Sunday, May 25, 2008

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Plans have changed for this week - Grace and I were originally supposed to head up to Kruger/Mozambique this week, but due to the ongoing violence that has swept the country we've decided to postpone our plans. Instead we're leaving tomorrow for East London for three days and Cintsa (at the beginning of the Wild Coast) for another three days. We'll be spending a lot of time outdoors, relaxing, enjoying our week of before exams. I'm excited for this trip. We've rented a car and Grace, Sonya and I are leaving in the morning and then our friend Isabel (she's a South African Rhodes student) will meet us on Wednesday and go with us to Cintsa. It will be nice to have a girl's week!

We will still be going to Kruger/Moz. We're going to go for a week in July, the week before we head home. We'll fly up to Johannesburg on July 3rd and spend a few days in Nelspruit/Kruger/Blyde River Canyon and then a few days in Moz and one day in Johannesburg before flying out on the 10th. I'm glad that we've gotten to have our cake and eat it, too. Although we're upset to not be up there now, it's definitely better safe than sorry and we'll still get to see two really great places in the Eastern Cape, away from the violence.

I'll update and post pictures when I get back on Saturday!

For more info on the situation here visit:

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Exhibition is Official!

Today the booking kit for Festival was made official and put online. The project, Defined by Four Letters, is now listed with a venue. The venue is just up the road here, so it's not far at all. It's actually only a block from the Raphael Centre, which is good for the women. They can get a ride to the Centre then walk down from there. I'm very excited that this is ACTUALLY happening. I had my doubts along the way, but it's for real now! The photos are on their way, as well. I picked up the pictures from the first camera today. They're pretty good. I'm excited to get the rest back.

To see the Fringe Booklet from Festival: Defined by Four Letters, page 40.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pictures & Narratives

Yesterday I gave out the cameras at the Raphael Centre. The women were all very excited. I also gave them an assignment to write about life with HIV/AIDS. I wasn't expecting the narratives back too soon, but today when Grace went up there to do her English class two of the women gave her their papers saying that they "stayed up late" to do their "homework." I never expected them to take it so seriously, although now I'm glad they have. I've posted pictures from when I gave out the cameras and the two narratives on my other blog. Click the link below to check everything out.

Art for AIDS Blog

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Winding Down and Gearing Up

The semester is over a week from Friday. After that we have three weeks of exams beginning May 31. I cannot believe how quickly things have gone by. It’s crazy. I only have one more paper due (thank God) and then I’m done until exams. I only have two exams (thank God, again). I have a take home exam for my WAC seminar and then an art history exam on June 11.

Grace and I have planned a trip to Kruger National Park (supposedly the best in all of Africa) and Mozambique for a little over a week. We’re leaving May 24 and flying up to Johannesburg. From there we’re getting a ride to Nelspruit (outside of Kruger). We’re then spending one night camping in Kruger which should be incredible. We’re also visiting the Blyde River Canyon which looks a lot like the Grand Canyon. I can’t wait. It looks incredible up there. Then on the 28th we’re taking a Greyhound into Mozambique and staying in Maputo until the 31st. On the 31st we’re taking the bus back to Nelspruit, staying there for the night and flying back to PE on June 1st. I’m really excited for this trip. It should be amazing and certainly an adventure. We get to take our malaria pills which excites us for some reason. Also, we get to see our first country outside South Africa, which is an amazing opportunity. On top of that we will get to see our first lion! How stereotypically American (according to South Africans). What can I say? I want to see a lion in the wild!

I’ll then be in Grahamstown from June 1st to the 11th. I have my exam on the 11th then I pick Dave up from the airport on the 12th. We’re then spending two days in PE on the Indian Ocean, then another two days in Addo National Park (the closest national park to where I am). On the 16th we’ll come to Grahamstown to pick up Grace and the three of us are roadtripping to Cape Town again on the Garden Route. We’re stopping at a few of the places that we stopped at last time, but for the most part everything is new. We’re spending our first night in Jeffrey’s Bay because we loved the hostel last time and they cook great South African food. It’s jus t a great place with great people and a lot of fun. The next day we’ll go to Storms River to do the world’s highest bungee jump. I’m really excited for that. We’ll stay there for the night. The next day we’ll stop in Plettenberg Bay for lunch (I found this to be the most beautiful place I’ve been here). From there we’re going up to the Cango Caves which are supposed to be fantastic. They were recommended to me by a lot of people, so I wanted to see them before I headed home. After that we’re going to Cape Agulhas, the lowest point in Africa – where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet – to go whale watching, as it will be whale season. We’re then staying there for the night. The next day we head to Cape Town for four days. In Cape Town we’re going to do everything we didn’t do before – the Cape Peninsula, Robben Island, general exploring. We also have to pick up things we neglected to get before. I’m really glad we’re going back. My last trip to Cape Town didn’t end well, so I’m hoping this will make up for it. On the 24th we’re taking an overnight Greyhound back to Grahamstown. Then it’s time for Festival!

Those are my plans for the next month or so. I’m really excited for everything that’s coming up. It’s going to be a lot of fun and great experiences for everyone. I can’t believe that we’re already halfway through May. I’m going to be home before I know it, which is both bad and good. I can’t wait to be back at home. I miss a lot of things. But at the same time, this places feels a lot like home now and it will be hard to leave. I don’t want to say goodbye to the Eluxolweni Boys, and the Nyaluza kids and the women at the Raphael Centre. It’s going to kill me!

This experience has been life changing, but I don’t know if I’ll fully appreciate the magnitude until I go home. We’ll see. Until then, there’s still a country to explore, fun to be had, an exhibit to prepare and kids to teach.

Holiday in Hogsback

The WAC Kids in Hogsback - our last trip...

Friday after Nyaluza the WAC kids h
eaded up to Hogsback in the Amathole Mountains for the weekend. I was really excited to get away for the weekend and this was our last trip together. It was a great trip, probably the best of all.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel. There were two people to a room so Grace and I were together as usual. We got a nice bathtub so we were able to relax in the bath, something that I haven’t done since leaving in February. It was nice to sit in the bath and read. We got to relax a little upon arrival. Then we got to go to dinner. It was AMAZING! It was buffet for starters and dessert and then you had a choice for your entrĂ©e. It was so exciting. Also, we had free reign on drinks and the wine list. We got a ton of wine and got to charge it all to Rhodes. It was beautiful. We were toasting up a storm since it was our last trip together. It was a lot of fun. We sat around the table for a few hours just laughing, telling stories and having a great time. Ashwin joined us later on and we just continued the party. It was great.

The next morning we rose early for breakfast (buffet again, delish!) and then headed out for a morning of hiking. We started with a walk to a waterfall close to our hotel. It was called 39 Steps. It was very pretty, but nothing compared to the others we saw during the day. Then we headed out for a long hike. We started by going to the “Big Tree,” a tree that’s supposed to be 800 or so years old. It was a big tree. The hike down there was a rock scramble so we were tripping all over the place. I had to slide down this big rock on my butt and for the rest of the day I was filthy. It was a lot of fun though. Then we headed to our next waterfall, Swallowtail Falls. This was a lot bigger than 39 Steps and the hike was a lot more intense. We sat at the bottom of the fall looking up and realized that we could go higher so we hiked up to the top of the fall. The view was incredible. We could lay on the edge of the fall and see the water go down to the bottom where we had been before. It was beautiful. From there you could walk back up to where we started. On the way we passed a field of cows. It was pretty random. Before lunch we drove to the Madonna and Child waterfall. This is the biggest in Hogsback. There were wooden steps most of the way down, so it didn’t seem that bad. When we got to the fall there were a lot of Rhodes students doing some sort of science class. The fall was big and gorgeous. The water was freezing. On the way back up we had to climb all of the stairs again. It almost killed me. It was so much harder going up than it was going down. It was pretty rough. After our strenuous morning we headed to a pub for lunch.

After lunch everyone wanted to go horseback riding, but due to my extreme allergy to horses, I couldn’t go. I got dropped off back at the hotel and go to relax and do a little work for school.

When everyone got back we got to have another delicious, wine-filled meal. It was even better than the first night! I was a happy camper. Again we sat at the table talking until the restaurant closed. It was a lot of fun. After dinner Grace, Sonya and I cuddled in bed and watched some really random movies. It was nice to relax and forget about school!

Sunday morning we had another buffet breakfast (yes!) and then headed out to do another walk and see more of Hogsback before we left. We went to Hobbiton. Since Hogsback is supposedly where Tolken got his inspiration for the Lord of the Rings (most likely untrue) there is a Lord of the Rings themed walk. Since I know nothing about LOTR this was just a pretty walk for me. Then we headed to a place called the Edge where there was an incredible viewpoint and a labyrinth. It was amazing. Grace and I sat at the edge of the cliff for awhile. It was beautiful. There we also go to do some shopping. Hogsback is famous for its jam so we were able to pick some up to bring home. Before lunch we went to the Eco-Shrine ( It’s this beautiful artwork set on the edge of a mountain overlooking Hogs 1, 2 & 3 of Hogsback. From there you could see the Madonna and Child waterfall. It was incredible. The artwork is about connecting humans and their environments. It was a beautiful piece that combined painting, mosaic, relief, sculpture and natural elements. I thought it was fantastic. In fact, I decided to incorporate it into a paper I had to write the following day.

We left the Eco-Shrine and got lunch at the Edge. It was nice to relax before heading back to student life. The weekend was fantastic, a great getaway and a nice distraction from all the work that we have to do here.

For more pictures with descriptions see my Flickr page

Where in the World is … South Africa?

Bright and early Friday morning Grace, Kevin and I headed to Nyaluza to teach English and Geography. Grace and I had prepared worksheets for our classes during the week and we were looking forward to being like real teachers!

I was teaching eighth-grade geography. I wanted to assess how much the kids knew about geography since last time they looked perplexed when we were talking about locations on a map. To do this I made three worksheets. The first focused on the seven continents and five oceans. I thought this might be too easy for the kids, but it would be a good jumping off points. The second worksheet was an unlabeled world map. I listed eight countries that I thought would be easy to find on a map: South Africa, the US, Russia, China, Australia, Brazil, England and Italy. I asked the kids to put the corresponding number on the country. The final worksheet was a map of South Africa. I then asked the kids to label the nine provinces, the two oceans and two interior countries. Then I listed five major cities and asked them to name the province where the city is and asked them to name a city that is on the Atlantic and a city that is on the Indian.

I was worried that these worksheets might be too easy for eighth-graders, but I thought it would be better to have them too easy than too hard. Once the kids got working on the first worksheet (oceans/continents) I realized how wrong I was about them being too easy. The kids were having the hardest time with this and we had to give them a word bank. A good amount of kids knew where Africa was, but one kid label Asia as Africa. We did our best to help them out and still encourage them to figure it out for themselves, but it was really tough. The next worksheet was even worse. Most of the kids couldn’t figure out anything but South Africa. They had no idea where America was. The only reason they could figure out Australia was because of the previous worksheet. Then one kid had a tin pencil case with a labeled world map on it and he started to use his resources. We encouraged this. In the real world if you don’t know where some where is you go and look it up. This kid was doing the same thing. We only have a little bit of time with them, and if this kid learned to use a map by having to search for those countries that is fine with us.

The South African worksheet went the worst, by far because this was something I just assumed the kids would know. First of all we had to give a word bank for the nine provinces. Then a lot of the kids didn’t know what province they were in (the Eastern Cape). That would be like living in the U.S. and not knowing what state you live in when there are nine states. It was scary. As the worksheet progressed the kids were having more and more trouble. It’s hard to believe that they know so little about their own country for one, and on top of that, about the world. I wish that we had more time with them to help out, but our time is so limited.

We’ve decided to focus on South Africa for the next two weeks. We figure that’s most important for them to learn. On Friday we’re going to go in depth into four of the provinces and then continue with the other five next Friday. I hope that this is more successful.

Grace’s English classes went well though. She taught apostrophes in one class and then figures of speech in the other. For the figures of speech class we’re having a little contest for the best simile, metaphor, alliteration and onomatopoeia on Friday. I’m excited to hear what they come up with. One kid made a simile that really made me laugh: “that boy is as ugly as a baboon.” It was great because he clearly understands what a simile is and he’s put it into a South African context which just cracked me up. It’s great!

After school we were invited by our favorite Nyaluza student, Sanele, to watch a rehearsal of a play they were performing this past weekend. The play was in Xhosa, so we didn’t understand much. I think it was about the battle that brought the Fingo people into what is now Grahamstown. Fingo Village is the name of the part of the township where Nyaluza is, so it had context for the students. There were less than ten kids in the performance. There was singing, dancing, drumming and scenes. It was amazing! I loved watching it. I was able to get a lot of it on video. I’ve watched it a bunch of times. It’s just so fantastic!

We return on Friday to teach again. I’m very excited! I love going up there. After school we’re going to the shelter to see the boys. That should be a lot of fun. Kevin has never gone, so that will be exciting for him. Grace and I haven’t been up in a few weeks, so it’ll be good for us to get up there, too. We’re planning on bringing up a CD of “house music” (their request). Maybe we’ll have a dance party. I’m pretty excited for that!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Thank you, Gracias, Danke...

I want to quickly thank all of the people who have helped me here by donating art supplies, cameras, beading materials, clothing and money. I am so appreciative of the help and am honored that so many people want to help make a difference, even if it's in a small way. Many people have had things sent to me and I'd like to acknowledge them here and they will be acknowledged in my exhibit at the Arts Festival, as well.

A Very Special Thanks To:

The Bead Society of NJ

DHL Shipping

Ms. Everett

The Gsellmeyer Family

Helby Imports/Beadsmith

Miss Horowitz

The Hye Family


Mill Lake Elementary School

Mr. & Mrs. Mitchell

Ms. Modell

Monroe Township High School National Arts Honor Society

The Mulvey Famiy

Ms. J. Paulkovich

Ms. P. Paulkovich

Rhodes University - St. Mary's Hall

The Roman Family

Ms. Ruggerio

Ms. Schamberger

Ms. Spang

Ms. Sprague

The Artisan Framer, Jamesburg, NJ

Mr. Torreano

Mr. & Mrs. Ungerlieder

Ms. Van Hise

Washington College Fine Art and Psychology Departments

Thank you again for all of your help. It is not only appreciated by me, but also by those you are helping - the women of the Raphael Centre, the boys of Eluxolweni, the children of Amasango and Nyaluza, as well as the greater Grahamstown community.

[If I have missed anyone, please let me know, as I would like to be sure to acknowledge everyone at the exhibit. Thank you]

Friday, May 2, 2008

Check This Out -

Grace sent this to me the other day. She's posted it on her blog and I thought it needed to be put up here, as well.

The Washington Post did a piece here in Grahamstown recently. It's a multimedia photo essay. Material was gathered over the past three years during three separate trips to Grahamstown and Vukani, the local squatter camp here. There are several cultural events explored such as funerals, the coming of age of Xhosa boys to men and the ritual slaughtering. This should give anyone a good view of traditional life here in Grahamstown.

Unfortunately my internet is so horribly slow so I haven't been able to watch everything, but Grace and Jason both enjoyed it. Grace says that you can see parts of the township, as well as town. I have posted the link below. Let me know what you think!

Washington Post Vukani Photo Essay

Still Alive

Last Friday Grace and I taught for the first time at Nyaluza. It was an interesting experience. We got picked up by the principal at 7:15am. He drove us up to the school. We were introduced to the students at their morning assembly. We were then led to our classroom and waited while the kids cleaned up the filthy room. The students hadn't had a teacher for over a month so the room was a mess and the kids were restless. We weren't told what grade were with or what subject we were teaching, so we had to figure it out on our own. We led introductions by having the students tell us their name and grade, their favorite subject, their life goals and a special fact about themselves. Our first class was tenth grade English. The majority of the class was interested in economics and wanted to become accountants. The kids were respectful and helped us figure out where they last left off and what needed to be done next. Our second class was eleventh grade English. They were a little bit more difficult than the first class. The boys were a riot. The girls were your stereotypical sixteen year old high school girls, chatty and self obsessed. Our last two classes were eighth grade history/geography. Our introduction session went by very quickly with these classes so we actually had to do some teaching. They were learning about settlements and the next topic to be covered was civilizations. We had to talk about the beginning of civilization in Mesopotamia. It was horrible. We looked very silly. In our last class we knew one of the students from Eluxolweni and he just shook his head at us while we taught. It was embarassing. Considering the amount of preparation we had (none) and the amount of direction and guidance we were given (none) I think we did OK.

We plan to prepare some worksheets for next week so that we can really start teaching. We have to prepare the students for their exams in June, which is a scary idea. I can hardly prepare myself for my exams in June, none the less prepare high school kids for an exam I've never seen in subjects I haven't covered in years.

Between our third and fourth class we got a visit from our favorite freshman, Sanele. He came to hang out. We told him about our horrible teaching skills. He made fun of us at first, but then gave us a demonstration of how to properly teach. He spoke loudly and moved around the room pointing out things in the textbook. "Teach like Jason," he said as he jumped around the room, his voice booming. He clapped his hands a lot and kept his imaginary class in line. This inspired us for our final class.

We only had four classes so we got to leave before noon. The walk from the township into town took forever, but we got to see parts of Grahamstown we'd never seen before.

Wednesday at the Raphael Centre I planned the beginning of the beading at the centre. They will start on Monday. The women are very excited. I will get to go up there and lend a hand, which will be nice. The arts festival is right around the corner, so I'm spending a lot of time trying to collect funds to help pay for the photo printing which was given by Kodak at a steep discount. Also, I'm trying to prepare the women to get the cameras and let them know what we expect and how to take a good picture. It's hard because many of the women do not speak English, they only speak Xhosa, so I have to find a Xhosa translator to translate my worksheets and then their narratives in the future. No one wants to do it for free, and I can't afford to compensate anyone. I'm also waiting for some important packages to get here, but everything is getting stopped in customs, which is both annoying and upsetting. I hate the customs system here. Everything takes forever and often packages get stolen.

This week we had three days off for public holidays. Sunday was Freedom Day, celebrating the first democratic elections in 1994 and yesterday was Worker's Day, like our Labor Day. It was nice to have two days off. Since there was no school Thursday, Wednesday ended up being a big night out. It was fun night spent with all of my favorite South Africans.

We only have three more weeks of school, which is mind boggling, but I guess what blows my mind more is that WAC is done with classes and only has exams next week. That makes me a little homesick. I wish I was going home, not because I don't love it here, but because the idea of being home is so appealing. I'll be home before I know it, though, and then I'll be wishing I was here!

Next weekend the WAC kids are going to Hogsback Mountain. It's about three hours from here, I believe. It's supposed to be beautiful. I'm excited to get away. A lot of people went away for this long weekend, but we couldn't drop that kind of money. We're saving up to go away during the last week of May when there are no classes. We want to fly up to Johannesburg and go to Kruger Park. We can't leave South Africa having not visited the famous park. I'm really excited for that trip.

Other than that there's not too much going on. We're enjoying Grahamstown while we can. Today we went to Mad Hatter's, our favorite coffee shop. We were eating our brunch (at 4pm), when the waitress came over with two shots. "The manager sent these over for being such great customers," she said. Grace and I just laughed and exchanged looks. We toasted to Mad Hatter's and downed our shots. This is the third time he's sent things over for us. He's a great guy. The restaurant has an Alice in Wonderland theme so I am planning to draw a few scenes to give them before we leave. Grace has selected them and I will draw them. I'll take photos before I give them away.

This weekend will be spent getting some things done. I have three papers due this month, so I need to start preparing for them. Other than that there's not too much going on.