Wow. I leave South Africa in three weeks. At this point, I’m in the midst of writing my ISP. I never thought I would be able to think of a topic, let alone WRITE an ISP. But anyways. I’ve basically spent the past week going to my internship and gathering information for my ISP. Tomorrow is my last day, and the paper is due May 2nd…eek!
In terms of fun things, I did get my nose pierced on Saturday. I also convinced my roommate Maggie to do it, and I foolishly made her get hers done first. Well. Stupid move. I saw how large the needle they use was and almost chickened out. The lady that pierced my nose was clearly judging me because I was being typical Chelsea and freaking out and asking a million questions. But…it didn’t hurt as much as I thought. After getting my nose pierced, we went to this biltong (like jerky) shop, and I tried Springbok jerky! Nom.
We’ve basically been spending most of our time on the beach or working on our papers. At this point, I’m getting ready to wrap up. It’s been such a wonderful experience, but I miss my friends and family terribly.
Sorry this is such a short post! It’s hard to tell everything that I’ve been doing. The good news is that I’ll be home soon and will have all the time in the world to chat about my trip when I get home!
It’s been a while. On Friday, my boss decided she didn’t want to come back to work after lunch so I got to come home at 1 and lay on the beach all day! Friday night, we turned in our 10+ page literature reviews and decided to celebrate by treating ourselves to a nice dinner. On the beachfront, there is a place called Ushaka Marine World which is an aquarium and water park, as well as a promenade of shops and restaurants. It’s a little bit of a walk, but we got dressed up and made our way to this giant “ship” slash restaurant called The Cargo Hold. It was really nice - the food was deliiiiicious, and we ate next to this giant shark tank. Loved it. We ended up walking around a little afterward and getting ice cream, and called it a night around 10.
Saturday, we woke up pretty early and headed to the beach. At around 11:30, my roommate Maggie, my friend Collin and I decided to walk to Victoria Street market. It’s part of the 9 Warwick markets (where I ate the cow head a long time ago). It’s definitely quite a hike from the beachfront, but we wanted to buy some souvenirs and some fruit. I ended up buying my brother and my dad soccer jerseys, as well as some apples and plums. We went to this place called Little Gudjarat for lunch, and the three of us split this huge platter of food for 40 rand (about $5). It was delicious and super cheap! We spent some more time in the market and took the bus home. I went to this kind of terrifying internet cafe and was able to Skype with my best friends at school which was SO nice. I miss everyone so much and I can’t wait to see you all at graduation! :)
Saturday night we went to this club called La Vida. South African clubs are very strange…We met a lot of very interesting people as well.
On Sunday, we planned to go to Ushaka to go to the water park and the aquarium. I went with five friends and we spent the day there. The aquarium is surprisingly nice, and we had the best time at the water park. I can also say that I went on the highest water slide in Africa which was slightly terrifying. I am somewhat surprised I didn’t suffer a wardrobe malfunction. YAY.
In other news, I am just going to my internship every day. Doing great work. Tonight we are traveling to a township called Umlazi to talk with a family of a missing person. It’s hard to believe that I leave for home in only four short weeks. I know I’ll miss South Africa, but it’s been such a long time, and I miss my family!
Well. As the title of this post suggests, this is not a happy anecdote. I woke up yesterday (Tuesday) and went to the bus stop to go to my internship. After missing the first bus, which blew past me for no particular reason, I finally got on and started my journey to work. About three blocks from the flats where we live, there is a pretty busy road. I noticed that cars were stopped on one side and that there was something in the road. I was still far enough away that I couldn’t make it out, but when we got closer, I realized it was my worst fear. There was a dead body covered with a metallic tarp lying in the road. It was surrounded by a large pool of blood which police were idly washing into the nearby storm drain. I was absolutely horrified. I have never seen a dead body before that wasn’t in a funeral home or on television. I cannot believe how raw the experience was, and I got so overwhelmed that I definitely started crying on the bus. I got myself back together before I got off my stop, but my hands didn’t stop shaking for a few hours, and I definitely still don’t feel like myself. I really wish that I had never seen that, and I certainly would never wish that upon someone else. According to my boss, that is pretty normal - people in South Africa are never really in a hurry to do anything. This even means body removal apparently. I don’t know if it was a car accident and the person got hit or what, but it was gruesome and something I feel like would not have happened in the United States.
So sorry I haven’t updated in so long! I have been basically internet-less for the past 5 or some odd days so I will have a lot to update everyone on. Thursday morning, we moved out of our Newlands homestay and were picked up by the SIT drivers. During this homestay, all of our large luggage was kept in the SIT office and we basically lived out of duffel bags for a few weeks. This was kind of a pain because they only had one trailer to move 26 humans into their flats, so they had to make 3 trips. When we got to the Windemere, we learned that we would be stuck on the first (not really first because there’s a ground floor) floor until Monday because of the holiday weekend. We were initially bummed but we heard we’d be on the 12th floor and you cannot beat the view. We moved in, spent about an hour freaking out about the beach, and then walked to the grocery store. I was way too excited about grocery shopping; I never cook for myself at school. It made me a little sad though, since I always grocery shop with my dad on Sundays and I miss him! I made responsible life choices and didn’t squander my stipend on wine (though I was tempted). I am really trying to also not eat cereal for every meal which is what I do at home because I’m admittedly too lazy to make things slash don’t know how. Whoops! We spent Thursday night celebrating (maybe a bit too hard) about our new digs, but oh well. You only live once.
On Friday, we spent the morning on the beach, which is approximately 100 yards from our flats. There was a Quiksilver Junior Pro Surfer competition happening so we walked down and saw children who appeared to be 6-8 tearing up the waves. I have no idea how. I think people in Durban are just born tan and holding a surfboard. We had heard there was a Hare Krishna festival called the Festival of Chariots involving a procession of chariots, so we wanted to go see them. We had also heard there was free food, so that was an added incentive. We walked up along the beachfront and finally saw the brightly decorated chariots. We also made friends with a traveling Russian monk who was telling us about his life…he was awesome. He also informed us that the free food was ALL the way up the beachfront near the former World Cup stadium. We ended up walking the entire way there, but the free food was definitely worth it. The festival was in a big parking lot and had many different tents. There was a meditation tent, one giving lectures about meditating and other issues concerning Hare Krishna, a gift store, and one with live cows which was a little strange. We got huge plates of biryani and walked around for a while before we decided to head back home. We were lucky being on the first floor when we were, because the chariots were processing directly in front of our flats. There were 3 or 4 huge ones being pulled by hundreds of people chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. It was quite the sight to see. Later that night, almost all the SIT students reunited at Joe Cool’s, a bar that is across the way.
The first thing we did on Saturday morning was walk all the way to South Beach to check out Ushaka Marine World. This place is basically an aquarium and water park. It’s super crowded this weekend because of all the people on holiday, but we are definitely going to go next weekend! My roommate Maggie and I also made friends with an vendor/artist named Jeffrey who told us he’d give us discounts on paintings (woop!). The rest of the morning was again spent at the beach and we walked back to get some more free food. Things went rapidly downhill circa 5 PM. While I had applied sunscreen multiple times, it’s no secret that I am the fairest of them all. I even got sunburned on my ears which is a very unpleasant sensation. I had also been feeling under the weather and was definitely dehydrated. I came home and passed out, and woke up at around 7 and thought I was dying. I chugged water but I was coughing and basically felt like death warmed up (the way my skin was radiating heat, I could have kept an Amish family warm for an entire winter). My roommate Rachel mothered me and put me to bed and I slept for approximately 15 hours. Overall, not the best day I’ve spent here. Of course I had also been reading my roommate Megan’s book on South Africa for fun, and realized I had all the symptoms of malaria after being in a high-risk malaria area the week before. I figured there had to be some sort of incubation period for symptoms, but I was mildly delirious (the fever, man). My imagination got the best of me perhaps.
It couldn’t be an Easter or a Christmas without at least one of the Cassell children being ill. When my family called me, I found out that we both were (I’m being punished for not going to church…). It is hard to imagine that it’s Easter when it’s 80 degrees outside - not that I’m complaining. Since I was still feeling a little iffy, I spent the morning resting and actually working on my 10-page paper due on Friday (look at me!). I was feeling a lot better that evening so I went to Joe Cool’s (probably not the most responsible decision I’ve ever made, but I’m not perfect). It was BUMPING. Apparently Sunday is the day to party there, and we definitely made lots of friends, including some thirty-year-old British men and a man from the Congo. I spent most of the evening outside making friends. After proclaiming that I was going home early, I ended up being in the group that closed the club down at 4 AM….whoops.
Since Monday was a public holiday, I didn’t have to go to work. I wanted to do a dry run of walking to work, which took a lot longer than I thought. It also wasn’t through the nicest looking areas, so I decided to take a bus and walk the two blocks instead (don’t worry, dad). I had taken my roommates with me, and during this walk, we went through the Workshop, which is kind of like a mall area with outside vendors. We were casually strolling around when who appears walking towards us but some man dressed as Spongebob. First of all, it was one of those costumes mascots wear, but it was clearly a second (or third, or fourth) rate costume. It was honestly terrifying, and I don’t know why but I could not stop laughing/crying. He was just taking a casual stroll through the mall on a Monday. I honestly wonder what possessed him to wake up and say, “I think I’ll dress up like Spongebob today”. Strange things. We passed him again and I was still recovering from the first time, and I lost it again. I should honestly know better than to question strange things in South Africa, because I have seen the weirdest things I have ever seen here.
The Hunger Games wasn’t supposed to come out here until April 13th, but it was playing at Suncoast Casino on the 9th so we were confused but very excited. We ended up seeing the 12 PM show (love love love loved it!). I ended up spending the rest of the day super nervous about getting to work! I suck at public transportation, and I am never alone here so that was another concern.
This is a tangent but I want to share that my intentions of cooking were so good except I basically eat scrambled eggs for dinner all the time. However, I did come up with the best idea to make scrambled eggs on Monday night and put tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in together and it was like Caprese scrambled eggs! So nom.
Tuesday morning I woke up at around 5:55 (I cannot sleep late ever). I was, however, fortunate enough to watch the sun rise over the Indian Ocean. It was absolutely lovely and I took a lot of photos. The only other people awake were the surfers dotting the waves, and it was so calm and peaceful. I got ready and made it to work successfully by taking the bus and walking a few blocks. Nobody gave me any trouble, but I did make friends with a man named Omega and the older doorman at my building named Baba (we spoke Zulu together, and he was the cutest old man). I ended up getting a lot of my paper done at work, and my boss had things to do in the afternoon so she dropped me off at my flat at around 3:15. After a trip to the grocery store, we decided to take Suncoast up on their free fitness classes at 5:30. We went to Zumba on this grassy field fifty yards from the ocean and it was definitely one of the most pleasant workouts I’ve ever participated in. I finally ate something besides scrambled eggs or cereal for dinner too – pasta! I am talented in the kitchen.
adventures in Jozini!
I spent the past two days in various parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal to attend a spiritual repatriation, and what a trip it was. I was so nervous to go on Monday morning, since I had only met my boss once and because this seemed to be such a massive undertaking. I should never have worried. My boss is absolutely lovely, and made me feel welcome from the moment I got into her car. She picked me up from the gas station and we headed off towards Jozini. About an hour into the trip, she picked up a road map and pulled into another gas station. She said that she didn’t want to go straight there, and that we should see if there was a more interesting route than just the highway (in this way, I must say she reminds me of you, mom). We ended up stopping in this little town called St. Lucia, which was gorgeous. We drove to an observation spot near an estuary, where approximately 10-12 fat lazy hippos where lounging. I was so excited since I haven’t seen them yet. We drove further on and walked to the bank, where we were about 50 yards away from one of the most dangerous creatures. I was kind of nervous, but people was casually fishing next to the “Beware: Crocodiles and Hippos” sign, so I guess we were okay. I was definitely not trying to encounter a Nile crocodile, though.
After leaving St. Lucia, we worked our way west towards Jozini. The drive was absolutely beautiful. We wound our way through green mountains completely untouched by man. I felt as though I was in Jurassic Park for quite some time. Eventually, we arrived at the Tiger Lodge in Jozini. I was basically astounded. It was located on the river, close to the Jozini Dam. We checked in, and I found that they had given me a family suite with a king bed and a loft with ANOTHER king bed…not sure why I got this room, but the view was lovely. Deborah called me to leave to go to “the farm” so I came downstairs. I asked her how she expected me to work with such terrible lodging.
We headed off to Pongola to go to “the farm”. I had heard a lot about this place since the beginning of the car ride. Well – the farm was located in a game reserve. A ceremony for the man was to be held at 4 PM. As is typical in South Africa, things rarely begin on time. We were waiting on many people – the man’s family had been picked up that morning in Soweto (near Jo’burg, aka far) and they hadn’t arrived. Finally, everyone got there and we drove into the game reserve. It was around 5 at this point. My boss, Deborah, and I led the caravan to the spot where we were going. It was slightly unnerving because we were driving behind a park ranger who had a large rifle slung to his back. Zebra and impala lined the dusty dirt road as we pulled up to the foundation of what must have been a house. Oh. So THIS is the farm. Okay. It was also the site of this man’s death in 1979, so the memorial service was held here. It was amazing to see former MK (Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC) soldiers in uniform present at this gathering. They spoke for about an hour and a half about this man, and the struggle, and various other political topics. It really gave me chills was when the crowd was chanting “Amandla! (Power)” Also, one of the MK soldiers shot a gun into the distance at the end. I tried to count the number of shots, but I came up with 17. I’m not sure if this was intended or not, but it was the closest I have ever been to a gun (until the next day).
As the ceremony drew to a close, night was setting upon us. I had luckily brought my handy Patagonia, but it was far away in the car, which was down the hill and out of sight. I was concerned because the park rangers I had spoken to regarding the large populations of elephants (groups of 70+) were standing guard around the perimeter keeping watch. It is entirely unnerving to walk by yourself to a car at dusk in a game lodge. Hate to sound cliché, but it makes you feel very small knowing that there are creatures out and about that could crush you into oblivion. It’s also quite amazing to be somewhere where these animals live like they are intended to. They are not caged, they do not get fed – they simply survive. The preserve is untouched and beautiful. I eventually got my jacket, dropped off my Nikon, and headed back to the ceremony. They served food, which I foolishly refused knowing I’d have dinner back at the hotel. We finally headed out back to the hotel at around 7:30. When we got back at 8:30, I was famished.
We had learned that we might have to return to the game park at 3:30 AM for part of the spiritual repatriation ceremony. The sangoma (traditional healer) was setting up as we were leaving. I was kind of hoping that I would get to sleep in my fancy hotel. During dinner, we learned that it was strictly for the family of the man, so we were able to sleep in until 7. I’d like to add that if you are ever in the Tiger Lodge in Jozini, have the cake they serve at dinner – it is the best cake I have ever had in my entire life.
I went back to my room at around 9:30 and passed out. I was so tired from the long day of driving and standing (seriously takes a LOT out of a girl). I woke up at 6:30 and called Deborah to make sure she was awake (intern duties). We went off to breakfast where I learned we would be going out on the hotel’s boat to the middle of the channel to retrieve this man’s spirit. It was freezing on the water even with a jacket, and the skipper told me there were crocodiles and hippos in the water; I didn’t see any unfortunately. On my way, I chatted for about 20 with a representative from Freedom Park (a park that handles memorials, spiritual repatriations, etc) who told me a lot about the process and her life as a Catholic nun/clinical psychologist. Interesting career paths. She was quite sweet, and we exchanged emails – she is desperate to get me to Freedom Park, and if it were an option, I’d love to go.
We came downstairs where the sangoma was performing a ceremony. The family, the MK soldiers, and the spiritual leaders all danced and sang several songs in Zulu, and roses were thrown into the water. The entire thing lasted about 10 minutes, but it was quite amazing. The same soldier that fired his gun the night before fired more shots, into the water this time. I was a little nervous because it was so loud and close to me, but it was okay. After the sangoma was positive the spirit was retrieved, we headed back to the dock. Someone must carry the spirit, and in this case it was the man’s sister. The nun informed me that the sister was not allowed to speak until his spirit was brought to Freedom Park. I also discovered why this is so important and how vital it is to the ancestors.
When we returned, Deborah and I checked out and picked a new route. It was certainly the road less traveled. We took one road up the mountain to a town called Umbombo. Rudyard Kipling actually spent some time there (fun fact). After leaving, we headed south. We ended up picking up a hitchhiker on the way who needed a ride to a clinic – she appeared nonthreatening. After we dropped her off, we drove on these bumpy unpaved roads for what seemed like an eternity. At one point, a 3-foot long monitor lizard strolled across the road and I captured a harried photo. We finally reached our destination, but it took forever.
Thankful to have paved roads, we got back on track and drove through the Umfolozi game reserve. We didn’t go through the actual park that you pay for, but you are technically driving through a game reserve (except you aren’t allowed to stop – you pay for that). I was looking intently out the window and spotted a big reddish grey blob in the trees – ELEPHANT. I was so excited. We had seen them when we went to the game park before, but trees occluded them. Of course, we couldn’t stop, but it was still quite an exciting moment to see my favorite animal. Deborah then spotted a group of around 40-50 standing on a mountain. Absolutely lovely.
Eventually we reached the entrance of the Umfolozi game park, which we had visited with SIT a few weeks earlier. Deborah wanted to go in, and even offered to pay for me (though I protested). Our main goal was to go to the restaurant in the park because it was lunchtime. We couldn’t have been in the park for more than a few minutes, and I was changing lenses on my camera; Deborah suddenly stopped and said “Rhinos!” When she said rhinos, I didn’t think they’d be ten feet away. There, taking a casual stroll down the paved road towards us, were two white rhinos. I snapped a few pictures but as they got nearer, I got a little more nervous. Our windows were rolled down and I rolled mine up, however futile this may have been. They were so beautiful and so close. I was frozen though – it’s more than a little scary to come face to face with a rhino in a tiny car. We were literally eye-level. Eventually other cars came, but for a few moments, they were all ours. Deborah and I agreed it was worth it just for that experience. As we continued on, we saw those two farther down the hill as well as two more, farther away.
We grabbed lunch (which she finally let me pay for) after having another close encounter with some zebra on the road. We then drove around a little more, but headed out because we were still 3 hours from Durban. The encounter with the rhinos was more than satisfactory. As we left, Deborah spotted two lanky giraffe walking along the top of a ridge (Bryan Barth, you would’ve loved them).
It had been an eventful, emotional, and exhausting two days, but we arrived back in Newlands around 5:30. I was so lucky to have been part of such a life-changing experience, and the photos that I took are priceless to me. It was also lovely to get to know my boss for the next month, and I really feel like we bonded over the past two days (and approximately 10 hours in a car…). I start going to the office on Tuesday, April 10. The rest of the week is all about moving in, getting settled, and finding a Laundromat (urgent).
Friday, we finally handed in our proposals, and it was the last time all 26 of us would be in the SIT office at the same time. So sad! After handing in our proposals, we all went to a Hare Krshna temple. We all removed our shoes and sat on mats in the temple while a man explained to us the basis of the Hare Krshna faith. The temple was beautiful and we got to participate in a prayer. They taught us their mantra, which goes “Hare Krshna Hare Krshna, Krshna Krshna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare”. It’s chanted, and it’s been stuck in my head the entire weekend. The whole premise is pretty amazing.; they abhor the notion that happiness can be obtained through material possessions. They also believe that human beings have souls, and that when you die, your soul moves on. Your body is more of a vessel for your soul than your actual being. Really interesting. They gave us all these pamphlets on Hare Krshna as we exited the temple. We then proceeded downstairs to have a delicious, completely vegetarian meal. We then headed home to get ready for the concert.
Friday night was the Avicii concert at the Wavehouse at the Gateway Mall. Apparently Gateway is the largest mall in the southern hemisphere (Mom, you would love it). It was SO much fun. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to see Avicii in America, let alone South Africa. There were 13 of us who went, so one of our friends arranged for a minibus to take us. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of transportation, it’s basically a van the size of a VW bus (like in Little Miss Sunshine). They are SUPPOSED to hold around 16 people, but that’s more of a gentle suggestion. We were advised by SIT staff not to use them unless we were with a host family or until we were comfortable with this mode of transport, because it’s very confusing trying to figure out where each one is going. This wasn’t really an issue for the concert because we filled up an entire one and he was basically just catering to us. He dropped us off at Gateway at around 5 PM. The concert started at 3, but was mostly local DJs. Avicii wasn’t coming on until 10. We decided to grab some dinner and drinks before the concert. During dinner, it started to torrentially downpour, which is unfortunate because we had found out the Wavehouse was an outside venue. We decided we’d hit up another bar and wait it out.
We went to this random bar called Manhattans, which was located in the back of an arcade. So weird! Of course, I saw the dance floor and was trying to get my friends to dance, but it took a little while (and a little Usher) to get the party started. We ended up dancing with some locals and having fun playing with the Jukebox. At around 9, we made our way over to the Wavehouse, glad that the weather had finally cleared up. The concert was only for those above the age of 18, and we had a hard time convincing the people at the door that our IDs were, in fact, real. Sorry we’re from America and New Jersey licenses look so fake….we got inside and were all SUPER excited. We bought more cider (delicious) and tried to make our way into the crowd to get a good spot. Avicii played from around 10-12), and I thought the set was pretty damn good. Everyone was so excited, and we were all jumping around. I woke up Saturday morning with tired muscles. We all managed to stay together as a group, which was miraculous. I spent some time on my friends’ shoulders soaking up the atmosphere. My friend Megan got on the shoulders of this terrifying man who was probably 35 and at least 300 pounds. He had asked me first, but I politely declined. Eventually we tried to work our way up to the front, and we got about 3 rows from the front. Avicii is a handsome Swedish man from afar, but he looks even better up close. We then got a text from our one friend who ran into these guys we met at a bar a few weeks prior. They were working the bar at the concert, so it was fun to catch up with them.
Our minibus driver came back right at 12, and by now it was pouring again. I kind of dozed off on the way home. We got home around 1, and we called our mom to come let us in. Megan and I feasted on some bread and peanut butter and promptly passed out. When we woke up on Saturday (later than usual…), we found that we were cold. I have not once woken up in South Africa and not been covered in sweat. How’s that for a visual? It’s usually so hot, but I’m neurotic and therefore have to sleep under covers at all times. I woke up Saturday in the fetal position and snuggled in my blankets. Megan and I decided that didn’t want to do anything that required a lot of energy, so we went to Musgrave Mall to get on the internet and see a movie. Since we didn’t get to see the end of 21 Jump Street last weekend, we ended up seeing it again. Totally worth it. Also for those of you who are Hunger Games fans, it doesn’t come out here until April 13th….GAH. Plus Titanic comes out soon in 3-D. Ordinarily I’m opposed to the idea of re-releasing movies because it’s unoriginal, but since young Leo is basically my ideal man, I’m not going to fight it. I cannot WAIT. We got a cab home and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.
Newlands is kind of a difficult situation. We live SO far from town relative from where we used to live in Bonela. It used to cost us less than 100 rand TOTAL to get pretty much anywhere, but now it might cost us EACH that much to get to the same place. We have been trying to avoid this by just not really going out as much, but then we’re bored and just sit in front of the television watching TLC (not that that’s a terrible alternative). For some reason, SIT extended the Newlands homestay to 18 days; usually it’s only a week. This wouldn’t have been an issue if we had things to do with the whole group, or if some of the excursions we did earlier took place now instead. Also, I kind of wish we had moved into our flats this past weekend. We’re moving in on Thursday, but this week is kind of a waste. Friday and Monday are both holidays, so this weekend could get a little crazy. We will probably spend some time walking around the beachfront to get acquainted with our new home! So exciting!