Here’s a video compilation of our long trip back to Minnesota from Port Elizabeth. We flew from PE to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg we flew into Dulles (Washington, DC). Then we got a shuttle from Dulles to National Airport to avoid a 12-hour layover. Then from National we flew into Minneapolis.
Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Moments of culture-shock durning first day being back in the States:
1) Just hearing one language, my ears are bored
2) How loud the commercials and TV shows are. It seems like everything is on level 10 and stays there
3) I keep going to the wrong side of the vehicle
4) No one is walking, I’m used to seeing many people walking to work, school, the store, and even on the highways people are walking
5) Where are the combies??? Seriously, I miss these guys.
6) Going to the grocery store made my eyes vibrate. All of our packaging is SO bright!
7) Wastefulness is everywhere
8) Americans really are loud
9) Our vehicles are huge
10) I’m handling US money like foreign currency
This makes me think of my time here at NMMU in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The group of fellow SCSU students I was here with were awesome. The students I met and lived with were awesome. The new friends I made at university were awesome. This was a dream of mine to come here and everything was awesome!!!
As I get ready to leave South Africa my time could quite easily be consumed with marking a list of lasts. But then I would forget to marvel in the beauty that each new day brings. I keep thinking that this is a bittersweet moment. However, today I had a realization, my heart is not heavy from sadness. On the contrary, I leave South Africa with my soul opened, a wealth of new experiences, and friends. My heart is heavy with love.
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.
I can still see the poster neatly hung on the wall of my manager’s cubicle at American Express. It was in full color and showed a single daisy in a terracotta pot. However, my understanding of feedback has stayed rooted in corporate America’s space. In my mind thinking of feedback as a gift always felt as genuine as those uber motivational posters every business major had in their dorm rooms in the 1990s. Feedback in work never felt like a gift but rather it always felt judgmental and punitive. Feedback was given with performance reviews where you were told if you were going to get a raise or explained why you were not receiving one. Feedback in school is generally tied to a grade and also feels punitive. The feedback is an explanation of what you did wrong. I’ll also say that receiving feedback in school had its own problematic roots that I’ve already delved into a bit. So, neither experience (work or school) had positive roots for me when it came to receiving feedback as a gift. Until recently. Over the past five semesters I have worked in a writing center, four semesters at SCSU’s The Write Place and one semester here at NMMU’s Writing Centre. Through my immersion in the writing center culture, pedagogy, and practices I realized that feedback can be a gift. I asked two of the people I’m working with this semester at NMMU to read through my thesis chapters and give me feedback on what I had written. When they returned them to me with detailed comments I felt like I had been given a gift. I read through the comments carefully taking in what they had to say. They were deliberative and inquisitive and I processed each one individually. I have now been both a manager and a consultant in the writing center where I gave feedback to employees and students. I hope that as I move into the classroom I can help my students understand how to receive feedback but more importantly, I hope I can model a healthy manor to give feedback as an instructor.
Last week, in a writing center workshop my supervisor told us about reading Harry Eyres’s book Horace and Me: Lessons from an ancient poet. Eyres retranslates Horace’s famous line “carpe diem” from seize the day (which is how most of us know it if from nothing else, we know it from dead Poets Society)to “taste the day.” The new translation has been rolling around in my head for a week or so now and it fits my time here perfectly. Seizing the day seems like such an aggressive translation while tasting and it’s synonym savor are enjoyable actions. Actions of appreciation and delight. Appreciating each day as a gift can get overplayed in our daily grind of life. But removing the grind and taking time to truly taste the day is also an active role in the appreciation. Appreciation can feel passive because it is a mental and spiritual act, whereas tasting requires physical movement. It intertwines the body with the mind and soul to make ethereal moments palatable.