Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Uniquely South African Experience....That I won't forget.

At Stone Hurst the sink has two faucets one with hot water one with cold neither with warm thus you must cup your hand to capture half freezing water and half scorching to have warmish water.

In this same line of thought showers taken before 8:30am are burning hot and post are frigidly cold. Thus we have adapted to these polar temperatures by putting only part of your body under the stream in at a time to brave the temperature. This results in a very awkward shower experience and either blue or red skin when you exit the bathroom.

Room 11 also has a special feature where the light switch for the bathroom is the same as the big bright light in the middle of the bedroom. Thus at 3 in the morning when needing to take a quick bathroom break you must either go in the pitch black or blast your roommate with the main light.

The 100 year old paper thin walls also allow for an extremely intimate relationship with everyone in the house as all can be heard and if you perchance missed a minuet piece of chitchat Mr. Tingle will be sure to carry the news from room to room.

Central Heating here equates to more blankets.

The train’s ghetto fabulous graffiti d├ęcor coupled with the sopping wet floor after a storm and blind singing duos provide for a unique traveling commute to and from work. Also the local’s affinity for using Sarah’s shoulder as a headrest on our way home always brings me a good laugh.

Mini Bus experiences could be an entire separate volume of work however for the sake of brevity I will say this… 5 rand will take you to the city center but this doesn’t guarantee you arrive alive nor does it mean a fight will not break out in the mini bus or that you will have your own seat or any sense of calm. Twenty-four people can be stuffed into the mini bus to zoom through tiny streets and doors may or may not close thus you may or may not remain in the car. However if your lucky there will be a disco/strobe light and blaring techno or rap which creates a rave-like ambiance at 8am that ultimately distracts you from the driver’s insanely reckless race car maneuvers.

As for white South African Men, they are super models who are constantly posing with blonde bowl cuts, mustaches, revealing v-neck shirts, mantini’s, or man tanks and pointy shoes. Hilariously this has created situations of great ambiguity for our group in terms of date-ability. (One word people…EVO!) Fortunately we did make lasting friendships with a South African girl by the name of Zebranna who has assisted in making our experiences abroad more robust.

Additionally beggars here are persistent and driven. In America if you say no to someone asking for money they become defeatist however here in South Africa they are even more committed to the task of taking your money and or giving you the screw driver. After dark these individuals become intoxicated with the joy of seeing tourists and insist on helping you spend your money or assist with use of your ATM card. These people will walk with you for ten blocks, they will wait 45 minutes for you to order Chinese take out, they will make fun of you, and they will even try to seduce you with ridiculous poses, deep stares, and kissy faces. This shows the diversity of strategies operationalized here to ensure the financial success of beggars.

Half built freeways with giant vuvuzelas, incomplete ferris wheels, empty construction sites, unfinished train stations, beautification paralysis, are all indicative of time management values. In Cape Town its cool to arrive late, leave early, and have a 2 hour lunch. Amazing!!!

Oh and vuvuzelas are considered a musical instrument here while under normal constraints are viewed as crappy noise producing plastic horns that are blow incessantly to dive visitors to the brink of insanity.

The food here is great! Well just don’t eat Chinese, Japanese, or Mexican or anything other than game meat & Malva pudding. Warthog, Kudu aka Bambi, Oxen, Crocodile, Ostrich, Springbuck are all delicious meats and also if you love sauce you will love it here. Sarah & I once ordered a burger from Steers and asked if there was mayo and yes there was mayo as well as tomato sauce, mustard sauce, bbq sauce, garlic sauce, spicy, and special sauce- no idea what special sauce is. Pretty saucy.

Now I could go on and on about the hilarious little daily oddities one picks up on when living abroad in South Africa but Ill stop here so that these all surprises are not revealed. It has been a wonderful experience with wonderful people and I will carry these memories with me. “So remember just smile smile and wink wink.”

With Love,


Ten Students, Four Stadiums, Many Allegiances

Although not the focal point of our program by any means, the 2010 FIFA World Cup has garnered our occasional attention. Oh who am I kidding, we have yet to miss a match! The constant activity has been a detriment to our health and sleep, but it has been truly unforgettable. For the first game June 11th we all descended on Long Street and watched Bafana Bafana score the World Cup’s first goal, and the bedlam that ensued will not be forgotten by any of us. Although South Africa has since bowed out of the tournament, they played well and should be proud hosts.

As for our little group, we all unanimously and vocally support the USA, which gave us all a heart attack followed by the most exhilarating thrilling goal in their history yesterday in winning their group and advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup. But many of us have diverse backgrounds and support other teams. For my own part, I support Spain and Chile, two countries I studied abroad in as well as having familial ties with Spain. Amparo is Mexican, Christiane is from Cote d’Ivoire, Daniel’s family comes from Argentina, and Maria’s family is from Chile. Karinna, as we’ve been told once or twice, is from Peru, but they have the misfortune of playing in South America and did not qualify. Aubrey assures us she would have supported Ireland to the death had it not been for France’s cheating hand goal in the last qualifying game.

But allegiances or no, we all just want to be a part of the action. We supported Bafana Bafana with all our new South African friends, Dan and Aubrey have attended numerous games in Cape Town through Grassroots Soccer, and most of us went to the Italy v. Paraguay game in Cape Town. Some of us trekked to Johannesburg to see the US play Slovenia, where Daniel got very confused with HIS allegiances and the referee got confused with the rule book. Others went out to Port Elizabeth to see Chile v. Switzerland. And Christiane lucked into a free ticket to see the Ivory Coast play Brazil at Soccer City, site of the World Cup final. The ultimate impact and legacy of this World Cup in South Africa remains to be seen, but in the short term it has been a tremendous success and a pleasure to be a part of.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

South Africa Program Students Featured on TV!

Univision Futbol's Horacio Scagliotti interviews Amparo and Karinna (partial translation below), two women creating their own story during the World Cup. They are doing development work through their internships at Inyathelo, the South African Institute for Advancement. Amparo describes how Inyathelo aids smaller organizations working to improve the quality of life and provide social programs for impoverished populations. Karinna notes that working with Inyathelo has given her an opportunity to understand the nation beyond the experience of a tourist. She has traveled to different neighborhoods and spoken to many different people, helping her to gain a truer understanding of the "real" South Africa. The two are taking a short break from working to improve the quality of life and distribution of resources for thousands of South Africans to enjoy the World Cup festivities in the barrio of Gugulethu. Fellow program participants Justin, Christiane and Daniel also appear in the video.

Partial Translation:

Univision: Many youth are here in Cape Town to enjoy the World Cup festivities, and some of these are creating their own stories. That is the case for Latin Americans Karinna and Amparo.

Amparo: I'm working for Inyathelo, an association that helps other organizations with development, particularly small organizations that are aiding poor sectors of the population receiving social programs in South Africa.

Karinna: I've had the opportunity to go to townships, to work with poorer youth, talk with the people, to converse with the people, to understand how they live. It's very different than the tourist experience, to go to the "real" South Africa.

Univision: They are enjoying the festive environment as a result of the World Cup this weekend in Gugulethu. The institute they work for helps to create a better distribution of resources, particularly for vulnerable populations, and improving the quality of life of thousands of people receiving social programs.

Last week in Cape Town

This past weekend, we all went on our own somewhat separate adventures into different cities in South Africa. This is the first time we got to go somewhere different, not in the vicinity of Cape Town. Karinna, Maria, Justin and I went to Port Elizabeth(PE) to watch the Chile vs. Switzerland game. Actually Justin had a pit stop in Joburg for the USA game. What a game that was! We drove to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town on the garden route which is as beautiful as it sounds. There are no gardens per say but the mountains, the water, the green grass, ostriches, cows, and countryside were all a great escape from the city. I was pleasantly surprised by PE. We did not get to explore much of it, but I got the feeling it was a smaller city to maybe settle down and raise a family. You definitely need a car there to get around, but it’s not big and seems quiet and maybe even safe, although some of the white people we talked to seemed to act like it wasn’t. The stadium there was smaller than the one in Cape Town, but the energy was much better since the last game we attended (Italy vs. Paraguay) it was raining so it was hard to get as excited when you’re freezing and wet. Also, we met up with Chilean friends of Maria and Karinna, so we had a great time in Jeffrey’s Bay, which is about 30 minutes from PE. It’s the old hippie, surfer hang-out apparently. We wanted to surf, but the waves were terrible, so we decided it wasn’t worth it. The water was really cold too. But we got to be on the beach and relax a bit in a quieter setting. The night of the game, it was not as quiet since we were around the rowdy Swiss and Chileans. The Swiss people didn’t bother to speak to us (we probably wouldn’t understand and we had Chilean flags on our faces), but we enjoyed their chants since they sat behind us in the game. The game should’ve been about 4-0, but Chile won by only one point. It was quite a game since we were sitting be the goal and the entire second half was dominated by the Chilean team. I think the Swiss got lucky in the Spain game and even though they lost this one, they also got very lucky. Now, it’s time to cheer on Mexico against the bloody Argentinians. Mexico lost last night 1-0 but I think they can take on Argentina. It’ll be a great game, but we are leaving Cape Town the same day to go to Namibia so we might not be able to watch it. A few of us are continuing our travels through southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique). I am thrilled about getting to spend time in rural areas, in villages, and not just cities/towns. I have had an amazing time in Cape Town and South Africa in general, but we have only been to cities or towns and since SA is more developed than the rest of Africa, I am excited to see other regions and explore other cultures.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shikorina in South Africa Part II

The most impressive thing I have done so far (since I last posted) was shark cage diving. I cannot believe I went in the water and had a great white shark right in front of my face. Actually it hit the cage close to where I was. It was the craziest experience in my life. Another place in the world to do this is Australia but you need to travel on boat for 20 hours. Here we traveled 25 minutes and we arrived. But it was not a pleasant 25 minutes, out of the five of us that went, we all got so sick. First time in my life getting sea sick ... so what? You put up with it and just go in the water and swim with the sharks!! Haha that was great

Another crazy experience was to go to a party in the Township. It began at 1 pm and it ended about 7 pm. The vibe I felt there is only comparable to Rio de Janerio, Brazil. It was about 80% locals and 20% tourists. They had a braii and the food was amazing !!!! It was a crazy Sunday, but it was nice to go there instead of our traditional place in Camps Bay on Sunday nights. But do not get me wrong Camps Bay continues to be my favorite place in Cape Town.

Other than activities, it has been two weeks so far in the internship. At work the cleaning lady only speaks to me in Afrikans, and I have no idea what she is saying. But I have picked up a few words! We get to the internship on mini-shuttles, they are super cheap! Its nice because we also get a sense of how the majority of South Africans commute daily to work. Just the thought that mini-shuttles could stop running for the World Cup bothers me. I guess in this case since I use this form of public transportation I feel the same way as locals. And by the way speaking of it, the World Cup begins today, and my next post will be about it!! South Americans have invaded this city, and that is great for me ;)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've eaten more animals in Cape Town than in the rest of my life combined . . .

Greetings all! Aubrey here. The resident (co-resident) law student/Master's student. The third week of our trip has offered us a whole new experience. Working and commuting in Cape Town. Like most major cities Cape Town knows the heart-wrenching time of day known as rush hour. Luckily, and unlike some of our counter-parts, Daniel, Matt, Ben and I are all interning in Cape Town's CBD (central business district). Daniel and I are at GrassRoot Soccer (; a really great organization that teaches kids (mostly in and from local townships) about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. FIFA built them a nice Soccer for Hope field and building inside Khayelitsha where kids can play on a nice turf field and have some classrooms to learn and do programs in. We've been to the site twice so far and it's really amazing to see these kids having a great time and learning valuable information at the same time. As you may know, the World Cup is also coming up and Sony has been kind enough to donate 15,000 tickets to kids in the GRS programs across the country. Daniel and I are crossing our fingers that we will get to get in on the ticket windfall. It was suggested today that we may get to go to the Cameroon-Netherlands game (apparently the best in Cape Town). Keeping our fingers crossed!

And now I'll leave you with a list of animals I have so far eaten while in Cape Town, starting with the least interesting: chicken, cow, pig, lamb, deer, kudu, elan, ox, wildebeest, ostrich, crocodile, warthog. We'll keep this list going as the weeks go by.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Shikorina in South Africa

Hey all this is who Ben referred to as “Chica-Rina”, but my actual name is “Shikorina” it is “dear” for Tigrinya in Eritrea! But haha that is my African nickname, this is Karinna here. My travel buddies, now my friends, have said pretty much all! But here is some of the mental notes I have taken. This city is very modern, not what I expected…even tap water is drinkable and is better than in DC !!! Now that is something! I have never been to a place like this, especially in the developing world!!! Coming from Latin America, yes I would have “died” doing this.

Another interesting aspect of this city is the amounts of white people I see. Partially because of where we are staying, but UCT feels like the USA sometimes, same racial clicks in a way. But cool stuff on campus such as Rhodes Status and this room where Martin Luther King was banned from speaking and where Kennedy spoke!!! And the best part of it all was that professor Hirchmann told us this story because he witnessed this at his time in UCT. How great is to have a professor from the country we are passionately studying?

I do not think I have ever eaten that many different animals in my life ... so far, crocodile, ostrich, deer, warthog, oxtail ... my favourite is bambie !!! But even when we do not eat exotic animals we get to go to places to try some Cape-Malaysian food with a beautiful view in front of table mountain or even better go out to dinner to the Langa Township, THE BEST PLACE IN CT!!!

First Day at the Internship

After a busy two weeks of lectures, site visits, sight-seeing and adaptation, we are starting the internship component of the program today. The last two weeks were informative, fun, and at times tiring, but overall a comprehensive introduction to the history, politics, and development of South Africa. We really crammed as much as we could into the two weeks and I feel I've learned quite a bit about the country pre and post apartheid. All the lecturers and practitioners on the field who talked to us were engaging and informative and the visits to organizations and must-see tourist spots enhanced the experience.
We visited the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and Cape Aguilas, the southermost tip of Africa. This past weekend we were at a Game Reserve on the Garden Route. We roamed the terrain with zebras, rhinos, giraffes, lions, springbok, wildebeest and other animals and then had a huge buffet dinner where we tried some of the wildebeest and eland. Delicious meat. We had previously tasted kudu, alligator, warthog, ostrich, and springbok, so we are adding to our list of exotic meats and to our growing bellies. We have also eaten Cape Malay food and North Indian food, which was all delicious!
So now we begin the new chapter of this program, which is the internship. We are all in different organizations, in different locations, and hopefully overall we will learn and grow professionally and personally in our respective internships. Although it is only a month, I feel like I will gain skills and knowledge that I can apply in the future.
I am looking forward to the World Cup in a few days. I have tickets to two games! I'm looking forward to Mexico vs. South Africa, the first game. Vamos MEXICO! (i'll be happy for SA, if they win, but this is unlikely.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two Weeks In

As the first two weeks of the seminar portion of our trip is drawing to a close, I spent some time and reflected on some experiences thus far.

Having traveled a decent amount and living on my own in a variety of settings, I figured South Africa would be pretty easy to adjust to. However, I underestimated the developmental transition SA is still going through after my electronics in my checked luggage was jacked. I also came to terms with an egregiously inappropriate porter and African internet (think dial-up circa 1999 and hair pulling).

However, I am having the time of my life with an exciting and diverse group of SIS graduate students (with the exception being me) interested in learning and experiencing as much of South Africa as possible. One of my proudest accomplishments thus far has been learning the shimi dance from the lively Peruvian, Chica-Rina.
With these awesome people, we have been traveling the past 14 days around Cape Town in our Mystery Machine. We have gone to the southwestern tip of Africa, and many places in between. Each new lecture and site visit provides a better glimpse of the incredibly unique, diverse, and beautiful characteristics that make South Africa what it is.

Four Seasons in a Day

Cape Town is a city of incredible contrasts. Most readily apparent is the volatile weather and the rapid shift from shanty towns to a gorgeous seaside metropolis. What sets Cape Town apart from the model of squatter villages you see surrounding major Latin American and Asian cities is the racial segregation of its impoverished areas. During the apartheid era a shortage in labor lead to the creation of townships to bring black and colored labor closer to the white urban areas without actually residing in them. Even though apartheid has long since ended, these townships still exist and remain racially separated. They continue to grow as the government provides more free housing and as poverty continues to increase.

One township we visited, Langa, is right next to Cape Town’s airport. A quick ride from our quality drivers Rithwan and Zaid down the N2 will put you right on the V&A Waterfront and the luxurious seaside Cape Town residences. Our residence is just down the street from Clifton and Camps Bay, posh neighborhoods with homes owned by David Beckman, Madonna, and others. If you opt for the M3, you’ll find yourself going from Langa to Newlands and other ritzy areas in a mere 15 minutes.

Less heart-wrenching but more physically taxing is the constant changing weather. Cape Town can be hot enough to tempt you to surf at 1PM, and freezing cold by 5PM. South Africa, like many other countries, does not believe in central heating, preferring tons of blankets and the occasional space heater to keep you warm indoors. Also, on one side of Table Mountain you may find low ominous clouds and on the other discover a gorgeous day fit for a stroll through Kirstenbosch gardens.

One thing you will not be in this city is bored. If you don’t like the scene, drive five minutes in any direction. If you don’t like the weather, wait. And pray you don't get sick!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We arrived in Cape town 12 days ago after 25 hours of traveling across the Atlantic and the entire African continent. Since that arrival I have never felt so white and so rich in my life and sure that should have been evident when preparing to travel to Africa however I am from Hawaii and because I have been a minority my entire life I was disillusioned into thinking this experience would be comparable. This experience is not comparable. I naively thought my living experience in Hawaii couple with living in Washington DC would allow me to easily adapt to poorer conditions and manage stark racial dichotomies but here in South Africa the extent of dissonance among different identity groups is exploited by the vast inequality which has metastasized here throughout history.
Now it is easy to think South Africa and specifically Cape town is developing, evolving, and modernizing however the existence of such entrenched and vast inequality has been predominantly muted and avoided. Tourists see the fancy new Green Point Stadium, the sparkling Water Front, Land Rovers roaming around Cape Hope, celebrity mansions in Cliffton, wineries in Stellenbosch, night clubs on Claremont, and hotels/restaurants in Kloof but they don't venture one step away to the Langa or Khayelitsha township or ride the mini buses or eat at Mama Sheila's or speak with the unemployed or HIV ridden population. Tourists see only what they allow themselves to see. And through these past twelve days we no longer are just tourists or by-passers, we are lenses trying to make visible the contradictions and realities that exist here to carry back with us.
I think the reality is that this country is bipolar. It is both beautiful and violent, forgiving and vengeful, rich and decrepit, and ultimately its future is precarious. There is no sense of peace here there is only an absence of media worthy conflict. I have never been so frustrated and so motivated at the same time thus this bipolarity extends to me as well. Regardless this experience has been incredible and if people allow themselves to see the inequality you cant help but what to lessen the gap. I hope to be a force in lessening the gap rather than perpetuating its widening trend with nonsensical economic policy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Our First Week in Cape Town

Hello and welcome to the account of our summer studying and interning in Cape Town, South Africa!

My name is Sarah Carter and I'm one of ten students from AU studying in Cape Town this summer. We all come from different academic backgrounds at AU, some of us are studying international development, others economic relations, and still others law. I'm studying for my masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and I came to South Africa to learn about conflict resolution and the end of apartheid, democracy building, and development in areas where poverty and unemployment are extremely high.

The SIS study abroad program in South Africa offers the opportunity to learn about peacebuilding in a foreign country from the inside and features a two week seminar on democracy and development in South Africa and a month long internship at a local organization. I'll be working at a local NGO called PASSOP, which stands for People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression, and Poverty. You can check out their website online here:

Over the past week we've had our first lectures on several different topics, including race and class divisions, crime, the political history, the upcoming World Cup, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and economic development. We have most of our lectures at the University of Cape Town. UCT is built on the hillside and has a lower, middle, and upper campus. The view from the upper campus is just beautiful, looking out over the city, and Table Mountain rises up behind the university.

Pictured above (from left to right): Amparo, Sarah (me!), David, Christiane, Karinna, and Maria
Pictured below: The University of Cape Town; Jameson Hall and the main street

As you can see in the pictures, the vines on the buildings are all red and brown. It is the winter season in the Southern hemisphere. It has been cold at night (low 50s/upper 40s) and mild during the day (60s). Our group is staying in a historic house, built in 1893. Because of the mild climate, most homes in South Africa don't have heating, including our house. Not only does it not have heating, but it has an open courtyard in the middle. It's very airy and the nights get a little chilly. I'm so glad I brought an extra blanket with me! You can see pictures of the guesthouse (called Stonehurst) online here: It is wonderful to stay in the guest house, though, because we have the chance to meet other guests and our housemates. I had dinner with two guests that are in Cape Town for a construction job, and our conversation around the table took place in English, Xhosa, and Zulu. Another night we had a tradition braii (BBQ) and the owner of Stonehurst cooked us all wonderful grilled bread and sausages. Yet another evening Ben and I spent over an hour discussing local and international politics, leadership, and spirituality over a cup of tea with Stonehurst's manager. Getting to know South Africans in this informal and friendly setting has been a unique and interesting experience!

Last Friday, we had our first lecture and a tour of UCT. That night we went out to dinner as a group to a restaurant called A Touch of Madness. It was fun getting to know the other students better and trying some new foods, like springbok and kudu, which are like venison.

Saturday was the best day so far! After a rainy and cold first few days, it was glorious and sunny weather. Our professor led us on a tour of the Cape peninsula, through the many coastal towns all the way to the Cape of Good Hope. We stopped to admire the view in a few spots, and the guide pointed out Seal Island in the bay. This island is where they filmed the great white sharks jumping out of the water to catch seals on Planet Earth. Next we visited Boulder's Beach for a short walk. Boulder's beach is famous for its penguin inhabitants. The penguins were right there in their nests with their chicks! They were so cute!

Along the drive we also saw a family of baboons and several ostriches on the side of the road. I was so surprised to see them so closely. A male baboon got up and walked right up next to the car, sat down, and observed us. When we started the car and pulled away, he didn't run or even move, but just watched as we drove off. Baboons can be quite dangerous, I learn from Margeaux (our University of Cape Town liaison), for they can be extremely destructive when they are trying to get food if they get into your house or your car.

The best part of the day was our hike to the Cape Point. I'm scared of heights, so I don't often hike up mountains or along cliff tops, but I made it up to the top and enjoyed it! I was so proud of myself for making it all the way up to the lighthouse! The view was just stunning and I was determined to stand at the southern most point in Western Africa!

We've had such a busy week, full of new sights, new foods, new people, and new ideas. I can't wait for what's to come.


Friday, April 30, 2010