I’m baaaack!

Kayamandi, Cape Town, Stellenbosch, township, South Africa

Beautiful Kayamandi

After too many months of avoiding this work, avoiding the feelings and questions that going back to my time in South Africa would necessarily invoke, I am finally ready to think about South Africa again.

A thought-provoking conversation with one of my brilliant mentors at UW yesterday really got the balls rolling in my head in terms of thinking about how to approach and conceptualize the ‘doing’ of this research. She has gotten me thinking about identity politics, and what that might mean someone who identifies as a white Canadian woman is able to say about race, power, identity, and poverty in South Africa. It is not that I am unable to speak of these things, or that I am not allowed to, but that I can only do so from my own subjective position. I know that. I have always known that. But I think now I am coming to understand that.

I am also coming to understand that one of the reasons that I have struggled and avoided facing this work is because I have been grieving. I have been grieving the loss of the life that I loved in South Africa, the loss of all the treasured friends I made there. I am also grieving the lost opportunities to better understand.

I must confess – and no disrespect intended at all to all the lovely people who spoke with me about my project – but I feel as though these interviews and photos are so secondary to what I actually learned throughout my time there. Don’t worry Heather! – my research questions are up on my desktop, I’m not losing the thread. But my head and my heart keep returning to all that I learned there in my day-to-day. Joining in for Sunday chill, eating dinner and watching the soapies with Mama and the rest of the family, the Reconciliation Lunches. Amazink. I learned so much through these experiences and encounters. I miss them still.

Amazink, Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, township, South Africa, Cape Town

Amazink at sunset

Stellenbosch, township, Kayamandi, Cape Town, South Africa, reconciliation

The Reconciliation Lunch gang

And yet there is still so much that I don’t understand, so much that weighs on my heart. My friend who was stabbed, who waited so long to go and see a doctor that I legitimately feared he might lose his hand. Why was I the only family ‘member’ that would take him to the doctor? There was no lack of love or concern, to be sure. How is it that that fell to me? Why is it that several friends of my dear young friend who is drinking himself to death asked me to speak with him to try and help him. Why me? I don’t have any particular expertise or insight into what he is going through. I have heard that he isn’t doing well.

I also think about how we had no power in the township for the last two days I was there, apparently because thieves stole the copper wiring. Hundreds of people stood in the cold wind and rain, literally for hours, to get kerosene for their stoves and heaters. I watched them from my window, drove past them in my rental car. Where do I file that heartbreak, that shame?

Stellenbosch, Kayamandi, township, Cape Town, South Africa

My friends

‚ô•

I miss my friends who tried to help me understand all of this; the Viviers, Elsa, Patrick, Franky, Roots, Monde, Jedi, Pakamisa, Anathi, Mama, Bongani, Nozi, Joes. I feel as though this is just the beginning of a torrent of questions and feelings as I try to unpack some of this. More to come, no doubt ūüôā

Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa, township

When he saw this picture, Patrick said: “This is the whitest I have ever seen you!”

 

South Africa the Great

I feel like I’ve been a bit of a sad panda on here lately, always writing about the really challenging cultural and ethical issues that I am grappling with here. Believe it or not, I am still having a whole lot of fun!

Case in point, I met a man at Amazink¬†last week who is new to the city and really enjoys hiking. I also happen to enjoy hiking (when it isn’t hard) and I’ve been too paranoid to go out on my own. New friend! What could possibly go wrong with me agreeing to accompany a tall handsome stranger into unfamiliar mountains?bundy

Jooooost joking Mom and Sam. He’s a friend of friends and a total gentleman. He took me to Jonkershoek Nature Reserve for a beautiful hike, the highlights of which were two waterfalls. The only feasible way to get to the second falls was to strip off our shoes and clamber over the rocks through the stream, which was almost better than the payout at the end. I’m embarrassed at how sore my thighs are today, but it was well worth it.IMG_4507IMG_4510IMG_4514IMG_4519

I also had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with a man from Germany who plans to spend the next 1 1/2 years driving his nifty little suped up Suzuki from Cape Town to Dubai. He is a filmmaker and has already begun sharing episodes from his adventures on his¬†Youtube¬†channel. Sadly (for me) they’re still in German, but he promises to have episodes in English soon. One of the cameras he has along for his trip is mounted on a drone. I had never seen a drone before in the real world (I’m a terrible luddite), and had to restrain myself from being as excited as the local kids, who came running from all sides when he fired it up.IMG_4500IMG_20160624_173547076[1]

I also had the great good fortune to have attended every single one of the Amazink Live shows for something like 7 weeks, with last night’s being the final show. Yes, it was exactly the same show every single week. There aren’t a whole lot of Friday night party options for a Mlungu living in a township. That being said, I loved every minute of every show and felt a little gushy as the last show I’ll get to see finished last night. The cast was terrific, led by the awesome O’Ryan Winter, even though I suspect that they thought I needed to get a life (yes, I was there often enough to believe that this is true). I especially liked it when they played my all time favourite song by Paul Simon, which I shared as my favourite song when the Lady of the House asked us to at the Reconciliation Lunch¬†one week, and explained that I learned about South Africa as child while listening to Graceland with my Dad in the ole Pontiac Parisienne.

IMG_20160527_210432495

I never did manage to get a good photo despite many, many efforts. You should probably just check out my German friend’s¬†Youtube¬†channel, as he filmed the whole show last night ūüėČ

And now I find myself living at the Durban Hilton (what??!) for the next week for the World Leisure Congress. It’s a tough life. I’ve only been in Durban for a few hours, and it was dark when I landed, but the best part so far? There are lots of Indian people in Durban. Know what that means? Vegetarian food. Enkosi ūüôā

 

Mis-Education

Yesterday was my friend’s birthday, he of the lovely pink house:DSC00031

When I found out about it last week I offered to do something nice with him to celebrate. Initially my plan was to take him out for dinner, as I would at home with any other friend. But then I remembered how I invited him to my house last weekend for a beer, as he had invited me to his, and he became really uncomfortable and asked to leave. I promise I wasn’t being a creep. It just wasn’t his element. So dinner might not be the best idea. Then I thought maybe a movie? Then he wouldn’t have the pressure of making one-on-one conversation with me for 2 hours and we could just enjoy a flick. But I still wasn’t sure…

He called me yesterday morning to see what the plan was for the day, and let me know that it would be better if we all just got some meat (always with the meat!) and chilled at his buddy’s place. It took me a while to come around to it, but he of course wanted me to come over and¬†pay¬†for the meat.

At first I was a little hurt that he was rejecting my offer to do something nice for him and was once again treating me like an ATM. I’m a bit slow sometimes, but I did eventually realize that he just wanted everyone to be together and that it wouldn’t be a very nice birthday for him if he got something that he was not able to share with his friends.

If I had known that I would have brought more cash with me.

But he danced around it and never explained his reasoning to me. I guess I should know by now.

We had a really lovely time hanging out all together and chatting. When it was time to leave, my friend gave me a hug and said “Thank you so much, you really made my day. You made me feel like I exist, like I am a real person.”

That made me want to throw up.

The scary thing is that that wasn’t the first time I have heard something like that, although never directed towards me before. That the simple act of wanting to do something nice for a friend on his birthday would elicit that sort of response makes me feel so sick and angry and sad.

This week I am working on the presentation that I will give at a conference in Durban next week. In an attempt to illustrate the complexity of the context related to tourism in the townships, I have pieced together some of the footage that my Dutch friend and I shot here in town. We wanted to show the difference between town – where the white people are – and the township.

On top of the video I plan to play an audio clip from one of my interviews. Despite having his permission to do so, I am reluctant to share the audio of his voice on here, so hopefully the transcript will do. I begin by asking him whether or not people living in the poorer parts of the township would want tourists to come and see where they live:

Kwame: Definitely. I think that the idea that a person that I see as a superior person or a person that is better than me, the idea that a person like that can come and walk in the same street as I live makes me, even if there’s no money it does something for my self-esteem.

Meg: Who is, who is the person that is better?

Kwame: Hm, a white person.

Meg: Really? Why is that?

Kwame: Well white people are better than black people.

Meg: Well [awkward laugh]…they’re not. Like, is that the consensus?

Kwame: I know that. I know that.

Meg: Okay, that kind of makes me want to cry a little bit.

Kwame: I know that. But the rest of the people don’t look like, don’t think like that. A person looks at you, you are white, they know that you have something that they don’t have, you are much better than them. You know. Financially, you know, your life is more together than mine, you have had a better life, you grew up in a house, I’ve never seen a house, I’ve always grown up in a shack that always leaks every single day.

Meg: Yeah.

Kwame: I, I’m, we have a single parent whereas white people have two parents, you know, I’ve never seen the inside of a car, whereas for a white person a car is something that is like nothing, you know. I’ve never had enough money to buy enough school uniforms to go to school.

Meg: Right.

Kwame: I’ve walked to school bare feet most of the time with torn trousers whereas a white person has never seen something like that. So for that person to be able to come and walk in the street that I’m walking in and be able to hold my hand and be able to come into my place before even, you know, she even gives me money, that is, means so much for me.

Meg: Really?

Kwame: You know, it means a lot.

Meg: Why? What does it mean? I’m trying to understand this, ‚Äėcause you know I’m an outsider and I’m a white person so I…what does that mean?

Kwame: It means, it means…I’m a person too.

Meg: Wow. That’s really heavy.

Kwame: It means…people, people don’t look at me the way I look at myself, it means…some people realize that I exist in this world.

Meg: Okay. Just by coming to see where you live?

Kwame: People coming to see where I live, they, they, and they can talk to me.

Meg: Yeah.

Kwame: Because I grew up not knowing how to talk to a white person. You know, that there, these people are actually even making an effort to recognize that I even am alive, you know…is, is a huge thing, you know. That, that now these kids that we have now know what a white person is because they can run to them.

Meg: Yeah.

Kwame: Whereas I grew up not even being able to talk to a white person.

Meg: Sure.

Kwame: So it’s a, it’s that self-affirmation and confirmation of existence that comes with it as well.

Meg: Wow.

Kwame: I talk a lot, don’t I?

This is one person’s perspective, so please don’t take this as representative of what everyone or even most people think. It is horrible enough that one person knows this to be ‘true.’

When you talk about postcolonial studies, invariably it comes up that colonialism is finished and we need to move on and not dwell on the past. This is the long-term impact of racist colonial laws and policies. This is what is left over 20 years later. This is not the only ‘truth’ about this country, but nonetheless this remains.

Sad and mad.

 

Youth Day and Reconciliation Lunch

Today is Youth Day in South Africa and a public holiday. This day was set aside to commemorate a dark event in this nation’s history: The Soweto Uprising that began on June 16, 1976. Young students and their allies took to the streets of Soweto (the largest Township in South Africa, located in Johannesburg) on this day 40 years ago to protest the government changing the official teaching language of some parts of public education to Afrikaans. This was perceived by many people to put black students at a disadvantage, as their focus would shift from understanding the content to deciphering the language of instruction.

Police responded to this protest with shocking brutality. The official number of people killed is 176, despite police reports at the time that only 23 had died, and others claiming that as many as 700 were killed. This is the photo most closely associated with the Uprising:

Hector Pieterson

Hector Pieterson, a 13 year-old boy killed by police in Soweto on June 16, 1976 (photo credit Sam Nzima)

Other communities joined in the protests, and by the end of 1976 more than 600 people had died. Although it was another 14 years before Nelson Mandela was released from prison, these protests forever changed people’s acceptance of apartheid rule in South Africa.

I think I have mentioned before that there is a white family living in the Township. They moved here in 1998, inspired by the spirit of reconciliation and a desire to do what was within their power to help heal the wounds of the past. This is so extraordinary that even today, 18 years later, their friends in Town introduce them as “the people that live in the Township.”

Every Wednesday the Lady of the House hosts a Reconciliation Lunch. She serves a full lunch (honestly, I can’t have breakfast on Wednesdays anymore) and the doors to her home are open to anyone in the community who would like to attend. Anyone. I have been going regularly and I don’t know that I have ever seen fewer than 30 people in attendance. Imagine. Opening your home to 30 friends and total strangers every single week and feeding them until they’re stuffed.

Steam bread, township lunch, South Africa

Steam bread and stew. Delicious traditional South African food.

The idea of the Lunch is to sit and eat with people that you would normally not have an opportunity to sit and eat with and learn about one another’s lives. The Lady of the House has a topic to discuss every week and everyone at the table must share their perspectives on the topic. Sometimes the topic is light and fluffy, for instance ‘talk about your best friend growing up and what you did together’, sometimes it can be quite intense and heartbreaking, such as when she asked us to share about our experiences with crime.

Sometimes I think the topic is going to be fluffy, as in ‘talk about your mother’ following Mother’s Day, and I end up crying at the table.

I always learn something. This week we talked about our hometowns. Several people spoke about growing up in the Township and how much it has changed in terms of safety since they were kids. A student from the University spoke about growing up in Joburg and living behind electric fences and having their family dogs poisoned by people trying to break in. One lady spoke about how lovely her hometown was because she was able to ride her bike to and from school without worry. That one really struck me. It never occurred to me that it would be a privilege to be able to ride your bike as a child without having to worry about what might happen.

I don’t feel that I contributed much to the conversation this week. Barrie was…nice?

I would love to ask the Lady of the House if she would make one Lunch topic about tourism, but I won’t because I don’t want to take away from the objective of the Lunch, even though I know it would be an amazing discussion. As it is I feel very lucky to have met such incredible people and to have had the opportunity to learn about the community in such a special way. On this Youth Day it is nice to reflect that the simple pleasure of sitting down and sharing a meal with one’s neighbours is no longer impossible, just special.

Playing dominoes in the Township, Cape Town, South Africa

Local dudes and students from the University playing dominoes together

Putting things in perspective

It is ironic that as my time in South Africa grows short I am feeling more and more at home in my adoptive community. Is that irony or is that simply the way that life works most of the time?

I was feeling like a real cranky-pants yesterday and today. So much so that it caused me to dig into the envelope that I never thought would be opened…IMG_2797It should say enough that I never thought I would need this one, and that I would find myself opening it on the plane out of curiosity, but here we are.

Yesterday could charitably be characterized as “frustrating.” I was dragged all over town and literally pulled in multiple directions by my friends. I was hit up over and over again for money from the aforementioned friends. I took another friend to the doctor’s and dumped a pile of cash to deal with his massively infected stab wounds because no one else in his life, apparently, would take him to get the medical care he desperately needed. I also made the mistake of giving someone the benefit of the doubt and caused a whole pile of grief because of it.

I am so tired of being treated like an ATM/taxi all the time.

Ironically, I feel like I have a newfound appreciation for the parents of teenagers.

And you know what all my carping and pouting and frustrated silences of the past couple of days have taught me? That I am a cranky bitch and feeling oh-so sorry for myself because I am in a position of privilege compared to my friends here.

A little bit of perspective goes a long way.

And, in case you were curious, talking to the lovely Miss A and these two beauties from Kimberly’s magic envelope¬†helped me pull my head out from where it didn’t belong.IMG_4461

Playing with a different set of rules

DSCF2048

Township view

Ever feeling like you’re trying to play a game with the wrong set of rules?

When you go abroad through various programs, often you are forced privileged to participate in pre-departure cross-cultural awareness training. One of the games that really stood out for me was one where you would get all the students to sit together to play a game of cards. Each student is given a different set of written instructions for how the game is played, and they are not allowed to speak to one another as they play.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

It was interesting for me to see some of the students¬†lose it when others failed to play according to their rules. This is a training session people, obviously there’s a larger objective at play. But I digress…

DSC00028

Sunday chill at one of the original Township houses

My Dutch friend and I have been talking about the rules. Specifically, that we don’t know what they are. And everyone knows this about living and working and studying internationally. Everyone knows that culture shapes the way we perceive and interpret the world and our expectations and norms and blah blah blah.

It is still so, so frustrating.

There is so much that I don’t understand. And I know that I keep coming back to race like a broken record, but believe me when I say that it colours every aspect of life here. For me it is an awareness not of being one or the other, but of the ways in which it frames relationships.DSC00035

I have now had 4 or 5 people tell me, unasked, that tourism is good for the Townships because it improves racial relations. That it means so, so much to be seen by white people, to have an opportunity to interact with one another, especially for kids. There are two sides to this, according to my friends: one, that being acknowledged by white people means to a resident of the Townships that you exist, that you are also a person, and two, it provides an opportunity for black people in the Townships to see that white people are not monsters or deities, but that we are all just people who are equal.

I believe that both of these things are ‘true.’ I also believe that both of these things are at cross-purposes. How can the touristic encounter work towards a establishing a common humanity, while at the same time affirming another’s humanity simply by deigning to acknowledge them??

But this is by now a somewhat familiar frustration coming from me, no? I am still confused, but trying to wrap my head around it with the help of my Dutch buddy has been wonderful. It makes you feel less insane to be confused and frustrated with a friend.

DSC00030

Essentials of the Sunday chill: box o’ wine, fuzzy slippers, and menthol cigarettes (they’re not mine Mom)

Other cultural confusions? My Afrikaans friend told me that many of her friends would be shocked,¬†shocked to hear that I am living in a Township, going to shebeens, and joining in for Sunday chill. Not that they would find it weird. I think we can all agree that I’m comfortable doing weird things. But that they would be incapable of¬†understanding why I would ever choose to do such a thing.

Also, I am struggling with how best to deal with two undoubtedly common frustrations: people hitting me up for cash, and people ‘falling in love’ with me. As to the former, I have resolved to ‘lend’ friends a small sum and let it be known that that is the limit (until I’m repaid at least, which has yet to happen). As to the latter, I (think that I) say very clearly that I am only interested in being friends and have no intention of engaging in any other type of relationship while I am here. People are still surprisingly persistent.

This is where we come back to the rules of the card game (you thought I forgot about that one, didn’t you?). I feel as though I am communicating as clearly as I am able (I also learned years ago that being coy gets you absolutely nowhere). And yet I find that some people persist, and I really can’t understand why. Also, being a Canadian, and being on the reserved and shy side even for a Canadian, I am amazed at people professing their adoration or asking for a sizable sum of money of a virtual stranger. I just can’t see one of my Canadian friends telling a girl he or she met an hour before that they are¬†in love with her.

I’m not complaining – I know that I will be sad on the day that I realize I have become too old for persistent marriage proposals. And I am certainly not complaining that I am in an understood¬†position of financial privilege, and I would be happy to share beyond what I do if I didn’t think it would create even more of a divide in my friendships. I’m just confused. It’s one of those cultural divides that I don’t know that I’ll ever quite understand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful view of the Township and the landscape

 

 

More Sibling Love

IMG_2709 (2)

Poor Christine was preggers when we took this shot of all of us drinking, so she’s behind the camera rather than in front of it ūüė¶

I may have said this once or twice before, but it bears repeating: I have the most amazing family. We laugh, we sing, we drink in garages. As much as I’m loving life here in SA, there’s nothing like family.

I was feeling pretty apprehensive before coming here, mainly about once again upending my comfortable life with Sam, and not knowing what the coming months would have in store. As always, my siblings were there to give me exactly the support that I needed.

For my birthday A&B found a seal snorkeling safari in Cape Town and sent me on one of my favourite adventures ever. I have kayaked with seals in BC, but this was on a whole new scale. Duiker Island is home to¬†about 5,000 cape fur seals, and you can go and snorkel with them. Fun!! The pictures really don’t do justice to how incredible it was to swim with literally thousand of seals darting all around you. Apparently I am a terrible photographer whilst snorkeling and tying not to drown from laughing. Sorry about that.

I can’t thank you two enough for what a wicked experience that was.

And I am STILL getting to explore the wonderful Christmas gift from Kimberly. Honestly, make a note people: time capsule presents containing photos of adorable nephies are¬†the greatest gift¬†anyone could receive (apart from a seal snorkeling adventure, naturally). Today, after a long week of transcribing and some pretty heartbreaking conversations about race in this country, I decided I could go for a little inspiration:IMG_4425I especially enjoyed the note reading “get ‘er done…or you could always be a Disney monkey” ūüôāIMG_4423And now this is what it looks like in my room¬†‚ô•‚ô•‚ô•IMG_4427Thank you again and again you pint-sized piece of love. I am better for having you in my life as well xox

And let’s also not forget those other awesome siblings – cousins! Love you Ann xoxIMG_4429

And now, for no reason other than I wanna, two more beautiful views of the Township. I never get tired of it. It’s a wonder I ever get any work done at all.IMG_4404

IMG_4408

Poetry & Politics

IMG_4154

The arts and culture space in the Township

I had the privilege of attending the InZync Poetry Session¬†last night at the Township’s incredible arts and culture space with Esme and the Dutch student who is also living at Mama’s. The venue was jumping, crammed full of mostly young people, white and black, all very cool and hip and arty. The line-up was pretty stellar, and included a Syrian¬†now living in France, a¬†Nigerian, South Africa’s Dissident Poet, South Africa’s¬†Poet Laureate, and a number of exceptionally talented young local artists.

The caliber of the poetry was like nothing I have have ever witnessed before. Spectacular poetry. I was particularly impressed by the amateurs who performed. So, so moving and evocative and powerful. Clearly I am not a poet, because I am utterly at a loss to describe how bodily and emotionally and intellectually I was moved by their words and performances. (Obviously I forgot to bring my audio recorder, so I tried to catch some sound using the video setting on my camera).

I have had a number of conversations with various people over the past several weeks about the surprising (to me) lack of anger that I sense in many of the people I have met here. I feel that if I were living in a Township, after having been forced to leave my home community because the ruling minority decided that my¬†part of town was ‘desirable,’ if I saw these prosperous gated communities and massive wine farms and old white people driving Bentleys and Aston Martins I would be PISSED. One incredible Mama that I met, who had been a social justice advocate at a time when her colleagues were being¬†assassinated, told me that it takes too much energy and eats away at you to hold on to all that anger and resentment. Another incredible Mama told us about when people had¬†to wear a large placard around their necks, known as ‘dompas‘ (literally ‘dumb pass’), any time they wanted to leave the Township to go to town; this while she hosted my dad and I for lunch in her home and laughingly¬†encouraged me to keep trying to learn to cook chakalaka.

IMG_4391

A pink BMW convertible drives past Mama’s house in the Township

These conversations generally lead to talking about how the students are angry, and I have touched on the student protests already in a previous post, but I don’t think I have adequately expressed how PISSED they are. I got a real taste of just how angry some of the students are last night.

The poets spoke about their anger at living in townships, about having been taught a history that glorifies their colonial oppressors, about being robbed of their culture and dignity, about the stupid wine farms. About seeing white people clutch a little more tightly at their bags and edge a little further away on the sidewalk when this particular young black man approaches. There were lots of fists clenched high in solidarity and protest. There was singing and cheering. I didn’t understand all of it, as a lot of the poetry was in Xhosa, but believe me when I say that I felt it. And I know that I barely grasped a fraction of what was going on due to my total lack of understanding of what it is to be South African.

IMG_4392

In this photo you can see the white suburb on the right, wine fields, the farm manor house at the far left, and the shacks on the lower right.

At one point, a¬†performer asked the other poet on the stage, ‘Do you hate all white people?’ as part of the dialogue in their performance. Without missing a beat, someone in the front row shouted, ‘YES!’ and the room erupted. There was laughter – the outburst¬†didn’t feel hostile or threatening – but there were for sure a few ‘Damn straights!’ in there as well.

Now let’s put this in perspective (from my perspective): easily 40-50% of the people in that room were white. Two of the poets were white, as was the DJ. And the white poets spoke very evocatively¬†about the need for change. In that moment I felt strongly¬†how little some South Africans feel has been accomplished in terms of achieving racial equity. At the same time and upon further reflection, I’m fairly certain that a mixed-race crowd erupting into laughter and cheering at a statement of ‘I hate black people’ would literally be national news.

A short while later, the MC came on stage and asked that these discussions be held respectfully and without hostility. He said that these are issues that must be discussed, in spite of discomfort and awkwardness, but they must be discussed in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation. Afterwards, Esme told us just how rare these discussions really are, that honest conversations about race and all that implies, in her understanding at least, are almost taboo among many South Africans.

And did I feel guilty, standing there in the back of that room? You bet I did (thank you Catholic upbringing). Shame flooded over me when the young man talked about seeing white people grasp at their purses at his approach. I may not have pulled that exact move (I hope), but I have been guilty of wondering if certain black men in a crowd are looking for an opportunity to snatch something of mine. To be fair, my white skin stands out like a neon sign in the Township, and at any given point in time I am usually¬†carrying enough sellable stuff to literally change a person’s life (I’m saying literally too much, but it’s true). I have also been robbed by young black men at least¬†six times in various countries in Africa. And the family I am staying with is constantly advising against my leaving the yard alone, to the point that they come and stand on the sidewalk in front of the house to wait for the bus with me (yes, it feels exactly like kindergarten). On Sunday afternoon I wanted to bring something to a Mama who lives half a block away and had to be accompanied by Mama’s daughter and three little kids. Are they acting in an overabundance of caution? Probably. And is it unfair to the residents of this community, who have been nothing but kind and welcoming to me? Absolutely. But guess what the narrative becomes if something bad happens to me or any other visitor to the Township? What then gets told of¬†what is ‘true’ about this community?

At any rate, last night’s experience at InZync is not one I will soon forget. It has given me a lot to ponder about race, rage, and the powerfully painful legacies of colonialism (one of which, of course, is my presence here).

 

Feeling like a boss

IMG_3997

The view from my new abode in the Township

I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty good about life these days. I had a wonderful trip to Thailand, connected there with some truly inspiring and fun people, and now I’m back ‘home’ in South Africa, ready for whatever lies ahead.¬†And I came home to friends! My dear friend Jane, who was my boss when I was an intern in Tanzania back in 2008, was travelling with the new crop of interns and I was lucky enough to get back¬†in time to spend the day with them before they flew home to Canada. The first part of the day involved a lovely stop at a vineyard, including an oddly gendered lunch:

Then we decided to drive down to the coast and look at the penguins. Penguins!! I saw them once before on Robbin Island, but these guys were just waddling around right next to us. Penguins!

They’re such funny little things. We capped off the day with a gorgeous sunset over the Cape and a fantastic seafood dinner on the ocean. IMG_3996IMG_20160414_190501756[1]

I loved being able to spend the day with my friend and to get to know the interns, who are so full of ideas and energy and I was invigorated just hearing about the work that they are initiating in Durban and Dar es Salaam. They reminded me a little bit of that first crop of interns from so long ago ūüôāCIMG1743

And I came home to mail!! Honest to goodness, in the mail, stamped and everything mail!! I am a lucky human.On that note, I dig once again into¬†The Greatest Gift, feeling pretty classy ūüėČIMG_4002

IMG_4003.JPGAhahaha, so wonderful! Thank you again and again Kimberly! ¬†You’re right – no one would ever mistake us for classy, but we do have more fun than ‘normal’ people, whoever they might be! xox

And this is now my room ūüôāIMG_4004

 

An open letter to South Africa

IMG_3295

Dear South Africa,

It was a little bit hard to love you today. I’m having a hard time getting in touch with one tour guide that I feel like would be a brilliant person to speak with about the research I would like to do around Township tourism. I think it is a busy time of year for her, but I am hoping that she isn’t politely trying to shake me because she wants to have nothing to do with me. I was really looking forward to meeting with another guide in Cape Town, but after a series of failed communications on both our parts (and nearly 4 hours of travel on mine) we failed to meet up. And the train was creepy. My roommate has taken to trying to shake my resolve to move to a guesthouse in the Township by telling me on a daily basis how ‘they’ are constantly shooting and/or raping one another. I think it’s also partly¬†due to the fact that I’m engaged in non-violent warfare with both Audible and Hotwire over my ongoing inability to log into my accounts. *sigh*

Then, I heard a really, really horrible rendition of Sexy Sax Man being played in a square, and it instantly made me think of my three brothers and wish that they were there with me to witness it. For those of you uninitiated….

You’re welcome/I’m terribly sorry.

Then, I remembered that the man at my coffee shop (yes, it’s mine now) made this drink for me this morning:IMG_20160316_094738354[1]

And the other guys who work there gave me a hug when they came in and gave me some more Xhosa lessons. And my awesome brother B-Rad wants more pictures, so here ya go…IMG_2848

IMG_2854

Don’t be a sad puppy…

IMG_2889

…it’s so beautiful here!

IMG_2869

And¬†everyone loves photos of food ūüėČ

Especially when this is what it sounds like while you’re eating.

IMG_2939

And penguins!!

Racial reclassification

And this…while not totally fixed, is NOT a thing anymore.

So on that note, I had some pizza, drank a beer, went for a very sweaty run and decided that I needed to, once again, delve into¬†The Greatest Gift of All Time¬†(dun dun duuuunnnnnn!). For those of you just catching up, my sister Kimberly gave me The Greatest Gift¬†when she made me a stack of letters to help me contend with all that I might be faced with in this journey. So today it is…

IMG_20160316_212842053[1]

(and I am post-run sweaty. I swear I’m not always that shiny)

And a big thank you to my brothers and my sisters for keeping in touch, and for all of you who have given me such great feedback so far on the blog, and for my dear friend in California who sent me an audio letter (can you imagine?!? What a guy!), and my Aunt Jo for sharing my blog with her millions of adoring readers (!!), and all the people I miss all over!IMG_3358

Bahaha!! Oh Kimberly, you are a wonder. Thanks for ending my day on such a great note xox