I have been quite busy for the past two weeks, but I always find time to go to the beach and enjoy the waves. This past weekend there was supposed to be a big tropical storm, but it didn’t get as crazy in Port Elizabeth as the weather man had suggested it would.The weather here is perfect enough that I feel guilty for doing my homework indoors. Speaking of homework, classes started up last week and so far I am enjoying them. It was difficult to figure out the scheduling at first because no one really knows whats going on until its happening. I will say that my first week of class was fairly successful because I was only HOPELESSLY LOST on campus one time. Although I got lost, I made some friends in the process of trying to find building 123, which is located next to building 5, yeah I’m confused about the numbering system here too.
There have been rumors going around that the protest against the price of tuition may be starting up again. My Afrikaans professor had us all download the entire semester’s worth of lectures on a flash drive “just in case.” Apparently last year it got bad enough that students wouldn’t come to class at all because if you walked to class people would throw rocks. It is difficult to be in this type of situation when the outcomes and consequences of protest do not directly affect me as they do the other students.In situations of oppression, those who are silent become the oppressor, and I would not like to have that weight on my shoulders.
Today my friends and I went to the beach after class.We walked to the rockier less busy side of the beach. It was honestly pretty magical to look into the tidepools, I brought back a pocket full of sea glass.Sonya and Becca (my friends) had never found sea glass before and they were impressed with the ocean. It sounds cheesy but being in a place of such beauty makes me want to paint and write poetry. Sonya (my roommate) and I have started calling the Ocean “Mother Blue” if that gives you any idea how much we love the beach.
On Wednesday I had my first volunteer class. I am volunteering at Masifunde, which is an afterschool homework club that helps students from the Walmer Township. I posted a few pictures from the townships above. The majority of the students live in shack houses and many of them do not have running water. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 40%, which creates a nation that is stuck in poverty. Although no one here talks much about it, the consequences of Apartheid are still extremely visible. Most people who live in poverty are black and white people have the majority of the high paying jobs. The photo of the large group of people on the steps is from this past Saturday. I went to an orientation day at Masifunde with all the other volunteers and directors. We had a discussion about what Masifunde’s goals and plans are. The photo of the Nelson Mandela mural is painted on the outside of one of the high school buildings.The director for the arts program Masifunde runs was at orientation, and he said that the students use colors to help keep the spirits of the students high.The photo with the cow standing under a tree was taken on the grass outside of the high school. There were also goats hanging out under a tree near the school lawn. Later, we went on a tour of the Township, I have never witnessed such immense poverty before. It was uplifting but also disheartening to go on the tour. The people there had next to nothing, but those who had electricity were playing loud happy music for everyone to here. The children played in the streets and did not seem to notice the conditions in which they were living. The streets of Walmer were covered in garbage and there were stray dogs around every corner. After the tour of the Walmer Township, the group took a van back to Masifunde’s headquarters where we had a Brie (South African Barbecue.) It was the best food I have had since arriving in South Africa.After eating the leaders of Masifunde made all the new volunteers learn the “weekend dance,” it was a good way to end the afternoon. I will be volunteering every Wednesday with Masifunde and am excited to help others with their educational goals. I think that volunteering will be one of the best ways for me to expose myself to the culture of South Africa.