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.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha I love that you´re considered a fast walker in South Africa! I´m so proud! I would never be able to survive there, clearly. At least in Spain there´s enough room for me to weave like I usually do. Also, my mom got really excited that you mentioned me (yes, my mom reads your blog).

    ALSO, why is it that I always comment on your blog but you NEVER comment on mine, hmm? The one comment I ever got from you just said "I LOVE BEJEWELED!!!" And while that´s perfectly legitimate and also applies to this post, nobody ever comments on my blog, and if anyone should, it´s you because I comment all the time.