First off,today is the first day of the ISP period and it's off to a great start. For the next month I'll be living in the best neighborhood in Cape Town(do a google image search for Chiappini street,Cape Town,that's where I'm living!) in a flat with 4 other students and doing research on domestic workers in South Africa & the idea of an 'unoranizable' worker. I'm really looking forward to finally starting my research,I think I'm going to learn a lot.
Let's see...lots has happened since I last wrote from Stellenbosch. After returning to Cape Town we had our Bo Kaap homestay. Bo Kaap houses 80% of the Western Cape's Muslims and 70% of Bo Kaap residents are Muslim. It is home to the oldest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere and world famous fashion photo shoots regularly happen on its streets.My family was made up of Ganiefah(24), her older sister Sohwal & Sohwal's daughter Bilqees(10), and a young Zimbabwean family with an adorable 3 year old named Eve who lived in one of the rooms of the apartment. The family is Muslim although they do not pray or attend mosque regularly. They have beautiful arabic artwork all over the apartment and all music or TV is turned down during the evening call to prayer. I even knew more arabic then them!
The first night in Bo Kaap Ganiefah and I bonded through cooking & laughing at my inability to eat anything. But after that first night we mostly just watched TV silently after dinner,rarely talking. Sohwal worked until 9:30pm everynight I was there,except for the last 2,so I rarely saw her. When I did see her though,we had some really interesting conversations about South Africa and the United States. During this homestay the corruption charges against presidential candidate Jacob Zuma were dropped, which is a big deal for South Africa. He is the likely winner of the election although almost everyone we've talked to thinks he's a dirty scumbag. Side note: the way elections work here is that you vote for a political party and they create a list of 400 people (that's how many seats are in Parliament) and the party with the majority puts their top person in the presidency and then the seats of Parliament are divided up among the parties depending on what percentage of the vote they got, so people can support a party but hate the presidential candidate of that party. It's an interesting system...
Anyway, back to my conversations with Sohwal. I'm not quite sure how we got on the topic but she was dumbfounded to hear that there's poverty in the United States and that people cannot afford housing,food or healthcare.I told her about how our unemployment and health care systems don't provide for people and she couldn't understand that. In South Africa you get a grant from the government if you are unemployed, you don't have to go through a lot of work to get it.I told her about the ridiculous insurance company system in the US and explained Single Payer to her (if YOU don't know about it-go to www.pnhp.org and check it out-it's what our country needs!), which she thought was just the sensible thing. It's a bit strange being in a country where total funding of social services is just common sense to most people,including the government. Although healthcare is not covered and health insurance here is so expensive most people don't have it. It is much cheaper comparatively than the US though...
I'm sure there are many things I'm forgetting about,but I'll just write again soon. I think the ISP period will give me a lot of time to think about the trip thus far and reflect on it better,so be prepared for lots of reflective entries. We had a processing session yesterday where everyone talked about their ideas about going home after this trip,it was really interesting. Most of the people on this trip are unsure about how they'll deal with going home, they've changed so much on this trip. It's an interesting thing and I think good for me to be around people that are so changed by this trip. I think it's been a wonderful experience for me,and I've certainly learned a lot,and changed my opinions about certain things,but I don't see myself as a changed person. It's inspiring to see that this experience really is like that to some, and I hope that they don't have as hard of a time going home as they think they will. I'm starting to get impatient to get home and put some of this knowledge in to practice,and to share what I've learned even more. Working at Jobs with Justice this summer will be a perfect opportunity to do that,and I really hope I can make connections with the African Women's Coalition again and that Mo can practice my Xhosa with me.
Oh,lots more pictures have been added:
Lots of love to everyone, happy passover & happy easter