Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And so the school year starts...

Classes have officially started at UCT!!
Okay, so that was a week ago, but I’ve been busy…

Class at UCT is definitely different from U of M. For one, lectures are only 45 minutes long (score!). But, I have class more often. From 9-1 Monday-Wednesday, 10-1 Thursday and 9-11 Friday to be exact. (You would never survive this schedule Sarah). Also discussion sections here are called tutorials (tuts for short). And instead of having tuts for my English classes, I have seminars, which are completely separate from my lectures. So now that I have you properly confused, I’ll explain by sharing with you ALL of my classes.
I know you’re waiting on the edge of your seat…

Sex, Love and Taboo – So this class is just as awesome as it sounds. It’s in the African Languages department so we focus on how Sex, Love and Taboo are talked about in African languages. The professor is absolutely amazing, and there’s a lot of native Xhosa and Zulu speakers in the class, so we get to hear their perspectives and us Americans can share our perspectives. The class, like most of my classes, has a lot of international (read American) students in it, but it’s fascinating learning about how the African languages work .For example: In Xhosa, there is no word for hermaphrodite. Does that mean hermaphrodites don’t exist in that culture? (And yes, I did just give you a homework question, but you’ve got to admit it’s really interesting)

Shakespeare and Company- So in each of my two English courses at UCT, multiple professors teach the course. For Shakespeare, I have 2 professors, one who teaches about medieval drama and one who teaches Shakespeare and Chaucer. I will admit that I have slept through one (you would too Mom and Dad) medieval drama lecture. The professor speaks in a monotone and is just so boring. But today our second professor came in to start us off with Chaucer. He is absolutely amazing. He’s an older British man who cracks jokes every 10 minutes, offers throat lozenges to students and then tells them if they’re lucky they can get a little high off it (If you don’t think this is hilarious, then it might have been a “You had to be there” moment.) And he makes me actually want to read the Canterbury Tales. Thankfully, he’s teaching most of the rest of the lectures, so I am really excited!!!

Global Shakespeare- This is my Shakespeare and Co seminar. So I haven’t actually had this seminar yet (it starts tomorrow) but our course syllabus says we’ll be “exploring twentieth and twenty first-century interpretations of Shakespeare’s texts across the lines of the former “first”, “second”, and “third” world” countries. So I’m basically really excited for this class. But I’ll update on this one when I’ve actually had the class.

African Literature- Pretty self-explanatory. We’ll be studying different African novels. We already did our first 4 poetry lectures, which were really interesting (Sarah, I think you would absolutely love the poetry professor, think Ray with a South African accent and less biting humor). But we’ll see how this one goes.

South Africa HIV/AIDS Literary Narratives- As you might have guessed, this is my African Literature seminar. Tomorrow is my first day for this one too, and I don’t have a syllabus yet so your guess is as good as mine. But the seminar filled up fast and it seems really interesting, so I’ll hope for the best.

Medical Anthropology- I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this class. Our professors are these great hippie-esque women who are all about critically looking at medical anthropology. And we learn the coolest stuff (I was just about to give you an example, but I don’t want to bore you to death if medical anthropology isn’t your thing). The gist of this class is we explore the relationship between physical and social reasons for illness along with a kajillion other amazingly interesting things. Later in the semester we are going to do fieldwork on the HIV/AIDS situation in South Africa. SO COOL.

Okay, so those are my classes. I probably could have done better at explaining the actual classes, but if you care that much let me know and I’ll email you my syllabuses (and then make fun of you for wanting my syllabus).

Now that I’ve told you about the actual “school” portion of UCT (I know, I know, that’s the whole reason I’m here, but let’s be real, UCT grades don’t factor into my U of M GPA so…) let’s get on to the social aspects.

UCT is like a prettier version of AHS.

For those of you who didn’t have the good fortune to grow up in Alpena, AHS = Alpena High School.

Reason #1

While UCT is a big school, for some reason the architects decided the best way to design walkways would be to make them narrow and to make sure there are only a few possible ways to get to class. Therefore UCT = crowded. According to some native UCTers, after a few weeks it should quiet down once freshmen learn to stop clogging the damn walkways.

Sidenote: This isn’t helped by the fact that everyone here walks so slow. Kendra and Corinne, I am considered a very fast walker here (I can almost see you shudder reading that statement). I’ve actually been told I’m a fast walker, although that was by a Norwegian, not a South African, and I think my walking speed had more to do with the fact our guide had just told us to look out for snakes (Black Mambas, no big deal) in the forest we were walking through at the elephant reserve.
Anyway, we know the slow walking is bad when I am one more freshman-stopping-in-front-of-me-with-no-prior-warning-to-high-five-his-freshman-friend-with-a-mullet-and-tank-top (hair and fashion choice are another story altogether) away from either a) shoving him down the mountain or b) screaming “walk faster you idiots”.
Neither would probably help in proving the ignorant, rude, loud American stereotype wrong.

Reason #2

You know how at U of M you run out the door to class wearing some version of the leggings/sweatpants/athletic shorts, random shirt combination with your hair in a quick ponytail and the rest of the world lucky if you attempt make-up?

Yeah, not here.

I’ve heard Cape Town is like the New York City of Africa. Apparently you can spot an American from the above clothing description, which is completely unacceptable (wouldn’t that have been nice to know beforehand…)

But how to describe the UCT dress code…
Here are some possible (read acceptable) UCT outfits:

I could dress like I’m…
1). Going to church – This would include my cute dresses that I would either wear to church or work, but not anywhere else because they scream “work/church dress”. Or really anything fancy that makes me look like the angelic Pastor’s daughter I was raised to be (love you Mom!).
2). Going out- Except that my going out clothes seem homely and shabby compared to ones I’ve seen here. For example, I have seen many a girls wearing short, skin-tight dresses to class. That just seems like it would be uncomfortable.
3). Going to some other special event- You know, like weddings, graduations, the occasional garden party. You know, my normal venues to hang out at. It’s a little dressier than church clothes, but still modest enough not to go out in.
4). Wearing all of thee above mixed together- This is my personal favorite, and I think the preference of most girls here. For example, first day of school I witnessed a girl wearing a skanky, skin tight, short white skirt, paired with black tights, black boots, and an Ikey Tiger (our mascot) Rugby t-shirt. True story.

I think I’m just going to stick with obviously being American. Although the extreme heat has made me wear more dresses, making me fit in a little more.

Oh, and if you’re a boy here, you most likely have a mullet and prefer to wear tank tops.
I am so tempted to offer to do the Rugby team’s hair. The mullets actually make me cringe.

Reason #3

No one walks alone here!

It’s actually a little annoying. Everyone has friends with them at all times. It’s like they all conspired to have the same classes (which they probably did). And when sitting in the food court to eat lunch, or just chill for a bit, if you’re sitting alone there’s something wrong with you and two random girls come up and sit with you but completely ignore you while you awkwardly sit there playing Bejeweled on your phone waiting for your friend to bring you your food so you two can then find another table…
Yeah, that might be a true story.

But as much as I complain, I still absolutely love it here for SO many reasons, (which I’m not going to list for you because, really, how long do we want this post to actually be?)

Although I want to give a shout out to my new favorite thing about UCT: The Jammie

As I’ve mentioned before, the Jammie is the equivalent of Blue Buses. Although I’ve been in school for over a week, today is the first day I’ve taken the Jammie. I figured that since I’m only a 15 minute walk from Upper Campus, I could just suck it up and walk up the mountain every morning.
Yeah, that would have been great, except for the fact that I’m walking up a mountain. And it’s already 70+ degrees while I’m walking which means I’m sweating profusely by the time I make it to class, which makes me oh so attractive. So I decided to give in and take the Jammie (much to my classmates joy, I’m sure) today.


I reached the Jammie stop, was on the Jammie within 2 minutes and at Upper Campus within 5 minutes. Of course this meant I was on campus 30 minutes early, but whatever, at least I wasn’t sweating. A friend told me this isn’t normal and sometimes she has to wait 50 minutes for the Jammie, but I don’t care. I will wait an hour if it means not scaring off classmates and having friends tell me I look sick and “a little red” when I run into them after my trek up the mountain.

I know this post is getting long, but I’m just going to keep going, so bear with me.
Or not, but I promise it’s interesting!

So last night some roommates and I went to a UCT rugby game. Rachel (roomie) and I Youtubed rugby rules before, which helped a little, but before long we got side tracked as I introduced Rachel to the wonder and profound greatness of the flash mob (she had never heard of a flash mob before!!). Luckily, roomie Lulu (from Namibia) understands rugby, so she explained the game to me.

Our team won!!!! YAY!

And that’s about all that I remember about the game itself. I’m still fuzzy on the rules, I know you can only pass the ball backwards, a try is worth 5 points, if you kick the ball (a field goal?) through the goal it’s worth 2 points, and I understand the circle of boys pushing each other, but I know no technical terms to explain it. And of course it was way more fun to talk to everyone around us than to actually try to watch the game. At most, Lulu would clue me in to when I should look because we were about to score a goal. I bought my token UCT rugby shirt and got a massage from the mascot (it was as weird as it sounds).

But have no fear sports lovers who are shaking their heads at me right now, I’m going to a Stormers (Cape Town’s team) game on Saturday where there will be people around to explain the game to us. I will understand rugby before I leave!!!!

And last but not least I’ll leave you with SHAWCO.

SHAWCO is a volunteer organization a bunch of friends and I joined here at UCT where we go to the townships and tutor kids. Today was our first day and it was absolutely amazing! We’re working at St. James, which is a children’s home, but we also tutor kids from a nearby elementary school. We’re supposed to be teaching math and life skills, but today was more of an introduction so we just played games.
The kids are GREAT.

When we got there, we were split up in groups to do ice breakers with the kids. A little boy grabbed my hand (my heart melted a bit) and when I asked his name it just so happened to be a Xhosa name. I can do the Xhosa clicks about as well as South Africans can walk fast, so after trying repeatedly we decided we would figure out a nickname.

We did some icebreakers, played some hula hoops games, got a game of soccer going, started a riveting game of duck, duck, goose, and pretty much did whatever the kids wanted to do. The group I was with decided to play all these singing games which included a lot of repeat-after-me lines and bootie shaking.

Sidenote: 8 year old South African girls have much better dance skills than I could ever aspire to have.

There’s definitely a song asking how big your bootie is and then you’re supposed to bring your bootie to the floor.
Kids after my own heart.

The cutest part though was when we left. The kids kept hugging us and saying goodbye, even the ones I hadn’t spoken to. I’ve got to admit, I’ve really missed 826Michigan and working with all the adorable little kids there, so SHAWCO is just what I needed. I’m so excited to go back next Tuesday, although it’s going to be a bummer to actually have to do work instead of playing around.

And I’m done!
Congratulations for making it through the longest blog post yet. I’ll try to update more often when I actually have things to talk about instead of waiting for one huge post. I still miss you all immensely, and I think you all should come visit me (like the lovely Sarah Hanson is: SO EXCITED).

Love your tan (for me) friend living it up in Cape Town.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guess who did the world's highest bungee???

A bunch of my friends.
And not me.

(Yeah, I know I might have told a few of you that I was planning on doing it, but it’s a long story, so let’s backtrack)

So first of all, sorry for not blogging for a while. I could pretend I’ve been super busy but the truth is I’ve just been super lazy. But after threats from friends and family if I don’t blog soon, I’ve decided I can procrastinate on sleeping before the first day of real class (WOOO!!! Not) and catch you all up.

This week was a free week before classes started, so some friends and I (17 of us to be exact) decided to drive the Garden Route. I already told you to Wikipedia it, so if you still don’t know what it is, shame on you. I think my friend Alicia said it best by yelling “IT’S SO PRETTY!!!” as we drove through the South African country side. I have to completely agree with her. However, the view was marred a bit by the lovely horrible car we were given to drive.

This week was the week parliament opened in South Africa, which apparently means that almost all of the rental cars are unavailable. Lucky for us, our group was able to get the 4 cars necessary, our car being an automatic because we’re the silly Americans who aren’t taught how to drive stick shift in drivers ed.

Our car sucked.

It probably went from 0 to 100 km per hour in about 5 minutes. Which really was not helpful while we were driving through the constant hills and mountains of the Garden Route.

By the way, I totally drove the car. It took a bit to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and to get used to the fact that there really are no rules of the road in South Africa. For example, you pass cars anytime you want, no matter if you’re climbing a hill with no end in sight and no way to see if cars are coming. I think South African drivers are taught offensive driving in drivers ed.

So the trip to our hostel took about 7 hours of driving the first day. I must say my first hostel experience was pretty terrific. It was clean, the showers were nice, and the people running it were so helpful and friendly.
Definitely not like the movie.

So Day 2 was bungee day!!!!
It didn’t help that the whole night before I dreamed of different ways the bungee jump could go wrong. In one dream, the rope broke, in another I was told if I bungeed in shorts my legs would fall off, and I’m pretty sure in another one they just didn’t give me a rope at all.

So yeah, it would be an understatement to say I was already freaking out a bit by the time we left for bungee. Then our car decided to make the decision for me.

About ¾ of the way to the jump, our car got a flat tire. No biggie right? Well our car was full of 5 American girls who had no idea how to change a tire. And even if we did, none of us were comfortable getting out of the car to do it, considering all the warnings we got about safety first while in Africa. So walking around on the side of a highway in who-knows-where South Africa didn’t seem like the best idea. Luckily enough for us, one of our Norwegian roommates came back to change our tire.

Of course that was only after he registered and checked in for bungee jumping.
Leaving us stranded for about 30 minutes on the side of the highway.
Where any number of horrible things could have happened to us.
But no hard feelings…
(He still gets bonus points since he actually came back)

Needless to say, by the time we actually got to the bungee jump, I was stressed beyond belief and in no mood to jump off a bridge. Actually, I think I could have still done it if I had gone straight to registration and not to the viewing-area where I watched a couple of people jump off of the highest bungee bridge in the world.
Big mistake.

So, sorry to let all of you down who thought I was actually going to do something really cool, but the bungee didn’t happen. They had a TV inside which showed the people right before they were about to jump and then the jump itself and I’ve got to say, I got stressed enough watching my friends get ready to jump.

So I may have lost a few cool points in your book, but I’m still in Africa and you (sadly) aren’t, so I still win.

Anyways, after bungee we got to go to an elephant sanctuary.

So fricken cool.

We got to walk with an elephant hand-in-trunk and pet them and feed them and pose with them. I know you’re all dying for pictures (especially you dad), but I forgot my camera at the hostel that day.
But no fear, friends took pictures of me with the elephants, so when they’re able to get free internet they’ve promised to upload them.

Also, the elephant sanctuary gave us a little biology lesson about elephants. Surprisingly enough, I still remember a lot of what they told us, so if you ever need to know a random fact about elephants, there’s a very good chance I’ll know it.
I'm hoping it will come in handy during Charley's Trivia one day.

After the elephant sanctuary, we headed back to the hostel and spent the night hanging out. Some friends showed up at the hostel unexpectedly, so we ended up basically taking up the entire hostel. It was a great time, and I learned of a new drink that all of you must come visit me and try.

It is called the Springbok and it is absolutely delicious.

They next day we headed back to Cape Town, and since then I've had syllabus day (which apparently only exchange students and freshman go to, yay for me!), spent a day at the beach (amazing) and today we went to a flea market where I tried my hand at bargaining.

Sidenote: Bargaining is way harder than it sounds. Especially when the vendors start bargaining prices down before you’ve even decided if you like what they’re offering, so you end up almost buying it anyways just because it’s such a good price. Sneaky.

I successfully bargained down a canvas painting of Africa and a friend and I bargained down cute bags. I probably still overpaid, but hey, for my first time I’m proud I didn’t just agree to the original price.

I’m sure I’ll be visiting more markets like this closer to when I’m leaving to get presents for all you lovely people. The one thing I need to remember to get is a vuvuzela. Because, really, who can leave South Africa without an obnoxiously wonderful vuvuzela?

So that has been my last week. I’m going to try to go back on the Garden Route again, since there were so many things we still want to do, such as going to Monkey World, or a Cheetah Reserve, or a Game Reserve.

And who knows, maybe the second time’s the charm when it comes to bungee jumping??

Or maybe I should just sign up for sky diving, much less scary.

It’s crazy to think that I’m starting classes tomorrow. Cape Town is such a vacation. I can’t imagine being here and actually having to go to class and do work. But I guess that is the reason I’m here, so I’ll just have to suck it up. Plus, all of my classes seem really cool, so I’m excited to actually get into the content (nerd, I know).

So I’m going to head to bed, or at least attempt to. I really need to learn to stop taking naps in the middle of the day so I can actually sleep at night. But I’d like to wish an early (well not for me) Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!!!

I know you all are probably dying to be my Valentine, but sadly for you, Corinne got there first. And I’m convinced that if I keep telling people she’s going to buy me a singing stuffed-animal it will actually happen.
It would be awesome to have a singing-stuffed Valentine's Day stuffed animal from London (hint hint)

But good bye for now, and I’ll try to update more often, since I know how thrilling it is to hear my commentary of South Africa!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ostrich, Lines, Crocodile, Beach!!!

I know I need to work on more exciting titles, but I hate titles, so deal.

So the past few days have been pretty busy. Our house hosted its first ever braai (barbecue for those of you who don't know the local South African lingo) the other night. It had a rocky start, as some of my roommates bought cooking oil instead of lighter fluid and then we ended up pouring it on most of the charcoal. However, the German boys saved the day and with a lot of extra kindling and fanning we they managed to get the coals lit and burning.

It’s funny, when you’re an international student in a different country, you end up making friends with almost every other international student. Which would explain the 30+ people that showed up to our braai. Thank God we have such a big house. Rachel (roommate from Connecticut College) was so adorable, going around asking everyone if they needed a drink or something to eat. My job for the night was carrying my keys so I could unlock our security gate and let our guests into the yard.

I must say I completely rocked my job.

And bonus: We got to meet our South African neighbors. Well at least two of them. Haley (fellow U of Mer) and I were trying to figure out the style here in South Africa. We still can’t figure it out. There are a lot of the blonde surfer types, but then with weird twists like wearing a V-neck that looks like someone just cut a V in the front with scissors.
Or mullets.
We have seen way to many mullets for comfort.
But whatever, their accents totally make up for it.

Anyways, I’m sure you’re wondering where ostrich comes in. Apparently it’s very common to eat ostrich here, so of course we had to by some for the braai and try it.


Yeah, that’s about all I can say to describe that.

So after having our first successful braai under our belt, it was time to take on registration.

Never have I appreciated Wolverine Access so much.
Day 1: Pre-registration: This was the day we had to stand in line for about an hour just so they could check our passports, visas and make sure we paid our fees and then enter all of that into their system. That would be legitimate, if they didn’t already have all of this information in our handy-dandy personal files. But still, it’s only 1 hour wasted.

Day 2: Registration: Not cool UCT, not cool. You know how at home you pick out all of your classes online and then register for them and you’re done in 3 seconds? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. Here you get a thick book of courses, and they’re courses offered for the entire year, so you have to make sure the course you want to take is even offered that semester. So the morning of registration, we walked up the mountain in 90 degree weather. We arrive and I’m literally sweating buckets (not my prettiest look let me tell you). We then have to fill out our courses by paper, and get them approved by an advisor. Not bad. We then have to walk half-way across middle campus to a computer lab to have our courses entered online. Also not bad. In that same computer lab we have to get our computer information and change our password. Still okay. Then we got walked down to a 4 hour long line to get our student ids. Yeah right. So when we were told there was a shorter line in lower campus, we braved the Jammie and found it. 3 hour line in the sun. Which prompted us to leave and eat lunch in a lovely shaded place with smoothies and decide to get our ids next week.

It probably doesn’t sound that bad, but we had to do all this with almost no direction. Some of my friends didn’t end up changing their passwords because no one told them about it. I only ended up changing mine because one of the computer techs literally grabbed my arm and told me I needed to do it. Also, even though we’re registered for our classes, we still don’t know where our classes are or when and where our tutorials (discussions) are. Apparently there are lists posted around campus with locations next week, so it looks like we’ll be having another nice hike up the mountain next week to find our classes. Not cool UCT. It really is true that in Africa nothing is rushed. Ever.

I think if they gave me a week in charge of UCT I could whip everyone into shape. You all know how spazzy and high-strung I am, I could get lines moving like no other!

Alright, so after having to deal with registration, we all deserved a treat. We decided to splurge on dinner and go to a tourist spot called Mama Africa. It was definitely worth the money, there was live local music (that was added to our bill, figures) and amazing food! And guess what??

I ate crocodile.
Suck that, Gustave!!!!

I’ve got to say it was quite empowering eating my worst fear. And quite delicious too. They served it with a peanut sauce which was equally delicious. My friend Kelsey and I saw a TV crew in the restaurant so she of course took a picture of it just in case it was something like the food network.

OH, and sidenote: Some girls saw Denzel Washington at the beach a couple of days ago. Apparently he’s shooting a movie here. I know many of you probably already saw this on my facebook, but it’s definitely worth sharing multiple times. We plan on stalking that beach this weekend.

Okay, and on to today. Today was beach day. We went to Muizenberg, which was amazing and beautiful!!!! If you’ve ever googled pictures of Cape Town, Muizenberg beach has probably popped up. It’s a really popular tourist destination because of all the multi-colored cabanas that are on the beach. Also it’s very popular for surfing, as we saw today with the 548729758420 surfers chilling in the water. Some friends and I have already decided to go back this next week (when it’s not as busy, so it’s harder for me to kill someone) and get a surfing lesson, which is a very important skill for a girl from Northern Michigan to have.

Many of you will probably be shocked by this statement, but today was the first time I have ever swam in the ocean.
You can gasp, most of my friends here did.

The only other times I’ve ever been to the ocean, it was wayyyy too cold to go swimming. So today was the day. The biggest thing I’m going to take away from it is that ocean water tastes gross. In the Great Lakes, if you swallow a bit of water, no biggie, it takes like water. Here, if you swallow a bit of water you immediately need to chug a bottle of fresh water just to battle severe dehydration.

Also, I went into the ocean with sunglasses on. My friend Kaushal warned me against it. He promised I would lose them, but I was all “No way, I’ll hold on to them, no big deal.”

The ocean is now in possession of my sunglasses.
My bad.

Ooooo, another random sidenote: Funny enough, My first 5 days in Cape Town, I didn’t fall, stub my toe, run into any pointy or hard objects or do anything my normal clumsy self would do. My roommates actually didn’t believe me when I told them I was really really clumsy.

Now they do.

The other night we all went out to a club called Tiger Tiger. I giggle each time I say the name, it’s just so hard to take seriously. Anyways, while there one of the OL’s bought all of us shots. By this time I was a tiny bit inebriated already (but I’m legal mom and dad, so it’s totally cool), so one moment I was holding the shot glass and the next I wasn’t. Ooops. I thought everything was good though because Tiny didn’t notice at all, but then one of my housemates Denise noticed her knee was bleeding. Yup, I dropped a shot glasses and a piece of broken glass jumped back up and cut Denise’s knee. Since then I’ve run into my bed post at least 8 times, although I haven’t fallen yet (knock on wood) which is quite a feat considering the mountain I have to walk up and down.

So that is an update of my life for the past few days. We’re still figuring out what we’re going to do next week, whether we want to travel the Garden Route, or just do a day tour of the Wine Lands. We do know that we want to take surfing lessons (and a housemate, Brett, who’s from California and surfs just told me he would totally teach me. Score), along with sandboarding, which apparently is like snowboarding down a sand dune, with no protection. We’ll see how that one works out.

But anyways, I know I’m not the best at posting pictures, so here’s a link to my friend Kelsey’s album. She said it’s set to public, so you should be able to look at the pictures. My favorite is of the baboon we saw sitting on a car at the Cape of Good Hope. I’d like to know how you’re exactly supposed to handle that situation.


Well I must go and get ready for the night. I love and miss you all!!!

P.S. We found an internet café just around the corner that I should be able to skype from, so skype dates are becoming more and more of a possibility in the near future!! YAY!