In the swing of things

Well, I've been in Africa for a month already. I'm shocked that it's already been a month...hard to believe that I'll only be here for another 4 months. I feel very acclimated in certain aspects, but completely like a foreigner in other aspects (still not used to driving on the opposite side of the road).

Some things have been really fun (like all-you-can-eat ribs while watching a Springboks rugby game with friends, then going out to play pool afterward), some things have been really frustrating (like having my internship delayed for several weeks and not being able to use a hair dryer that I bought here because I need an adapter--then not even getting the right adapter), and some things have been scary-- like trying a traditional African dance in front of 50 people you've just met. But, hey, if I can do that, I think I can do anything. :)

On the plus side, my internship at HRC (Human Rights Commission, I was wrong about the acronym in my last post, sorry, HURISA is the Human Rights Institute of South Africa...which makes more sense) starts tomorrow. I'm in the Communications department, which is great for my major. Hopefully I'll get credit for it back at Central. Here's a group of us on the steps of the Great Hall (which I often confuse with Senate House, because they're connected) just before the internship luncheon a week or so ago.

Other than that, things have been really good. I'm hopefully going to a Reggae show down at Bassline tomorrow night (Bassline = hip theater in Newtown)...Friday is a party at the Explorer's pub, and Saturday there's some sort of Indian dance that my friend Ori told me about (Ori is the other person in my dance picture...I'll let you guess which person he is). Should be a pretty fun weekend.

Now that I'm more used to Jo'burg, I'm starting to check out more of the city. I'm hopefully going to a few new restaurants next week, and since I purposely scheduled my internship so I have Fridays free, I might be taking a weekend trip to Durban and/or Cape Town. (Cape Town has penguins! Seriously!)

Anyway, International House (where I live) is pretty nice. Here's the view from outside my door...it's lovely, and not the winter-view I'm used to.

I hope you're doing well! The emails I'm getting are great, thanks so much, everyone!


Tour of my living space

Well, I've been traveling since June 27th, and I've officially been in Africa for 3 weeks. I've now been in my room for about 2 weeks, and it's beginning to feel like "home." I'd still like to spruce up my room a bit, but I know I can't take everything home, so we'll see how that goes.

Here's my bed...this is where I do most of my sleepings. If not there, then generally on uncomfortable buses.

Here's my bulletin board...if you weren't in attendance, all those handwritten notes are the lovely notes that my friends wrote me at my going-away party. The printed ones are emails from people who were unable to attend, and then pictures that my sister sent me...in the bottom corner is the information for my return flight (leave OR Tambo Airport at 8:05 PM, Saturday, November 28th, arrive back at JFK at 7:40 AM on Sunday, November 29th). All these notes and pictures make me smile though, so if you wrote one of them, thank you. :)

Here's my kitchen...notice the complete lack of any real food? Yeah...I eat out a lot. Although I do make a lot of tea in my room.

Cheers! (This is what I do after sleeping in on a Friday morning when my internship is canceled and I have basically nothing else to do.)


Internships that don't save the world

So, originally I was supposed to be an intern at CIVICUS (World Alliance for Citizen Participation-- don't ask me why it's abbreviated that way), but on the day we were supposed to meet our mentors, mine "bailed." By bailed, I mean quit the organization a month ago and didn't feel the need to tell the internship coordinator at IHRE even though he had already promised her that he would be my mentor. So Elanza (internship coordinator) went in yesterday to try and get someone else to mentor me, but they're very short staffed and they don't want an intern currently. Which is really disappointing, because I thought CIVICUS would be really interesting, but oh well. It's not Elanza's fault, she did everything she could to help me, and it just didn't work out. C'est la vie. Anyway, now apparently I'll be at Human Rights Commission-- South Africa. I believe it's abbreviated HURISA...again, don't ask me why it's abbreviated that way. (I think it's just HUman RIghts South Africa, but you never know.) Not sure what I'll be doing there, hopefully I'll find out this week.

I keep getting encouragement and comments from people, telling me how proud they are of me for going to South Africa. I don't think I say it often enough, so thank you. :) I don't think you realize how much your support means to me. I really hope that I can...well, live up to your expectations, I guess. I'm not sure how else to say it. I seem to be getting a lot of comments about how I'm saving the world, and several people seem to be under the impression that I'm doing some sort of work with AIDS while I'm here...? I really have no idea where they got that idea, but I'm really not...saving the world or anything here. I'm...well, I'm just a student here. Granted, I'm in a Human Rights program and all my classes are about human rights, but...I really don't feel like a "human rights defender" yet. Mainly because I'm not really doing anything other than homework yet. Maybe after my internship starts I'll feel more like I'm making a contribution, but really, I'm just a student right. I don't want anyone to glorify me or think I'm being a huge world hero when I'm not.

Anyway, I'm starting to get the hang of where my classes are (mostly)...or at least who to follow to get to the right place. :) Still settling in, I'll post pictures of my room and other random things sometime soon. Hope things are well with you, and happy solar eclipse! Watch out for the end of the world!


Settling In

Well, I've officially been in Africa for almost 3 weeks (19 days, if you want to be technical), and it feels both like an incredibly long amount of time and no time at all. I'm learning new things every day, about human rights, different cultures, and myself. Some things are good, some things are bad (more good though :). The pace of life here seems slower than my life back in the States.
They call it "Africa" time. Every time something frustrates me (generally how slowly things are moving, because I'm a very impatient person-- something I am working on), I'm told T.I.A.-- This is Africa.

This picture is of me with a little girl on our caretaker walk in Bushbuckridge. She was moving my sweatshirt to see if the rest of my skin is white (fact: it is).

This picture is of our host mother and home-based caregiver taking us for the walk to give aid and support. Our group consisted of 2 Americans, 1 Kenyan, and 4 South Africans (plus the host mother and home-based caregiver, who were clearly South Africa). It was a big experience for all of us.

We stopped at several places on our way back from Bushbuckridge, and this waterfall/ river was one of many scenic stops.

We started class this week, and I enjoyed my classes for the most part. The two classes I can already tell I'm going to love are my Gender and Human Rights class and my Human Rights in the Media class. Both classes have really great teachers (at Wits, you only call the most senior teachers professors, otherwise they're doctors or lecturers), and my classmates and I have already had some excellent (heated) discussions.

I'm starting to learn my way around campus, which is good because on my first day I had to ask about 6 people where to go, and finally I started crying and a very nice student walked me to my classroom (not even to the building, to the actual classroom...that's dedication). The size of this campus stresses me out a little bit, but I'm getting more used to it every day. It's just strange coming from a 1,200 student campus to be on a 25,000+ student campus (okay, I actually don't know how many students go to Wits, sorry).

This week we were featured on a South African TV show called "African Views" (I think, I actually already forgot the name of it), and although I wanted to talk I didn't get a chance...by the time I thought of something insightful to say, everyone else did, too. Ah, well. The next day we saw a play/musical called "AMANDLA!" which means "Power!" in Xhosa and Zulu. When someone says that, the people around are supposed to reply, "Awethu!" which means "To us" our "is ours!" It was a big thing during apartheid. Anyway, the play was very well done, but I felt really out of place because they mentioned people I had never heard of, sang songs I didn't know, and spoke languages I didn't understand. My friend Lesedi explained a lot of it during the show, but I don't speak Afrikaans (basically Dutch) or Zulu so it was still a little lost on me. The people around me seemed really into it. It was a good show, just not my personal cup of tea.

Speaking of tea, I drink so much of if here. Rooibos is fantastic, I'm going to have to buy so much of it when I get home. I figure it's healthy, so why not?

This weekend I took it easy, played mini golf on Friday, had a Mexican dinner and "Little Miss Sunshine"-watching party with the other Americans on Saturday, and then had a braai (barbeque) today.

Anyway, I should start doing homework now. I hope you all are doing well...please email me and tell me about what's going on in your lives! I know I'm in Africa but that doesn't mean I don't care about you. :)



If you for some reason have an international phone card, or you utilize the wonder that is Skype, you can call my room phone for no charge to me at +27 11 717 1066. Keep in mind that I'm about 7 hours ahead of most of you, and I generally go to bed by midnight here (aka like 5 pm your time). Just thought I'd let you know! :)

(Edit: I fixed the number. You need to dial "011" before dialing it to get out of country calls, then the rest of it.)


Things I've Learned in South Africa (so far)

-America wanting to assert its independence through EVERYTHING...like driving on the opposite side of the road of everyone else in the world...is actually kind of annoying and pretentious.
-Keep track of all the money you spend, even if you have to convert it all. Well, actually, especially if you have to convert it all.
-Americans are very impatient. South Africans walk...so...slowly. Being an impatient American, this drives me insane.
-You can't generalize about anything, so obviously don't think I mean every single person when I say everyone.
-There's real time, and there's Africa time. Africa time is about 10-25 minutes behind real time. So if someone tells you they're going to do something "just now" or "now now," it does not, in fact, mean they are going to do it immediately. It means probably soon, but maybe later.
-Nelson Mandela is a BA.
-If Jo'burg is freaking out this much about hosting the 2010 World Cup, I would have hated to be in Beijing before the Olympics.
-America not playing or paying attention to sports that the rest of the world likes (soccer, rugby, cricket) is also fairly annoying.
-How immigrants to America must feel. Trying to keep up in a new culture where you only understand half of what someone else is saying...that's crazy difficult. I'm going to make a point to be nicer to foreigners/immigrants/people who don't speak English as a first language from now on.
-As Americans, we are not as smart as we think we are. It's a little embarrassing to be asked, "So what languages do you speak?" "English." "And?" "That's it." Most people here speak at least 2, up to about 4 or 5.
-Even if there is a cheap and tasty Chinese take out restaurant next door, don't get your meals from there every day...and if you do, have plenty of Pepto Bismol on hand.
-Cooking for yourself and keeping a stocked kitchen is difficult, especially without a car.
-If you put your keys in the same spot every time you put them down, you're less likely to lose them, and subsequently, you won't spend 15 minutes looking for them every day.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there's more that I'll think of later.


So, my life, ja?

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. :)


Not much time

I don't have much time to update, I need to go buy some cellphone minutes and dinner, but I thought I'd let you know that I'm alive, despite an annoying bout of the flu and a sinus infection (which I did see a doctor for, so don't freak out). Travelling just stressed out my body, eish (eish is a SA word that I've already picked up).

Okay, so I do have a phone now, my cellphone number is +27 791 08 5675...I think. You may need to put a 0 between the 27 and 791 part. Not sure. International texting is weird, not sure if it'll cost you more money or not.

Send me mail!

Sarah Moglia
IHRE, C/O Wits International Office
Private Bag 3
Wits 2050
Johannesburg, South Africa

Gotta go now, bye!



Hi All. This is Erik updating for Sarah. Just wanted to let you know Sarah made it safely to Africa. She's now on a week long safari sort of thing in the countryside of South Africa. She'll update when she gets back to school