Monday, August 31, 2009

And everything in between

Where to start? The past few weeks have been a flurry of details for banking, registration, proof of insurance, figuring out what I'll be studying. Of course interspersed with all the unpleasantness of paperwork have been the pleasures of building new friendships, renewing old friendships, and the general excitement of being back in Cape Town.

Apparently, this year's winter has been pretty mild with the exception of a few rainstorms where it feels like you're drowning as you walk up the mountain to campus. Some of the issues that we discussed in my research group involve the difficulties of finding acceptable alternative sewerage systems for informal settlements. No one wants to receive a system that they perceive as inferior, even if it actually isn't, but on the other hand, there are some locations where it's just not feasible or desirable to use conventional gravity fed waterborne sewage. So how do you prioritize environmental, social and political concerns? I guess "traditional" engineers tend to just trust that if the technical system works, then all the rest will follow. But especially given new challenges of unprecedented urban growth and development patterns the old approach needs modification. I.E. talk to people, and a lot of people, before you plunk any technology, no matter how good it looks on paper, down in the middle of their neighborhood. I'll definitely be posting again about infrastructure and service delivery, anyone reading this consider yourself forewarned!

The pictures above are from Green Point Stadium, which will be where the 2010 World Cup Finals are played, and from a stormwater channel behind one of the shopping centers near where I'm living. I think trying to reconcile why there are people who live on the street and have to do their laundry in stormwater sewers, while billions of rand are spent on building a shiny new stadium is one thing that I have to continuously struggle to understand.

To end this post, I'm going to fall back on an excerpt from an inspiring courageous writer/activist Arundhati Roy, on why we must keep striving for peace and justice no matter what:

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.

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