Wow! I don't even know where to start, these last two days have been so awesome and full of silly, funny, serious, and eye-opening experiences that if this trip continues like this, I'm going to have to start writing everything down as it happens! I always try to limit my number of exclamation points to one max per paragraph, but I just don't think that is realistic for this trip.
I decided where to start. So on Monday morning I had a meeting with Swazi, the woman I mostly work with, and Thys, the "director" of the Y, to discuss specifically what my role would be as an intern here. We decided that I would take over the "outside of the office" part of the programs that the Y runs. Meaning I will now be facilitating the Y-Zone after school program for students ranging from as young as 9 all the way up through high school. The goal of this program is mostly to provide a safe place for kids to hang out together in the afternoons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be working with the Youth Justice Programme, affectionately known around here as the "Street Kids Programme" during which homeless boys (once again about ages 12-20) come and play soccer together or just hang around the field together, get to take a shower at the sports center, and then have a hot meal together provided by the YMCA. In addition to doing these program(me)s every day, I will also be working with the Global Teens, a group of American teens, when they arrive in July. I believe I will mostly be showing them the programs I work with and helping them get to know the SA kids (ICEBREAKERS! Leave a comment with your favorite one so I have some good ideas!). And finally, once the University students move back in after their Summer break on July 22nd or something, I'm going to start an Activities Board with them (similar to my Hall Council!) so that they can do their own programming here as well as some leadership development.
So after the meeting, I kind of just sat around the office for a while until it was time for the Y-Zone program to start. One of the structured parts of the program is that the boys dance for much of the afternoon. Here is a video of some of the "Spar10z" dancing at the local university. They are AMAZING! They mainly focus on krumping and it is almost unbelievable to watch these 10 and 12 year old kids doing these complicated dance moves! Also, the Spar10z are currently competing in a South African version of America's Best Dance Crew called Step Up or Step Out--they are so famous! As Swazi and I walked into the yard where the program is held and everyone started chatting in Zulu, she laughed and said to me, "Oh, I think they fancy you!" Within the first five minutes I had two twelve year old boyfriends dead set on coming back to the US with me and the three of us already had a picture together (we were all wearing pink, so it was only natural). All of this attention is not going to be any good for my ego. As I got to know a few of the kids (along with some of what I had already encountered around the office), I realized that racial tension is still very high in this country. I realize now that I should not have been as surprised as I was, but some of what I encountered really did shock me. For example, I was talking to a girl, probably about 12 or 13, and as I was saying she was one of my first friends here she kind of hesitated, giggled, looked a little bit shy and said,
"Even though I'm black..."
It caught me totally off guard. But then as I looked around and realized I was the only white person there and thought about some of the encounters I had seen and comments I had heard from the (white) Y staff, I guess it's what made sense to her. Then as I was talking to another one of the older boys, I could tell he was still pretty bitter about the fact that the group of Global Teens that visited last year "didn't like" them and said that their dancing was too "gangster." I can guarantee that nothing of that sort will be happening on my watch.
On a lighter note, as the crowd thinned out and I was just watching some of the younger guys doing some very impressive breaking stunts, and they asked me if I wanted to try. I told them that I couldn't do their moves, but that I did know how to baby freeze--a classic white girl break move, as you will see if you google it. You could say they were less than impressed, and I'm pretty sure they made fun of me in Zulu during it, but I like to think that they respected my effort :).
A baby freeze--it's easier than it looks
Later that day I got to know on of my co-workers, Brenton (whose name I feel like I'm pronouncing wrong if I don't say it with a South African accent), a little bit better. He is 25 and was born and raised here in PMB, he graduated from the "Varsity School" with a degree in HR, he speaks Afrikaans (for every 3 convos in Zulu that I don't understand, I don't understand one in Afrikaans), and he just got back from interning for a year in China. We had fun comparing SA and US cultures, mostly in terms of drinking games, food, college parties, and different words like petrol vs. gasoline and lift vs. elevator. When I said something about American football, the only thing he could come up with to say was "Oh yeah, I really like that movie Friday Night Lights." He tried.
Then when I got home from the office (aka I walked 50 yards to my room) around 6, I bothered Hans on G-chat the rest of the night because lucky him it was only noon in Ohio and he was on his gmail all day for work. On that note, I'm sure Hans would appreciate it if more of you talked with me on FB and G-chat in the evenings (12pm-4pm EST, ish) so that he doesn't have to continue to hear my constant stream of comments on random things for hours on end. :)
Now for today! So I learned yesterday that I don't have to be in to the office until 9am rather than 8, which is probably good because I don't do much in the morning anyway. As I may have mentioned, I briefly "met" the Street Kids on Thursday, but it was more of me just awkwardly standing there while everyone conversed in Zulu and waving when people said "Cha-non." Today was much different in that there were also volunteers from two other NGOs present, Youth For Christ and another that I don't recall the name of. I talked for a few hours with these volunteers (they were all South African except for one from Swaziland) about topics ranging from American music artist to the new SA welfare system, to whether or not my hair was real. But the most interesting part of this conversation for me was this young mans views on how the end of Apartheid has done absolutely nothing for South Africans (I think it would be relevant to note that he is black). He thinks that the black people have done nothing productive with their rights and that the views of most of the white South Africans have not changed at all. That is an extreme summary of a very long conversation, but I so much appreciate that people have been willing to open up to me about topics like this and I am learning about so many things that I did not expect, and I am so thankful for that. Towards the end of the day, after everyone had played soccer and showered and were sitting around eating, they all began to giggling and talking in Zulu again. But this THIS time one of my YFC friends translated a few things here and there for me, including the Teletubby reference as well as a request that I serve their food next week. Why they want me to ladle their stew on to plates, I'm not quite sure but they certainly thought it was funny! Then I learned some secret handshakes, and they showed off a little bit of their English as we said good-bye for the day.
Some of the housekeepers have been teaching me a little bit of Zulu, so I hope I catch on to more so I can show off my skills to the Street Kids.
The one last disturbing cultural encounter I had today might be a little bit difficult for me to get over anytime soon. We were talking about what I would to on the weekends and which of the staff would take me where, etc. when on our way out, one of the white men who works in the office with me said in reference to the black female security guard,
"Oh haha and maybe she can take you over the weekend to eat a goat's head and some of them...oh what do you folk eat...chicken feet! Hahaha!"
The security guard was obviously appalled, and so was I. I can't wait to have some discussions with this man once I have settled in a little more...
Whew! This is packed full of information! Almost done!
So when deciding what I would cook for myself I thought that I would want a mostly vegetarian diet--mostly because I don't like touching raw meat. With this idea in mind, most of the recipes I decided on were latin american-y, lots of black beans, vegetarian chilis, etc. However when I went to the store to purchase these ingredients, I discovered that there is absolutely no Latin American food in the grocery (granted, the store I go to is not a wealthy one). Side note--there is no real coffee, only instant. So tragic. Back to the point--there aren't even black beans here! No one knew what I was talking about! So, I've decided to cook Indian food since there is a large Indian population and lots of Indian ingredients and spices. I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT IT!!! I love Indian food, and although I was disappointed about the lack of Latin American fare at first, I'm sure that this is going to be better!
Well, that's all folks! I hope you enjoyed this update and that it wasn't too scatterbrained! It's very difficult to write about everything all of these new experiences at once, but I'm sure I'll get better with time. More pictures to come, I want to get more comfortable with the people before I start taking pictures so that I don't seem too tourist-y. I've also promised Hans a video of the little boys free-styling at Y-Zone, so get excited.
I love you all! Keep the emails coming! It keeps me occupied to hear from and reply to you all! Thanks to Paige, Jonathan King, and Erica for sending me some already! :)
Be sure to drinK your Ovaltine.