First full week of the semester:
(Scene from Green Market Square in Cape Town)
Classes started this week, except I didn't have class on Monday (AMAZING). I really think that I'm going to like Urban Engineering I. At least from this week's perspective. We're getting a broad overview of the historical/social/economic background of transportation and its role in the development of cities with a particular focus on Cape Town. The class is a little bigger, well a lot bigger than what I'm used to at Swat. There are around 90 students, but it doesn't feel too impersonal actually. I am very happy to see that there are quite a few female engineering students in the class, and the course convener is a female engineer, which is very encouraging! She also seems really really cool and friendly so that helps a lot as well.
Tuesday evening our house made dinner for Mayra's belated birthday, and it was really nice to reunite so to speak with our former house mates and fellow consortium students. It's nice that there are 3 houses in a way since we've gotten the opportunity to meet so many other study abroad students as well as having 3 houses as resources! We also gained a new roommate here, who is from Johannesburg. She is very knowledgeable, friendly, and such a joy to be around. Pretty much I think all of my housemates are awesome, and we get on really well fortunately.
I started my African Dance class here, which is indescribably fun. I'm really happy to also have a discussion portion included with the class because I think it'll enrich the dance experience as well as give me a context for the dances that we are learning. I am also fortunate enough to be taking an African Music class, where we get to learn different instruments. We started on the Jembe (spelling?), but I might try and learn the bells as well. There was no introduction really, it was basically sit down and start drumming, which was nice but also a bit intimidating. I felt like the instructor was staring right at me, and could see all of my mistakes! But after a while I got past the nervousness for the most part and just started playing to the best of my ability, with plenty of mistakes.
I'm still working on trying to find an adviser for my directed study, but hopefully that will be sorted out soon. I can't quite believe how happy I am. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to study at UCT in Cape Town. Even the "trials and tribulations" have really taught me a great deal, especially about being patient. I must say, I can't believe that I was able to watch 2 movies (ON SCHOOL NIGHTS) go to coffee shops and read for fun. I really like the fact that schooling is only part of my life here, and not an all consuming entity. I definitely don't want to slack off, but I'm really going to try to avoid being unnecessarily stressed about working or the need to constantly productive in some way. Probably my best lesson this week!
Random thing that happened Thursday evening. On our way back from dance class, Jemaria, Jackie, and I were walking down Main Road, and this very eccentric older man with a beard approached me. He was wearing a sort of 17th century get up that was very colorful and he had a long white beard. I've seen him before, but he's never really approached any of us before. Here's how our conversation went:
Him:"Do you write Chinese letters?"
Me: "A little, but not well, and probably not well enough for what you're probably asking."
Him:"Can you write to the Chinese government and tell them to stop dumping waste in South Africa?"
Me: "I don't really know enough to write a letter like that."
Him:"Well when you go back to China can you tell the government?"
Me: "I've never actually been to China before. I'm from New York."
Him:"Oh well you look like a Chinese. Can you please write a letter? I really want them to stop dumping waste in South Africa."
Me: "Umm... well I think the best course of action would be to have an international collaborative effort. Collective action!"
Him: Blank stare then... "That's a good idea."
Warning: Just rambling....
So... I think he has a mental illness, but it was interesting the way he felt really passionately about this issue. I didn't feel offended really because he seemed well-intentioned and sort of forlorn. But, it was such a strange interaction. I also can see the effects of spending 5 full weeks talking about globalization and international governance organizations , etc... coming out. It's hard because I want to talk to strangers, but I also feel the need to be really cautious, especially since it was nighttime, and being a woman. And granted, it may have been really foolhardy for me to stop and talk to a potentially dangerous person, but I also don't feel right completely ignoring someone when he/she directly addresses you. For example, I never know what to do when I see people begging on the streets. On the one hand, I want to help them, and giving them some money seems like the easiest course of action, but I've also been warned that sometimes they're not acting independently. And even if they are, it's possible that the money goes toward drugs/alcohol rather than food or something that will help them get out of the situation they are in. But, just walking by seems really heartless. I know that I can't fix all of the world's problems, and maybe not even one problem, but I want to do something!!!!!