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Archive for May, 2013

Chapter Twenty: Oy

Back at Cocoa Wah Wah, having an iced coffee and an omelet because my apartment is kind of crazy. Apparently the manager of the building decided that finals week was a good time to redo the tiling in our main stairwell. You know, the stairwell that shares the entire length of the wall of our apartment. Banging, jackhammers. It was frustrating when I was trying to study. Now it’s just annoying! Argh!!

So I had my first exam yesterday, and it was for the history class. I did not go crazy overload with the studying, and I’m so glad I didn’t. One thing that’s good about UCT is that they provide online past exam papers for the classes. So I was able to look at four past tests, and three out of four of them had almost the exact same questions. I had a good idea of which ones would be repeated—Xhosa cattle killing, slavery, and iconography of the Khoi. I made outlines of essays for those, and literally word for word, the exact same questions appeared on the test yesterday. Pretty easy. Although the set-up was kind of stressful. The test, along with a bunch of other classes’ tests, was in the big sports center. In the first area, there were three exams happening, mine and two others. They had set up over 500 desks and chairs in rows where we sat for two hours. When I first saw it, I almost ran away!

Enough about exams, because they are just a pain. Last week was an interesting week to say the least. Last Wednesday was my last day in Manenberg with SHAWCO. Overall, it’s kind of been a mixed-bag experience (something that seems to describe a lot of things at UCT). It felt so disorganized to me, but of course I’m kind of hyper-sensitive about things like that. Half the time it was like, “Okay, we’re here, this is what we kind of have planned, but you can work it out on your own.” One week we tried to show the younger kids a movie—bad idea to begin with because they don’t even sit still long enough to watch it. Also, we decided to show them Cars 2, but it was neither in English or Afrikaans. It was in some kind of Russian language, so that seemed kind of pointless as well. One time I had to work with the 8th and 9th graders, and they have them do some exercises on the computers. Most of the time, these kids just guess the answers until they get a 60% or above so they can move on to games. I was trying to help this one girl with some basic algebra; I tried to teach her how the problem could be solved, writing the process down and showing her. But she still had trouble adding six and six or doing four minus eight. I had to count it out on my fingers. Maybe this was just a specific problem with this one girl, but I did not understand why SHAWCO was attempting to teach these kids algebra or trigonometry when their math skills are still at such a lower level.

The best part of it has definitely been the younger kids. I absolutely love seeing them every week, and even though I sometimes don’t want to go, once I’m there, I love it. I’ve worked mostly with the second and third graders, and there are three girls that I got really close with: Cassidy, Kim, and Tamia. They are absolutely hilarious and sweet. They love to run around though, especially when it’s time to play On-on (tag). I pull out some of my tricks: pretending to twist my ankle or finding a cool “bug” to get them to come close so I can grab them and tickle them. These are the same girls I taught Crocadiley Oh My to, which they always want to play now. I brought my camera on the last day, and they went absolutely crazy with it! They didn’t want so much to have pictures of themselves taken; they were far more excited to take the pictures. I had more of a hard time saying goodbye than they did!

Me, Kim, and Tamia

Me, Kim, and Tamia

After that, I said to myself, “Hey, tomorrow’s the last day of classes. I don’t have any work. Let me rent a movie or two.” Needed money so I went to the ATM. Denied. Tried again. Denied. Ran home to find a message from dad that I had “taken” $500 out of my account. Wrong. So I had a major freak out session. I have been so careful with my card, or so I thought. I haven’t ever let it out of my sight. Apparently, someone was able to not only get the numbers from my card but also my pin number. Which is crazy. Spent an hour on the phone with a Schwab agent going over transactions. Thankfully I have some of my mother’s tendencies, and I had kept all of my receipts over the past two months. It’s turned out okay, I’m getting reimbursed, and a new debit card should be arriving today or tomorrow. It’s just been upsetting and incredibly inconvenient. Thank goodness for Ida Cooper, my program director. She’s such a sweet lady. I had to fax a few things to the bank, and she immediately came over to pick me up. She bought me dinner and even lent me money. Felt so nice to have her there to help and comfort me!

Not much else to say. I have no desire to study…ah well.

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So I haven’t written about my experiences in Cape Town in quite a while; April and May have been super crazy with work. Bleh…

Last day of classes is Thursday!!! Woohoo!! Yes, I have my first exam next Wednesday, BUT I’M STILL EXCITED!! I also just finished my last paper for my classes, thank the lord. School-wise, things have been somewhat annoying, labor-intensive, all of the above. My project for theatre went up on April 25th and went super well. Basically, very long story somewhat short, we went from a puppet concept to a history of technology/media concept. We (and by we, I mean I) made a ten-minute long video montage of the changes technology has gone through. We kind of wanted to show how much our lives have become obsessed with everything online and on screens. We did still use shadows, two of the girls in my group, Tarha and Wendy, performed behind the screen interacting with the images. It had kind of been an extremely frustrating project, mainly because it was something that we were working towards the entire semester, and it took us awhile to come up with a concrete script and movements. At one point, our teacher told us if he graded it at that point, it would have been a 4 out of 10…woof. But we pulled it together, and it came out really well. What’s great about being an actor or performer and working on something like this is that moment when you finally have an audience! An audience that reacts extremely differently from the self-described eastern European professor who is not easily impressed. And we got a 73%, which, when converted to the US grading system, is something like an A-. Yesssss.

What else, what else? History has not been fun. Sometimes I have to pat myself on the back for actually going to almost every single class. The lecturer for the second half of the semester has been a bit better, not as dry. And he actually uses powerpoints instead of overhead projectors!! But everything in his presentations is in CAPITAL LETTERS. I guess the information is REALLY IMPORTANT…

Archaeology has been okay. I really enjoy the class, and I’m so glad I took it because there is absolutely nothing like it at BC. I had to write a big research paper on the origins of human behavior, but at least it was interesting! So much easier to write about something you like. Today though I had my practical exam. So besides having lectures four times a week, there is also a two-hour practical (basically a lab) period. Go look at objects, learn about the differences between sheep and springbok bones, learn how to determine the age of a bovid from its skull and teeth, which let me tell you smell absolutely awful. So we’ve had ten practicals over the past thirteen weeks, and today we had the test. Never in my life did I think I would be studying the different types of stone tools—there are a ton, and some of them have such minute variations. It might have been somewhat enjoyable to study for the test if it wasn’t so stressful. There were thirty-six stations laid out for us, each with a different artifact—stone tool, teeth, ostrich egg shell beads, bladelets. We had fifty seconds at each station to determine what kind of artifact it was, how old it was, and what time period it was from. Not so fun. At all…we’ll see what happens.

It’s starting to become fall here. The weather’s a bit cooler—not by much since there’s still been days where the temperature gets up to 80. For some reason though, our apartment has gotten way colder. I finally relented and started using my space heater—after seeing an episode of SVU where a family dies because of a space heater catching fire, I had been reluctant. But I’ve been careful. Fall season here isn’t as pretty as New England—obviously. The leaves do turn color, some to a deep red, others to a very dull yellow. But it seems like as soon as they change color, they immediately fall off the trees. There have been a couple of days where I’ve been out for a walk and it has just felt like the perfect fall day—the temperature, the blue sky, that smell. Made me really excited for autumn back home. Apple-picking, and maybe if I’m crazy enough, I’ll organize a trip with friends to Salem!

Oh, my apartment’s getting sold. Oh lordy. Landlord sent an email to us about a month ago saying that she had decided to sell the apartment. I guess I wasn’t too surprised, considering the fact that I haven’t seen her since February. Real-estate agent has been bringing people around, and I’ve been crazy enough to self-designate myself as the liaison between him and me and my roommates. Why I bring these things on myself, I have no idea. He’s brought so many people over. A couple of offers have been made, so hopefully people will stop bothering us. J

I’m really realizing how hard it is to be in such an amazing city and have to worry about homework and studying. Last weekend, one of my dad’s colleagues from BC was in town for a conference, so Saturday morning I had a very early breakfast with her at the Hilton. We finished by 9am, and I walked to Green Market Square, the major flea market in Cape Town. They were just opening up so the two people I bought things from gave me a “first customer” discount! A little disappointing though to see some of the same things I bought in Zimbabwe for sale here. I still spent all the cash I had on me…whoops. After doing a little shopping, I walked to the station where all the minibuses gather and took one back to my apartment. Discovered two things. The first is that sometimes waking up super early isn’t so bad—I “accomplished” so much by 10:30am!! Second discovery is that it’s so nice to just have the time to relax, take a breath, and explore. My last exam is the 31st, which means I have nine days before I leave to do just that. Definitely looking forward to it, since there’s a plethora of things I want to do.

Other than that, I think that’s about it. I’m really excited to come home. I miss my parents, I miss my friends, I miss feeling comfortable taking the train alone at 10:30pm, and so many other little things. It’s beautiful here, but I think I’m ready. Also oddly excited about spending 25 hours travelling home. Long flights are such a great excuse to relax, read, do crossword puzzles, and watch movies. I’m weird, I know. Now that classes are over, hopefully the blog will get updated more!

Anecdotes:

  • Kak=another word for sh*t
  • My Riggin genes came in handy today. I bought a UCT sweatshirt five days ago, wore it around the apartment and then washed it, following directions mind you. Lettering started coming off. I go to the shop, they originally tell me they won’t take it back because it wasn’t “their fault.” I find another sweatshirt on the racks in the store that is beginning to have the same deterioration of the lettering. I show manager, I get exchange. YESS! I have learned to state my case pretty well I would say.
  • On two Mondays, something great has happened. I’m coming home from class and I have to go through this underpass between Upper and Middle campus. As I exit the tunnel, there is this security guard who makes my day so much better. When he sees me, he says, “How’s this angel doing?” I say, “Good, thanks. How about you?” “Oh, glad to be alive miss. You have a great day.” I smile all the way home.

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