23 September 2011

Afrika Borwa

Or, A real city and my first steps in the Indian Ocean

A few months ago Daniel and I went on vacation to South Africa.  We took a bus to Johannesburg and stayed in a cool neighborhood called Melville.  The guesthouse we chose was called Sleepy Gecko and it was amazing: plush beds, wide-plank hardwood floors, original artwork, and a roly-poly guard dog who wasn’t fooling anybody.  Within a half hour of getting our room I had taken a hot bubble bath and donned the complimentary terrycloth robe.  The owners even invited Daniel and me to share dinner and a bottle of wine (or two or three or seven) while watching a rugby game.

It was amazing to be back in a city again.  Boutiques (including Black Coffee), restaurants, coffee shops, antique stores, even a farmer’s market… I was in heaven.  If unemployment wasn’t so rampant in South Africa, I would consider trying to find a job there.  While I’m sure Melville is the exception rather than the norm in Jozzie (there are a lot of rough areas in the city), I absolutely loved it and got a great first impression of Afrika Borwa (South Africa).

The most interesting thing Daniel and I did while we were there (wait, you mean besides sushi and half-off cocktails?!) was go to the Apartheid Museum.  It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  It walked you through all the aspects of apartheid – the social, political, and economic factors leading up to it, the oppression during it, and the growth and eventual victory of the opposition – through a variety of media.  We were luckily at the museum while there was an exhibit on Nelson Mandela.  Until then, I hadn’t realized how much I took for granted that he is just one of those inspirational people like Gandhi, and never took the time to research what his life was like.  I highly recommend visiting the museum (although, oddly and a bit off-putting, there’s a theme park not even a stone’s throw away).

I can’t post any pictures from Jo’burg because Daniel and I were too busy having fun to worry about our cameras.  True story.

Driving on the left side of the road!
We then rented a car and drove to Durban, where I accomplished a lifelong goal of seeing and swimming in the Indian Ocean, which is warm year-round.  Our time there passed in a haze of craft markets, beaches, gluttonous and embarrassing amounts of seafood (omg delish), blue skies, sunrises, copious amounts of wine and yes, long romantic walks along the beach (“romantic” is debatable – Daniel was more interested in shells and their inhabitants than me).

I am not kidding you when I use adjectives like “gluttonous” and “copious.”  We went to f-ing town on seafood.  Consequently, I went 200 USD over budget.  Ouch.  Moving on…

Daniel and I stayed at a place called Anstey’s Beach Backpackers right on the coast.  We got upgraded (holla) to a cottage with a full ocean view.  It was a beautiful little flat with a nice-sized porch facing the ocean.  It was even decorated in blues and whites – perfect for a beach house.

We woke up at sunrise every. single. day.  The entire trip.  Sometimes it was to get an early start on the road, but mostly I just couldn’t bear to miss a single ray of light coming over the ocean’s horizon.  Accordingly, I don’t think we ever stayed awake past 9pm.  Anyway, here are pictures of the sunrise over the Indian Ocean and some other beach pictures.

Early, early morning; view from our porch.  Have you ever seen such a gorgeous shade of blue?

Cloudy sunrise


My first steps in the INDIAN OCEAN!

Daniel's first steps in the INDIAN OCEAN!

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the different markets we went to or any of the cute outfits I wore (I spent a lot of time researching South African fashion before we went).  Just take my word for it.

It was a great trip, and a lovely getaway.  Here are a few last pictures:

A little restaurant we stopped at with a gorgeous view of a lake

Same restaurant

I came home to a SCORPION in my house.  Sweet.
Shout out to SHU!:

22 September 2011

Project AIM

This past week I have had the absolute pleasure of working with BOTUSA (a partnership between Botswana and the CDC) on a new project – Project AIM.  AIM stands for “Adult Identity Mentoring” and the six-week-long program is designed to help students connect with their future selves, thereby making them less likely to engage in risky behavior that will jeopardize that future.

Due to the wonderful success Project AIM has had in the states (participating schools had overall better grades, less truancy, and less unsafe sex), BOTUSA is now bringing it to Botswana.  This is where my help was enlisted – my junior secondary school was chosen as one of three to do a preliminary pilot of the program, as well as various focus groups.  This is to ensure that the program is appropriately adapted for youth in Botswana.  It was my job to organize groups of people for the facilitators to work with.

It was wonderful to work with Sarah (from CDC) and Catherine (from BOTUSA) as they implemented their activities.  They taught two lessons during which they engaged students in discussion about the idea of a legacy – that what we do in our lives now affects those that come after us.  They met with my YES Club every day after school to do a whole career series – including a personality quiz to find what career might be best, making business cards, and designing a dream house.  They conducted focus groups with form 1 students and parents, as well as interviews with teachers and community leaders.

Sound like a lot of work for four days?  It absolutely was.  (…I say that on their behalf.  I mostly just watched.)  But more importantly, it was interesting to see all the effort it takes to start such a program as this, and inspiring to meet people who are so dedicated to making children’s futures brighter.

You can learn more about Project AIM by clicking here.  I heard a bit about some really interesting versions of the program being conducted in the states – focusing on unique populations such as teenage mothers and transgender youth.  From what I saw this past week, it’s truly a program worth believing in.