A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: meblandfor


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!DC___Wits_Campus_060.jpg The whole group at Primi's Restaraunt DC___Wits_Campus_059.jpg Me and Kathryn at Primi's DC___Wits_Campus_061.jpg Lou and the Tequila Shots

Posted by meblandfor 10:30 Archived in South Africa Tagged food Comments (2)

Food for Thought

An interesting response to my last entry from an anonymous source ...

I would be interested in what tariffs we have in the US that is preventing SA goods from being sold here. If it is in the textile industry, it only exits because our textile industry has been destroyed by foreign (mostly Asian) textiles and we are trying to create some industry in the US. When was the last time you bought any clothes that were made in the US? Look around SA and see if you can find anything actually made in the US. Right now our trade deficit is way out of balance in favor of foreign made goods so I think what they want the US to do is already happening. It is just benefiting China, Japan, Korea and other foreign countries not SA. What SA needs to do is attract the low wage manufacturing jobs that are going to China and Mexico to start their industrialization. With a rather stable country they might do that for export to neighboring African countries - although those countries may be able to undercut them in wages. I know that we subsidize our agriculture but do you really want the US to be importing all its food and besides the Europeans (especially the French) are much worse than we are. Anyway, the real point is we are not going to be able to buy stuff from other countries nor remain in the 1st World if we don't produce anything ourselves. By the way, it is the Democrats with their labor supporters who are most for tariffs. A Obama presidency is almost certain to lead to higher US tariffs.

As for respective Constitutions we will see if the SA constitution lasts 200 years, taking a seaboard nation of 2 million to a continental nation of 300 million with only 20 some changes and becomes the oldest continuous government in the world. Some of the human rights that their Constitution guarantees (water, and health care) are fundamentally different from the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Our rights protect us from the government. It indicates a fear that the government is the primary danger to our liberties and must be controlled and limited. It reflects that the government is a necessary evil. I personally believe that is true and that the government is the only real threat to our liberties. Water and health care are commodities. When the government guarantees the right to a commodity it reflects that the government is not a necessary evil but a positive good. Who is it that is going to guarantee these rights. It must be the government. It tells the people that they are not responsible for working to obtain these commodities the government is going to give it to them. How will the government pay for these things? It will have to tax the people who have the money to give it to those that don't. This is a redistribution of wealth. A redistribution that the government must do according to the constitution. What if the socialized health care is a debacle? How can the government change without violating the Constitution? The US Constitution does not require the government to provide commodities to everyone thus we are free through our laws to decide how the commodities should be handled. How can there ever be a free market in health care or water distribution in SA? With our rights protecting against the government we are free to battle over it. I probably said this confusingly but I hope it makes clear the difference between a right that protects you from government oppression and a right that promises you a commodity. And why the government's guarantee of a commodity is a big step to socialism and a real step towards dictatorship or even totalitarianism.

Posted by meblandfor 02:35 Comments (0)


Finally ...

sunny 60 °F

Late last week Kathryn and I finally got settled into our housing. We are on campus (which I find to be quite beautiful though the people here don't seem to think so - I guess I'll have to see the rest of the country!). We are in on-campus housing (after making a very big push with the administration for several days). I am so blessed to have had Stuart and Marion living here. They took me and Kathryn in no questions asked for the better part of a week. Not only did they house us and feed us but drove us to and from campus everyday - which is a 30 min. commute when traffic is good and the price of petrol is ever increasing here just as it is at home. (I have noticed many people are driving diesel cars here - not really offered in the states - i know that our semi-trucks run on diesel but I just don't think they offer diesel cars to the extent they do here, just an interesting aside - I guess it burns cleaner and is a bit cheaper here ... but I don't know much more about it than that).

I finally got all of my class schedule finalized yesterday (a week into the start of classes!) and had my first class last night - International Trade law. The lecture was mostly ecomonic stuff to give us a basis - WTO and International trading politics, compartive advantage and opportunity costs etc. It was very interesting - and also very weird because the teacher and other students talk about the USA in such a different way than Americans think about the country. I have obviously just always taken for granted the things I have and the way of life we have in the States ... It's very different here. There is a totally different level of poverty and racial division - yet they are trying to make it work, they are working together (and sometimes failing but often being successful) to make different cultures and very entrenched ways of life come together under one government. The sense of capitalism or maybe I mean materialism (or both?) that we have in the states also just doesn't really exist here ... people don't really buy things the way we do, most of what they have they really need. Having TV or the internet are privileges - whereas we look at them as necessities most of the time in the USA. It's not that didn't understand that to be true, I've just never actually been confronted with it. In any case the teacher used several examples of trade policies of the USA and coming from the perspective of a so called 3rd world country I can understand why it would be hard to understand the way we live our live in the USA and why we have certain policies - and when we have so much why we still put tariffs (largely reduced by GATT and WTO now) on imports or why we protect our domestic markets instead of buying international goods - if we bought more from other countries we could help them so much, and we already have so much more than they have .... but then what about our own domestic workers. I guess it's just here a textile or agriculture worker is probably living in a one room tin house with only public facilities for bathrooms whereas the textile worker in the states we put out of business by buying foreign goods will still have running water and electricity and probably a television ... Our standard of living is just so disproportional I now understand why it is so hard for us to appreciate the situation faced by many people in 3rd world countries ... But I'm rambling with very little idea of what i'm talking about after only one day of class. The main point is that it is just totally different to study things the USA does through the lense of another country, an English speaking, democratic, and relative to us very poor country ...

This morning I had my first Gender and the Law class and we talked a bit about SA's constitution ... it's far better than ours in my mind - by better I mean more detailed/descriptive and less open to large scale interpretation ... having said that however maybe that's what makes our constitution great? In any case It is newer and more developed to the end of human rights (they have specific protection for access to water and healthcare etc. whereas we don't have that explicit in our constitution). However, right now it is not being enforced to the level ours is because it is still so new. They haven't had the amount of time to legislate and litigate matters to make sure they are enforced and they just don't have the infrastructure giving peole as much access to courts etc. as we do in the states. Beyond which they don't even have the infrastructure to deliver on many of the things promised yet (healthcare, water). Though I suspect the longer they have in time the better it will get. Ultimately over time I think their constitution might prove to do more things for their citizens than ours does for us - but whether that's a good or bad thing depends on how you feel about how much a government should get involved ... but that's just a shot in the dark. I don't know how things will go over the next 100 years. Anyhow talking about women's rights specifically they have quite a way to go - in certain (more rural) areas a woman might still be laughed out of the police station if she comes in say she was raped ... And lesbian women are being killed here (mostly and especially black lesbian women) - two more were killed just last week. However, SA has signed on to most of the big and important Women's Rights documents from conventions over the years (CDAW, Beijing etc.), and the United States has not signed them - most likely never will. I'm not sure why ... do we think we don't need to? Do we think we're doing fine without it? Now in all actuality these documents are kind of soft law - however, they are the only thing some women have in some countries - countries that don't have constitutional protections for instance. And in fact women in those countries have made CDAW and things like it work for them, mostly by trying to internationally embarass their government into complying since their government signed the treaty.

Tonight I have a human rights class (same professor as the gender and the law professor actually) which should be very interesting. It is a 'perspectives from the discipline class - so a broad overview and many of the students are not law students. I'm rather exicted about. Though I am pretty excited about ALL of my classes. The last formal class i'm taking (I say formal because I am auditing one class ... more later) is Public Health and Systems Law. There are only 3 of us in that class though so it will be a very specialized course dependent on what we are interested in. Kathryn and I both have some medical background and are interested in the differences here (national healthcare combined with insurance and a public and private system) and home. Also we will be focusing on the AIDS/HIV epidemic as well as the TB epidemic here (mostly afflicting immune suppressed AIDS/HIV patients). This coming Monday the three of us and the teacher are going to a seminar called "Rethinking Health Reform" on capitol hill here and that will be our class for the week ...

I am also auditing a class - African Literature. I will read all the books and sit in on lectures but not take exams or write the essays. It should be good, i really like the lecturer for the course.

All in all then though I only have class Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, Wednesday late afternoon, and the Public Health one is scheduled as needed with the three of us here and there (no formal lecture time though we will have a couple seminar lectures throughout the semester) - technically the African Lit class meets three times a week (monday, tuesday, wednesday afternoon) but the wednesday one the teacher told me I should consider optional as it is a tutorial session (what we would call a TA discussion section) and it is mostly 18-20 yr. olds in the class so he thinks I will mostly just get something out of lecture and reading the books. So in any case that leaves a lot of time open for other things ... Kathryn and I are talking to the legal clinic people about volunteering and also about travelling. It is really cheap to fly within the country here (40-60 bucks) so we want to go to Durban for a long weekend, Pretoria is a day/weekend trip and we can take a bus, cheap flights up to Namibia (I want to see the wild Namibs - a special species of horse indigenous only to the desert in Namibia), a trip to Krueger (safari) and then maybe flights to some other places that we can dig up ... In any case I'm very excited for everything now that we are finally settled with a place to live and eat (we have a meal plan through the dining hall next to our building) - the only battle I have left to sort out now is internet, right now I must go across campus to a computer lab, but there is internet in my room - unfortunately this campus isn't really running Vista yet .... still on XP - so i'm having a struggle with my Vista PC ... but Stuart is looking into getting me a very cheap computer that would work ... we'll see.

I have been taking pictures but cannot upload on the campus computers so that will have to wait until I can get internet in my room (by room I really mean studio apartment, i have a kitchen, living room (desk and bed and closet) and a bathroom all to myself - well except for my cockroach friends ... I am winning the battle at making them go away but they are very common here and no one seems to think much of the fact that I have them, just something everyone sort of lives with and deals with, also there are no screens on any windows, if you open the window anything can crawl or fly in :) just a different attitude towards insects than we have in the States lol - i suppose we're kind of prissy about it) Anywho all for now! Must do some reading for HR tonight. Love to all.
~M DC___Wits_Campus_057.jpg My apartment building at night DC___Wits_Campus_051.jpg The view from my window DC___Wits_Campus_047.jpg Sunset over the Tower DC___Wits_Campus_065.jpg The Garden/Pond next to my computer DC___Wits_Campus_054.jpg The baby Egyptian Geese living at my apartment complex DC___Wits_Campus_071.jpg Pretty Plants DC___Wits_Campus_044.jpg Sunset from the Great Hall on Campus

Posted by meblandfor 03:22 Archived in South Africa Tagged educational Comments (2)


safe and sound and acting as a squatter in someone elses home


I have arrived safely and successfully in Jo'burg - but without suitable housing ... hmm. Fortunately Stuart (a relative of my Aunt's) lives here with his wife Marion and they have been incredibly generous. They picked me up at the airport showed me all around the city, fed me, and have let me stay at their home. I also met Jimmy and Shelia (more of Felicity's relatives) and they made a wonderful breakfast for me and Stuart after leaving the airport. So I have many good contacts here to give me help and guidance.

The food I've had here so far is great and very inexpensive - I had a large meal (think the different courses of an Olive Garden meal with one of their nicer dinner entrees as well as desert and drinks) for what amounts to only about $8.00 at home! I think I'm in heaven.

The racial disparity here is very obvious right off the bat - even more so than we could contemplate in the States (not to say that we don't have a large problem of racial disparity as well of course) and the number of people standing in and around the streets to get drivers and pedestrians to buy things is absolutely a phenomenal amount compared to our standards in the States. However, I've learned from Stuart that this is not begging in the way that we have in the States. First almost everyone is typically actually selling some merchandise (maps, sunglasses, cell phone accessories etc.) and not just begging for money. Second, he tells me it is a very African way of moving retail merchandise that is legal and mostly not stolen goods being pushed. Of course in the states if I see someone walking around selling sunglasses I automatically think they had a friend or cousin that works at the Wal-Mart loading dock and a box "went missing" to them, but that is not what is going on here. Retail people legitimately give out these products to be sold inexpensively and then the vendors make a commission on the sales.

What I've seen of the country absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. There is just open space here like people must have dreamed about back in the cowboy days and the move to the 'wild west' in the USA. The city itself is of course crowded like any other city but as we were flying over and I was coming into Jo'burg below you all you saw was wide open space. And of course in the States places that are open still look very controlled because they are perfectly square/rectangular plots of land in varying shades of green from farming, at least mostly, i know there is still some openness out West (grand canyon etc.) But then the soil here is a different color - redder and the vegetation is a deeper darker green ... I've already become very interested in birds also b/c they have so many and so many magnificent looking ones that have such beautiful songs. I woke up this morning to birds outside my window making the most beautiful symphony ...

More later we are suddenly off now - must go purchase the ability to make a phone call !! (cell phone or sim card not sure which yet) Love to all
~MDC___Wits_Campus_009.jpg Picaddilly Circus Sign in the Tube tunnel DC___Wits_Campus_023.jpg Big Ben DC___Wits_Campus_031.jpg Me on the Double Decker

Posted by meblandfor 03:02 Archived in South Africa Tagged educational Comments (0)

Last Full Week

The count down begins ...

semi-overcast 89 °F
View South Africa Study Abroad on meblandfor's travel map.

I started my last full week of work at the Courthouse today ... It was a short day because Judge Klein is teaching an Evidence at rookie school (new judges school) elsewhere in Virginia tomorrow and had to leave the Court early today. Last week I finished writing my first rough draft of an opinion Mark (another intern) and I are helping Judge Klein write. I am waiting for the input and edit from Judge Klein now. I fully expect it to be torn apart, but it is my first attempt at an opinion so I won't feel too bad if he has a lot of 'suggestions'. As Judge Klein always say 'the person that gets the most red on their writing from him is him'. He reads and re-reads and proofs everything very carefully. It is really good for me to see someone doing that - I'm not the best proof reader in the world and so watching Judge Klein do it has been a helpful lesson for me, and has taught me how to spot things a little better. So in fact I am looking forward to getting corrections from him. Unfortunately I will probably be leaving for SA before any final copy is done so I'll have to see the final when I get back to the States in November. Luckily Mark is helping out, so he'll be able to carry on when I leave ...

Other than work I've been playing a little bit. My sister and her husband were in town this past week. They did a lot of sight seeing while I was working and we had dinner together in the evenings and just generally hung out. Last Tuesday we went to the Army Navy Club with my Aunt and Uncle. It was a beautiful building. They had a great seafood buffet that night. The club is a place where those in the Army and Navy that choose to belong to the Club can go for dinner and it has hotel rooms and a business center where Army and Navy can stay when they are in D.C. It is at I and 17th for those of you who are familiar with the District. The Secret Service was there that night because there was a dinner for the members of the Department of Homeland Security ... La-dee-da. I was also lucky enough to find a copy of my Grandfather's Yearbook from his Senior year at West Point in the library there. The yearbook is called the Howitzer and every senior has a picture and a couple paragraphs caption about them. My Grandfather's was really nice. I made a photo copy. (See below). It was the very first time I'd been at the club and I really enjoyed it. Things around the Army (traditions, places etc.) help me feel closer to my Grandfather since he was career military, so I suppose that's why I liked it, plus the food was great.

On Saturday my sister and her husband left. I took them out to the airport after Jenny and I planned our itinerary (though we left some flexibility so that we could go with the flow a little when we're there) for Europe. I'm really excited for that part of the trip - of course I'm very excited for South Africa too. However, Jenny and I haven't been able to spend much time together growing up because of our age difference. I know we've been a lot closer since she was in college but I'm looking forward to spending that much time alone with her and getting to share the whole experience with her. I think we'll get to know each other a whole different way, so I'm really excited about that. Plus we're both older - she's married now and I'll be getting busy with life stuff (work etc.) soon too so we might not have many more chances when we both have time off from work and can be away from husbands and children etc. for an amount of time like this. The trip is from Madrid through Barcelona and the South of France, through Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome and then flying home. I've never been to any of the places we're going so it should be amazing! I'll post plenty of pictures.

Sunday I went to Arlington National Cemetery again to visit my grandparents. It's a really nice place that they are buried actually. It is part way up the hill near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and in the shade of some huge old trees. There's a Magnolia nearby that was beautiful. I went up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while I was there this time as well. I saw the changing of the guards, which I've seen before but I forgot about how amazing it was. The soldiers are so precise and disciplined. It's really quite impressive. After that I went over to the Hoffman Theater and saw the new Indiana Jones movie - it wasn't very good unfortunately. I thought Harrison Ford was just as good as always, but the whole plot was premised on aliens ... those two things just don't really go together - Indiana Jones and Space ... hmm. Then I went down to Pennsylvania Ave. in the District - there was a BBQ festival and the roads were closed off. I saw a free-throw competition, sampled BBQ from chefs all over the city, heard some bands play (none of which I knew), and finally saw some good skateboarding - an expo of sorts. I walked from the 1100 block of Pennsylvania all the way to the White House where two security (secret service maybe) guards scared the crap out of me. They were just sort of lurking in the bushes just inside the fence that separates the White House lawn from the street. I was just walking along when one of them moved and said something about a foot from me and I didn't have any idea they were there until that. Yikes! Anyway then I walked North to Dupont Circle where I checked out some of the stores and then hopped on to the metro and went back home.

Mostly that's all here for now!

Posted by meblandfor 19:27 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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