Monthly Archives: May 2014

Elephants and beetles in South Africa

The second time I visited Addo, I saw the work of dung beetles and was very impressed. Addo is a MUST see! The first time you see an elephant walking in its natural environment, it’ll take your breath away.

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video from South Africa is called Addo Elephant National Park – The Experience.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The beetles that saved the world

Friday 30th May 2014

PETER FROST unravels the ecological travails of the elephants’ symbiotic companions in Addo National Park

Let you introduce you to my young friend William, he might only be 10 but he has a smart head on his shoulders.

When I taught a lesson for his class at the village school on our local 1923 Braunston canal boat strike William came out tops with his knowledge of both the strike and the labour movement in general.

Our last conversation, however, was about Darwinism, evolution and related themes. William was puzzled. He learnt most about the subject not at school but from TV programmes but he didn’t fully grasp the complicated idea of natural selection.

Although the science intrigued him…

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Tucks Truck

I’ve seen this blue truck around Port Elizabeth a couple of times and today it was in the parking lot at the Pick and Pay shopping center. I couldn’t believe my luck that when I finished my errands in the shopping center there were people around this truck! So, I just asked them, “What does this truck do?”
The gentleman was talking to his friend and referred me to his wife, who was around the side of the truck so I could get a look inside. It is a special equipped sleeper camper that can go off-roading.

Very cool!

They are from England and bought this German made vehicle to travel the world. They did a test-run in Europe and just had the truck shipped into the port in Port Elizabeth. They are heading up the east coast of Africa. The link below is their blog and I look forward to following along.

First world problems?

In 2013, when I was first in South Africa for a short-program we were told during orientation to “turn off our first-world switch.” The speaker wanted us to adjust our expectations and outlook while we were visiting his country. Traveling around South Africa is it easy to see why the term third world has fallen out of use for the more accurate developing countries, semi-developed, or not developed (basically assessing their development not their worldliness). I was always confused when I heard that term growing up it seemed akin to Middle Earth, we are all on the same planet, how could they be in another world? Anyway, I digress.

Something else we were told during orientation was that South Africa is a mix, first-world right next to third-world conditions with many places inbetween. There are places in South Africa where you are in such luxury that it does not seem like the same country would have remote Peace Corps volunteers with emergency evacuation plans. There’s a meme which illustrates the extent to which most Americans or Europeans could not imagine living in the conditions that the majority of people on this planet live everyday its called, First World Problems. This meme can be very funny showing people dramatically overreacting to the slightest inconvience. One luxury that has been difficult and many of us just have not adjusted is slow internet.

When I first got here the joke was made that we are just spoiled and this is a “first-world problem.” And we’re coming from the US with internet speed that lags behind many other developed countries! Actually, instead of an adjustment that we need to get used to, it feels like we are sitting on the digital divide’s fault line. I can see people getting left behind each day because they lack access to the digital world. Those who do have access here are wasting time and energy because their on-ramp to the digital highway is poorly constructed. How does this impact entrepreneurship? Education? Health care?

Currently there is a debate back in the United States about the internet and equal access. One side of the argument asserts that internet access and the internet in general is a utility (i.e. electricity) to which we should all have access. This debate helped push my thoughts to the developing countries and their lack of basic services. I know much of the world and some here in South Africa still struggle for clean drinking water and being concerned about internet access may seem far fetched. However, it is one more way that people are being divided and left behind.


The lack of internet manifests itself at university in several ways. One, students don’t have internet at home which makes additional learning difficult. NMMU does not have a 24 hr library or computer lab therefore students without these facilities at home do not have the same opportunities to study as students who do. Two, it can be challenging for a teacher because online “handouts” or YouTube videos are a great tool for students but not if they lack internet access. I’ve come to rely on these supplemental learning tools, especially for English Language Learners because they can then have the information at their disposal to review as many times as they’d wish.

Much of the conversation in the US around the digital divide is aimed at the high school students, younger students, and non-students who do not have internet access. However, in many places it has a real impact on university students and businesses. Slow internet and no internet seems more like a development opportunity than a cultural difference.

Africa Produces


African Unity Foundation

As an intern here at NMMU I did not take any classes and so I could not volunteer through the school like all of my cohort from SCSU. The benefit of volunteering through the school is they have the relationship with the local organization and the university provides transport! Lack of transportation is one of the biggest frustrations studying here. The students from the US are all used to having their own cars and the European students are used to being able to walk, bike, or take safe and secure public transport in their home countries. I wanted to volunteer while I was here but couldn’t find an opportunity, until I spoke with Dr. Jennifer Winstead. She is from the US (Mississippi to be exact), came here for post-doc work and stayed. She worked in the International Office for a while and switched over to Student Affairs. Dr. Winstead refereed me to AUF as a volunteer resource.

THE VISION of the Foundation is to be the preferred conduit between business and the social sector, playing the vital role of implementing and managing of SED and ED programs. This is supported by comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of each project.
OUR MISSION is to source funding from the business sector and invest in projects driven by our partnerships within the community.
AUF’s SED agenda has its objectives aligned as per the BEE codes of good practice, identifying EDUCATION as one of the key areas of investment. 

Company Overview
African Unity Foundation (AUF) established in 2003 is registered as a Public Benefits Organisation (PBO), AUF focuses on sustainable Socio-Economic and Enterprise Development programmes.
AUF is registered under the Section 18A of the Income Tax Act. This enables AUF to issue tax certificates for any contributions received.

AUF fills a niche gap in assisting companies who do not have the Human Resources, time and/or expertise to implement, manage and maintain SED projects.
With our extensive experience in designing, planning, implementing and managing of our various projects, investors will have peace of mind that the following will be attended to:

Monitoring and Evaluation of programmes
Well governed and transparent financial reporting on contributions received
Issuing of Section 18A certificates for tax benefits
BEE contribution certificate
Impact investing (Impact vs Input

Like volunteering through the community service learning course that the SCSU students register for, AUF also provides the relationship and transportation to volunteers. The added benefit of volunteering through AUF is the ability to mix with South African students. It can be difficult to meet locals, especially as an intern, because I am in an office environment. I work with locals but do not interact with students in the same way as if I was in class with them. I just did my first volunteer activity with AUF this past weekend and really enjoyed myself. Hopefully, future interns from SCSU will make the time to volunteer with AUF and get a chance to not only impact the community but have some fun while doing it!


The reason every book about Africa has the same cover—and it’s not pretty

As part of Africa Week here at NMMU I attended a lecture last night by UCT Professor Harry Garuba about Textualized Literature. First he spoke about Textual Territories which are areas of the world that have been written about so much that the writing has forever altered our perceptions of the place. He gave the example of Robben Island being inextricably linked to Nelson Mandela that the perception of the island will always be viewed through the “Mandela lense”.  Then he made the argument that Africa itself is an over-textualized territory.  First, Africa was written about by people who “discovered” various places in Africa.  They wrote tales of discovery.  There were diaries by missionaries, memos from colonial administrators that wrote back to their home countries of the manners and customs they witnessed.  These might be considered amateur ethnographies.  Literature of this first type that has reached canonical status are: Heart of Darkness, King Salomon’s Mines, Mister Johnson, Out of Africa, and Tarzan and the Apes.  These books participate in othering which is a process where the authors define identity by what they are not.  They identify themselves at the norm and everything else is negative or abnormal (white/black; good/evil; Christian/heathen; civilized/primitive or savage).  These texts and pieces of literature were published by the colonial powers about the land and people they were occupying in the colonies.

The next wave of literature then writes back to the empire.  African writers read the canonical works of literature and answered back with their own form of ethnographic novel.  Nobel Prize winning author Chinua Achebe said that he wrote because he didn’t see himself in the books he read for school.  As he was growing up he noted that at first he imagine himself as the explorers finding finding his way through the jungle.  But then he came to realize that in the book the author would have written him as one of  the dark faced cannibals not the explorer.    Achebe’s generation of authors wrote deeply contextualized pieces to show themselves through the books illustrating their own rich culture with long-standing traditions.  This generation was writing back to the cannon and presenting a unified front.

Following that wave were authors who wrote back from the perspective of further marginalized people.  So, homogeneity gives way to heterogeneity and differences within a culture are given room to be exposed.  In this wave class and gender are discussed. Some of the books in this category are: So Long a Letter, The Joys of Motherhood, Woman at Point Zero, A Man of the People, The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born.

Then comes the 3rd wave or post-independence writers.  They are struggling with the current realities of African life and culture throughout the continent.  There is disillusionment with the current situation because the promised life that they were fighting for during apartheid or colonial domination has not come true as it was imagined.  These authors are posing what could be called a Marxist challenge to their current governments.  Professor Garuba argued that literature from South Africa should be considered interconnected to the literature from other countries on the continent.  These new writers are offering plural truths which allow for levity and a new lightness of being.  He postulated that the next concern for African cultural literature are authors who are represented as African authors but who no longer live in Africa.  It seems simple that this will happen because publishers find it easier to deal with a local author rather than one who is on the continent.  However, these authors call into question the authenticity not of their individual voice but their individual voice being held up as representative for a whole people once again.

Who uses the internet in South Africa?


Africa, an infographic


Small Acts of Kindness

20140519-210407-75847836.jpgSmall acts of kindness touch me because they are generally unshowy and genuine. I don’t mean that large gestures cannot also be genuine but sometimes it feels grandiose. Those acts seem more about the doer and not about the action. Over the past week I there have been many small acts of kindness people have shown me and I’m very grateful to them. There were a couple of combi drivers who gave me a free lift. One on the day it was raining which was really lovely. I think the clouds here have more water in them because even when it drizzles it seems like I get soaked! Another guy gave me a lift on Friday afternoon from campus to the gym. I had my bag packed for the gym but when leaving campus sometimes it is difficult to turn left towards the gym instead of right towards the hotel. Both of the drivers were guys that I knew from school trips. I guess the upside to getting car sick and not being able to ride with my friends in the back is that I now know about a 1/2 dozen drivers. They’re cool guys and I have learned a lot from each of them. Then Friday evening a group of us girls were walking back from dinner, in the rain, and a little too late when Stephanie accidentally flagged down one of the shuttle buses. He stopped and I ran over to ask if he could give us a lift. He totally could’ve just said “no” because that is normally not how they do things but he didn’t. He was kind and gave us a lift back to our accomodations. Then this evening I went to the student restaurant for dinner after laying down for a couple of hours waiting for the Goody’s Headache powder to kickin. When I finally got up and when down there the lady working there this evening asked me if I wanted chicken for dinner. I was a little confused at first because none of the food trays were empty. When I looked at the meat offerings, I definitely wanted chicken! I told her yes that I would like some and she went to the regular restaurant and brought some back for me. It went perfectly with the rice and squash. I was really moved. I’m sure there are many more incidents where people went out of their way that I am not even aware of but I thought I’d take a minute and share my gratitude.

Charity Event

Saturday night I went to a fundraiser at the Music Kitchen that was organized by a group of NMMU students as part their project for public relations class. They did an amazing job! The event rivaled other fundraisers I’ve been to hosted by professionals. They were raising money for Masifunde, a homework club in Walmer Township.  The video gives you an overview of the history of the homework club and the township itself.  I really enjoyed being out with a big mix of people, having a few ciders, an awesome burger, and totally chill music.


Ethnographic Emergency

Quick, call an anthropologist!


Journey of a PhD student

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