Recent Blog Posts

Greetings again from South Africa! 

After we arrived in Cape Town, for our first journal entry, we asked students to reflect on our trip from the US, what they are looking forward to, and what their apprehensions are going into the trip. 

Lila wrote the following about the traveling experience: 
36 hours ago I would have never predicted how I would feel or how the trip to South Africa would really go. I could have never anticipated my inability to fall asleep or carrying Roxy's bag across both JFK and the Johannesburg airport. Angela mentioned the dips of the trip and how just like the ocean, we would have our high and low tides, but I didn't expect the little things to play such a large role in not only the group dynamic but my mood as well. 36 hours ago I had never left the continent, 36 hours ago I had never been on a flight over 6 hours. 36 hours, 36 hours, 36 hours. 

We rely on time as a key to our lives and to living. Without time we wouldn't know how long it took for our plane to leave the runway or all of us to pass through customs, but does that change anything? Sitting on the flight with all the windows closed, cabin dark, and people both asleep and awake, I had no sense of time. At first I freaked out, automatically going to turn on my phone but as I reached for it I realized, how much will it really matter? What will change if I know the time of where I came from or the time of where I'm going? I sat in stillness, silence and solitude without knowing the time and it reminded me of what it felt to be completely at peace, without worrying. It was just me and my thoughts. 


* * *

On day three of our trip, we learned more about the colonial and post-colonial history of South Africa, and specifically, Cape Town. For each sight we visit on our trip, students have prepared short introductory lectures for the space. Today, Chianna gave us a thorough account of how slavery grew in Cape Town as the city established itself as a refreshment stop for ships rounding the cape of Africa in the 17th century as the Dutch East India Company sought to dominate the so-called "spice route." 

 

As Chianna taught us, hundreds of slaves at a time were housed at a building dubbed the Slave Lodge, arriving from various countries including India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. After the abolishment of slavery in 1834, the building served as a government office, but it has since been renovated as a commemorative museum dedicated to exploring the injustices of slavery and apartheid. The visit was powerful and difficult, highlighting how the collective memory of South Africa has suppressed its terrible past rooted in slavery and colonization. 

 

Following the museum visit, we walked through the beautiful Company's Garden as we made our way to a local township for lunch. During our lunch, we were treated to a live marimba band while we chowed down on ostrich, kudu (antelope), and some delicious vegetarian dishes at Lelapa Restaurant. 








* * *

For day four, Alex presented before our visit to Cape Town's Malay Quarter:



As Alex informed us, The Malay Quarter is the oldest suburb of Cape Town. The main inhabitants, Cape Muslims, have their origins in the same groups of slaves and political exiles brought to the southern tip of Africa during the 1600s.







To compliment students' World Religions class, we visited a local mosque as an introduction to Islam religion and culture. 



We also bartered and bargained at Greenmarket Flea Market. Many of our students picked up gifts for family members and friends! 

To cap off our packed itinerary for the past two days, we returned to our hotel to reflect on the day with a discussion on Islam, and we connected several passages from our World Literature text for South Africa, Mda's The Heart of Redness, to our tour of the Malay Quarter.  Caswell Nilsen, our World History teacher, also led a discussion with students about how the history of apartheid resonates with our first-hand experiences and sights over the past couple of days. 

An excerpt from Roxy's journal weaved together our literature to the Malay Quarter, particularly around what progress might look like in different circumstances. For context, we found out on our tour that unnamed developers were planning to repurpose a communal space where some Malay Quarter families live as a parking lot. 

Roxy writes:
The idea that progress is important or that "if it is something that brings civilization, then it is good" is not necessarily true (199). Tradition and culture are a necessity to a community; yes, progress may be helpful, but what about spreading beliefs? That is also a form of progress. For example, today when we were standing in the community yard or soon-to-be-parking lot, we listened to some of [the local families'] ideas of progress. The women wanted to start a garden so that the residents would have fresh vegetables. However, a new company wants to build a parking lot even though so many people use that space as a path to work or for their homes and they would find an inconvenience because "these things will only be enjoyed by rich people" (200).  

***

In the coming days, we will visit Robben Island, meet with Muslim youth from the Malay Quarter, and discuss Liberation theology with local leaders from various faiths in South Africa. We look forward to telling you more about our travels in a couple of days!





3 comments:

  1. Wonderful introduction!
    What a way to learn, it comes alive

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful blog post. Very moved by the students thoughts. Thank you for sharing this wonderful journey with us

    ReplyDelete