Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday March 4th,2009 (or, The Sun Takes Away All My Creativity)

Well,here I am,yet another Wednesday. Another beautiful 85 degree day filled with fruit and Xhosa. Life is good here. This has been, overall, a quite relaxing week. It's been a normal schedule for the most part. I'm not sure if I've already posted this,but this is what a normal day looks like here:
6:00am Wake Up
7:00am Minibus picks us up at our homestays
7:45am Arrive at classroom
8:30am Xhosa lesson
10:00am break
10:30am lecture
12:30 Lunch/break
3:30pm Xhosa tutors
5:15pm Depart for homestays

Rinse and repeat. The lecture is usually done by an outside professor or academic type. Yesterday we had a speaker named Zenzile Khoisan come in to talk to us. He was great! He participated in the student riots of 1976 and was then exiled and went to live in the US. He told us a lot of stories about his time as a "subversive marijuana smoker anarchist" (his words) including how awesome the IWW (International Workers of the World,or Wobblies) in Everett, WA is, experiences with student activists at UW, harvest season in Oregon and his time as a radio host and underground writer in NY. When he returned to South Africa he was asked to help with the investigations for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For those of you who don't know how the TRC worked, victims came forward to tell their stories which were then investigated by various groups, including Zenzile's and people who committed crimes had to give a full disclosure with all details in order for them to be given amnesty. Zenzile was one of the people who investigated the Guguletu Seven Massacre and discovered the real story,which hadn't previously been known. Anyway, his talk was interesting and then he was selling his books about his time with the TRC and I bought one. He signed it: TO Lila, Venceremos! (we will win!) I had been talking to him about my work with unions and such. Anyway,it was a good day. Oh! A few memorable quotes from Zenzile: "melanin becomes such a small player when you see a grandmother picking food out of a trash pile" and "sure I'll clean your toilet...with my AK-47" (some context for that second quote: he was talking about how many of the white South Africans act and how they used to ask him to come over & clean their houses,and that was his response)

Last night we went to see a South Africa version of Romeo & Juliet which wasn't too impressive,but it was fun to go to a play.

Friday we head to the Eastern Cape,which I'm sure you all know by now. Yesterday we had a briefing with Shane & Nomawethu (Shane is the Academic Director of our program & Nomawethu(who we all call Mama) is the local contact) about our rural homestays. It was the most aggrivating and disturbing session we've had with them yet. I have gotten progressively more annoyed at Shane for being rude, insensitive and oblivious to our situation. He decided that it was a good idea for him to tell us about the rural homestay even though 1)he's not going with us, 2)he's never been there and 3) as a white Irishman he seems to have absolutely NO idea of what life is like there. Everytime he would say something about what our life would be like there, Mama would frown and shake her head. I got so frustrated I couldn't stop fuming and Mama noticed. Afterwards she came up and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I was extremely upset that Shane was telling us about what the rural experience would be like,rather than her,who had made the contacts there and actually knows first hand what Xhosa life is like in the Eastern Cape. She told me she agrees but that once he starts talking she can't stop him.

Once I've finished this program (possibly even once I've finished my Vietnam program as well) I'm planning to write a letter to SIT telling them about all of the problems we've had with Shane. What I've talked about above is just one of the many issues with him. Grrrrrr.

I think I talked about my friend Raissa in my last post,but if not, she got admitted to the hospital on Sunday night after her pacemaker when off during surfing. She's now out of the hospital and doing well. In fact,you can't even tell she was in the hospital. She did however have a really interesting glimpse in to the health care system here. The first ambulance (those run by the state) took 30 minutes to get to her and then once it did they didn't know what to do with her and had to ask her other friends to put her on the stretcher. Once she got to the hospital the doctors had no idea what to do with a pacemaker and kept telling her false information. She finally got sent to a good hospital with heart specialists who hooked her up to a heart monitor and called her doctor in the US. In the last few days a lot of us have been debating about how the SA system compares to the US one. Many people say that it's far worse that in the US,but a few of us have been saying that although people who have money have the very best access, people that don't have money often get screwed and experience horrible things because they can't afford to call an ambulance or whatever. Oh,I hope that we have Single Payer health care in the next couple of years. The idea that people have to pay for health care is such bullshit! Nobody should die because they can't afford to go see a doctor, get an X-Ray or call an ambulance.

Whew, had to get all of that out. Sorry for such a long post. I'm not sure when I'll be able to update again. Starting Friday I won't have regular access to internet,so don't be worried if I don't respond for a while. That being said,I'd still love emails or comments



  1. Johannesburg was on the news this morning -- your beautiful 85-degree day! Reporter was discussing Africa's concerns re. indictment of Somalian prez. Watching lengthy anaylsis and waving at the screen, "Hi, Lila!"