Week 6, Halfway through the Semester
Trip Start Jul 14, 2007
11Trip End Jun 23, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
*Little note, I wrote this on Monday night but couldn't send until Tuesday! Sorry for the confusion in the text*
Kunjani? That mean's how is it in Xhosa, thought I would throw in some of the things I have been learning! Hope everyone is enjoying the AMERICAN National Holiday today! To my friends at PLU, I hope everyone has a great first day of school tomorrow. I have been thinking about PLU a lot recently and it blows my mind that 1) you all haven't started school yet and 2) you all are starting school without me! I love the beginning of the year at PLU and am looking forward to reading the messages about day to day life and events in Parkland!
Oddly enough, this is my sixth week of school! I can't believe that I have been in class that long. Also, I've been living in Cape Town for 51 days already, crazy thought! This Friday, when I am done with class, I will officially be on Spring Break and halfway done with the semester. Time seriously is flying by! Unfortunately, I can't go on an exciting site seeing or volunteering trip for spring break. Instead, my Entomology class has a required field trip. Luckily, I get to spend the week in a beautiful area on the northwestern coast of South Africa in a field blooming with wild flowers trying to collect insects (for an insect collection) with my really cool classmates! An extra bonus is that this trip has already been paid for (so I won't be blowing lots of money).
Besides that, classes have been going really well. I am finding a good balance between work and play and have been learning a lot. I feel very lucky to be a science major in Africa. This place is just bursting with seriously cool things to study and learn about and my professors (as I said before) are extremely engaging. However, the whole British English thing sometimes creates problems with confusion and I occasionally find myself quietly laughing when they talk about vitamins and laboratories!
Speaking of labs, the standards here are nothing like they are in the states. Usually, at the beginning of the year professors will go over basic lab rules etc before letting you get down to the science part. Here, I don't think there are lab rules! The only signs I see posted in the lab are no smoking and no eating. However, I have seen people (lots of people) eating in the lab before dissections (eww), so maybe people just don't smoke in the lab! Also, safety features haven't been discussed in detail. For example, the professor quickly mentioned that there was a shower (for chemical spills on the body) and a fire extinguisher, but he never actually told us where to find them!
This didn't really bother me until we started making slides for our insect collections. When the professor started explaining the procedure for making them, he told us to be very careful when heating one of the chemicals. Apparently, if it gets too hot it can start bubbling and splashing out of the test tube. If this chemical gets into your eyes, you will be blind (but we don't have an eye flushing bath, so we would just have to shove our head in a sink). If I spill it on my hands, he said it will feel like a soapy liquid, but to not be fooled, it is just our flesh being eaten up! Then, as the entire class began to act nervous, he made a side comment that maybe this chemical was a little dangerous to have in lab! So far, no problems!
Anyway, on the cultural side of things, two weeks ago I spent the weekend in Ocean View, South Africa. This place is actually a township about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. Ocean View, like other townships, was formed during apartheid as the white rulers moved the colored people out of various regions and relocated them to designated towns in the middle of nowhere. I spent the weekend with a young couple, Lillian and Trevor, and their two daughters, Sydney (8) and Sammie (6 months) as well as another American student. The couple and their extended family are all very active in their church, so on Friday night we went there and spent time together. Many of the other family members were old enough to remember their families being relocated many times by the government until they were finally assigned to go live in Ocean View. For some of them, it is still very hard to talk about the shameful memories of relocation. They took us to Simons Town (where their families had lived) and pointed out their old houses and explained some of the history and culture of the area.
I also had the opportunity to meet and become friends with younger members of the Ocean View community. One girl, Lauren, expressed her frustration in the education she received. High school in Ocean View doesn't prepare students for anything. She said she is lacking in science and math because teachers tend to leave because of the huge drug problems and low salary. Also, she said that even when teachers do stay, they don't challenge students to learn and allow for a lot of cheating and corruption. Right now, Lauren works as a receptionist at an eye doctor's office. She feels really lucky to have that job because unemployment is high, but at the same time she doesn't want to be stuck there forever. To most people in Ocean View, a college degree seems unattainable or worthless. Due to her colored status, Lauren thinks that even with a degree she won't be likely to get a better job.
Anyway, back to my real Ocean View story, on Friday night at the church we sorted through donated food. This food was to be handed out to the homeless and starving people of Ocean View the next day. A lot of the food was rotting or smashed or soggy (essentially it wasn't what most Americans would view as edible) yet we kept almost all of it. The next day, we woke up and went to the church to hand out food. Children are allowed in first and we gave them their ration. It blew my mind to actually see these kids. Most of them dirty and barefoot, some so small that I wasn't sure if they could carry the food. They were just excited to be getting something to eat, regardless of the rotten status we had classified it the night before. I had brought along a bag of chocolates, and after serving the children, elderly, women, and men I pulled out the bag and shared the sweets with the kids (and the adults who were around). I can't even begin to describe how big their eyes became as they realized what I had brought them.
As for the rest of my trip, I had some of the best cooking so far in South Africa and some of the best company as well. These are very interesting, very kind, and very giving people. They made us promise to come back and visit again, which I am totally planning on doing. It is a nice feeling to have a family in the area that I know I can come visit any time I need to have a family or a home cooked meal.
The past few weeks I have found myself a little bit homesick as I have been grieving over the loss of a good friend. To those who are also grieving, I send my love and thoughts. It has been hard being away from everyone and everything, but I am reminded everyday how lucky I am and how great life is.
Anyway, I hope everyone is still doing well. I enjoy hearing updates from you all!
Sobonana (which means I'll see you in Xhosa),