Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Penguin Island

We visited Penguin Island, in Simon's Town, on Saturday afternoon.  I have paid my 40 rand for the official admission twice, so decided to just wander down the beach while waiting on the students.  Imagine, I was actually closer to a penguin than any of the students, since the official viewing has rails around the boardwalk.  I was just looking out to sea when I spotted this little fellow inside the rocks.

These are African penguins, which look different from the typical penguin one expects.  I can't really remember, but I think the story is they migrated here, and have adapted to the warmer weather.
I have always loved the shells, glass, and rocks that wash up on a beach as well.  I picked up a few pieces of sea glass, a shell, and a rock.  I have different jars or vases at home with rocks, shells, and glass from different beaches.
I made a movie of this ship slowly making its way across the bay, but the posting will have to wait.  It is slow enough to upload a movie in Mississippi; it would take longer than I have Internet access in South Africa.  Interestingly, today in my meeting with the International staff at NMMU, one of the "major problems" they mentioned with exchange students is the Internet.  They typically don't get that the access is slow, sporadic at times, or not even available in some locations.  While I miss being able to keep in contact when I am here, and miss being able to blog the visits and posts as they are happening, I do value that it forces me to slow down and just relate.  I know the first year I was here, while I emailed almost daily from the Internet cafe across the street from my flat, I did not upload photos, and there was no such thing as a blog then.  Times have changed.

Rainy Morning in Port Elizabeth

I woke to rain this morning--and Port Elizabeth is ecstatic about it.  There has been a drought here and they  need rain badly.  It is a beautiful morning, but South Africa blogger is not cooperating, so I cannot upload the pictures right now.

I was scheduled for a campus tour, but they cancelled it due to the rain, and my first meeting is now at 10:30, so I am just relaxing in my room for now.  I had a wonderful breakfast this morning--eggs that tasted like eggs, perfectly cooked, whole grain toast with some type of seeds in it, tomato and cheese, juice, and coffee.  When I went down for breakfast, a cat was perched on the back of one of the chairs.  I could have curled up in a corner chair with that cat and spent the day reading. 

Post Script: Got the photos to load this afternoon finally!  Busy day, very productive, but the next two days are a bit lighter.  However, there are a lot of stairs and steps here at the university, and the wind is blowing something fierce.  I may have to take a taxi to dinner tonight as I don't think I can walk one more step today, let alone 10-15 minutes. :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

My little Port Elizabeth Cottage

 I had a perfect flight over to PE.  Now who would think airlines still served meals AND complimentary cocktails, wine, and beer in-country?  South African Airways does!  However, since it was only 1:30, even I was not interested in a glass of wine, and since I had just eaten a giant Wimpy burger, had to pass on the meal as well.  I was met by the International Office staff, and dropped at the Fifth Avenue Beach House, where I will be staying through Thursday.  Let me just say that I have passed the most enjoyable evening, sitting out on my balcony, smelling the ocean breeze, and enjoying a light supper of strawberries, gouda, chocolate, and sauvignon blanc.
 I opened all the windows as it is a beautiful day here--unlike the cold and raining morning when I left Cape Town.

 My balcony overlooks the front garden and gate, and I am a mere 5 minutes from the beach and the shops.

 My suite: too bad I am not a TV person, eh?

You can bet your booties that I am going to check out this whirlpool within the next hour!  I cannot wait, given how much walking and stair climbing I have done in the last 2 weeks.
 I hope I don't get lost in the shower in the morning.  This shower is bigger than some of the homes I have been in here.

 And, I am really really happy to have some internet in my room, on my laptop!  Woo hoo!  I suspect I will be here for a long time tonight, and in the middle of the night, and in the morning.  I am way behind on posting, not to mention not having had time to read any blogs.  When you only get online once in two weeks, you have to use the time wisely!
Needless to say, the university (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) has put me in some lovely accommodations, and I am most appreciative.  I have a fairly full day of meetings tomorrow with various staff members and faculty about the exchange programs and joint research.  I am certain it will be as incredible as my last visit here in 2002.  I can truthfully say that I have never had a bad time in South Africa.  The people are hospitable and gracious, and I learn much and value my relationships here.  As always, I am so incredibly blessed that this is my life's work.

The students all went home last night, and hopefully, they are all back in Mississippi and enjoying seeing families and friends and the hot and humid weather.  It was a wonderful trip for me, and I can say with all sincerity that it is the second best trip here I have ever had.  I just doubt anything will ever replace the year I did sabbatical here, but I am up for trying.  This crew certainly is right on up there!  They make me proud.

Robben Island

Alex and I arrived at 8 AM last Tuesday and we showered and jumped in the van to the wharf and to meet our 11 AM booking for Robben Island.  We have not stopped since then!
Robben Island was, of course, one of the prisons where the political prisoners (freedom fighters) were held during apartheid years.  Nelson Mandela spent a number of years there before he was moved to a different prison to serve the remainder of his life sentence.
The island is several kilometers off the mainland, with cold, choppy waters surrounding it.  The limestone quarry was where the prisoners worked, chipping limestone.  This cave is where the men would go to have a brief respite from the sun, or to relieve themselves.  There is a story following about the relief routine.
When Mr. Mandela returned to Robben Island a free man, he walked over and picked up a single rock, and wordlessly dropped it.  One by one, all the other men did the same, until this pile of rocks was formed.  It has remained to this day.
 A new addition is the pictures and stories of the men who spent their adult lives here.  The students had a hard time grasping that they were imprisoned for working for liberty and equality.  Then one student said, "but when you think about it, we just killed them in our country."
The story of the men relieving themselves.

Johnson's story of losing his eye.

 The menu:  African men were fed a different menu--far less food--than the other prisoners.  Eventually, the men went on a hunger strike until the rations were the same regardless of race.
 Each cell was furnished with the "toilet" and each morning, then men would carry their bucket out to the courtyard.
They emptied the bucket into this latrine and rinsed the bucket.  They had cold, salt-water showers.

Good morning from Cape Town

I put the students on the plane for the flight home last night, and I am about to leave for the airport for Port Elizabeth for the rest of the week.  Just a quick update on a few things for now.  We had a great visit in Eersterivier with Aunty and Captain Goliath, a tour of the community policing, community health center, community garden, and tea at Aunty's.
Denzel Washington is in town making a movie, and these are the lights for his movie crew!
We spent a day out in Sir Lowry's Pass Village, and at Eagle's Rising.  There is a green effort to remove all the non-inigenous trees that are destroying the ecosystem.  These are euchalyptus trees that were brought in from Australia, and suck all the water out of the water shed.  They have 3 years to remove them all.
 I stopped by the market to see my favorite women's organization, Sbongile Pottery.  I visited them in Gugulethu back in 2002, and always continue to support their work.
 This is the Methodist Church and the view of Table Mountain from our wonderful accommodations at Marsh Memorial Children's Home.
The students enjoyed visiting a few of the wineries during our free time.  Here, my all-time favorite and planned retirement commune, Waterford Winery, with the excellent Kevin Arnold, winemaker.

For now, that's it, and off to the airport and a visit to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University!  It's very cold here the last day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Updates from South Africa

This has been an incredibly busy trip so far, and there has been no time for blogging!  I am in the mall at Worcester waiting on my students who went on a safari this morning and took advantage of the down time to catch up on email.  It was a very chilly morning in the mountains, and we had to leave Rondebosch at 6 this morning to arrive here by 8.  It is a beautiful area in the mountains, and very rural.

I had a nice breakfast and now am about to go visit a wine farm while I continue to wait for them to finish.  Tonight, we will go to Moyo, the African music/dinner festival that is very much fun.  Next week I should have a bit more time, but these past two weeks have been exceptionally beneficial, and a lot of fun.  I'll catch up on some pictures of the communities and organizations we have visited after I put those students on the plane home Sunday night.

I'll be heading over to Port Elizabeth for a few days on Monday--it has been non-stop since the day we arrived, and there is a lot to share.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Suzassippi in London

Yes, I know I am not supposed to be in London, but when you fly Delta, #*!& happens.  I was on the Detroit to Amsterdam flight, ready for an on-time take-off when the pilot announced they were just going to hold for 10 minutes to allow some passengers to connect.  An hour and a half later, we departed, having only had an hour between flights in Amsterdam as it was.

One of the students was on the same Detroit to Amsterdam flight, and she walked up right behind me as I was trying to transfer.  I had explained the situation to the purser on my flight and asked for assistance to make the connection, explaining that I had 8 students on that flight who would not know what happened to me.  (I did not know Alex was on my flight at the time).  The purser very graciously (is there a sarcasm font?) said, "Well, they can read can't they?  They'll look at the board and see you are delayed."

The KLM agent (we were connecting to KLM) graciously (this is genuine authentic font) rerouted us through London on KLM, connecting to British Air this evening.  (I love British Air, so that's a good thing.)  We will be in Cape Town at 8 AM in the morning, not really losing any time since we weren't scheduled to arrive until 10 tonight originally.

Lira and Courtney are taking care of the students tonight, and since they knew pick up was already arranged, I am assuming they are getting close to Cape Town by now.  I sure hope they are not sitting in the Amsterdam airport anyway!  Not only can these students read, they are graduate students and have great critical thinking skills, so I trust they can navigate a little glitch like this.  They tackle far more difficult things every day at work.

Lira will get us to Robben Island on time in the morning for our tour; Alex and I will even have time to shower (thank goodness).  So, I'm here in the really loud and busy Heathrow airport with about 3 more hours to kill.

I have said every trip that is not on South African Airways that I will not make this trip again unless it is SAA--the most awesome airlines in the world.  This time, I really think I mean it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Detroit City

I made it to Detroit, only to find fog and rain.  A flight just took off for Amsterdam, so I should still be okay, though they have cancelled some going north.

Hey, Ole Miss crew, this is Courtney if you have to go on to Cape Town without me!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Off to South Africa again!

This time tomorrow night, I will be leaving the US, headed for this beautiful place in Rondebosch, South Africa.  I have the joy and privilege to accompany 6 social workers and 2 future social workers for a couple of weeks of cultural tourism, visiting various social development organizations, museums, and places such as Robben Island, Table Mountain, and the Cape of Good Hope, as they learn about social work in South Africa.  I am so excited that they wanted to join me on this trip--my 8th visit to this wonderful country where I have made life-long friends.  I will re-visit some favorite places and old friends, and visit some new places and meet new people.  Road trip--and I will be driving on the left side of the road, shifting gears with my left hand, and remembering to keep left, not right!  A traffic signal is a robot, a stop sign is a stop street, and it's all in kilometers and liters!  I usually adjust fairly quickly.  I can't wait for some tea and scones, some wonderful South African wine, and a spinach-feta pie.  We have a potjekos and braai planned, along with many other exciting things, like a night on Long Street--for them, not me!

This week was finals, and today was the graduation/commencement ceremonies.  It was moving to see our first class of MSWs walk, and my outstanding students from the last two semesters.  It is always sad to see them go, but exciting to know they are carrying on the work.

I stopped in the restroom between the ceremonies, and ran into two of the students from this semester.  We were talking about the commencement message, by Dr. Franklin Hrabowski.  One of the things he mentioned was reading: the more you read, the better you write.  The more you read, the better you read.  The better you read, the more you read.  (Roughly paraphrased, but it was about the importance of reading in opening us to new experiences and new ways of thinking, and how critical that is for children.) He mentioned that teachers leave a legacy in that their students make them immortal.  Through the students, the work of the teacher continues.

One of the students said she was thinking about Riverside while he was talking--what we have been doing there for 6 years, and what we will continue to do there.  She said, "That is your legacy."  I said, "Then you must carry it on; you must continue that work, and carry on the legacy."  I believe she will, and that all these students will.  I have never been so inspired in all my years of teaching and working as I have been this year.

I am surrounded by people I love, who love me, and terrific students who are going to go out and make a difference in this state and beyond.  As one of my students said, "Do you think it just keeps getting 'gooder and gooder'?"  I think it must.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Introduction to Mound Bayou

There is nothing I love more than a road trip to a new place, with or without a mission.  Today, I had a mission.  This is my introduction to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, a place I have long found fascinating.  I met with the mayor, Kennedy Johnson, to explore our working with the community in a service learning project.  I first read about Mound Bayou while I was still in Texas, and ran across an article about the cooperative health care center founded there, based on something that was developed in South Africa under the apartheid years.  I'm not going to go into the powerfully moving history of this community here for two reasons.  I'll be doing a week-long series of posts about it in July, and don't want to "steal the thunder" from that, plus, I need to do quite a bit of research in order to do the story justice.  However, I just can't stop myself from sharing some of the day's experiences.
 Mound Bayou was founded by freed slaves in the late 1800s, and has always been about self-help and empowerment.  As I drove into town today and began to search for City Hall, I felt chills as I realized the significance of the history of this community.  When I sat with Mayor Johnson a few minutes later, I said I felt immersed in history.  He confirmed, "You are."  The building above was the bank of Mound Bayou.
Isaiah T. Montgomery home.  
Mr. Montgomery was one of the founders of Mound Bayou, and its first mayor.
Taborian Hospital.
The Taborian was significant in providing access to quality health care for African Americans during the years of segregation.  There is much more to the story, but, it has to be saved for when I can do it justice.
 The Knights and Daughters of Tabor fraternal organization initially began its work with burial insurance for African Americans, and expanded into health care to help fill another gap in services and resources.
 After I left my very enjoyable visit with Mayor Johnson, I stopped at Winstonville, just a mile up the road.

 Near Marks, many areas of the back creeks and rivers were overflowing their banks and flooding low-lying areas.  I saw houses with sandbags surrounding them, and closed roads.  It is hard to imagine how much water is out there.
And finally, just out of Batesville, I have noticed this abandoned school ever since my first trip to Clarksdale in 2004.  I made time to stop today, wondering, as always, the reasons people just walk off from a building.