Thursday, July 29, 2010

Someone's ear is in danger of having hair brushed over it...

This was mostly written Tuesday...

I came home last night to a very animated discussion mid-swing between the 24-year-old Italian, incredibly devout Christian and the house father, a 60-something-year-old Muslim. Also, I think the Italian only recently had major revelations about God after his girlfriend of 6 years didn’t want to get married. But I merely got the gist of that from the others. I ate and then joined my two French roommates in our room where the door only mostly closes, but it didn't really matter, since they were just outside the door anyway.

We tried to quietly do our own thing but I finally started laughing because it was ridiculous. It was pissing Julia off because she went to church with the Italian the other day and he is an especially obnoxious breed who lectures and judges. She smokes and he went off about how hard it was for him to watch her smoke because she’s killing herself and he wants to help her—you get the idea. She, on the other hand, considers herself a believer but really loathes that sort.

I laughed and said I’m sorry, but it’s people like that who have actually made me anti-religious. Maud leaned down from the top bunk and high-fived me. Maud is usually so quiet but she definitely has her opinions.

I think after another hour they stopped. Thank fuck.

Yet another day of no internet. And yet I have acquired a fourth case passed off from Scottish Andy who leaves today. It’s an incredibly depressing case but just involves finding shelter for this guy and his brother. I won’t go into what this guy has been through, but he is a refugee from Rwanda, with a Tutsi and Hutu parent each, neither of whom survived. And that’s just the beginning. But it’s really hard to find shelters because of their age difference and the fact they are male—the shelters are very full and they can’t be separated.

Ok, I’m back in my shitty dive bar. I like this place because I can work on wifi and they have outlets. And no work people come here. I think it’s because it’s a hole in the wall that’s really hard to find it. I found it accidentally. I do like the people I work with, but I also quite like to not see them every second of the day.

Today I had to walk up to the main office to use their net and phones. So I did get some stuff done. I walked instead of taking the minibus. I haven’t been doing things like HIKING TABLE MOUNTAIN, as some people have, but I also feel like I’ve not been getting ANY exercise, so that made me feel a tiny bit better. Of course, the beer I’m having now is totally contradicting any good that did. But considering that it was sort of a shit day content-wise, you bet your ass I’m havin’ these beers.

Ok, it’s Thursday. I have no idea where the week has gone, but it has been so unproductive at work. Not having internet or phones will do that. A bunch of us moved to the other office and I went upstairs to use the phone in the journalism office. The journalism office was mildly chatty, there are only about eight of them in there. By the time I got done with my first phone call, yeah, they were totally silent. I almost giggled. It wasn’t an unpleasant conversation, but the contents of it certainly were (I was updating the husband of the woman who was sterilized). So I hogged their phone for the rest of the day, and I need to use it again today. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.

On a completely random note, I have noticed how much fun the language barrier can be. A couple examples:

French Anthony turning to British Aimee and asking, “What is ‘slap’?” But it was too easy to actually cave in and slap him.

French Emily turning around to British Liam, giving him a look and getting in response a cheeky, “Are those your bedroom eyes?” to which she laughed and asked, “’Bedroom eyes’? What is this?” I honestly don’t recall what he said, I so wish I could.

And in the same day, I had to explain to DM what “spontaneous” and “rim job” meant, but not in the same sentence luckily. As soon as he asked what it was, I so regretted having gone there! (We were discussing my having worked in a theater, just fyi.)

Ok, back to work...

Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.

Random pictures!

This is in the bathroom of my favorite Indian place in Newlands. And by favorite I mean it's the only one I know. But they have toilets like in Japan, so there's that. And this very helpful instruction sheet.

This is taken from the balcony of The Waiting Room on Long Street. Long Street in Cape Town is where all the bars are.

Ok, back to Robben Island...

So this is a better picture of the mats they used to have to sleep on, but as I said before, they did eventually get read beds put in.

I don't know what Santa has to do with anything.

The outside. Oh, and the bad references to The Rock are because officially only one person has ever escaped. One poor bastard escaped and got across the bay and everything, only to get picked up as soon as he got to the other side.

I think A and B sections are the single cells. The other cells are like the big room, which house about 30 people.

This was Nelson Mandela's cell.

The prison on Robben Island was used for maximum security political prisoners, and while it didn't seem too maximum-security-ish, I guess the whole being on an island thing is kind of a big part of that.

The outside, it is not very charming.

On the way back to the ferry, I spotted this guy. All alone. Yes, it's a penguin. I have no idea why he's there. And we saw him blink, so he is real.

No idea where the boardwalk was, but I guess he got separated?

So this is Julia, from France. She leaves this weekend, which makes me sad.

Julia does not like having her picture taken.

After we got off the boat and back to the waterfront, this was going on. It was really neat.

Not a bad view.

Then Julia and Paolo went off to church. She had asked if I wanted to go, so I asked, "Are you going, like, sightseeing, or are you like, going to church?" It was the latter, so I abstained and found a crappy restaurant instead.

I wanted to try one place that had authentic South African food, I had even settled on the leg of impala (!), but they were closed for a private party. Grr.

So I went to this Paulaner Haus type place...

The beer was the only good thing about it.

But before it got dark I took a couple more pics...

It's hard to see, but this is a shop that sells vuvuzelas. My life has been plagued by vuvuzelas since Sweden. They blow them here during the World Cup...the first time I saw a match on TV in Sweden, I asked what was wrong with the sound. And got my answer. It sounds like a swarm of bees when they're all going off during the match. It's like someone won a contest for coming up with the most annoying thing anyone could possibly do during a match. And yet, they have sort of grown on me by now...

Table Mountain!

I have not ridden the ferris wheel. It can't be better than the one Alex and I rode in Tokyo!

This is the clock tower, and it's the big meeting point where our drives come get us.

Nighttime! I was alone but there was security around, and after I ate I called CA, who sent one of her drivers to get me.

Now I just have random pics left...this is apparently the word for "handicapped" here, I see it all the time. I am pretty sure if you are handicapped in ways other than being paraplegic, you can still use the access. ;)

Oh, and this was the big cinema. DM and I saw the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. It wasn't even a little fun. Not even by accident. But Inception comes out this weekend, and I think we're going Saturday night. Very, very pumped.

This is the divey shithole near work that has outlets and wifi. This picture makes it look much brighter than it really is. I don't know if this is before or after, but the beer on the right may or may not be trapping a baby cockroach underneath.

The woman is CA, my regular driver. She's really cute, she calls everyone "my love" or "my pretty." Also, the A is short for my middle sister's full name, so even if she wasn't everyone's favorite driver I probably would have called her first anyway! The guy is one of my old roommates, this was his goodbye party. I only talked to him once or twice, he seemed nice. He was from Holland. (I guess he still is, lol. We were just remarking yesterday how after someone leaves it's like they died, everyone talks about them in the past tense.)

This was my American roommate Stefanie, who is also gone. Doesn't she look thrilled to be having her picture taken?

This is DM. Last night we went out for a beer with G...

...and this is G; she's from South Africa. So the three of us rented a movie and went back to her house. I recommended Zombieland, which was a tremendous hit with everyone. I'm sort of a big deal now. We also went through two bottles of G's homemade wine, it was really nice wine! After the movie, G and I sort of tipsily went back and re-watched all our favorite parts; G said, "I could seriously almost watch this again right now." (But we watched Black Adder instead until CA came to get DM and me.)

So now I have to go take more pictures!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome to the Rock, gentlemen.

City Hall. Did I mention City Hall? It's there. It's cool.

Waterfront jazz band!

I could go for some boat action.

This bridge MOVES. It goes back and forth across the water for pedestrians. Very cool and the pics don't really convey it. We had to wait for it to do so, so we could get to the departure area for Robben Island.

Robben Island was previously an island for lepers. This is the graveyard that remains.

Before you arrive at the prison, you can take pics of Table Mountain. It was a little misty that day, but this is the view that everyone uses for pictures of Table Mountain. They call it that because it's so flat on top. When it's cloudy, it looks like a tablecloth laying on top. Very neat.

Goin' inside.

Our guide was a former inmate, Jama. He was there from 1977-1982. This was a commoners cell that housed 30 people. There is a mat on the floor, and this is what people slept on. Mandela had a single cell, which I'll post another time.

This is the ID card (blown up, obviously) that prisoners had to have.

After several years, they got beds like these.

I will go into more detail later, but I'm exhausted and I gotta get home before I can't take the minibuses anymore. Cuttin' a little close tonight, but not worried. I have that bored, don't-fuck-with-me look down pat. It usually works. ;)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Does this look like fucking 24 to you?

Here is my little town! ;)

Actually, this is Cape Town. I took these pics Sunday, yesterday, as we made our way to the waterfront to Robben Island.

This is City Hall.

It's not bad here.

I can totally do this, too. What show-offs.

This is the train. Do not take the train after 7pm and on the weekends they come like, once an hour if you're lucky. Good times. I'll have to take some pics of the minibuses later...

I am currently at my dive bar because they have internet and an outlet. FTW. Our internet and phones have been down since Thurs. Makes it hard to work. I just got a new case involving medical malpractice, specifically forced sterilization. She speaks only a little English, no translation was provided to her and the hospital basically did this to her after she went through childbirth. I took the case over from someone in non-legal, so she was struggling with identifying and proving each element of medical negligence, so I am going to do that now and go over it with her tomorrow. She's leaving by the end of the week, so I get to take over.

I did not get to do Cape Point this past weekend because people suck. Actually, no, it was not a big deal. I ended up getting stuck in town because one of the drivers took two boatloads of volunteers back to the suburbs and asked, "Is that everybody?" And he said, "Yeah, we ran into lots of people tonight and I think everyone's back." WRONG! So CA (our usual driver and the one *everyone* calls) went to a party at 3 and I guess the other drivers shut off their phones. So at 3 when DM and I decide to head back, well guess what. NO ONE'S ANSWERING THEIR PHONES. Good. Times. I guess we could have negotiated with a regular cab in hindsight, but that makes me nervous. Once they get you in the cab they can change the fare, etc., and I'm just not a big fan, especially since DM would probably get dropped off before I would.

So we stayed at a cute little boutique hotel, it was really neat, actually. Each room is different and we had our choice of three. We opted to NOT choose the one with cubic art face designs on the wall. Kinda creepy, kwim? Ours had a bunch of record albums on the walls. It also had a book on the desk I wish I had noticed sooner--full of what prior people had written. But no one writes, "Neat room, had fun." They write weird stories, draw pictures or who knows what--and not always in English. It was also a reasonable rate to split considering how cute it was and how it was downtown Cape Town.

There are a ton of backpacker places around but I mistakenly thought those were hostel-style 8 to a room kinda thing. CA says they are not (when she picked us up the next morning, apologizing profusely) so maybe next time. HA, not. She also said that if we're ever in town after 1am from now on, just to text her and let her know we're still in town, so it won't happen again.

So hey, impromptu overnight in Cape Town, it was unexpected but interesting.

Just a couple more pics, because I am supposed to be working...but Sunday we did go to Robben Island. If you want to see Robben Island and some great shots of Cape Town, you should watch Good-bye, Bafana. We circulated the film around the office; it has Joseph Fiennes and Dennis Haysbert and came out in 2007; it's not bad. You can see where I was, it's pretty interesting. Acutally, the subject line is what one of the Brit guys said to someone asking if he was watching 24. It has Dennis Haysbert in it (who is the president in the first few seasons of 24), but come on!

The waterfront!

The ferry that took us. I barely survived the first trip sans-Dramamine. I only refrained because I am down to 2 and I have 2 flights left. I took one on the way back. I will look for more Dramamine or its equivalent later...

This is really cool. You can see how far I am from Boston! And how much closer the South Pole is...

Back to work...

Friday, July 23, 2010

One hell of a morning...has turned into a bitch of a day.

The internet and the phones are down. The internet goes down 1-3 times a day usually, from what I can tell. This one’s going on a bit long.

So my first case I was assisting others doing research for an advokat (I like writing it the Swedish way, been reading too much Stieg Larsson) regarding customary law. It’s really unpleasant fact-wise, involving a 13-year-old girl who was basically sold off by her uncle and grandmother to a 54-year-old man. She did not consent and he raped her repeatedly until she finally escaped. (I am unclear how long this went on.)

Now here’s the thing. SA has a really progressive constitution but it also recognizes customary law AND for fun, there are no choice-of-law rules, meaning where they conflict it’s basically a case-by-case decision, something for the judiciary. According to customary law, ukuthwala is the practice of abducting the bride. It’s hard to read about and not judge, but it’s SUPPOSED to be this romantic thing between two people of the same age who want to get married but can’t afford to or are trying to force the other’s parents. The man and his friends/family capture the woman, who protests and resists (because to do otherwise is disgraceful) but is secretly consenting. He does not have intercourse with her at that time (but I did find a wonderful article that states should he do so, in addition to the cattle he would exchange for her for lobola (bride payment), he would also be a fined one “seduction beast” as well. Having to pay a “seduction beast” is the best thing I have read all week), but then he goes to her family and there is a long negotiation for her lobolo, and it’s a chance for the two families to get to know each other.

So even though this is clearly a huge, egregious violation of constitutional rights, we have to prove that even under customary law, our facts show that customary law was not followed. It’s difficult but yesterday, I think I really found a case similar in its facts, so hopefully it will go well. The advocate thinks it will go to the next higher court and then to the Constitutional Court, so that’s pretty fucking cool.

My two new cases are far less sexy than a con law case, just one I took in today that is really more of a social justice issue (but I met with the client and you don’t know what the problem is til you talk to them!) involving refugee status and his inability to find work or accommodations. A second case got handed off to me involving landlord/tenant rights. The person who handled the case before me not only did not have English as their first language, they also seem to think it would be far more fun to leave out crucial information as well as contradict themselves (the landlord apparently does AND does not have power of attorney from her mother, awesome). But I can’t call to follow up because the phones are down.

I also can’t research landlord/tenant rights or call shelters to see which ones are near the waterfront.

So feeling a little useless at the moment. (I’m typing this in Word but hopefully by the time you’re reading this, it means quite clearly that my net has been restored, yay!)

It’s an hour later and the fucking net is still down. I’ve been passing the time by reading the research on the shared network for human trafficking. (I also just realized this coincides nicely with my reading of The Girl Who Played With Fire.)

Also, I would like to un-read what “necklacing” entails.

Last night we had a social event which was fairly decent. I got stuck at the kids’ table somehow—teens from 15 to 17 (sometimes 18) can come for two weeks, hence they get dubbed “the two week specials,” no doubt due to the double meaning one could give the word “special.” I did feel a little weird knocking back beers around a bunch of Diet Cokes, but whatever. They weren’t so bad, I really just chatted with one girl from Somerset. She failed her driving test the first time, but unlike in the States, they have a really hard test! Not only are they driving a standard, but they have to parallel park between real cars and reverse around a corner(have you ever done this in real life? wtf?) and other bullshit trickery. I had to tell my sad little story about my parallel parking and the cones and the fail.

I’ve made perhaps even better friends from the main office, probably because they’re my age! I hung out mostly with C (the dangerous milkshake guy, I’ll just change it to DM) and G, a really neat woman who has lived here most of her life. (She even has a car and drives here, it’s wild.)They’re both a lot of fun to drink and joke with. The people in my office are great, too, but there are a bunch of them! There are 60 or so of us, though it will drop to 30 in 2 weeks. (I sense a correlation with the World Cup...)

It’s the next day and the goddamn net is still down. I may go to Koko’s after this, I think they have wifi. It’s a short day, we get off at 1. It may end up bein’ a REAL short day if they don’t get the frakking net up.

So yesterday I left fifteen minutes early since everyone else already left early and I had nothing to do with no access. I grabbed a couple beers at a dive even worse than the usual place. I kinda like dives though. Wasn’t too wild about the part where I trapped a baby cockroach under my empty beer bottle, but 8RA beers should tell you what kind of place to expect… (that’s almost exactly $1). A mostly toothless man who introduced himself as, “Rob, I’m a gambler here,” tried to chat me up, but I think he was really expecting/hoping me to be from Scotland.(Apparently he went there once.) I tried to explain I was working (technically just writing, but whatever). But wow, what a great intro, it was awesome. I texted DM to bitch about it and he said, “Try not to shatter his heart, he already barely has teeth.” So helpful.

Don’t know what I’ll do after 1…was thinking of going into Cape Town to wander near the station…but it’s cool and rainy out…could be good Toy Story 3 weather…

Interesting morning, too. I always catch the minibus with Christian, one of my flatmates who also works at the human rights office. So the minibuses usually seat 13 people or so, but the one we caught was empty. I took it because Christian was with me, but typically you don’t catch empties if you’re female (though to be fair I noticed this was one of the registered ones, so it probably was okay). But another guy got on then, too. Christian was sitting in front of me, facing away. This guy sat RIGHTNEXTTOME and a little too close, thanks. I moved a little, but I was against the window. I thought maybe I was just being paranoid, but it has been my experience that by the time you wonder if you’re being paranoid, you probably have good reason.

Sure enough, we get on the highway and he folds his arms and with the hand that is under his arm, starts sort-of-touching me. This is exactly the same shit that happened to me on the Boston red line one night. I did something different this time. I took out my cell phone and typed, “Fuck Off.” I was quite sure he could see it. I wasn’t above yelling at him or just simply STATING, “Fuck off,” but I figure they get one chance prior to public humiliation. And he behaved after that.

Ironically, I got the idea from the creep in Japan who texted, “Make love with me,” on his phone and showed it to me. So I’ve got my token awkward public transport moment for South Africa, done now. Christian thought it was hysterical…

Ok, I do know what I’m doing now. I am going home after I get some goddamn wifi at Koko’s, then I have to go back out to Cavendish Mall to change some of my Amex cheques. They have a financial center inside where it will be safe to exchange. (This is such a pain in the ass since it involves going all the way home.) I got invited to Cape Point tomorrow, which I’ve really been wanting to do but it’s a group thing since you get a driver for the day and get shown around. So we get picked up at 11 and then Sunday I’m going to Robben Island with my flatmate Julia and new flatmate (a 2-weeker) Paolo, who is Italian.

So I won’t have time this weekend to change money and I’ve gotten quite low. Someone has been spending too much money…and tonight DM and I are going in search of live music on the waterfront in Cape Town. Hard to balance sightseeing and savings, but when will I be back in SA? I am also quite excited to wear a new dress I bought (hmm, I can see how I’m low on funds); I found it when looking for my jacket, and really, it was only about $35 and it’s a totally fun swishy skirt dress. You would understand if you saw it, it’s comfy and fun. I genuinely want to go see live music, but I also really just want an excuse to wear my new dress. ;)

So today was still interesting because the guy in our office who has been working on Hope Africa got a speaker to come in, a guy who is fairly well-known in SA for being pro-active with education and awareness programs. The speaker was well-known already, but in 2005 he contracted HIV, so now he promotes awareness about it. Someone actually asked him if he knew how he contracted it, which I thought was sort of irrelevant and in poor taste, but he’s quite open about everything. (Sexual promiscuity with both sexes, fyi.) But he showed us all his medication and vitamins (quite impressive) and talked about the ignorance of the people in rural parts (he is Xhosa…the Xhosa language is one of those super cool ones with the clicks in it). Condoms may be provided just about everywhere, but they have to educate, because people still don’t use them. He said people always tell him sex is about flesh on flesh, “How can you eata lollipop with the paper still on?”

But our guy who works with Hope Africa is leaving Tuesday, so I could help take it over if I want. I don’t know what that entails, and it’s more of a social justice area, but it’s still one I’m interested it. We’ll see.

Ok, I emailed this to myself at Koko's (I seriously need a new battery, that thing lasts 30 mins max) so I could upload it at the internet cafe. Here's hoping the net's back up on Monday...Jesus Christ.

Time to go home and shower and nap. Plus it smells in here. Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Welcome to Hell-ton!

I have to write on Word, then copy and paste at work, so this may be slow going. ;) But here is a little from when I first got here, the first and second day, and a tiny bit of the third... (Also, apologies for the repetitions, it was written in pieces, clearly...)

Ok, so I will start writing here and then I can copy and paste if I ever get wifi access.

The airports were unreal in how easy they were, both Heathrow and Cape Town. At Heathrow there is a huge middle area with restaurants, shops and bars and a shit-ton of seats. This is where everyone waits, because the gates don’t get announced until 30-40 minutes before departure. You’d better pay attention, too, because the gates are anywhere from 15-25 minutes walking distance. WTF.

Cape Town immigration wasn’t too bad…she did question me a little since I’m there for 30 days, just made sure I had a return ticket, blah blah. I was met and he drove me to the house where I’m staying. It’s chillier inside than out because it’s sunny outside but not in here. The wife is N, she’s quite nice and I did not catch the husband’s name nor can I usually understand him. Awesome. There is also a baby who was introduced as “the baby.” I suspect it’s the eldest daughter’s (?) who I think is 21. Cute baby, in any case.

Our bedroom has two bunk beds. The girl who sleeps on the top bunk above me is M, she is from Leone, France, and teaches at the school down the street. I think she may be 20 tops. She’s also fairly quiet, okay a LOT quiet but I got her to show me the internet café.

I also met an American roommate who seems far more sociable (and is my age). When I was at the internet place, the woman asked if M and I were both from France. (There are only 4 computers, all facing her, so I think she saw my Facebook page, which is in French.) I said I was American and she said, “Oh, so you know [insert name here]?” Out of context this is hysterical. “Oh, you’re from Canada, do you know Nadine?” But since I had just met the American roommate at my place, it made sense.

The minibus is totally fucked up. It’s just this really big van that picks people up at unmarked stops (so it’s like a cab? But it has a route?) and you just say something when it gets near your stop I think. I don’t think I’m actually in Cape Town, I think I’m just outside? I don’t know. Because M was saying the train goes to Cape Town and it’s the last stop. I hope this makes sense later.

Also, for the record, it is goddamn fucking freezing in the house at night. Holy jesus. It has to be warmer outside. And there is one bathroom. There are four of us in this room and I think there are two guys in another room out back and another girl, plus the four daughters, though I think I’ve only seen 2 or 3. But at least, what, 11 people and one bathroom? Ok, apparently the guys have their own. Whatever.

Ok, it’s the second day and things are much better. I am rapidly getting used to the minibus. It is sort of like a taxi, and anyway it’s only 5 rand, which is less than a dollar. Sold. Although it can get kinda full, to say the least.

Today I was picked up by a staff member from the main office who took me to the headquarters. I actually had a lot of time to kill while we waited for the other volunteer, so I knocked out most of my persuasive writing portfolio that’s due by Monday. I was kinda freaking out about wifi (cause I had to get it off my laptop), so this was beautiful.

I met a bunch of people who work in the office there, and they were all very mellow and friendly. A buffet of nationalities to say the least.

The other volunteer finally arrived, a guy from England (I forget where, but London-ish) who is volunteering with schools doing sports. Human rights really has a social justice and a legal division, and I will be working with the latter, but they sort of go together quite a bit, as you might imagine. So one of the staff members who does the initial induction thing showed us a little around the office neighborhood, including a really giant mall where we had to run a few errands and get lunch.

I bought a phone (which I had to do, but it was cheap, less than $30) and it’s more essential here than in Sweden. They also showed us where to change money. I already had at the airport, but this is the place should I need more, since you don’t always know where’s safe.

We then went to lunch—also in the mall but astonishingly good food. It was just called Burger Gourmet, and guess what they served? But holy shit. First of all, the milkshakes were PHENOMENAL. The guy showing us around was C, he’s from Mexico. I definitely liked him around milkshake time, since I was eying them, but the Brit just wanted a Coke, and C decided on a milkshake. The waitress brought them over, but his was spilling all down the sides and quite messy. She apologized and said she’d get some napkins. He said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It makes me look dangerous.”

I had the banana milkshake. Again, it gets hard to describe milkshakes using superlatives, but DAMN. Each of the guys had a mushroom burger bigger than your head, and mine was technically a chicken sandwich, but they called it a burger…it was a chicken camembert and cranberry burger. NOM, yo.

Then we went back to the office to meet D, the guy who is the director of the South Africa branch. He’s a really nice guy, seems very approachable. About this time my liaison was occupied elsewhere and they were about to give me options when I cut them off and said, “Yeah, this paper? It’s due Monday and I am totally into hoarding your internet. I can wait for this dude forever.” So not only did that work out, but I got the portfolio submitted. HOORAY. Cause oh holy jesus that was bothering me.

I am definitely not in Cape Town. Cape Town is 30-40 minutes away (by train?) and I’m in Grassy Park, a suburb of Wynberg (wine-berg) which is a suburb of Cape Town. Or something like that anyway. After 7pm you basically just take private taxis everywhere. You order them by phone, and C gave us a list of about seven that know our organization and lots of our host families—my host family has been doing this for 4 years, so they are one of the oldest ones. If you’re at a bar you order one before leaving or if I go to see a movie I would just order one for a specific time for after.

And that mall we were in today? Yup, it has two cinemas. One big one upstairs and one artsy one downstairs. I’m thinking of venturing out tomorrow—while I LOOK FOR A JACKET. Fuck me sweet jesus is it cold here. Mostly in the house but today was so windy…it wasn’t that bad considering how poorly I packed for the weather, but I still want to get a jacket. I have a raincoat, but that really isn’t WARM, y’know?
It will be harder to take pictures because you’re not supposed to carry your camera around or flash it around; I may just use my little one. It’s hard to know which rules are really serious and which ones are over-protective.

Tonight I think I’m getting a cab with a bunch of the girls who live here and going for a drink. I think the two French girls are under 20, but American Girl is my age (actually she’ll be 32 in a month) and there is also a Swedish girl (interestingly, she’s black, which I wouldn’t point out but for the country, ok? I rarely saw anyone who wasn’t even BLONDE in Lund…she’s from Stockholm, though, so WAY bigger than Lund…)

American Girl leaves soon and a couple people are moving in soon who are high school two-week people. Sigh. D was warning me (you know, friendly), that I can’t let them talk me into buying them booze. I laughed and said I wasn’t stupid (and then prayed that didn’t come out wrong). But no way would I buy booze for some kid, are you shitting me? Plus, jesus, does that even sound fun to you? Fuck no!

I was able to resurrect my computer, hooray! But I really do miss the internet at my fingertips in a big, big way. Le sigh. I was able to live without the phone no problem. Internet on the other hand? I think this is worse than not having alcohol in the house.

I do still have a little wine bottle from the plane ride. Saving for an emergency. IT SHOULD BE COLD ENOUGH HERE IN THE ROOM THOUGH, CHRIST. It’s like Veloute’s Vermont garage…

Third Day. I just drank the emergency wine. Going out with the flatmates…somewhere. We basically have a driver, CA, who we call to get picked up and dropped off any/all hours. She really is just a private cab owner, and at induction we were given a list with about ten names who know our program and are very reliable, but C said CA is the best. I rode with her last night when a bunch of us (did I mention French girls? There are, quite literally, a shit-ton of French girls here) went to Zula Bar in Cape Town. It was so not a good bar, but I have at least been to Cape Town now!

We were only there from about 9 to 11, since we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour. I think this is not usually the case. And just for awesomeness, a lot of the girls forgot their ID, so they’re digging around when I pull out my TX license and start to point out where the birth date is. The guy pats my arm and says, “Yeah, don’t worry about it.” !!!!!!!!! Wow, thanks man. Swedish Girl tried to make me feel better by saying, “Yeah, sometimes I think they speak without thinking.” Fucker.

(In retrospect, I forgot and had it pointed out to me that here, like so many places in the rest of the world, you only have to be 18 to drink. I feel slightly less insulted, I suppose.)

Today I bought a jacket for 370RA, more than I wanted to spend, but considering my options were fairly limited, I was happy to get something I kinda liked and that fit. Twenty bucks says I lose the belt by the time I leave.

I piddled around and mostly was just uber impressed with myself for catching a minibus off the street I could tell was going to Wynberg station, then found the other side of the station where the other minibuses were that would take me to Grassy Park. ALL BY MYSELF. That’s right, I’m a big fucking girl and everything.

I was supposed to catch a movie, maybe Toy Story 3, but the girls were going to be late, so I just called it a day and decided to maybe try a double feature tomorrow. Toy Story, The Boys Are Back, Dr. Parnassus are my three best options…I would see Broken Embraces but uh, yeah, that whole Spanish thing. Oh well. The mall has an AMC-type theater upstairs (and no, I am not above seeing Death at a Funeral, thank you very much) and the downstairs has an arthouse theater FTW. Disco.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Warm your hands at my chestular fires, baby.

Ha ha, one of the best parts of last night was during a game. Seven of us or so were at my Swedish's friend Bodil's house, playing the game where you have a card with the name of a famous person that everyone can see but you, and you have to ask questions to figure out who you are. You can only ask yes or no questions and everyone else answers you. (See: Inglorious Basterds.)

At one point, someone's card said "Jesus," and someone asked, "Am I a fictional character?" I sort of paused because, you know, but another Swede, Johan, just flat out said "yes." There was a straight-arrow American boy there too (who is actually quite lovely and a good friend, but he has had a very sheltered life) whose mouth I believe just dropped open. Then the question came (same character), "Am I a writer?" The straight arrow said "yes," to which Johan laughed and said, "Yes, okay. You are a writer in the way that Justin Bieber is a writer." LOVE.

I'm off to get one last Max Burger...I'll take a pic. I want their bearnaise chipotle burger one last time. MMMMM. THAT *IS* A TASTY BURGER!! Yeah, that. PFG, Carter...PFG. (Sorry, I swear I'm not even drinking yet.)

I'll have to post a couple pics of my favorite Swedes later, I will really miss them! The Americans were such a huge disappointment overall, but I loved every Swedish student, they were really cool! And they all have a standing invitation to visit Boston, naturally. Everyone was in their early twenties (nearly...and I think I was only fourth oldest or so), but the Swedes seemed much more mature. They all work even though school is free here, whereas I think most of the Americans are just annoying trust fund babies.

Also, we played another game last night where all the Americans were on one side of the room and the Swedes on the other, and we each asked the other side cultural questions. Guess who's the oldest one in the room? Guess was the only American who knew what "ABBA" stands for? Le sigh. Also, colossal fail to my fellow Americans for not being able to name A SWEDISH ACTRESS. Ingrid Bergman, HELLO?! And naturally I answered Stellan Skarsgard for the actor! ;)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

He's gonna be a fry cook on Venus.

Everyone's up late tonight studying for finals or trying to knock out our take-home exams. I fall into the latter category. So does my Swedish friend B, but we keep checking in via facebook. And this made me laugh out loud:

My neighbours are having a party. Right now, they sing (to the melody of our student song, the one in the video about [redacted]) "Jag vill dö jag vill ej längre leva, jag vill dö jag vill ej längre leva, jag vill dö jag vill ej längre leva, jag vill dö i famnen på en man". This means I want to die I don't want to live anymore, I want to die I don't want to live anymore, I want to die I don't want to live anymore, I want to die in the arms of a man." I am as perplexed as you are.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I weep for the future.

Ok, do I have some bad karma I need to know about? Cause fuck me.

Without going into much detail, my accommodations in Cape Town have changed. This is a week away and they apologized for the last minute change, but holy balls. So I WAS going to be living with a single woman and potentially one other volunteer in a pretty decent-sounding part of the city.

Now? Now it's different.

I think the part of town is still decent, but it is decidedly different. It's far more diverse economically (read: there is only wealthy and destitute). Also, something about how the area is really warm and tight-knit, because ohhhhhhh, something about how the area is ravaged with AIDS/HIV. This is not a problem, several of the clients I'll be working with are probably from this region, that's fine. Here's my problem. I'm living with a couple with four daughters (no one's terribly young) and the room I'm in is for up to 4 volunteers, with bunk beds. So AT LEAST 7 other people. I was really digging the single chick idea. And no offense, but who the fuck are these other volunteers? One I can deal with, but it's not terribly smart for me to blindly just trust these other volunteers who may not even be there for law, I have no idea.

It gets better. The family is strictly Muslim, and you know, that's cool, whatever. They are very accepting of other people's religion (um, or non religion, I hope?) but because they have a strict Muslim house they do not drink and all their food is prepared halaal. (For the record, that just means no pork, blood, alcohol and no meat that isn't slaughtered in Allah's name.) I think the slaughter process is itself a special one and one that is somewhat controversial for its humaneness. I really am not sure. In any case, all my lunches and dinners come from this house. I'm sure the food is yummy, not all that worried about it, though the slaughter process doesn't do a whole lot for me, but as a meat-eater, I'm not about to open that can of worms.

I also get that while THEY don't drink alcohol, that may not preclude me from doing so, but come on. If they have a strict Muslim household and lifestyle, I'm not going to be the arrogant asshole who brings alcohol into their home, mmmkay? And normally I would just work at a bar before going home or after dinner, but you're not supposed to be out alone at night, so there goes that. And not to sound like a total alky, but considering the sort of work I'm gonna be doing...MAMA'S GONNA NEED A DRINK AT THE END OF THE DAY.

So I wrote back and tried to explain that the prior arrangement was far better suited to me and tried to find a way to convey my NEEDS as diplomatically as possible (something like, "wow, I'm used to working in Japan where alcohol IS ESSENTIAL..*COUGH*). Radio silence for now.

I mean, it's all an adventure and I'll fuckin' get through whatever and I'm happy to make do with whatever I get, but come the fuck on. One week to go and you dump this shit on me? FAIL FAIL FAIL.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Ah, I like that. I like tulip. Tulip is much better than mongoloid.

Ok, so Amsterdam! It was great. I had planned to head over to The Hague that Friday because one of my law school professors has connections at The Peace Palace. However, I found out (before leaving luckily, since The Hague is 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam) however, that the Palace was closed that day. So I resorted to Plan B, which was to hear part of the hearing for a trial on war crimes taking place at the International Criminal Court. I emailed them about it and goddammit, the hearing had been canceled for that day! That day (the whole weekend, really) is a holiday in Sweden, called Midsummer--it's like our Fourth of July as far as celebrations go, but it's the other big holiday here other than Christmas. I don't know what the deal in Amsterdam was, but it meant I got to sleep in.

That hotel, btw, was fabulous.

It's a life-size dollhouse on acid! And it's just outside Zandaam Station, woot!

I got a bigger room than usual because I got a deal online. That bed was magical, I wanted to never leave it and all its fluffiness.

It's true my Swedish dorm bed is not the softest thing in the world, but it does the job at least. It's better than my Japanese bed in my old gaijin house...hell, the floor would have almost been better...

The tub was surprisingly tricky to figure out, ya know? Each side of the faucet had a little button, and I think one made the hot water WAY hotter and the other side made the shower nozzle activate. I never really did nail it down.

Centraal Station! This place was fucking huge inside. Trying to figure out my return platform the first night was one annoying adventure. (I made it, yay.)

Really gorgeous from the outside, though...

I took some pics in Amsterdam but not too many in the inner city, since there's a lot of um, well, I don't want to say shadiness, but it's not always a good idea to have your camera out (especially one like mine) snapping pics. I've read it's frowned upon in some areas, let's just say that. In particular, the red light district is a big no-no, but looks just as you think it does.

I got this off google images, and yup, this is it! It was weird--even when I went at dusk rather than night.

But once you get out at Centraal, it's easy to find the twisty, windy neighborhoods full of shops--the shopping area is one big area, also a big concentration of coffee-shops and bars, and then further in are the sex shops, cinemas and red light district.

Simple little alleys, and I made lots of effort to note landmarks or stores in my own Hansel & Gretel mental-breadcrumbs-sort-of-way, so as not to get lost.

So it's no big secret or surprise that the "coffee-shops" are hash and marijuana joints (see what I did there?), but "smart shops," as you can perhaps figure out from the window, sell magic mushrooms, should one be into that sort of thing. One would probably not specify whether or not one tried any in the privacy of one's own hotel room while watching nearly all of season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on instant download, but this is the sort of place where you could buy them if one did. (Also, one probably never realized before just how incredibly well-suited season 6 is to psychedelic substances, but I personally would not know.)

More inner streets. The bars were the best places to watch the games. I really enjoyed watching the games here, although it was sadly in Amsterdam where I saw the US bite it. I wish, wish, WISH I had been there just one more day to see Holland trounce Brazil in a stunning victory. I can only imagine the insanity of such an upset. (S and some friends saw the Denmark game in Copenhagen the night I left and I have to remember to steal those pics and post them here--it's stunning.)

I'm not sure what they sell here... ;)

Or here.

I can't say I went in, but the store front windows were entertaining. Oh, but nothing beats...

This shit is just disturbing.

It leaves me sort of speechless, really.

I know, I know, you're like, dude, how many pics of this did you take? I hear Amsterdam has lovely ARCHITECTURE! CANALS! HISTORY! And I'm taking multiple pics of freaky-ass condoms. Yup.

I will upload the rest later--more pretty stuff, too! But this is our last week of classes and I wanna be caught up since there are plans here and there the rest of the week. We have a thing on Wednesday with a judge from the Court of Appeals (which is very, very cool), and prior to that I'm meeting with one of the university professors who is not teaching in the program (he is actually French and not Swedish--and it pains me to think of how many languages he probably speaks) who specializes in EU law. (Of which I know nothing! Rah rah rah! This is going to be a special kind of humiliating.) But at least we're meeting for drinks. I could get used to this whole "European" thing.

And then Friday we're doing a Fourth of July thing for the Swedish students, and I have no idea what that entails, I just know I'm supposed to go. Unlike the beautiful Midsummer celebrations they made up for us, a few of us snarkily asked what the hell we're supposed to do in return with this--"Barbecue, beers and fireworks?" I mean, sure, why not, but where these things may come from is another matter...

So in about a week and a half it's off to South Africa where it may take me a while to get over being spoiled. No more room all to myself, for one thing. And actual work instead of studies. For an idea of that, omfg, how cheery does this sound?

A typical day at the office varies between work in the office doing research, conducting interviews or providing legal advice with refugees or victims of Human Rights abuses, reviewing cases from the [redacted], meetings with various different Human Rights organizations throughout Cape Town, lectures by the Human Rights supervisor, etc. Office work is combined with out of office "excursions" or "missions" to prisons, abused children/women homes, HIV/AIDS victim shelters, juvenile detention centers, refugee camps, Home Affairs Office, etc. [....]

Party on, Wayne.