South Africa

Friday, July 21, 2006

Recap 7: Baboons


You may recall that I mentioned baboon research way back when...well I did another session before I left and took my camera this time. Since none of the trained assistants could go the day I went I took my biology, American friend Allison and we did a full day of baboon research (sunrise-sunset). Specifics of the study: it was in Tokai forest (a mixture of ecalyptus and pine trees) which is a popular park, especially for mountain biking. This troop which has recently broken into two groups, so we were monitoring the larger group of about 60-70 baboons. We recorded GPS readings every 30 minutes to monitor the troops movement. We also did observance surveys (just recording what a sample of the troop were doing at that time, ex: what they were foraging (aka eating), if they were grooming/playing/resting etc). It was a long day and a couple of times the dominant male approached us and made sure we'd submit (by looking down, walking away, etc) but finally left us alone near the end of the day.
Since coming back I've realized what a sweet opportunity it was. I mean, heck I got to hang out with BABOONS for a day, and in their natural habitat! who can say that?!? I really enjoyed hanging out with Allison and talking about nerdy things a large part of the day (such as hypothesizing why the baboons were acting a certain way, what type of plants we were sitting in, the ecology of the forest, etc--things I think are amazing).
The baboons were awesome. They sleep in very tall pine trees and come down in the late morning. In the early morning they forage on pine trees, and when they are done the pine cones come flying down at us (often I was more afraid of getting hit by a pine cone than a baboon attacking me). They then swing down or even play high up, it's incredible. you look up in a bunch of pine trees and barely see the baboons flying from tree to tree or just chilling 100 meteres up. it's simply amazing.
they mosy around the forest/roads/trails for the majority of the day, with the moms and babies hanging out in back and we try to stay with them or in the relative middle.
one time they started messing with the homes near by, usually chasing the horses or jumping over fences, eating from gardens/trees etc. the homeowners would look at us quizingly but we weren't supposed to do anything. it was semi-awkward.
all in all--a grand day. loved it. one of the baboons, one of the males was playing in a river fluff for awhile and then started following us over the bridge. i couldn't help but laugh at it and it's silly presence even though we were trapped between two male baboons (which had potential to add ugly). but everything turned out okay and i got a picture.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Recap 7: digmates























CAPTIONS:
Matthias, Heather, Meghan, Jonathan at Robben Island

Hannah, what a sweet picture, perfectly describes Hannah, always on the go.

Alex being cool and collected as always...haha

Reidar with the weirdest looking drink i've ever seen. he finished it for the record. we were eating out as a family for his bday.

-Meghan (one on left) and Miki being beautiful as always.

Jonathan prepared to scare the life out of the rat that decided to make a home in our kitchen. (favorite Reidar quote during the rat ordeal: "I'm probably the scarediest one here, but im just here because of gender roles...")

the group eating dinner together--i think for Heather's bday.

I miss my friends. A lot. It’s a weird thing because if I was there I’d miss my friends here, but now that I’m here I miss my friends there. Five months gives you quite a long time to get really close to a lot of people. Especially if you are living, eating, cooking, singing, laughing, playing, running, learning, exploring, questioning, experiencing, loving, understanding, teasing, and encouraging each other every day. My housemates were probably my closest friends there, and I saw them every day. No matter how long and crappy my day was I knew Miki or Meghan would be home waiting with an ear to hear about my day, giving advice if needed but more importantly just caring. I could play the “did you know…” game and force them to listen to all my random biology facts I’d learn. During finals week more often than not I came home to a warm dinner provided by Miki. I knew Alex would make me laugh with one of his famous quotes or describing the world’s best! deal at Woolworths (the expensive, fancy grocery store), Reidar would begin a story with a fit of laughter and eventually get the whole tale out, Jonathan would make fun of me as any good brother would but would also ask about everyone’s day and would help if at all possible, Matthias was most likely gone with his girlfriend Lindsay, unless of course he had a paper due the next day at which case he would be playing spider on someone’s laptop procrastinating, Hannah would have spastic excitement but would always be ready to make the world’s best plans, Allison would most likely be MIA but might stop by with the pinkest cupcakes I’ve ever seen, Heather would have the most hilarious thing to say or would be taking a third shower of the day (if a paper was due)…I absolutely loved my housemates. I miss them like the dickens. I miss having Meghan screech when she sees a cockroach. I miss cooking with Miki. I miss Alex’s phrases and amazing insults. I miss running with Reidar, Alex, Jonathan, Hannah, and Colin. I miss always being able to hang out with someone. I miss always having someone to go exploring with or someone to distract me from work. I miss watching movies late into the night with a room full of friends. I miss having potlucks. I miss having such a tight knit community of people that I feel comfortable, safe, energized, challenged, and included. I love being able to spend time with my family and people in Eau Claire, but I wish that missing people didn’t hurt as much.
It's weird to think, but people tended to clump the Americans together so I almost tricked myself into believing that everyone from the states would be really close to me when i got home and it would be easy to stay in touch. what a lie. i now have close friends all over the show, Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, Illinois...not to mention South Africa, Botswana, Malicia (spelled wrong i know), Germany, Norway, Canada...it’s awesome I have friends from different backgrounds and cultures but I wish with all my heart that I could transport myself to a million places in a blink of an eye (for free would be an additional bonus).

recap 6: random shots







Random Shots.

1. This one time I saw a huge group of adorable school age children, all in sweet uniforms walk by. I so happened to have a camera in my backpack so I was semi-creepy and took a picture while hiding my camera in my raincoat...but isn't it a cool shot?

2. overlooking the city at sunrise on the way up for one of my exams...stupid early tests...

3. We all walked down from varsity together--Jonathan celebrating because he was done. I still had three more to go. that's just sick.

4. night traffic one of the times i was up on campus late...in the library...you know the usual--partying it up.

5. the view out of my window. i woke up to that every morning. and you wonder why i miss it.

6. some of the coolest people around. Alicia, William, and One'. my human biology friends. One' and William were also in my microbiology class and were amazing. William was from a island off the coast of South Africa and One' was from Botswana. Both taught me a lot and I miss them a ton. One' was my lab partner which was completely random but was perfect. She brought over a cheesecake (the best i've ever had--it was absolutely fantastic) to say goodbye. i hate goodbyes. they suck. William, another guy from my human bio (HUB) class, and I went to this mexican restaurant as a final hooray and i had mexican! i hadn't had a burrito/taco/anything along those lines for the entire stay and it was wonderful. except it meant more goodbyes. Alicia was from the states and was in my HUB class as well and we had good times reviewing material and she was also involved with SAEP (south african education program) leading hikes. She was incredible too.

Recap 5: planting gardens







Megan's church was planting a garden and flowers at a school in Kaliescha (totttttally spelled that wrong). I dragged a couple housemates with me (Miki, Jonathan, Heather) and made a good time of it. We planted seeds which the students would take care of until big enough to plant in the garden. It was such a cool thing happenin' at this school. The neighborhood at which the school is in is extremely poor and a lot of the kids don't eat at home. The only food they get is the food they recieve at the school. Therefore the school has begun this garden project in order to feed the community. They make food packages of cabbage, carrots, beets, spinach, tomatoes, etc. and give them to the area families. The building is the school building where area school children can come and learn. sweet.

Recap 4: barn dance







I have never gone to a barn dance even being from Wisconsin so it is ironic that I helped lead a barn dance in South Africa. My friend Megan was asked to be a caller for a jr. high group who was having a barn dance. She needed someone to help demonstrate the dances so I got the lucky position. It was incredible. I love middle schoolers and these guys were no different. My favorite part was when a 6th grader boy came up to me and voiced his concerns, "I can't do this whole dancing thing. I have no rhythm...ahhh" things are the same every where--middle schoolers self-conscious about their dancing...oh wait not just middle schoolers. It was very fun. Three dances, line dancing/circle dancing...and I got to wear a cowboy hat.

Recap 3: Beautiful Gate






Beautiful Gate stole my heart the minute I walked into the cottages. A little background: While in the states I met a woman, Nora Krahn who, along with her husband Ken, is a missionary in Cape Town. They work at an orphange, Beautiful Gate, where all the children are HIV positive.
They invited me to spend the weekend with them, which was absolutely amazing, relaxing, and beautiful. On Saturday morning we went to the orphange, Ken working in the Chapel (he is the Chaplain) and Nora first cleaning up the head nurses station/organizing kids' medication and then going to the cottages to give the drugs to go with lunch. I went with her to the cottages (there are 9 cottages I believe with 8ish kids in each) to hang out with the kids and I cannot express the emotions I felt. One of the cottages I walked into a little girl, about the age of 4 I'd say ran up to me full speed and jumped into my arms. I was a bit shocked but obviously loved it, and immediately she started playing with my hat and hair, touching my face, and examining every nook and cranny. They were all eating dinner, but when they were done with lunch I helped a cottage go to bed (one of the "Mama"s (that's what they call the women that watch the children) was gone so a cottage was doubling up with another one and very overwhelming for the one Mama still there). I have to admit I was a distraction and didn't immediately put them to bed...I couldn't help it. The kids were so dang wonderful and I wanted to play with them. They all danced about, climbed on me (the jungle gym), figured out I had a camera and posed/took pictures to their heart's delight, and smiled beautiful smiles that captured my heart. One room, with three boys would not lie down and sleep until I took a picture of a stuffed bee. I didn't even bother trying to understand why and that picture will always remind me of the crazy boys who couldn't stay still for more than two minutes.

Which leads me to a realization. I hadn't really thought about it, but I think I have unconscious thoughts about the physical appearance of disease, specifically HIV and AIDS, and preconceived ideas of how a person with this disease acts and feels. I realized/am realizing that this is often true. True, these kids have HIV. True, lots of kids, and often even the kids in the orphange, are sick, vulnerable, weak and miserable. True it is life threatening and will most likely shorten these kids lifes. True the disease can prevent activity, hinder happiness, spur on misery and dispare. However it does not mean these kids uncapable of love, joy, humor, energy, excitement, spontanuity, craziness, mischief, and all the other characteristics you link with children. They are beautiful. In spirit and body. Cape Town, especially noticeable at the university, is attempting to remove the stigma and isolation that comes with AIDS and HIV. There is no reason to isolate and seclude those with this horrible, awful disease. It just doesn't make sense. Why remove them from support and love when that's what they need most? I certainly hope our society has grown enough to be different than the times where had separate communities for those with leprosy.

I actually just got a newsletter from them this week and I was thinking/praying for the Krahns and the children I metas I was driving today and started crying. They were emotionally mixed tears, both joyful and mournful. Joyful because these kids are getting the medication and love they so desperately need. Mournful because though their life expectancy is far higher than it would be without the medications, they will still lead averagely short lifes. And that tears me up inside. Why do we live in a world that children are born with a disease that will kill them? Why do these kids have no protection against the disease or say in the matter? Why do these beautiful, precious children have to take 3-4 pills a day just to stay alive? Why do other children, equally as precious and wonderful, not get the drugs and thus die before they can run, before they can build friendships, before they know what it feels like to swim in the ocean, before they learn their ABC's? I

Recap 2: Teach Out



CAPTIONS: 1st: the room where we did most of the tutoring 2nd: the schoolyard 3rd: the school: Gugulatu
One of my favorite memories in Cape Town was my first teach out experience where I had to teach math to 20 plus students who only spoke English as a second language and laughed at me when I tried to say their names. To say the least I entertained them with my random noises/excited movements...I loved it. Anyway I never commented on it after my initial experience, or not at least that I remember. Unfortunately numbers dropped drastically after the first one and often it was more one on one interaction (which was very good for the student because in their classes the student to teacher ratio is about 50 to 1--and that's normal in the townships!) I never got to know any one student well, but I began to learn a little about their culture. By no means did I scratch the surface of the complexity of the politics, social dynamics, family traditions, or even basic living of the area, but I loved watching the students interact with each and react to us very different outsiders. I was the only American in the specific group so I stuck out even more than just being white. My accent shined through and created many laughing moments (mostly directed at my metaphors in attempting to explain mathematic concepts).
Though it was a fantastic experience and one which forced me to re-evaluate my teaching strategies and student interaction, it was very challenging in the respect that we saw little direct reward. No test scores before and after were given to see if we helped at all, little feedback from the students regarding our helpfulness (they all automatically said we were helping, but did they really mean it?), no teacher interaction/discussion, no week to week routine to depend on or compare to, and no commitment in attending in the student population. It seemed there was a lot of kids that had already given up on going to the university because it is so difficult to come from this background and have the money and marks (aka grades) to get there. I could go on and on about why this is and what needs to be changed, but basically there aren't enough teachers, textbooks, resources (no to few computers or other technology), support.

I would interact with these kids and want so badly for them to be able to dream like I was able to. Dream of what tomorrow could bring. Dream of what career they want to be when they grow up. Dream of the education they will recieve and the knowledge they will gain. Dream of a life different than the present. Dream of moving to new places, seeing new things.

On the other hand some of the kids that would come to these after school sessions were amazing. Simply amazing. Those of you who have hung out with me for more than 10 minutes know I use that word a lot, but these kids deserve it. Their motivation to succeed shines through. They will not accept answers unless they fully understood it (and to be honest sometimes I wanted so badly to just moooove on after working on a single problem for 30 plus minutes, especially when it was trig, but they would persevere). Their dedication to each other was pretty sweet, and become apparent when one wouldn't get an answer the others would encourage and explain in Xhosa (which would sometimes be frustrating when I had no idea what they were talking about/laughing about (most likely at me)).

Something else that surprised me (and this will show how naive I was/am): high schoolers have similar threads woven in their character/personalities/lives no matter where you are. By no means am I saying high schoolers in the US are the same or even are close, but there are still the funny, giggly interactions between girls and boys, the "tough" guys who have a hard time getting into school, leaders emerging and obviously putting 150% into their academics, the laughter and dodgy eye contact between each other when they are talking about someone...oh the list goes on. It was fun to be in such a different and unique environment yet see blurry similiarities between there and the US.

recap 1: Scarborough







The last few weeks back in Cape Town were some of the most busy/fun/sad/challenging weeks of my life and I realize that y'all didn't get to hear about them. But more selfishly, I didn't get to talk about them (and i'll admit that is more of the driving reason than anything). So here is the beginning of a couple "recaps" from my last couple of weeks in the promise land of Cape Town.
Let's start with Scarborough. My housemates (aka family--i keep accidently referring to them as that, but we got to be pretty tight...) and other friends went to a ocean-side house type thing for a weekend as a final hooray. it was a good hooray. some highlights:
1. exploring tide pools with Alistair and Meghan--we saw sea stars (as you can see in the pictures, they are meghan's new favorite animal..we were both pretty excited about it)

2. after Jonathan (one of my housemates who was like my brother from the semester) was brutally making fun of me from the couch i decided to go run and jump over the couch and punch him, WWF style. well little did i know the couch had it out for me and the armrest grew seriously four feet in order to smash my knee and i crumbled on top of him with little harm to him. sad. i was further made fun of.

3. the decorations in this house were incredibly tacky. so much stuff was hanging from the ceiling it was amazing
4. slacklining by the ocean, what more needs to be said (besides the fact we may or may not have ruined a "whale watching" sign...)

5. the hardwood floors were so slippery that the lower ramp to the downstairs took me out twice on the way down...totally fell straight on my butt. it was great.

6. making meals together :) what a big happy family
7. the late night conversations and reading the book all about oranges
8. the stars were beautiful.
9. lots of friends all hanging out together
10. oh so i drove alistairs manual car to pick up miki and hannah at the trainstation and there was a police traffic stop (they block the road so you have to get checked off by them...) and i freaked out because i didn't have my license on me and stalled the car 10 ft. before the policeman and then when i ever so calmly started again, he grilled me why i didn't have a license on me...why did i have to be such an idiot is basically what he said. alistair cleared it all up by saying, "oh she's an american". thanks. at least there was no fine involved, just evil glares.
11. Jonathan almost melting (aka whining up a storm) because he didn' t have any milk intake for 24 hrs. wow he's addicted. that boy drinks more milk than anyone i know...
12. the car back home: four people in the back seat, luggage for 6 and a very small car= lots of laughing and lots of butts falling asleep.

Monday, June 12, 2006

oh you know...the usual





Well with only one more final left and a couple of days to spare, some friends and I took a fantastic trip on the Garden Route. You may have already looked at the pictures and thought--gosh that's not a garden. but it's a big collection of places and things to do. we decided to make it a chill trip, you know like the usual...bungee jumping off the highest commercial bungee jump in the world--213 m off a bridge. it was a rush to say the least and very, very enjoyable. i have to admit my form was a bit sketchy but im proud to announce i didn't pee my pants nor did i have to be pushed off (though as you can tell by my curled toes i had my hesitations when they put my on the edge of the platform. it was into a huge canyon/ravine type thing. pretty sweet. and surprisingly a smooth ride. and yes i screamed. and mom, i think you would have liked it. more seriously i think jon would have puked walking on the metal catwalk to the place...you shoud see where you were going to jump and it wasn't a short fall...oh wow. highly recommended. i don't think the pictures need explanation but that's the bridge we jumped off of (right under the arch...)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

broken brain

My head has felt like it has been in vise (totally spelled that wrong) for pretty much the last week and a half. I feel like all I've done is gone to the library or any other location to study. studying is highly overrated i'm finding. Yesterday I had two finals, 6 hours of essay writing (essays on vertebrates and then religion, not very complimentary) and then studied for my human biology test today at 12. it didn't go so hot, but it didn't seem to sit well with anyone. nothing for a little brain whooping. I almost laughed out of my crazy state yesterday when someone asked me how to fill out their test registration, because by that time I had taken 5 exams...what an unfair world we live in.
but enough whining. only one more to go. Because my next exam isn't for a couple of days, I'm going to travel a bit with some housemates and friends. We're going on part of the Garden Route, I'm really excited. pictures coming I'm sure. Then come back for the test and then a couple of days to cruise around Cape Town trying to see the sights I've been ignoring while here. Hopefully some more climbing. hopefully more of everything until I head out on the 20. My house and a couple others are going to take an overnight trip to a nearby camping/chilling place to have one final woohooo.
I have a ton of pictures from recent but forgot to put them on my flash drive so they'll be coming.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

boudering rain




A couple of random photos. the two are at the bouldering wall at UCT that I try to hit up at least once a week. on the wall is Alex and Alistair. The other one of Alex and Meghan is one of the many times Meghan met me at the Jammie shuttle this last week late at night (i stayed up in the library until close most nights because i had a huge research project, a paper, and a test...let's just say it was not a stellar week). and the raincoat Alex is fashioning is Meghan's famous poncho which she loves promoting. it's rainy here. very rainy.