Hey hey hey! Long time no “see”! This is a long long long overdue blog post (you can thank my mother for this finally being up), that will cover far too much information in one blog!
The last time I wrote, I had yet to move in my homestay, I had yet to start my work project, my media project, or any seminars. I hadn’t had any exciting adventures, or met many people yet. Well folks, I have done all of the above. ** Sidenote In Plettenburg Bay, or at least where the TBB crew are staying, are in four townships. Kwano, Kransok, Kurland and New Horizons. Out of those four, only Kwano speaks Xhosa, all other townships speak Afrikaans. This can get into a whole racial divide between the colored (Afrikaans) and the blacks (Xhosa), which goes all the way back to when South Africa was colonialized by the Dutch. **
I will start with my Homestay:
Samantha (Sam) and I moved into our homestay on September 28th and are living in The Crags in a township called Kurland with a super awesome and welcoming family. Sam and I were lucky; we got to have a mom (Lien), aunt (Sarah), brother (Nathan) and sister (Daveria) all in the same house (As well as three dogs and a cat)! Neither one of us had a brother back home, so we were super excited! Unfortunately we only have ten days left in South Africa, and saying goodbye will be hard, but it was a fantastic first host family! It has been really nice having Sam as a roommate, we get along super well and its nice having someone to debrief the day with at night. Also we are both addicted to chocolate, and prefer going to bed at 7:30pm, so it just works out really nicely.
The work projects in South Africa have been very interesting so far. I started off with two weeks at a place called Masazame, with Noah (super awesome first work partner). Masazame is sort of hard to explain as a whole so I’ll break it down into two sections:
The shelter/school à a place where children, ages 4-18, can live if their home situations are not ideal. It also has a school in place for ages 4-6, for any children in the community. What is super cool about this school is that if parents can’t afford to pay for this school, they can volunteer or help out in some way. Basically get parents involved somehow in their children’s education.
The drop in center (where Noah and I worked) à this is a place for children ages 14-18 (but really any age) can come and hangout during the day. The kids who come here aren’t in school for a variety of reasons, they were expelled, suspended, or just simply don’t want to attend. Masazame drop in center provides a safe place to come with a roof over the kid’s heads, and two hot meals a day. The women who work there are amazing. Two of them are Xhosa, so Noah and I learned a ton about the Xhosa culture (you pronounce it “chosa” but the “X” is a clicking sound before…!) The last week that Noah and I were there, it was spring break for the surrounding schools. So there were triple the amount of kids there, and we had a lot of fun painting, and playing soccer, and climbing the shipping containers that surround the drop in center.
Now I am working in Kurland with a girl Julia, and we are basically shadowing two caregivers, Marie and Annie. They go house to house and check to make sure people are taking their medication, sit down with people to watch them take their medication, or take away the medication people haven’t taken. The majority of people we visit have either all or at least one of these diseases, TB, HIV/AIDS, or diabetes. But with one, usually comes another. More then not when visiting these homes, Marie and Annie are collecting the medication people refuse to take. The refusal of medicine is a super common practice here. Sometimes it is because people don’t want to accept the illness, sometimes it makes them feel worse before better, sometimes they feel it is doing nothing, but the most common it seems is because of money. When you are sick in South Africa, you receive a grant from the government. It is by no means enough to live off of; it is around R1200 (which is about $92). But people sometimes stop taking their medicine right when they are feeling better so they can receive the grant again. It is an interesting battle the caregivers have with these people. They can’t force them to take medication, even though a disease like TB is easily curable, and HIV/AIDS is preventable. They can only talk to them about the positives of taking medication and the cons of not.
In every country we live in, we create a media project surrounding a central question that you have had while living there. There are five groups in South Africa focusing on a variety of different topics, what is happiness, the influence of drugs with HIV/AIDS, and so many more. My group’s original question was “how does structural violence influence gender inequality in South Africa”. Boy have we learned a lot since first starting. We came into this project assuming gender inequality and that, like America, women were sick and tired of being oppressed because of their gender. Along the way we seemed to have forgotten that South Africa is different than America, the culture is different, the morals and ideals are different, what people are fighting for is completely different. I won’t give away what we came up with, you will have to watch the video, but needless to say we are learning a lot.
Everyday (when we aren’t working on media projects) we have seminars. Each seminar is based around a questions, and we have discussions, lessons, small group activates, and readings to do in order to draw conclusions. In most cases though, we just end with more questions. Today for instance, our question was “Why is it so difficult to prevent the spread of a preventable disease?”. Good stuff! The preventable disease we are talking about is HIV/AIDS, and we focused a lot on sex education and the stigma following it. We end seminars with filling out a notecard with “one” question we have from the seminar and “one” takeaway (its never just one). At the end of this gap year we will get back all of our notecards, so it will be super cool seeing how our questions have evolved.
It is super exciting knowing that I am learning here. In high school the learning was very much memorization and just learning enough to past the test. Here, I come away from each day with thousands of questions and new ideas that force me to use parts of my brain I never did in high school.
I jumped off a bridge!!! Most likely by the time this goes up I will have also jumped out of a plane!!! This past weekend I went to Cape Town with nine other people as part of our IST (Individual Student Travel). This is just a chance for the students to travel alone (in groups of three or more) and to plan out a trip by ourselves. It was a super cool experience. We hiked Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, the latter at sunset, which I highly recommend; it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Our hostel was on Long Street, so we had prime access to restaurants and people watching. We went to Old Biscuit Mill, another high recommendation from me, it was basically a farmers market on steroids. The food there was incredible, and there were so many options that we just had to get it all. Which was totally worth it. Other than Cape Town, weekends are filled with hikes around Plettenburg Bay, and outings to the beach. Some days after work everyone will go into town and get ice cream and a waffle, or a coffee from Le Fournil (I’m basically a regular there, their americanos are amazing). Also side note, ice coffee here isn’t ice and coffee. Its ice, coffee ice cream, sugar and maybe some coffee. Its basically a coffee milkshake. No complaints here!
Food/Music (cause why not):
I’ll start with music cause its quick. It’s all American music. Everywhere. You have to force out the South African artists. So I did. Here is my current favorite Xhosa song “Buyelekhaya” by Nathi. It’s basically about the singer asking his father to come home after he left to get money to bring home. Its pretty easy to find online, its one of the first choices on YouTube.
The food here is not drastically unlike “American” food, but it is pretty different from the Patten/MacLeod household. We eat meat pretty much every night with rice and potatoes, and sometimes a green salad. The meat varies from lamb to mince to pork to fish to ox tail. Yes. Ox tail. Although someone in our group tried ox tongue, so I can’t complain. There is this paste thing called “pop” which is pretty popular here. It is a corn based (EVERYTHING IS MADE OUT OF CORN) rice sort of, but it has the consistency of super thick oatmeal. Its not too bad once the chutney is on it! My two favorites though are chicken flavored corn puffs and “vetkoek” aka fat cakes. So I am eating super well over here! The chicken flavored corn puffs are weird, but they taste just like chicken. Just. Like. Chicken. It’s super weird so it has to be good. The fat cakes are basically fried dough. Well okay, they are fried dough.. But like you make them into thick rectangular shaped pieces and put stew on the inside, or for breakfast you can put jam or butter. Either way, you can’t go wrong with fat cakes. (Yes mom, I am eating broccoli when I can. I may or may not be craving it…..)
If you couldn’t tell, I am having an absolutely incredible time. Even though I am getting to do some crazy cool stuff, it wouldn’t be the same without all the people either with this program, or whom we have gotten to meet here. We have made our own family within this group of 18, and it is a wonderful feeling knowing I can always rely on them for a hug or a laugh.
I am missing home, but knowing that I have so much more to learn has kept the homesickness at bay. I am super duper excited to travel to India in a few days, and to meet my new homestay family!
I will update my blog “now now” (ha!)
I hope all is “lakker” back home!