Monday, July 27, 2009

The First Two Weeks

Hello All,

I realize that this is rather late for my first post, but it has been quite hectic the last 2 weeks. I arrived on July 12 and started my experience in South Africa with a 10 hour layover in Johannesburg followed by an overnight stay in the Cape Town International Airport.

Since then all has been good. We spent two days in a hotel to help us get acquainted with South Africa, the CIEE Staff, other CIEE service-learning participants. Since then we have moved into our permanent stay for the rest of the semester. For those who do not know, I am living in a house with eight other participants and one RA. The RA (Patrick) and myself (also Patrick) constitute the only males in our household of ten residents. Everything is working out very well thus far and everyone is gelling together quite nicely.

After our arrival in our house we went through our University of Cape Town orientation, the school in which we are attending (kind of). The majority of our work is done through CIEE and we don't have classes with other UCT students. The nine of us all take our classes together. However, we have full access to UCT libraries, computer labs, societies, athletic clubs, and our classes are held on the UCT campus. The service-learning program used to be more affiliated with UCT, but it was interfering with our service work so it as moved in another direction. This way makes sure that we can attend all of our classes and be at our service sites on time and daily.

Regardless, during UCT's orientation we took a trip to Cape Point/The Cape of Good Hope (the most south-west tip of Africa). Along the way we saw penguins and a hip hop song and dance performance in Ocean View. Ocean View is a colored township, just outside of Cape Town. Colored has a different meaning in SA than it does in the US. In SA colored refers to people of mixed race. Even though it many colored people appear black or white, the majority of South Africans can tell the differences between white, black, and colored. Also when I mentioned townships I was speaking of communities in which blacks and coloreds were segregated and removed from there homes in the cities. Townships for the most part are impoverished and have large numbers of unemployment.

We have taken two tours through townships. During these tours we have visited the various sites in which we can serve throughout the semester. I am currently deciding between two sites. I am currently leaning on working with an organization that works for equal education, but I am also considering an organization that works with young people in prison.

This is the week where I will decide what I site I will work at. We started classes today. We only have one class on Mondays and it is my language class. I chose to take Xhosa instead of Afrikaans. Xhosa is one of the 11 official languages in SA, and is spoken mostly by blacks in the Western Cape. Afrikaans is spoken by white Afrikaners (dutch decedents) and colored people. We had our first class today so I am still learning all of the clicks, but it was fun.

Well this was a lot, and I promise my other posts will not be so long. But I hope you are all doing well. Talk to you soon.

Salani kakuhle. ("Good-bye" to a group of people in Xhosa)

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