A Quick Update

•April 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

Dear Readers,

Life in Cape Town has become a bit busy. I have not had the time or the energy to write on my blog for some time, but I thought I would take a moment to update it. Classes are extremely busy right now so I am rushing to complete papers and study for my exams. I guess one does have to do some studying when studying abroad. Last week my father came to visit me and we had a great time. We climbed Table Mountain and repelled down the face of it too. I took him out on the town to experience Long Street and the amazing nightlife that it has to offer. It was amazing to have him come and visit and experience South Africa.

The longer I live here the more it becomes my home and the more I want to stay. It is such a beautiful country and there are so many beautiful people. It can be a hard place to focus on class work, but I am managing. I know no one reading this feels to bad for me.

So, I am going to get back to work, but everything is going really well. Yesterday, I walked past a classroom full of about 50 fourth graders, but their teacher was missing. I stepped in to find them working on English vocabulary. I introduced myself and told them I was their substitute teacher. Teaching fourth graders English for 30 minutes was so much fun that I can’t describe it. I came here hoping for some direction when it came to my career and I have been given some. I will try to post my videos as soon as I can. Thanks for reading. Go Blackhawks!

Homework Project

•March 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

This is a video made for a class project in Leaders in Grassroots Organizations. It is a 1 minute ad for an alcohol alternative night of fun. It is similar to a “Late Night Marquette”, but in South Africa for South African learners. Final Mark A+

Motivate. Dominate.

•March 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m settled in and in the groove, but with only about 100 days left in South Africa the challenge becomes shaking it back up again. The semester abroad is flying by faster than I imagined. Yesterday was Friday and it’s already Friday tomorrow. What happened to the week?

I followed President Obama’s first 100 days religiously, but now I’m applying the pressure on myself for the next 100 days.

In the next 100 days I promise to pass a comprehensive health care bill in South Africa. Not really, however, it is time for action. It is time to fulfill the timeless Marquette creed, “Be The Difference”.  Let’s mobilize. Let’s make some calls and send some emails. Let’s put on a career fair for high school students. Let’s buy some paint and paint the walls at an Al-Noor orphanage. Let’s raise money to purchase books for the primary school students in Gugulethu and Langa. Let’s do this and let’s not waste anymore time.

These are not campaign promises. There are countless lives to empower and no time to think about a catchy election slogan.

NEW VIDEO BLOG!!!

•February 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Wouldn’t it be better if you could see South Africa instead of reading about it all the time? I thought it would be. Here is the link to my new video blog on youtube:

I will attempt to upload a new video every month to bring you closer to South Africa.  This video shows me at the beach, jumping off cliffs, and out in the mountains abseiling. I am having the greatest time of my life here. I realize I say that about most things, but I am having an awesome experience.

Service Learning – Day 2

•February 9, 2010 • 2 Comments

I basically have two types of days. The first type closely resembles a vacation. I go to class, hike mountains, run on the beach, or do something else that allows me to soak up the beauty that is South Africa.  (Yes, classes are included into the vacation category, but you’ll understand why once you hear what my second type of day is like.)

The second type of day is very different. In fact, it is on the other side of the spectrum. These are days where I gain a greater understanding of reality for most South Africans.  Today, for example, I worked with two social workers in Lwazi Public Primary School in the township called Guguletu.  I observed social workers teaching first and third graders about sexual harassment and rape.  Then I was given the opportunity to teach sixth graders on the subject.  Back in America I discuss the same topics through the V.O.I.C.E. program, but the class is full of Marquette students, not sixth graders. The realities hit me halfway through the class period when a third grade boy raised his hand and disclosed the fact that he had been raped.  In the next class, a girl is pointed and laughed at because it is common knowledge that she was raped.

These are first graders and third graders and sixth graders. These are children that are not aware that sexual assault is wrong.  They are abused and often left unnoticed by their teachers even though there are physical signs of abuse clearly shown by the bruises and scratches on their necks.

Between classes Shona, one of the social workers from Ilitha Labantu, explains to me that the children do not know whom to trust. They hear us talk about sexual violence, but go home to their stepfather who is abusing them because they trust and know him.  He is their provider.

Shona is a South African woman working to educate children and high school students on life orientation subjects such as sexual assault.  We sit together talking about the seriousness of the situation waiting for the next class. She looks at me and says, “When I see the troubles in the children I become drained. I think about my own children.”

There is something about the second type of day where I find myself thinking about the one’s I love as well.  As I sat in the classrooms wiping sweat off my forehead and listening to the first graders talk about rape I try and figure out how big of an impact this experience is having on me.  I look at the Coca Cola calendar on the wall and realize it’s going to be awhile before I am with the closest people in my life.  But, for now, I get back to the house, share my day with my friends and listen to how their day went.  I make myself a kitti cocktail, listen to some music, and call it a day.

That’s life here in South Africa. I don’t enjoy the first type of day more than the second, but the second day sure makes me appreciate the first.

Service Learning Day 1

•February 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

All of a sudden I find myself in front of forty 4th graders speaking about children’s rights.  I’m speaking English to students whose first language is Xhosa, although some speak a little English too. Looking at all the attentive faces I try to be exciting so those who don’t understand what I am saying at least enjoy watching me.  I point to Chicago on the world map on the wall and explain that it takes two days to travel to my home.

“Do you drive?” a student asks in Xhosa.

I explain that one has to fly to get to my home country.

Portia, the social worker leading the discussion, stands next to me and translates my words so the students can follow and vise versa.

“What am I supposed to say?” I ask her.

“Talk about child rights,” Portia responds.

I pause and think, “How am I going to do that?”

I have no experience leading a group of 4th graders. I don’t know much about child rights or specifically what I am supposed to focus on. I don’t know what the students already understand, but I don’t have all morning to create a lesson plan so I begin by asking, “Who likes to play?”

Portia translates. All the hands go up in the air.

“Are there times when you are playing where you feel the game is unfair or people are being unfair?” I ask.

Portia translates. There is a silence and some respond “no”.

My leading question led to nowhere. So I try again. “Are there times where you feel cheated, sad, or angry?”

They nod yes.

“What do you do when you have those feelings? Where do you feel safe going to talk about your feelings?”

They all give great answers like their family, a social worker, a teacher, and the police station. Then they all start to sing the telephone number for the child abuse hotline. I didn’t know my own phone number when I was in 4th grade. I didn’t even know my address until high school.

I tell them that those are all great places to turn to and that they can also feel safe coming to Portia and the people working for Ilitha Labantu, the agency I am working with.

My mind goes blank. I look at Portia hoping she will bail me out and she does. I have no idea if that conversation fit into the program, but it sounded intelligent in my head.

I stood in the front of the classroom looking at all the students sitting straight in their chairs with their green and yellow uniforms on listening to what I had to say. It was a privilege to just be sitting in on their class nonetheless participating in the lesson. However, next time I hope to be better prepared to discuss the topic.

It is hard to explain, but I felt like I was part of something very special speaking to all the kids. When Portia and I began to leave the class stood up and sang a farewell song thanking us and wishing us to return.

I put on my sunglasses and said, “I’ll be back.” (Not really, but it’s amazing that The Terminator made its way into this.)

Human Being

•January 31, 2010 • 2 Comments

“Americans are often not thought of as human beings. They are more often referred to as human doings”, says my theology professor here in South Africa.  I would agree that the American culture demands its citizens to do a lot.  That is what makes the United States so great. Everyone has the opportunity to be all they can be and do all they can do.  Many work hard through school and/or they work their way up the ladder to success in the working world. However, this is what is also hurting Americans.

I would argue that it is easier to be a human doing than a human being.  So far I have a lot more time on my hands here to think and reflect than I do back at Marquette University because there my schedule is booked everyday.  Here, I have to think about things on a deeper level.  I have to reevaluate my values and beliefs and in some cases discover what I believe for the first time.  Mother Teresa believed that there was more loneliness and sadness in the States that any other place in the world.  She witnessed more happiness in the impoverished townships of South Arica than in the wealthiest parts of America. This leads to the obvious conclusion that possessions do not lead to happiness. This we all understand. But this continues to be a struggle.

As I walked around the Waterfront in Cape Town I saw an Aston Martin, James Bond’s latest car of choice.  It was truly beautiful.  It is extremely rare to see a car like that.  I looked at it and said to myself, “That is my goal.” Then I think, “Can I actually spend that much money on a car and feel truly satisfied as I drive it around by myself. No, but if I could just borrow it for a weekend I would be fine with that.”

Then I am walking through the stores and I see an amazing diamond necklace. I mean this thing is just immaculate.  “Okay new goal,” I think to myself. “I need to be able to buy this for my wife.” Well, that is problematic too. Nothing is wrong with the intentions, but there is this innate feeling that it is ethically wrong.

Schools need books and pencils. Children need mothers and fathers. Human beings need their basic human rights and I need that Aston Martin. I should just skip the Aston Martin and go buy my ticket to Hell. In the meantime, I will struggle to become less of a human doing and more of a human being for others.