Bulbul's 2002 Zulu Adventure:
Bulbul's home page
My itinerary. In 2002, i was fortunate enough to spend three months in South Africa to do research for my dissertation. I left for Durban on June 17 and arrived back in Los Angeles on September 18. I lived with a Zulu family in the coastal town of Port Shepstone, in the state of Kwazulu-Natal. This is a town of about 30,000 people and is near the city of Durban.
My travel journal. Over the course of my stay, i kept an on-line journal so that friends and family could keep tabs on what i was doing and get a taste for what i was experience. That journal has now been archived below on this page. Bear in mind that this journal is presented in reverse chronological order. To start at the beginning of my journal, you must begin at the first entry at bottom of the page.
Photos. I'm not a photographer. That's why i'm posting a travel journal. However, i do have just a few photos posted. You can access these from my photo page.
Project Information. Here's a link to a description of my project as written for the Lenart Travel Fellowship application, which i was awarded.
Some Links. Here are some links relevant to my trip. Note that pages being served from South Africa may take some time to load.
|Thursday, September 12, 2002.
I'm really almost at the end of my stay now. The last two weeks have been very difficult on account of the pain from my kidney stone. On Tuesday, i had my last appointment with the urologist, who removed an incredibly long tube from my body. (Don't ask for the details if you're squeamish.) If i survive three more hours, i'll have passed my first twenty-four hours without any type of pain killer since i first began this ordeal. The pain has been coming and going for the last few days, but i think it's finally tapering off. (Actually, i should say "pains", since there are distinct pains in a couple of different areas that come and go independently of each other.) Let this be a lesson to you all: remember to drink your fluids. Don't let this happen to you.
In my last entry i had been sent home from Hibiscus Hospital here in Port Shepstone on the hopes that i would just pass the stone. However, that's not how things ended up. I called the urologist a couple of days later, because the pain was still there (whenever i let the medication wear off). That very day i made my way to Durban and was admitted to Parklands Hospital. That afternoon i was taken to theatre (South African for "the operating room") put under general anaesthesia. There my stone, which i later learn was the size of a small fngernail, was broken up internally with ultrasound and a temporary tube was put in place between my bladder and my left kidney.
My return itinerary has changed a bit. I am giving a talk at Wits (Witwatersrand University), entitled Non-Agreeing Subjects in Zulu on Monday. So, instead of catching my plane in Durban and transferring in Jonhannesburg (with a seven-hour layover), i'll be leaving straight from Johannesburg. I'm hoping that this talk will give me some feedback on work i'm doing for my dissertation. I'm also hopeful that the people there will be able to put me in touch with some linguistically savvy speakers of Zulu and related languages who i could remain in contact with after my return to the States. In Johannesburg, i'll be staying with Ken again, and i'm looking forward to that. Of course, eliminating that seven-hour layover in Johannesburg airport is an added benefit of this arrangement.
Oh, yeah. I left you hanging last time as to whether i ever met up with the Johannesburg Esperantists. I was a bit overwhelmed by transportation and logistics, and in the end decided that it would be just too exhausting to try to coordinate something.
One of the things that i will miss here is all of the animal life. Here i've had weekly encounters with monkeys. I've stepped on (accidentally) millipedes as long as my hand and as wide as my little finger. These millepedes coil up when you touch them. This week i was out in the front yard late at night and noticed two little spots of pale green light on the lawn. It was some sort of glow-in-the-dark insect. (I meant to write "phosphorescent", but i don't know how to spell it.) There are all sorts of song birds, alongside all of the squawk birds. I've also gotten to touch the frogs in our own back yard. There are a couple of insects that make sounds i've never heard before. One of those sounds is a metallic ping that sounds like some kind of machine or bell. The insect only makes this sound at night. For the first few weeks here i thought that the next door neighbour was operating some sort of machine, which i thought was really annoying since it was loud and people were trying to sleep. Another insect makes a chirp like a little chick. At one point it even had me looking for a bird's nest in a bush in the front yard. This insect seems to chirp while it's flying, and at times you feel like there's this little bird which is flying right past you but which you can't see. Those two insects aren't really annoying. The annoying one lives underneath a plumbing fixture right outside my door. At about eleven at night it starts making the loud continuous shreak that sounds like the hum of a water pipe with water racing through it. This one has at times made it hard for me to get to sleep. Even my own bedroom is sometimes teeming with life. I have often had geckos racing across my walls. When there's more than one of them, they occasionally make a faint little chirping noise at each other at night. And aside the mundane moths and other insects, there was a large flyig beetle-looking insect which buzzed frantically at the window trying to escape when the light was off but which played dead once the light was switched on. A recent trip to the beach with Petros led to the discovery of crabs, urchins, fishes, mussels, and coral among the rocks. But, when i really think about it, i will gladly trade all of this for a periodic hug from my own cat at home.
There hasn't been much in the way of food reports lately, has there? Sorry, only two new things to talk about. The first was the sorghum hot cereal i had in the hospital in Durban. This is called matabele in English and amabele in Zulu. (I don't know which language the English word was taken from.) It has a dark brown colour and a consistently similar to Cream O' Wheat or grits, but is much more flavourful, perhaps a bit malty. Sorghum is the same grain from which traditional Zulu beer is made. Also, there's been this shop i've been walking by near my home, in Sunwhich Port, which usually has a notice outside saying that "pot bread" is available. I had somehow come to the conclusion that pot bread was the same steamed bread i was getting at home. However, the other day in a book shop i saw a picture of pot bread in a cook book and found it to be a bread baked in the oven in a cast iron pot. So, i finially bought a big loaf (price: R10 or US$1). It's very chewy and tasty. It was a big hit at home.
My main activities since my last entry have been writhing in pain; sorting, shipping, and packing, working on my talk, and drinking fluids. Other than that, not too much exciting has happened. This will probably be my last entry until i get home. George goes in for surgery on Tuesday to have his prostate removed. I get in at noon on Wednesday, so i'll be able to go visit him at the hospital as soon as i get home. Unless i happen to be able to write something in Joburg, expect a wrap-up a few days after my return.
|Wednesday, September 4, 2002
As some of you have probably already learnt, i have been set back a bit by a bout with a nasty kidney stone. On Saturday evening i started to have an intense pain in my back. Soon i was writhing around all over the place and moaning. It's hard to hide your pain from everyone when you have to get up from the table in the middle of dinner to go lie down on the floor. On Sunday, Lungi was here with her entire filming crew, which didn't make the pain any less painful. Sunday evening, i phoned Dr. van Niekerk, who is my doctor here, and he told me to go to casualties (South African for "emergency room") at Hibiscus Hospital. There they gave me a shot in the bum which was so effective that i thought i was cured of this "back pain"... until i was doing my e-mail the next morning and started keeling over. I went in to see Dr. van Niekerk who found lots of blood in my urine and determined that i indeed had a kidney stone. I was admitted immediately to Hibiscus Hospital. After the most excruciating X-ray session, there i spent a blissful 24 hours (blissful due entirely to remarkable pain killers). I was lucky that the urologist happens to come into town on Tuesdays. He confirmed that the stone was too high in the kidney to remove surgically and that it would be best to wait it out a couple of days to see if i could pass the stone. If not, i would have to go into Durban to have the stone broken up by ultrasound, a procedure not available in sleepy little Port Shepstone. I started moaning in pain again at the hospital check-out counter. As it stands now, either my new take-home drugs are remarkably effective or the problem has gone away. I'm not giving my verdict for another 24 hours, because this isn't the first time the pain has completely subsided.
Some of you were concerned at the quality of care i'd get here at a South African medical facility. I'm happy to report that the witch doctors were as kind as can be and that goat bile doesn't really taste so bad once you get used to it. Ha ha ha. But seriously, the hospital was just fine and the nurses were all very attentive and friendly.
Needless to say, my pain has rendered me useless for the last four days. I will keep you updated on my condition.
Enough about pain. I shall now tell you about my trip to Johannesburg (henceforth Joburg). It didn't all start off just swimmingly. I had made my direct bus reservation for 6:30 Sunday morning. The family was in the home village for (you guessed it) another funeral. But Mthoko was going to come back Saturday night and thus be able to give me a lift into town Sunday morning. However, when the car pulled into the drive and the motor was killed, a gurgling sound countinued to rumble under the hood. The car was so overheated that the return trip from the village had taken three hours instead of the usual half hour. People attempted to arrange a trip (erroneously to Durban, rather than Sheppy) with a neighbour, who was going to come talk to me about it. When he never showed up, i called my friend Ismail in desperation. Ismail was quite happy to help me out. So, at about 4:00 a.m. that neighbour who was supposed to have come talk to me shows up ready to take me to Durban (the wrong place). I have to wake Mthoko up to straighten this all out with him. Ismail later shows up at the agreed-upon time and he drops me off in Sheppy in front of Spur, where all of the long-distance busses leave.
Twenty minutes later, my bus pulls in. I prepare myself to cross the street to board. I suddenly realize that i have forgotten to put money and my bank card in my wallet. (And no, i am not a last-minute packer.) I have only about R200 (US$20) in my pocket, which is supposed to last me four days. I abandon my bus and walk into town (up and down hills) to look for a private cab to take me back home. But this is 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Even at midday Sheppy is dead on Sunday. I wait fifteen minutes at the taxi stand, but it's useless. I walk to the taxi rank (South African for "jitney station") and spend fifteen more minutes trying to find a minibus that will take just little ol' me home and bring me right back into town. I find one and fifteen minutes later am back at the front gate. I locked it when i left and do not have the key. I wake up Mthoko (again), who walks out in his jammies, in the rain, to open for me. Soon i am headed back into town. Luckily there is another bus parked in front of Spur and it is going to Durban. I hop on. Things go smoothly from there. In Durban i buy a ticket for another bus to Johannesburg. (Bear in mind that i was originally booked on a direct bus.) Remarkably, with all of these mix-ups and delays, i arrive in Joburg only two and a quarter hours late. Thanks to my cell phone, i was able to inform my host of my late arrival.
That would be Ken, who is a close friend of Ismail's. Ken is an Anglo-Indian, which in his case means that his father was English and his mother Indian. He was born in India but has lived all over. He is a painter, but of late does more painting restoration work than anything else when he is not managing his art and framing gallery in Sandton City (of World Summit fame). His house is chock-full of paintings, objets d'art, and records (yes, vynal recordings). The stay is very friendly and personal. I had lots of time to chat with Ken and the two people he also houses in his very large abode: Ignatius, who is Zulu, and Linesh, who is Indian. I also had time to get to know his pets quite well, especially his grey cat, named Grey Cat.
I have two main goals in Joburg: meeting the linguists at Wits (Witwatersrand University) and meeting the Joburg area Esperantists. My first day i realize that i have only the e-mail address and not the telephone number of my one contact at Wits. I decide to take my chances and show up without notice. Luckily this all works out. The person in question is Nhlanhla Thwala who was receiving his doctorate at the UCLA Department of LInguistics just as i was finishing up my undergraduate degree there. He is in and free and quickly arranges a lunch with two other linguists at Wits: Simon Donnelly and Jochen Zeller. I may even be going back up to Joburg for one day before i leave to give a talk.
I try to take a bus home, but even though there's one street which functions as a transit mall, i can't figure out where to catch the same bus i took in. I end up taking a taxi home.
Once home after the day at Wits, i thought a bit about the name of one of those linguists: Simon Donnelly. Wasn't he on my list of Esperantists to call? I phone him back and speak to him in Esperanto. As it turns out, there are not one but two Esperantists among the linguists at Wits, and they nornally converse with each other in Esperanto on campus.
On the second day, i decide to do the museums. First on my list is the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Ken warns me not to expect to much. Unfortunately, there's even less than he describes. For some reason over half of the museum is closed. The South African paintings on display are unspectacular, the ethnic clothing display is inexplicably closed, and the temporary exhibition is still being installed. (I don't mean to imply that South African painting is unexciting in general. Actually, the collection at the Tatham Gallery in Pietermaritzburg was wonderful.) Oh, and to continue on a familiar theme, i think i'm about the only visitor there, except for a small group of foreigners on a guided tour. On exiting the museum i have my first brush with Joburg paranoia. The woman who works in the front office and holds your bag for you walks out after me and enquires if i have a car. "Or are you just walking around?" I tell her that i'm walking two blocks down to catch something further into town. She has the most terrified look on her face. "But i'm really only walking two blocks." She continues to stare in horror, telling me how much a taxi will cost. After reassuring her that i'll be careful, i walk very fast for half a block and take the first taxi i see. How on earth do people live here?
Next on my list is MuseuMAfrica. Don't ask me why the middle "m" is capitalized. This place is really rather large and chock full of interesting things. (For me to share with maybe ten other visitors.) A gigantic display of crafts from all over South Africa is on display, presumably to coincide with the World Summit on Sustainable Development. (Why the displays at the Joburg Art Gallery weren't also coinciding, or even trying to, is puzzling.) There were also historical exhibitions depicting different aspects and periods of South Africa, the most interesting of which, i think, were about the Treason Trial of 1956-1961 (dates subject to my faulty memory) and about Sophiatown, a Black township which was the home of a musical movement in the 1940s (?), but which was destroyed when the government evicted everyone so the area could be rebuilt for Whites. There was also a gigantic exhibition of photographers from all over Africa. After about four hours at this place i was ready to leave.
Now i'm hungry and thirsty, but at the South African Breweries World of Beer, i'm told that a tour has just started and that i should catch up with it. This place is really slick. (Hey, and i'm not the only visitor!) We see an excellent video about a woman who makes traditional Zulu beer. Then, this my second time to sub-Saharan Africa, i finally get my first taste of a traditional African beer. Zulu beer is made from sorghum. It is drunk out of a single pot which is passed around to all partakers. It tasted rather nice, actually. Then there were various displays about the history techniques of beer-making. We got to taste fresh hops and various stages of malting of barley. You also get to handle much of the equipment. At the end of the tour, which costs only R10 (US$1) you get two free glasses of beer. Pretty good deal. So, at the end of the tour, in the bar, i am seated next to a Zulu fellow who is i think is the escort for an Englishman here for the Summit. He has opted for apple juice rather than beer. I ask him, "Are you not drinking for religious reasons or because you're driving... or both?" It turns out to be "both". He adds, "I go to church. I don't drink." And indeed many religious South Africans, especially Black South Africans, do not drink. (And having been a Christian Scientist in a Muslim country, i can relate to that.)
It's almost 5:00 p.m. now and getting dark and spooky (in spite of the crowds). I am prepared to take a taxi home, but happen upon the jitney station, which is like a large two-storey parking structure. It's actually quite nice, because there are big signs up so you can figure out where the different lines of vans are going.
My third day, i went into Sandton City with Ken. This is a gigantic, ritzy shopping mall. After a couple of hours there, i head off to bearby Ubuntu Village, which is an exhibition centre set up expressly for the Summit. (Ubuntu is Zulu for "humanity".) I spend several hours there, but honestly there are really only two things worth mentioning. First was the traditional Zulu dance troupe, which i particularly liked because there was this White guy in it, as well. I was thinking, that could have been me if i had trekked off to South Africa instead of to Egypt when i was nineteen. The other thing was the Unplugged Restaurant, where they only served food cooked with sunlight cookers. I got there when it was too dark for any sunlight cooking to be going on, but i did get to examine, handle, and read about all of these nifty stoves. I want one so bad! Much of my time on the bus back to Sheppy was spent thinking about all of the things i would bake in my solar oven. (The cooking goes slowly, so i could write my dissertation while i cooked, of course.)
Well, this is about all i have the energy to write about in detail. I'll also mention that i was surprised to find that Joburg actually has a sizable Portuguese minority. There's a daily newspaper in Portuguese. (Oddly, the Zulu papers, which should have a far larger readership, are no longer delivered to Joburg.) Portuguese is also taught at Wits. Ken and i had our first meal together at a Portuguese restaurant near his place, and we later went out to the Radium Beer Hall (which Ken refers to as the "last White beer hall") which serves the most wonderful "caldo verde" (a sort of Portuguese cabbage and sausage soup) and other Portuguese goodies. I guess i should also mention that i survived the city without getting mugged!next entry
|Sunday, August 18, 2002.
Time is really starting to fly fast and i am getting a bit nervous about getting the work done that i need to do. Slowly but surely, my spoken Zulu is getting better. Petros and i now spend most of our two-to-three hour sessions actually speaking in Zulu, which is something i would never have been able to do when i first arrived here.
I have made a new friend. His name is Ismail, and he is a South African of Indian descent. Ismail is in his forties (?) and is a dress designer by profession. However, he father-in-law died two months ago and left behind a little store on a nice piece of land out in the country near the school where i volunteer. The area is, again, very poor, and the store cannot possibly make any money. (Ismail laments that sometimes a woman will come in to purchase a single tea bag.) In its later years, Ismail's father-in-law kept it going more to keep himself busy than anything else. It might remind you a bit of a "general store" or the type you see in Westerns. It stocks staples like flour and the various forms of maize eaten here, a few vegetables and fruits, soap, beverages, medecines, yarn for knitting, etc.
Ismail has big dreams for this place. Most of the people in this area are unemployed, others work on white-owned sugar plantations in the area. Ismail wants to teach the local women to do traditional beadwork, which would give them some income and allow him to cultivate his artistic interests. He has already started with one woman doing sample pieces. He has all sorts of ideas for diferent beaded garments and accessories. So many, in fact, that at times you might wish he'd execute a few of them first before telling you about all of the others. Ismail has designed dresses for people all over the world and has often traveled to Europe to do his work. Many of his clients and friends are very wealthly. We was showing me a bunch of snapshots with various friends in Europe. Mick Jaggar was in one of them. The structure of the store is rather large and actually has a four-bedroom apartment upstairs. Ismail is hoping to be able to transform the upstairs into a bed and breakfast. Downstairs, the store portion will be moved into one little room while the rest will be made into his studio.
Ismail and i, Maria, who is a local woman who works with Ismail, and one other helper, made a day trip into Durban the other day to do various errands, including moving two beds and a refrigerator to his vacation apartment which overlooks the harbor. We were all crammed into his little mini-truck, three of us in front in the cabin, and one in the back with with the fridge and beds. This might have been "interesting" enough, but it so happened that Ismail had had the starter of the truck fixed the day before... but it stopped working that morning. This meant that for everything we did (there were many errands) we either double-parked and left the motor running or pushed the vehicle to restart the motor. Errands included going to meet Jane, who has been doing high-quality local bead work with local women for many years. We also were able to go to an Indian shop where i purchased the only hat that they had large enough to fit me.
In unrelated Indian-themed events, i heard the most beautiful song two weeks ago on the Indian radio station. (I think there are about six radio stations available in our area. One broadcasts in Zulu, two are mainstream English-language music and entertainment stations, and a couple of others are mostly talk and sports in English or in Afrikaans.) I put a blank tape into the cassette recorder, hoping to capture the name and artist of the song. However, these were never announced, and i went on a hunt in Port Shepstone looking for a shop selling Indian music where i could have someone identify the song. This lead me to an Indian sari and gift shop, where i left my tape for someone who was coming in later who would know the song. When i passed by on another day, the man who knew the music was there. We got into a conversation about the music, and he gave me a ticket to an Indian percussion performance (from Kerala state in India) which was going to be held at Port Shepstone City Hall.
I went to this concert, which was at 5:30 on a Sunday evening. I was one of only three non-Indians in crowd of two hundred or so. And the other two don't really count, since they probably weren't there totally by choice anyway: the deputy mayor and a guy in the audio crew. But of course, i'm pretty used to being "the only one". (Hey! I just stopped to glance out the window and a monkey ran across the garden wall!) The music was energetic and interesting, but way too loud for my ears, as are most such concerts. But of course, i always carry earplugs, which allow you to enjoy the music without damaging your eardrums. The most interesting part of the concert, though, was undoubtedly the formalities. Before any music even began, there were over twenty minutes of various thank yous and introductions. Then after the first piece there were fifteen more minutes of thank yous, presentation of flowers, etc. Then we had the second piece, then another fifteen minutes of thank yous, a word for the sponsoring companies, a word from the deputy mayor, a word from the women representing the sponsoring companies, presentation of a gift to the deputy mayor. (Oh! The monkey just went by again!) Then we had the final piece, followed by more thank yous, presentation of the honoraria to the performers, etc., etc., etc. Wow, there was almost as much expression of gratitude as music at the concert.
After the concert, i went to look for a taxi and the taxi stand. There were none. Port Shepstone night life begins at around 5 and ends at around 5:30. I had been told that the collective taxis stop running at 6 because of all of the car-jackings. (Yikes!) Furthermore, in Sheppie there is no "taxi company" which you can call up to order a cab, as there are in big cities like Durban. So, i was obliged to call home and have someone come pick me up. It would be very hard to live here without a car. Much harder than it is in Los Angeles, where we have such things as 24-hour bus lines.
My Zulu instructor at UCLA, Lungi, arrived in South Africa over a week ago. She phoned once, when i wasn't even home, and then disappeared for a week. But we finally all got to see here a few days ago, when she dropped by for an hour. She is very busy and has been doing a lot of commuting between various cities here.
I went to school again on Friday. This is sometimes a very disappointing waste of time. Instead of teaching, i sat for half an hour while Mrs. Chiliza taught her seventh grade English class. Then we were interrupted by an assembly for the higher grades, which i think means grades five, six, and seven. It was a motivational group from Love Line, which is an AIDS education campaign. (Hey! More monkeys!) They were an up-beat and energetic group of young adults who led the kids in various cheers and talked to them about AIDS. After the assembly was over, they handed out a newspaper geared towards young people which talked about various issues on sexuality. (Including the "coolness" of waiting.) However, the paper was written entirely in difficult, slangy English. This is totally senseless for this target audience. There is no way that any of these kids will read any of these articles, because they're just inaccessible. Again, health education is being kept from those who need it the most. Not because it isn't being disseminated, but because it's delivered in a language they don't understand. What a waste of money, and ultimately, of lives.
The three-year-old here in the family, Zama, and i have been spending more time together. She has typical three-year-old enunciation. But i think that her Zulu is improving even as my own is, because now i can sometimes understand what she's saying. Here favourite activity right know is showing me that she knows all of the colors in English. She'll come into my room and spend an eternity pointing to different objects and saying "blue", "green", "black",... The older girl, S'nee, who i think is about six years old, is very, very shy. She only first talked to me two days ago. Zama was in my room teaching me the colors again and S'nee joined in. This was really quite a break-through.
I finally did get my printer--a color ink jet. I'm able to print out all of my drafts now, which has made me somewhat more productive. It has also given me an activity i can do with the girls. I have a graphics program and yesterday S'nee let me show here how to use the mouse to paint a little picture on the computer, which i was then able to print out in full color on my printer.
Let's talk about food now. (Monkeys monkeys everywhere!) My latest favourite is the mutton roti roll at Bike's Take-Away. A roti is an Indian food somewhat like a flour tortilla, and a mutton roti roll is a roti with mutton curry rolled up in it. At Bike's the curry is yummy, just spicy enough and with lots of potatoes.. I also finally tried vetkoek, which i was kind of afraid of, because, literally, vetkoek is Afrikaans for "fat cake" (as in "cake made with fat"). It turned out to be something like a cruller (spelling?), only square-shaped. It is sliced into two and made into a sandwich. I had mine with jam and cheese. Yum!
Well, Petros has finally shown up for our session, so i have to go. Until next time.next entry
|Sunday, August 4, 2002.
As usual, i have a bit to catch up on. Writing today's journal entry will serve an additional purpose; it will pry my hands away from the mouse, which of its own volition is constantly engaged in a game of mahjong.
Well, let's begin with the monkeys. The other day i was working at the dining room table and the two girls and there friend started all screaming at once outside. I wasn't overly alarmed, because the children are often making lots of noise. Zipho, the maid, went out into the back courtyard to see who had fallen down or who had hit whom. But she just started laughing and came in and said that there were monkeys there. So i went outside, and sure enough, there was a large grey monkey sitting on the wall which separate's our yard from the neighbour's. It was only about 3 meters (3 yards) away from us. It was making some hideous noises and bearing its teeth from time to time. I ran to get my camera from my room, but as soon as the monkey saw me with the camera, it started making it way toward the back of the house, looking back a few times to bear its teeth and threaten me. I followed it as far as the back wall of the yard and it climbed over the fence, followed by two of its colleagues who were up in one of our trees. Since then, i've had three additional monkey sightings. They never let me get close enough to take a decent photograph, though. At the best sighting, there was a group of six of seven of them all together on our walls and rooftops. The maid says they're a nuisance. When the big group of them was here, they went into the little convenience shop which is on the lot of the house two houses down from us and took some bread. Oh, and they really do eat bananas by the way. I saw one of the monkeys eating one on the wall.
I had my first day in the classroom the other week. I had gone in just to observe, but i did end up participating in the seventh grade English class. That was fun. It's a bit difficult to describe the school. It is a public school in a rural area, and it is very rudimentary. Although there are enough desks for everyone (also very rudimentary), there is little else in the room. There is no heating, and the area is very cold, windy, and dusty. All of the cleaning and other chores is performed by the students. The students even repair any broken windows (of which there are many after the break). The thing which i think i dislike most about the school, i think, is the way the rooms echo. The classrooms are like big empty shells, with no false ceilings, that seem to amplify any noise made. It seems that this must make it very hard for the children to concentrate. There are enough books for everyone to use in class, but they cannot take them home. (They used to be able to, but too many books were lost.) The area where the school is located is very poor and rural. There is a small fee to attend school, but many parents have difficulty paying even that.
In some ways the school embodies attitudes and practices which i think must have been prevalent in American schools a hundred years ago, but which have long since been abandoned. Although this is a public school, all of the children wear uniforms. When the teacher enters the room, all the children stand up (which is no small feat in these desks, which have the bench built into them) and say "good morning, teacher". When asked a question, children don't answer "yes" or "no", but "yes, teacher" and "no, teacher". Mrs. Chiliza (for those who wish to know, that "ch" in her name is pronounced as a click with the tip of the tongue), the seventh grade English teacher, tells me that the government won't let them hit the children's wrists with a ruler as punishment any more. She said that that used to help get them to pay attention. Oh, these modern times!
As for the children, they seem to behave like schoolchildren anywhere in the world. Some of them are hard-working, others are more interested in joking with their neighbours in a low voice. Recess time is loud and bustling.
The thing i would say that i love the most about the school is the singing. Before classes begin, each class files up in front of the school. At this time the principal and the teachers make any announcements. Then a couple of hymns are sung. Yes, this is a public school, but separation of church and state doesn't seem to be quite as extreme here as in the States, but i guess that everyone in this village is Christian, anyway. (The cities and towns have substantial Muslims minorities of Indian origin, and some Hindus, too.) The hymns, sung in Zulu, are sung in a two-part harmony of a kind which i have only heard Southern Africans use. They use Western scales and harmonies, but do not sound anything like a Western hymn. I wish i could describe it. Perhaps when i get back, i can post a sound file or something. Anyway, it is beautiful and moving to hear the voices of three hundred or so children and their teachers all sing these together.
I have not been able to get into school again yet. I had planned on going in twice a week, but scheduling problems with Mbuso have prevented me from doing so. The school is very far away, and i can only go when i can go in with Mbuso and when he is coming back at a reasonable hour.
In case you missed it, my birthday was last week. When i'm away from home, i never tell anyone about my birthday because i dread any fuss people might make. This year, however, a certain conspirator (George) wrote to Mbuso (my host dad, landlord, or whatever) asking him to take me and his family out to dinner for my birthday on his behalf, and including a check for 1000 rand (US$100). Mind you that such a sum could practically treat the entire neighbourhood to dinner at some of the local restaurants i've been. On Wednesday, then, the Sosibo family and myself (no, the rest of the neighbourhood didn't come along) trekked down to Spurs in downtown Sheppie, Spurs being a South African chain something like a Chilli's. We all had humongous portions of various types of grilled flesh. (Alas, there's no ostrich liver paté at Spurs.) Nthabi had brought in a cake earlier. This was served to me by the staff chanting:
I don't know what i've been toldIn case you're wondering, i'm now 39 years old. As for gray hairs, i've had them since my twenties, you're just more likely to notice them now that i'm almost forty. (By the way, the traditional way of saying "happy birthday" in Zulu is to say "i wish you long hair".)
I don't think i've mentioned my new electronic gadgetry. I bought a cell phone a few weeks ago. Having a cell phone here is very, very inexpensive compared to in the States. My phone, charger, and prepaid airtime, with answering service and the ability to send and receive short text messages cost me a total of about R600 (US$60), which is what i pay each month just for service in the States, and there i don't even get the text message service. In case you have the compunction to give me a ring (i almost wrote "wring" there), my number is
072 503 8029 (within South Africa)The device has proven to be of great utility. It was truly amazing to receive a call from George when i was in bookshop in Pietermaritzburg. What strides communication has taken.
A rather unfortunate incident occured last week. Petros's sister works as a live-in maid in a private home. Her room has a separate entrance. While she was in the house ironing, a thief came and took basically everything she had: clothes, money, documents, blanket, etc. Petros had some of his things there, and those were stolen, too. (Even my own umbrella, which i had lent him.) Besides the whole trauma of being robbed, there is also the difficulty of dealing with her stolen identification card and the stolen birth certificate of her small son.
A sick aunt was visiting, as the family took her to hospitals and doctors. On one afternoon, Nthabi's church group got together here to pray for her and sing hymns. The ladies all wear special red and white uniforms for this, complete with bright red hats. They were around for a half hour or so, and if i hadn't been in the middle of a session with Petros, i would have come out just to listen, and perhaps record, those beautiful Zulu hymns i described earlier. The aunt stayed with us a few days, until she, Nthabi, and Mbuso left back to the village to attend yet another funeral.
I have been trying to get a lot of studying and work done. One of the little projects i have been working on is writing a little Zulu dictionary which indicates the tones of the words. The tones are not indicated in the standard Zulu orthography, in much the same way that stress is not written in English orthography. (That is, if you see the word content, you have to just "know" that it should be stressed on the first syllable in This film has been edited for content but on the last syllable in The cat was sitting happy and content. We don't indicate this by, for example, putting an accent mark on the stressed syllable.) Every Zulu noun and verb has a tone pattern which must be memorized when you learn the word. However, no textbooks of Zulu actually indicated what that tone pattern is. This makes it practically impossible to learn to speak native-like Zulu using textbooks. You come out speaking very strangely, just as a foreigner would sound if he had to guess where to put the stress in every word. Tone is more complicated than stress, though, and gathering the information for my little dictionary is a somewhat tedious (and error-ridden) process. However, i have been plugging away at it, and i have a list of almost two thousand words. (A typical speaker of any language knows several thousand words of his language.) I made much progress this week in writing the software tools which will allow me to maintain and edit the dictionary in a logical fashion (in XML, if that means anything to you) and at the same time be amenable to automated formatting so that i can automatically generate the dictionary in, for example, web page format or in printable book format. Hopefully, tomorrow i will finally get my hands on the new printer i have ordered, which will enable me to be much more productive and which will allow me to get started on looking at data relating to my dissertation (which has nothing to do with tone). Printing outside is really exorbitant here: R20 (US$0.20) per page! Just printing out my forty-page prospectus would cost $8 (per draft, mind you).
That's it for now. Stay tuned.next entry
|Monday, July 22, 2002.
My, it has been so long since my last entry. I hope that i can remember all that has transpired since then.
The schools reopen today. I will start volunteering at my school on Friday. I will be going there two days a week, or so. The reopening of the schools also effects my sessions with Petros, as he will only be available in the afternoons now.
I have made a couple of trips, as you know, since my last substantial entry. First, i made a trip to Durban to attend my first Durban Esperanto club meeting. The meetings are held at the University of Natal, which sits on a hill a bit outside the city and has a beautiful view of the city. Four people other people came to the meeting, while the two other members were not able to come. One of the students, Johan, is an engineering student at the university (and uses Linux, like me!). The ethnic mix of the group was a bit different than one might expect. Johan is an Afrikaaner, Andrée seems to be bilingual in English and French, and the two Blacks who attended, Élysée and Josef, are not Zulu, but are actually refugees from the Congo (formerly Zaïre). Yes, not only from the Congo, but the eastern region of that country, where they speak...Swahili! I was amazed to find other people who speak Swahili right in my midst. The Esperanto world is very small and interconnected. I found that Élysée had been in Tanzania and knows my two good friends there, Consta and Matabaro. The group is in the process of forming a non-profit organization which will provide intercultural training courses for other organizations. We all had a good two-hour chat in Esperanto. You can obtain information about Esperanto in South Africa at this website: www.esperanto.za.org. On my upcoming (but as yet unscheduled) trip to Johannesburg, i hope to meet with other Esperantists, who have already contacted me.
The other trip i have made was a three-night affair, to Pietermaritzburg. This is a beautiful little city only about an hour north of Durban. I think it is the nicest place i have been in South Africa. (I don't really know how meaningful that it, since i've only been two three places here.) There are many, many well-preseved Victorian buildings and arcades in the downtown area of Pietermaritzburg. Including an imposing brick city hall with a clocktower and the largest pipe organ in sub-Saharan Africa. (Just what every city hall in Afrca needs, right? A pipe organ.) The city is very well organized for the shopper or tourist, with an extremely long pedestrian mall, lined with all sorts or shops, in the city center. Pietermaritzburg's official website is at www.pietermaritzburg.co.za.
My main reason for going to 'Maritzburg was to visit the bookshop of the publisher Shuter and Shooter (no, i am not making that up), which has been a major publisher of books in and about Zulu. I went on a little spending spree, picking up interesting titles about Zulu culture and language, schoolbooks in Zulu and Afrikaans, and a few other interesting items in Zulu.
Somehow it had slipped my mind while planning this trip that 'Maritzburg is a university town, and that i should at least visit the library. I found the University of South Africa to be a beautiful little campus, reminding me of how small-town American colleges are portrayed in the movies. The people at the library were very helpful. I was able to find a few useful works which were unavailable elsewhere, including a couple of dissertations. My morning was wasted photocopying these on a rather slow machine.
These two chores done (book shopping and the university), i was free to play tourist. There are quite a few monuments and things of interest to see in 'Maritzburg, including a statue of Mahatma Ghandi, who was kicked off a train in this city for demanding a first-class to which he should have been entitled, since he was holding a first-class ticket, but which he was denied, because he was not White. I also visited the town hall, which i mentioned above. There are a couple of things i would have liked to see, but didn't really have the time, including the Natal Museum, which has both cultural and natural history exhibits, and the Voortrekker Museum, which documents the history of Boer settlers. However, i did get to see two of the attractions which i most wanted to see: the Natal National Botanical Gardens and the Tatham Gallery.
It seems that in so many of the places i go in South Africa i am the first or only costumer. And it was even like that at the botanical gardens. I was even the only costumer while taking my tea at the garden restaurant. Anyway, this park is set up with a very long self-guided walking tour, which lets you explore the plant life of the different sorts of environments (forest, wetlands, etc.) of the Natal province. It was actually nice being virtually the only person there in this setting, because i could enjoy the serenity of being in the wilderness. (Well... at least when there weren't any chainsaws running.)
The Tatham Gallery is a museum of mostly modern South African art. It turned out to be much more of a treat than i expected. Right across from City Hall in the center of town, it houses a rather large collection of painting and sculpture from a broad spectrum of South African artists. Too bad there was only me and about two other people to enjoy it all.
One gets from Sheppie to Pietermaritzburg via Durban. (You might be surprised that my bus from Durban to Maratzburg was a Greyhound.) So, i decided to plan my trip with a Friday night in Durban to sample the night life. I stayed in the lovely, aging Parade Hotel, on the beachfront, with an ocean view from my room, at a little under US$20. I love this place because it reminds me so much of my grandmother's house, with it's plumbing and lighting fixtures which probably haven't been changed since 1930.
I had decided to go to the Axis disco, which was not so far from my hotel. I was told that it would not open until 8:00 p.m. So, promptly at 8 i show up, but find the place closed. Someone sweeping the place asks me if i'm waiting, and i'm invited to wait inside, until they open at 9 or 9:30. So, i wait inside, in the upstairs waiting area. When at 9 i finally get to go downstairs into the main area, i find that it is a very large and nicely decorated place (by comparison with the handful of places i've ever been to in Los Angeles). I'm again the first and only customer (since i'm not counting that guy at the end of the bar who seems to be the manager, the guy in leather trousers who turns out to be the bartender, and the handful of other people who seem to be the sound crew). By 10:30, there are only almost ten real customers in this sprawling space and it's already over an hour past my bedtime. I decide that i am just not a Durban party animal and decide to throw in the towel. On my way out i ask if this place ever gets busy. I'm told that it does, but it's still too early.
My escapade in Durban is not an entire waste of time, however. I happened to go upstairs at Adams book shop and find the two copies of the out-of-print A Linguistic Analysis of Zulu i have been searching so diligently for, along with many other useful book, and go on another little buying spree. (All in the quest for knowledge, of course.)
For any of you who might still entertain the notion that all of Africa is a tropical jungle, let me dispell this idea immediately. Over the past week, all of South Africa has been very, very cold. In parts of the Eastern Cape (the province next to Kwazulu-Natal), there has been lots of snow, and two towns have been completely snowed in, with some buildings even collapsing under the weight of unusually heavy snow. There hasn't been any snow where i've been, but it's been very rainy (especially during my stay in Pietermaritzburg) and windy, as well. (I've even lost my hat a couple of times.)
I suppose i should give a little food report. Not surprisingly, there is food even in Pietermaritzburg. The first night, i decided i would treat myself to Chinese food since the place was only a block away from my room and since it was recommended by my guide. The Szechuan cabbage pork was just scrumptuous, and the portion was large enough to feed three normal people or one hungry me. On the following evening, i decided to go to the a really elegant place, called Els Amics (which is Catalan for "the friends"). For starters, i had the ostrich liver paté. Ever wanted to know what ostrich liver tastes like? I'll give you one guess. (Pause for game show waiting music.) If you guessed "liver", that would be correct. Next came veal au poivre over tagliatelle, served with cauliflower in cheese, green beans, carrots, and deepfried baby potatoes. For desert, cherries flamed in brandy. Yum! How much would all of this cost? US$10 plus tip. Not bad. Oh, yeah, and the waiter drove me bad to my hotel in his own car, because they couldn't free up the phone to call a cab for me.
In Durban, i ate at Arabian nights, which is in the same building as the Parade Hotel. It turned out to be an Indian restaurant, with a more varied menu than some others i've seen. (Sometimes the choices are "mutton curry", "chicken curry", "beef curry", and "vegetable curry".) The service was very friendly and the food delicious. At six o'clock, i was again the first customer.
Breakfasts continue to be rather heavy, and sometimes almost inedible. At the Regal Inn in Pietermaritzburg, i was served what i think i've seen called "mince on toast", which is something like hamburger and gravy over toast... and topped with a fried egg. As you have probably guessed by now, if you don't already know from experience, i eat almost anything. But that quarter pound of hamburger was just a bit too much for me. Another unusual thing i've been served at breakfast is a slab of fried whitefish. It was okay, but i don't really think it necessary in addition to the bacon and fried eggs on th same plate. I've started to avoid the morning sausage altogether. There's some sort of seasoning in it that i can't quite identify which just turns my stomach. I should probably eat all of these things, just to celebrate my English heritage. But i suppose we all have things in our heritage we're not thrilled about.
I should also mention pies. A "pie" here is usually something a bit different than what Americans think of as pie. When Americans hear "pie", they think "apple", "cherry", "coconut cream". When an African hears "pie" (this goes for both East Africa and Southern Africa), he thinks "steak and kidney", "pepper steak", "mutton curry". So, a pie is an individual pastry, something like a turnover, filled with what is most often a meat-based savoury filling. These are eaten for breakfast or as a light lunch or snack. Yum again.
Okay, i've been writing for two hours and i have other things to do. Until next time.next entry
|Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Just a few lines, because i'm writing online. I just wanted to let everyone that i'm still alive and well. I have just been very busy and have not had the time to write.
Soon, i will say a little something about my meeting with the Durban Esperantists. Tomorrow, i'm going on a trip to Pietermaritzburg, where i'll be staying for two nights. 'Maritzburg is an hour or two north of Durban. Next Monday, winter break will be over and the schools open again. I will be volunteering at a school for two days a week. More later.next entry
|Tuesday, July 9, 2002.
I seems that my journal entries will become a little less frequent now. For one thing, i'm staying put, so i don't have all that many places to describe. Second, my routine is a bit monotonous. I'm working, meeting with my consultant, Petros, and having meals. And third, i don't turn on my computer every day. The big problem with my computer is that it doubles quite nicely as a mahjong machine, and i can waste loads of time playing mahjong. So, it's better for my sake to leave my computer off until i need it.
I have been putting in scads of hours on my Zulu and preparing for my sessions with Petros. On Friday, we did part of our session down at the beach. I live about a five minute walk to Banana Beach, but the time i went to the beach on my own, i couldn't figure out quite how to get there, so i walked down to Sunwich Port. Petros showed me how to get to the much closer Banana Beach, and we had a conversation in Zulu about the beach and the different things which were happening there. That day was my first meaningful conversation in Zulu. It is quite a relief to be getting to the point where i can actually say someting useful. Of course, conversation is a two-way road, and i am learning a bit more about Petros, as well. He will be going into the military when he finishes high school, because his family does not have the money to send him to college, which costs about US$6000 per year. I'm sure that this is exorbitant for a family like his.
Guess what, i've had quite a few meals since my last installment. I feel that i should write something about that, carrying on the tradition i established in my previous two travel journals.
First i should say that the South African diet is quite heavy. Homemade French fries for breakfast with your sausage and bacon? Why not! How many eggs in the fridge waiting to be cooked? Thirty-seven, at highest count. The South African larder resembles what i imagine Aunt Jemimah's must have looked like: can upon can of baked beans, white bread, butter, golden syrup, and various kinds of corn meal.
Over the last couple months of school this year, my fear of impending mush was hard to suppress. It felt like every time i opened my Zulu dictionary i would come upon a new word for some type of mush. Well, my fears have become true...sort of. It is true that people eat many kinds of mush here. I have been served several variants of corn meal mush. It can be plain and dry (dry porridge, or in Zulu uphuthu) or soft and cooked with some vegetables (soft porridge). Pumpkins and butternut squash is boiled and mashed. Some other type of porridge (plain grits?) is made for the kids for breakfast. Potatoes are mashed. So, yes, there are indeed many kinds of mush, but they're usually served as the side starch, just like rice or (yes, even we Americans eat mush) mashed potatoes. There are, of course, some more exotic ways of serving mush here.
One very traditional way, which i have had once, it to flake up cooled dry mush with buttermilk. Buttermilk, or sour milk, which in South African English is also known by the Afrikaans word maas, is a traditional Zulu staple. (It is amazing how so many countries seem to have a unique dairy product that isn't quite like anything anywhere else. For North America, i think that cream style cottage bests expresses our unique dairy heritage.) The schoolbook i'm reading (copyright 1962) describes in detail how maas is made in a special calabash (gourd). Everyone in the family has their own calabash, and there is a special terminology for the parts of this calabash, such as the little hole out of which the whey is drained and the little plug that stops this hole. (This sounds quaint unless you want to actually learn the word for the little hole. Just try remembering umbhotshozelwa...among your hundreds of other vocabulary items.) There are other interesting dairy products described which i will probably never have the opportunity to taste, such as curds made by milking a cow directly into a pale of whey and, more interesting still, mush prepared with the milk of a cow which has just given birth. (This last one is described as a special treat.) Alas, my own family is a modern one. We get our maas at the supermarket in a plastic bottle. No cow, no bucket of whey, no calabash. Sad, but a small price to pay for a real kitchen with fridge, microwave, and running hot water.
Aside from mushes, something else i've had which is rather different is homemade steamed bread. A bread dough is made, with yeast, and left to rise, then steamed in a big pot. It comes very similar to regular white bread, albeit a bit heavier, but with no crust. This is sliced and served as the starch, in lieu of rice, mush, or potatoes.
As for main dishes, curries have worked there way into the cuisine of all ethnic groups in South Africa, as far as i can tell. They're just less spicy and pungent than when prepared by Indians. So far at home, i've had curried chicken, sardines, and sausage. Though it may sound a bit odd, the curried sardines are really rather yummy.
As an American, it was something of a relief to find that South Africans, like us (and unlike anywhere i know in Europe), actually do eat vegetables. Yes, they're prepared a bit differently, (i, personally, never would have thought of mashing broccoli), but they're green and abundant.
Nthabi is really quite a good cook herself, and we've been treated to many home baked items. She even makes pumpkin cake. (This is surprising, because in many countries the idea of putting anything squashlike into a sweet dish can turn their stomach.) I told Nthabi that that was the first thing i had eaten which tasted just like home. She told me that when she was little, her family lived around American missionaries. An American woman had given that recipe to her mother, who had in turn handed it down to her. Funny how things travel.
When i'm not reading mind-numbing children's stories in Zulu or compiling lists of high-toned and low-toned verbs, going into town and consuming food and drink also happens to be one of my only pasttimes. (I'm leaving the mahjong machine turned off. Remember?) Figuring out where to do so has not been all that easy. Although there are lots of places to eat, half them are either chains: Debonaire's pizza (or pizza-flavoured cardboard, according to a Kenyan friend), Steers steakhouse, Wimpy burgers, Something Fishy (i give you one guess) fish, and Nando's chicken. Yuck! I'm not going to insist on mush made with the milk of a newly calved cow, but i did travel half way around the globe to be subjected to burgers at Wimpy! (I must admit that i did try Something Fishy one time. How can anyone resist a name like that?) The other half of the restaurants are very small take away places. (I think the US and Canada are the only English-speaking countries in the world that say take out. Everywhere else, including here, it's take away.) Most of them don't have anywhere to sit down, and even if they do, it's some uncomfortable stool. But now i have finally found a couple of places where i can get a good meal, and it down and relax in the process. My favourite is a little Pakistani place, which, with it's plastic patio furniture and bright fluorescent lighting, isn't the most elegant place, but it's both delicious and cheap. A mutton bunny chow (described in earlier entry) costs about US$1. Fancy shmancy Friday special--$2.25. Can't beat that!
Beyond meals, i'm at a loss over what to write about. I guess i should mention that there seem to be a lot of interesting birds here. One side of our lot is shared with a very large yard, part of which is just growing wild. Sometimes when i get up in the morning, i hear the most interesting bird calls. This morning i looked up at the roof, and there was this big bird on the television antenna that had a big beak like a macaw or something. (Sorry, no dictionary to assist with spelling.)next entry
|Tuesday, July 2, 2002.
(This entry has been written over the course of several days.)
On Friday i went into Durban again because i needed to pick up my new adaptor for my laptop. I bought a good map of Durban at a bookstore, because i knew that the IBM place was a bit out of town. It was actually a bit more out of town than i had imagined, in a place called Westville. Upon asking a bus driver, i was told that i could find a bus to Westville at The Workshop. I was familiar with the name "The Workshop", because it's a frequent point of reference in my guidebook. I walked toward where the bus driver had pointed, and eventually came upon a very large building called The Workshop. It turned out to be a very large enclosed shopping mall, which seems to have been renovated from some sort of warehouse or station (or possibly some sort of large workshop, whence its name). The mall was very much like something you'd find in the States, albeit with many more independent stores than chains. I spent some time at the Internet café there until i thought it was a good time to go find a bus to Westville.
Going outside to the bus terminal, i found a bus going to "Westville University" and hopped on without asking whether it was going where i wanted, knowing full well in the back of my mind that i had better do this. I followed my map off and on for the next thirty minutes or so. When we turned onto University Road and i found it on my map, i finally realised why i couldn't find a university on my map in the vicinity of Westville... that's because the university is really rather far from Westville. So, after the bus reached its terminus, i took it back part way, and helped by another fellow who had also taken the wrong bus, we found our way to another bus, and i finally got to my destination. I don't know why i feel compelled to describe this whole episode with you. Maybe it's because i was struck at how sprawling Durban is, for it really took quite a long time to get to this place.
Oh, yeah, and i did get that new adaptor, and i am writing this missile to you from the comfort and privacy of my own home. What joy!
Back in town, i went back to The Workshop, i had a very large and delicious chicken curry with rice and beverage for under US$3. Not bad.
On Saturday, the plan was for me to go with my family to a girl relative's traditional coming of age ceremony. It's a big to-do in which there is traditional Zulu dancing and a head of cattle is killed. (By the way, in South African English, a head of cattle is called a "beast".) The ceremony was traditionally a way of celebrating a young woman's (at age 21, i think) coming to maturity without losing her virginity. Modern ways being as they are, it's now something more like a celebration of thanks to the young woman for having made it this far without having become pregnant.
Alas, another relative died and my host family's plans were complicated by the funeral, meaning that i could not go to the ceremony. The family has been stricken with a lot of deaths and funerals, in the family and in the neighbourhood. In additional to the obvious emotional strain, this has resulted in my family having really no time to themselves on the weekends. Every weekend has been taken up by funerals and vigils. In fact, a niece has died in Mbuso's birth village, and Mbuso and Nthabi will going for a cleansing ritual which lasts two days, plus two days of preparation. Note that my family are Methodists, and these are just considered traditional rituals, not pagan religious rituals.
Although the most recent deaths have been due to a variety of reasons, there is no question that there are many, many deaths these days due to AIDS. South Africa now has the highest rate of HIV infection on the continent--something like 10% of the entire population. This is going to lead to a staggering death toll. My guidebook even goes to the point of saying that the life expectancy in South Africa may go down to 38 years. Anti-AIDS advertising campaigns are in evidence all over. One television ad admonishes "Be wise, condomize".
On Monday i started working with Petros Saunders, who is a Zulu-speaking high school student. I asked him how he has an English family name. He explained that his mother is coloured, which in South Africa means of mixed race, and that his father and mother never married. Since his father is Zulu, they never could have married at the time he was born as South African law did not permit any marriage across ethnic lines, and since coloureds were considered to comprise their own ethnic group. The Zulu session together with him went well, if painfully.
On Monday i also ventured out into the neighbouring area a bit. Basically i've either been cooped up here in the house or i've gone into Port Shepstone or Durban. But on this day, i took a walk to the beach at Sunwich Port, which is a fifteen-minute or so walk from home. The beach was rocky, but pleasant. Of note was a large sign warning visitors that the shark nets had been taken down for the recent sardine run and that the authorities would not take responsibility for those who went into the water risking shark attacks.next entry
|Wednesday, June 27, 2002.
Well, i've ordered a new adaptor for my computer. So, soon i'll be a bit freer to write when i feel like it and will use the business center (well, actually, here it's a centre not a center) just to upload what i've written. The Internet was a catastrophe here yesterday. Because of some problem with the phone lines, it took me literally two hours just to delete my junk mail and read maybe three messages. This cost me US$8. Oh, well. Other things are very cheap here. And at least things are working normally here again today.
So, on Tuesday i went into Durban for the first time. I took a collective taxi from Port Shepstone. A collective taxi is a privately owned van that runs a fixed route (like a bus). They are typically very overcrowded, but there aren't really many choices here. The trip take a bit under an hour and a half and costs a mere 25 Rand (US$2.50).
Durban is a big modern city, with shopping malls and fancy-shmancy beachfront hotels. In many respects it feels like a European or American city. It's also more dangerous than my little town of Port Shepstone, so you have to watch where you're going. Durban is known for its beaches, and i did get a chance to walk down the boardwalks a bit, but i really came here to do errands. The kind people at the tourist information centre allowed me to use their telephone book, and i was able to locate just about everything i needed.
I decided to go out for a nice lunch. (I hadn't had a meal out since my arrival.) I'd read a recommendation for an Indian restaurant on the beachfront. But after my half-hour walk to get there, i found that it was out of business. So, i meandered down the board walk until i decided to eat at the Jewel of India in the Hilton Hotel. It was lavishly furnished, and i had a delicious meal served by very friendly staff (perhaps all the more friendly because i was their first customer that day). I paid US$11 for what in a similar class of restaurant in the States would have probably cost $20.
After lunch i hopped a cab to the University of Natal, to check out the bookstore and the library. I was able to buy several interesting Zulu books (not many of these exist). One of note which i'll mention here is a textbook and dictionary of Fanagalo, which is a sort of pidgin Zulu spoken in the mines. (The mines employ people speaking many different languages, and Fanagalo is used for communicating between them.) Fanagalo is also used by some Indians, such as some shopkeepers, when addressing Black customers. Nthabi explained to me how condescending it is to use Fanagalo in such a context and told me how irritated she gets when someone speaks to her in Fanagalo like this. (To do so is kind of like assuming that she isn't intelligent enough to understand English.) Anyway, this book about Fanagalo is particularly interesting because it was first published in around 1951 and includes a few cultural gems (or fossils) such as a pointer that you shouldn't "bawl out" your Black servant if he doesn't rise when you enter the room, because it is there custom to remain seated even when their chief enters the room.
Well, that is something of an indication of just how far South Africa has come in the past fifty years. The system of apartheid was dismantled in the early nineties, and if you believed what you see in TV commercials and serials, South Africans are now just one big happy integrated family. Alas, this is not yet the case, and indeed it will take many, many years before the economic gap between Whites and Blacks in the country starts to close. However, things are much more integrated than i had expected. I'd like to mention that Blacks would have been forbidden to live in the neighnourhood where i'm living now. Blacks were not allowed to live near the ocean. Now my neighbourhood is mixed, but predominately Black.
My language activities have mostly been readings books and the newspaper. I am currently reading a school reader in Zulu for children who must be around the age of ten. I really like the book, because it gives a very good description of Zulu rural life (as opposed to the urban Zulu life i am experiencing). It is complete with descriptions of children's games and how cows are tended and how dairy products are made. My vocabulary has been really growing, but i lack conversation practice almost completely. I hope that this component will be added to my mix on Monday, when i start working with a high school student. (A one-month winter break starts next week.) He's supposed to help me get acquainted with some popular Zulu music, but hopefully he'll be clueful enough that i'll be able to do all sorts of language activities with him. If not, it's back to the newspapers and children's books until i find someone suitable.
I have been in this place for ages, so i'll sign off for now.next entry
|Monday, June 24, 2002.
It seems that i forgot to throw my power adapter into my bag when i was packing, so it may be forever before i can get my own computer set up. So, for the meantime, i'm stuck to doing all my work at a business services shop. Doing e-mail is extremely frustrating. It's so slow, and the connection is unreliable.
My sleep is getting a little better. I'm getting about five hours of sleep during the normal sleeping hours, though i wake up several times and remember vivid dreams. I think this will sort itself out quickly.
All of you who think that Africa is one big tropical jungle will probably be surprised to learn how cold i've been. While it's pleasantly warm here in the afternoon, the mornings and nights are really cold. The other day, i had to buy myself a sweater, which alleviated the problem somewhat. I thought it would be warm today, so i didn't take my sweater with me on my first visit to the school where i'll be volunteering. That was so wrong of me. I sat freezing for five hours!
There are those of you who are probably wondering if i'm starving to death. (And it may have been me who implanted such a fear in you.) Well, rest assured that i'm eating. While the food is a bit different, Nthabi, the mother of my host family, is a great cook, and we get a whole meal with several dishes each evening. One thing that is quite different from home is the emphasis on meat. There is some kind of meat with practically every meal, including breakfast. (Yesterday, i got chicken livers with my breakfast.) If i have time on another day, i will go into describing more of the foods i'm eating here. For now, though, i'll just mention a particularly interesting item which i tried the other day. I must tell you that there are a lot of people of East Indian origin in South Africa. Indians, of course, are known for their curries, and chicken curry is eaten and made by South Africans of all ethnicities. However, one variation on a curry is distinctly South Africa. It's called "bunny chow". This is a quarter, half, or whole loaf of white bread, unsliced, with the inside scooped out and then filled with curry, such as lamb or chicken curry. This is served as a kind of fast food. I tried it at the mall the other day. It was incredibly spicy, but what really kept me from finishing my quarter loaf was my fear of getting the red curry sauce all over my clothes. (There wasn't anywhere to sit in the shop where i bought it, so i had to go eat it in the parking lot.)
A word about my family and accomodations. I am living with the Sosibo family. Mbuso Sosibo is the brother of my Zulu teacher at UCLA, Dr. Lungi Sosibo. Mbuso is Zulu, and his wife Nthabi is Sotho. (Think of the country of Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa.) They have two little daughters, aged around two and six (by my estimate). They have a live-in maid. Also around is Mthoko, who is Lungi's son. Mbuso, Nthabi, and Mthoko are all school teachers.
The Sosibo family, and by extension also me, live in a real house in Melville, which is a suburb of Port Shepstone. The surroundings are quite beautiful. There are lush green hills not far from the house, and the house itself is on a hill, so that the ocean is in full view from the living room. The house is rather modern, with a surplus of bathrooms and a two-car garage. It is clean and nicely furnished. (This does not keep it from being cold, though.) In all, i am very happy with my accomodations and eating arrangements. I couldn't ask for much more.
I have more to write, but this place will be closing pretty soon, and i want to get this entry in. I'll be back in a couple of days to fill in more details.next entry
|Friday, June 22, 2002.
Port Shepstone. Well, i'm finally here in Port Shepstone, Natal, South Africa. I won't write too much this time, because i don't have my computer set up yet at home and thus can't compose my entries ahead of time. I'm going just write a couple of things today and will come back and fill in details another time.
I arrived here after a very long journey. My time in transit was about 30 hours. I am way off schedule here. I get about three hours of sleep between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., then i'm wide awake and spend my time studying.
I'm very happy with my accomodations. I have my own room which is attached to the house, but which has its own entrance and bathroom. This gives me a bit of privacy i might not otherwise have. The house is a rather modern one, in the suburbs quite a bit away from town--about 12 km (7 miles). So, i won't be coming into town every day.
I'm sorry to be so brief, but the modem is so slow on this computer that it took an hour just to clean out my mailbox. So, i'm tired of this place and want to go. (Plus, i feel a bit guilty, since this is the only computer in this place and the people have already had to turn two other customers away.) I'm going to try to get an adapter today so that i can type to my little heart's content at home and just upload the file when i come in. Bear with me.next entry
|Friday, June 14, 2002
Los Angeles. Still in Los Angeles. Saying goodbye to friends at school. Don't worry, things will get more interesting after my arrival on Wednesday.next entry