Past Features

September 26, 2005 (Vol. 2, No. 2)

Anthropology Major's Road to South Africa

(Page 2 of 2)

South African Sunset
My first South African sunset.

I would always think of Africa as a hot continent

While in America, I would always think of Africa as a hot continent. Never had I imagined that it would be as cold as it was when I arrived. I spent the nights of my first week in South Africa sleeping in my bathrobe and under two winter blankets, and the days in two-to-three layers of clothing. Ironically, the next week the days felt like our mid-August summer days, and the evenings like our early autumn nights. Just perfect, I might add. The next week it rained, and it was back to my bathrobe and my two blankets. I am told that this is the typical weather for a South African spring.

I have started attending classes at UWC (University of Western Cape) with three other American students–Arwen from Western Washington University, Kathleen from Villanova and Chris from Roger Williams University. Even though our classes are on campus and our professors are from the University, we only have classes with one another. We do not have classes with other UWC students. It could be said that lunch may be the only class we have with UWC students. Our course curriculum consists of Afrikaans, Xhosa, South African Civilization, Research Methods and Field Research. I must say I find it much easier to learn a language like Afrikaans when I can come home and practice it with my host family. Since the three main languages in Western South Africa are Xhosa, Afrikaans and English, all of the signs on campus are in all three languages, which enables me to practice both languages.

My Xhosa name

Last Saturday, I went on my first excursion with the other LEXIA students to Robben Island (the place where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela were imprisoned during Apartheid); it was a very intellectual and inspirational trip and included a tour of the island, its prisons, and Nelson Mandela's cell. The tour guide was such a nice person that he allowed me to open and close Nelson Mandela's prison cell. That was one part of the trip that I will never forget.

Carrington inside Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island.
That's me inside Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island.

It feels so great to finally be here. The people are so nice and friendly. I have already received my Xhosa name; it is Silimela, which is June in Xhosa. The name also refers to the constellations that appear during the month of June. I have yet to get used to getting up every morning to the sounds of melodic birds and the breathtaking view of Table Mountain and Signal Hill in the distance. South Africa has welcomed me with open arms, and I am glad to finally be here.

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