Monday, June 30, 2008

First day at TSiBA

Today was our first day of “classroom” sessions with the TSiBA students. In the morning we are going to spend a few hours learning then the rest of the afternoon out in the field working on our projects with the local entrepreneurs.

A little about TSiBA- all the students of TSiBA are on full scholarship. They passed a test called “matric” that all SA students have to take in 12th grade. Because of their financial problems (many live in the townships), they weren’t able to afford to go to a big university. TSiBA is a 4 yr newly accredited school where you graduated with a bachelors degree in BA.

Overall, the TSiBA students were shocked at the fact that we don’t live with our parents. They are all very close knit and could never fathom moving out at their age. Although they were the same age as us, they told us we seemed very mature. They were in awe at the price of eduation that we pay. To put it in perspective, at a local art market in the township, there was this one wire/statue that costs 250 rand. I then asked him how long it took to make it and he said one week. Again, if 1 usd = 7 rand, his weekly wage is about $35. Also, after asking the students if it was normal to see cockroaches in your room, they were horrified and I realized its not a normal thing to see in a 4 star hotel! (phew!)

They speak 3 major languages in Africa and at TSiBA. One is English, the other is Afrikan, and the last is called Kosa (sp?). Kosa has clicks in their words. I never knew how you would spell some of the sounds and it is very interesting to see. We tried a beer in the township that was called (click) uma. Some of the letters represent different types of clicks. One of the students is going to give us a lesson later.

Next, the projects that we are going to be working on- the entrepreneurs came in to present to us about their businesses or their ideas. Below are who presented:

Siseko: Wants to start a gym in the Langa township that has boxing, tredmills, etc.

Diane: (an optometrist) Want to bring Retinal Screening to treat blindess due to diabetes into townships

Karen: Started Izikoll which is a paper/art+crafts/stationary business and a literacy program (

Annalisa Creations: Started a sewing business that makes custom products. Works out of a garage in the back of the building

Gugu S’Thebe: A center in the Langa township where local arts work & sell (pottery, arts, beads, etc. Microsoft even donated 15 computers for the center.

Londolozani Orchids: Working to sell the orchids overseas or to the wealthy SA’s

ProTeam SA: Operates tours for the ‘township experience’- focused around being fun. Marketing to wealthy, white schools and tourists.

Scary moment

This morning, when I was getting dressed in the bathroom, my roommate started yelling… I ran out to see an African cockroach on our mirror. I yelled as well, jumped on the bed, threw my shoes on, then ran down the hall and knocked on a boys room to come capture it for us. It was a successful capture. This African roach was unlike any bug I had encountered back home. Even my roommate (my bug catcher) would have been freaked out.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Township Tour: Langa

Today started out by missing my alarm clock and waking up 4 minutes before breakfast ended. I ran to get something to eat and then got ready in 35 seconds. When we met outside to get on the bus to go one of the townships, our driver called and found out we were going to a township. He then refused to being us there. We were stuck without a ride for the next 2 hours where we went on a little walking tour around our hotel (see pictures).

We then caught our bus to go to Langa. Langa is one of the largest townships in Cape Town. There are only two entrances into this township. The only thing I can compare a township to is an Army Base. It is a community inside of Cape Town… a very poor community with high HIV rates. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in there, so a lot of mine are pretty unclear because I took them in the bus or without a flash. The pictures I posted are the “wealthy” side of the townships if you can believe. I didn’t take pictures of the poorest pasts. There were actually some points on the tour I was scared. Our tour guide lived in the township and we even got to view his house. His house was about 3 small rooms that he shared with 13 brothers and sisters.

We went to a little community center/market within the township and got to visit a traditionally pottery maker. I bought a plate from him as well as some other small things from the local artists. We then went to a “traditional healer”. He was located in a little shack in Langa that smelt like millions of dead animals. This might have been because there were millions of dead animals hanging from the ceiling and laying around the room. There are some pictures from inside the hut that I posted (sorry if there are no descriptions under the pics… I don’t get very long internet access).

Next, we took a walking tour of some of the poorest parts of Langa. I wasn’t able to take many pictures of this. We got to go into one “house”. To explain what it was like, this of a suite dorm room. Each family has there own small room with one bed. This is for the whole family. The walls are cement and the floor in cement. There is one sink, broken windows, and a small picnic bench. There is a stove with 2 burners (that im not sure even worked?), is a side room a woman was boiling water over a flame. Since it was Saturday, there were a lot of children outside. One boy even came up and grabbed my hand as well as another girl I am with and started doing flips.. he then insisted on hitting us in the head with his empty water bottle! In the walking tour we went down a little side alley and went to an African Beer House. This is where you pay a small fee and can sit in that house all day, in a circle with the others, and pass around a large metal bucket of beer. We got to join in a circle and try some of their traditional beer. It tasted like yeast and I’m not sure how many germs I got from drinking from that bucket!

After the beer house, we walked past a lady who was roasting lamb heads on a fire. She cuts them in half and then sells them as a snack. As hungry as I was at that time, I couldn’t pull myself to buy one.

Overall, the day was AWESOME. The township is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It was also, at times, one of the scariest things I have ever done. The people of Langa are the nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I tried to relate them to the poor people we see in Boston and it makes those people in the states more rude and disrespectful that you can think of. Not one time in the townships did people try to beg us for money. Not one time did anyone yell out any inappropriate comments to us. Here we were a dozen American’s in their expensive jeans walking past these people who can’t even afford meals.. and they were all welcoming and even smiling at us.

It sounds cliché, but it really makes you take for granted what we all have in the states! Again, the pictures are really great to look at, but forgive me for not giving explanation for any of them. If I find myself with enough internet time, I’ll come around to the explanation. The internet is even so slow, I don’t know if im going to be able to upload them. It’ll be a surprise.

first night

Mostly to explain some of the pictures I took… we went out to the main street to get some dinner later on the first night. For a party of about 10 people, our bill only came to about $80 american dollars. It’s about $1.50-$2 a beer here. One of the bars even has a special of 1Rand Shots. (to put it in perspective… $1 = about 8 rand). Anyways, some of the pictures you see are of that night and the next morning when we took a little walking tour around our hotel)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

We made it!

The 9 hr portion of the flight goes by much faster when you can lay down flat and get champagne constantly served to you!

We got to our hotel and its very nice. Its too bark outside to really see around, but it seems pretty centrally located. It’s called the Townhouse Hotel if you feel like googling it. Some of the TSiBA students were at the airport to meet us when we arrived. They were all VERY nice and seemed excited to work with us.

I sat next to a girl on the plane who grew up in Cape Town and now works in NYC and her BF lives in Cambridge. She told me about all the things I have to do in while I’m here and pointed out some things while we were landing. Landing in Cape Town was BEAUTIFUL. We could see Table Mnt and the ocean. The girl explained to me how Cape Town is either very wealthy or very poor… there isn’t really an in between. The airport was right in between the wall where the poverty starts the well-off Cape Town. The poor section was basically just shacks made out of aluminum. It was nothing like I have ever seen before. The few hours we were in Dakar (we stayed on the plane the whole time) next to the airport and around the city from what I could see through my window was quite a sight. It was all cement homes without glass windows.
Right now its about 9pm here in Cape Town and I’m about to go venture out to find dinner. I’m going to attempt to upload a few pics, so we’ll see if that work. Tomorrow we have planned to go on a walking tour with some TSiBA students around the township that we will mainly be working in. My roommate, Emma, and I are going to try to attempt to fix the internet in our room. Right now we cant get it working and we have to run down to the lobby to send emails.

Half way there

We flew from Boston to NY this morning, and then had mass chaos before the flight to Dakar then on to Cape Town. They had over booked the flights by about 50 people. One of the girls in our group didn’t get on, and now has to spend an extra night in NY. This boy from my group and I were assigned the same seat and when we went to fix it, they upgraded me to first class.. row 1! :o) He ended up sitting up there from NY to Dakar and I am sitting there from Dakar to Cape Town. Free drinks the whole time and reclining chairs. Awesome.

Right now I’m sitting in Dakar on the plane as we stop and get gas as well as pick up some other people. It’s another 8 hour 20 min flight from here. I watched Fool’s Gold so far and then took some sleeping pills and passed out the rest of the way to Dakar.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Almost time!

Welcome! 5 more days until we depart from Boston to New York to Dakar, Senegal to Cape Town, South Africa arriving there on July 28.

Incase you don't know about the trip.... "The program consists of both field work, and academic study. The field work consists of team consulting projects, in which you will work with students from our partner institution, to support entrepreneurs in the disadvantaged townships surrounding Cape Town. The academic components consists of two courses that prepare you for, and build upon, your field work." NU is giving us a little over $15,000 to invest in these businesses and leave with our partner school in Cape Town. (info on the school go to

We were assigned our projects we will be working on while we are there. Myself, some of the TSiBA students (the school we're working with), and another girl from NU are going to be working on starting/organizing/funding the iKapa Dance School. I don't know much about this besides the fact that they are trying to start a ballet school, the first one you would find in a township, and they are looking for us to help them with everything from a writing a formal business plan to helping with their investor presentation. There is an article about it at this website-

While I'm there, I'll be updating this blog, uploading pictures, and have access to my email (