Internship in South Africa

Home Away From Home July 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 3:17 am

When first arriving here I noticed all the differences between my life back in Kentucky and what my life would soon become. Everything was different, I was not acclimated to the weather and I barely knew anyone. I was in a new city on a different continent where customs, socials norms and especially language differ. Needless to say, this just wasn’t home, but my excitement and sense of adventure kicked in. Little by little it has started to feel like home to me thanks to some of the most amazing people I’ve met that who have opened their homes and hearts to me.

To Lindela and Khanyiswa: It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you these past two months. You are both such an inspiration and an absolute joy to be around. Thank you for showing me around these past 2 months and for teaching me some Xhosa! Thank you especially for not only being great supervisors but also becoming good friends.

To The Odendaal’s: A truly loving family. Thank you for absolutely everything you’ve done for us. You’re always there when we need an excellent dinner filled with great conversation. You have been nothing but generous and welcomed us in as your own. Thank you for the wonderful weekend in Hermanus!

To Observatory: A new and trendy area filled with good food, nice people and a relaxing atmosphere.

To Charlie: The first taxi driver to hold a conversation with us, let us know where the hot spots to go are and always gave us a good laugh.

To Marvel: A true touch of home. This little club on Long St provided me with the same atmosphere and hip hop culture that I am accustomed to at home. “All I need is a beat that super bumping.”

To the townships (Gugulethu, Philipi and Khayelitsha): For breaking the negative stereotypes that come along with townships. Not once have I experience any unpleasant thing while visiting these areas. Everyone has been nothing but hospitable and friendly towards me, also I’ve never felt personally, scared threaten or attacked.

To my housemates: When we started this experience we all barely knew each other, and throughout these past 2 months we have grown to become almost family.

The hospitality of this place by far surpasses any that I’ve ever personally witnessed. If it wasn’t for these people and places, South Africa would have become that one place that I interned at that one time.


An experience without sharks July 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 5:27 pm

Today was an eye opening experience to the business culture here in South Africa. As we know, in America the customer is always right and almost always is there a money back guarantee if you are dissatisfied. There is also a common knowledge that unexpected accidents or sudden sickness occurs. Here there is no sense of responsibility for the customer’s wishes, wants, needs, desires or when they should be given a break. Today started when the five of us who had predetermined a scheduled shark diving excursion had to drop down to four because of a sudden sickness. When the driver came to pick us up this caused a problem with the company and a rather annoying phone call was made. Instead of understanding that due to sickness that one of us could not attend, they were very animate that if she didn’t show up then the charge would be made onto the credit card number given. No exceptions due to a 12 hour cancellation policy. Ok, fine I understand policies, but when you wake up throwing up the last thing you want to do that day is get onto a sea boat.

Upon arrival, we find out that not only do we have a full boat but also that the weather conditions are not very favorable. Due to these unfavorable conditions not only did all of us get sick, but we also did not even get the chance to see any sharks. After three hours of chumming and baiting the water, riding the horrific swells and not any sightings we decide to head back to shore. In those three hours, I personally haven’t felt that miserable in years. Not only was I cold, wet and terribly sick but desperation had begun to sink in. We all realized that since sharks are wild creatures and this wasn’t a zoo that there would be a slim chance of around .01 that we wouldn’t have a sighting. However, due to the unfavorable conditions this had been increased and the company should have postponed the trip from the start, or at least given us a refund due to unseen circumstances.

We were given vouchers for another trip but after this experience and the little time we have left here I don’t see this happening, especially if I cannot be guaranteed calmer weather conditions. Good customer service is about the person purchasing the product or service and than doing everything in their power to make sure it is executed to the highest degree. Not only did this not occur but they even seemed rude when the subject was brought up. It doesn’t even do any good to complain because services are just different. Maybe we have been spoiled by our standards but I don’t think I could ever truly be used to the differences.


Whites at a Disadvantage? June 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 10:45 am

It’s quite possible that I have a biased opinion or that I’ve never cared to hear about the white’s side of the story, whichever it is I cannot find any sympathy for them. So when I hear people whining about how they are worse off now than during apartheid or that it’s hard to find jobs because they are now given to people who don’t deserve it sends chills up my spine. While there may be some truth to these statements, they hold no real value in my eyes. If you look at the houses in Claremont, Rondebosch, or Wynberg and compare them to the shacks that the majority of the population lives in Khayelitsha then there is no real way that one could convince me that they are in any way at a disadvantage. What I gathered from the driver to Constantia is that to him, it no longer matters the race but rather the competence that one has to perform whatever task is at hand. However, if education, opportunities and knowing the right people gives you the competence that is desired than it is clear that the blacks from the townships already have a slimmer chance to gain the skills necessary to succeed. That’s why I don’t understand when these specific neighborhoods are called “previously advantaged or disadvantaged” because in my eyes the advantages that the neighborhoods bring haven’t changed only the right to change neighborhood is the difference. Although I still don’t have sympathy for the white population here in South Africa, after talking with our driver, I am now aware that 1) not all white people are Afrikaans and 2) not all white people voted for the Nationalist Party. This is an important distinction to make if for no other reason than to remind myself not to make generic assumptions.


What is Youth Day? June 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 4:58 am

June 16 is a national holiday in remembrance of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. June 16, 1976 students took to the streets to protest the Afrikaans Medium Degree which required that schools be taught in Afrikaans. To you and I this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing but because these black schools mother tongue is in languages like Xhosa, it was another way to keep them at a disadvantage. To the student’s protesting, Afrikaans stood for the language of oppression.  The Afrikaners felt like they were God elected people and made to lead the blacks. According to them, the blacks did not deserve an education system similar to whites. They were also meant to do was of a lower class than whites so therefore the education was inferior.

If Youth Day is meant to remember those who fought and lost their lives on June 16, but what does it mean today? According to some younger kids, it’s just another day off school and they love it for that reason. Even for young adults it just seems to be a day to dress in school uniforms and congregate together at taverns. If it’s a day meant to be proactive about the government and education rights, then why aren’t more youth involved? I only saw a day of partying rather than participating. Has the South African youth forgotten about their past or have they become indifferent? The youth is a driving force for any country and especially since the majority of South Africa’s population is under 35, youth takes on an even more important role. Are not enough people telling their struggles of apartheid? Or are people not willing to listen anymore? Either way their seems to be a gap in youth activism and willingness to stand up for their rights today, while during apartheid the youth were essentially what lead to the demolishment of apartheid. Something needs to spark activism in the youth if any positive changes are to be made.


How to get from point A to B. June 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 1:24 pm

Who knew life would be so hard without having a car? One thing I’ve noticed is how difficult it is just to get around, while sure you have a few options but none seem to be perfect, most effective or most convenient. You of course have your taxis, which like in the US will take you wherever you need to go whenever but for a cost. This is probably the most expensive but quickest and easiest way of getting around town. Taxis are also best for going out and about at night too. You have you metro or train system as well, this is most cost effective but as expected you have to wait for your specific train to drop you of kind of near your destination. Trains can also be very crowded. Once I was even the one hanging out of the door to get into town! These rails were obviously not made for tourist or nightlife and instead for the working class, because during the weekends the trains do not run as often or late into the night. You also have the option of the mini-buses. This is the cheapest way to get around, if you don’t mind over crowded mini-vans and crazy driving. We’ve also been warned about the mini-buses and their gang affiliations and that if you don’t abide by these unwritten rules, hand signals or what else you could end up in some trouble. While I have used all these methods of transportation, I am not completely satisfied by any, taxis are expensive, the trains are slow and mini-buses are a little unsafe. So what’s a girl to do when she just wants to get to the next neighborhood over for a workout or a change of scenery?

Yet for the average citizen here cars are extremely expensive, and most cannot afford them let alone all the upkeep that comes with cars as well as putting gas in the tank. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult day to day travel to work and home from the townships can be. Not only would a lot of walking be involved but other a good portion of the little salary that they make in town goes towards getting them to and from work every day, 7 days a week. Everything here still seems to stem from the apartheid era and makes it so that the blacks in the township are totally inconvenienced and therefore can’t even begin to change their situations. The National Party knew that by uprooting them from their homes, forcing them outside the city, not providing a proper education for them among many others that it would keep that portion of the population down and inferior to them.


Table Mountain June 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 2:49 pm

During apartheid blacks were forcefully removed and uprooted from their homes and placed in townships outside of the city in the Cape Flats. Here where the land was flat, it was not desirable for whites to live in. With the moving to townships, the people had to spend an extra expense just to get to and from work into the city, add in not being paid very much period, children to feed and all other expenses life can be a day to day struggle.

Imagine being a child and not having the funds just to go into town so literally where you grow up is pretty much all you know. As a child, my family and I were always going into Lexington for dinner or Cincinnati for entertainment. I couldn’t imagine just being solely in my neighborhood everyday out of the year. The kids that I work with in Philippi are the same way, their families don’t have enough to go into town or take trips and that is why the chance to go to Table Mountain with BEEP is so incredible. BEEP gives kids the opportunity not only to learn about the environment and how to take care of it, but also about themselves. For one, getting to go to the mountain alone is something their other pupils aren’t able to do and then secondly, they gain confidence in the hard work it takes to climb the mountain. Today we took the Silvermine trail. It was a tough climb with steep slopes with rock and sand terrain. When we reached the top there was the most magnificent view of Hout Bay and by getting there together, we could all share in the joy of that accomplishment. The trail down was equally if not more challenging with winding downward slopes with wobbling rocks of all sizes. As we reached the bottom however, we had lunch on Hout Bay beach on the most beautiful afternoon one could ask for.

The kids not only realize that they are lucky to get out even if only for the day but they are also grateful for the chance to do so. I believe that they also know that their self worth and esteem is truly growing as well as their ability to work together to accomplish their goals.


Townships on Display May 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — kimberlynicholas @ 11:25 am

I was extremely apprehensive about taking a tour of the townships. After spending so much time in Phillipi and getting to know the people around there it got me to thinking about what it’s like for people living there to have busses full of white people come and take pictures. Knowing that white people are coming by to see how “the other half” lives and how miserable their situations must be just puts me off. I was afraid that it would be considered disrespectful and replicate animals in a zoo kind of exhibit. Like here on our left is the watering hole and on the right you will see the gorillas.

However, I think this tour was very successfully done and mostly because of the connections that Sally has made with the people living there along with the personal tour guide who has grown up there. While because of rain keeping us in the bus for a while, along with the group of us 12 white people I still felt that we were being shown something unnatural. All of my worries stop at Mzansi. Here I got the real feeling of acceptance and welcoming of tourists. Where we are providing to their economy and they are absolutely ecstatic to give us a glimpse of their culture. By teaching us of to play the marimbas and showing us a dance it was a welcoming into their lives.

The most amusing part is that I was so afraid of them feeling like they were on display that I almost didn’t realize that in fact I was. Always while driving around with Lindela he makes a comment on how I’m a celebrity and people stop and stare. One specific example was at a primary school when I was sitting in the passenger side and a little boy just walks right up to my window and stares at me until I turned my head. At that moment then he scampered away. Again it happened while walking around today, it’s almost like they were looking at us as being unnatural than the other way around.