Although the lack of updates lately may seem careless, even rude, I assure you it was with every good intention. You see, now I’ve separated all those who really care from the pretenders – the cream from the fat, as it were. (I really hope there is in fact some cream left to read this).

For all the diehards, here are a few stories as a reward. I’ve pretty much given up trying to give a comprehensive account of my time down here – I’d like to use the excuse of the whole post modern thing about the futility of trying to accurately recount past experiences, but it turns out I’m just lazy. So, if you want a more holistic review of how we’ve spent our time down here, check out Liz’s blog (http://lizcapetown.wordpress.com/). Until then, enjoy a few good yarns from the past month or so…

– Our group was driving around on Safari in Krugger National Park when we heard over the CV Radio “Does anyone have a Michael Ziegler in their vehicle?” I quickly cycled through the list of park rules I could have broken, and outside of stealing a baby giraffe, couldn’t think of any. In the clear, I relaxed. “Yes, he’s in our car”, our guide replied. “Well, it appears some monkeys have made off with his credit card… I don’t believe any charges have been made.” Apparently, my credit card had fallen out of my pocket and somewhere along the line some monkeys had run off with it. Luckily, no large transactions involving bananas were made. However, it appears they didn’t have any trouble passing for my photo I.D…

About a month ago a section of Table Mountain named Devil’s Peak caught fire. The cause was unknown, and unfortunately there was one casualty. Devil’s Peak is just a couple miles from our house, and can be seen quite clearly. When we heard news of the fire, a few of us climbed up onto the roof. The view was unreal. The entire mountainside was just crawling with bright red flames. Straight up Pride Lands after Scar takes over (reference, Lion King).

As part of our midsemester trip we went into the rural regions of South Africa. We stopped by a farm to have a look at some cows. There was a particularly pregnant cow that was about to go into labor, but the farmer thought its calf would be a stillborn. This would be a very sad thing, as there was a family with 3 kids also watching intently. I watched the farmer reach in and pull out the baby calf. The mother’s cows eyes were like grapefruits – totally understandable, given the circumstances. The farmer took the just born calf and did something bizarre… he grabbed it by its front two legs and started swinging it around in big circles, then laid it on the ground and started slapping its side (he was getting air into the calf’s lungs). He stood back, and with our bated breath, we watched the calf take its first. “The baby’s alive!” the kids said. The farmer, with no credence to the miracle he had just performed, simply said “Male.”, shrugged his shoulders, and walked away. This left room for the mother cow to come and lick her baby clean. It was so beautiful. It was also great to hear all of it being explained to the kids… “What’s that mommy?” – “Sweetie, that’s the after birth” – “Ohhh, the af-ter-birth!”

I was at an Afrikaner Arts Festival (Afrikaners are the white South African who speak Afrikaans and have Dutch heritage), and was walking back to my tent to go to sleep after a bust of a night. There was a guy throwing rocks into the river. This was exactly what I wanted to do at that moment. I went over and asked him if I could join, and he shrugged his shoulders and made room. We were both throwing rocks into the river when someone yelled at us in Afrikaans from across the river. Without saying anything, my friend went back to the food stand he was working at, and so I dropped my rocks and continued walking back to my tent. About 2 minutes later, I heard someone run up behind me and put their hand on my shoulder. It was the guy who had yelled at us from across the river. Now, he continued his yelling, but with no river between. He was still yelling in Afrikaans, as he thought I was an Afrikaner. When I told him I only spoke English, he became extremely frustrated. After a few exasperated sighs, he kept on in Afrikaans, knowing full well it was not getting through to me. A laughing bystander explained the situation to both of us… He was a security guard who did not want me throwing rocks, and I was an American who was sorry that I had. We ended the encounter by shaking hands – he, still lecturing me in a frustrated foreign language, and me, finding all of this very amusing.

Here is a story that is not mine – In fact it is maybe one hundred times older than me. This is a story from a Northern South African tribe about the constellation known as Orion in the states. Here is a diagram of Orion, in case you forgot…

400px-orion_3008_huge

If you can see it, here is a bit of scene setting before the action… The three main stars of Orion’s Belts are actually 3 zebras. The bright star up and to the left of the belt is a lion. The bright star up and to the right of the belt is a hunter. The bright cluster of stars towards the top of the image between the lion and the hunter are 7 wives. And finally, the diagonal line of stars just below Orion’s belt is an arrow. Now, for the story… The hunter promised his 7 wives a huge fest. He set off with his bow and arrow to hunt zebra. He saw 3 zebra, and shot at them with an arrow. He missed, and the arrow landed just beyond the zebra. He wanted to go pick up the arrow, but could not, as there was a lion hunting the same zebra. He also could not return to his 7 wives, for he had no meat. Thus, he was stuck at that place in the sky, for ever and ever.

Alright, well I hope you enjoyed story time. I made myself sleepy, and am off to bed.

If pictures are worth 1,000 words, then here’s 89,000 words… enjoy!

http://travel.webshots.com/album/570536664IlTvhO

(if clicking on the link doesn’t work, just put the text in your browser…)

Last post I promised a more tangible report of where I was at, and like Karl Malone on every day of the week besides Sunday, I will deliver (for those of you for whom this reference is lost, Karl Malone was a player for the Utah Jazz in the 1990’s was consistently great every day except Sundays, thus earning the nickname “The Postman”). So, in various mediums to keep me concise, here is what I’ve been doing down here…

Days of the week…

Monday – Solo Adventure Day. My favorite day of the week. I have off of both classes and service to explore wherever I please.

Tuesday – Service Day One. I teach a 7th grade reading class in the mornings, a 6th grade computer class around noon, a 4th grade reading class at 1:00 (4th graders who have just learned English, but have always known how to raise havoc), and an HIV support/awareness group at 3:00.

Wednesday – Class Day. I have 2 classes at the University of the Western Cape. The first is Multilingualism in Society and Education and Social Problems. They are both engaging, rather non strenuous, but in the end, class – and so prone to sleepiness.

Thursday – Service Day Two. Same as “Service Day 1”, except with Kindergarten for computer class (imagine a room full of kids who have literally never seen a computer before and who speak a totally different language, and you’ll begin to get the picture).

Friday – Class Day, but Friday Class Day. Two classes (Grassroots Leadership and Theology of Reconciliation). The former is interesting but overly wordy and taught by a nasally voiced woman, the later is more of a weekly retreat taught by a lovely man. The rest of Friday is spent in typical Friday fashion.

Saturday – Group Adventure Day. Fun to be had by whole group, where the lack of foresight is usually balanced out with beautiful surroundings.

Sunday – Dinner Day. Lazy Sundays followed by a “family dinner”, where 2 people in the house make dinner for the other 19 of us. Dignity of the cooks is on the line, and so results have been delicious – stuffed peppers, jambalaya, and homemade pizzas.

Where I live…

– Number 2, Kimberley Drive, Observatory. Observatory is a hip and pleasant town, with sunny cafes during the day and “happening” bars and restaurants at night. It reminds me a bit of Milwaukee’s east side. Number 2 Kimberly Drive is equally as hip, but only because I am living there. There are 11 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, 21 beds and 21 students. This means it is quite a full house – full of 18 Americans (12 Marquette students, 6 from other, lesser universities) and 3 more potential roommates to replace the 3 South Africans who just left. I live in a room just outside the house, which means I am woken up daily to an orchestra of birds singing, children from the school down the road, the train on the tracks behind our house, and dogs barking. I like where I live very much.

Top 5 things I’ve done (in some particular order)…

1) Jumped off a 66 foot cliff into a stream fed pool in valley surrounded by mountains.

2) Eaten at a Braii (South African word for Barbeque) in a township. Lots of meat, lots of people, very little restraint of eating.

3) Built a fire in a cave. Illegal, but so prehistoric.

4) Hiked in Suikerbossie. A five hour hike that, of the 6 I’ve already done, was my favorite.

5) Eaten a pancake with caramel and banana. Not very culturally diverse, but it really hit the spot.

Top Three Places I’ve Sat…

1) On Judas Peak, above the cloud line and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

2) On a bench at the train station next to a dock worker named Lionel.

3) In a police car because I got off the taxi a few stops too early and was in a pretty sketchy area at night.

South African oddities I’ve noticed that deserve exclamation points…

1) The escalators down here don’t have green lights between the cracks, they have red lights!

2) They don’t call them traffic lights down here, they call them robots!

3) They call it “Where’s Wallie?”, not “Where’s Waldo?”!

4) I saw a Green Bay Packer’s jersey! (It was Corey Bradford!) (Go pack!)

Phases of the skin on my back…

Phase One – Normal, moley as ever.

Phase Two – Peeling in a grotesque fashion. Sheets of skin literally 6                                              square inches.

Phase Three – Current phase, covered in mounds of mosquito bites.

Phase Four – Stay tuned…

From the minimal amount of travel I’ve done in my life (and from my 3 weeks in Cape Town), true travel seems to me less geographic then I originally thought. Case in point, I am nearly 8,000 miles and numerous national borders away, and if I choose to place myself in certain contexts its almost as if I haven’t left home. Seeing as I didn’t spend quite a hefty some on airfare to (theoretically) not leave Milwaukee, I’m trying to figure out a bit more about the truth of travel.

The more days I spend here, the more I realize that travel isn’t across regional borders but across boundaries of comfort. If I spend 5 months 8,000 miles away taking trains and planes across the whole country but don’t once step out of my “comfort zone”, as it were – well, then I haven’t even taken a step. With this in mind, I’m hoping to travel across these boundaries of comfort – these racial, social, cultural, economic, and experiential boundaries.

So, although in the past week I’ve take trains and taxis in order to go on a biking wine tour and out to various restaurants, I log my travel more by the times I’ve spent on campus as the only white person in sight, the lessons that 14 year olds taught me about a maturity I at 21 can’t even grasp, the Xhosa myths we were told explaining the night sky, and the bonfire we started deep in a cave. Granted I’ve inevitably had to do some foot to pavement travel to have these experiences, but none would have happened had I not stepped across some uncomfortable barriers.

I promise that my next post will be less hoity-toity heady stuff and will give you an actual info about my whereabouts, but until then I’m satisfied to rest with my misguided musings.

It’s pretty hard to sum up a few of the most eye opening days of your life in about 1000 words.

I’ll give you a quick overview of our time in Cape Town so far, and then write the rest of my entries about specific/interesting experiences.

We arrived early Saturday morning to a place more beautiful than any other I have seen. Melikaya, our programme director, and Pearnel, our driver, picked us up very early in the morning and drove us to Kimberley House in Observatory, affectionately called Obz, the town that we live in a little outside Cape Town. After Melikaya took us down Lower Main—the road full of shops and bars near home, my roommate Allison and I crashed for an 8-hour nap (or maybe a full night’s sleep!). After that all of our other housemates arrived and a couple girls made us a pasta dinner while the rest of us went out to buy bottles of wine. What a treat that I didn’t have to cook!!

On Sunday Melikaya came to Kimberley House around 2PM to take us to the waterfront and up to Signal Hill to see a fantastic view of the place we now like to call home. I think most of us are having a hard time realizing that we live in a place so full of natural beauty—mountains, oceans, and fragrant flowers—especially while escaping the Milwaukee winter. After Signal hill Melikaya and Pearnell took us to eat our first traditional South African meal. We ate ox tail, pap (looks like mashed potatoes but I think has the texture of sticky grits), beans, and some ate tripe (the stomach lining of a sheep)—I was not one of them, although I regret not eating it!

Monday, we woke up very early to start our day at the US Consulate. We were told that we would learn more in this semester about our world, South Africa, mankind, and ourselves than we ever have in such a short amount of time. As soon as we began our talk with the foreign officers I knew that this week would prove to been one of the most eye opening of my life. We were able to ask questions about South African government, US/South Africa relations, poverty, HIV/AIDS, etc. After the Consulate we began our visits to each service site.

Tuesday we went to St. Anne’s Home—a shelter for battered women and children that helps them to readjust into society after leaving their abusive home lives. We then left to go the Desmond Tutu HIV/AIDS Centre in Gugulethu, a township about 10 miles outside Cape Town. The township held the most poverty I have ever seen. It is worse than anything in Milwaukee. Almost every house was a shack made out of scrap metal and boards, with a few settlements consisting of new government and privately funded housing projects. I know that most of us felt as though we could never feel like we were wanted in these townships, helping and learning from the people who call them home. Pearnel assured us that they are happy to have us come to help them—at least to show them that we care.

I can definitely say that I have learned more in the past few days about South Africa than I could have ever learned while sitting in a classroom. Our conversations are full of passion and wonder, excitement and approachability. I am certain that this semester will be extraordinary 🙂

For those of you who feared South Africa would drastically change me, fear not – it’s one week in and I’ve already lost my first set of keys and iPod (the latter of the two I lost before I even set foot in South Africa. I think it’s some where in Dakar, where some Senegalese kid is jamming out to my extensive collection of Rockapella).

My first full week in South Africa reminds me a bit of Disney’s Fantasia – too colorful and rich for words to improve on. Except there are no dancing brooms over here, which was a bit of a let down of my expectations. Another let down of expectations was that the toilets don’t flush counter-clock wise down here, they flush up! And no, I’m not incorrectly using a bidet.

The most striking aspect of South Africa so far is the unreal diversity. In the Rainbow nation, diversity of people is expected. But I never would have thought to have met a Portuguese born South African who hopes to be a choreographer, a potential Nobel laureate, a young girl who grabs fish in her hands as they come up in the tide, and a crossing guard who dances to headphones until 3 in the morning and reminds me of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha upon reaching enlightenment. Just as diverse are the activities we’ve done down here. It has not been a stretch to in one day jump off a huge boulder submerged in the most beautiful turquoise water you’ve ever seen, eat sheep stomach, and hear the painful story of a person subjected to poverty more intense and expansive than any I’ve ever seen. This personal anxiety caused by this split between the opportunity for adventure and the gritty reality of oppression will be something that will most likely out last my stay in this country.

The next week will only add to the diversity, as I will start classes at the University of the Western Cape where I will be most vividly in the racial minority, will begin my service at the Amy Biehl Foundation (if you have not heard her story, look it up for an incredibly inspirational triumph of human compassion), and hope to climb and camp on Table Mountain. I will keep you in the loop with all those endeavors, but until then, you’re all the man (and woman) of the house while I’m away.

A little while ago I was looking at a globe. I know it’s proper to start off posts with interesting first sentences, but that first sentence was interesting because after 8th grade I barely ever see globes anymore. Anyways, I was looking at the globe and I traced my finger from the Great Lakes along the curvature down to the Cape of Good Hope. ohmygod. Just to be sure, I measured the distance using my hands, and came up with a measurement of two hands. The world is only four hands around! Two hands is really far away!

In the same moment, I felt something else. Given my personality, anytime I walk into a new building, and particularly a new house, I feel an urge to walk around every room of the house to see if I can’t discover any nooks or crannies that would lead to secret passages or trap doors. This would be a rude thing to do, so I usually don’t do it. However, I generally like to get my bearings on my surroundings before I settle down in one place. Back to the topic at hand. Looking at the full scope of the globe, I realized how, on a global scale, I had been totally denying this same urge that comes so naturally to me. I had, if you’re willing to extend the metaphor, stayed in the same room my whole life! As I let my finger explore the bumpy surface of the globe (topographical globes rule so hard), I was flooded with the same excitement as I get when I enter a new building. This excitement was, and is, particularly amplified by the fact that in approximately 3 hours I will be leaving to catch a plane to the other side of the world.