Hmmm, I think I might highlight Friday and from here on out because I’m running out of battery power on the laptop (forget writing this on an Internet-connected computer. I’m beginning to understand the difficulties that people have here with the Internet-either you don’t have access, you have to pay a lot for a few minutes and/or it’s extremely slow. Even at UKZN, in the short times I had between appointments I had time only to check and send a few e-mails because of the time it takes. And without a proper adapter for the electricity, battery power is an issue (and getting an adapter would have been a journey of Fee hadn’t located one I could use) So right now I’m in Jo’burg racing against battery failure)
So Friday we did a review of where we are and target setting for the future with Walter, another lecturer Rob, and Beulah. I think we all came to some agreements and I have a lot to bring back to Mann to talk about and hash out for the future. I also met with Sheryl Fredericks who runs the Food Security program. I showed her and John Derera AGORA and then Sheryl took me to lunch at a local café and discussed her program which trains Master’s students in food security (specifically all aspects of organic farming for three South African communities) and is looking to start a pan-African food security centre at the university (which, to the interest of anyone in the library and information field, may also include a subject-based repository for information on food security). We also talked about genealogy and our travels. She was also kind enough to drop me off at the clinic next door so I could get antibiotics and then get me back to the university.
And Rosa Stella, one of the 2004 cohort, generously took time out of her busy schedule f getting ready to go back to Namibia for fieldwork not only to get me the name of a walk-in clinic but also to track me down during my up-in-the-air wanderings and give me a tour of howick Falls and the surrounding countryside, along with her brother Paulus and her two adorable kids. With them I got to see the surrounding countryside and my first glimpse of the townships. I so wish I had brought my camera because it’s hard to describe unless you see the houses, basically shacks by the side of the road, with outhouses and extra shacks for rent in the back. There’s no infrastructure—no electricity, no plumbing, no roads even—and there isn’t likely to be for some time Rosa Stella says since the government can’t afford to install it all without charging fees to the residents who can’t pay them since unemployment is so high and wages are so low. General economic improvement is the only hope is what she said and is a theme I would continue to hear from many people throughout this trip.
There were other townships as well which were better off—solid construction rather than recycled metal and materials, solid outhouses, actual roads—and neighborhoods with the mod cons. But seeing those in relation to my lovely B&B in the neighborhood with the high walls, dogs, and security systems was quite a change.
We stopped a Howick a pretty little town with Howick Falls. Now, as an Ithacan, even a recent one, I’ve seen waterfalls before. But this one put all the ones I’ve seen before to shame. Imagine Taughannock but nestled in this wide Irish green swathe of land with cliffs rising in a valley bowl to each side and things in the distance fading to mist and clouds. It was quite beautiful.
We then went for tea at Rosa Stella’s and talked as we had the whole trip up about the black communities in S. Africa, Namibia and the US; the different histories but how similar some responses have been, about the persistence of racism and about changes for the future, about men the world over, and about kids (having them or not). It was a great visit and I really appreciated her kindness in taking me around.
In fact I appreciated the kindness fo everyone at ACCI—from Walter and Tongo who took me around, explained the program and took me out; to Beaulah John, who despite a hospitalizing bout of bronchopneumonia, helped plan my visit and came in while I was here to meet with me despite not being 100%; Fee de Stadler and Lesley Brown, who not only helped set up my visit but helped me so much logistically and personally while I was there. And this is not to mention Sheryl, Lindwe, Rob, Carol, Pravesh and all the others who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with me, shepherd me from here to there and generally made the experience such a positive one.
I had a final dinner with Walter and Tongo that helped cap off the good time I had had so far—good food, good drink and good conversation in good company. I will certainly look forward to returning to Maritzburg in the future and hope that others from Mann (and ACCI) get to go too.