Friday, June 17, 2011
Sorry folks for the two month delay! This post will be a summary of what i've been doing, and some of the things i've learned. The past few months have felt like a whirlwind of Rotary speeches, homework, and out of town visitors. It is basically winter here now so the weather has changed a bit and brought the rain and chill. It is amazing how the grey days can change how I feel about the city or be the perfect compliment to drinking tea and watching movies. The sunny days, though they are fewer and farther between now, always remind me what a beautiful place it is here.
Classwork, Research, and Field Trips!: Classes picked up the last month or so, so I've been researching and turning in assignments. I have also been working on finding topics for my research. At the moment, I am looking to work in Imizama Yethu, a township in Hout Bay that is experiencing sanitation issues and hence having issues with water quality. Other possible projects include working with this livestock farming community, assessing the amount of plastic waste in the creek beds in town, or exploring how townships decrease vulnerability to stormwater and flooding. I haven't figured out specifics, as i'm trying to find a niche within this topic that interests me, but those are some ideas at the moment. I had the pleasure of going on a field trip for class to the West Coast National Park. We learned about the issues facing Langabaan lagoon traditional fishers. The fishers have struggled to maintain their livelihood in the face of a Marine Protected area that prohibits them from fishing in a part of the estuary they have always had access to. We were able to meet with fishers, and National Park guides to hear both sides of the debate. IT was a good hands on example of how science needs to be integrated into social sciences. I am incredibly interested in this interface between science and society and greatly enjoyed getting to see it hands on in a local community. The place we stayed wasn't too bad either! We got to stay in a community based project called Duinepos which is a nice cabin style accommodation in the park. We had a nice braai as a class and got to experience the bush for a night. We also saw different types of buck and some ostrich, which are always a blast to see.
Rotary Talks: The past month has been filled with Rotary speeches and meeting different Rotary clubs. It began with the District Conference presentation which I had a part in planning. Our task was to present to Rotarians from across the district about who the scholars are, where we are from, and what we are doing here in South Africa. Our presentation went really well, and exposed me to various Rotary clubs across the country. Since then I have been invited to clubs and have greatly enjoyed meeting Rotarians. The opportunity to meet with different clubs has provided me with a great list of contacts for social activities, environmental work, and possible contacts for my thesis work. All in all it has been a great networking opportunity.
A Piece of Home: A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of a visit from my college roommate Bonnie and her friend Phillip from West Virginia. I was able to do some touristy things like wine tasting in Stellenbosch, fish and chips in Hout Bay, drive to Chapman's peak and shopping in Green Market Square (a local market in town). I was able to take them to a Rotary Club in Paarl and visit a township outside Stellenbosch where Bonnie used to volunteer. On our way back from Stellenbosch (thanks to modern technology and the lack of real maps in the car I borrowed) we managed to get incredibly lost along a dangerous area at night. (parents and friends, no need to freak out) This story is all to say that our friend Phillip stayed relaxed the entire time, while bonnie got extremely quiet and I began to freak out. I was confused that he didn't immediately understand the kind of trouble we could have been in. I realized later that the extreme wealth discrepancy can be avoided if you stay in certain areas of Cape Town, and therefore it is easy to not see the crime levels and extreme poverty that exist here. It is hard to explain the complexities and divides of living in Cape Town, and perhaps as I reflect on it more I will be able to describe it in a future blog post. But, I continue to be in love with the city, and intrigued by these aspects as well.
Speaking of crime, my Rotary Club of Roggebaai hosted a local writer by the name of Andrew Brown. His book, Street Blues, addresses the complexities of crime here in Cape Town that he has faced as a police man in the Reserves. He read a portion of a story he had written regarding his experiences responding to calls in various parts of Cape Town, and one township in particular. He was discussing the ambiguity of police work here, and how he struggles to remain neutral and not recognize the humanity in others. He spoke about getting to confront criminals and realizing that all of them are human. Part of his story described an interaction he had with a child in a township that reminded him of the struggles of being a policeman, and the difficulty of having to judge a situation in the moment.
In other news, it is possible that I will be working with UCT to develop a solidified Service Learning structure so that more students are encouraged to participate in service learning and those that do receive credit for it. At this point it was just a friendly request from my professor who is on the social responsiveness committee, but could be an interest project to take on. I am also hoping to get to work with outdoor education in some schools with an environmental education non-profit. In July my roommate and I are looking at traveling with some other scholars and friends in Botswana and Namibia. I hope to get to spend more time exploring other parts of the country as well as doing fun cultural activities around Cape Town.