Mini emnandi kuwe, mini emnandi kuwe, mini emnandi kuwe Madiba, mini emnandi kuwe!
(Our first lesson of the day in Xhosa class)
Yesterday was Mandela day, the 95th birthday of Mr. Nelson Mandela, known here in South Africa by his clan name Madiba. His birthday was celebrated by a national day of service, in which every person in the country was asked to donate 67 minutes of their time, in honor of Madiba’s 67 years of public service. While this is the second annual Mandela day, this year the day felt especially crucial due to Madiba’s critical condition. The situation is currently pretty tragic, with Mandela on life support, his family waging war outside the hospital room, and politicians trying to get a piece of him right and left while they still can. Everyone that I have talked to is disgusted with the situation, and expressing hope that they will “let him go” soon. Because of this, I think people really wanted this day to be a positive expression of love and thankfulness to Madiba, and a remembrance of his living legacy. So far, one of the best things I’ve heard was a prayer from my minister at the Rosebank Methodist Church that the country “grieve with dignity, and embrace his legacy.” Indeed.
After my 9am Xhosa class yesterday I hopped on a bus to the Manenberg township to help paint a primary school with some other students on my program as part of my 67 minutes. Upon arriving we were surrounded by the energetic kids who were on their lunch break and had to wait for their teachers to usher them back into class before we could get started. As I was on the first shift, I spent my morning scrubbing the walls with water and a broom to prepare them for the fresh coat of paint upon which a new math mural is going to be painted. Later that evening I went with a big group of students to help serve a meal at a soup kitchen in Cape Town. While 67 minutes is not enough time to really have a lasting and engaged impact, a big part of the day was to share in celebrating and honoring Madiba’s life and legacy, and that was a powerful thing to see and be a part of.
In addition to yesterday’s celebration, this week was notable for two other major reasons: classes and Taxi Mark. Classes began on Monday and I officially enrolled in:
Gender and the Politics of Development
Queer Theory, and
Xhosa is especially intimidating because of the clicks: ‘C’ (the dental click), ‘Q’ (the palatial click), and ‘X’ (the lateral click). Thus far I am still too embarrassed about my clearly American attempts (and so far, failures) at clicking to try them out in conversation, which I should quite frankly get over, as my accent is a dead giveaway as it is. Having an accent for the first time (New Mexicans in the US don’t have a regional accent, but Americans in South Africa definitely do) is a neat experience, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so conspicuous in my life! However, my South African friends have been expressing appreciation at how well I pronounce their names, so I suppose that’s a good thing. My gender class is extremely good, and I’m looking forward to studying gender through a development lens in a very contextually appropriate place. My literature class is HUGE (well, it’s about 250 people, which is huge when your graduating class is not even twice that), but I’m really looking forward to the reading list, which includes Ellison’s Invisible Man, Nabakov’s Lolita, Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, Coetzee’s Summertime, and Kincaid’s Lucy. Queer Theory and African Dance start up next week, and then I will officially be back to school. My mind still thinks it’s on vacation, so I should probably convince it otherwise before the work starts to pile up…
On Sunday night while coming back from dinner in Cape Town with two lovely Amherst friends, I met Taxi Mark. I had heard of people finding and sticking with one driver (and my mom and I are still good friends with our Tanzanian taxi driver from 10 years ago), but I had yet to find one who I really clicked with. Then I found ‘Taxi Mark’ and I knew I had found my guy. Good thing too, as this past Thursday would have been a fiasco otherwise. Everything worked out fine (I promise!), but long story short, I got stood up (accidentally and understandably) for an interview, and had to wait around for about an hour until my interviewer showed up. Mark came back, picked me up, let me compose my stressed-out self in the taxi while he took a cigarette break, and then proceeded to take ME out to coffee. One of the kindest souls I have met here so far, Mark has quickly earned guardian angel status, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of Cape Town under his guidance in the months to come.
Lovely Amherst friends! (AKA, the Cape Town gluten-free club, yes it’s a thing…)
A few pictures from Mandela Day (I don’t have many now, but will post more later!)