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5 posts from September 2016

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.

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 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.