, about a 10-15 minute walk from GHS. The students seem well overall, and are happy to be done with airplanes for awhile!
We had a full afternoon and evening touring Cape Town with our guide, Rashied, a native of the city. This report will be fairly brief in comparison to everything we did, saw, and learned today, as it is getting late on Monday night as I type this (I had to start by spending some time preparing for our first class tomorrow!).
We began at the Castle of Good Hope, which protected the city after the Dutch arrived in 1652. Don’t think of a Disney fairytale type of castle with tall spires, but rather a pentagon shaped low rise structure…but, in true castle fashion, it comes with a moat! Next we saw nearby City Hall – the second oldest building in South Africa – and also where Nelson Mandela gave his first address after being released from prison in 1990, as well as after he was elected president in 1994.
We learned that the “city bowl” of Cape Town has 1.5 million residents, but when the suburbs are factored in, it rises to 4.9 million or 10% of all of South Africa. Did you know that Cape Town is the legislative capitol of the country, whereas Pretoria (near Johannesburg) is the administrative capitol? We saw other notable buildings, statues, and cathedrals in the city as well. We heard about how the slave trade worked and how the “slave tree” was removed from the town square due to the horrible events that occurred under it.
Next we crossed “outside the gate” (there’s an Afrikaans word for the name but I didn’t write it down). Basically, it was a gated/fenced off portion of the city for housing Muslims. It is still largely a Muslim neighborhood today, and the fence remains, but the gates are gone so one can freely enter and exit. Some of the streets are still bumpy old cobblestones, and there are ten mosques in the area. Our favorite part was the brightly painted houses…Rashied said it was (is) done to make a statement in contrast the Dutch rule and their white houses. It was very beautiful (notice us girls by the pretty pink house!).
We drove up to the lower platform of Table Mountain and the view was incredible! We lucked out with a beautiful clear day, so we could see for miles (I mean kilometers). We did not take the cable car to the top, but had some time to get a few small souvenirs. After this view, we drove past Lion’s Head, up Signal Hill for another stunning vista of the entire Table Bay. We enjoyed the guinea fowl pecking around this area, and we made Rashied promise that no snakes would get us. 🙂
Still more…we drove through the valley between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to the other side (water all around gets kind of disorienting!). On the way, we saw the Twelve Apostles, which are the jagged rock formations on the back side of Table Mountain (i.e., just like the twelve apostles at the last supper table with Jesus). Then we entered the very ritzy Camps Bay area where the millionaires live and play. This is on the Atlantic side now, and we got about 45 minutes to walk on the beach. We next headed to Sea Point, where we watched the sunset…yes, the sun sets at the Atlantic Ocean, weird, huh?
We circled back into the city, past the huge football (you know, soccer) stadium that was built for the World Cup, past the waterfront, and on to our dinner destination, Gold of Africa. We began the evening with a drumming session, and I think we were very good compared to the other group that was with us. 😉 Next came a 14-item dinner, complete with explanations of the dishes and their African origins. Some singing and dancing occurred throughout the meal (don’t worry, not by us), and I think we were all quite satisfied with the festivities (especially the warm custard dessert). Rashied delivered us home by about 9:00, and we were ready for some rest!
I was so proud of these “girls” today, trekking around learning so much about this part of the world, despite being tired from traveling some 10,000 miles to get here (and their bodies not knowing what timezone they’re in yet). They have big hearts for this world and the people in it, and I’m privileged to get to be sharing this experience with them. Tomorrow we will have class and then travel by ferry to Robben Island, which I’m certain will be a humbling experience (here’s hoping the weather holds).
We’ve already learned a bit about some of the injustices here as Rashied shared tonight how during Apartheid, his driver’s license only allowed him to transport people of color, since he is a person of color. He would’ve been arrested if he drove Whites, and his license and car taken from him. He sees a lot of changes for the better since then, of course, be he also spoke of a nearly 30% unemployment rate, most of which is within people of color. We will continue to learn about such social justice issues, and we will try to wrap our minds around how such things happen, impact people, can be changed, and our part in it all. To be continued…