Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting closer to real life

So I am feeling kind of sick right now (something has been going around to literally everyone on the program, so I’m not surprised). Anyway, good time to update. So I have had my first couple experiences navigating the University of Cape Town. As I have heard, it may be the best university in Africa, but it still operates in a third world country. Things are just so inefficient compared to American schools, and at times it is incredibly frustrating. On Monday we had to take a test to prove we can learn in English, and the woman ‘explaining’ how to fill out the test was infuriating. She wouldn’t listen to anyone’s questions, was incredibly unclear about everything, leaving the lecture hall full of students absolutely exasperated. The class registration process is even crazier… I spent 4 days trying to figure out what the hell a ‘pink form’ was, and after hearing 18 different explanations, I learned that you had to run around and get signatures from professors to get ‘preapproval’ for classes before the actual registration on Friday. The problem, though, is that course catalogs are not readily available, so finding out the teachers and times of classes is difficult. It really is absurd. Luckily I finished all of that, and am hopefully taking Conflict in World Politics, Povery, Development, and Globalization, and an African Literature class. Despite the craziness, I am trying to keep an open mind and accept that things at UCT just don’t run as smoothly as at Bowdoin.

A lot of the people here (at least those connected to the University) are really involved with and care about politics and world events. As one lecturer pointed out, this is a country of flux and change, and issues like housing, inequality, water, food, etc are very important to South Africans. So I am becoming less surprised when I find myself locked into a conversation on the Middle East with a soda vender, or looking at a flyer about a protest against governmental corruption handed to me by a student.

Today was a special day because we learned about SHAWCO and actually got to visit one of the sites located near a poor township. It reminded me a lot of Safe Passage in Guatemala. SHAWCO is involved with community development and serves as a sort of supplemental after school program for local children. It also provides services to the elderly, works on health and AIDS awareness, and teaches English. It seems like an incredible program, and I can’t wait to get more involved. This weekend I think I am signing up to do a homestay in a township, which should be very interesting. Hopefully I feel better by Friday.

The evenings here are so beautiful. As the sun goes down the weather is a perfect 69 degrees. I have loved running up to the top of UCT’s campus around this time because the weather and campus are just gorgeous. I also played soccer in a random park the other day with a couple people, which was really refreshing. Anyway, I miss you all!

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