Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blog Abandoned

Hello all six people who follow, or were following my blog. I apologize sincerely for not being on here in however longs its been...which is reallly long. I took to writing in a physical journal, several of them, and trying to save money by not going on the internet as much. Consequently, this blog went unattended for some time.

My apologies.

A lot. A lot has happened since I last wrote. I'm not sure how long it was, but I had a birthday here in Cape Town, one of the best ones of my life I'd have to say. I spent the night at a popular club at the top of the ABSA building in the city bowl called "hemisphere". There I rang in 21, and then went home to start my first twenty four hours of my 21st year. I spent the day at a book store down town with my friend Kate. We had coffee and talked for a few hours, then headed back. When i got home, all my friends and housemates from the area came over for a potluck dinner for my birthday. After dinner we did the birthday tradition Sarah Gatti introduced into my life a few years ago. It was incredible. I had an awesome time.

Life here as sped up academically, and that is most definitely the most frustrating part. It's really hard to do everything you want to do while having 4000 word essays due on subjects you don't really care about. The problem is you'll spend hours and hours churning out a really bad paper, turn it in, and get an A. It ends up feeling utterly worthless because there is absolute not gratification. It feels like wasted hours.

Financially things are frustrating. I don't know if I wrote about Spring Break at all. I don't think I did. That is a post all on its own, which I'll have to get to soon, but that tweleve days of my life drained my bank account significantly and left me with a very frugal life style for the remaining two months. I have been spending my money on coffee, groceries, and transportation only as of late. In some ways it is very exciting, a new challenge, in others it is frustrating, because one wants to make the most of the last few weeks here, and doing so is hard on a limited budget. Luckily, I have friends who are very resourceful and fun for is does not generally require a lot of cash. In addition, the slight complication has forced me to give myself a lot of the alone time I've craved to try and process much of what is going on this semester.

Which is a lot.

I have alot more to write about and will come back soon.
The topics shall include:

-spring break
-CHOSA, my volunteer project
-climbing table mountain
-trip to observatory
-saturdays at Old Biscuit Mill
-the seminar I've been taking here through ciee
-poetry class and the many references to american media
-the impact american rap music has had on many people's perceptions of the states from this vantage point.

etc etc
there is so much more

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Long time gone

I am so sorry I haven't been here in so long. There are always a million and one things to do and there never seems to be enough time to do it all. going to class, reading for class, meeting people for lunch, catching up with people, calling home, writing home, volunteering, working out, waking up on time, eating dinner with the house, making my way to the dorms or to lesley's homestay, going out, etc. This is not me complaining. I would take these issues any day. This is just why I have been absent.

I want to update on the gay pride parade but I don't have much time to sit down and write it all out now, so instead I'm going to jot down this list of things that i've noticed are different here...I wrote this during an african lit and language lecture the other day and i'm sure i'll add to it later:

-paying for plastic bags at the grocery causes you to bring your own out of necessity...the states should try this if they really want to go green

-specifying if you want tap or bottled water, sparking or still everywhere

-when you ring out at a register they don't give you your total, there is a little screen that says what you owe and the employee will literally stare at you until you hand over the money, there's no "and your total is..." or "and your change is..." you just have to pay attention

-you never tip more than 10% here and you hardly ever tip cab drivers

-sarcasm is different, apparently...this is what my housemate Ken from Kenya tells me...i'll investigate more

-this is the most racist place on earth...and i'm starting to see it more and more
(the platforms at our local train station are stil relatively segregated...not legally of course...just socially)

-they say 'its a pleasure' instead of 'your welcome'

-they say 'cheers' instead of 'goodbye'

-the accent sounds very dutch/english/australian

-there are Obama t-shirt everywhere

-they don't sell a lot of regular, filtered coffee, it's either instant or some form of espresso. and when you order a regular filter coffee you must specify warm or cold, cream or milk

-there is a ton of avocado, everywhere, also they don't serve shrimp, they serve prawns

-the phrase "TIA...This is Africa" from blood diamond is used...i think that may not be that common...but we say it a lot and so do our RAs who are locals

hmm, that's it for now...i'll update soon:)

Friday, February 27, 2009


tomorrow morning I am getting up early to get breakfast and then head to the pride parade in down town cape town. stay tuned for more.

update on events coming.
I am sitting here in my living room after an average friday night here in cape town. I went out to dinner with some of my housemates (brian, ellen and julia) and then met some others when we got there.
I think I've gained social anxiety as I've gotten older, because I don't remember ever being this worried about making friends. However, since I've arrived in South Africa, and have found myself living with seventeen other Americans and two Africans, I have grown incredibly aware and concerned with people's opinions of me. I was only recently able to personally admit that I spend no more than two minutes in the presence of most of my housemates because of my fear of hitting a social wall in conversation. A drunk version of myself admitted this fact to one them over dinner this evening. It proved to be one of the funniest interactions I've had in a long time.

Seems she didn't think it was awkward at all. Instead, she thought my honesty was great, and turns out it paid off. Who knew. Go Africa.


my SOLmate Ken, was talking about eating the other day. We were on our way to Mizoli's Meat, which is an outdoor African meat restaurant in the townships. He said, "no, no, you just eat it with your hands. There aren't forks and knives and all that, you just use your fingers, and you all eat out of the same bowl...It tastes better. There's something about it, all of you eating with your hands. I don't know, it's just how we do it in Africa."

Mizoli's was incredible. And yes, we all ate with our hands out of one huge platter of lamb or chicken. We found our way to the makeshift bathroom in the corner of the lot (that made up the restaurant) and washed our hands afterwards. I had to wash my face too because apparently when I get excited, I get food on my forehead. Who knew.

Friday, February 20, 2009

what i think of kate and lesley while sitting next to them in cocoa wah wah on a friday afternoon

Kate is my friend from Cornell. I'm presuming she's intelligent because she goes there. she is on the shorter side, probably five three or so...with short blond hair and fiercely blue eyes. she went on a coffee date with this boy from Princeton the other night. she likes fathers. she and i share the same music library and appreciate the bird and the bee (that's a group, get your mind out of the gutter).

Lesley is me. essentially. she and i both love self deprecating humor. she has a mac book and loves cocoa mint crushes. she taught me the yeti call. Lesley does not like fathers. but she likes her own. she looks rockin in gladiator sandals. she is going to wear a navy racer back dress to my 21st birthday party. she has a really loud laugh and we finish pitchers of margaritas together at the fat cactus restaurant on Thursday nights. then we both go home alone. she taught herma, her host mother to use the phrase, "shut the front door." she also says "you're a crazy minx" a lot.

the end.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The other night I was sitting on the couch that has recently been relocated to our back porch. I was in the midst of our first house party (Elsa and the awesomeAWESOMES had just performed. Sveen wore nothing more than a horizontally striped pair of briefs. He did some jumping jacks and tumbles while rapping and singing and drumming…in the horizontally striped briefs). My friend Thapz, a black South African from Joburg was talking to my friends Lesley, Sarah and I. He said he knew a girl from our program a few semesters ago who was coming back to Africa in a few months. He said she wanted to live here. She “has an African heart,” he said.
I went to bed about an hour later wondering what that meant, to have an African heart. And conversely, what does it mean to have an American heart? Do I have either? Do I have the heart of a country I’ve never even been to?
The possibility of being rooted in a place without even knowing it. Would this girl have known that she had an “African heart” if she hadn’t come to Africa? How do you know? How do I know anything like that… How do you place such a huge part of yourself in a geographical location…

Friday, February 13, 2009

First Week

After moving in we had more orientations. I went on two separate tours that gave me a taste of what I had seen while driving to the hotel after getting off my plane. There are two worlds in Cape Town, one you see in brochures for five star vacations and one you see in brochures for international service projects. They coexist here, and are often only separated by a road.
In one of my first emails home I wrote:
Just a brief snapshot: We're driving on our shuttle bus from the airport in Cape Town to our hotel and we're on a four lane high way (we're on the left side of the road because it's all backwards here) our right we can see a nice suburb of Cape Town with nice little back yards...on the left are what can only be called "piles" of shacks. It looks like people just made squares of out tin and put them right up against each other. Row after row of disorganized row of shacks of all different colors of metal. It's insane. And it's oh so normal. I kept thinking, this doesn't make sense. How does this happen this way. It's literally separated by the highway. Nothing else. We'll learn much more about it tomorrow but that's what I can gather so far.
We first took what was called the “Peninsula Tour,” where we took a nice coach bus around the city and up the coast to places like the Cape of Good Hope. Along the way our tour guide had extensive real estate knowledge and was able to tell us the prices of all the homes. They went for several million each. They are owned by white South Africans.
The next day I went on a tour for a charity organization that took me through some townships. People there are using plastic bags for roves and selling old clothes off of tarps in the street. These are black South Africans. The “coloured” or lighter skinned South Africans live in smaller settlements, either in the city or outside it. The gap was/is so vast I can’t even wrap my head around it. My accommodations here in Cape Town lie in the middle, and there is an assumption that I carry around that much more because I am an American.

Orientation/move in

At this point orientation is sort of a blur. It was almost two weeks ago now.
We were hoarded into this lobby. It wasn’t a big lobby, but it wasn’t quaint. We were standing there sweating, our suitcases at our feet. It had to be eighty or ninety degrees, and most of us were coming from JFK, where it was five below when we boarded. Looking out at the kidney shaped pool through the French doors, I was lost between my desire to jump in and put on a parka and go home. The heat was beating us, and the flight had drained us, and all I can remember is feeling like my mouth was dry from small talk.
Where do you go to school? Where are you from? Are you here alone or with friends?
Where did you request to live? What floor is your room on? Did your suitcase make the weight limit or did you have to pay extra?
Do you like your school? Have you been to the East Coast? Do you know what time we have to get up tomorrow?
Are you going out tonight? So what is authentic African food anyway? I’m really sorry, I’m so bad with names...
When I found someone that I could talk about more than the weather with, I took a mental note, and I hoped they felt the same way about me. However, I could never be sure, so I clung to no one. The next three days were talks and talks and tours. We were shown the campus and the surrounding area, bought cell phones and called home for the first time. We were given talks about how we would be perceived; we met the people we would be living with. Our leaders were called SOLmates or “Students Orientation Leaders.” They live with us in the houses and in the dorms and ran our orientation. They act sort of like RAs, and are from all over Africa. My two are Ken, from Kenya, and Bothle, from Botswana. There are a great number of them from Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Namibia, and a few from Johannesburg. There’s even one from the States who loved the program so much last semester that she stayed for the spring.
After three days in the hotel, three days that felt like six, we left and moved into what would become our homes for the semester. I was placed in a CIEE house, off campus but close by. In reality, there are actually two houses on the property, one that sleeps nine and one that sleeps eleven. There are twenty of us living in this “house.” When I told a local South African where I was staying, he asked me if MTV was involved. Sometimes I wonder.
We chose numbers out of a hat and I was the seventh person to run into the house and pick my room in under sixty seconds. I got lucky enough to grab a room at the very front of the main house with two windows…one looking out to the mountains. There are hardwood floors and double doors on one side of my room that lead out onto the front patio. When I open them on a Friday afternoon like today, I get an incredible cross breeze that cools everything down. That and the sun that crawls over the mountain and through my window in the morning cause this space to qualify as the nicest place I’ve ever lived in.
I can’t say this is what I envisioned when I signed up to come to Africa.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cape Town, South Africa.
January/early February 2009

I am in Africa; South Africa, specifically. I have been here for ten days, in which I have seen things I have never in my life seen or heard of or wanted to hear of. I have eaten animals that I didn’t think were edible and have seen division in places I wasn’t aware lines could be drawn. Ten days. What will four months bring? It’s what I keep asking myself. What will four months bring? Where will I be in June? Who will I be?

the plane ride:

New York took us to Cape Town, via Dakar, Senegal. The first leg of the flight I was seated next to a man from Senegal who hadn’t been home in twelve years. He had spent over a decade in the States producing music for artists such as Akon, T Payne, and Lil Wayne. He told me they were flying to Senegal for a welcome home party for him. This is the part of the story where the plane lifted off the ground and he touched my leg out of “fear.” If any of you see the name “Bo” in the credits of an Akon song please let me know, because as of now I spent six hours eating bullshit a Senegalese man fed me only to be touched because he was so “scared”. In the end I guess I go off alive. A little sexual harassment never hurt anyone.
The second leg of the flight I got two seats to myself and slept nine hours to South Africa. I woke up and asked the flight attendant how much longer and she said, “oh, only forty minutes.” I looked up and saw our little plane on the screen above my seat. Still over water. Cape Town in sight.

Moving towards the front of the plane with my bag, I could feel the hot dry air filling the cabin. A wall of thick heat hit us and we were walking down a flight of stairs onto the hot tar. Shuttle buses took us to pick up our luggage. American girls peeled Louie Viuton suitcases off the baggage belt. I found Marisa and made my way to currency exchange. Ten to one. My one hundred U.S. dollars got me close to 1000 South African Rand. I am rich at home in oh so many ways. I am a millionaire here.
Walking out of the terminal we were greeted by our program. Dancing and clapping and singing for us. “C-I-EE…C-I-EE.” The awkwardness began. Marisa was the only face that I knew, and thank God for her. I would have felt so lost, or at least more than I already did. We left and made our way towards our first “Jammie” shuttle ride to the hotel where we would experience orientation for the next three days. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and confused. We stood in the lobby for close to an hour waiting for room assignments.
more to come!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


it's almost six am and i haven't gone to bed yet.
hopefully, i'll learn about time management next time i decide to leave the country.

there's a tom cruise marathon on encore.  they're glorifying tom cruise.

oh good, now they're showing 'the jerk' with steve martin, much better.

i'm going to finish packing and maybe nap for a bit, and then off to africa.

wish me luck! i might not be back here for a few days!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

two days

Two days.

I'm home finally. Just made the train today thanks to some lovely escorts. My room is a disaster and I have so much to pack and do tomorrow it's out of control.

I wonder if I'm ready for this...really. I don't have nearly enough socks for the next four and a half months.

If I bought more socks they would look like these ones:
I need a good word to sign off these posts with...any suggestions?