Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I am finally reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I realize that it is a shame that I’m just now getting to it. But when you’re in school, then go to college, you don’t have lots of time to read the “greats” or the “classics” at least when it comes to black authors (at least that has been my experience).

The book is tragic, which makes it at times difficult to get through, but I can still appreciate it for the fine work that it is and I can relate to it in more ways than one. One particular character I relate to is Nettie, Celie’s sister (my apologies if I ruin the story for you. I advise you to stop reading now if you want to read it on your own). I am just now getting to the part where Celie has gotten her sister’s letters and is reading about her going to Africa.

First a note on Africa. I hate that people still ask me about Africa. I’m sure I’ve complained about this before but that’s because it still bothers me. I’m going to South Africa which is vastly different as I hope people have learned recently from Egypt or even Ethiopia. Just wanted to make that clear.

In The Color Purple, Nettie travels to Ethiopia to do mission work. On the way there, she meets a white man who is down right appalled that “coloureds” would go to Africa. Nowadays, a lot more blacks go to Africa in search of their roots or to lend a helping hand. Michelle Obama and Oprah recently visited South Africa, and though I don’t know the details, I do know that Oprah has started a charity there. It is encouraging to know that more blacks are going to parts of Africa but I still think it has a very long way to go.

I sometimes wonder why it is that so many whites go to Africa to help out but so few blacks and in this case, I’m referring to specifically to America, since I cannot and will not speak for the rest of the world. If I were to draw on my own experiences and limited knowledge, I would think that perhaps black Americans have their own struggles here and that limits them to going abroad to help or even to visit. Maybe there is nothing going on there but I think it’s an interesting topic to think about it. Maybe it’s just that the actual numbers of blacks going to Africa is smaller than whites, since we are the minority but that the proportions are very similar. Possible research topic, anyone?!?

Back to The Color Purple, reading about Nettie’s experience thus far in going to Ethiopia, I am reminded that I will probably be the only black volunteer working with my organization. This may not turn out to be in true but I’m betting it will. GVI (Global Vision International) is as you might guess an international organization, so I would hope that people of all races would make up their volunteer base. From what I’ve seen, that doesn’t seem to be true.

So what happens when whites help out blacks? Good work is done; there is no doubt in that. But I believe it goes a long way to have a black volunteer instead of a white one. I think it goes a long way to see a black face teaching you instead of a white one because you can relate. “This is teacher is just like me” a child might think when they see me. As I think back on my own education, I can count on one hand the amount of black teachers I had and for me, this made school even harder. I went to predominately white schools throughout k-12 and even college was mostly white (obviously I acknowledge that college was my choice). I remember longing for more courses especially history and literature that focused on the work on my people and it seems that unless I sought that out on my own time or at least found extra courses that pertained to the topic, I wouldn’t have gotten to known my own history better. It hurts black students, Latino students, Asian students, etc. when they don’t here about things that their people have done. I know for me it would have helped a lot to know where my people have been to know where I wanted to go, and education is certainly a start.

For my trip to South Africa, this of course adds more pressure on me to perform not only as well as the other volunteers but even better than them. I want to be a great role model for these students, so that they can see what they are capable of. I just hope I can rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good School Day

I was awaken this morning to Kate whose Jane’s assistant director in New Zealand. She’s here while Will is away (again). I thought I might have dreamt it because it was fairly early but apparently I did not. I went back to bed and finally woke up at 10:30 (yes I realize I’m a bum). I had a new granola that I was trying out and I have to say: it’s not that great. I guess I should just stick to what I love but whatever you gotta try something new sometimes. But that wasn’t the problem. For some reason, the orange juice made me nauseous this morning. It was not fun. I thought I was going to hurl, though I didn’t. I almost didn’t go swimming, it was so bad. But I was glad I did because I felt much better afterwards.

Before I went swimming, I stopped by the department and got a paper and a test back, both of which I did really well on. I was so relieved but the last couple papers I got back I didn’t do very well. Thankfully, that changed. But anyways, after I went swimming I ran into my friend G. Yeah, I can’t say his name is Xhosa so he just told me to call him G. It was nice seeing him since he is one of the only people on campus that talks to me. I know its weird to already have regrets but I do regret not getting involved with anything on campus but I know really it makes sense because I’m so far away from campus.

But on with my story, it was nice to talk to him and I got to talk to some other students, which was also nice. Mostly we talked about class, nothing too exciting, though one guy was asking me about my accent which totally give me away. I hate that sometimes but people are pretty friendly so I guess it’s fine.

Then I went to class which was fine. We talked about rural Jamaicans and their perceptions of body image which I found really interesting since I’m part Jamaican (my grandfather immigrated to America). Sad as this may sound, the article made me appreciate my body more because Jamaicans find plumpness attractive and associate thinness with meanness, selfish, etc. I just found that really interesting.

Then came my tut, which I actually really enjoy now. I used to hate it but I love it now. Today we talked about what we are attracted to which I liked. Most of us girls liked the same thing: tall, dark and handsome. I don’t know it was just a really interesting conversation. When it was my turn, the tutor embarrassed me since I was basically describing Loren and smiling to myself J Then the tutor starting asking about famous guys we were attracted to and Columbus Short and Taye Diggs came up and I kinda lost it. I love them!

After that was my other tut which rarely happens because no one comes. Today it was just me and G and since Joe called me, I actually got to leave early and not wait until five to be picked up. So I gave the tutor my email and left. I meant to work, I did. It just didn’t happen. I didn’t really get any work done. It’s that time of the semester when you’ve almost done. I have two papers and five finals and then I’m done, yet I’m finding motivating myself fairly difficult. Such is life. Look for more later!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Day Back with the Kids

I saw the kids today for the first time in two weeks. I had mixed emotions. I had enjoyed my break from them, yes because they are so exhausting, my own personal birth control but I did also miss their smiling faces and their almost innocence. So I came into it not knowing really what to expect. I came in earlier than I used to because normally by the time I get there, they are already working on homework if they have any. Today they were all eating and I got a chance to catch up with them and see how their breaks were. The responses I got were all very vague from “I slept” to “I ate” which I found strange but I’m learning not to question and just go with it. I was asked about my ring again today, if I was married etc. I’ve only been going there for the past two months (I think) you’d think they would have gotten the message at this point but apparently not.

Anyways, today I mostly helped my favourite, Liam because he apparently didn’t do some class work for whatever reason. He had to write six sentences about spring. I just helped with spelling but I was really impressed with his sentence stating that most animals are born in the spring. I just thought it was a very thoughtful sentence. After helping him, I listened to him read a few pages in his “reader” (that’s what they call books here or at least the ones that the children have to read). Then I went outside and watched the kids play for a bit before returning inside because the weather got cold today and it’s supposed to be summer!

Then I was coaked outside by Chloe because she wanted me to get some berries from the mulberry tree which of course was not a good idea because as soon as she asked me, a bunch of other kids also begged me to get them berries. So I got some one for each child and then sat down with Moo Moo who was being her crazy self as usual. She braided my hair and asked me if I was married (again) and when I replied that I wasn’t, she wanted to know why. So I asked the same question: are you married? She said no because she was small. Well, I’m small too I replied. Kids are crazy, asking a million and one questions.

I got cold again so I went inside and talked with Ester who had forgotten the African dress she was bringing for my mom. I had actually forgotten about it. She offered last Tuesday that she would bring in this dress that she’d only wore once for my mom. She said so that way everyday my mom wears it, I will think of her which I thought was so sweet. She promised to bring it on Friday. So this is just a little update on today, I know I’ve been bad lately about my blog, I will try to get back into the swing of doing it everyday like I used to. Peace

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day One: First Game Drive!

Luckily, I actually slept last night. That annoying headache that you get from lack of sleep is finally gone. I woke up around 6:30 an hour before we were scheduled to be picked up, got dressed and hurried outside to enjoy the morning. It was quite cool but still pleasant. I ate my granola and was soon joined by the Marquette girls and Adam. After waiting a while, we were finally greeted by Brenda or our tour truck (not a bus but a truck). It can seat 24 people but we only have 16 which means plenty of room to stretch. I immediately went to the front because although I’ve travelled a lot by car (done it for years). I’m prone to get car sick/

Our group is an interesting one. I was surprised that there are so many older people. From front to back, there’s Kate and her mother who have been travelling around Africa for a while now, then two German girls who are in South African to volunteer, then several older couples one American, one French, and a Swiss couple. And there’s of course Adam, the Marquette girls and me.

We soon left Joburg and I enjoyed looking at the interesting landscape. It was weird because at first everything was just flat and reminded me of Illinois and their corn fields only I can’t really describe to you how it’s different. It just is. I took pictures anyway because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Then we stopped for petrol aka gas. We got out and went to the bathroom then it was back on the truck. I decided to take nap which went well. I also took notes on the trip. Then we arrived at Nalspruit for lunch. First we went to the grocery store, which was very nice. They had stuff they didn’t have in Cape Town like Frosted Mini Wheates. Then we had lunch which was lighter than I expected. It was just a sandwich and I was able to make a small salad with the lettuce, tomato, and cucumber provided. Then we were on the road again. This time the landscape got interesting and I got some great shots of the mountains and since we were close to the park we put the windows down which was great. We passed some orange trees and the smell was wonderful. I love looking at all the South African flora here because there is such a variety: pinks and purples. Beautiful flowers.

The ride just made me think about how beautiful the world is and also how small it is. I love it! I just love travelling. I now want to decide where to go next. Perhaps I’ll come back here for the world cup. That would be sweet. Or maybe I’ll visit Jane in New Zealand or perhaps Europe finally. All I know is that I’m addicted to travelling. I was just thinking about how weird its gonna be going back to Nashville and not seeing the beautiful mountains. St. Louis is even worse

Back to the trip, we finally got to Kruger and immediately spotted impala, which is sorta like a deer. It was very exciting. Then we stopped at the front gate and got out to use the toilet and I took more pictures. Then we continued on our game drive. We saw tons of impala, a giraffe and a bunch of elephants, even a little baby one. It was so cute. Then we got to the camp site where we set up camp. We were supposed to go on another game drive but we ran out of time, so instead we set up our tents, which wasn’t too difficult. Then dinner which was so good. It consisted of beef and rice and there was so much left over we were allowed to have seconds. After dinner it was bedtime.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Day in Jo'burg

I woke up super early this morning and I feel miles away from Cape Town, which now feels like home. I lucked out and was able to talk to Loren for a little bit before I left. I was nervous about not talking to him for five days, but now that I’m sitting her, I feel much more at ease.

Ivan picked us up around five and I was quickly reminded of the first night I arrived in Cape Town, though this time the scenery was much more familiar. Check in went on without a hitch though I did forget about my keys in my pocket and one of the security guys started engaging me in a conversation which I was trying to get through the check point. I’m still not used to that. I will be in my own little world, worrying about the next thing which in this case was just getting on the place so I could sleep when I suddenly I’m being talked to early in the morning and expected to engage. I must admit I got a little annoyed because I just wanted to sit down so I could semi-sleep but I suppose that’s a part of the American mentality: all business

The gates are all in one place, squeezed together and there are very few chairs for people to sit. But it worked fine. We first board a bus which then takes us to the plane: a very strange set up from what I’m used to. The flight was fine. I mostly slept. One thing I had noticed is that they play actual music on the plane as you board and get off the place which I love.

We land and I decide to finally open my eyes. Joburg is very ugly in comparison to CPT: no Table Mountain or any mountains at all as a matter of fact. But the airport is much nicer then what I’ve seen of CPT’s. We find our way through the airport and spot a Subway which I was so excited to see because I hadn’t seen one in CPT yet. Then we make it to where the public transport is and call for our free transport. The backpackers that we’re staying at is very close to the airport literally a stone’s throw way, but we would have never been able to find it on our own.

The guesthouse is so nice for R150/night which is under $20/night. There are three swimming pools, one small and two bigger ones, one of which has a slide and the other had a fun little island.

We check in and settle in a bit. The rooms are nice, tons of bed in one place with a kitchen, bathroom, living room: a really sweet set up for the price. I found it amusing that the kitchen was in the girl’s room but not the guys, yet the guy’s sheets were pink, purple and yellow...very masculine

Then we got sucker into going to the Apartheid Museum with this private tour guide. We had already planned to go just on our own but it worked out well. We paid only a little bit more which allowed us greater freedom.

Our guide was a proud Chinese man named Danny. Not a fan of Britain or America but a huge fan of China and the Dutch. He gave a really detailed account of the beginning of CPT which was great except for the fact that I was running on very little sleep and could barely concentrate. Needless to say, I missed some info but most of the stuff I had learned before. At one point, Danny slows down on the highway and scared the mess out of me. But he just wanted to show us the hostels that the miners used to live in, which was cool. We also got to see downtown Joburg which was surrounded by hills or perhaps they should be called mountains. Danny told us that the tallest building in Africa is located in Joburg. Then we finally got to the apartheid museum. Authestically it was hideous, all gray concentrate although there was a nice reflective pool with a Nelson Mandela quote. Again most of the info was things I already knew but seeing actual artifacts and getting a multimedia approach was nice.

One thing they did have that I want to talk about is the Nelson Mandela exhibit. I’m not a fan of idolization and I feel that that’s happened with Mandela. Now don’t get me wrong, Mandela is a hero. I’m not denying that. It’s just that people idolize everything about him and that can be cribbling. It can cause South Africans to judge everyman in comparison to Mandela and it also can prevent them from looking at his faults. But the biggest thing I don’t like about the Mandel idol is that it prevents other people’s amazing storied from being told. There are so many unsung heroes whose stories should be told, but people are so focused on Mandela that little interest is paid to others who made freedom possible in South Africa, and this is not a phenomena only occurring in South Africa. The same thing is done with MLK. I remember the absolute shock I felt when I found out the Dr. King cheated on his wife. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I remember how it completely changed my view of MLK. It brought him down to earth. I blame education for that. When you learn about MLK in elementary school, you get a very black and white impression of him. But I supposed they do that with all history topics when you’re little. I hate that. The reason I love history so much is because of its complexity and I am a firm believer that a good understanding of history can help you not repeat the same mistakes.

But enough about that, I pretty much speeded through the museum because 1. I was hungry and 2. I was exhausted so reading every single word and caption was impossible. But since Adam was way behind me, I did some wandering and discovered that we had barely scratched the surface of the museum. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. I guess the set up was poorly designed or we just missed a sign. So we didn’t see the entire museum, but it was fine. We both weren’t in the best of spirits since we hadn’t eaten since early in the morning. Danny picked us up and took us back and I finally got to attack the bag of granola I brought. We were greeted this time by two Marquette girls, Rose and Nora who we didn’t know were also going on the same Kruger trip. We mostly chilled by reception, though I did wander around at one point and discovered the pool with the slide and the one with an island where the Marquette girls were chilling. I also discovered a bunny cage with two inside and one that had somehow escaped.

Then Adam and I decided to see if there way any place close by to eat. Basically it was something to do. We were in a very dull part of Joburg. It was just a surburb with tons of car dealership. So we went back and got a menu for the restaurant there. It wasn’t as cheap as I thought it was going to be, not really expensive but at the price we paid for the room I expected much less. But it doesn’t matter anyway because we ended up being invited to go with the Marquette girls for dinner with their program director’s girlfriend. She was really fun though she did scare me a couple times by running a red light. But we got to our destination, the Nelson Mandela square in one piece. It’s apparently is a very touristy area. We decided on this place that was famous for its meat. It reminded me of a classier verison of Mzoli’s. There was free bread, which was delicious and little sausages, also quite tasty. I ordered a starter portion of lamb but they apparently ignored that. The guy was a bit annoyed with us because we all pretty much ordered started. The place was pricey though and I hadn’t expected to have to pay that much. So I got way more meat than I wanted. I literally couldn’t finish it. I did finish the mashed potatoe no problem though. I was supposed to get the lamb to take home but they forgot, which I was actually ok with. I’m so over eating tons of meat. I literally can’t do it anymore especially when I don’t eat a lot of meat anymore but the last two times I ate at a restaurant, they give you way too much meat. So I think I’m going to stick with my one meal a day with meat.

On the way back, Nora started talking about “the Elders” a group of men who someone decided were. The list includes Koffi Anna, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Madiba’s wife. I thought it was first surprising that Jimmy Carter made the list. I apparently don’t know anything about Jimmy Carter like apparently he created Habitat for Humanity. Also I think it’s interesting that the list is made up of majority blacks and most of the people are from South Africa. Once we got back I wrote in my journal, then went to bed super early I think it was around 10.

The day before the Safari

One day before my safari! I am packed and ready to go. I’m not looking forward to early flight (it leaves at 6:45) but I am looking forward to a major change in scenery. Tomorrow we get picked up at 5am and then taken to airport. From there, we fly to Joburg arriving around 9. Then I’ll probably crash. I don’t know. I haven’t been sleeping well lately so sleep is the one thing on my mind. But Adam and I are at least going to the Apartheid Museum so that should be cool. Then Monday is the big day. We get picked up around 8 and then taken to Kruger. I have deleted most of my pictures off my camera and bought tons of batteries so I should be set in terms of that.

Yesterday was a good day despite me not being able to sleep. I woke up several times during the night and finally at 8:30 I gave up and decided to make myself useful and go to the primary school. I helped the grade twos again because grade four and up were at a camp. So I helped Ramses again who has improved a lot over the weeks. He’s reading a lot faster, but I’m not sure exactly how to judge it because they all read the same book over and over so it could just be he’s memorized well. It’s hard to tell. Nonetheless it was very encouraging to see improvement.

After Ramses, I helped Tadala who struggled a lot but I love her because she’s very enthusiastic. She did pretty well too. Then I had a major change in pace with this kid Sesethu who was reading a more difficult book, which basically meant I got to hear a different story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about Kim and Paul and their birthday. So it was great for me to hear something different. I recall that he had trouble with the word “what” which actually Kgozi had trouble with too. I’m not a fan of that word because I have no idea how you sound it out. You can’t just say “at” and then add the “wh” sound at the beginning. It doesn’t work. The same thing goes for “could.” There is no “l” sound so it’s hard to explain. The English language is so weird. Then there’s “I’ll” also a weird word to explain.

But anyways, I watched some of the kids play during break and it was cute how excited Kgozi was to see me. I had Ramses’ books with me and he was so excited to read to me, which made me feel so honored that he would want to read with me during break while all the other kids are running around screaming. But of course, it wasn’t just him a few other boys wanted to read to me too. It was a bit overwhelming because I can only listen to one kid at a time, but it was still fun.

After going to the school, I came home and chilled, did some homework, nothing too exciting. I was planning to go to a play that Arcadia was supposed to be providing transportation too but our new student coordinator has been failing lately. Well, ok I shouldn’t say that but the same thing happened today so yeah, I’m not one to ignore the obvious. But I hope I’m wrong. I hope she’ll follow through with other activities. It is after all her first week. I should explain a little. This week Jane hired a student coordinator whose a grad student at UCT. Her name is Melangini. She seems pretty nice. I hope she knows what she’s doing.

Anyway, so instead of going to the play, I went with Amanda to this dance/play performance by kids from Khaylitsha a township outside of Cape Town. It was amazing. The singing literally gave me chills and the dancing and acting were equally incredible. I enjoyed every second of it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

constantly learning

Today was my last day of classes before break! I’m getting really excited about my safari. I can’t believe it’s so soon. Last night I sent my mom more info on it and decided to read the info I was sent too. It sounds like such a blast. We get to see the third largest canyon in the world and of course tons of awesome animals. The logistics still need to be worked out like how we’re getting to the airport and how much food we need to bring for the day before the trip. We fly in Joburg on Sunday but the safari doesn’t start until Monday. I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

I only had one class today which was sweet but I had to arrive early as usual because Adam had an early class. So I went swimming and again, they were playing Bob Marley. It made me so happy even though they were some of the least popular songs, at least it’s Bob. Then class and I found out I have a test which is worth half of my semester grade. I think it’s really strange because after that we’ve basically done everything that is require of us so does that mean we’re done with class? I guess, I’ll find out later. But I’m thinking it should be pretty easy especially since I have been reviewing my notes almost everyday.

After class, I did some laundry, reading, etc before going to the primary school. The kid I helped yesterday is named Kgozi (I might be spelling it wrong), and he was excited to see me which I found a bit strange because I basically made him cry, but perhaps he was just happy to get the attention. He again had trouble with the word “want” and this time I didn’t push too much, I just told him the word but then when we got to it again, he forgot it so the technique doesn’t exactly work either. But for the most part, it was good and he did pretty well.

Then I watched one of the older girls draw. She is such a great drawer and she was asking me about American songs like the Black Eye Peas “Boom boom pow.” It’s all the rage here and she also likes the song by Kanye West something about when love knocks you down, just get back up when it knocks you down. So American culture is very popular here in case you were wondering and then she recommended some places I should go like this restaurant called Spurs and the Grand Central Arena or something like that. They have a skating rink there and also a casino. It’s apparently really nice and I have to go before I leave at least that’s what I was told. I thought it was interesting as I was watching her draw. She was drawing different people doing sports. They were all white. I just thought that was interesting especially in a country that is majority black. White still rules. It just reminded me of that experiment with the dolls way back when and all the black kids in America would want the white doll over the black one. Same thing? Maybe, maybe not. But then she said that her best colours were black and peach, which I found to be interesting. But I’m probably reading too much into that. I found it interesting all the same. Now I’m going to get some reading done so I don’t have a lot of work to do once I get back. Catch you on the flip side.