Monthly Archives: March 2014

Agenda for the week (31March-5April)

Monday Drive to Cape Town

Tuesday Robben Island Tour, Boulders Beach, and Cape Point

Wednesday Table Mountain and if the forecast holds, I will be taking the cable car roundtrip

Thursday Tour of Parliament, The Slave Lodge, and the Cultural History Museum

Thursday Night Overnight stay with Mama Noks township home-stay network

Friday Oudtshoorn: Visit a working ostrich farm, Cango Caves, and stay in De Rust on a working farm.


Making it work

I’m using my bedside table as a desk while my chairs work as clotheslines. I have done more hand-washing in the past two months than all my years combined.

Africa. I am Free.


Heart Ripples

    Africa. You pulled me.

    For my edges once curled- pieces of wholeness hid within.

    The familiar, the comfort, the predictable, once the prison of my soul,

    How could there be empathy locked within a prism of the known?

    Africa. You pulled me. Now it is We.

    Africa. You stretched me.

    For my mind once reaching- lessons once and twice learned,

    I’d been there, I’d done that, Oh! A mind needs more,

    How could there be vision along roads traveled before?

    As if you knew you’d teach me, you stretched me.

    Africa. You stretched me. Now I see.

    Africa. You blessed me.

    For my passions once yearning- space, time, and harmony,

    The distractions, the illusions, the material mundane,

    How could there be liberty trapped within delusions of safe?

    As if you believed in me, you blessed me.

    Africa. You blessed me. Now I am Free!


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President Zuma Comes to NMMU


I did not imagine being able to see the president of South Africa when I cam to study here for the semester.  I had hoped that it might be possible because it is an election year.  Then an email came through the NMMU system telling us that he would be on campus Saturday!  There were three other international students (our group was 2 Americans, 1 girl from Norway, and 1 girl from Germany) that wanted to go with me from our accommodation.  We kept trying to decide when to leave and finally we thought we would leave approximately an hour before the doors opened.  I had no idea who difficult it would be to get in or find a seat. My only point of reference is the US and its crazy in the US for an event like this.

It was tricky finding the auditorium because the school buildings were not open, which is the only way I know how to get around North Campus (cutting through all of the buildings). So, we went the long way around! Twice.  Finally, we made it to the courtyard and many of the students already had on the yellow ANC shirts. We thought maybe they were giving the shirts away in the parking lot and since we couldn’t yet go into the auditorium we’d try to get a shirt for ourselves.  Out in the parking lot they were setting up tents, grills, and a stage  for another event but we didn’t see anyone giving away the yellow shirts.  So, we meandered back to the building to see if we could get in yet.  The security guards rejected us again, so we found a place in the shade to soak up some of the university’s wifi.

Each of us became immersed in our on 3×5 world of our phones.  A few minutes later I was jarred out of my electronic stupor when I heard American accents from unfamiliar voices.  I saw a ginger boy and a blonde girl just feet from me and I had no idea who they were.  Waiting for a brief pause in their conversation, I blurted out “Where are y’all from?”  Now, they looked equally puzzled to see me!  Then come to find out they were from St. John’s and St. Ben’s respectively.  We finally discovered why we never see these students! It is because their program at NMMU follows the semester schedule back in the US, which means that they have their own classes etc. Mystery solved!  I would really hate that because they don’t get a chance to meet South Africans or other international students. Our conversation with them was interrupted when NMMU students started singing songs and getting ready for the rally.  After a moment a circle of students gathered and I went closer to video their singing and dancing.

By the end of the video you maybe able to tell that the circle disbanded and we started to walk towards the doors.  The singing didn’t stop until President Zuma took the stage.  It was so interesting to see how the songs transitioned one to the next.  There were no microphones and none were needed.  But if someone started a song and the rest of the crowd didn’t like the song or the voice of the person who started it, they would quickly move on to the next one.  Before the crowd grew inside of the auditorium there was much up and down because the songs were not flowing.  I joked with my new friend sitting next to me that it felt like church.  Then the crowd grew and the signing became constant.  I didn’t know any of the words but I can always clap!  So, I stood and clapped along to the songs.  At one point they couldn’t stay in their seats any longer and formed a line toyi-toying around the perimeter of the auditorium.  Then we got word that President Zuma had finally arrived and the crowd started singing his favorite songs.  By this time the place was bursting at the seems and students were overflowing outside.

The panel discussion itself was very party-line.  I was not surprised though because it was a political rally to motivate the young people to vote.  I did wonder then why was it staged as a panel discussion?  Why not just re-frame the event to let each of these panelist speak in praise of the African National Congress (ANC) and President Zuma?  I thought it would have kept the momentum moving along, morale higher, and lent transparency to the event.  Just a couple of thoughts as an interested observer.

Before the rally was over President Zuma himself led the crowd in a couple of songs and everyone loved it!

I really wish we had more singing and dancing in our culture but especially at our political events.  So much more fun!  If we do adopt something like this I definitely think it’ll be the Democrats who do it first 😉 By the time we left we were all in high spirits.


Redemption Song

Sung by a professor of Library Sciences at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) at the Staff Concert to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.  There were several other performances…I tried to capture the NMMU Choir but my phone could not do them justice.  Here is the song they preformed:

5 Years #TBT

I keep saying, “Wow! What a difference 5 years makes.” Then I stopped, thought about it. And damn! If I wasn’t completely right about this one!

Five years ago…

I was still reeling from the effects of 2008. In the short span of those 12 months my mother died, my sister and her family moved out of state, I relocated to Durham, got laid off from my job, went back to university for the last 9 credits of my bachelor’s degree, and graduated.

This time in 2009, I was bracing for my first birthday without my mom. It was the first time that I didn’t feel any joy on that particular day. It felt more empty, her absence amplified. Honestly, I do not even remember doing anything special for my own birthday. I took a trip to visit my sister and helped her celebrate her big day. It was my way to compensate for our mom being gone. She did an amazing job, even as we got older, to make our birthdays feel special. We were lucky to have our birthdays around Easter and almost every year we were all together at some point close to our birthdays.

But 2009 was the start of putting together new traditions with our smaller family. Her birthday was really great! Our dad and step mom came up for the day. My nephew really enjoyed so many of “his people” being at his house for the day. And there was lemon cake (always a win). As 2009 progressed things impoved. I was able to celebrate my nephew’s 3rd birthday with him. In September, I started a new job that I was good at and enjoyed. Double bonus! I got rid of all the notes, articles, and papers from undergad because I had no plans of going back to school! I was d-o-n-e!

Five years later, I not only changed jobs but careers. Moved to Minnesota, I still don’t know if its natural that people live this far north. I went back to school and I’m about to graduate with my master’s and start a PhD program in the fall! What? In 2009, I was still dreaming of Africa and now I’ve not only been here but I’m living here for 6 months.

None of what I’m doing now was on the agenda then. I’m in awe of my life and loving it!

Studying Abroad Is Like Learning Japanese

You may think this sounds crazy but hear me out!  

20140326-203728.jpgWhen I was a freshman in high school I had to sign up for a foreign language.  I chose Spanish because I thought it was the practical option.  I wish now I’d chosen Latin, but such is life.  Anyway, back to what I was saying…yes, when I was a high school freshman.  I struggled with Spanish.  I would learn vocabulary by comparing it to English words or phrases.  Spanish grammar confounded me but honestly, at this point, with my poor foundational education so did English grammar.  A final blow to my Spanish endeavor socked me late Spring semester when we had to move.  Of course this move meant that I had to transfer schools (per usual) and landed in a different state’s school system late March.  I barely passed and after that year left Spanish behind without thinking or knowing what I would do for a foreign language.  

When I got to university the boy I was seeing signed up for Japanese and I thought, “Why the hell not?” As one does when they first sign up for university courses *smiles*  To my shock and everyone’s shock when I tell them this story, I did really well.  Japanese was easy for me!  Why?  Because I had no choice but to learn the language.  The alphabet was completely different, no Latin characters. Nothing to compare the language to.  If I wanted to learn it and I did because I needed to for the grade (its all about proper motivation), I just sank my teeth into the language.  The more I learned, the more I enjoyed it.

Which brings me to my larger point, studying abroad is like learning Japanese.  Even if you are studying in a Western or Westernized country, it is not your home country.  Full stop.  While there may be similarities like there was for me when I studied Spanish you’ll never fully learn the cultural language of the country if you keep comparing it to your home country.  No, instead you need to fully immerse yourself in the new country you’re temporarily living in.  Accepting the host country as a completely different place with its own history, culture, secrets, and troubles.  Then you can more fully immerse yourself and have an authentic experience.

Remembering Sharpeville

If you get a long weekend, a day off from school, and it’s a national holiday it’s good to know why. In the United States we lament when Memorial Day is only commemorated by cookouts, but how many of those complaining take any action? I enjoyed a long holiday weekend. I went out of town with a group of friends, but it is good to know why we were given the day off from school.

Mbewu Movement

On March 21st, South Africa commemorated one of the most significant days in the nation’s history; Sharpeville Day, which we all formally know as Human Rights’ Day. This day was also declared the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the United Nations. We celebrate it each year to remind us of the great suffering and loss of life that accompanied the struggle for human rights in South Africa, in particular the brutal murder of 69 and injury of many on 21st March 1960. We remember the sacrifices made by remarkable leaders like Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. May we never forget their stupendous legacies, their sacrificial fighting spirits. May we educate ourselves and each other about our young nation’s painful past so that we may never take any of the fruits we now reap for granted. Above all this, may our knowledge of the high price paid encourage us…

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His Day is Done-Dr. Maya Angelou


Over the weekend, we played a travel game where you picked a letter of the alphabet and named any person who’s (first or last) name started with that letter.  We were on the letter M for a long time and I said, “Maya Angelou“.  None of the people I was playing with had heard of her, which didn’t totally surprise me since they were from  The Czech Republic, Sweden, and Germany.  The one girl from The Czech Republic knew plenty of poets, authors, and painters I didn’t know off the top of my head…so, no shade.  I still thought I would take the occasion to share not only her poetry and voice but more specifically this poem, which memorializes Nelson Mandela.

The On The Go/At Home Workout

Thanks to the amazing people at SCSU Campus Rec Center, I now have an awesome workout I can do while I’m here in South Africa!!! I had to reblog and share to my other study abroad friends out there. Enjoy 🙂

SCSU Campus Rec

The On The Go/At Home Workout

When you don’t have time to go to the gym or simply don’t have a gym membership, this is the perfect workout for you. These moves can be perfected without weights and are a great way to stay in shape in the comfort of your own home. Click the photo to view the entire workout.

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