So, this is africa

3/1/2003


hello loyal readers. this may very well be my last posting from south africa. tomorrow is my birthday, so i doubt i'll make it into the computer lab for very long and we leave for kruger park on monday. i'll be in jo'burg for a night, but if our experience in jo'burg last time was any indication, we are going to be locked up tight with very little access to the internet.

the itinerary for the rest of the trip breaks down like this:
*today, begin packing and eat begin birthday celebration with dinner
*tomorrow, party like it's 1999. plans include: watching the sun rise, hanging out by the ocean, have a picnic dinner on top of a mountain and much, much more.
*monday, leave cape town around 10am for jo'burg where we'll spend the rest of the day preparing for kruger
*tuesday, flying on a little prop plane from jo'burg to the edge of kruger where we'll hope in the kombie's and begin our 8 day adventure in the park
*march 12th, go back to jo'burg
*march 13th, take on more test and then party the night away at david bunn's house (the professor who is taking us through kruger).
*march 14th, leaving jo'burg on a 5:15pm plane headed for atlanta
*march 15, because the immense time difference as well as massive head winds, the flight will be 22 hours long and i'll arrive in atlanta early saturday morning, then sit
around in the airport for a while before finally heading to chicago, where i will land at 12:05pm (good old central time).

i suppose this is the place where i'm supposed to come up with some sort of profound realization about the trip. we'll, not going to happen (think george bush, the first one). i've been doing a lot of thinking lately and i really think the biggest thing that i have learned while being here is how much i appreciate things back in chicago/the states. granted, i have also been struck with a profound sense that americans really do a lot of things really terribly (like the stressful nature of life). but, being way from all the things that are important in my life has made a lot of things come into much clearer focus. god, i sounds like a study abroad brochure.

when i get back to the states, i plan on putting a good amount of pictures on the internet, so check back here for links to that. Thanks for putting up with this self-indulgent web page. i hope it helped stay in touch in some capacity.

adios.


2/26/2003


once again, i am not dead or disappeared, just have been neglecting this page for a while. sorry for that. many things to talk about, we'll see what i get to.

let's see, maybe i'll work backwards. today was our last formal day of class in south africa. we had been doing these final presentations all week on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and crime to reconciliation and youth. anne and i capped off what was a long week with a discussion of nature and contemporary south african discourse. the real highlight of the week was xhosa class. the past two days we had done our final examinations, written yesterday an an oral the day before. i really think i have come full circle about xhosa and by the end i really feel the class added something extra to my understanding here in south africa and was all in all done really well. today, with all the tests out of the way, we had a bog ol' party to cap things off. tesa brought in a tart that she made, as well a case of beer. if that wasn't good enough, she also invited an acapella group from khayelitsha (a township in cape town) to come and perform for us. they called themselves "khayelitsha united mambazo" and were like nothing i have ever seen. they were actually very similar to "ladysmith black mambazo," another south africa gropu that paul simon helped make famous with graceland. still, watching these 10 men perform live was a great experience. it was a very fitting end to the class and the course. i told both tesa and zukile how much i appreciated their class and the fact that they put up with all of us, as hard as that can be sometimes.

yesterday we had our final dinner at bergzicht, homemade pizza. we were all given the crust and added the toppings and then baked them in a outdoor, wood oven that they have. just like kramer said, "people want to make their own pizza pie." everyone seemed to enjoy dinner, expect for a few people who "don't like pizza." weird. ooh, before i forget, another weird colloquialism used here. instead of bathing suit they say "costume" (did i mention this already?) which has really confused me on a few occasions.

this past weekend had a good mix of taking it easy punctuated by a few hours excitement. it was just right as far as i'm concerned. some highlights included:
* hiking down in kauk bay, a little seaside town down the peninsulla. all the way up and down we had a beautiful view of the ocean that seemed to be directly below us.
* a good half of the trip went to see this local band called "moonphase 5" last saturday night (maybe friday, all the days run together here). it was a very interesting show, punctuated by the fact that i was in the very front "row" (the stage was maybe, maybe 8 inches high so a better approximation would be to say that i could have reach on stage an began playing if i had tried). the lead singer was very pregnant but approached the entire situation with a great sense of humor, asking the large crown packed into a small room to please stop smoking. the music was good, not really the kind i would sit down and listen to, a jazz/hip-hop sort of fusion. but like many things i've been finding here, and experience unlike i have in chicago.
*on friday we all went down to cape point and the cape of good hope, the furthest south-western point in africa and ALMOST the bottom of the continent. the drive down there was beautiful, passing through and area that ben described as, "more densely packed with different species of plants than any other place on earth expect the tropical rainforests in brazil.
*more cricket watching. pakistan lost to england, despite one of the guys bowling (pitching) the fastest ball in cricket history (100.2 mph, damn fast when you consider that you can not bend your elbow).

going to try and live it up big with weekend before we leave cape town on monday morning and head for jo'burg. while i have had a great time here, i'm ready to leave the city. since i am living in a sort of limbo, somewhere between "real students" and tourists, it has been hard to find a place. i think over all i have found great things to do, but it's time to either live here for real or move on.


2/22/2003


i just realized i left out a intensely strange night from last weekend. i don't even remember what night it was, may have been friday, no, i think saturday. here goes nothing.

shawn, corey (which was interesting that he came with us because he has been almost exclusively with his girlfriend this trip) and i went down to the waterfront to see this drum band/drum circle/i don't know what the term is play. a few things about this must be clarified. first, the waterfront is this hyper trendy, touristy mall built on the sight of an old ship yard, and i have avoided the place like the plague since i have been here. it was a weird environment, mostly (as i realized later) that i have not been around such a mixed group of people (age wise) since i have been here. my world has been composed almost entirely of twentysomethings, so just being around a bunch of middle age cape towians was odd in-and-of-itself. second, a few members of the band shawn and i know from a drumming things we had been to and the leader is working on a carnival though the district six museum where i have been volunteering. so, we find the outdoor concert, enjoy it thoroughly, and then things get weird. during the last song, as the 8 or 9 drummers are doing their thing on stage, this little boy (no older than 5) walked up to the railing in front of the stage, and begins dancing like i have never seen before. if this was not funny enough, some yuppie white guy comes swooping down from the audience and picks this kid up and hoists him over the railing and onto the stage. as this is happening, two rappers run out on stage, grab a microphone, and begin free styling on stage for the better part of the next 5 minutes, completely unannounced and out of the blue (is that the same thing?). as corey, shawn and i are trying to make sense of all of this, a woman appears from out of nowhere and hand me this piece of paper, mentioning something about this band playing later at such and such a venue and that we should come. i didn't think much of it at the time, people are constantly shoving promotional material around. but when she left, i look down and notice that it's a hand written note, not unlike something one would receive in middle school, ending in "see you there, :). after the show, shawn and i went to talk with chris, the guy in the band we know, and he mentions that one of the other guys in the drum circle is actually in the band these girls invited us to go to see. he offers us a ride (a huge deal in a city where we don't have a car and don't like paying for cabs) to the show, and the next thing we know we're caring in the drum equipment for this band that is supposed to be amazing. while waiting around at the club for the music to start (EVERYTHING starts late in cape town) we run into the girls who asked us to the show. not only is it plainly obvious that they just picked us out of the crowd and invited us to this show, they are all in their late twenties/early thirties. man o man. by this point, i am exhausted, and find a place by the all to sit while i wait for the band to begin. i didn't think i was going to be able to make it through the show. but when they came on i was sold. the band "freshly ground" put on an amazing show. they we a drummer, bassist, guitar, piano and then a violinist and an amazing singer. this woman couldn't have been more than 4'10'' but she commanded that stage like nothing i have ever seen. she sang half the songs in english, half in xhosa all with this amazing voice. the band finished the set with a hilarious/amazingly good rendition of "hit be baby one more time" complete with a didgeridoo solo in the middle. after the show we ran into more people that shawn knew and crammed four people in the back of this little car (all the cars here are tiny, which is fine by me) and we driven back home.

now that i have that all caught up, i'm without time to relay the past few days events. next time. let me just say this again, paying for internet sucks.


2/20/2003


i can not believe that i leave cape town in 11 days. where does the time go? i'm kind of going through this wierd duality, becasue i want to see people at home but i know that leaving this place is going to be really, really hard. on the same note, while i don't actually arrive back in the states until the 15th or march, we leave cape town in the 3rd for kruger, a notion that still is only an abstract concept. the fact that we are going to be in one of the most spectacular areas in africa, sleeping with lions and hyenas has still not settled in. at this point i'm just trying to make the most of my time here in cape town and take the next stage as it comes. can't do much more, than that, right?

monday night was a full moon, so on tuesday (an almost full moon) shawn, evan and i hiked up lion's head after dinner. the climb up was relatively easy and only took us a little over an hour. we were so happy with the view when we arrived at the top, that we made plans to sleep on top of the mountain and then come back at sunrise in time for breakfast and class. what we didnít anticipate is how bone numbing cold it would get up there (okay, we should have but we weren't thinking). we all tried to find a place to sleep and bed down, but around midnight is became apparent that this was a terrible idea, and we had to leave the mountain in defeat. we made it back home about 1:30 and i have never felt so good climbing into bed in all my life. sleeping on rocks with no blanket and no padding and then trudging all the way down the mountain and back up the guest house is not a good idea. as a result, i crashed last night about 10:00 down at hilcrest and had to drag my self back to bergzicht in a sleep walking daze when i finally woke up near midnight.

the highlight of yesterday was definitely dinner. shawn and i made the whole thing, with help from gordon (the man who lives and works in bergzight. he's been in south africa for about 8 months. before that, he was born and raised in malawi, a little country tucked in on the east coast of africa next to mozambique.). chris has been great about just letting us cook dinner from time to time. shawn and i made a curried vegetable dish with coconut milk, vikas' rice with onions and potatoes and the kicker, fried tofu braised in a honey/garlic mixture and then baked to perfection. mm mm good. it was immensely gratifying to make food for 30 people and have them all (i suspect) enjoy the fare. damn fun time as well.

today i have no real plans. polina and i are in sea point (a "suburb" of cape town, sort of, not far away. i think once we leave this internet cafe we may try and walk a few miles down the coast to camps bay and see if we can find some lunch along the ocean. have to start working on our final presentations for next week and then we're done with school in cape town. sweet.

tomorrow we are going to the cape of good hope and cape point. ben williams calls it "the most spectacular visual experience in south africa." so, that's something to look forward to. besides that, no plans for the weekend, i'm sure i'll end up watching some cricket.


2/15/2003


what a weekend so far.

as mentioned before, i spent wednesday at the cricket match so i felt in no condition to do anything most of the day thursday. pulled myself out of bed late, went and had lunch by myself at the hippie cafe down the block (incidentally, i've been taking a lot of shit recently for calling it the "hippie cafe" -from people here on the trip- but i stand by the name) and then sat around in bergzicht the rest of the afternoon watching cricket and trying to get some reading done. after dinner, shawn, luke, talia, evan, bri and i all went to the mount nelson hotel for drinks. i may have mentioned this place before, i'm too lazy to go back and look. anyway, we went to the "lord nelson bar" located in the hotel, one of the most opulent and garish interiors that i have ever seen, the hotel. full of paisley curtains and yellow walls, it was really the sort of place that makes you go insane. the bar was a different yet equally surreal place. imagine that you have been transported back to the 1920's, you're some sort of business tycoon or robber baron and you just landed in cape town. this is the place you'd go and hang out with other rich, old, white men. the whole place smacked of pretentious bourgeois attitude accompanied by a classis british feel. it is for this reason that we went there. dressed in tennis shoes and corduroys, i like to go and wallow in the irony. we spent the rest of the evening going from place to place, descending down the social ladder all the way.

friday the whole class (or almost everyone, it was not mandatory like most of our trips) went to the big 'treatment action campaign' (TAC) march downtown that marched on parliament to demand that money be given for HIV/AIDS treatment. as it stands now in this country, almost 1 in 4 people have HIV or AIDS yet the government is virtually ignoring the problem, refusing to spend money on anti-retroviral drugs. it's really mind bolggling that the ANC (or the ruling faction within the ANC) refuses to take this issue head on. hence the march. it was easily one of the largest i have been to in a long while, with a god 7,000-9,000 people gathered to hear speeches and march through the streets. it was an extremely well organized march, with tons of marshals directing the flow and answering questions before the march. it was a really great experience to see the way that rallies happen here and compare them to the ones that i have b een to in the united states. at the end of the day i felt real optimistic and looking forward to the anti-war march that was planned for this morning. there was talk that it could get even bigger, with somewhere around 10,000-15,000 people in attendance.


wrong. we made it to the march this morning (a much smaller crowd of kids from chicago, only 7 or 8. i guess the prospect of war doesn't galvanize many u of c kids. surprise surprise.) and attended a rally much smaller than the TAC march from yesterday. i would guess maybe 2,000 people, in attendance, so not a spectacular turnout. it's hard to have two major rallies on successive days, but i must admit that i was a little disappointed. the march went through the city center and ended at the us consulate, a good idea. what was idiotic, though, was that instead of facing the loudspeakers/pa system that was projecting the speeches out to the crown assembled, the organizers faced the speakers at the building, and were effectively speaking to themselves. it was so hard to hear what anyone was saying, despite our best efforts, that we took off at that point and meandered our way to this little greek restaurant for lunch. and that brings us up to date. almost.

last night was valentines day. the group sort of broke up into two factions. one, composed entirely of girls who got all dressed up and went to some fancy restaurant where they all planned on being sad and talking about their boyfriends back at home. the rest of us had a slightly different objective in mind, but hey, whatever floats your boat. we ended up at this little fish restaurant that was entirely full but the owner offered to seat all eight of us at the bar, where we spent the next 2.5 hours enjoying a great meal on bar stools, chatting with the bar tender and the waiters as couples enjoyed valentines day dinners all around us. it was great. after dinner we all went to see the movie, "the ring." it came out in the states a long time ago but this is south africa, so it's new here. let me tell you, it was fantastic. one of the scariest horror movies that i have ever seen, the scariest since the shinning i think. not only that, it was shot beautifully and all in all put together very smartly. i highly recommend it, even if it's not for the purpose of forgetting that it's valentines day.


2/13/2003


as chris pointed out, i have not updated in quite a while, but rest assured blogger fans, i am still alive.

a couple interesting things that i've picked up since being here. first, the phrase "is it?" has become part of my vocabulary. not in the classical, "is it really?" sort of way (although it can be used that way) but it gets used everywhere. it's nuts, but everyone uses it here (it's afrikaan slang that has made it into english, i guess). it's used like this:

"so, i'm really tired today."
"is it?"

did you see that a plane crashed into the ocean?"
"is it?"

"how are you today?"
"okay, feeling a little sick."
"is it?"

wierd! but, it's fun to say. try it at home.

the second new addition to my life via south africa is cricket. as you may (or may not) know, the world cup in cricket is being held in south africa right now. the opening match was last sunday, and i watched all 8 hours with evan and this guy percy who just moved from jo'burg and is staying in our guest house. it's a captivating game. really. it's real slow, and very british, but it's a interesting game. it took me the better part of 8 hours to understand it all, but i have it now. becasue of my new found enjoyment, and the fact that it's world cup, i went to a match yesterday just outside of cape town. the cup is ebing played over the next month in various locations all over south africa and other african nations (a few games in kenya and some were scheduled for zimbabwe but teams are forfitting/boycotting becasue of human rights abuses). this game was in a little town called paarl. we went out their after class to see india take on holland. not the bext match ever, india killed holland, but we got to see a good 4.5 hours of cricket, which was pleanty considering the sun. it was damn hot yesterday, over 35 C (near 98 F). still, a great opportunity to see something that just doesnít make it to the u.s. on the way home, i got into a great conversation with this young britsh guy about american foreign policy and the upcoming war. no one wants this war. damn politicians.


2/8/2003


two unrelated points:

1) the address where i am living until march 3rd (and things can be sent to me at) is:
Bergzicht Guest House
5 Devonport Road
Tamboerskloof, Cape Town 8001
South Africa

2) my birthday is march 2nd.

that is all


ahh friday lunches.

yesterday ben williams took a few of us to this fabulous restaurant way out in the cape flats near where his wife grew up. it was the sort of place that we as tourists would have NEVER been able to get to or known about, and that made the experience all the better. it was called "wembly's muslim roadhouse." basically, imagine a '50's style american drive up, the sort where girls with roller skates come and serve you food. only this was a hallal (essentially "muslim-kosher") roadhouse with great indian food as well. i had a chip roll (french fries on a roll with a special sauce), a vegitable patty, two samoosas (as they are spelled here, rather than samosas) and a fahooda (basically a mike shake with vermecelli noodles in the bottom). i thought that i was swallowing worms with my first sip. mmmmm.

went to see this musical on thursday night about district 6 (an integrated neighhborhood in cape town than the apartheid government destroyed in the 60's and 70's). it was interesting material, but the play was awful. not only was the music badly done (and recorded, no pit) but the whole thing was very odd. essentially it depicted "coloreds" singing and dancing, reinforcing a stereotype. moreover, it seemed to allow the almost totally while audience (who loved the show) to identify with the characters in a non-threatening way. they didn't have to think about the terrible conditions that people were moved to, but rather see themselves in the district 6 and then leave the theater with a optimistic/nostalgic feeling. could have been done so much better.