Sense of Place

The experience I am having here in South Africa is effecting me in ways that I never expected or imagined. I have moments where I feel like I am watching myself grow and connect the pieces of my inner being that have long been diminished by a large amount of stress and sadness. I am just being here and finding a sense of belonging in this place. I am developing a sense of place and it’s amazing.

I’m not sure that I can find the words for what the FlatFoot Dance experience has been for me so far. Having felt like the odd-kid out in most of my classes, I was feeling a little bummed that I had not begun to make South African friends yet. But then came this amazing opportunity in FlatFoot. Walking into the studio that day, I felt myself recognize an inner sense of peace. Dance is a universal language. In my classes I had observed separation and segregation by color and languague, but here, in this studio, there was every shade and shape of bodies hugging and conversing as they stretched together. I was welcomed by new faces curious about my accent and my dance background. I felt myself breathe. I left the first round of auditions feeling stronger and was able to recognize that great amount those two hours of dancing did in reigniting my passion and energy about being here in South Africa. Receiving the news that I had been called back for the second round of auditions only furthered that sense of belonging. I found something to belong to.  The second round of auditions was taught by a Khumalo, a full-time company member, his movement was very different than Lliane’s (the artistic director of FlatFoot). After a truly exhausting warm-up, Khumalo had us dancing to live drums and connecting to the earth with a release of all technique that we are commonly told to hold onto. I found myself feeling so grateful for the time that I have studied African dance in the past and especially at Hobart and William Smith. Never had I imagined having the privilege of actually being a dancer here.

Our second week of FlatFoot was taught by a guest artist from Oxford, England. She worked with us on developing our stability and sense of strength through contact improvisation. We spent our class times touching complete strangers and learning to trust this new group that we now are a member of. Note to self: there is no better way to learn trust than through complete abandonment of the personal bubble and taking the risk of letting someone take your weight. This week we said goodbye to our lovely guest artist and danced a full class last evening with Lliane. We concluded this week with being given our placements for our choreographic works that we will perform May 2-4 here in Durban. I have been put into a quartet with Bhekani, Palesa, and Ayanda and we will be working with Sifiso Majola. I cannot wait! What FlatFoot has already given me, more than anything, is confidence. Confidence in my strength and my body. Confidence in my self and my potential. And most of all – Confident in my ability to belong. 

Don’t worry – I am still going to classes and keeping up my academic work here at UKZN Howard! In fact, I actually wrote my first test on Monday morning for my Religion, Migration and Urbanization class. I really enjoy that class and our readings. I am finding that I am able to connect not only my previous work with Refugees and Immigrants in the United States with this class, but also my own temporary and voluntary migration to South Africa. Often times, Professor Ebrahaim will point me out as an example to the class as being a “voluntary migrant who has sought out [South Africa] to teach her something”. Which is true! The class is also helping me define why it is that I felt a need to come to South Africa for six months.. It’s a work in progress – more coming. 

I’m also loving my Applied Anthropology class. The class is a third-year level course which means that all of the other students in the module will be receiving their degrees this year. We are focusing on Anthropology of Policy and Anthropology in Policy at the time being with Professor Jagganath. I even volunteered to do a presentation this week on a particular reading – and it went great! I am finding myself feeling a lot of gratitude toward the education I have had at HWS that has prepared me to be a good student. At times, reading these massive policy documents can be ridiculously daunting, but I am able to connect what I have learned at HWS, as well as here at UKZN with yet another field of Anthropology. 

Finally, my Linguistics class. I was rather unenthused about taking a first year level course but thought it would be good to take a course that was outside of my discipline in Anthropology. To my surprise, I am actually really enjoying the class. It is taught by four different professors who each specialize in a field of Linguistics (ie: Social, Corpus, Historical, Neuro, Psycho, etc). It is a giant lecture, but I find myself being able to really connect to the discussion of language, power, culture and international connect-ability.  I made the mistake of speaking in class one day, and now the lecturer never hesitates to ask for my “american perspective” and accent to be heard in class. The only difficult thing about the class is that the lecturers will often use Zulu as examples of grammatical competence and syntax which completely goes over my head. But I was told by a new friend in the class that it’s actually like that for most of the non-Zulu students anyway! Phewph!

The unexpected blessing of the week came when I found out that I was actually over enrolled here at UKZN and would have to drop a class in order to avoid being charged a ridiculous amount of fees. Without hesitation I have decided to drop my Oral and Written Sacred Texts course which really just doesn’t do anything for me. The lecturer reads directly from the slides and will spend the majority of class time speaking to us about how he is a pastor and we should all convert to Christianity… For those of you who know me so well, you know that that is the kind of stuff that just doesn’t float my boat. So yay! I get to drop it!

I had begun to feel a little restless here on campus by the middle of this week. But going to dance class last night and now eagerly packing my backpack to head to St. Lucia for the weekend has brightened my mood. It may sound crazy… but I am actually really feeling at home here. But I cannot wait to go on an adventure and see all of the Maritzburg girls so soon!!! We’ll be going on Safari tomorrow in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and then Sea Kayaking with Crocodiles on Sunday! Keep your fingers crossed that I come home with the same number of limbs! Pictures and stories to follow, I’m sure!

Love to you all! 


3 thoughts on “Sense of Place

  1. You bring a tear of happiness for you to my eye and make my spirit soar! I can’t wait to see the pics from your adventures with the Crocs and Safari! Love!

  2. Fabulous update!! It feels like your whole experience in Durban is “contact improv” — bursting your personal bubble, opening to difference, risking trust, throwing your whole body into it…with just the right amount of crazy!!! So very cool. ❤

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