Sunday, February 27, 2011

It was... an eventful week.

Well looking back on this week it has proved to be a very eventful one.

Monday was class as usual. (It has been brought to my attention I have not said enough about my classes. So here is a brief description. I am taking 2 psychology classes currently: Psychopathology and Youth, Risk and Intervention. These two classes will end after a total of 7 weeks. When those end I will start a new psychology class called African Psychology. However, over the entire semester I am taking an anthropology class called Culture, Health, and Illness. None of these classes are within my major of Public Relations and Media Studies, but I am just taking them to fill my requirements for upper-level courses outside of my major.) After class on Monday I went with Patty, Asrah and Tim to the local mall called Pavilion to try to find a new computer charger since mine broke. That adventure was to little prevail however I did find iron supplements that I have since been taking and which have subsequently decreased my nightly restless leg syndrome. Fun all around. I know.

Anyways, because I could not replace my computer charger here without spending an arm and a leg, I had to order a new one off of Amazon from the States. So although it will take forever I'm sure to get here, at least I was able to buy it at half the cost that I could here, including shipping & handling.

Tuesday I had my first test here in my Psychopathology class. I thought it went fairly well, and to reward ourselves for making it out alive Patty and I went to the beach afterwards.

Wednesday I attended my classes and then went out for a girl named Tianna's 21st birthday to this fancy restaurant relatively near by. 27 of us went for the dinner, nearly all of the international students. The restaurant had Italian food and it was magnificent.

Patty, Myself and Johanne

My Finnish friend Johanna (pronounced yo-hanna)

Birthday girl Tianna!

Thursday I again had classes and then went to a braai for dinner. I was convinced to go out afterwards to this dance club called Plush. Long story short, the night turned into an absolute disaster for everyone involved. Lots of people weren't allowed in, one girl was thrown out and had really terrible slurs said about her in the process, two people lost/ or had stolen their cell phones, and my Coach wallet was stolen off of my wrist. Although at the time it all seemed pretty terrible at least no one was hurt and I did not lose anything that could not easily be replaced. (All of my American cards and important things were in my dorm room.)

After the eventful night Patty and I decided to take Friday easy. I joined the school's swimming club. (Which does not actually meet to go swimming, it just gives me access to the pool. -This should wipe some of those momentarily confused looks off of all of your faces. :) ) Then at night we made a nice dinner with one of the Finnish exchange students Johanna and watched a movie.

Saturday morning I woke up early and went with Patty and Johanna to the beach. After that Patty and I went to a Sharks game. (Durban's professional rugby team.) We ran into a lot of people we knew at the game- surprisingly. And I went out to dinner with some of them afterwards.

Johanna and Patty at Moyo for a post-beach cocktail

Moyo. :)

Shark's stadiam

Today I spent studying for another test that I have on Wednesday. Annnndd.... that's about it.

Love you all.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two Parter: A tale and some answers

Part One: A day in the life of a South African Abby:

Twas the day before this, and all through the night,
an Abby was stirring, sleep put up a fight.
When at 7 o clock, a Patty came knocking,
she requested her room key, though neither felt like talking.
Then much to that aforementioned Abby's dismay,
sleep had entirely fleeted away.
So up she did rise and to the kitchen she went.
She made herself some breakfast feeling tired and spent.
She had plans for the morning and knew she much go,
for the street kids of Africa needed her so.
She served food and smiles to the folks there in town,
feeling fulfilled and happy for spreading hope all around.
Next to a cafe with friends she settled down, ate, and talked.
Then on a rainy trip back to campus they all went and walked.
Happy because her new pashmina kept her dry
while the rain here was falling straight down from the sky.
Next this dear Abby watched a movie with Pat.
Then met for a house warming party to chat.
All of the girls in the building were so crazy and funny,
it didn't seem bad that outside was not sunny.
After the dorm warning party was through,
Abby went to the bars with a friend here or 2.
They had so much fun, until way too late in the night.
Staying awake for this sleepy Abby was indeed quite a fight.
Then at last she found her way back to bed.
Good night dear South Africa was the day's last words said.

bahahaha. I actually had no intention of writing that all in rhyme, but hopefully it was enjoyable. I suppose that does about sum up my day though. ha.

Part 2: Question and Answer time with Linda & Abby Rich.
My mother wrote me an email with a bunch of questions about South Africa. I'll answer them here so that you all can know too.

Q: What things do you hear people say as common forms of language there that they don't say here. Do they use British terms for things?
A: Good question mom. Well people here do talk differently. They say things like "cheers" and call their friends "mate." There are a lot of different accents because people here speak a lot of different African dialects. However, all classes are taught in English. English is also the main spoken language on campus. The other two that are common though is isuZulu, which in this region is the most prevalent. (I am trying to learn a few words. Sabona (sp?) means "hello.") The other is spoken primarily by whites and it is called Affrikans. 

Q: What do people wear?
A: People here dress quite similarly to the way they do back home. The main difference I've noticed is in the jeans males wear, which to me look pretty goofy. The dress is pretty standard to warm weather places, particularly to the way people dressed when I lived in Arizona. However, you will not ever see people wearing sweats to class. People dress up here for class, not necessarily fancy but not pajamas. I also found that to be pretty true though when I lived in Arizona.

Q: What about products - did you find the same shampoos, toothpaste, etc. Does the coke taste the same? Is it in cans or bottles? Any interesting approaches to packaging or things in restaurants that are different in terms of serving?
A: Some of the products are the same for shampoos and toothpaste and other toiletries. I've seen tresseme and Pantene Pro-V however these are more expensive than the local brands. 
Coke does not taste the same here. It is a lot sweeter tasting. I have seen it in both cans and plastic bottles. However, I am rather particular about my diet coke so I haven't been drinking any of that here. I mostly only drink water. With the obvious exception of beer every once in a while. :)
Packaging in grocery stores is all done in plastic bags. However, these plastic bags are the STRONGEST plastic bags ever and never rip regardless of how heavy the load is. 
In restaurants it is entirely acceptable to ask them to package up leftovers to go, which I know was not custom when I was in France. The way food is served is similar so far as I can tell. Except you must ask for more water if you want it, they won't just refill it. That is actually true of pretty much all restaurant service here. It is not like in the US where the waiter will come check on you every so often to see how you're doing. If you want something you must flag them down and ask. 

Q: What are the main foods people eat? Do they have fast foods? Fast food restaurants?
A: The main foods people eat here. Hmm... lots of Indian foods. There are little carts all over campus that sell Rotis, Curries, burgers, ect. Chicken burgers are really really common here. In fact, I'd say they make up a large portion of my diet. Chicken in general is huge here. What else? Vegetarian options are WAYYY better here than they are back home. There are so many options and substitutes, and not like the gross substitutes back home, they're really great here. With the exception of chicken, I haven't eaten barely any meat at all. Which, I suppose isn't too different for me from back home.
Oh, also Braai meet is HUGE here. (Braais, for those of you just joining us- :) can most closely be described as similar to American barbeque's.) They grill brisket and there is a very distinct braai sauce that is used. Though this is quite similar to how bbq's happen back home, I'd say they are WAY more common here. People braai constantly.
Yes. There is definitely fast food. Lots and lots of fast food. Aside from the vendors on campus which is food you get fast, there are many fast food restaurants. KFC is HUGE here. There are KFCs everywhere. Also, they have a "restaurant" called Steers which I would equate to like McDonald's or Burger King. There is also a place called Debonairs which serves pizzas and hot subs.
Lastly, the place that is the biggest here is called Nando's which is a chain restaurant that specializes in chicken but also has other options as well. This is a higher quality one, and though the food is relatively fast I would compare it to like a Panera. 

Q: Modes of transportation? You mentioned the roads are "take your life in your hands." How do you get around? How do locals get around?
A: There are vans called Mini Buses which is the cheapest way to get around and the way that most Zulu people travel. These are the fast moving dangerous vehicle that I previously mentioned. I use these whenever I am going into town or to the beach. However, you can only use them before 6:00pm and they do not go everywhere, they have pre-determined routes.
Otherwise there is bus transportation which I have only used a couple times.
Mostly if I am going out at night or want to go anywhere other than the beach or town I take a cab which is also pretty cheap. Definitely not as cheap as the mini buses (which is 8 or 5 Rand each way - about 1 dollar US) but still quite reasonable. Last night when I shared a cab back with a girl from a pretty far away bar it cost us each 35 Rand- 5 US dollars.

Well, this blog seems sufficiently long and makes up for my lack of blogging in the past. 
If any of you have more questions definitely ask them. It makes this experience much easier for me. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Settling in

Dear blog readers, all two of you, I'm terribly sorry for my lack of blogging updates.

I find myself not feeling the need to go on the internet as much here. I think that is probably mostly because I can't just sit in my room and mess around on it like I normally do. I have to climb up like 9 million stairs on the way to campus to access the wi-fi. And as it turns out, I'm rather lazy.

I also am having a hard time feeling as though my life is interesting enough to write about. I can't imagine sitting at home and blogging about my day to day goings-on. I just don't find myself nearly fascinating enough for that. And I have to imagine that if even I don't feel that way, that any of you could.

However, for inquiring minds. (Mind?) I will do my best to be better. Also, I will do my best to take more pictures because I haven't done that in a long time.

People here go out a lot. I'm finding it hard to keep up. I'm used to being rather boring back home. However, I suppose I am only in Africa once.

My classes have started and it is so nice to have a more relaxed load of work.

This needs to be cut short. Two girls just sat down across from me and are blowing smoke directly into my face. As much as I'd like to thank them for the second hand cancer, I think I'll just end my blog post here and try to update you all later.

Again, sorry for being a terrible blogger.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Monkeys and Tomatoes

Yesterday morning started off... well... unlike any other morning.

I woke up and looked out my window and what do I see? Lots and lots of these cute little buggers:

Cute right? Yeah... so I thought too until I took this picture:

and SECONDS later the dirty little creepy creature LEPT at me and jumped through my window and INTO my room. 

Needless to say, chaos quickly ensued. And by chaos I mean, me screaming and running out of my room and yelling down to Arita, "ARITA ARITA!!! What do I do if there is a monkey in my room???" (I'm not sure why I felt that just because she was here last year she would know what to do in such a circumstance.)
Anyways, by the time I got back to my room I watched as the little bugger ran out my window with a loaf of bread. Teaches me not to leave my windows in the morning. Seriously. Look how smug he looks:

Well, after that whole fiasco took place, I went and finished registering for classes. Which, mind you, South Africans make significantly more difficult than necessary. In fact, it almost seems like they sat down collectively and asked each other, "how can we possibly make this process the most challenging and stressful for absolutely everyone involved?" To their credit, they succeeded in doing so. 

However, I was somehow lucky enough to make it through the process both alive and with the majority of my sanity and I am now registered for 2 psych classes, 1 anthro class, and 1 criminology class. They seem fairly interesting, and best of all the schedule works out with all 4 of them. Which, when taken in context with what I just told you, is quite the feat. 

To reward ourselves for such an accomplishment, me, Patty, Azra, Arita, and Tim went to the beach. We had to take the mini buses to get there which though this time did not seem to be as dangerous, we had to wait obnoxiously long and eventually just took the metro bus system. 
When we got to the beach we met with Arita's friend Tubs (who is one of the locals we have been hanging out with here) and we all hung out at the BEAUTIFUL beach.

We were having a good time until we realized that I had turned into a bright red plump tomato. (Well... hopefully not plump.) Anyways, needless to say, the rest of the day was a bit painful. However, I didn't much mind because I reminded myself that the alternative was frost bite back in Minnesota. 

After the beach we all went again to the local township with Jamal (the other Interstudy student), a few other international students, and Tubs and Thando. We had another braai there and then left early so that I could go to sleep because I was one tired little lobster. :)

That's about it for now. I finally got the internet sitch figured out so I should be able to update a bit more often. Miss and love you all. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Simple beginnings" -Patty O'Keefe

Sorry for my insufficient blogging since my arrival. My internet access is still pretty dicey at this point. The dorms are completely internet-less, and though all of campus has wi-fi internet, my account has not yet been set up. All of this should be squared away in the next few days though, or at least by this time next week.

I’ve been having a great time so far. I went out on Thursday night to a rasta bar called Cool Runnings. On Thursday nights they have a drum circle in the back of the bar which was a fun first way to take in the African culture. It was also a good way for me to determine that I have no future in professional drumming.

On Friday we had orientation in the morning and then went down to the beach for the first time. To get there we used these van taxis called mini buses. There is really no way to explain these mini buses except as a vehicle to an almost certain swift and quick death. They dodged in and out of lanes, sometimes simply driving down the middle of multiple lanes at once. They nearly collided with every other vehicle and I saw one hit a lady. Once there however, the beach was absolutely beautiful and we ate at a restaurant called Joe Cools on the beach.

Saturday we woke up early and went to the South African Sea World called uShaka. It is the largest sea world in the Southern Hemisphere and was ½ aquarium and ½ water park. We saw a dolphin show and played with penguins through the glass. Saw lots of different fishies and sharks and then floated on a tube through a lazy river for a long time. Not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon in the sun, that’s for sure.  We went to uShaka with the other campus of Interstudy students but we broke away from them after because Anita wanted to take us to Moyo, a bar out on a pier above the ocean for some “coffee” as she told the director. So the 6 of us Durban students, Anita, Ebby and another Interstudy worker went to Moyo and got really fancy drinks with the best view I have ever had. We also got our faces painted in a traditional African style while there.

Yesterday I went with Patty and Arita (another girl in our group, who was also here last semester) to a local township where Arita has friends. We then went to another local’s house and had a braai (an African barbeque.) Which was really neat to experience. The guy whose house we were at and his whole family prepared the meal for us and it was a good opportunity to experience an African custom first-hand.

I’m really feeling like a terrible blogger, I hope that this isn’t extremely boring for you all to read. Hopefully the pictures help.

View from my dorm room.

My Dorm (Minus the Closet and the Sink)

The Girls on the program (Patty, me, Asrah, and Arita)

Dolphin show at uShaka

Cute Little Pengyys.


View from one side of Moyo

View from front of Moyo

A mojito in honor of my mama


Love and miss you all.