A week ago today I was facing what felt like endless delays at Dulles Airprot. Now, a week later – I am amazing by how far I have come, both physically and emotionally.
We finally arrived in Durban on Friday evening. We had dealt with our fights being cancelled twice from Dulles and then being transferred through Atlanta to board our long (and terrifyingly turbulent) flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Having arrived in Johannesburg with 6 friends later, Tahmina, Bisola, and I waited for our bags in Jo-Burg as we anticipated their arrival on a flight from Dulles that arrived an hour after we did. Seeing our bags come off on that belt was a huge relief. We then scrambled to get through the massive Jo-Burg airport in hopes of catching our connecting flight to Durban. Of course that was not as easy as we had hoped… We had to run through the airport to re-check our bags and recieve our boarding passes for our flight. Luckily our flight to Durban was delayed so we were able to make it to our gate with ample time. The heat of our terminal was shocking at first, but each of us was so relieved to finally be in South Africa that it barely phased us. The flight to Durban was short and we arrived early to the small Durban airport… but of course our bags did not do the same… We eneded up having to wait in the Durban airport for our bags to arrive a few flights after us. Walking out into the arrival lounge with a feeling of triumph, we were overjoyed to be greeted by Anita and Sihle from InterStudy with big smiles and hugs. The perfect welcome to Durban.
We arrived on the campus of Howard College late at night. Each of us have been placed in John Bews Hall, an all womens res. Our rooms are comfortable singles with beds, desks, drawers, shelves, pinboards, chairs, closets, and sinks! It is very humid here so we are still adjusting to the sticky Durban life. Anita and Sihle had made our beds and left us a plentiful amount of snacks. They helped us register and load our new South Africa phones (only the finest and most simple Nokias!) We each went to our rooms and began “settling” in. I pulled my clothes our of my over-stuffed bags and began to separate them into piles.. I quickly began to feel my eyes grow heavy and let myself drift to sleep in my new room.
We woke up the next morning to strange bird noises and a group of woment speaking in Zulu. I felt surprisingly refreshed and made my way to our hall bathroom. Since we were the only students in John Bews, the hot water was yet to be turned on… cold showers for everyone!
We then went through the InterStudy Orientation with Anita, Sihle, and Nj. We covered everything from South Africa culture, to safety on campus and in Durban. I left the meeting feeling hopeful and prepared to go through this experience. We then went to the beach front and had a late lunch at Joe Cools – a famous Durban gastro stop. I had a delicious Thai Yellow Currywith Prawns (shrimp) It was a great day, and I was feeling comfortable already. However, I was definitely having a tough time adjusting to “South African Time”. Here, people move at a slow pace and have no worries when it comes to being late for commitments and meetins with others (for example, we were supposed to meet at 9:30 this morning and found ourselves waiting until 10:15 to actually meet with others- crazy!)
On Sunday, we met up with the other InterStudy girls from Maritzburg (including all of my loved ones from William Smith!!). We met them and joined them on a “township tour” through KwaMashu where we visited famous sites of Ghandi and John Dube. I had my first South Africa been (a Castle) at a township pub where we socialized with locals and danced with adorable children. It was amazing to witness how much of a universal language that dance truly is in the world. After that we went to our first South African “braii” which is their “Barbeque”. Essentially, a “braii” is a feast of freshly grilled meet and Pap (a corn based, mashed-potato texture, favorite of South Africans). It was an incredible food experience as we ate with our hands and were told the different types of meat we were now enjoying. I really like Pap, too! I am hoping someone will teach me how to make it while I am here. After lunch we came back to Durban and visited the town hall, then back to Howard to say our goodbyes. It was soooo good to see my William Smith ladies..
Tahmina, Bisola and I split up for the night, exhausted by the days adventures… But then Sihle came by and asked if I’d be interested in going out to watch the South Africa vs. Morocco Afcon game at a local bar called Zacks. I though to myself – “this is it!” and got ready for my first night out in Durban. Bisola joined us and we had a great time watching South Africa dominate Morroco while enjoying Savannah Dry (a hard cider). Then Sihle and his friends took us to “Chill” an all black Karaoke/Dance club on the beach front, where I faced – for the first recognizable time – being a true outsider and the only white person in an entire club. Funny enough, that is not when culture shock hit me. I had a blast dancing with Bisola, and Sihle and his friends who teased me about my white dance-moves and attempted to teach me some more appropriate ones. Bisola and I then took a metered cab back to campus, where we arrived safely and quickly went to sleep.
On Monday we went to the Pavillion (the mall) hoping to open bank accounts at ABSA – with no success. So we (Sihle, Tahmina, Bisola and I) had a lovely lunch at Piatto in the mall. I had my second South African beer (a Windhoek Draft) and a Bacon-Cheddar Burger with Chips (fries). The burger was good and satisfied my craving but I was shocked by the taste of the bacon and the Tomato Sauce which replaces the spot of Ketchup on most South African tables. We went back to the grocery store and bought food to cook for dinner with Sihle (bowtie pasta with a homemade bolognese sauce of ground beef and vurst! I also made glazed brown-sugar-ginger-carrots which he did not like). We had great conversations about our family backgrounds, the schools we attended, and our expereinces with race in our countries. We(InterStudy girls) are each struggling to adjust here in very different ways as Bisola’s family is Nigerian, Tahmina’s family is from Bangladesh, and I am as white as a ghost. We get quite the funny looks as we walk around Durban… people can’t seem to understand how three girls from three different race groups (in South Africa there are 4 – white, black, coloured, and indian) seem to be getting along and actually be friends…
I have been dealing with a lot of frustration when comes to technology and staying in touch with family and friends. I can’t seem to get WiFi on my laptop, and the phone communication has to be kept short since there are such high fees for international calls. I am very grateful that the Maritzburg girls are only a phone call away though…
On Tuesday we ventured back to ABSA to once again fail at opening bank accounts so Bisola and have agreed to tough it out with our American cards. We then came back to Howard and the three of us had Tomato-Cheese Sandwhiches at the “Black Caf” on campus (yes, there is also a “white caf”). We were happy to successfully navigate our around campus a little. We then sat in Anita’s office as we hammered out class registration details and madea game plan for the next day. After splitting up for “prone period” we ventured to Davenport Road and had dinner at Olive and Oil, a mediterranean restaurant, where I ordered Camambert Cheese Phyllo Parcels and a Gnocchi smothered in a rich cream sauce with butternut squash and wlnuts. It was a wonderful dinner with great company (Anita and Sihle).
Finally we have arrived at today! Today we pre-registered for classes and ran around campus asking for signatures from each of the departments which we were hoping to take classes in. This is an incredible large campus… I’m not sure I’ll ever see every part of it. After collecting the autographs of many kind faculty members, Bisola, Tahmina and I decided to take our first trip to the Pavilion by ourselves. We were on the hunt for hangers and fans for our rooms. Now let me preface this with a statement – the Pavillion is ENORMOUS. It has positive and negative floors… So we got lost. But we eventually made it back to campus with arms full of school supplies and fans to help cool off our rooms -Success! Anita was quite proud of us. We also met two girls from Canada who arrived late last night and have no program guiding them through the transition here. They are very sweet and we cannot wait to get to know them better!
Ok, so I’ve written the longest blog post ever… sorry! Hopefully everyone reading will feel relieved to know that I am alright and happy here… Hopefully I will finally be able to hammer out this WiFi mess tomorrow so I can update this more reguraly. Check out the “Images” page for a few pictures!! Love to you all!!