That’s how you say hello in Xhosa, one of the eleven national languages in South Africa! Currently, I am studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for the semester, so look forward to exciting tales of my adventures in this beautiful city!
I will try to cram three months of awesomeness into this one first post to catch you all up on my life in South African! Luckily, I’ve been documenting my experiences thus far in a travel journal, so I’ll be sure not to leave out any important parts!
I live in Observatory, a primarily English and Afrikaans-speaking area; however I am involved in a service-learning program where teach in a Xhosa-speaking township. So I’ll start with a quick Xhosa lesson:
So I would say to you:
You would say:
Molo Sarah, unjani? (Hi Sarah, how are you?)
To which I would reply:
Ndipilile! Wena unjani (I am alive! And how are you?)
And you would say:
Ndipilile nam! (I am also alive and well!)
Easy enough, right? It has taken me a while to learn different Xhosa terms and expressions, but I think I am finally beginning to catch on! Other than trying to adapt to the Xhosa culture, I’ve been busy taking classes, teaching, hiking, and exploring. I study at the University of Western Cape, and am taking a Victorian and South African literature class, a South African theatre class, Leaders in Grassroots Organizations, and Theology of Apartheid and Reconciliation. These classes have been fascinating and have really broadened my scope into South African culture!
Additionally, as part of the service-learning program, I teach grade 6 reading, writing, history, and geography at Hlengisa junior-secondary school in Nyanga township. I love my kids. They are super eager to learn and are even more keen to become my friend. They love to teach me Xhosa and tell me about their lives. The most difficult part about teaching in a township is not the language barrier, but the culture barrier, particularly in terms of discipline and corruption. Despite that, though, teaching has been an incredible learning experience. I feel so fortunate to work with these kids. They are so happy. They sing beautifully, without hesitation, everywhere they go. They share their food with each other, when I know for a fact that they barely have enough to feed themselves. Their eyes brighten when they understand a new word. They translate for me. They fill me on all the grade 6 gossip. They write me little love notes. They teach me their hand-games. They bring me an apple every morning. They have started calling me “sisi Sarah,” identifying me as their sister, rather than Miss Sarah. They always hug me goodbye. To say that my time at Hlengisa has been rewarding so far is an understatement.
Being here has given me a completely different perspective on what it means to be alive. There is such a stark contrast between the atmosphere of life in the city, in the slums and townships, and up in the mountains. In the city, I feel alive with curiosity. I want to learn about South African history, explore the water front, and try everything. I have been to countless markets, tried the strangest and most outrageous food, taste-tested every coffee shop in Observatory, poked around random shops, and played tourist, visiting museums, Robben Island, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – everything. I feel alive in the way an explorer must feel alive. In the townships, slums, and squatter settlements, I feel alive in the way that prickles the back of my neck – in the way that gives me chills, gut-wrenching guilt, and an acute awareness of what poverty actually means. And in the mountains, I feel free. There are three peaks in Cape Town: Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head. I’ve hiked all three, and those hikes create the most genuine feeling of life that I have ever experienced. One night, my friends and I embarked on a full moon hike. Staring up at Lion’s Head, every hiker’s headlamp and flashlight looked like constellations circled around the mountain. When we reached the top, we looked out over the glowing city on one side of the mountain, and the dark ocean on the other. It was incredible. Climbing each mountain makes me feel life’s rawness. It gives me a chance to be human, and reflect on my humanity – on being alive. I guess I’ve really brought over those Jesuit ideals on Ignation reflection with me!
Here are some pictures from my study abroad experience so far!
That’s all for now! Next week I’ll be talking about the amazing midsemester trip I just went on! Get ready to hear all about the Wild Coast, Durban, Johannesburg, and a safari! Until next week!