Yesterday, my program visited a variety of schools to figure out to the best of our ability the education system in Cape Town. We were put into groups and we visited a variety of schools, including public and private schools, and the school I spent a day at the last time I was here! I went to the girls’ school with three other students. Even though the school ended up very different from my own schools, it kind of made me miss Concord and Claremont a bit…
The school itself was beautiful. Like every other place in this ridiculously gorgeous area, it has a picture perfect view of Table Mountain. It had green quads and pretty buildings. I hadn’t realized how much I missed having a campus, green places to study, and quads or circles, until I was in the grass contemplating the morning. Seriously, I miss tanning in Claremont or circle chilling a lot right now.
The inside reminded me a bit of MX. The reception area was so similar to the Terry Room, which, for those of you who have never been to MX, is a sort of living room area with old yearbooks and things. It has a lot of the history of the school, as did the reception area of this one.
Something reminded me of CMC, too—TEA TIME. It was a lot earlier than CMC’s and it lacked the chocolate-covered strawberries, but free tea and coffee is free tea and coffee. The parallel did not escape me…I wonder if the boarders (they have a few) have snack time at night, too? I have been missing my free daily food…although our program has been keeping the market below our classroom in business the last few weeks. I mean, the States don’t have my favorite chocolate bar, so I have to get sick of them while I’m here… Helloooo study abroad weight gain!
Anyways, at the school we went to gym and three history classes. The last history was pretty straightforward. We simply sat in on the class and listened to a lesson on the atomic bomb. The first two classes, however, were fascinating. The first one was essentially a 9th grade honors class, and the second an on-level 10th grade class. The following commentary will be from both classes, but I want to mention that we noticed a distinct difference in the level of discussion. I am not sure how much can be attributed to the extra year, where the girls may have become more self-conscious, or the difference between an honors and on-level class, but the 9th grade class was far more animated and chatty. They seemed a bit smarter or more uninhibited.
This was not a part of their current curriculum, but for our benefit the teacher had us discuss race and race relations in SA. We talked a lot about “the typical colored,” which is the term the students and the teachers used. A colored person in SA is essentially someone who is not black, white, or Indian. The term had been used in a nonjudgmental way the last few weeks, and I understood it to mean no offense. It certainly does not mean what it does in the States. However, this was my first real conversation with people who were considered colored, and I found out that some do find it offensive, because of the stereotype associated with it. Now, “the typical colored” is clearly a stereotype, because these girls did not identify that way at all. We learned all about the stereotype. They said colored tend to have a funny accent, four front teeth missing, and weird dance moves, all of which they demonstrated for us. They also, however, claimed none of these attributes for themselves, proving that a stereotype is certainly never entirely true.
Also, I have never been complimented so much on my accent. It’s funny, because to me—and I think most Americans I know—I don’t have an accent. Sure, I occasionally get a southern twang on words like “accent” and “ben,” and I use wicked weird slang I’ve gathered from Georgia, Massachusetts, and California (and various friends from across the country), but I generally sound pretty typical. Moreover, I usually think American accents are so boring, compared to others. Today, however, all four of us kept getting comments about how cool our accents our. Girls would turn around and tell me they loved my accent. So congrats, Amurica. We may think our accents are boring compared to South Africans, Brits, Australians, etc…but they’re secretly just as cool!
After the visits, we went to a lecture at UCT on social justice. What interested me the most, however, was discovering UCT’s Refugee Rights Unit. I think I want to do my independent study on refugee women in CT. I either want to focus on HIV/AIDS or gender-based violence. This seems perfect, as I need a GWS credit and I would love a stepping-stone for an IR thesis. I was glad to find a potential resource already!
When we got back to the program center, we had a chat about who can identify as African. The lecturer did not give us a conclusion, but he did share with us some interesting tidbits. Here are some things you should do:
- Google “I am African.” “I am Gwenyth Paltrow.” Essentially, Gwenyth Paltrow did some culturally appropriative, paternalistic ad about AIDS, and a woman countered in the most hilarious way possible. I’ll let you see it for yourself.
- Google Image all three separately: “North America.” “Europe.” “Africa.” Why yes, the first two consist of maps and flags, whereas “Africa” features images of people in traditional dress, lions (FYI, the only exciting animal I’ve seen since getting here is a zebra—another thing that made me miss MX!), and yes, even Michelle Obama. Because she’s black, you see, so obviously she belongs in a Google search of Africa. I have loved that photo of her ever since Melissa Harris-Perry spoke about it at CMC, but my goodness.
All in all, today was great. Even though I stuck to my resolution to write more frequently, my post was still really long—sorry! Hopefully my post after the long weekend will be shorter…but let’s be real, I talk a lot and I write even more. It’s weird to think of what I’m missing in Claremont…like foam! Friends, y’all had better have an even better time than usual, so that your stories are awesome enough for everyone abroad too!
So, have an awesome time at Foam (or for non-CMCers and those abroad, doing whatever you’re doing), don’t wear nice flip-flops, and report back on Monday!