Anthropology Day

June 10, 2011

Today was my day!  It was all anthropologically based and, being an anthropology major, I loved t.  This morning we hopped on the bus to take a drive to the Cradle of Man.  This is an area where many early hominid fossils are found.

Our first stop was the Sterkfontein cave where numerous fossils (human and dinosaur) have been found.  I was a bit disappointed because I actually wanted to see the digging sites.  Instead, the tour focused more on the cave, which really wasn’t all that impressive to someone who lives 40 miles from Carlsbad Caverns.

    

Next we went to the Maropeng museum.  The beginning focused on the creation of the universe, particularly on the Earth.  It moved on to the creation and evolution of mankind, then on to the diversity in our population.  There was an exhibit for all the social problems in our world now that raised many good questions.  Finally the museum ended with the question “What is our future?”  It was quite a beautiful and progressive exhibit!

    

    

    

We then drove a ways to a cultural celebration.  It was a large area where we were supposed to meet with native tribes.  However, it was kind of a tourist attraction.  The huts were actually hotel rooms and the “tribe members” were actors.  Nonetheless, it was entertaining and informative!  We went on a tour of four different “villages” and were able to learn a bit about each tribe’s culture and history.  This was followed by a performance where they did traditional dances to the beat of a thunderous drum.

    

    

Tonight I also ate many strange, foreign foods.  During the tour I was able to sample dried worm.  The texture was similar to a dead leaf, and it tasted like… salt.  For dinner I sampled a few pieces of biltong, which is a popular snack in the area.  It’s dried raw meat and tastes a bit like jerky but also different.  I also tried some ostrich, which looks like beef when cooked.  It was tasty but was too chewy for me.  I tried crocodile as well, which was delicious!  It had the texture of fish but tasted like chicken.  It was delicious!  For dessert I had a donut thing with a strange name.  It was extremely sweet, so I loved it, too!

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Beginning the Adventure

June 9, 2011

Today is a travel day!  We woke up this morning and headed off to the airport to hop on a plane to Johannesburg.  I’m really going to miss Cape Town, though; it’s a very nice area!  Johannesburg, on the other hand, is the most deadly place in the world.

Thankfully, we didn’t stay long.  as soon as we got off the plane we hopped on a big red tour bus and were on our way.  We drove for about 45 minutes outside of Johannesburg to a place called the Red Ivory Backpackers Lodge.  This will be our home for the next two nights.  It’s pretty nice!  They even brought a local artist in to sell some of his paintings.

For dinner tonight we had roasted sheep.  I’d never had sheep before this and found it to be surprisingly tasty!  It was a bit off, but I’m sure it’s an acquired taste.  I did like it enough, though.

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Saying Goodbye

June 8, 2011

This was our last day with the kids.  I cannot express my sadness at having to leave them.  They were all the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen.  I have to admit, I cried like a baby.

The worst part is that I will never know what will happen for them.  What will they look like when they grow up?  Will they succeed?  Will they even survive?  South Africa literally has the highest HIV rates in the world.  Will my kids be a part of that statistic?

Their success in life particularly has my thoughts.  Trust, for example, is very smart and seems to be a good leader among the kids.  He was even helpful to us.  I can see this kid becoming a politician who may impact the world.  But, he’s 8 years old and still in a preschool.  He still can’t write his alphabet.  Will he move on through school or will he still be stuck in the same place?  The same problem is there for Emihle.  She is brilliant.  She’s got the alphabet down and can write her name, understand instructions, and the like.  I could see her becoming a scientist or doctor.  But will she?  Red Hill is not the best settlement to grow up in.  It has such limited opportunities, and I hope that these kids will be able to make something of themselves!

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and type out all of my sorrows to you all.  These kids were amazing and this was a wonderful experience.  I definitely grew as a person while I was here, and I need to say thank you to everyone involved.

This afternoon I went to the Masi library and we played BINGO with the kids there.  It was pretty adorable.  Most of the kids didn’t know their numbers, and some of them didn’t understand English enough to understand the game.  One girl shouted “BINGO!!!” every time she got one number, but she never got it.  One of my kids did actually win a prize once, though!

Tomorrow we’re leaving for Johannesburg to start our adventure tour.  I really wish I could stay here!  Everyone here is so… kind.  To exemplify this, I have to tell one story.  Tonight our driver, Chris, decided to tell us about his secret project.  His story is amazing.

Chris learned that a place called Capricorn had one of the highest rates of unemployment in the area, making it an extremely poor place.  One morning he went to Capricorn and surveyed school children who were walking to school.  He found that 90 percent of them did not eat breakfast.  In speaking with teachers, he also found that performance was extremely low.

So, Chris put together a program to feed these kids.  He started with only 50 or so kids being fed one or two days a week.  After some very generous chance donations, he is now feeding 300 students five mornings a week.  He gets up every morning at 4 to begin preparing the breakfasts in his own kitchen.  By 6:30 he reaches the church that allows him to use their property to serve food.  He and one helper serve the students who come in.  He then has to leave to show up for his job as a driver while his helper does the dishes.

In the years that he has done this, performance at the school has drastically increased.  Students are able to pay attention and generally do better in class.  That isn’t even the best part.  One morning Chris noticed a little girl, probably only six years old, with three full bowls of the porridge he was serving.  Now, that’s a lot of food, even for adults, so he asked her “Why are eating three bowls of this food?  You know, some other kids might like to have some, too.”  The little girl looked up at him and said “Sir, my family is very poor, and we don’t have any food.  I didn’t have dinner last night, and I don’t know when my next meal will be.”  He told us that just knowing he was able to provide this girl food made the entire effort and his own sacrifices worth it.

Everything here in Cape Town is so beautiful.  I really don’t want to leave!

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I Missed Out

June 7, 2011

Today I’m a little upset.  I was horribly sick when I woke up!  I had a massive headache, clogged nose, and cough.  All I wanted was more sleep.  So, I skipped the morning work.  When I woke up again at 10:30, I felt so much better!  My nose was all cleared up, headache was gone, and I was only dealing with a cough.  That was great, but I was really disappointed that I had to miss the day with the kids.

Plus, I missed SO MUCH!  Last night I stayed up and helped with the craft that we were planning for today.  It was great, we made little toilet paper rolls covered with colored paper.  We sorted letter stickers into their names and were going to distribute decorative stickers.  The other girls followed through with this, but I’m extremely sad that I wasn’t able to be directly involved.

Since I was feeling better, I did go to my afternoon assignment.  I went to TEARS, the animal shelter.  Katie didn’t go with me today, so I went with two girls from the UK, who weren’t a part of ISV.  They were both very nice.

While I was at TEARS, though, we saw an extremely sad sight.  They have a kitten named Scooter, named such because his back legs are paralyzed.  This happened because someone decided to test the theory that cats always land on their feet and threw him into the air.  The legend is obviously not true.  It just makes me angry that people are so willing to do horrible things to such innocent creatures…

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Culture Shock

June 6, 2011

Today I am feeling the full effects of my illness.  I’m exhausted and upset that I haven’t been able to do my best today.  I couldn’t run around with the kids or really play with them at all.  The teacher was sick, so we got to teach them the entire lesson today.  We also let a few of them split up and we read to them.

I’m also going through a bit of culture shock today, finally.  It started with the horror stories and the sudden disenchantment with the area.  Today it was furthered by the extreme unfamiliarity with things.  I went to the store to invest in some cold medicine, preferably Nyquil.  When I got there I found the medicine aisle and recognized literally nothing.  No advil, no benadryl, nothing.  I finally found the Vicks brand (the people who make Nyquil), but they only had some very very strange medicine.  I ended up buying some odd “Honey and Ginger” cough syrup made by them.  It was the worst taste ever, but it did work a little bit thankfully.

Hopefully I’ll get better soon so I can stop feeling sorry for myself!

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Horror Stories

June 5, 2011

Yep, I’m sick.  Hopefully it’ll clear up soon.

Last night Anna Beth, a girl volunteering directly with African Impact, told us some horror stories about the area.  Apparently a few weeks ago someone left the gate to the organization’s house unlocked and someone came in, slamming the door open.  The girls were terrified, and none of their emergency contacts would answer the phone, including the police.  Thankfully they finally got a hold of someone.  Nothing happened to them, but the idea is only vaguely terrifying.

Another time two volunteers were going out for a run in our neighborhood, which we were told was quite safe.  They got slightly separated, and someone took the opportunity to rob her.  At knife point.  Apparently someone pulled up in a car and got the man off of her and helped her out of the situation.

Just now, as I was writing this, a girl in our group came home to tell us her own horror story.  She was robbed at the ATM.  They were in a well-lit area with lots of people around.  He pulled the classic tricks and ended up running off with her card.  When she and the other girls went into the gas station to ask for help, the attendants actually laughed at them.  One kind woman finally offered her help in calling the police, who never actually showed up.  She was able to get the card cancelled before anything happened, and we’re just glad she’s okay.

On the brighter side of things, we went to Boulders Beach today!  It was beautiful and so blue.  Plus, there were penguins!  They were absolutely adorable despite being so awkward.  I even found the sign that I was hoping to find while I was down here.

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The Other Side of Things

June 4, 2011

Today started out a little frustrating.  First, I woke up with my typical first indications of a cold.  Great.  Then, our first event of the day was postponed a bit due to a lot of people, including our leaders, being hung over.  Even more beautiful.  -_-  Well, the plan was to do a tour of our leader’s township then visit Boulders Beach and Cape Point.  Unfortunately, due to obnoxious plan changes, we were  only able to do the township tour.

This tour, though, was amazing.  We were truly able to see the other side of South Africa and the way the community works.  The area was fairly poor and the lower side was built from wood, aluminum, roofing material, and other weak building supplies.  Many buildings, especially shops and restaurants, were made from shipping containers.

    

The upper areas were nicer, but would still be considered small by our standards.  We were shown a building that is known as a hostel.  In each apartment type room, there is a shared living room, a bathroom, and four bedrooms.  Each bedroom is occupied by four families.  Note that these bedrooms are small.  Very small.

The way this township’s community works, there are three divisions: upper, middle, and lower class.  However, we were told that there isn’t any tension between the upper and lower classes.  In fact, many of the upper class people started in the lower class and worked their way up to become doctors or lawyers.  They chose to stay in the community to keep their traditions and to even help those still in the lower class.  They are usually well liked in the community because they will offer overpaid jobs for people in the house and give a lot back to the community.

Because of this stability in the community, the crime rate is really low.  Everyone is extremely friendly.  The community is all out in the street talking, working together, and welcoming guests, even tourists like us.  The extreme friendliness is strange to adjust to, and it’s very tough to drop the shields that I’ve built.  If an older man came up to a group of young girls in America, he’d immediately be branded a pervert.  In South Africa, he’s just being friendly.  Since we were white and obviously unfamiliar with this all black area, people were extremely interested in us.  They would chat with us, ask us questions, tell us stories, and generally be extra friendly.

Another group that was interested in us were the kids.  Since the community was safe, children were walking around and playing in the streets.  When they saw us, they would chase us down the street chanting “Avelu,” which we assumed meant “white people” or “strangers.”  When they would catch up, they would hold our hands, ask us to play with them, or just chatter away in Xhosa or eventually English.  This was beautiful and definitely something we lack in America…  Trust and friendliness toward strangers, especially with kids.

    

Another amazing thing we got to see was a program called Happy Feet.  This program is actually being run by one of our project leaders, Nathi, and a friend.  It is a dance program where they teach underprivileged kids in the community to dance.  They put together a team and actually perform in Cape Town in competitions.  The kids put on a small performance for us, which may have been the best part of the day.  The dance that they do is one that was made in the coal mines for the entertainment of the workers.  Since they were unable to go out or have their own fun, they designed a rhythm dance from clapping, stomping, and hitting their caving boots.

    

This was all we did.  Some girls decided to go shopping and some of us went home.  We grabbed McDonald’s for the night, and I was intrigued to get some green cream soda on tap.  For the record, it didn’t really taste like cream soda at all.

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