Caster Semenya

For those of you in America, you may not have heard about Caster Semenya, the South African runner who recently broke a world record for the 800 meter at this year's world championships in Berlin.

Unfortunately, if you know even that much about her, you probably also know about the controversy surrounding her...the fact that her sex is being called into question, and people are claiming that she is not eligible to run because she is not a woman.

First of all, as we discussed in my media class, people need to start getting terminology right, and they need to understand important distinctions. Most articles speak about her "gender" and how she isn't a "woman." Gender is not something you can test. Well, I guess it is, but it'd be a pretty simple test, you'd simply ask her, "Are you a man or a woman?" and whatever she responds with, that's what gender she is. Gender is simply a construct...a Western construct, at that. Sex is your biological traits, and even our thoughts on that are flawed. We are stuck in the belief that there are only 2 sexes, and that they are 100% correlated with our genders. This is simply not true. Some people are born with a XX chromosomes, but they feel like men, or they're born with XY chromosomes, but feel like women. That's not the only case though, as some people are born with XXY chromosomes, or XXX chromosomes.

Why are we so stuck on categorizing people and making sure they fit our stereotypes? In my class, people were suggesting that she has "masculine" traits, so they should investigate her. Excuse me? What exactly are "masculine" traits? Do all men suddenly look alike? Are they all exactly the same? Bill Clinton and I probably share more traits than he and Shaq do...but they're both men. We really need to reaccess what defines people and with which criteria we should judge them by.

If it is found that Caster is not "fully" female (explanation in this article), should she be disqualified from the race? I think not. Many other athletes have "deformities," yet they're still allowed to compete. Lance Armstrong has an abnormally enlarged heart and lengthened femur bones, and Michael Phelps has relatively large feet and double-jointed ankles...so should we disqualify them from competitions? Of course these "deformities" give them advantage-- but is that really the only thing that makes them good athletes? No, of course not. They work hard to be in the shape that they're in-- why would we disqualify for something they were born with? The same should apply to Caster.

And for goodness sake, back off of the poor girl. She's 18 years old and she likes to run. Let her! Stop insulting her by saying things like you "can see her Adam's Apple." And start getting terminology correct.

But most of all, have some respect for her dignity. No matter what you think she is, she is first and foremost still a human.


And it wears me out, it wears me out.

"It wears me out, it wears me out
And if I could be who you wanted
If I could be who you wanted
All the time, all the time"
-Radiohead, "Fake Plastic Trees"

Wow, was this a long, long week. Where should I start? Well, Brett was diagnosed with cancer early in the week, and he was sent home on Tuesday night. I hung out with his mom on Wednesday and showed her the Origins Center (and by that I mean Matt gave her a tour. I just tagged along and had some tea with her in Cafe Fino afterward). But I've gotten a few messages from him and he's keeping his spirits up, and he's responding pretty well to treatment it sounds like, so that's also good. We had an IHRE (that's the name of my program, FYI) get together and we talked about his condition and just kind of relaxed after the hectic week. Sarah G., Neo, and I made signs for Brett's picture.

(Please note that the exclamation point is all by itself. Also; this was the "goofy" picture, so the "we" is upside down.)

That was on Friday evening, and after that I had planned on just relaxing, but my friend Andre kidnapped me and told me I was going ice skating. So...I went ice skating. They wanted to know if I had ever gone ice skating before...fortunately, the Pettit is about a mile from my house. I used to be pretty good, but it's been a long time since I've gone. Luckily since I'm going home in winter, I'll be able to skate at home some more, because I do like skating.

Me and Maria tearin' the place apart.

On Saturday, I was invited to go play paintball with my friend Ori. We went all the way up to Pretoria to go...which I initially thought was very far away, but it turns out it's only about 50 km (about 30 miles) away from Johannesburg. It reaffirmed what I learned last week after going to the Lion Park (which was explained to me to be quite a distance away), that distances here are not seen the same way I would see them. I'd say Carnivore and the Lion Park are about as far as...maybe Germantown is from 'Stallis, or if you're one of my Iowa friends, about Pella to Pleasant Hill. So not that bad to us, but transportation is very different here, since fewer people have access to cars, and petrol (gas) is much more expensive. But anyway, Pretoria is about 30 miles away. It's very Afrikaaner there. Johannesburg is much more English...you could definitely tell by the street signs, since the Pretoria had much more Afrikaans names.

But the best part...paintball. I played a few games with Ori's friends for someone's 21st birthday (it's funny, 21st birthdays are a big deal here, but they can start drinking at 18, so I'm not sure what the big fuss is for the 21st here). I had a lot of fun playing paintball, even though I've got welts now...or as I like to call them, battle scars. It was interesting because they were much more lax on rules than what I'm used to for paintball...for example, people can drink on the course. If they even think you've had something to drink at the paintball place I usually play at, they'll kick you out. Crazy. But, I guess America is a bit more lawsuit happy than South Africa.

One of the puppies of the dog that hangs around the paintball place.

I did get to play with the puppies there after we played paintball, and I got to enjoy a braai. I had some chicken and some vors (which is basically sausage)...quite good. I had a ton of fun, it was awesome...or as they say in SA, it was totally lekker. :) I exchanged lingo with some of Ori's friends. I'm basically a South African already.

Oh, and holding the puppy was good practice for the new niece or nephew that I'm going to have in a few months! My brother's girlfriend is due on March 22nd. I'm quite excited! :)

So, I'll leave you on that positive note and go watch some episodes of House. Goodybye, my chinas!



This is why I don't believe in karma.

From Africa - Wits Rural

I do not subscribe to the "Just World" theory.


Belief is a beautiful armor

"Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for"
-John Mayer, "Belief"

Had a pretty good weekend. A great source of stress started on Friday, but I'm not gonna go into that just yet. I went to Rosebank (mall) with Tiara and my Gender professor, Shatema, and they showed me a fantastic restaurant (Prima Piatti) that has very good drinks...so I ended up going there Saturday night and trying the Raspberry Teapot. (Hint: it's not only tea.) I also got my hair cut on Friday, and then on Saturday I went back to Rosebank for a lot of random stuff. Ended up getting Erik a camera, some new clothes, some food, contact lens stuff, and probably some other things that I'm forgetting in my current delirious state.

Raspberry Teapot from Primi Piatti's in Rosebank, by the Zone. Highly alcoholic, highly recommended.

Sunday was the most fantastic day ever. Ameet took Matt and me to the Lion and Rhino Park just outside of Jo'burg, and we got to see TONS of animals (brown lions, white lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, Wildebeest, ostriches, rhinos, snakes, leopards, cheetahs, etc.). It was way cool. We even got to watch the animals being fed and we got to play with baby lions (white and brown), and then a cheetah. It was so cool. :)

Playing ball with a baby lioness

This upcoming week is going to be very difficult for me for many reasons, but I just need to remember why I'm doing what I'm doing, and that should help me get through all this.

Anyway, right now I need to sleep. If you'd like to see my pictures from the Lion and Rhino park, check out my album: http://picasaweb.google.com/sarah.moglia/LionAndRhinoPark#

Good day with good people :)


Wow :)

I just wanted to once again say that the love, support, and encouragement from people is truly overwhelming and humbling. I'm still surprised every time someone tells me that they know/knew I'd "go far in life" and that I would really "become something." Especially due to the fact that I don't think I've become anything yet. Regardless, thank you to everyone who's supported me or enouraged me throughout this process. You're doing more good than you know.
Every so often, it hits me that I'm really here and I'm really doing this. It's really eye-opening to realize things like ubuntu and how I'm affecting other people, but to also realize that I'm still very young, and honestly, kind of just a bug on the earth...but everyone is. I know they're kind of contradictory ideas, but I realize that I can both make a difference in the world, but still be just one tiny person (literally and metaphorically, ha ha).
This is my life, and I hope I'm living it right. :)
Thank you once again.


Not the Same After That

"You took the word and made it heard
And eased the people's pain and for that
You were idolised, immortalised
And you were not the same after that"
-Ben Folds, "Not the Same"

Just rockin' out to some Ben Folds right now. :) Thought those were some fitting lyrics.

Other Sarah and I rocking out to ABBA at an outdoor mall on Friday

So, when did I last update? Well, let's think on what I've done. I've mostly been going to class and work (my internship...I'm not paid for it, but for future reference, it's easier to say "work" than "my internship") and hanging out with friends when I have the time. Well, let's think. Thursday there was an all day long Cyber Law seminar at my internship, and since it's been an incredibly warm winter here in Jozi (nickname for Johannesburg), the room was ridiculously warm. Hard to stay awake...oops. Then Friday I spent most of the day sitting in Cafe Fino (probably the best place on campus to get food) with friends and downloading things on iTunes...and eating quite a bit. I also may have talked one of the managers into getting some dairy-free desserts, so potential score for me!

On Saturday I went to Soweto with ZaZa to hang out with her family. :) I rode a "black taxi" there...I hesitate to use that term, because I'm not sure if it's racist or not...? But honestly, that's what everyone else (including ZaZa) calls it, so...well, that's what I know it as. Anyway, that was an experience. Hanging out in Soweto was also interesting, because every time we walked past someone, they would talk to us because I'm white, and you don't often see white people in Soweto. We played with ZaZa's nephew (i.e. her "practice baby"), went to Maponya Mall, and I helped to make PAP! So excited about that. :)

What else? I visited my friend Wayde's house, that was pretty cool. I actually experienced my first real bout of homesickness this weekend from seeing my friends interact with their families. It's kind of like...oh, hey, I have a family, too...who I won't see for another 4 months. But, I'm having a great experience here, so I try to focus on that.

Monday was Women's Day, which is actually a public holiday here. Supposedly, we weren't supposed to have class, but our lecturer for our Intership class talked us into having a double class. She's a crafty one. Today in my Human Rights in the Media class we discussed homosexuality in the media, and it became a really intense discussion/debate. The professor and I were basically on the same wavelength, which I thought was really cool. We talked a bit after class, and she echoed some of my frustrations with our class/ the program. She also invited me to sit in on her Gender in the Media course next week, which I'm really excited about.

Well, my aunt Diane is telling me I should go to bed now (she actually told me that two hours ago, but I'm a procrastinator), so I should do that now.There are some pictures of my shenanigans up on Facebook, if you'd like to check those out. :)

Anyone have any questions for me? About my trip? About S. Africa in general? Feel free to post questions and I'll try to address them in my next update.

(Also, another shoutout for Google Reader. It's a fantastic program. Look into it! Google.com/reader.)


You were hangin' in the corner with your 5 best friends...

Blog title from the new Cobra Starship song, "Good Girls Go Bad" :) So excited about that album, comes out August 11th. I'm definitely going to Cresta (big mall) to pick it up as soon as it comes out.

This is me and some friends on Friday night, getting some Chinese food in the Matrix, which is our student center. [From left: Fuzzy, Andre (in the back), Wayde, Me, Matt...I'm giving you their names because I hang out with them a lot, and if I say their names, at least you can put a face to them.]

Before coming here, I was warned about how difficult classes would be, and how grading is different, and all that. Basically, it's impossible to earn anything above a 90%, and anything above an 80% is very very rare. If you get high 70's, you're doing great. They don't give out letter grades though, it's more like "first mark" or "second mark," etc. I had a group presentation in my media class this week, and I was really nervous, because there are very few assignments in every class, and they all count for quite a bit of your grade. So this one group presentation was worth 20% of my entire grade-- yikes! We had five people in our group, and our job was to summarize two articles and then explain how they expand or undermine the idea of Habermas's public sphere (any other Comm majors out there should know what that is). We had two people summarize each article, and I brought them together at the end to talk about how they relate to the public sphere. Well, we got our grade back today and we got...a 78%! First mark (distinction). :) Whatever that means. The professor (she's actually a professor, meaning she's like the highest in her department) had a few things to say about our presentation, notably..."The conclusion was also well executed, with some key arguments weaved together impressively." :) That made me very happy. I'm glad I can keep up here, I was really worried that I'd be the dumbest person on the program. (Sorry to toot my own horn, I'm just very excited.)

My package also arrive today!! That was a very big deal, as I forgot to bring any shoes that are suitable for dressing up (which I have to do for my internship), and my mom sent me my two favorite pairs. Yay! It was actually a very funny experience, because every day I go to the IHRE office, expectantly run in, and ask Elanza if my package has arrived yet. She also looks sad and tells me, "no it hasn't, I'm sorry." Then I sigh sadly and carry on with my day. Well today I went into the IHRE office, and Elanza had gone home sick. :( So I decided to check my email since I had a little time to kill before class, and there was an email from her, telling me that my parcel had arrived!! She said I was supposed to take my ID and the package slip up to the post office to get it. I ran into Ayesha's office and said, "If I were a package slip, where would I be?!" and she showed me...so I literally grabbed it and ran upstairs to the post office (after getting slightly confused on the stairs as to where to go), ran up to the postal lady, and asked her for my package. But...I needed my passport to get it. I only had twelve other forms of identification (US driver's license, Wits Student ID card, International Student Identification Card, insurance card, student discount card, credit card, two certified letters saying I'm Sarah Moglia and if I don't have my Wits ID yet so please let me onto campus anyway [those are from before I had my ID card, cause you need an ID to get onto campus]...okay, that's not 12 forms of ID, but still, it's close.). Postal lady will not budge until I have my passport. I literally start crying in the post office, freaking out about how I've been waiting so long to get it and I don't have time to run back to my room before they close...but the postal lady holds her ground. So, I start booking it back to the IHRE office, and Matt catches up to me...he helps me calm down. We go to the IHRE office, and luckily they have a copy of my passport in the office, so I grab that, and Matt and I book it back up to the post office, bobbing and weaving around everyone who is walking slow (which is everyone). We get to the post office, and success! Packagey goodness! We tear it open to find the most random assortment of goodies ever. :) A 3lb box of Hershey's (per ZaZa's request), two pairs of shoes, a toothbrush, my Brewers shirt, family photos, disposable razors, corn nuts (which I've never even touched before in my life), fun dip, a flashlight, a replacement light bulb for said flash light (as it does not work), and two things of hand sanitizer. Yeah...a bit random, but that's Joan for you, hey? :)

That was that excitement. Oh, y'all remember how I "Obama'd" my toe on election night? (Obama'd = ran into a door due to excitement over Obama's victory) I did that again today. Except there's no cool story, I just turned around and slammed my toe (the same toe!) into my door here. Now it's all purple and swollen...awesome. I basically rock at life. I'll probably post a picture of it sometime soon, just so you can all enjoy it just as much as I am.

Well, what else has happened? Apparently I'm a "pool shark" here, according to Wayde-- and anyone who's seen me play at Central will laugh at that, since I never win at school.

Oh, I traded my friend Neo (pronounced Nay-oh, not Neo like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix) an Obama button for a Mandela button. :) I so blend in now!

My internship at the South African Human Rights Commission is going well. I sat in on an important meeting about the Golden Key Award ceremony with people from Limpopo and Cape Town and all over...I had no idea what they were talking about the entire time! But hey, I looked really important. There's apparently a big seminar on Cyber Law tomorrow, so that should be really interesting. I'm going to be working with Ori (an IHRE participant from last year) on a training manual about PAIA for security guards-- I'll explain more about that another time.

This blog isn't very contemplative, but I figure I need to keep track of the little things that happen here so I can remember them after I leave.

Anyway, you wanna do me a favor? If you actually read my blog, but don't "follow" it publicly as a Google user, could you leave me a comment telling me that you do read it? That'd be nice, I'd just like to know who's reading this. If you don't have a Google account, you should definitely look into that. Just go to google.com/reader and sign up...then you can follow blogs and you'll automatically be notified when I update this. :) Yay for an RSS feed!

Time for bed for me now...hope you're having a fantastic week!


Not quite the same; not quite different

What I have had the most trouble coming to terms with here is that life in South Africa is not quite the same as life in the US, but it not quite different, either. Water is still water, college students are still college students, some people are nice, some people are rude, everybody has to eat, and everybody has to go to the bathroom. However, that doesn't mean all those things happen in the same way. Water isn't always accessed from a faucet inside the house (in rural areas), and even in the city, they have two faucets in most sinks-- one for hot, one for cold. Food is obviously different, people have different customs and phrases, and even pit toilets are not the same. Port-o-Johns are a luxury compared to the literal holes in the ground that they have in rural areas.

I think I've just realized that life is still life and people are still people, no matter where you go...it's all just in different packaging and with a different label.