Monthly Archives: January 2014

Yes, there are a lot of Germans

One thing I heard about before studying abroad was that there were a lot of German exchange students. Though no one could ever tell me why there were so many German exchange studens. It didn’t surprise me because one of my oldest friends I met while she was studying in the US from Germany as a high school student. However, I did not expect there to be so many…I don’t know why. Well, I do know why, people exagerate.

When I arrived at the Port Elizabeth airport the other three students who rode the shuttle with me were German students, all from different universities. Then yesterday afternoon I heard a knock on my door. I opened it and it was two girls, one from Germany and one from The Netherlands, asking if I wanted to meet the group downstairs for dinner. They were going down our hall knocking on all the doors (its pretty fabulous that we’re all together like this). So, I had dinner with a bunch of the students living in our location, most of them German…there were also students from the Czech Republic, The Netherlands, and UNC-Wilmington (the students themselves were from Boston and Florida but still a NC connection). It was fun getting to know them and all of the students that I met last night are going on the orientation trip today. One of the German students is an English Lit. major studying to be a high school teacher. Of course everyone wants me to help them with their papers…I might make some extra cash as an editor.

I finally found out why there are so many German exchange students, a lot of programs at their universities require time abroad. Mystery solved!

People on our long ride across

It is difficult to write enough. One blogger I read said that, “You want to write about your experiences, but you have to give up time which may eliminate some experiences.” So, I’m up before sunrise and writing. I think I’ll also have more time as classes start and my cohort is doing the studying bit of the study abroad process.

Our plane from Dulles to Joburg was filled with some interesting people. First, there were a lot of missionaries in our section. Some young people who were going to different parts of Africa for a year. The group next to me were all 18-20 and there were about 6 of them. One girl got airsick the first 5 min of the flight and didn’t get settled until after we left Senegal. I felt so bad for her but her travel companions were giving her morale support. I was impressed with their gumption to leave home and go abroad at their age. On either side of that group was another group of missionaries, men in their late 40’s and early 50’s, who have traveled to various parts of Africa, China, and South America on mission trips. They seemed very middle-aged with their super cheesy “dad jokes”.

There were quite a few study abroad students on the flight, most were connecting to Cape Town from Joburg. There was one student from Case Western who I kept thinking was in our group. She was very nice and took several of our group photos. When I commented to our group that there seemed like a lot of study abroad students on our flight, another passenger interjected that we should “have a party plane.” I think he was asleep before the wheels left the ground…not sure I want to go to any of his parties.

I met a lady who was from Cape Town but has lived all over the world with her husband. She was heading back home because her mother was dying. She was interesting to talk to. She met her American husband when he was on vacation in Cape Town and some friends brought him over. They fell in love that weekend and six months later they were married. Last year they celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. When they met he was working at a university but then went back to school for his phd. After graduation he got a job with US Foreign Service where he worked for 21 years. They raised their two girls as they traveled and I was not surprised when she told me that one of them married a Marine. Her husband is still working but now he does inspections of embassies and diplomatic posts. She still travels with him but not as much as she used to. She was very sweet and a pleasure to talk with and learn from. She told me that under apartheid her family was considered colored and thus could not vote until 1994. She also said that the school system was better under the British, which I found to be an interesting statement. I wanted to ask her more questions along those lines but did not think it was polite. I hope she made it to Cape Town in time.

My seat companion was an interesting fella. He was from Virginia but his parents worked for USAID while he was growing up and so, he didn’t actually live in the states until he was 9. I started talking to him when I saw his TED Talks backpack and wanted to know if I was sitting next to someone who was “YouTube famous”. He told me that it was passed onto him from his mom, who was the one that gave the TED Talk. I haven’t looked it up yet but its on public health. After the girl across the isle threw up he asked me how I was with flying. He was an expert and was concerned that I’d be nervous the whole time or get sick. I reassured him that, while I may be a bit figity, the flying bit didn’t bother me. He was going to Cape Town because his girlfriend is in school at UCT and he was relocating to be with her. He was going to take a month vacation before job hunting. I’m guessing he already has some leads because he seemed rather well connected. He told me about helping a friend move in the US and to thank him for his kindness he is getting at-cost wine from their vineyard in South Africa. On second thought, I should have gotten his contact information!

29January2014-Joburg and SOWETO

Today was our day to see a bit of Joburg-FNB staduim, the Apartheid Museum, and Nelson Mandela’s house in SOWETO.

FNB Stadium-It was a point of interest because this is where the main memorial service for Nelson Mandela was held. The one where President Obama spoke, the fake interpreter of sign-language, where it was a full-on downpour. It was also one of the stadiums used when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup. We were not allowed to go inside the stadium, only take pictures on the outside. We were told that we could not go in because Bruce is playing tomorrow night. One member of our group asked if this was a South African performer and the security guard said, “No, Bruce Springstein.” I thanked him for the clarification and told him that I wish I was on a first-name basis with The Boss, like he is. We took several group pictures outside, which we are getting good at assuming the position.

Next was the Apartheid Museum. *deep breath* Where to start? They did have a temporary exhibit about the life of Nelson Mandela, which was very good. Some other exhibits were under construction and so we could not see them. But the main museum was really moving (doesn’t seem like a strong enough word). When you purchase your ticket, it is issued with either a “white” or “non-white” status; my ticket designated me as non-white. It is with this status that you enter the museum and each entry is different with information applying to that group of people. I thought the designation might carry through the whole museum, like in the Holocaust museum in D.C. The museum did a good job taking visitors the history of South Africa. There was a movie made that reminded me of Birth of a Nation. They were made about the same time ad both of them served as propaganda for the white ruling class keeping power over other racial groups. The museum had scenes from this movie playing on a loop, the imagery was disturbing. The next scene that I had a visceral reaction to was a room full of nooses. These were hanging from the ceiling and there were lots of them. They symbolized the actual nooses used to hang political prisoners. This portion of the exhibit also talked about the prisoners who died in police custody. The official line was that a lost of these prisoners committed suicide while in jail, but evidence points to the police killing them. In a movie talking about the student uprising, one of the activist talked about his time in police custody. He was tortured and the police often told him, “We can kill you at any time and just say that you hung yourseld.” The bravery of student activist is amazing to me. Oh, and when I say “student activist”, I am not talking about college students. No, these students were ages 8-18. Many of them were arrested, tourtured, killed, disappeared, or fled the country.

Speaking of student activists, before we went to Mandela’s house we visited Hector Peterson Square. Hector Peterson was a student killed by police and became famous because of a picture taken of another student carrying his body with a female student walking next to him. The boy carrying his body disappeared after this incident and was never heard from again. It is suspected that he was picked up by the police and killed. The female in the picture is still alive and is an executive of the museum there in the square that commemorates the event. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go through the museum. The reason for the student uprising in 1976 was the government’s announcement that school would be taught in Afrikaans. The students widely protested this move by the government because it would be detrimental to their education. Afrikaans was not a language that many of the students knew and there was a shortage of teachers who could teach in Afrikaans, thus the students protested. The police were tipped off about the students protesting this day and were waiting for them as they walked toward Orlando Stadium. The police had their dogs with them (think Alabama and Bull Connor). As the dogs attacked the students they fought back with stones against the dogs, since the dogs are police officers (many of them out-ranking the black police officers), the police opened live fire on the students.

Where we were in SOWETO was a crossroads for the freedom fight in South Africa. Just on the other side of Hector Peterson square was the church where Desmond Tutu starting preaching, and then close by was Nelson Mandela’s house.

Nelson Mandela’s house reminded me of Lincoln’s small log cabin boyhood home in Kentucky. It is located in the SOWETO township and is a small township home. When we drove up to the home I was impressed with the businesses surrounding it. There were a couple of resteraunts, some shops, and lots of street vendors (street performers too). Everything was small, small bedrooms, small bathroom, and small cooking area. The house itself is not set-up like a lot of historical sites, where it is full of actual or replica furniture because if it was visitors could not easily walk through the house. The house is full of memorabilia though. There are plaques and declarations of support for Nelson and Winnie Mandela. It was interesting to take note of the places on display such as: Morehouse College, the State of Michagan, the City of Newark just to name a few. I’m really glad that SCSU made us read A Long Walk to Freedom before coming to South Africa. When there is so much to take in when you are visiting a country for the first time, the trip is more meaningful when you’re not getting all of this historic information for the first time.

Good morning from Senegal


Sunrise from the coast of Senegal as we took off Tuesday morning. I could see fishing boats just off the coast already at work. I hope to return for an actual visit sometime.

Last blast of MN

The loading ramp gave us the last blast of Minnesota’s winter air.


MSP => IAD => DKR => JNB


Today is the day!

Its going to be a long journey, but I have snacks!

We leave at Minneapolis 9:30 arriving in D.C. at 12:30 where we have a 5 hour layover. Then its a 16 hour flight to Joburg with a stop in Senegal.

Packed & ready to go


Two more sleeps before I leave for South Africa. Or let’s be honest, probably only one more sleep because I might be too excited Sunday night for any actual sleep!

Khayelitsha’s Township Café

This unique coffee shop opened in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town serving the people of the township.  The prices are set to serve the community in which the coffee shop in located and providing a service that is in demand, good coffee.

When I was on my spring break trip last year to South Africa, we were told over and over again how development was what South Africans wanted for themselves.  Tourist dollars over charity.  We were told this in our orientation our first day at NMMU and again on our city tour of Port Elizabeth.  I love this story because it exemplifies what we were told through these sessions.  I hope to read/see more like this.

Khayelitsha’s Township Café.

via Khayelitsha’s Township Café.

VISA Processed

Great news! My Student VISA have been processed! I can finally get excited, really excited about my semester abroad!

Now, the whirlwind begins.  I only have 11 days left before I leave for six months and I’m amazed how much I still need to do prior to leaving.

Ethnographic Emergency

Quick, call an anthropologist!


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