New Friends and Will Smith :)
Hello again! I'm internet established now. My computer is finally working on the network here so I think it is about time for a few pictures! There are several from when I had my nine hour layover in London on my way here. I just didn't want to stay in the airport so I got a train to the city and jumped on a double decker bus and road all around to see the big major sights ... not the best way to see London but remember I only had a few hours!
This weekend (which started on Wednesday night given the class schedule and the fact that I have no Thursday or Friday classes) was busy and fun.
Wednesday night Amanda (the woman who came from Wisconsin Law School the semester before me and Kathryn and stayed on for a few months at the legal clinic here) had her going away party. We went to Melville (first time there, and it is a well known going out place for Wits students). We had dinner and I got something called Mediterranean Lasagna ... it was AHHH-MAZING! (that's a word drop for a one Ms. Rachel Miller hehe). It was cheese and mushrooms and potatoes and tons of veggies and a creamy sauce and just warm delicious goodness! We went with two other American students that are working on their Masters here through a rotary program. (shout out to Emily with that). Their names are Samantha and Lou and they are great. They have been here for six months already b/c their program is a year long - thus they are a great resource for me on campus and traveling and going out.
Thursday was a lazy day for me. I did some reading for my classes, watched a movie, traipsed around campus trying to get my computer to work (argh!) and went over to Braamfontein to do some Pick and Pay shopping (grocery store much like a Pick and Save - but produce here is just not generally quite of the quality at home - and try finding a brand name you recognize ... I was successful in finding Tony the Tiger and Oreos ... I thought we exported food - apparently not to here) Also picked up my insurance card for the provider here in SA ... hope I don't have to use - though I do get a free pair of eyeglasses with it which I intend to take advantage of - I'm paying for it after all.
Friday Kathryn and I went to see what the on-campus nightlife was like. There was a mining engineers party which was small and pretty fun - we chatted with a couple guys (one of which was the DJ) and talked about some of the cultural differences etc. One thing I've gotten a sense for is that most of the students from here really want to stay here - they love their country and don't want to leave but it also seems that a lot of them do end up leaving. The guy we were talking to said he was happy he was doing mining engineering b/c there is a big business here for it and he already has a secure job lined up for when he graduates (he said the company 'sponsors' him - i gather that is basically that they've paid for his education in return for his promise to work for him after he graduates) so he's very glad to be able to have a good job and stay in his own home and country. He also introduced me to Kwaito - it is a South African kind of music - seems to have some influences of rap and reggae and house music ... It isn't so distinct that if I wasn't paying attention and it was playing I would immediately realize I was listening to a different kind of music but when you know what you're listening to it is easy to spot what it is ... it's very difficult to describe however - I will have to try to get an MP3 or something to upload as an example. Ste (sss-tay - the DJ) said that he would make me a mix to hear some older songs (think Run DMC or Coolio or something of that age versus Kanye now) and some new songs from just this year. I didn't get his contact information though so I'll have to go find him at the engineering school - although it is absolutely amazing how often you bump into people on campus. After hanging out there for a little while we went to a party sponsored by the international students association. It was a block party where they had a street on campus blocked off with a DJ and dancing and food and drinks. It was interesting b/c most of the music was American pop and rap from 3 months to a year old but there was some Kwaito (quite-o) mixed in as well. Interesting to hear all these songs I know and that the same ones are the most popular ones as they would be in the states ... (as an aside earlier this week there was something interesting I witnessed - several students of Indian decent sitting smoking from a hookah and listening to the song Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio). We met several people at this party and talked for a long time to a group of people about places to travel and where we were from and where they were from - the mother of one of the guys (Mo) we met is a teacher and took a sabbatical from here to teach at UW-Madison (speech pathology and audiology) - small small world.
Saturday we went out to dinner for Lou's Birthday at Rosebank - we ate an Italian style place called Primi's where the food was very good sort of Italian style food but the restaurant's theme was sort of construction - the waiters all wore orange jumpsuits with construction belts around their waists and the decor itself was sort of like construction styled with concrete walls and very simplistic tables and decorations - very interesting concept. But my food was once again amazing and once again very cheap - I had mussels with mashed potatoes and broccoli - so good. With the group were Ray (Samantha's boyfriend who is from here) and TK (Ray's friend also from here who was a riot - just a class clown sort of guy had us laughing all night), and Kara (American who is from Chicago and knows several of my friends from Law school - again small world), and David (Australian doing his second post-doc in a botany area - studying how the leaves of plants tell you about the climate of a place to determine climate changes etc. from fossilized plants), and someone whose name might by Ryan (also an American doing a Masters like Sam and Lou) ... there was one more but I just didn't get his name/story. The whole group (after making Lou do tequila shots - thanks to Ray who is apparently still angry that Lou didn't make a face or anything while drinking them) went over to the movie theater and saw Hancock - throughout which people talked to one another and on their phones for most of the movie (not necessarily the people in my group though to an extent they did too) and no one seemed to mind at all, it was a VERY different moving going experience than at home. Also, when you buy your tickets you get assigned seats ... and there's a little map of the theater so you can look at it and choose where you're going to sit. I suppose you can also have carnival seating so I'm not entirely sure how it works but I suppose I'll figure it out as I go (sort of like I had to figure out the plastic bags here - they're trying to cut down on how much plastic people use so they charge you for bags when you go shopping ... thus I've stored several up and will be toting them with me when I go shopping from now on -- also speaking of recyclables and interesting observations - whenever I drink a beverage from a can I ALWAYS think there's more left even when it's all gone b/c the cans themselves are thicker and heavier than the ones we have at home - EVEN of the same brands that we have - regular coke or pepsi ... don't know why - I'll have to do some detective work on that, but it feels noticeably different to hold an empty pop can here.) After the movie everyone went bowling - standard fare there, although people can drink younger here so the bar in the bowling alley is frequented by very teenager looking people ...
Today was a trip to Rosebank again for light bulbs (excuse me 'globes' - people don't know what I'm talking about right away when I say bulbs) and bumped into Kara and David on the bus so we went shopping together and got lunch at a place called Kauaii (q-why) which is a sandwhich/wrap/salad place but has just slightly different types of ingredients in things than you can get at home. In any case I got a gigantic sandwich and drink for about $2 ... crazy! Incidentally that sandwich place was across the concourse from my all time favorite new store - Rozanne & Pushkin ... all stuff by designer Rozanne Immerman - you can google her she works at the store and is awesome - I'm definitely getting a dress there before I come home that I can wear to Barristers this spring (about her - http://www.durbandesignercollection.co.za/site/awdep.asp?depnum=16927, her clothes - http://www.rozanneandpushkin.com/)
So that's me for the week, no new major cultural observations or anything profound but I'm sure more will be forthcoming ... Hoping to see Stuart and Marion and Grant and Nikki this week or weekend for dinner. ttfn! The whole group at Primi's Restaraunt Me and Kathryn at Primi's Lou and the Tequila Shots