By the time I post this I will have finished my fourth and final homestay. I have gone from a black township, to a rural Xhosa village, to a white Afrikaner family in wine-country, to a Cape Malayan Muslim family in Bokaap. Each experience has been incredibly rewarding in completely different ways. Each has provided me with a new way of life and way of thought. Learning the insides of each culture- everything from the religion to the ingredients used in the kitchen. One common thread runs through them all: the great importance of family. The South African families that have welcomed me into their homes have showed me the significance of communicating, loving and helping family and friends.
My fourth homestay in Bokaap gave me the opportunity to see a whole new world inside of Cape Town. My family was constantly changing in size depending on the day- family members came and went throughout the day and night. My mama and papa taught me how to make chicken curry, a staple dish of the Cape Malay population. We spent our evenings preparing food, playing cards and chatting about life in SA. They showed me their lifestyle in Bokaap, while I in turn told them about American traditions and pass-times.
Bokaap is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill, just a few minutes walking distance from the center of town. Each afternoon was left free to explore the city… which were spent dipping in and out of markets and cafes in the city. We took an afternoon to get lost in the botanical gardens, and an evening to climb lion’s head and watch the sunset. Both which provided spectacular views and peaceful moments in nature.
This week I moved into a house with 5 incredible girls to begin our independent research projects. We have a month to conduct research through interviews and participatory observation on a variety of topics. I am focusing on students’ ambitions for higher education in the townships, versus their limited reality. I will be looking at what students believe about higher education and what the township schools are doing to improve their students’ access in furthering their education.
It should be a very interesting study. Our house is just up the hill from the city, giving us a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. The day we moved in also happened to be my 21st birthday. And in true a true South African fashion, we quickly made ourselves at home and had a few friends over to celebrate the occasion. After a few ciders, a birthday box, a surprise or two, friends from Vandy and friends anew, and a few more drinks to follow… it totaled with a night I won’t soon forget.