Archive | South Africa RSS feed for this section

just now

6 Jun

In the four months I’ve been here, I’ve picked up a lot of South African slang. I will share a few of my favorite new words/expressions with you. A lot of these are used by Americans, just in different contexts.

Just now– this is one of my favorites. It means “in the near future.” If someone says, “I’m coming just now,” you can expect to wait anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.

Now now– this is sooner than just now. It means “in the very near future.” Now now and just now probably overlap, but I still haven’t quite figured that out.

As well– this isn’t exactly slang but every South African says it instead of “too.” I’ve never heard anyone here say “too.” Also, the emphasis is put on the “as.” As well. I say this too often now.

Braai– braai is an Afrikaans word. It just means barbecue. South Africans are big on meat, and braais are really common. The coolest one I went to this year was the Zoology Society’s annual warthog spit braai.

Howzit?– this is basically the official greeting of South Africans. You pass a friend on the street, and one of you is inevitably going to say “howzit?” It’s more of a statement than a question, even though it is a question. Go figure.

Is it?– meaning, “really?” (It sounds like “howzit?”…. so it’s pronounced “izit?”).

Robot– a traffic light.

Bru– means “bro.” Most commonly used after “yah” (“Yah bru, I’ll see you just now.”)

Mate– guys don’t really say “friends” here. They all call their friends mates.

Yoh– this is my favorite word. They say “yoh” here instead of “yeah”, and I think it comes from Afrikaans. You can use this word in all kinds of situations, such as when a test is ridiculously hard, or when you just saw someone get punched in the face, or as your first reaction when you open a box of delicious donuts. It can also just mean “yes.”

Shame– another word with many meanings, depending on the context. It can mean “that sucks” or just express empathy. It can basically be used as a one-word sentence.

Hey– South Africans attach the word hey to the end of a sentence to turn it into a question. For example, I could say, “It’s hot out today, hey?” This is probably the word I’ve incorporated into my speech the most.

Keen– as in, “Are you keen to [insert action here]?” Oh yes, I’m keen.

Mission– some kind of task or endeavor. When it’s a noun, it means that the task is difficult–“Climbing Table Mountain was a mission.” It can also be used as a verb– “We’re missioning to Cape Town this weekend, wanna come?”

There are definitely many more words and expressions, but these are the ones I’ve heard most frequently. Enjoy!


the wild, wild coast

2 Jun

Through the small back window I could see a long white trail of dust stretching far back along the dirt road behind us. As the sun started to set, I, my three friends from Rhodes, two Peace Corps girls we had just met, and three older African women bounced along in the back of a trailer on our way to Bulungula Lodge. For two and a half hours we rode across the Eastern Cape from where we had been picked up at our bus stop in Mthatha (a six-hour trip from Grahamstown in itself). Finally, we arrived at the lodge, well after the sun had gone down. We were shown around by the staff and then settled into our round Xhosa-style huts for the night.

The next morning when we woke up, we could see how beautiful our surroundings were. In one direction, there were rolling hills dotted with huts, cows, and sheep, and in the other direction was the Indian Ocean, literally right next to the lodge. We signed up for a program called “Woman Power” where we would be able to live a day in the life of a Xhosa woman. A village woman came to the lodge to get us and we walked through the village and up the hill to her hut. She then painted our faces with traditional Xhosa face paint and tied head wraps over our hair. Then she handed us small buckets and told us to go to the river and get water, which we had to carry back on our heads.


Over the next hour or so, we gathered sticks for firewood in the forest (which we also carried on our heads), ground cornmeal on a big stone (which we did not carry on our heads) and bought a cabbage at the village store. Then we started a fire and made “umnqa”, a Xhosa meal consisting of chopped cabbage, corn meal, salt, sugar, and water cooked in a pot. It tasted alright. I feel like I could make something like that on a college budget haha.

Unfortunately, I started to feel sick during the woman power thing (something sinus-related) and when I got back to the hut I basically spent the next two days in bed. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to take more advantage of my time at Bulungula… I would definitely go back there though. On the night before we left, I met a girl who goes to Millsaps College and knows people I went to high school with. What a small world.

The next morning, my friend Sarah and I woke up at 5 AM with our new Peace Corps friends (who were awesome by the way, and have reaffirmed my faith in the PC). We walked across a dark field to the only road in the village, where we waited for public transportation to come by, which apparently only happens before 6 in the morning. I’m glad the PC girls were there, because when a sketchy-looking pickup truck with homemade benches and a covered bed pulled up to pick us up, they reassured me that many of the taxis are like this. We climbed in and began our drive to Coffee Bay, where we would spend our last night of the trip. Along the way, the taxi kept stopping to let more and more people in. When about twelve of us were crammed into the pickup bed, I began to have doubts that any more could fit. Africa proved me wrong. We stopped a few more times to let in not one, not two, but three more people into the taxi. Four people if you count the newborn baby one woman was holding.

After that cozy, two-hour-long ride, we were dropped off at a junction where we were able to catch another taxi straight to our hostel. In total, I paid five dollars for transportation that day. At the hostel, Sarah and I asked directions to Hole in the Wall, a famous landmark of the region. We were told that it was a three-hour hike, so we decided to forego taking naps after our long taxi rides that morning and hit the trail so we could be back before dark.

We walked on a goat trail along the coast for three hours, down hills and up hills (mostly uphill though, or so it felt to me as I was still unable to breathe out of my nose because of my sinus thing). The scenery was amazing… The Wild Coast is an undeveloped region, so we passed farms, cliffs, herds of cattle, fields of tall grass blowing in the wind. Finally, we reached the Hole in the Wall. Very appropriately named, it is a rock formation parallel to the beach, with a big chunk missing out of the middle. I have no idea how it possibly could have formed.


After looking at a cool hole in a wall for a few minutes, the reality of the return trip began to hit us (especially me, as this study abroad experience has revealed to me that I don’t have a future as a professional hiker). We walked into the nearby town and tried to hitch a ride back to our hostel, which was probably a ten-minute drive away. Eventually, we were picked up by a very touristy Asian-American couple who drove us almost thirty minutes inland and dropped us off on a main road, where we were luckily able to find cheap public transportation back to our hostel again.

The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed for an early two-hour surf lesson. The price? 40 rand, the equivalent of $5. I finally successfully stood up on a surfboard, and the Indian Ocean cleaned out all my sinuses. I then went back to the hostel again, got packed up, and said goodbye to the Wild Coast and my new Peace Corps friends as I set off for Grahamstown.


So here I sit in my bed at Rhodes, procrastinating studying for my finals, which are worth a terrifying 70% of my final grade. The Wild Coast was my last overnight trip of the semester, and it was one of my favorites because even though I got sick, I felt like this was such a cultural experience and I would have missed out if I had left South Africa without doing this. In two weeks, I’ll be on my way back to the states, but the closer June 17th comes, the sadder I get. I will most definitely come back to this country again, because I’ve met so many amazing people and done so many cool things, but I am nowhere near being finished with South Africa. Or rather, South Africa is nowhere near being finished with me.

my first rugby game

24 May

I wasn’t particularly planning to watch rugby tonight. But at dinner, one of the girls in my dorm told me that tonight was the last rugby game of the semester. I figured that since I’ve been in this country for over three months without seeing a live game that I should probably take advantage of this opportunity while I could. One of my American friends went with me to the rugby fields and I saw my first rugby game ever.

Initially, I was reminded of watching my high school soccer team play. The bleachers were full of Rhodes students bundled up against the cold May air, many of them drinking certain beverages of choice. Overall it seemed like more of a social event than anything… It didn’t really seem like people were paying too much attention to the game, but that’s probably because the Rhodes rugby team isn’t amazing (the final score was 0-39). I watched the entire game though, and I think I now have a basic understanding of the rules.

Rugby is like American football in some ways. The point of the game is to move the ball down the field and into the end zone, and you can either run with the ball, throw it backwards, or kick it forwards. If you have the ball, the players from the other team will definitely tackle you, at which point your own team members will jump in and the end result is a giant pile of men wearing striped shirts and short shorts. The ball is always in play– there are no downs like in football. Somehow the ball is always magically produced from underneath the pile of rugby players.

Blurry pile of rugby players (taken from my phone)

Running down into the end zone while holding the ball is worth four points, and the equivalent of a field goal is worth three points, but I couldn’t figure out how the field goal thing works since there aren’t any downs.

Even though Rhodes lost by an embarrassing amount, I’m really glad I went to the rugby game. It was cool to get out and support my school’s athletics and to learn about a new sport.

In other news, tomorrow is my last day of classes! Even though I’m sad that my time here is coming to an end, I am so ready for summer. Next week, I will travel to the Wild Coast, where I’ll be staying at a lodge that lets you spend a day in the life of a Xhosa woman. I’ll also take surfing lessons ($5 for two hours of professional instruction, not a bad deal) and go cliff diving. Then I will come back to Rhodes, take my finals, and say my goodbyes to all my new friends and to this beautiful, amazing country that is South Africa.

what i miss

17 May

In exactly one month, I will be on my way back to Louisiana. I will hate saying goodbye to South Africa, but there are a few things that I will be happy to return to. I have compiled a list of the top ten things I’ve missed.

1) Taco Bell. Don’t judge me. Food things in general are what I miss the most. On different days I miss different things. Like sushi. Or Raising Cane’s chicken strips, sauce, and sweet tea. Or a frappuccino from Starbucks. Or kolaches from the Czech Stop in West, Texas, about twenty minutes north of Waco. These cravings are probably induced by the dining hall food I eat every day.

2) Driving. I got to drive once here during my spring break road trip, but driving on the wrong side of the road in a foreign country is stressful. Especially roundabouts, because those confuse me back at home, and here you’re going counter-clockwise.

3) Singing in the car/shower/my room. I live in a dorm with about eighty other girls. I do have my own room, but the walls are paper thin and I don’t want to force anyone to listen to me being a diva. Same with the shower, because it’s a communal bathroom. And obviously I don’t have a car here to sing in. I’m so musically oppressed.

4) Unlimited internet access. Here at Rhodes, we are on the quota system– there’s a set limit of internet I can use every two weeks, and if I reach that amount before two weeks has passed, I get cut off. It will be nice to get back to America where I can waste my life away on the internet again.

5) My ukulele. It’s coming with me on my next trip. I guess going back to my being musically oppressed, there have been so many times that I’ve just wanted to lie in bed and play my ukulele, but alas, it is sitting there all alone in my room thousands of miles away.

6) Spanish. And Latino things in general. After spending my whole life in Louisiana and Texas, the Hispanic culture has definitely been part of my life (it’s the little things, like Mexican restaurants all over the place and people having last names like Lopez and Gonzales). No one here speaks Spanish, or really even knows anything about that culture at all.

7) Going to the movies. This was particularly painful for me when The Hunger Games was released in America. It didn’t come out in South Africa for another month, and even when it did, it wasn’t showing in the three-screen theater in Grahamstown. Shame.

8) Working. Especially at the Baylor marina. After my trip to Durban a few weeks ago, I have basically locked myself in my room to stop myself from spending the little money I have left. I love the self-satisfaction that comes with having money that I’ve earned myself, and it’s been too long since I’ve felt that.

9) Having a ceiling fan/vent in my room. South Africa gets pretty toasty in the summer. And when I arrived here in February, it was right in the middle of summer. In Xhosa, you could say “kushushu”, meaning “it is hot”. My window is my only form of ventilation, and the tree right outside my window was both a blessing and a curse because it blocked both the sun and the breeze. Now it’s winter here and a fan isn’t as important to me. Luckily I do have a heater for the cold and rainy days that are becoming more and more common.

10) Sporting events. And by that I mean college basketball season.

Of course I also miss my family and friends. But I’m a free spirit, yo. Plus I know I’ll see everyone again sooner or later, as northwest Louisiana has some kind of weird gravitational pull on my life.

And the top ten things I’ll miss about South Africa:

1) Bacon and banana pizza. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

2) Feeling like I’m a fast walker. This literally never happens back home but here I’m like a speed demon unless I’m walking with my friends from Boston.

3) The scenery and wildlife. This really is the most naturally beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

4) The Xhosa language. I doubt I’ll ever get to use/hear it again but learning it has been so much fun. My teachers are ridiculous, in a good way.

5) The relaxed pace of life. Except the times when it’s an inconvenience, such as when Surf Club never gets around to organizing transportation to the beach and consequently I never learn how to surf, even though I paid for it.

6) The slang. South African slang is awesome. I’ll write a post about it soon.

7) Rhodes. It has a beautiful campus and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed my classes here.

8) DC, the student file-sharing network. I’m caught up on all my TV shows!

9) My Tuesday ethnomusicology class, where I get to mess around on African instruments like djembes and marimbas.

10) The people I’ve met. The other Americans, the Dutch girls, the South Africans, the old Indian lady in Durban who made me sandwiches in her apartment… All these people have shaped my semester and made it an experience I will never forget. The people you meet and the relationships you form with them are definitely the most important aspect of traveling anywhere. I will miss all of them the most.

when things go right

4 May

A drop of sweat trickled down my back. All around me, Indian vendors called out the discounted prices of their various goods, including shoes, bangles, Bollywood movies, Punjabi clothing, and other assorted merchandise from the subcontinent. The atmosphere was hectic– bright colors everywhere, a mass of people, and a variety of languages assaulting all of the senses. The only explanation– I was in India again.

Nope. I was in Durban, South Africa, also known as the capital of India outside of India. But although it has such a large Indian population, the city was so much more than that. Durban has beaches (it’s warm there all year long), markets, nightlife, a World Cup soccer stadium, and the most interesting mix of cultures that I have ever experienced. I was right to be excited for this city… It proved itself to be my favorite of the places I visited, both because of the energy and vibe of the city and also because of the people I met there. On the bus ride to Durban I talked to a youth minister for several hours. A few days later I had dinner with an old Hindu woman and her grandchildren in her apartment one night. Another day I spent an hour and a half with a vendor in the Indian market helping to sell pirated Bollywood movies and practicing my Hindi. I had a deep conversation with a cab driver about the health benefits of ostrich meat. I even met a girl who grew up in Turkey and was able to answer some of my questions about Istanbul, where I’ll be spending five months later this year.

A few days into my trip, I realized that there was a problem with my photography skills, as this is the only picture from the first few days:

A box of chicks at a market. I hate pulling out my camera to take pictures of things because it makes me feel like such a tourist. It sucks though because the world gives great photo opps. Like the pile of cow heads lying on the table at the meat market. And the “bunny chow” I had for lunch one day (it’s a Durban specialty). And the Zulu vegetable market where you could buy a bunch of bizarre-looking things that came out of the ground and where hardly anyone spoke English. I spend a lot more time using my eyes than using a camera, which is fine with me while I’m experiencing things, but not when I try to share the things I’ve seen with others. I’m going to do my best to start taking more pictures during the rest of my trip, because I want everyone to see what I see.

Final thought: when traveling, I recommend not to stick to a tight schedule and limit your experiences. The best parts of my long weekend in Durban were unplanned, like the hour and a half when I became a Bollywood saleswoman. If you can occasionally just roll with it and have no expectations, odds are you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Because you never know when things can go incredibly right.


goin’ to durbs

26 Apr

It’s been a quiet two weeks in Grahamstown since I returned from my epic spring break adventure. But tomorrow, the excitement begins again as I head to Durban, the third largest city in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town. We have a long weekend coming up—Freedom Day, Workers Day, and my personal mental health day are combining to give me a five-day weekend to travel with five of my friends. Durban is one of the places I would not leave South Africa without visiting. Not only does it have a tropical climate with year-round warm temperatures (which sound great after the cold weather we’ve been having in Grahamstown this week—winter is coming!), but it also has been called the largest Indian city outside of India, due to the fact that approximately one fourth of the population is Indian. Needless to say, Durban has been on my to do list. I will arrive on Friday night and spend my long weekend exploring the city before I leave on Tuesday afternoon.

All this traveling I’ve been doing is made possible by the money I’ve been saving combined with scholarships and birthday money from my family. However, after my last trip I became pretty concerned about my bank account and the money in it (or lack thereof). I think I’m almost finished traveling within South Africa, until I have a real job and can afford to come back. I got so caught up in wanting a little more money that I sold my body to science and signed up for a skin-bleaching test. Sadly, today was the screening and there was no effect whatsoever on my skin from the creams and I can’t participate in the experiment, which would have brought me over $100. Oh well, my only option at this point is just to try to live as frugally as I can until mid-June, and then find a summer job back in the states. Easier said than done. Trying to apply for jobs and organize summer plans becomes a bit more complicated when you’re on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. But for now, my main priority is to enjoy this weekend in Durban and to eat as much Indian food as I can. This weekend is going to rock, I can tell. 

Phir milenge! (That’s “see you later” in Hindi; I’m already back in the Indian spirit…)

the best two weeks

17 Apr

After two weeks of continuous traveling, the thought of trying to express everything that happened is exhausting. I’ve been making bullet points as I go. So I’m just going to describe a few of the highlights of my trip.

1) Bungee Jumping- The highest commercial bungee jump in the world was more amazing than I could ever have imagined. All of my friends jumped too (one of them by peer pressure, bringing new meaning to the quote, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”). We all got harnessed up and walked out on the see-through walkway until we reached the middle of the bridge. High energy techno music was playing the whole time. It’s amazing how music can make it so much easier to swan dive off a bridge. We got called in random order, and a man strapped our legs together and attached the cord. Then we hopped out to the edge with the support of two of the guys who worked there. At this point there was no turning back– if you couldn’t make yourself jump, the two guys would give you a “helping hand”, and off the bridge you go. Fortunately I didn’t need the helping hand. I wish I could express the feeling of free falling… It was the most exhilarating sensation I have ever experienced. The fall was so quiet, and the river and the trees were rushing up towards me. The wind rushed past my ears and my stomach flew up in my throat. It was amazing. For those few seconds, nothing was holding me back. There was no resistance and I was free. I definitely want to go bungee jumping again someday, and I highly recommend it to everyone.


My bungee jumping group

2) Cage Diving with Great White Sharks- This almost didn’t happen. I was the group’s designated “shark girl” in charge of booking the cage diving trip. We were all set to go with a company in Gansbaai, but unfortunately bad weather ruined our plans and we were forced to cancel because the water was too rough. There is one cage diving company in Mossel Bay (which is on the Garden Route), and on a whim I called them the day before we would be passing through to see if they had space for nine people. To my surprise, they said yes, and the next day my friends and I were on a boat. We anchored near a small island which was home to hundreds of seals. Here we changed into our wetsuits and waited as the crew threw chum into the water and cast out half a tuna on a rope into the bay. After about ten or fifteen minutes, the first shark came. Since the cage could only hold six people at a time, we had to go in several different groups. The shark stayed around long enough for all three groups to have a turn in the cage. Over the course of about two hours we saw four different great whites and were able to each have two turns in the cage. Every time the crew on the boat saw a shark, they would shout “down!” and we would go underwater to see it swim by. Usually it was a few meters away, but a few times it brushed past the cage within arm’s reach. Being able to get up close with one of nature’s deadliest predators was an awesome experience and I’m so glad that my friends and I were able to go cage diving.


Me (left) and my friend Sydney in the shark cage

3) Ostrich Riding- Very awkward. For less than $10, we took a tour of Cango Ostrich Farm (on the morning of our shark diving trip, what an awesome day that was!) and we got to learn all about ostriches and then get up close and personal with them. In Oudtshoorn, the town we spent the night in, there are many ostrich farms, and the farm we visited allowed us to ride the ostriches. Riding an ostrich is one of the stranger sensations I’ve experienced. When I climbed on the ostrich, the tour guide told me, “This is Kilo. He is very fast.” and then I was instructed to “hold it like a bicycle,” whatever that means. The whole time I felt like I was about to slip off, and when I did, two ostrich jockeys (no lie, that is a legitimate job title) were there to catch me. The ostrich farm was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.


Riding off into the distance on my noble ostrich

4) Tour of the Rastafarian Village- This was a spur of the moment decision. Some of my friends wanted to go hiking, and others wanted to go to the beach, but I was in the mood to do something random. So after consulting the tourism brochure for Knysna, the town we were in, I decided that it could be interesting to go on a tour  of the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa. I then called Brother Paul and scheduled a tour. My friends dropped me off at the tourism office where I waited outside on a bench for him, and after about twenty minutes I got a phone call from Brother Paul. He told me that he was standing across the road from the tourism office. I didn’t see him, so I stood up to have a better look around. I immediately recognized him and became happy with my decision to go on this tour. Brother Paul and I walked to the bus station where we caught a minibus to a township (the South African version of a ghetto or slum, which can be found in basically every city) and he led me from there to the Rastafarian village, which consisted of about thirty families. I learned so much about the religion– for example, i never knew that Rastafarianism is directly connected to Christianity in the fact that Rastafarians believe that one of the Ethiopian emperors (before being crowned, his name was Ras Tafari, hence the name of the religion) was the second coming of Jesus and his bloodline could be traced back to King Solomon. It was eye-opening to learn about such a radically different belief system, and I’m glad I decided to tour the Rastafarian village. After walking through the village, visiting the Rastafarian church (which I was surprised to learn contained a copy of the Old Testament) and meeting several members of the community, I said goodbye to Brother Paul and got into another minibus which took me back to town.


Me and Brother Paul

Along with my Table Mountain adventure, these four things are probably the highlights of my trip. But there are so many other experiences I had in the past two weeks– I befriended a pirate, was able to practice my Spanish on multiple occasions, got attacked by squirrel monkeys (well, they started attacking each other on my lap), climbed Lion’s Head (another mountain in Cape Town) to watch the sun go down, discovered my new favorite restaurant in Cape Town– Food Inn, I highly recommend it because you can get all the Indian/Turkish/Chinese food you could ever want for about $5, slept in a refurbished convent, saw penguins at the Cape of Good Hope, turned twenty years old (my friends were great, and so was that day), ate at an Elvis Presley-themed diner, swam in natural hot springs, went on an adventure tour in Cango Caves, ate an ostrich kebab, stayed in about ten different hostels, slept on beaches, drove a car on the left side of the road for the first time, became a fan of country music (ironically, converted by my friends from Boston), road tripped across the entire bottom of South Africa, and met dozens of awesome people from all around the world.

Spring break 2012 = the best two weeks ever.