So...there's a lot that's happened in the past two weeks, and unfortunately I haven't been keeping a journal so I won't get it all right. Sorry. I'm going to Spark Notes it now, and then maybe go back and fill in details later. We'll see.
Anyway. Stayed at Bard for a few days. Did not like that school at all. Sorry, Bard. What's funny is that Bard is the school that offered me the scholarship when I was a sophomore in high school (to go to the young people's college). Anyway. Flight. Scary. Screaming child. No sleep.
We arrive in Johannesburg, got into our hotel, and passed out for the rest of the day. That night we went out to eat and I tried several African dishes, including a Mopane (Mopani) worm. (http://www.edible.com/shop/browse.php?cmd=showproduct&productId=4) Yes, it's a real worm. It was........interesting. Like, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside....and spicy. Just very odd. So, now I've tried it, and I don't need to try it again. Sorry. I forget what else I tried, but I haven't had Biltong yet (biltong is basically beef jerky, but not necessarily made with beef. Sometimes Kudu, ostrich, giraffe, etc.). I'm sure I'll try it soon.
We meet the other inernational students...well, they're from Zimbabwe. So, we do some basic "Welcome to South Africa!" orientations for 2 days, then we pile onto a bus with 30-some South African students and head for Mpumalanga and Limpopo (provinces, i.e. like our states). They were really nice. We got to go to Kruger National Park and saw some way cool stuff. If you check out my photo album you can see the 340 pictures I took there. Oh, but first, when we got on the bus, we just plopped down in the front and fell asleep. A few hours later we had a lunch stop, and I walked out and went to the bathroom, then went to look at the shops. Someone told me that someone was looking for me outside the bathroom, but I didn't think much of it (the only people I knew were the 12 international students, and I had seen them all)....I get back on the bus, and my friend ZaZa sits down next to me. I was so shocked! I knew I'd see her but I didn't realize she was on the program too. She wanted to surprise me. :) It was great.
So, anyway...we get to Wits (my university) Rural. It's a really nice facility in the middle of rural Africa. We do a lot of different things that I couldn't even go fully into because it would take days. Essentially we studied different aspects of human rights. We visited a school run by a group of really awesome women (the ones in the pictures who are grinding up corn), and I was really inspired by them. So many children in rural SA are orphans because their parents have died of AIDS, and they help take care of them. It was great. We also stayed on a homestay with a family...that was intense. Our host mother (I think her name was Annasia, but I'm probably wrong on the spelling) was really nice. She volunteered at the Limpopo clinic and we stayed with her family. Her father is 80 years old and still works on his huge garden every day (I hesitate to call it a garden because it was so big, definitely not like a backyard garden in the states). She and her family made us a really great dinner of chicken, spinach, and pap. Oh my goodness, pap. I had so much pap during my week at Wits rural. (Pap = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pap_(food) ) It's basically just corn meal (or what they call mealie meal), cooked and it somehow fluffs up. It's bland but good, especially when you eat it with other things. In the morning we walked along with a caretaker to provide home-based care. That was intense. A lot of the people deserved to be on disability or have some sort of pension but a lot of people don't have the proper documentation so they don't get it...or if they do, it takes ages to sort it all out. I say deserved because it is promised to them by their government, but it's such a bureaucracy that...eish.
What else? I'm getting tired so I'll probably start scrimping on details. There's so much I could say about the homestay. I learned a lot, mostly to appreciate what I have. You know how we complain about pit toilets when we go camping (I say "we" as a general term for Americans, myself included). Except those are really toilets and they have toilet paper and they're generally inside a small wooden building....those pit toilets? Yeah, they have toilets across the street from their house, and it's a concrete slab for part walls....so you're basically just out in the open, going to the bathroom on a slab of concrete with a hole in it. Oh, and the pit toilets we have in America usually get taken care of, like the waste will be removed or they put stuff in it to make it not smell...yeah, they don't do that here. I realized how much we complain about stupid crap. I know I still do it, and I'm sure I still will, but...wow. We're selfish. I never really realized how much I take for granted.
We saw a few other cool things at Wits Rural, and if you read my email, I got attacked by a monkey. Okay, so I'm walking to my cabin from the bathroom at night (well, probably not that late, it gets super dark by 18h00-- 6 pm-- because it's winter) and a monkey threw something at me! I freaked out and shined my light at the tree and the monkey chittered at me, so I ran away. (It's really not that big of a deal, I just think it's funny, and go figure that it happened to me.)
We got to go see God's Window on the way home from Limpopo, and it was just beautiful. Pictures are up in my album. I had to climb a mountain to see it, but it was totally worth it. :)
Since getting back to Jo'burg, I've visited Soweto to see the Apartheid Museum, which was really great. There was a big exhibit on Nelson Mandela, who we all know is a bad ass. Maybe I'll run into him on the street or something while I'm here (ha ha, I wish). I've also...well, I don't even know what I've done so far. It's 2 am though, so I need to get to bed. My first class is Gender and Human Rights at 10 am. No idea where class is though. I'm sure I'll find it.
Anyway, I'll close with a quote by Nelson Mandela. "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."
Good night. :)
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