Friday, June 5, 2009

My birthday and Last adventure...

So i am leaving Pietermaritzburg today, which totally sucks. Although, i had an day and last night here. Yesterday i went to Durban with Kerry and Kelly before they went on their last adventure and got really sweet at surfing, really, well kind of, but i did get up a lot on my own. kind of rashy but super fun. can i please move to California? Because it was my last night and i turned 21 at midnight a bunch of my friends came over and we went out to the bars and to a club. I had an amazing time.

But today me and my friend are taking a bus to Johannesburg and then going on a safari for 4 days in Kruger National Park and then meeting up with another friend and going to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Weird right? Well so this is going to be my last blog when i am in South Africa, but i will finish off the blog and post some pictures when i get home (in 9 days!!!). Didn't want to leave ya'll hangin'. See ya soon!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wrapping things up...

So the mural is done, i am done volunteering and i have exactly a week left in Pietermaritzburg before i head out on my final adventure. It has been really quiet on campus since we finished classes on the 20th and everyone is just studying and hanging out, waiting for their exams.

We have been watching a lot of movies, Juno and a really bad Johnny Depp Movie, Don Juan Demarco. And last night we even went to karaoke night at the nearby bar. (Sang Katy Perry "I kissed a girl" and R. Kelly "Ignition".) I have my Zulu exam tomorrow and my volunteering class we have a presentation and a research project. Monday it is History and then i am all done. People have been overall really chill and studious because exams here are all worth 50-60% of your grade, so this three hour test either passes or fails you. A lot is at stake, too much if you ask me.

So that's it, i was just told in a recent email that i only have 17 days left till i come home. Insane.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Comrades Marathon...

So there is this really big marathon here, but it isn't just marathon. It goes from the city i live, Pietermaritzburg to Durban and it is a total of 89 km, which is 56 miles, which is 2 marathons plus a 5k, which is insane.

Well anyway, everyone went down this morning to the start of the race in town (at 5am) and there were 13,000 runners. 13,000 people want to do this crazy thing. It is advertised by South Africa that everyone should do Comrades Marathon it least once in your life (maybe that is why they don't have obese people here), they make it seem very attainable. Anyway, people lines the streets of ton like there was going to be a parade. I decided, rather than watch i wanted to be a part of it, and i needed a long run of the day because i just started training for a regular marathon of my own. So after watching the start i decided to jump in and run with them and join the atmosphere.

Once i determined that people weren't elite anymore (it took over 10 minutes of people running by to get with a group that was slow enough) i jumped in and ran 9km with them, and then turned around and ran 7k back to my dorm. While running i even ran into the guy that gave me the surf lesson two days before, he was crazy. Can you believe that i can run into someone i know running a marathon in South Africa. I told you to remember him! I figured it out to be around 10ish miles. I wasn't really trained enough for it, but the atmosphere was awesome.

The people were so fresh and it a great mood since it was the beginning, and on my way back everyone was laughing at me. When i got back to my dorm, a bunch of the girls were watching it on TV came up to me and said they saw me on TV! It was really exciting. I took a shower and nap and then woke up and went to the TV room to see the first people came in (well actually i missed the first, and saw the fourth) they finished around 5 hours and 23 minutes for over a double marathon! I was glued to the TV for the next couple hours as they showed the first women finish, twins from Russia, and then they started showing normal people and their stories.

I had never watched TV in the TV room before, but it is kind of fun. Since there are 11 official languages in South Africa they rotate through them but mostly English or English subtitles. It is really funny.

Well, maybe one day i will do the whole thing, but 17k was definitely enough for me this morning. I am sooo sore!

Time to write my research paper...

Durban and other weekend adventures...

So this weekend, being one of my last weekends around (time just went into hyper speed and i don't know what is going on) me and my friends decided to take one of the study break days and head down to Durban to the beach to go for a little surf lesson.

First we walked around and did some shopping i tried on some killer bright purple pants and spent most of the afternoon regretting that i didn't buy them, but anyway. We walked around this area called "The Workshop" and another area called "Victoria Street Market" which is part of the Indian district in Durban. Did you know that Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India. Weird right... so far away.

But then we headed down to the Ushaka beach and had a surf lesson with this guy named Sean (who will come up later in the next post so watch out). He was this super hyper 49 year old man, who was super tan and had awful teeth. Me and my friend Michelle put on our rash guards (those tight shirts you have to wear) as we listened to instructions. It was kind of a cool day, but the Indian Ocean is always warm and we set out down the beach. The surfboards we used were a little cushy for beginners and we set off. In the beginning he pushed us to help us get up and i got up right away. After like one fall i rode about 4 waves all the way to the beach. I was having a great time. Then he made me catch my own waves by swimming and standing up at the right time. Not so easy, but i caught a few of them. I had so much fun (not to toot my own horn but i think I'm a natural) i want to go back before I have to go home, we'll see. Hang Ten dude.

The next adventure of the weekend was the equivilent of the county fair called the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg. It was held at the Royal Showgrounds, i know it sounds funny, and there was a bunch of agricultural exhibits and rides, and food, and random random things. We got there towards the end of the day and went right to this area where there was live music to meet some friends. There were 4 opening bands, some good, some bad and then the main act, this huge band in South Africa called Prime Circle played. They were awful, sounded kind of like Nickelback and Creed, and i thought i was going to vomit, but itleast there was really good people watching going on and all the South Africans LOVED it. I guess they just don't know what good music is.

It was fun to see how a concert here would be compared to home, and the verdict... they are the same. People spread out blankets the lawn and sing really loud. Two of the opening bands were pretty cool. One of the guys the girls i was with even knew him. But anway... live music is fun regardless of its Nickelback sound.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


So the past week me and my friend Kerry have been painting a mural on the wall of the orphanage where we volunteer. She is an art major and does all the creative sketches and i fill them in with paint. We make a great team. The pictures above don't show it all done, and when i finish i will post some more. But i just have been so excited about it i wanted to post some pictures even though the zebra doesn't have a mouth yet and there is no grass on the bottom. When it is all done i hoping it will be cool and i love to leave my mark over here, even if it is in paint.

Well anyway... 3 more days of classes and then finals. I just wrote this really interesting paper about how culture, gender, and politics effects the spread of hiv/aids here. I acutally enjoyed doing the research. If anyone wants to read it just let me know.

Other weekend news, spent the day yesterday wondering around downtown and buying a bus ticket for my safari. I don't know what else. i have less than a month less and i am beginning to panic!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

This is what campus looks like...

What does campus look like. Well i finally figured out a round about way to post pictures and so i walked around campus on a pretty day and took a few pictures. The one with the clock is called the Old Main Building and that is where i have Zulu class.

The lawn pictures is called the Library Lawns and a lot of events take place there, meetings, oh and that building in the background is the library, but it is NOTHING compared to the MSU library, or any library at home. It isn't very big and it is only open until 11pm and not at all on Sunday. Funny thing here is though a lot of kids check out a lot of books, which is definitely a different way of doing research than i am used to.

The picture of the turn style is the main gate into campus where i cross the road every day and have to swipe in. Everything is all about these turn styles where you have to use your student card to get in and out. Loosing your card really sucks. I lost mine, and then found it again.

That big tree is in the middle of the courtyard of my dorm. I love it because it is so big. I think it looks like the tree of life. When i stand to talk on the payphones that is what i look at.

The last two pictures of my dorm. The door i go in to get to my room and the courtyard. Too bad you can't see my window to my room, but it is on the other side of the building. The side that looks at mountains. I'm not complaining. Well... there you go, nothing like MSU but certainly pretty on sunny winter days (and by winter i mean 75 and no humidity).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sleepover at the orphanage...

So there is a quote from a Dispatch song, well before the song actually starts that says "the people with the least are the ones that teach you the most". That is exactly how i feel about the past 24 hours.

The past 24 hours have been somewhat of a walk a day in someone else's shoes experience for me. I planned a sleepover event for the people in my political science class that is connected with volunteer at the Ubuntu Crisis Center Orphanage that i have been working at all semester.

Spending 24 hours living in an orphanage with girls that have absolutely nothing and doing all the things they do in a day was eye opening. I know it wasn't a typical day because we were there and supplied meat for a BBQ and eggs for breakfast when they usually have some sort of porridge concoction and a half loaf of white bread, and i know they don't usually stay up late watching movies, but everything else was shockingly similar to a day in their life.

We arrive around 2pm yesterday and started play and paint the sign outside of the center. The sign painted on a slab of concrete originally said "Edendale drop-in center" from a medical facility that used to be there over 5 years ago. I primed the concrete earlier this week and then we painted it with bright yellow, red lettering and decorated with hundreds of little colorful hand prints. It looks amazing. We played all afternoon. The little girls and i sang Zulu songs and did some dancing. My friends in the residence halls here had taught me this dance (it's name has a click in it so i won't bother to type it here) and they always ask me to to do it, it is somewhat of a popular cultural dance. They all dance and sing spectacularly. Even the littlest girls really have a lot of rhythm. We took walks around the township (A township, according to wikipedia is "the (often underdeveloped) urban living areas that, under apartheid, were reserved for non-whites, principally black Africans and Coloureds in the periphery of larger cities. I really can't explain it, but i have some pictures i can post up when i get that figured out. There mostly mud huts there and shacks, but some concrete buildings.)

At night we supplied meat, which is a huge treat to them and celebrated the success of our event outside around the BBQ. They informed us it was the first BBQ they had since they opened. (A BBQ, which they call a braai is the traditional way south Africans celebrate EVERYTHING, they can not even process the thought of being a vegetarian, it isn't even a word in Zulu for it).

We watched A Toy Story on their TV, popped popcorn and all fell asleep pretty early. Those girls have a lot of energy but they really wear you out. They sleep in some beds about 8 little girls in a full size bed. It is the cutest/sadest thing you ever saw.

The next morning i woke up to the cutest little girl, the one that i hate to admit it is my favorite crawling on my sleeping bag. Its hard because you can't really be mad at a cute little girl like that. We went outside to play and watched my friend Kerry work on the mural she is painting on the side of the building. After i cooked 8 dozen scrambled eggs for breakfast for everyone and about 10 loaves of toast. Who knew feeding 35 little girls and 20 volunteers would be such an undertaking, i can't imagine doing it three times a day, i need a nap just after cracking all the eggs.

Then most of the volunteers left, all but four of us because we were invited to go to church with the girls. Religion is very big here, like involved in all parts of life and although it made me a little uncomfortable i went, because it is a once in a lifetime cultural experience. Getting all those little girls into their church clothes was pretty adorable, the older girls ironed everything (ironing is surprisingly big here, like everybody irons everything. i am not participating) and we cleaned up the place. Then all of us walked about a half hour up a hill to the primary school where most of the girls go to school. In one of the classrooms was the "church" with all the girls and about 20 other people, mostly woman, a few children.

It was very different from the other church that i went to here a couple a weeks ago. Different groups of women got up to sing songs and there was somewhat of a rotating leadership. The songs were beautiful and their voices were amazing. There was no pastor type person there and when one of the woman wanted to say something they just got up and did it. Because they knew we were coming, some of the younger girls from the orphanage had prepared a song in English that they sang for us and thanked us. It was very nice. The spoke a lot about mothers because it was mother's day which made me a little uncomfortable knowing that most of the girls did not have mothers, but caregivers whom they call mothers. They prepared food for us four Americans and also all of the mothers which we ate together at a table after church.

It was really nice, and i felt really welcomed in this area where less than 15 years ago i would have been hated for the color of my skin. I loved giving the girls individual attention and i am really proud of the sign that we made out in front. It was a treat for me and for the kids to be able to spend so much time together and my Zulu skills definitely improved, although i wish i study my question words that i learned on Thursday a little harder before i went. I think i did a lot of mixing up whos/ whats/ wheres and whys, but eventually i got my point across.

Living the life of an orphan in South Africa for just twenty-four hours made me realize how lucky i am and how resilient and brilliant each one of these girls is. They never complain or ask "why me?" they take care of each other and they appreciate everything they are given and don't have a dime to their name. I want to live with the mind set they have. One day at a time.