One week!

Okay, I lied again. Here I am posting, with one week before I fly out…

But that’s the thing, you see. It is one week until I fly out. Seven days. 168 hours. I am working hard to finish my work for CMC (I should be working on my internship paper…) & SIT (or reading I Write What I Like), but I had to take a few minutes to freak out.

I’m lucky, because most of my freak out is pure excitement. I am not particularly nervous about being in South Africa for 4 1/2 months. Of course, I am a little. But I’ve been there, I know some people there, and I’m a smart, safe person. So mostly, I’m excited. 

On Sunday, I was in Massachusetts. One of my teachers, the reason I went to South Africa for the first time, has a nonprofit that runs service trips for South Africa. She added a Young Adult Advisory Board, which I am a member of, so I went for a meeting. She showed us a video of her most recent trip, and it made me miss South Africa so much! It’s so beautiful there, and all of the people I met the last time were incredible. The kids I worked with are getting so old, too! I really hope I have time to see them this semester.

Honestly, what I’m most nervous about is the language barrier. My first few homestays are English speaking, but a few speak only Afrikaans or Xhosa. My senior year of high school, that same teacher and I created an independent study to learn about the language, history, and culture of South Africa (essentially, what I’m doing this semester, but in mini form, and based in Concord, MA, not South Africa). We found a pretty incredible Xhosa book, with a CD-rom to help with pronunciation, but it is hard. It’s a Bantu, tonal, clicking language, and unlike French and Spanish, which I speak fairly well, it (obviously) has no Latin roots. This means that there is very little overlap with English. There are also multiple types of clicks, and I just cannot differentiate between them. I also have to be careful of tone, since similar syllables said in different tones mean different things. Here’s to hoping I can remember at least basic phrases!

Honestly, before I’ve even left, the experience has had a bit of an impact on me. We had summer reading–A Long Walk to Freedom and I Write What I LikeA Long Walk is about Nelson Mandela, and I Write What I Like is about Steve Biko. Both were anti-apartheid activists. I had already read the Mandela book, but I had not read any of Biko’s writings. He was a student leader, and founded the Black Consciousness Movement. He died in prison. He is making me feel pretty inadequate. His writing and speeches are pretty brilliant. He was definitely a smart guy.

Moreover, he reminded me of something I should already know: students can accomplish a lot.I think students knew this in the ’60s and ’70s, when Black Consciousness gained ground in SA and groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) became popular in the US, but we have definitely forgotten it. Students just aren’t as motivated as they used to be to cause change. Occasionally someone I know starts a nonprofit or a business, and young people were a huge force behind Occupy Wall Street, but these aren’t student movements. OWS was a movement of young people, to be sure, but not only students, and it was based more in economic status than age. Starting your own business or nonprofit is excellent, but it’s an isolated thing. We could almost definitely do more.

Anyways, I went on a bit of a tangent there, but the point of this post is to say that I could not be more excited to leave Georgia and get to Jo’burg already!

7 days and counting 🙂

Starting to prepare….

Hellooo. This is going to be my blog all about my preparation for, travel to, and adventures in South Africa!

I spent all summer thinking about South Africa, researching PEPFAR programs there. Now, I’m home from my internship in DC…and still thinking about South Africa. Now, I’m preparing to go!

I have my visa, my required reading for before I arrive (definitely haven’t started it though), most of the things I need, and my plane tickets.

I do not have my WHO card…because it’s at the South African Embassy. Yup, I sent it to them because it was the only proof I had of my TB test, and now they aren’t returning it…or my calls. Lovely. That could be a struggle if I need it while abroad. I think I have a fix, because I have my OLD WHO card from my Kenya trip years and years ago, and I’m seeing my doctor on Thursday…here’s to hoping, at least.

What else do I have? A schedule! I got it in my email today. I’m pretty excited for everything.

Okay maybe not everything. Definitely not the fact that a minibus is picking me up from my homestay every morning to take me to the program site…at 7 in the morning. How do you say “whatttt?” in Xhosa? Then, I’m there until 5:15 PM. When was the last time I spent a full day in class, you ask? Sophomore year…of high school.

Thankfully, I know the program will be COMPLETELY worth it. I’ll be taking Xhosa and Afrikaans lessons, a course on Multiculturalism & Human Rights, a course on Narrative Identities and Social Change, and an independent study project. I also get to stay in several locations (so my title “Caitlin in Cape Town” may be a bit misleading…), visit schools and NGOs, and go on several excursions.

Cool places I get to go:

Simon’s Town, a naval base/resort location, for 3 days

Round the Bend, a team building getaway

Bo-Kaap, a multicultural area with potentially the cutest houses ever

Aaaand way more. Basically it will be awesome and I can’t wait. But now I probably won’t update this until August 29th, when I will be freaking out about how I will be LEAVING FOR SOUTH AFRICA FOR 3 1/3 MONTHS.