Archive for February, 2013

Chapter Ten: A Month of Summer

Sorry I haven’t updated in almost a week. I’ve been super busy with schoolwork and, thus, have been lazy about the blog. But I have officially been in South Africa for a month! AAAAAHHHHHH!!

Anywho, since last Wednesday, not a whole lot of blog-worthy things have happened. I did go kayaking for the first time in my life on Saturday. This was a trip we were supposed to do three weeks ago, but it kept getting canceled because of wind. So we (and by we, I mean the usual trio) took a train ride to Simon’s Town where we got in and kayaked out into the bay. We stayed fairly close to shore, which was fine with me. Kayaking is definitely harder than I thought it would be. I knew my arms would have a good workout, but they were burning! But it was absolutely worth it because within five minutes of being out on the water, we saw SEALS!!! A whole bunch of them!! They were hanging out so close to our kayaks, it was absolutely amazing. They were poking their heads out, waving their fins, showing us their nice big yawn.


Kayaking alongside seals!

We kayaked down to Boulders Beach where the famous African Penguin colony lives. They were definitely very cute, and it was such a treat to see them in their natural habitat. Swimming, waddling around. They were however…uh…quite…smelly… 🙂 But I still loved them. On our way back, as Shaina and I were paddling, one of the guys shouted to us, and suddenly a seal popped up within five feet of our boat. That was so amazing. The entire day was so wonderful!!

That night we watched “Blood Diamond” because Caleb had never seen it. As per usual with that particular film, I was sobbing at the end. So good.

But besides that, not much else besides all the work I’ve been doing. Summer jobs and internship applications, directing applications, and now suddenly I have a ton of reading to do for my classes.

Time for more anecdotes! Yay! So I was originally told that UCT very much followed the system of having basically the entire grade be based on your final exam. That is true for all three of my classes, but there are actually more papers and assignments than I had originally thought. I actually appreciate that though because it’s like BC and it keeps me on my toes. I was also told (and as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts) that the professors here don’t actually want/expect you to ask questions. Maybe it’s just because of the classes I’m taking, but the professors seem to encourage discussion in class, posing questions, and making comments. Especially my archaeology professor; she regularly asks non-rhetorical questions and stresses coming to her if we have any questions.

Two random things. First, everyone here smokes. There are always a ton of people smoking outside the school buildings, all over campus. Also, they let people smoke in night clubs, which really surprised me. When I went to the Goldfish concert two weeks ago, we were inside, and, again, everyone was smoking and it was insanely crowded. I was kinda worried about someone burning my shirt! Second, definitely interesting to me, Blackberry phones are HUGE. At BC, it’s hard to find someone without an iPhone, but in South Africa, it’s the exact opposite.

I think that’s it for now. Sorry this wasn’t a more exciting entry!! Hopefully I can do better next time.


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Okay, so I’m gonna keep this entry as short as possible because I am absolutely EXHAUSTED after today. I managed to do my readings for tomorrow and make myself some dinner, but other than that, I have been a slug.

Classes are going well, yay, woot. But today was my first day of volunteering with SHAWCO. I decided to do the STAR program in Manenberg, which works with kids from about four or five years old to about thirteen or fourteen. At Manenberg, we could have chosen to work with three different grade groups, and I chose the youngest because I thought, hey, younger kids are cute and fun. And they are probably at the age that will most tolerate my crazy theatrical antics.

I thought I was a kind of crazy person.

Good lord, these kids have even more energy than when I first met them three weeks ago. We started off by just doing the Hokey Pokey (I had to think for a minute how that song went. So sad!) a couple of times to help them release their energy. Ha. Jokes. They were still just as rowdy. Running around, hitting and kicking each other. You try to stop them but they keep running. Climbing trees, the works. And I have no idea how to discipline these kids besides saying, “Hey, that’s not nice.” I felt strange having just met them and then trying to be super stern and practically yell at them. But a couple of the experienced project leaders certainly did not have that issue! They were perfectly nice to the kids of course, but they weren’t afraid to pull them aside to talk to them.

I went inside with the kids from grades R and 1 (I’m assuming grade R is kind of like kindergarten). We basically just colored for over an hour. It was so much fun not just for the kids but for me too! Although it was definitely still a challenge. Some of the boys were screaming a lot, some didn’t want to share their crayons, some wanted the picture of zebra to color in instead of Ariel. I was also kind of frustrated to be honest. The project leaders literally put five of us in a room with about thirty kids, and this was all of our first times at Manenberg and with SHAWCO. None of us had any clue what we were supposed to be doing. It was just, “hey, here are crayons, pictures, and a booklet if you need help. See ya.” That was really overwhelming.

I spent a lot of my time with a group of about five girls. It was so funny, but on every picture they colored, they wanted to write their names and then my name on the back of the drawing. When things got too crazy, we went outside to try once again to release some of that energy. All at once, about six girls came up to me, asking me to pick them up or swing them around. I lost count of the number of girls who I carried on my shoulders. By the end, my back and shoulders were killing me. But they would sit on top, I’d stand up, and then I channeled a dinosaur and went after the other kids. They liked that. J

Overall, it was a fun experience, and I’m glad I signed up for it. I think I just need to get used to the energy!

When we got back on the bus, the project leader said that was the calmest she’s ever seen the kids. SAY WHAT NOW?!?!?

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I’ve updated the gallery, so feel free to check it out!

I got my first option choice for the theatre class!! I’ll be taking Performance and Digital Story, and I’m pretty excited. It’s a group of about twenty-three, maybe, and everyone is so enthusiastic. We had a huge discussion about what is technology in our everyday lives, how digital media can change theatre and performances. On Friday, Sanjin (my teacher) showed us how he had bought just the Kinect part of the Xbox Kinect (they put the emphasis on the first syllable—KI~nect) and hacked/rigged it so that when someone stepped in front of it, they had fireballs in their hands that made different sounds and pitches when you moved your hands. Pretty cool. We then split up into groups of four, and we have to create a performance using digital media to be presented in April or May.

Friday night, Shaina, Caleb, and I (noticing a pattern?) went to a party at Trenchtown restaurant in Observatory for 2Way Travel. It’s a local travel/adventure company that does a lot of trips/activities in the area. I’m seriously considering going on their Botswana trip over mid-semester break—an 11-day tour full of safaris, camping, and Victoria Falls! They were giving away some pretty cool prizes, so I bought R100 worth of raffle tickets and put them all into the free 5-day Kruger Trip. I had bought the most tickets of anyone, but of course I did not win. All those years of putting ALL my raffle tickets for the Spring Fling into that freakin’ super soaker and NEVER WINNING IT has clearly jinxed me for the rest of my life. But the person who won it was…SHAINA!!! It was actually hilarious, except for the part where I went home and sobbed into my pillow….JUST KIDDING!! Glad that the trip went to someone who I’m friends with and who I know will enjoy it!

Saturday was a tough day. Spent much of it at the beach. Ugh, so terrible. 😉

Today was the hike from Constantia Nek to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. It was sooooo hot today, but I felt pretty good! I was up at the front of the group, and we “finished” about an hour and a half ahead of time, so we were given the option to continue hiking for about forty minutes or just go straight into the gardens. We all said more hiking. Little did I know that it was literally STRAIGHT UPHILL!! Oh my goodness, I was dying. I was sucking wind like a whale (is that a phrase?) so much so that I was actually incredibly embarrassed. It was all those kind of makeshift stairs where someone gathered the dirt and put a piece of wood to mark the edge of the step. Hate those things. But it all paid off with the beautiful views at the top!




Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was at the time (or at least I hope so). The heat and Riggin-family sweat genes made me feel like it was impossible. Hoping that with a few more weeks of walking and hiking around I’ll be in better shape and it will be easier.

Kirstenbosch was absolutely gorgeous. I definitely want to go back and spend more time there, especially for their outdoor concerts and outdoor movies!!

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Yeah. So that happened.

First day was fine. I had had the archaeology class on Friday so I already knew how that was. One of the other girls from BC, Maura, is in the class with me, so that’s nice to see a familiar face! It’s really interesting, but it’s going to be a lot of work. I also had my history class. It was a little dry, so hopefully it will pick up a bit more when the professor is not just reading through the syllabus. =D And then my theatre class. The Hiddingh campus is about a twenty-minute drive from main campus, so I have to take the Jammie, which is the UCT bus service. There are about fifty-five students in the class, and we’ll be having main lectures on Monday while the Thursday and Friday times are for our options. We were given three possible options to choose from to focus on in the class since “contemporary performance” is a broad topic. Option 1: Bodies in Performance: sex, race, culture, and identity. Option 2: Performance and Digital Story. Option 3: Contemporary African Theatre. I put Option 2 as my first choice, but I’ll find out for sure on Thursday. I did the readings for next Monday already because I have to write a summary on one of the articles. Kind of dense material. =( But we shall see!

Other than that, not much to report, so I figured I would just write down things about everyday life, little anecdotes, answer a few questions, so enjoy!

Okay, first is the food. In answer to mah wonderfully lovurly Aunt Terry, the food here is kind of the same. A lot of pizza, almost every restaurant has that. Lots of seafood, but of course that’s mostly at the waterfront and pier. And oh my goodness, they do love their burgers here. There are three chain fast food burger places within a block of me. I did have a really delicious one at the restaurant across the street. Other than that, I haven’t had anything hugely different yet. I haven’t been to a “South African” restaurant yet, so I haven’t been exposed to the more indigenous/traditional foods. I am dying to try Malva pudding; that’s supposed to be delicious. Braais are a big thing here—basically just a barbeque. But at the Freshers Braai at UCT, I did have some delicious kind of marinated chicken. Again, there’s a lot of meat here. But OF COURSE I am keeping my eye out for recipes and possible cookbooks to bring to you. =D

What else. Char, I unfortunately have not been able to keep up with American TV. I miss my weekly dose of Matthew Crawley, Leslie Knope, and Agent Gibbs. We have a TV, but we haven’t really tried it yet. From what I’ve heard, most of what you find on the tube here is soap operas and any sports games that are on. I’m a little nervous about using the internet to catch up because even though I bought a USB stick that gives me a ton of data, I’m still frugal about it. However, at the video store down the street, they literally have almost every single season of every single US TV show. NCIS, Charmed, Dexter, Community, they have everything. Of course the frustrating part is that with their system of “organization,” you could find NCIS Season 2 Disc 3 next to Bridget Jones’ Diary. I almost ripped all of the DVDs off the shelves and started alphabetizing them.

Let’s see. Common words slash phrases. As I said, braai is a barbeque. Here are some others that I hear fairly often:


Bru=South African version of “bro”

Combi=those minibus taxi things

Howzit=short for “how’s it going,” I actually hear this a lot and have fallen into saying it myself sometimes just cause it’s easier and faster

Just now=as in “hey I’ll get it done just now” actually means anytime in the next 24 hours, or it might not even happen

Now=anytime within the next six hours

Yeah, South African time is way different than American time. For example, waiting for an hour for your food at a restaurant is pretty standard. There’s also lekker, which means cool. I have yet to actually hear someone use that word. One time, I heard two people refer to each other as “comrade” and then “chief” as a sign of respect. That was between one of our student tour guides and a grassroots kind of person in the train station. This is kind of silly, but I had a taxi driver once who clearly didn’t like to swear, so instead of saying “Jesus Christ,” he said, “Oh, Jesus name!” Lolz.

Those minibus/taxis I was telling you about? Forgot to mention that they are obsessive about getting people in. That is the way they make a living. The driver honks a lot, sometimes continuously, while another guy literally yells the destination out the window at any person on the sidewalk. I was carrying a bottle of milk back to my flat and was asked if I wanted to go into town. When I shook my head no, he yelled, “Why?” Because I am taking my milk HOME and not to the V&A Waterfront, thank you very much. From my apartment, you always hear the guys saying either Cape Town or Wynberg, since those are two of the routes that come along Main Road in Rondebosch.

I love the pictures of all the snow. Hope everyone’s doing well!!

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Sorry, but it looks like it might be another novel today.

Bear with me. Lots of information to report!!

Wednesday was the day I went to Robben Island. With Shaina and Caleb, we took the 1pm ferry over to the prison where Nelson Mandela was held. The first part of the tour consisted of a bus ride around the area, and I learned that there is even more to the history of the prison than I thought. During much of the 1800s, Robben Island served as a leper colony because many believed the disease was highly contagious. We drove past the leper graveyard, of which there are approximately 1500 graves. Maybe more, maybe less. They don’t even know. Any buildings that housed those afflicted with the disease were demolished.

We passed by the different prisons. Amazing that the political prisoners during apartheid were kept in the maximum-security prison, while the real dangerous criminals were kept in medium-security. I saw the lighthouse as well. I think it’s the third oldest in South Africa. I could be wrong, but before the lighthouse was built, there were three shipwrecks. After it was built, there were something like twenty-three. Whoopsy. I also didn’t realize that people actually still live on Robben Island. Some of them are former prisoners who choose to live there, and others help with conservation efforts, but altogether it’s about 120 families.

The story of Robert Sobukwe is so incredible and so sad. He was the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress who was arrested in 1960 and placed in solitary confinement for nine years on Robben Island. The government even created a specific law for him called the Sobukwe Clause, where his imprisonment was renewed every year, and if he was released, he could be immediately rearrested. He lived in a tiny little two-room house, and he was allowed to have a radio, books, as well as write letters. But he could not speak with anyone. Not even the guards. His family came to visit him after four years, but he couldn’t make a sound.

When we went on the tour of the maximum-security prison, we were met by our tour guide, a former political prisoner named Zozo. He had been arrested in 1977 when he was twenty-two and was incarcerated for five years. He was great. He kept calling us his “guests,” and he had a loud, booming voice. He really gave me an understanding of what it was like to be there. He showed us around, pointed out Mandela’s cell, and provided so many different anecdotes. One was that the prisoner who helped to smuggle Mandela’s manuscript of Long Walk to Freedom out of Robben Island was eventually made Head of Transportation when Mandela became president. That was pretty awesome.

Our tour guide!

Our tour guide!

For me, the most moving moment was when we briefly stopped at the limestone quarry, where for many years prisoners would do hard labor day after day. Just seeing this expanse of harsh, bright rock brought up a lump in my throat. Thinking about these men being out in the sun all day and the amount of eye damage they suffered took my breath away. There was a small cave in one corner where the men had some protection to take a break and relieve themselves. But in that little spot is where Mandela and some of the other educated prisoners started the “each one, teach one” system, where they would help the younger men learn to read and write in the sand.

Limestone quarry

Limestone quarry

Overall, it was a moving and memorable experience. It seems so strange to me though that such dark and terrible things happened on such an incredibly beautiful island.

Views from Robben Island

Views from Robben Island


Since then, it’s just been a calm couple of days. I went to Clifton Beach on Thursday, had my first archaeology class on Friday, and yesterday it was raining so we went to the movies!! There’s a movie theatre about a mile or two a way, so only a R6 minibus ride, and the tickets for the movie were only R55. We decided to see Argo, which I had been dying to see. Don’t even get me started. That movie. Was. Incredible. Absolutely amazing. The fact that Ben isn’t nominated for Best Director is upsetting.

In other news, I made a broccoli, onion, and cheese quiche. Turned out pretty good! And I finally found some zucchini to make zucchini bread! Yay!! But they call it “baby marrow” here. Ew.

Classes officially start tomorrow. Yikes! And thanks to everyone who has been commenting. It’s great to hear what’s happening back home!

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Chapter Five: A Tiger in Africa

So, to start off, we didn’t end up going to the concert. It was completely sold out. I was kind of bummed. The summer concerts take place at Kirstenbosch, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful spots in Cape Town, and the group who was playing was Freshlyground. I was actually really excited to see them because I know one of their songs called “Doo Be Doo.” Funny enough, I discovered this song through a BC Halftime retreat that my mom was at about four or five years ago. I had gone to listen to some of the student speakers, and the girl who presented this song to the group spoke a lot about her time in Cape Town!! So I was really excited about the concert. Sad day that we didn’t get to go.

Instead, three of us decided to eat the dinners we had packed for the picnic and then head over to Long Street where all the bars and restaurants are. Also, disclaimer. Sorry if I repeat any factoids or asides; I can’t remember what I’ve already written! Anywho, we stopped at Long Street Café, had a drink (a very bad margarita for Alexandra), and then came home. Kind of a lazy day.

Well after those really exciting introductory paragraphs to this post, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow, tell me more about these boring, uneventful days. They are awesome.” AHA! Too bad for you, I had a pretty fun, action-packed Monday and Tuesday. Picked up my student ID card. Only had to wait about an hour and a half! Shaina waited in line for three hours on Friday. Yikes! But that night, we went to the UCT rugby game. The team is called the Ikey Tigers and they were playing the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. We got there an hour and a half before the start of the game, I got my free t-shirt as an Ikey member, and Shaina and I both got some nice blue and white colors on our cheeks. Nothing as intense as the girls who covered their entire bodies in blue paint. Alright to start with, the atmosphere. There were some other rugby players sitting next to us who were really intent on watching the game, but I would say probably eighty percent of the people at the game were there for the music and the beer. You could probably count with your fingers how many people were actually watching. Have I mentioned how intense the party scene is here in Cape Town? Way bigger than BC. Everyone talks about going clubbing every single night, where the best liquor is. I remember someone laughing about how their boyfriend had blacked out and then woken up in the street to find his wallet gone and his body and face covered in bruises. I didn’t think that was that funny…

Back to rugby. It was fun to watch, but also terrifying. Shaina and I cheered the Tigers on, but most of the time our cheers sounded like, “Ah! Oh my god! Don’t kick him! Oh my goodness! Yikes! Aghhh!!” It was somewhat terrifying. In the end, we won. At least I think we did. I honestly did not have a single CLUE as to what was going on.

Today, I went to the District Six Museum in town. District Six has a similar history to that of Ocean View. In 1966, it was declared a “whites only” area, and 60,000 Africans were forcibly removed from their homes. It has since been given back to the people who used to live there, but I’m sure there is still a lot of resentment and pain. The museum was really beautiful. It was just a very large single room with two floors. Maybe like an old meetinghouse kind of place? There was all this history about the slave trade and slavery in South Africa, the dissolving of slavery, and the start of apartheid. What I loved the most about it was all the photographs. The walls were full of personal photos that former residents had sent in, depicting the life they used to have while living in District Six. Not much to say except that it was incredibly moving.

I think I’m going to end this post with a snippet of what a man named Noor Ebrahim said of his new life in Athlone and his pigeons. Really incredible.


“After three months in Athlone, I felt that it was time to let the pigeons fly free to see if they would return home. I was fully aware of the possibility that not all of the pigeons would return to their new home in Athlone. When I returned home that evening, the first thing I did was visit the loft. ‘Where are my pigeons?’ I asked my wife. Not a single pigeon had come back.

After a sleepless night I returned to work the next morning, driving, as I always did, through the demolished landscape that was once District six. As I drove past the now empty plot that used to be my home in Caledon Street, I saw a sight which shook me to my core: my pigeons, all 50 of them, were congregated on the empty plot where our home had stood. Getting out of my car, I walked over to where the pigeons were. Very surprisingly, they did not fly away, but looked into my eyes as if to ask: ‘Where is our home?’”

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Alright, so where did we leave off last time? It seems like a thousand things to blog about happen everyday.

On Thursday, the SSA students (Semester Study Abroad) got some information on the many clubs and societies available to join at UCT. One of these is SHAWCO, a major volunteer group where students go once a week to a nearby township to teach the kids. A bunch of us got on buses to go take a quick look at these centers. I went with about fifty others to Manenberg, which is about fifteen minutes from the university. As soon as our bus started rolling into the area, the kids came running after us, cheering and waving. They were EXTREMELY affectionate, hugging, asking for a piggyback, and smiling from ear to ear. The major program they have here is called STAR, which “uses creative activities in an educational capacity.” Right up my alley. After the little presentation, we got to spend about twenty minutes with the kids. There were probably about fifty of them. All of the guys in the group were spinning the kids around, some kids climbed onto the shoulders of other students. I talked to a couple of the girls. I don’t think I mentioned this, but I was talking to one of students who works for Ida Cooper, and he said that if a person is black, they speak Xhosa, whereas a colored person is way more likely to speak Afrikaans. The people of Manenberg are colored and speak both Afrikaans and English, but oh my goodness it was not easy to understand what these kids were saying! A couple of times I had to just smile and nod. I felt so bad! I did give one of the girls the snap-your-fingers handshake that my dad and I do all the time. She loved it!

I think I definitely want to volunteer there. It’s only once a week, and I know it would be a new experience. What’s really interesting though is that the adults warned us that even though these kids are so sweet and affectionate, they wouldn’t hesitate to steal your stuff if you’re not careful.

Registration for classes wasn’t too bad. I just decided to sign up for the courses that I had already been preapproved for: Contemporary Performance (Theatre), Southern Africa to 1900 (History), and South African Hunters and Herders (Archaeology). It was so friggin hot though! Arghhhh!!! By the time I got all the way up to Upper Campus, I was drenched.

Friday night a bunch of us went to the V&A Waterfront. The main area has an ENORMOUS mall. Emily and I just quickly walked through it to see what was there. They have a bunch of the more mainstream, globally known stores there. Had some seafood, walked around, hung out a bit. It’s really quite beautiful at night. I definitely want to go back there, this time with my camera!

The Old Biscuit Mill was the next stop on the CPT tour. It’s only open on Saturdays, and it is a major market. There were a couple of nice little shops, and some vendors selling their stuff outside. It was actually kind of expensive compared to some of the other places I’ve been so far. The food market was the best part. It was absolutely packed with people. Not nearly as expensive as the clothing and jewelry stores, there were a bunch of different kiosks, probably close to thirty in the first area and then another twenty in the second area. There was a Belgian waffle stand, a cupcake and tart stand, a smoothie stand, a crêpe stand, a bagel stand (New York style!), a coffee stand, fruit, jam, meat, veggies, I could literally go on and on. It was actually kind of overwhelming! Shaina and I finally decided on the crepe stand. Soooooo gooooood. Also, as we were walking around, there was a guy with an ALASKAN MALAMUTE!! So big and so beautiful, I was obsessed with that dog. He looked like he was so hot though…





Outside the mill, I got my first taste of Cape Town poverty. There were about ten kids right outside the entrance who all had cups and were begging for money. It’s really hard because you just have to take a deep breath and walk away. If you give these kids money, they’re not even going to be able to keep it because it will just go to whoever is in charge of them and most likely abusing them. They rely on tourists giving them money, which is why that system still works. It’s really upsetting either way.

Tonight I’m going to a concert at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Hopefully I’ll be able to end on a happier note in that entry.

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