Wednesday, September 17, 2008

monkeys, cheetahs, and rastas

well my dear faithful followers, i failed to inform you that i would be gone, touring the eastern cape on what is widely known as (drumbeat).... "THE GARDEN ROUTE". For that i apologize. South Africa is now entering what it calls spring, i know, i know, It seems a little backwards to be having spring break in september... but call it what you will, a break is a break. Anyway, i kept a very accurate journal on my little five day safari and i thought i would entertain you all a bit with a look back into spring break south africa part un.....

Day One (saturday Sept. 6th)

no one should ever have to see what 4 am looks like. ever. its just cruel. somehow, by the grace of God, i managed to drag myself out of bed and into the van with my fellow housemates to join the other 9 vans and 52 passengers. for the first time since the shotgun rule was declared, people were fighting for back seats and since no one is coherent at that God-forsaken time, we all looked and sounded like caveman fighting for fresh kill. Thirty minutes and twenty coffees later found our happy little caravan heading through the country, with only the occasional snore and grumble to distract us.

*sidenote* if you ever are able to travel to south africa, please PLEASE travel the country side. it is absolutely breathtaking. Lord of the Rings, Narnia, any of these, SA puts to shame.

so our first stop five hours later is at an ostrich farm. now this might come as a surprise but these birds although stupid are DANGEROUS. they tear a whole in you with their talon and then stomp you to death. after this little introduction its no surprise that the guide got a million hands up when he asked for volunteers to ride the ostrich. i looked around at grown men and women squirming in their seats hands straining in the air, little prayers being uttered from lips and thought these people are crazy. i for one know my mother would not appreciate a letter telling her that her only daughter had died from an ostrich attack. i mean really? there has to be better ways to go. so no i did not ride the ostrich. i did not pass go. i did not collect 200 dollars. but i did enjoy watching as people fell off the ostrich.


we left the ostrich farm and headed to the cango caves. ooooooo. these things are massive. huge. pictures dont do it justice. being the responsible child i am i of course took the adventure route. this is where you get to crawl through little holes and openings in the caves to get to elaborate inner chambers. i mean ostrich's are dangerous a 1ft by 15 inch opening in an underground ancient cave is nothing. so off i went!

Day two

we spent the day at the beach. chilling out maxing relaxing. since South Africa does not believe in opening anything on sundays this is what we spent the majority of the morning doing. The afternoon found us antsy, restless, and bloodthirsty. the leader of our group had promised us a surprise and we wanted it NOW! so once again we piled into the vans and headed off into the jungle, literally, there was no road just a dirt path. and when we arrived i felt like we'd been dropped off at jurrasic park. if you dont believe me look for yourself.

but no it wasn't jurassic park. it was MONKEYLAND!!! chaos everywhere. monkeys over here. monkeys over there. monkeys in your faces. monkeys following you. me following the monkeys. monkeys above you. monkeys shoving food down their throats. big ones, small ones. slow ones. quick ones. there was a bridge we had to cross. talk about seeing indiana jones, I WAS indiana jones!!!

but it only gets better. i JAYDEN/LYNN/STRANGER was in an enclosing with adult cheetahs. (the baby cheetahs came later) now i know what your thinking. you wont ride/pet an ostrich but you not only get in with a cheetah you pet it?!! yes, yes there is no rhyme or reason to it and my mom will probably have a heart attack. i dont know how my brain works but there i was, face to face with the planets fastest animal. a dangerous carnivore. and the first words out of my mouth are "who's a pretty kitty!!!"

Day three

nothing exciting. forty members of my group decided to bungee jump off the worlds highest bridge. the other half went tree canoping. me? i cheered on from a safe but exciting distance. Here's Zach, spiraling into the abyss. as you can see Jacques and Matthew are also looking on contemplating imminent death. watching is just as exciting as jumping- i did watch that fresh prince when hillary's fiancee died bungeeing thank you you very much. and all that for a crummy certificate....pshhhh.

Day four

all you surfers out there. read it and weep. JBAY BABY!!!! surf legends have been born here. standards have been set. boards have been waxed. waves have been tested again and again and ill be the first to tell you that even in the off season Jeffery's Bay definitely lives up to par. being a firm believer in carpe diem, you can bet that i was on the water faster than you can say "kelly slater brahhhhhh."

Days five, six, seven.....

Addo National Park Safari style and...the Rastafarian community-Judah Square. i wish i had words for you.


i pretty much feel accomplished. 

as always...

peace. love. grace : )

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

ABC easy as 123

The difference between American students and south African students are the motives to learn. The majority of us play to win in the sense that its not about retaining but memorizing enough to pass the test, class, etc. Several South African students I’ve met can recite to me material learned in Form 2 (sophomore year high school) and I can barely remember what my class schedule was last semester. This week has been a whirlwind of papers, deadlines and exams to write. The heat is on! Fourth term is right around the corner and I’ve had more than my share of panic attacks. My truth and reconciliation class will be death of me. In this class we read two books, watch a couple of films and reflect on what this country has gone through during apartheid, post apartheid and the influence of the TRC hearings. It is mentally and emotionally draining, so much this country has (is) going through; passive discussions do not exist here. The stories, the information everything we’re learning does not allow room for complacency, and this is just one of my classes. Jewelry Design has left me in the fetal position more times than not. I’ve burned myself, burned my equipment, and burned the teacher. But I have not ruined any of my work (knock on wood). Xhosa is a world of its own, learning a language, of which you have no reference point, is very VERY difficult. Its also my favorite class. My tutors have turned out to be my kids I volunteer with, teaching me where accents are placed, how to make my tongue move against my teeth, it’s a beautiful thing I tell you! Next on the academic agenda are papers, papers everywhere. Everyone writes their finals in October here, so September is a month full of essays and long long nights in the library. You know the nights where allthewordsonthescreenruntogether. Yea, those nights. I’m looking forward to it.

behold hatred, thy name is finals.

peace. love. grace

oh the places you go.....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

on and on and on...

On unpredictability:
I am in South Africa. It is Tuesday. It is midday and it is raining. Outside a medley of raindrops and running water are keeping time to the beat in my head. and me.. I’m sitting in my room in what has finally somewhat become home. September is just around the corner and with it beckons promises of heat and more sunshine than I can hold. I can’t believe I’ve been here two months. The weather here is as unpredictable as weather back home. A double feature of warm brilliant sunshine gives way to a week and a half of heavy relentless downpour. I talk about the weather because so often it is a reflection on my attitude. Except today. The rain brings with it thoughts of home, friends and family, calls for something familiar and substantial. It also brings newfound friendships and experiences, journeys to come and untold stories.

On housemates:
Two months ago I became the proud new tenant of a bedroom in a house half a world away from home. It took exactly four and half minutes for me to unpack my clothes, loose a pair of sandals and discover my favorite cup in the kitchen. Maggie and I (being the only two females) and living with nine boys have established through vigilante war tactics a somewhat functional environment. Granted these boys do bring more joy than grief but boys will be boys. Some concepts I’ve learned are difficult and nearly impossible for our male counterparts to understand:

-the seat in our bathroom must STAY down.
-a rinsed cup does not constitute a clean cup
-arctic is not room temperature
-items that are no longer recognizable in the fridge = garbage
-loud music is lovely EXCEPT at dawn.
-my ice cream, chocolate and nutella are ABSOLUTELY off limits.
-three am is NOT an acceptable time for pillow talk and/or trips down memory lane

On common sense:
Two months and I still think I have the right of way. No. No. No. cars WILL run you over. You move they don’t. A one rand coin is exactly the same as a two rand coin give or take a couple micrometers which is quite obvious to pretty much all south africans.The Indian ocean is not warmer than the Atlantic down here. Know your clicks! Each one is a different pronunciation. Children are the same everywhere-curious and loveable. 1300-2300 are numbers as well as times. If the sign says do not approach baboons, do not DO NOT approach the baboon. It is not Rafiki reincarnate. Wild animals are not your friends.

On discoveries:
FOUND: poisonous, exotic spider in back yard
FOUND: what an 8am class looks like
FOUND: guitar playing abilities
FOUND: our somewhat stupid cat. believes he’s a lion, fights shadows. loses
FOUND: dysfunctional, entertaining neighbors to the right
FOUND: obnoxious “endangered” bird that “chirps” between 6am and 10am
FOUND: an addiction to south africa’s fruit juices

LOST: fear

as always....

peace. love. grace.

Monday, September 1, 2008

color conscious

You are not black.

"Your toffee colored." the little girl declares to my friend Noel. Freeze Frame. I don’t want to hear anymore. I don’t want to listen. I don’t want to see. But it’s too late and the reality of her statement hits me as hard as the reality of the mirror. For me, color remains a small detail in the canvas of a person. For her, color is everything. Black is a term that is too painful to shameful to embrace. Black is not beautiful. Black is not good enough. Blacks are a dime a dozen. So instead she and others find adjectives to describe themselves, to define themselves as something, anything, other than black. Ebony. Chocolate. Dark Brown. Toffee. There is a sense of superiority that comes with a lighter complexion. It’s a concept that still I do not understand, I can not understand. I refuse to entertain or even tolerate an idea that tells a child that they are inadequate. The disappointment is that even if I wanted to, I will never understand. I have not grown up here. I haven’t even lived here long. I have nothing to share with her. I don’t have words of wisdom. I don’t have answers, a solution. I can’t fix this. Then again maybe nothings broken. I hate the mentality of coming here to fix things. There are expectations and systems in place that i cannot begin to understand. But I have patience and I have time. I'm learning to listen rather than talk.

peace. love. grace