A Dictionary So You Can Understand Me When I’m Stateside

So this semester, I have actively worked to pick up the best of South African lingo. I have a few more hours of work left on my 50-page research paper on PEPFAR in the Western Cape, so obviously I am going to procrastinate by posting my new favorite words and terms, along with their meanings, here:

Howzit? Kind of a catch-all for “Hi, how are you?” This is one of my faves…

Izit? Really? Also one of my favorites. ex. “I am going to bomb this ISP because I’m not motivated at all!'” “Izit?”

Sorted: figured out. As in, “well that’s sorted, we’ll go via taxi!”

Yho!I use this one a lot on here and in emails/Skype/Facebook, so if you haven’t figured it out yet…that’s a little embarrassing. Either way, it is basically a sound of exasperation or exhaustion, and kind of a catch-all for a lot of things. Like “oh my goodness!” It literally could not mean anything farther from “yo” or “YOLO,” as has been suggested to me. Nope.

Molo/Molweni, sisi/bhuti! This is Xhosa, but I now say it as frequently as “Hola, chica!” It pretty much means the same thing, although “sisi” & “bhuti” literally translate to “sister” and “brother.” “Molweni” is just if I’m speaking to more than one person; “molo” is for one person only.

Enkosi: Also Xhosa, it means “thank you.”

Sharp: Basically, “awesome.” For example: “How are you?” “Sharp sharp!” But it sounds more like “shorp” with the softest “r” you can manage than “sharp” like we say in America.

Now now: Now I know what this looks like. It means “so incredibly right at this moment that I must emphasize the nowness of it,” right? Nope. Really it means “soon,” which could mean anywhere from 30 seconds from now to hours and hours. Seriously. I used to think “Africa time” was a kind of derogatory term because people are laid back. Then I spent three months in South Africa and realized that, nope, it’s a thing, and time is meaningless here. MEANINGLESS!

I have also seriously increased my use of the words “quite,” “NGO,” “bursary,” and “university.” Because in ZA, CMC would be a university, not college, but at home, I go to college.

PS I wish this had taken more than 5 minutes to write, as I now have to return to my ISP…meh. Two days until I’m done with academic commitments? Yayyy.

PPS I’m so impressed with my ability to keep up this blog all semester.


In the Countryside

I had an incredible experience in Tshabo. It is beautiful, with rolling hills and grass and animals everywhere. The houses are all beautiful colors. Cows, chickens, goats, and dogs roam the hills. There were six puppies that were only a few weeks old in the house next door. It was rainy the entire time we were there, but it was also the best place possible for downpours, because it was still gorgeous—although the mud on my shoes was no fun. One night, I had to make a phone call at 11 o’clock at night. Afterwards, I stayed outside for a few minutes and I had never been in such complete, beautiful silence.


I had little siblings this time, too—and I adored them. One was six and another was 7 months. We also had a few young neighbors and cousins who were constantly in and out of the house. They were all adorable! My Xhosa isn’t very good, and neither was their English of course, but we were able to communicate through miming, and my partner and I just asked easy Xhosa questions frequently. We also had a sisi around our age, who was the nicest.


Our mama was also the most incredible woman. Even though we couldn’t communicate well always, we were always able to get the point across. She taught us so much Xhosa, how to cook fat cakes and steamed bread (Google them! Delicious!), and how to make beautiful beaded jewelry. She also gave us some on the first day. Mostly, she fed us so much delicious food Mama called us her twins, her children, and told us that even though we had different skin colors, we were made of the same heart and blood. She loved us like a mother does, even before we formed a connection. I will never, ever forget her.


Leaving Tshabo was so hard. It amazes me that I’ve had two such amazing homestay families. They welcomed me even before they knew me. I hope I can visit Tshabo during ISP (I know I can visit Langa easily!) or at least some time in the future. I miss it already. Don’t worry, I still prefer cities to the country always and forever, but just getting away was so lovely.

Is this real life?

I was going to try to only write every few days, but the last 24 hours have been so incredible, I had to write again. Cape Town is the most incredible place, and I can barely leave this is real life.


First, Wednesday night we went to this awesome bar near UCT. We finally met South Africans our own age! Everyone was ridiculously friendly and interesting. UCT students come from all over—CT, Jo’burg, Berlin, Thailand…it seems pretty neat.


Yesterday, they gave us a destination and several ways to get to and from there, and has us navigate our way through Cape Town! My group and I had to go to Green Point Stadium. We took a minibus first. It was such a cool experience! Everyone here is so nice. We clearly look American (whoops) and confused, so a minibus worker called out to us to ask fi we wanted one. Then, they were nice enough to tell us that we were on the wrong side of the street to go to Cape Town…another minibus saw us trying to cross the street and stopped traffic so we could get in! Obviously, they wanted our money, but it was still nice of them. The minibus had an awesome vibe too. It was hot and crowded, but they had music blasting. It just seemed really cool.


We got out on a pretty major street and grabbed some lunch. It was near a market, but we didn’t have time to check it out. We did go to this great food bazaar, with all sorts of food like Indian, Chinese, and Mediterranean. It was delicious.


After that, we took a citibus (big bus) to Green Point. We could smell the ocean, so we headed in that direction. The view was absolutely breathtaking. It wasn’t a beach, but more of a rocky cove. The weather was great, the sky was blue, and you could see Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. Everyone there was so friendly too. We were tasked with finding out about the night life (love it) and everyone was very helpful. They gave us a wide variety of options, too, from salsa clubs to fancy bars. We also needed directions to the train station, and everyone was so helpful. People are just so nice.


The highlight of the day, however, was after dinner. The program arranged for a special event. We had a former prisoner and his producer come and perform music and tell their stories. The performer, Larry Joe, was absolutely incredible. He grew up in one of the lower-income areas of the Northern Cape. He started stealing to help his sister, but then he moved on to gangs and drugs. He did, however, have his music. He loved playing guitar, and he made money that way. He was on the run from law enforcement, moving every few days.  One night, he had a dream that he was playing guitar at Madison Square Gardens. He woke up happier than every before, and decided to turn himself into the police. While in prison, he wrote and performed music. They occasionally even let him out to perform a concerts! He and his producer told the story through song, video, and story. It would have made for a really cheesy movie, but since it was entirely true, it was so uplifting.


I think Larry Joe would be a great teacher in the states. He currently travels to schools, prisons, etc. (he’s out of jail) telling his story, and he still wants to perform in NYC. He demonstrates two fundamental ideas I think Americans don’t understand: not all prisoners are bad, and somewhat lenient prisons can be great. If Larry Joe had been sequestered, he would not have been able to tell his story. He would not have been able to perform. He would not have filmed a documentary or recorded a CD before being released. He would be far behind his “post-prison rehabilitation.”


I’m going to post the links to his website, because his story is incredible. It would be great if he became famous in the US and performed in Madison Square Gardens!  His website is here.


I’ve also been learning a lot of Xhosa. For instance, Ndithetha isiXhosa kancici. I only speak a little Xhosa.


A new phase of my semester is about to begin. On Saturday, I move into my first homestay. My internet access will be more limited from now on…I suggest emailing me if you need me.


Langa, here I come!