So irrelevant to this blog it isn’t even funny…but whatever

There are a huge number of really fascinating races and referenda on the ballot across the country this year, and many of the most interesting — and most important — remain too close to call. In this post I’ll be doing a state-by-state rundown of the results I’ll be looking for, and the ones friends have tipped me to on Facebook and Twitter. (If you’ve got others, please share in comments.)


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Okay, here’s a warning: this will be mostly a really mushy, feel-good post about love and life and whatever else is involved in Ubuntu. You see, we just had a lecture. This pretty awesome woman, Sonja Kruse, came to our class to talk to us about ubuntu and the love she found traveling alone in South Africa.


First, I guess I should explain what ubuntu is. It doesn’t really have a direct English translation, although the closest would be something like “humanity” or “humanness.” The Zulu definition is “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabuntu,” “I am because you are because we are.” Another common definition is “A person is a person through other people.” Our lecturer defined it as “exist, extend, expand.” So, hopefully that gives you a fair enough idea of what it means.


Anyways, Sonja decided to travel South Africa to discover the ubuntu. She took a backpack, a camera, and R100 (about $13, but it would go a little farther here than in America…maybe 2-3 meals, a night at a hostel, or taxi fare for a few weeks). She would hitchhike wherever, go to a random house, knock, explain herself, and ask if she could have a meal or a bed. Even if the family couldn’t take her in—she was denied 8 times in 351 days—they would usually direct her to another family. She had no destination and no time frame in mind. She went where she could whenever she could. She stayed in 150 homes, in all 9 provinces. All together, she lived with people identifying with 14 different cultures.


She told us some of her more fascinating stories. For instance, in one town the gogos (old women) had a soccer team. In fact, South Africa has a South African Gogo Soccer League. She also told us about Woo, a 10 year old girl who facilitates ARV workshops in Limpopo. She’s done this since she was 5. Once, a truck driver acted threateningly, saying she shouldn’t be without a man, and she calmed him by saying the trip was not about her or him, but “the people of South Africa.”A lot of her stories resonated with my own experiences here—how families would sleep on floors and give her the bed, the amount of food people stuffed her with, how much the mamas cared about her safety and wellbeing and just her.


Now, there are problems with her trip—or rather, the circumstances surrounding her trip. The idea worked well for her, but in SA, it wouldn’t have if her skin had been a different color (hint: she’s white). Still, her goal was to show the hospitality of South African people, and by sharing her stories, she is breaking some barriers. Or at least putting cracks in them.


Mostly, I was so enthralled with her courage and tenacity. I could never travel through a country through hitchhiking and bed surfing. Especially not with about $13. I would be terrified of being robbed, murdered, or left without a meal or a bed. Also, I’ve been living in other people’s homes for 2 months, and while I have been welcomed and treated like a family member in all of them, I am already ready for my own space that I genuinely feel is my own (4 more days until I move into my new place!). I can’t imagine crashing in people’s homes for a year.


The talk was definitely inspiring. It made me want to travel around, proving to everyone that we’re all human. Ubuntu is such a cool concept.

Glamping and First Impressions of Bo-Kaap

Earlier last week, my program went glamping at a San cultural center. Glamping, for those of you who don’t know, means glam camping…and it was pretty glam. Sure, we slept in tents…but they were surrounded by straw huts, had lights, and contained mattresses. The only food we made around a campfire were s’mores—the rest were in a nice restaurant. We did go on a few nature walks, but they were easy. I’d never been glamping before, but I think I prefer real camping. However, the stars and the terrain were gorgeous. Our first night, we even watched the sun set over the ocean. As our program director said, “In Africa, the sun doesn’t set…it disappears.” He was right. It was pretty awesome.

When we came back to Cape Town, we moved into our fourth homestay: Bo-Kaap. I’m pretty smitten with the place. It’s situated on a hill above Cape Town, so the views are unbelievable. A few streets of houses are vibrantly painted in all colors. It could not be more beautiful. It’s also near the city center, which means we can easily roam the city in the afternoons and on weekends—finally. Last night, we went to this awesome fundraiser with local musicians, dancers, and poets. The talent was incredible! This morning, I finally went to the Old Biscuit Mill, which is this intense market every Saturday. There’s a ton of food and unique shops. One store has essentially everything I would ever want for my future apartment, from patterned silverware to funky inspirational wall hangings. The food is also delicious.

My family in Bo-Kaap is also great so far! They’re so friendly and chatty. Apparently they love karaoke. My host mom makes these delicious donut-like things that everyone apparently has for Sunday breakfast. She taught me how to make them last night! That brings my count of fattening, bready, delicious recipes up to three: donuts, fat cakes, and steamed bread. Yho! I don’t know how I was so lucky with my host families. They’ve all been so nice, welcoming, and fun! Also, if any South Africans reading this would like to offer a recipe that is a little less bready and a little more dinner-like, let me know!

I can’t believe it’s my last 10 days before independent study (ISP). I know ISP will go by so quickly, especially since I want to live in the city. It’s funny. When I stayed in Langa and Stellenbosch, I didn’t mind being right outside a city’s limits and having to drive or take a cab in. When I was in Tshabo I liked roaming the fields and always feeling safe. But the second I come back to a city, I remember how incredibly obsessed I am with them. I just get really giddy and immediately want to explore. ISP is going to fly by. I’ll be in the city, busy with research (which I plan on doing on the beach, actually), interviews, and of course, exploring Cape Town more. I feel like the semester is winding down, and I am not happy about it. I miss home and Claremont, but mostly, I wish all the people I love there could transport themselves here forever and ever so I could always be here. I don’t like the feeling that the end is coming, even if it is still weeks away!

Also, I need to figure out what I want to do for my birthday, in case it requires planning in advance. I have a Cape Town bucket list, and I’m thinking either tea at Mount Nelson, a sunset cruise, or the beach…one is free (always nice!) but the others are a little more special I think. It’s the last exciting birthday I’ll have probably ever, so it needs to be fun! Thoughts?

Stellie: Tours, Braai, Rugby and Markets

Stellenbosch has a lot of wine, brandy, braai and markets. So much, in fact, that I did a wine tour, a brandy tour, and went to two markets this weekend. I also had braai Friday-Monday, and watched my first rugby match! The markets were incredible. I got a few gifts for family (and myself) and a bunch of delicious food. One market happens every Saturday. The other only happens five days out of the year.


The wine tour was only okay. The wines we tasted were not so great, and it was rainy so our tour was more of a lesson.


Rugby was AWESOME. I really enjoyed the game. We had been on a plane with the winning team just a few weeks ago. In the last 5 minutes, the Western Province Stormers gained the lead, lost it, then managed to win. Pretty exciting stuff. We were in a really awesome house too, so we played some pool afterwards. It was really fun, actually.


The brandy tour was quite…interesting. We had been thinking that we were going on a wine tour…it was 10 AM. Quite interesting. The process of distilling brandy is REALLY cool though. You distill it twice, and its made from wine.


Sadly, I don’t have time to go into more details…but now we’ve left Stellenbosch and we’re going camping for a few nights. More updates to come soon!

Thriller & Languages


Yesterday, I went to a workshop that combined the Thriller dance and cha cha. Oh my goodness, how I missed random campus events! I was able to meet some people, dance around, and learn a creepy dance. I still am always surprised when people are excited about my accent—to me it just isn’t that exciting! Everyone was very friendly, and I was invited to their end of the year party in about a week…too bad I won’t be in Stellenbosch anymore. Oh well, I have some new dance moves to break out on Halloween (get excited, SIT!).


Tuesday, we went to the Taal (Afrikaans for “language”) monument, which is, obviously, a monument dedicated to the Afrikaans language. It was pretty informative. The monument is essentially a giant phallic symbol. There’s one huge horn-like structure, to represent both Afrikaans and the front of a ship. In front of it are a few little horns, to represent the European languages that influenced Afrikaans. Dutch is the biggest, and English the smallest. You can walk inside the Afrikaans horn. The top of it’s peak it open, to symbolize that it is still growing. On the other side are three teensy-tiny semi-spheres. They represent the African languages that influenced Afrikaans: the language of the Khoi San, Xhosa, and Zulu. These structures were not near as impressive as the European language structures. Finally, the structure has a womb-like structure to represent the mother country, South Africa. The symbolism was actually quite impressive. The structure itself reminds me of the library at Georgetown that is supposed to be a modern interpretation of the most beautiful building, Healy Hall, but is really just a hideous slab of stone. It is clearly a relic of the ‘70s. The monument wasn’t necessarily ugly, but it definitely had the same ‘70s vibe.


Friday, we’re going on a wine tour! Then who knows what’s going on this weekend? All I know so far is that I am back in a college town, and I am very excited to see what goes on!


PS A lot of people here walk around shoeless…

First Impressions of Stellenbosch

Yho! Stellenbosch is very different from what I’m used to, both at home and in South Africa. It’s definitely a beautiful town. There are wineries everywhere, and beautiful old buildings. It’s a very cute town. The homestay coordinator likened it to Boston. I wouldn’t, really, but the amount of history and the number of cute, old buildings is probably similar.

It’s different from what I’m used to in South Africa in several ways. For one, it’s in an Afrikaner area, not a Xhosa area. This brings with it an entirely new narrative of South African history and identity.

We’re actually at a university this time, but Stellenbosch U. could not be more different from CMC. Firstly, it’s a casual 28,000 students…a far cry from 1,200, or even the 6,000 of the entire Claremont Consortium. Secondly, because of it’s size the actual campus is just not at all like what I’m used to. The campus student center is ridiculous. There is a full market, about 20 restaurants, a bookstore, at least three banks (WHAT), two coffee shops, a school store, an internet café, a salon, and a school supply store. It’s honestly a little overwhelming.

It’s funny, because our program director said we’d be more homesick in Stellenbosch than Langa or Tshabo because it would be more similar to the rest of our lives. Being on a campus does make me a little homesick for CMC, but my home here does not make me miss home much more than usual. In fact, I think my Langa life was more similar to what I’m used to at home—a few people sitting around a room watching TV, talking, and eating. The physical area around the house is similar from home I guess, as I’m staying in a suburb, but that’s about the extent of it.

It will be interesting to see how this homestay plays out! I think I’ll like it, but it will definitely be different.


I spent the last weekend at a beachside resort in the Eastern Cape. It was absolutely gorgeous. I went to the Indian Ocean for the first time! Other than that, we unwinded, hiked, and went out a bit. It was peaceful.


Friday morning, I woke up to watch the end of the sunrise over the ocean. Then I slept a few more hours and ran along the beach. I could tell I hadn’t run in Tshabo—running in sand was rough. But it was still so peaceful and relaxing. The waves were calming, and the sky was clear. I sound like a complete cliché machine right now, but it’s all entirely true. In the afternoon, I went on a nature walk over hills, farmland, and the beach.


Saturday, we went on safari! We saw some cool animals—lions, zebra, wildebeest, elan, impala, nyala, giraffes, monkeys etc. The highlight though was PETTING A CHEETAH. Yep, I pet a cheetah!!! It was so awesome. Their fur is kind of rough and their claws don’t contract so you have to watch out if they want to roll over. Otherwise, they were really tame and adorable. Cheetahs have always been my second favorite animal so this was very, very exciting. Sunday morning, we got to play with the elephants—which was pretty much just as exciting!


The only thing to mar paradise was a tour of an NGO/tour company. They do incredible work in a village nearby, with schools, sports, microfinance businesses, and clinics. What made me so uncomfortable—and other people too—was their rhetoric and attitude towards the people of the village. All I could think, the entire time, was “white man’s burden.” They didn’t overtly belittle the villagers, but they also don’t listen to them when deciding what projects to make, they don’t have their offices in the village, and they would occasionally say small slights. Then again, how do you do it better? They are doing good things. They just aren’t perfect. I was pretty conflicted the entire time.


Tomorrow, I’m moving into homestay #3, Stellenbosch. It’s our Afrikaner homestay, and I know it will be very different from the last two. Thus far, the program just keeps getting better and better—I hope the pattern continues!