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10/14/2016

If Only I Knew What to Say...

A Poem by Reabetswe Modise

Student, RA, project manager and young, non-doctoring person

Like a celebrity, often spoken about,
difficult to catch, his name carrying clout
Dr Nasief’s fame
inside and outside of Victoria Hospital
is evident by how many know his name

I met him and was immediately sucked in –
into his enthusiasm, his many plans
a project sold to me using his cheeky grin

I walked into his office without a plan -
and walked out, excited, a tad overwhelmed and a project manager…
oh damn 

I’m not going to lie, at times I felt our actions were futile
a lot of “sorry we cannot find that file”

But I came to realise that there was more – even though it sometimes felt like a chore
our work (sistah Isabelle and i) was not the kind to be visibly seen:
but rather the kind to make a few notice that we had been

Data capturing, printing, “postering” and planning
(in all honesty done by Isabelle – who has cast many a spell)

The pay-off of which I really experienced today,
when I almost had tears to keep at bay

I spoke to four people about our cardiac rehab programme
nervous as heck because I thought, “really fam?!
who is going to listen to 21 year old me?
I am unqualified, can’t y’all see?”

But my fear was unfounded I came to experience
the men and woman I spoke to just wanted me to hear their experience

Today was filled with all the clichéd things I could think to say –
“rewarding, eye-opening, amazing the like”

But Really no words can be fully expressed
to say how I felt #blessed

 

10/13/2016

REMEMBERING RED HILL

Thursday’s hike was a walk through history. We began in the ruins on top of Red Hill, exploring the remnants leftover from the forced removal of a black settlement that occurred in the 1960s. As we took a moment to reflect on the steps of someone’s forgotten home, I could only imagine how it originally stood. The only pieces remaining to signify that there were once occupants in the area are broken walls and a cold fireplace, symbolising the effects of Apartheid. I was struck with a sense of sadness when I learned that the black community was forced from their homes only because they were inhabiting a territory designated as a whites-only area. Additionally, I felt frustrated and angry because I learned that afterwards, the white people never inhabited the empty homes; they never used the land once the black families were gone. Therefore, if they had no plan or use for the land, then there was no need to kick them out. Hence, I perceived this as an example of how much power the white people had during Apartheid. As a friend once said: “While non-whites had to go around, whites could just go straight through.”

Although nothing can be done to change the past, we can take the time to remember the past and try to preserve the memories of the past, and, in turn, preserve the memories of this lost city. One way of doing so was by participating in this historically rich hike.

This hike was not only a time to reflect, but it was as an opportunity to decompress and enjoy the beauty of nature. It was a scenic walk, with flowers of various colours covering the sides of the paths and hills surrounding you on all sides. Our path took us through the Kelinplaas Dam, where we had the opportunity to fill up our bottles with fresh Table Mountain water straight from sky (and it tasted delicious). Then, as we approached Kommetjie, we could see the ocean from the opening of the valley, a sign that we were almost there. Once we reached the bottom and the end of our four plus hours of walking, we celebrated with some delicious, and well-deserved, burgers. Overall, it was a well-led hike where we gained more awareness on the history of Apartheid and had the opportunity to explore more of Cape Town. If CIEE had not organised and offered this trip, I would have missed out on such a tremendous experience. I highly suggest for everyone who visits Cape Town to explore it for themselves.

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10/12/2016

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

Cape Town has many amazing draw cards including beautiful weather, mountains and some wonderful intercultural experiences for students!  When students are not on campus or out exploring Cape Town their time is spent in their accommodation, whether it’s with a host family, other CIEE friends or UCT students. All students have the option of living in either CIEE off campus accommodation, a UCT residence or with a local host family. I am the Housing Manager and it has been a pleasure over the years ensuring that the student’s time in Cape Town is enhanced through their residence experience.  I could go on about the work we do to provide the best possible service to the students but it sounds much better if you hear it first hand from the students.

 

My UCT Dormitory has given me the opportunity to interact with UCT students outside of my RA's and given me another point of contact and context for what it is like to be a student here. My flatmates in particular were very kind and open, I have actually made good friends with one. This was a great way for me get to know people of another land and culture in a more intimate setting.

 My study abroad experience in Cape Town would not have been the same, nor as amazing, if I had not chosen to participate in a homestay. I am currently living in the South Suburbs, about twenty minutes from UCT’s campus by train, and, I feel like I am part of the family. My favourite part of the day is coming home after a long day of classes and being welcomed by a warm, home-cooked meal made by my host-mother. I have tried so many new dishes since being here, such as mutton curry, ox tail, biltong soup, chicken livers, boerewors (with onions of course), and, my personal favourite, tomato bredie (which is a South African stew). I believe that I am gaining an unforgettable, immersive experience with a family that will always be in my heart. I love that I am able to say that I am going home at the end of a busy day, because it truly does feel like home to me now, where I am surrounded by a big and loving family and treated as one of their own.

Queens Street is more than just part of CIEE accommodation; it is a home away from home for many. Not only are the rooms spacious, comfortable and beautiful, the lounge areas are wonderful for hanging out and catching up with housemates and friends. We have had fantastic meals cooked and shared out of the fully equipped kitchens that every single flat has, from late night baking brownies up to Sunday mac and cheese lunch.

It is fantastic to live in Savoy! Being in such a small group, the ability to build relationships with one another is unlike any other living situation in CIEE. Along with the outdoor space, it is perfect for group activities that make us closer as a dorm. Having 2 TVs for 17 people are not too bad eitherJ I am really happy that I am in Savoy. My study abroad experience would be very different if I were living anywhere else.

When studying abroad, a home away from home is something that every student would ask for and this is exactly what they get from me while studying here in Cape Town.

 

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09/30/2016

Karoo Moose: When theatre collides with conscience

Many South Africans often wonder what to do on Heritage Day. The 24th of September presents all citizens with an opportunity to celebrate their true heritage. This day has been unofficially dubbed as “National Braai Day” but this raises many questions as many struggle to understand what South Africa’s true heritage is.

As part of our cultural program, we decided to watch a play at Baxter Theatre directed by Lara Foot. This magnificent play has deservedly scooped numerous awards across the globe. The name “Karoo Moose” rouses very little excitement, because nothing interesting ever takes place in the Karoo. It’s a dry place reserved mainly for farming purposes.  

However, Karoo Moose is not just a play, it’s a reflective journey. It’s like looking at yourself in the mirror and critically analysing all your flaws. It allows society to look back at itself, gives a platform to interrogate how the past terribly collides with the present. It explores the story of a girl with an emotionally-broken father, despondent and often stupefied with liquor. Jonas’ existence is the direct product of a migrant labour system that abducted fathers from their homes for more than 11 months a year, robbing sons of exemplary role models in the home. He is an expression of South Africa’s anger towards unresolved structural inequality. His mother, despite being at an advanced age and her ailing body, she continually works at Madame’s place who pays her very little money, just enough for transport and food.

This is a story, told brilliantly with fascinating creativity, about rape, patriarchy, police brutality, failed parenting, inequality, racism and almost everything South Africans encounter in their daily lives. It is also a beautiful story, crafted with amazing precision and crystallized with musical pieces to arouse the heart. Thozama is a mysterious character, her boldness is enviable, despite all the upsets and obstacles, and she continually rises to show that she is more than just an object and a victim. She leaps onto invisible giants; she inspires the voiceless to recognise the strength within.

As the play concludes, the cast sings a beautiful harmony about travelling to a better place. The stage is illuminated with bright sunflowers. The final words are “we don’t know if this place exists but we are going anyway”. Maybe South Africa’s heritage is a dream about a better place. Wherever that may be, we are going anyway.

-VUYO MAKALIMA (CIEE Resident Assistant)

09/26/2016

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER…MY INVITE TO YOU…

Our Semester Study Abroad Program here at CIEE Cape Town is truly incredible. As a staff member, I witness the joy that studying here brings to our SSA students every single day. What you may not know is that we also coordinate and facilitate many other programs here at the office. As the short-term program coordinator, I arrange for groups of students and faculty to visit historic Cape Town, participate in CIEE cultural learning, and explore the city. These students and faculty come from different universities from across the United States and arrange these custom programs with us.

 Being part of the office staff really is like being part of a family. We are a tight-knit group that works tirelessly to make the program successful and can share in joy, laughter, and hardship. When we see students truly learning about Cape Town, growing to love the city, and thriving in their academic and cultural learning, we know that our job is done. Whether a semester-long program or a short-term program, I know everyone who comes to Cape Town will leave with a newfound love for this gorgeous city! The invitation is open!

Candice Rayners (Short-Term Programs Coordinator)

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09/22/2016

The Dangers of a Single Story

On Friday 16 September we as the Queens Street residence went on our fourth CAP for the semester all the way to Gugulethu. A new initiative called Dine with Khayelitsha kicked off in Cape Town, which aims to merge the social gap between people residing in the city and people living in Khayelitsha, to destigmatize perceptions and to create conversations that are dynamic and perhaps step into the direction of social change – even in small steps like this. We were however some of the very first ones to experience the new extended program of Dine with Khayelitsha, now in Gugulethu. The CAP kicked off with residents from Gugutlethu picking up all of us from the residence with a minibus taxi, a mode of transport that people from the areas use on an everyday basis. When we arrived at the main house in Gugutlethu we were all welcomed with a warm hug and smile, and briefing of what the evening will hold for all of us. We were then all placed into different groups that went to different households, and then the dinner and conversations kicked off!

The feeling of sitting down for dinner in someone’s home who you have never met, with guests you do not know and no idea what the rest of the evening will hold for you, is a feeling that is very difficult to describe. At first you wonder what you have to say to people who live so differently from you, who walk a completely different life path and that hold different world views from you. It is a very stressful experience at first, but once we got into the flow of things by just talking about ourselves and listening to one another, the ice was soon broken. Very quickly it became evident that the very same people whose house we were visiting and that were complete strangers, were in fact not that alien at to us at all. It is people with hopes, dreams, aspirations and life stories – just like yourself. We sometimes create a narrative about others that create this complete ‘other’ to ourselves and even before really engaging with this ‘other’ that we have created, we have decided for them what they are, what they believe in and how they live their life. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us that there is a danger to a single story about any place, thing or person, and it is such as vital lesson to keep in mind. What this initiative and other initiatives similar to Dine with Khayelitsha does is to address this Danger of a Single Story, and opens up a platform that is heavily stigmatized and contested, in order to attempt creating new narratives around people living in areas like Gugulethu and Khayelitsha and even the city, to merge the social gap between different people from all walks of life and to bring about a more human face to social interactions – to show that a great chat and good food can create a space of sharing and learning about one another.

The people that we met and the homes we were in for the evening will always be remembered, the stories that were shared and the laughs are all moments that remain with us – that shows that of learning, sharing and listening. There is nothing more beautiful than having the opportunity and privilege to listen to others’ stories and to relate them to your own stories – where you can have more perspective and use that perspective to destigmatize harmful narratives that paint people as one dimension and as one story. This was truly one night to remember for a long time to come!

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CIEE Students at Sarah Fox: Little Babies Break Hearts

Sarah Fox , which works directly with local children’s hospitals, cares for infants and children after they have suffered illnesses or abuse.  They commonly rehabilitate children recovering from TB, HIV, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.  *Vuyokazi was born earlier this year and was brought to Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Home by Red Cross Children’s Hospital soon after birth. During pregnancy, Vuyokazi’s mother abused alcohol and illegal substances in enormous amounts, putting the baby’s health in unimaginable danger.  Because both parents suffer from drug addictions, they were unable to raise and care for an infant properly; neither her mother nor father has been to visit Vuyokazi at Sarah Fox.

            Under the organization of Vuyo Makalima (CIEE Resident Assistant), the 4th floor residents at Rondebosch Court – CIEE Cape Town Campus raised money to purchase needed supplies for Sarah Fox Children’s Home.  We bought a ton of necessities including diapers, formula, wipes, toiletries and cleaning supplies, per their wish list.  In addition to providing financial donations, we wanted to provide some love and snuggles to the beautiful children at the home.  On Saturday, we got a brief introduction to the home and then were able to play with all of the babies and young children in the ward.  We even helped the nurses to feed the little babies and toddlers and put them down for naps.  Watching their faces light up as we danced, sang and played made the experience incredibly humbling.  Some of us even stayed later to spend time with the staff and patients.  Although the individual stories were often upsetting and putting the babies back in their cribs was heart wrenching, the amazing smiles and cuddles will continue to bring many of us back to Sarah Fox on a weekly basis.      

*Not her real name.

 

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09/16/2016

“What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end.”

At the heart of every CIEE study abroad experience are the memories and relationships that you have along the way. The last few days have been a testament of that for both students and staff at the Cape Town Study Centre. On Monday evening students from one of our housing residences went on a CAP called the Food Jam. A CAP is a Community Action Plan designed to achieve a level of cultural education and awareness to the semester program and a Food Jam is a social gathering event hosted by our local Master  Chef celebrity, Jade de Waal. People gather to prepare and share a meal together, often it’s a mix of local cuisine and easy to make dishes that make everyone feel like they can cook up a storm.  Food plays a central role within the narrative of most communities especially within the South African context and to have students participate in in such an activity is evidence to the high caliber cultural immersion that we have become renowned for.

On Tuesday night students and staff all participated in our local past time, Super Diski. All 159 of us pilgrimaged to the world cup stadium to watch a football-literal use of the word-match between Orlando Pirates (one of the most supported clubs on the continent) and Ajax Cape Town (the local flavor, moderately supported at best). It was an uneven contest but having Pirates play away from home made the entire experience an unforgettable one.

Soccer

 For some context Orlando Pirates are bitter rivals with Kaiser Chiefs, they have one of the largest football rivalries in the world. At the game there were Pirates fans, Chiefs supporters and your local Ajax contingent. Unlike other football leagues the fans all mixed freely; we don’t suffer from football tribalism, and it made for an electric atmosphere at the stadium.

For the staff it has been bittersweet as we say goodbye to our Regional Director of Operations, Penny Alexander. She has been a phenomenal presence within the office, offered unparalleled leadership and left an indelible mark on all of us. We are certainly privileged to have fallen under her guidance over the last four years and with sore hearts we bid her farewell. Her new adventure takes her to Sierra Leone and we hope that she will fall in love with her new City, new friends and thrive in her new role.

07/28/2016

Mandela Day Graffiti Bicycle Tour

2 1Homestay students along with their RAs participated in a bike ride through the streets of Salt River, Woodstock & District 6. Rising gentrification of the neighbourhood in contrast with its current state was brought to their attention as well as the need to preserve culture within the urban space.

The first, and most significant stop, was Me'Kasi Cafe. This coffee shop is owned by Beth Uriel centre for young men from impoverished communities. This centre aims to provide the chance to pursue meaningful, independent lives through a supportive living environment, connections to educational opportunities, positive social alternatives and training in life skills. The Mandela Day Challenge aspect involved helping clean up and sort their garage and garden of the shelter as well as dialogue with young men who reside at the home.  

The bicycle ride continued through the streets of Woodstock to view Cape Town Street Art after a stop at the Old Biscuit Mill. Key pieces of graffiti and street art were viewed. Each piece has its own unique meaning that had been explained as students admired, appreciated and took photographs of the artworks. Students were advised that they could support the local artists by sharing photos of the art which could have a positive impact on the community by sharing their message.

The ride continued into the site of District 6, a historic site, where insight was shared on forced removals within South African history and how it compares to gentrification today. Here, students viewed one of the oldest pieces of street art in Cape Town, depicting the true unsung heroes of Apartheid’s end, as well as a famous piece created by one of South Africa’s most successful female artists. 

Great fun was had by all the students throughout the day, despite the challenges and discomfort. It has been shared that the students have a greater appreciation for the city and recognise the impact of gentrification on marginalised residents. Interaction with the young men from Beth Uriel as well as being of assistance have brought about a sense of humility and recognition that they may be of service, however, effective engagement would be required in order to assess the true needs of others.

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07/27/2016

An, almost-rhyming Poem about an exploration of Cape Town

Once a group of very few girls and many a boy
Decided to journey into Cape Town from Savoy
They hopped onto the train (1st Class, only R10.50 can you believe?!)
But admittedly missed the Gaatjie or Sliding Door Operator (SDO) of mini-taxi fame.

Their first stop was Jan van Riebeek's Castle of Good Hope which he built 
Where there used to be 6 flags, minus the Apartheid one removed because of guilt. 
Unfortunately the key ceremonies of 10 am and 12 we did not see 
Because there were many other places we had to be

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Cape Town's City Hall we visited next,Where we heard a snippet of Mandela's speech he made on that special day

Oh it made our souls feel so light and gay, when read in the sultry voice of our RA Rae 😀

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Our feet carried us then to the Parliament steps , where the 4 pillars stood white and tall
But our hearts were unsettled when we noticed nearby slavery lodge, thank goodness for the successful #slaverymustfall!

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St George's Cathedral we saw next, the oldest cathedral in Cape Town, 

and craned our necks in hope of seeing Desmond Tutu. Alas we were out of luck, 

but also saw the crpyt, 

which we have heard plays jazz that doesn't suck.

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For too long we had silenced the hungry cries of our stomachs and so in search of lunch we went

And found a place where your money is well spent.

 Eastern Food Bazaar, where the prices are so low it is almost bizarre!!

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With our stomachs full and our purses not doing too bad, 

we stumbled onto green market square, learnt to haggle and buy gifts and other felt, saw and heard other experiences to be had. 

There were singing children and pigeon flocks

and we left some stalls with lighter stocks. 

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Our final stop was the company gardens where we (silently) shouted RMF in front of the infamous Rhodes

and where squirrels appear in droves. 

 

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We also so the Iziko National Art Gallery on our way out of the gardens on our way to Hiddingh to catch the Jammie.

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What a day well spent!

We think our RAs are heaven-sent😊