Sunday, October 26, 2008

JMS Critical Media Production

After my isiXhosa test I quickly rushed to watch the third year journalism students’ visual and audio presentations. Unfortunately I had missed the snacks and the first presentation but was just in time to chuckle at the “Bum Campaign” created by the ‘Whine into Water’ group, whose purpose was to bring attention to the water issues in Grahamstown. Their particular display offered water tasting from Joza and from the “middle class” areas and the difference in quality was shocking. This was according to a brave friend who tested the water, while I cowardly stood back shaking my head in disgust but also because I had spent a difficult 45 minutes in the isiXhosa test because of something I ate in the dining hall. When we went back to the display after the show almost all of the “middle class” water had been drunk and barely any of Joza’s water. The next group, ‘Take a Leap’ focused on brining awareness to the municipality and showed distressing footage of children who have shingles from playing in their faeces because the municipality no longer collects the rubbish. ‘Ukulima Grahamstown’, talked about cultivation and food gardens using a character called Dr. Green Thumb, which is also a character Cypress Hill sings about but with completely different connotations. ‘Common Ground’, had the difficult task of bringing attention to the cow issue, where farmers are having problems with their cows escaping and walking the streets. The next group, Green Inc. also struggled to bring across an interesting message about awareness and participation in green industries but did bring publicity to ‘Kisma Kreative’, which is an ‘upcycling’ shop in Grahamstown. ‘Upcycling’ is different to recycling because you take junk and create something new and creative instead of creating the same or similar product again through recycling.

Shamefully we slipped out after this because our journalism projects called for attention but it was both exciting and scary to get a taste of what is to come in third year. Every journalism student who hates group work should have gone and watched because each group consisted of 12 or 13 members. I could barely keep our group of four together so do not even want to begin to think of the difficulty of pulling 13 heads into one. It also helped to see exactly what is to be avoided when creating a visual audio show and what works, which is always helpful and which is why journalism students need to attend events outside of our “journalism comfort zone” even if it means missing the snacks and having to sneak out near the end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Be certain of what you rant and rave about

A very long time ago, this guy I knew was viciously beaten up at a party, thankfully this rough neck that we had just met came to his aid and started smacking left, .right and centre. I was so grateful for his courage and willingness to help an absolute stranger. A few months into being my friend’s boyfriend, he started to smack her around and naturally I was outraged, ready to tear him apart.

I have written so many blogs on slipping student behaviour in lecture halls and basically in every academic area. This week I was overcome by giggles in two politics lectures, which was fuelled by not being able to laugh because I was in a lecture. An d was reprimanded by lecturer and told to “Shush!” by a fellow student.

On Wednesday I wrote a blog on racism and condemning two guys for their racist outlook on life but just the other day I had a “that’s typical” i.e. “that’s black” behaviour.

I also criticised girls in my post, “Silly Girls” on their predictability when it comes to boys and how their intelligence goes out the window as soon as a guy shoots them a drunken look. Yet I do the same thing religiously.

I hope you can see where I am going with this...

Every time something terrible, distasteful or disagreeable happens I am the first to get on the blogpost-band wagon and criticize the hell out of these incidents but as soon as I am faced with the similar situation I end up condoning
1) Violence
2) Disrespectful behaviour
3) Racism
4) Acting like a bimbo

It is never a bad thing to aspire to overcome bad traits and just because you are not Mother Teresa does not mean that you have no right to write. We just need to be aware of how easily it is to let what you so strongly believe in slide out the back door when we find ourselves in similar situations.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fear of the unknown

I remember about three years ago, I came to Rhodes with my mother for a family friend’s 21st birthday party. I can still remember the feeling of intense fear while walking through the campus. At that time I had not decided to come to Rhodes but the institution itself and what it represented and the fear of the unknown scared the living daylights out of me. I had that same feeling today while standing in the JMS department. I had just finished handing in my journalism portfolio and my friend and I decided to explore the colourful passages just to get a feel of where we would hopefully be spending the next three years. But with each step and after each peep into certain rooms my steps slowed in the fear of what each room represented. My friend was jumping in excitement and I just wanted to get out. This was until I walked down a passage and saw magazine designs done by fourth year design students and a ball of burning excitement jumped into my stomach and lit up my face. I was so thankful for what I saw and even more thankful that my desire to design had not died in the fear of the unknown. So for anyone who feels that their passion for journalism or anything has disappeared through uncertainty, take a walk through the success of another’s work and I assure you that if it is truly what you are meant to do, it will not hide away in the darkness of doubt.

Silly girls

I allowed my relationship issues to dominate my day and so instead of being productive I spent the whole of Saturday burning my white legs in the sun and simultaneously trying to burn the problems from my mind. I barely got a tan as I am a red headed, white skinned individual and of course the issues were still as evident as the stinging sun burn. My dear friend, who lay next to me in the sun, was still cringing from her long drunken French kiss all over town the night before and the other was trying hard to swat a guy away who despite having a girlfriend was desperate to see her that night. By 11pm we were all sitting on the floor because we felt that it matched our mental state and then decided that we would just go out and mingle with other teenagers for a reason I am still trying to sift out because I felt even more irritated after our excursion. All around us girls were flinging themselves at boys, crying in bathrooms and sitting dejectedly on the stairs all because of some guy issues. I felt incessantly irritated not because they looked like idiots but because I know that I look just like them and so was dealt a double blow of stupidity. Grahamstown is teeming with intelligent women who have strong personalities and are confident individuals and yet we still get ourselves all messed up over some guy who mutters, “I love you” as easily as “Can I get another drink”. It drives me insane with embarrassment and frustration but the truth is that love or like or lust trumps reasonable thought and so I can guarantee that my friends and I will be twisting in pain and cringing in embarrassment once again instead of being productive.

Racism is not something that happens in the subconcious

On Saturday night after unsuccessfully trying to work we arrived at the Rat (I have to state that it was my first time just to emphasise how low I was prepared to go to cheer myself up). Anyway we met a guy friend of one of my friends and his “crew”, of which two worked in the circus and the rest just behaved as if they did as well. About 10 minutes into a conversation about their careers, one of the idiots replied, “I tell that k***** to move those boxes over there”, this was followed by a few more racist remarks in reference to some black students who were in suites at the party. The three of us protested but you could see that it went in the one ear and out the other. Naturally the evening ended shortly after that but on our way out we heard two white guys saying the same racist remarks. We had had enough so told them to shut it and all they could say was that, “evidently you girls do not live in the real world and you think Grahamstown is the only place on earth”. They then said something about the naivety of first years and that we needed to get mugged and then will be just as racist.

I do not think that naivety or being a first year has anything to do with being a racist or not. It is so easy to go around and blame everything on black people but even though I am incredibly naïve according to that bight racist spark, I am mature enough to know that racism is a personal choice and that there are better ways to deal with muggings and such events. I will admit that I had a similar attitude when I arrived at Rhodes, and at first I would say that I was racist without realising and that I could not control my thoughts. But I have come to realise that racism is an active choice not something that happens on a subconscious level. I believe that we have control over those thoughts. Racist thoughts become words that are shouted into the ears of an individual who does not need to hear them and these words then create a terrible world for both the person that utters them and for the person who listens. We all need to take control of our thoughts and make a stand against those who think that you are naïve in doing this.

"South Africa's Next Top Journalist"

Walk down the passage, hand over portfolio, sign receipt, walk away and wait to be rejected or accepted. Today was the day that our journalism application was due and the light weight flip file was definitely not a true reflection of the experience that I had this year. As you may have gathered from previous posts I am not necessarily a mascot for Rhodes and have struggled for a long time but since I realised that it is not always about me, have decided to stay. Initially I found the JMS course and department isolating in its competitiveness. I realise that in every way they are trying to prepare us for the cut throat nature of the real media world but I could not and still cannot handle how cut throat we have become. We are still wet behind the ears yet are prepared to push and pull our way to get into JMS 2. From the start of the year we are reminded in almost every lecture that only 120 students out of the 280 will be given the chance to realise our dream. I feel like I am in “America’s Next Top Model”, where Tyra Banks states, “In my hand, I hold the picture of those who are still in the running to become Americas Next Top Model”. My immediate reaction is a deep desire to slap her face and this is exactly how I felt every time I hear that statement from the JMS lecturers. I also felt that there was no team effort to get us through; instead when I look at my fellow students I see murder in their eyes. It is worrying that we are taught this so early on but on the other, realistic hand, it is suicide if we are not. So we pour our hard earned hearts into our portfolio, which is a pathetic representation of our work and hand it in with a kiss and a prayer and can only hope that we cut enough throats to get through and become “South Africa’s Next Top Journalist”.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My brain woke me up this morning...

My brain, big and cumbersome, woke me up this morning without my permission. It does not rouse me like my mother with hot tea and delicious home-made rusks but rather with a cold bucket of worrying water. I wake with a start of emotion that makes my heart beat fast and at first I think that it is because I am excited about something but then realise that it is just my master, my brain that needs me to carry out some task that I have no interest in doing at this time of the morning. Today my mind made me wake up two and a half hours before the alarm with an already prepared introduction and conclusion for my politics essay that is due tomorrow. This answers my question on why I barley dream and if I do it feels as if my brain wants to pack all the dreams it took away into one crazy story. This is beside the point, because my primary concern is what my brain gets up to while I am asleep, why it urgently shakes me awake to start on a project as if it cannot trust me to do it myself in the hours when I am awake. So this morning found me leaning blindly forward, sleep still caking my eyes together, to grab my laptop and start fervently typing while my brain walked importantly around the room dictating what I should write like a president does to her secretary. I feel as if I exist purely to serve my brain, that I am a limp vessel with no emotion except to jump to attention when my brain snaps its fingers. Help me!

The "I" must stop!

I realise that “I” is not the correct way to begin a post on poverty, which is an intense issue as a result of too much focus on “I” and not on others. Our world is driven by “I”: “I want this”, “I have to have that”, and the infamous line, “me, myself and I”, with absolutely no concern or realisation of the effects that our selfishness has on others. States pursue their national interests just as you and I pursue our own interests, which is rarely, if every in the interest of the tattered and torn child who crawls, begging and whatever she receives is ruthlessly ripped from her hands by a bigger beggar in the survival of the poorest. Nor does it reflect the interest of the men and women who shuffle dejectedly to a fancy car that has been acquired through the pursuit of “I”.

There is a man in the poverty-stricken town of Grahamstown, who I call the, “10 cents man” because all he ever asks for is 10 cents and that is what I continually deny him. My reason for this denial has been based on the manner in which he asks for the money. He rudely shouts out, “I want 10 cents”, as if he deserves it. Don’t worry, I have finally realised how impolite I am in my thoughts and actions toward him because there is no beauty or politeness in poverty. There is only the raw and stinking violation of human rights.

We need to move away from this sick, destructive fascination with the “I” and make a conscious decision to turn it into a “we” because a good life is not reserved for the elite but for every single being. We cannot all contribute millions to the alleviation of poverty and some of us have no clue on how to tackle this thing that claws at our heels in the streets and drips continually and frustratingly from the ceiling onto our foreheads. But I can stop thinking about me and I can stop blaming the state or waiting for it to stop pursuing things that further deprive the poor of the nothing they have and give my brother, the “10cent man” a chance to ask for so much more because that is what he deserves.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Battle of the languages!

After countless hours of studying and parrot style reciting, after making a fool of myself in front of friends attempting to make tea, after going to bed in the wee hours and then waking up to jog off the stress at 7am, after putting toothpaste on countless stress pimples and after picturing my lecturers as naked individuals sitting on the toilet in an attempt to lower their god-like status I have finally completed my isiXhosa oral. And boy does it feel fantastic! As stated in a previous post, “Let’s talk language”, isiXhosa is the boxing world champion in my life that knocks me out in every fight. Slowly but surely the year has drawn to a close with many black eyes and broken ribs and just when I thought it could not get worse, the referee announced that another match had been scheduled: the dreaded oral. Tuesday the 14th of October at 16:10 loomed menacingly closer everyday and dampened my mood. I had failed miserably in the last fight and being the type of person who hates pursuing something that I cannot do brilliantly, I really thought about throwing in the towel. But now the light shines brightly again and I am happily holding onto my towel, that is for once covered in the isiXhosa champion or should I say ex-champions blood. Ok I admit that I didn’t transform into a first language isiXhosa speaker during the oral but I could actually answer most of what was asked, with a lot of nudging and repeated questions. But I have completed my long fight with isiXhosa and look forward to knocking its lights out in exams!

Timeless wisdom

Our knowledge as students or as qualified academics is frustratingly limited from within and without. I desire to learn more about what we are taught and I want to take up a subject like Classics next year and explore the secrets of the past. But as I stand looking at an ancient Greek building, my desire freezes because I know that no matter how deep I dive into the depths, I will never reach the bottom, never be satisfied because it is a time past and its loss is so exasperating. It is similar to wanting to know about the future o even the present, to think about globalisation and what it will do to our world, but there is no way to ever fully know. It is the end of the academic year and I feel that I have barley scraped the surface. Panic stricken I start throwing the clothes of my mind from its cupboards, shoving my head into spaces that I feel still need to be filled. Then shutting the doors and staring wildly around for more time because there is so much to know but time will not allow it. A friend explained that time in our lives, represents a whirlwind and each circular motion represents a year. As children, time is the wide open mouth and it feels as if it takes forever to complete the circle but as we age time forms closer rings that slip away faster and faster and faster until…nothing. The only consolation for these limitations is that we are not meant to fully understand and this ignorance is probably bliss and wisdom comes in knowing that knowledge is as fickle as time. Besides, in the end wisdom is timeless, so that should be our main pursuit.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We never miss the water until the well runs dry

A student stands up during a journalism lecture and shouts above the noise, “I did not get up this early to come to this lecture and listen to trivial student issues” only to be hotly shot down by another student confidently retorting, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if you want to hear you must sit in the front”.
This incident was immediately followed by a student attempting to use the distraction to leave the lecture hall early, only to trip and fall, which resulted in unnecessarily loud guffaws and over exaggerated doubling over. The logic behind this is to further waste the lecturers’ time because it took the lecturer a lengthy 15 minutes to get everyone under control. It takes so long because the lecturer adopts what is known as transactional analysis , which means that the lecturer refuses to shout at students because it makes them feel like children and they will respond as such. I have to ask if this theory still applies when you are dealing with children in the first place. Anyway, by the time the circus had come and left town, it was time for the lecture to end, with nothing covered and the only accomplishment was once again sending the youth forth into the world with empty skulls. One may put this incident down to a bad day, “It was probably a Monday or Thursday”, you might say, because that is when all the students have poured straight out of the pub and into the lecture hall. But in fact the circus comes to town everyday now as student attitude slips nonchalantly down the toilet.

Everyday, in both lectures and tutorials, students are exercising their new found ability to take control of the situation and use it their lazy advantage. When discussing the collapse of self control and control in lecture theatres and basically in every aspect of academic life, the same reply is grunted out, that we are the lost generation, a science experiment carried out by the education department, which went horribly wrong. Perhaps it is because we are living in the postmodern age , where we struggle to deal with the deconstruction and reconstruction of what we thought was reality and cannot handle the multiple realities that we are bombarded with on a daily basis through the mass media and globalisation. We become lost farts blowing in a vicious wind and so we do not know what to be truly important. I agree that these hypotheses need to be taken into consideration but one thing that remains, is that our generation is addicted to an easy way out. A label is given to everything that students hide under to avoid facing up to the truth, which is that despite the fact that the sky is falling on our heads, we need to get on with it!

Another case in point is that of plagiarism. It is virtually impossible to forget about plagiarism because all of the introductory lectures drummed it into our heads. Although, if you were drinking and not attending introductory lectures, than I guess that excuses you from going onto site like E-cheats and copying prewritten essays straight off the site for a few dollars. This leads me to two points. Firstly, students having absolutely no idea about what they want to study. Many of us pursue the scent of money like a pack of bloodhounds and so study things that we hate. This translates into swallowing and puking out your course every weekend and during the week at the local pub. Secondly, is the issue of a certain percentage of students who have unlimited amount of cash at their disposal, enough to pay dollars for a badly written American essay and who have the mentality that mommy and daddy will always be shoving wads of money in their faces.

To conclude Prof. Pityana mentioned in his lecture on academic freedom, that university is the place that produces critically thinking individuals who challenge existing structures of influence and authority. Ironically and embarrassingly the very individuals he was talking to and about rendered his words null and void, through their embarrassingly racist and disruptive behaviour. What Sim Kyazze wrote in his blogpost, “Why are we even here? Pityana public lecture falls on quite a few 18 year olds “tin ears””, poses the right question. Why are we here when we are just wasting everyone’s money and time? There are individuals who actually refuse to pass blame even though they perhaps have more right to do so. The old proverb that says that we do not miss the water until the well runs dry, rings true because if we continue to be so apathetic to all academic structures things are going to go down hill fast!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How things have changed

Every time that I visit my family back in Port Elizabeth, we sit in the garden and I fill them in on entertaining details about university life and on every occasion my godmother and mother are both shocked at how things have changed. I mentioned in a previous blog, “Rhodes pool full of fully-clothed Rhodents”, that my godmother, an ex-Rhodent herself, used to swim in the pool alone at 10 at night, with no worries in the world. In fact it was extremely relaxing and she recommended that I do it too. Of course we all know that it is suicide of some form to expose yourself so openly to crime. Of course safety has changed from then to now but another issue that fascinates these ex-Rodents is that of talking during lectures. Although they drank just as much as we do and were hanging just as happily, my godmother explained that it did not once cross their minds to talk; it was just not the done thing. Another incident is the bitch fights that happen at our residence. I, too have had some troubles with some of my residence friends and still blush when I think of how childish all of us were. There were many other “bitch fights” that went on throughout the year and when I would report back on these, god mommy stated that there was never such immaturity while she was at Rhodes. The list continues and their jaws continue to drop and I continue to cringe under their worrying stares because I am part of this generation and one student’s action is reflected onto a global stage and we are cloaked in its stereotype.

Teamwork unworkable

Teamwork can truly push you to the absolute limit. Yesterday was hot and stuffy and while my friends lounged outside catching a tan, I had to catch up with my group to do our journalism comic assignment. It is an interesting and creative assignment and for once we do not have to learn theory, instead our task is to take action packed photographs and turn them into a fun comic that suits our blog. Our idea centres on four potatoes that have completely opposite personalities. On a daily basis they are subjected to some form of pain, either emotional or physical. After one too many bad ordeals they decide to unite and conquer evil. The evil characters are words, such as assault, rape, rejection and so on who also take the form of potatoes. The four of potatoes successfully destroy evil, using potato cooking utensils and the comics ends with the villains turned into delicious potato dishes. It sounds easy enough but it is damn hard and needs a dedicated team to pull it off. Our tea, is already one down and then another team mate decides that the pool is calling her name too strongly and so does not arrive. So there we were, just two farts in the wind, attempting to pull the project together. But today is a new day, with renewed hope in our team member, except that it is now 14:22 and she still hasn’t arrived for the 14:00 meeting. It was vital that she come today because of what she had to bring to the meeting. Irritation, frustration and a need to “bring out the bitch” is coursing through me veins but what can you really do? We have to get on with it because our arses are still on the line. We just need to keep our feelings in our veins until it is time to evaluate our team member …

Friday, October 10, 2008

Security scare

In light of the muggings, rape and assault that happened in worrying abundance this past weekend my friend and I began discussing campus security as we hurried through the streets to her brothers’ house. As we recalled students were mugged in the drama department at four in the afternoon, which is not an unreasonable time to be walking around campus or to be practising in the drama department. We also recalled that there is always a security guard who sits outside of the drama department. This observation led us to wonder about the standard of the security that us Rodent have to fork out for annually. We also began to wonder about the safety of these Blue Routes that are supposedly there to protect us from crime. But if the security guard at the drama department could do nothing to stop three armed thieves from mugging students in the light of day, how on earth can we expect them to do it in the dead of night? We know that security is never full proof but we as students need some form of reassurance that if we press the SOS buttons on the Blue Route that someone will actually come to our rescue. If we have to go through endless fire drills to illustrate that we can get ourselves to safety, should the guards then not have to do the same to show us that that too can secure our safety, which seems to be fading at a rapid pace everyday.

Lets talk language

isiXhosa and myself share a love/ hate relationship and at present it is leaning precariously close to the hate side, which I detest because I had planned to major in this beyond difficult subject. If anyone thought English was a challenge to study, then they have not come face to face with isiXhosa. I partake in the battle five times a week and it beats me every time. Everyone tells you the absolute necessity of having isiXhosa on your degree and I personally believe that in order to survive in South Africa, you have to learn the lingo. Some of my friends, who witness my struggle, believe that university is too short to spend it bleeding over a subject you do not particularly like but life is all about sacrifices and so the battle continues. Anyway, about a week ago in English we had to fill out a course evaluation form and one of the questions was whether or not we would like an increase in African literature. I had mixed responses because I feel balance is important. We need the old school literature but also need to give voice to Africa but then felt angry, in my ignorance, thinking that they wanted to destroy everything that represents the West.

This topic was brought up in our isiXhosa culture class today. But sadly our teacher thought that Rhodents were not the type of people that would accept such a change. Embarrassingly I had proved him right and then and there I realised that I should not study isiXhosa if I am not prepared to take on the task of filling the cultural void that comes from the suppression of African literature. Taking a language is not just about learning it and using it to your advantage, language is everything in life, our identity and the way we construct our reality and therefore it is a task that needs to be approached in a selfless manner. We need to uplift Africa by learning more about it through African literature. Besides that, I personally think that the English department needs a change in course work because my mother was reading the same books some 30 years ago!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Testing tuts

Due to the fact that I had missed one of my tutorials on Monday I took it upon my diligent self to attend a make-up tutorial. Actually my friend forced me to join the tutorial so I did and was both impressed and concerned about the style of tutoring. In my usual tutorial, there is a definite structure and our group is usually divided into two teams and we spend most of the time debating different points. Our tutor is strict but not to the point of extremity. She allows enough freedom to make everyone comfortable with one another but there allows no chance for the session to flip over into the unruly power of the students and we are certainly never allowed to leave early. In the tutorial I attended today, there seemed o be a lack of respect toward the tutor from some students and others did not participate at all while only a small few engaged in the discussion. The students managed to sway form the topic at every possible chance and it was evident that the tutorial was under the control of the students and not the tutor. I did get good information from attending this tutorial but afterwards I had to express my interest at the difference in the two tutorials. One of the students replied that although it may seem a little unruly, they love the way it is conducted. Their tutor fully believes that he should not have to contribute if his tutlings do not. It is the policy at Rhodes that tutorials are not another lecture but rather a discussion group where the tutor merely acts as a facilitator. So in this tutors opinion, he is only the facilitator and if the tutlings feel that they are confident enough not to contribute, whether that is the case or not, it is their decision. It is a good and important policy because I realised that a lot of the tutors spoon feed students, which just adds to the worrying statistic that this year’s students are some of the dumbest universities have seen, but more about that in another post.

Rhodes pool full of fully-clothed Rhodents

On Tuesday a friend and I joined the masses of Rhodents who have suddenly realised that it is in fact Summer and so have jumped into frantic jogging and other such exercise to get rid of the winter wads. Panting and fat wobbling us successfully jogged twice around the block before collapsing in a heap of res food induced cramps. While we lay on the ground the real joggers flew past us, running on air, which get bus back on our feet and we ran to the pool (which was just down the road). It was the first time that I had swum in the Rhodes pool but the icy water felt great and I definitely think that I enjoy swimming more than jogging. Apparently one kilometre is equivalent to three kilometres in water! What made us laugh though was that we were too shy to swim in only our costumes so we jumped in with our T-shirts only to find that there were three other girls who had jumped in with their entire outfit as well, so until we all accept that our bodies are not such a sight for sore eyes, the pool is going to be filled with fully clothed Rodents. My guard mother recommended that I swim daily because water is a calming agent and all that jazz. She then went on to explain that when she was at Rhodes she would go for a swim by herself at 10 pm! I can not believe how times have changed because to do that today would be a death sentence. Added to that I have watched way too many horror movies to go swimming alone in the dead of night!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mini-tornado and massive hailstorm 'klaps' Grahamstown

I realised, only after three phonecalls from friends and an e-mail from mother dearest, that Grahamstown had been hit by a mini-tornado.( Rather embarrassing considering the fact that I am supposed to be a journalist student and so should be naturally clued up on all the disasters that hit Rhodes and the wider community. My only contribution to the strange weather is a small bruise that I managed to get in the rather vicious hailstorm that bashed Rhodes for a few minutes. The hailstorm saw students running frantically in all directions, some slipping and sliding and others entering lecture halls and tutorials sopping wet. I was one of the unlucky ones who still bathing in the bliss of my new found sandal freedom had dressed in the bare minimum and so got soaked and battered by the pieces of hail that grew larger at every downpour. But unbeknownst to us students, the Grahamstown township had been blown away while we scampered like wet rats into buildings. This shocking but exciting incident (sorry, that is the ignorant journalist coming through because I know it was not exciting for the people who have lost their homes) was broadcast on the news, together with other stories about flooding and terrible lightning storms in Port Elizabeth. Summer is definitely here, not just in form of cheerful blossoms but also in the form of weird rain and hail storms.

Academic growth

Last night I started to study for exams, which consisted of picking up the first book we read in the English 1 course and reading it all over again. The name of the book is Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr Faustus”, which is a foggy memory from the past. So at present I cannot give an accurate description of the book or my feelings toward it but I did come to a very satisfactory realisation after reading the introduction. The one thing I do remember about this play is that, it being the first university text, I struggled with the new terminology and academic language and with every new text I still feel like I struggle to navigate myself through the mass of fancy terminology. But last night after I put Dr Faustus down I smiled at the realisation at how much I have grown academically because all of a sudden I understood the academic language and I can even take it so far as to say that I felt like I was reading a silly matric text. First year really does break you down especially if you did very well in high school. You feel like each piece of university work that is thrown is just added to the whirlwind of knowledge that you just cannot grasp. But then you have a moment like I had last night when you realise how much you have grown, how much your brain has expanded and finally you are presented with the very rewarding reality that you actually have not wasted you year, which is the oompf! you need to get through the final exams.

My toe-phobia

My toes are the part of my body that I would happily donate to science, right away! When I dress in the morning I close my eyes when I put on my shoes and any time they are exposed I try to dig them into sand, cement or tile floors in an attempt to conceal them. I had to have an operation on my right foot so it has a lovely scar running alone the side and that foot always looks bigger than the other. As you can guess, I am not a lover of sandals because to me it is the equivalent of walking around naked, with all the funny body bits exposed. But it is beautiful Rhodes in beautiful summer and everyone is prancing around in glittering sandals, so I decided to go out and buy some sandals and overcome my fear. I am also positive that I speak for many students who suffer from the similar toe-phobia. Like many fears, this one is also so stupid because after sheepishly walking around in my new sandals I realised that my toes are the same as everyone else’s i.e. there are five of them and they are attached to the end of the foot and that absolutely no-one is looking at them. There really is no “toe detective” walking around Rhodes and recording who has nice feet and who does not. It is embarrassing how we think everyone’s attention is focused on us, which is what keeps us locked in our rooms or breaking our toes in a silly attempt to hide them underneath the concrete. So three days into the week, I am happily skipping along in my new found freedom and loving it!

Save the sweetness of home for a rainy day

This is a slightly delayed blog considering that the weekend has already passed. This is also not about what happened n the weekend because it has nothing to do with Rhodes as I did no work at all but more to do with the risks of going home as regularly as I do. I had successfully stayed at Rhodes for two whole weeks and one weekend and it was high time to get out of here. So I once again skipped town as soon as the last “school bell” rang with the excuse that I needed to fetch my camera charger so that I could take photographs for this blog even though I knew that it was not a necessity. I even missed the glamorous hall ball but I blame my absence on the fear of not being able to fit into my matric dance dress. So dress hanging abandoned in my cupboard I went home and spent a lovely weekend with the family and the boyfriend and felt confident that I would handle the departure with no upsets because the last weeks at Rhodes had been great and I felt happy about everything. I was to take the bus early Monday morning to be in time for my lectures and tutorials but as soon as 6am reared its ugly head and ripped me from my mothers warm arms, I was back at sobbing square one. Not to mention the irritating fact that the bus came late so I ended up missing most of my lectures and a tutorial. Back at res I felt the same sadness and lack of motivation to function on any level because as any student will discover, Rhodes is plain crappy compared to your other life, which is why we should not subject ourselves to the constant comparison that leaves us dishevelled and depressed. Stick it out for the whole term or at least half and savour the sweetness of home for a truly rainy day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rape and pillage

Rape, burglaries, assaults, attempted assaults and muggings, in other words rape and pillage is running rife and did run rife during this past weekend and into the week. Yet we continue to walk alone at night and make ourselves targets for the disgusting creatures that pace, waiting like patient lions for an innocent student just desperate to finish an assignment or visit a friend. A week ago I posted a blog entitled “Denied the pleasure of solitude in nature” where I ranted and raved like an ignorant fool demanding to know why I have to give up the pleasures of nature because I might be raped or the like. But after reading about the incident that occurred when a girl walked from her digs to one of the computer labs in the dead of night and got raped on the way back, I could not help but think, “What an idiot, of course that was going to happen!”. Except that I had done exactly the same thing and my hypocrisy brought me back to the cold reality that we desperately want to believe that things like this won’t happen to us, but they do because there is an asshole out there that is just as desperate to prove you wrong. Another friend of mine missed her lecture yesterday because she was up all night playing rescue to her friend who had been mugged and beaten right outside her bedroom window and she had not heard a single ting. Another incident concerns to drama students who were rehearsing in the drama department and were mugged by three individuals. My concern is why are students up at all hours, walking the streets to work in computer labs and rehearsing in departments? Is it our typical, lazy condition to leave everything to the last minute or is a different kind of desperation driving us? Or is it neither and just the very sad fact that the institutions i.e. the police, education institutions and the government, that are meant to protect us are failing miserably?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Student apathy

With regards to my previous post entitled “The many forms of offence” I was reminded of a politically charged discussion that I and a few other girls from my residence had over chocolate pudding in the dining hall. It was the usual setting that surrounds any political conversation: those that have nothing to say because they think its trivial, those too afraid to offend, and those (like me) who do not know much but just want to argue and the token individual pioneering the debate. We were discussing whether Jacob Zuma was a puppet for whomever or if he truly was the one that will destroy South Africa “single handily”. As you can guess, there were no Zuma supporters at that table.
The discussion went all it’s which ways with no epiphanic conclusion but the individual pioneering the debate was still fuming as we put our trays and our political thoughts into trolleys. She is one of the small handfuls of students who actually attend student forums, which deal with all the big issues at Rhodes. Her anger was geared toward the apathy and the scary fact that at every meeting it is about 25 SRC members, 5 students and some others who have to be there, who actually attend. But it is these people who "represent" the student body and have the power to change Rhodes even if that change is extremely biased and in no way reflects what us students really want. Do us students even know what we want, do we even care that there is a tiny group who are making decisions on our behalf? We are notified of these forums via posters around campus and Studentzone. It is apathy that results in people like Jacob Zuma or the like governing our country and it must stop here! Only about 1500 students registered to vote, which leaves about 1500 South African students unregistered, which halves the chance of change and please believe me when I say that it does matter what you think, in a big way!

The many forms of offence

This morning when I should have been sleeping I was listening to 5 FM and the latest changes that are to be made to our everyday lives because someone has once again been offended by of the politically incorrect connotations. The change will be made to the ‘lady’ and ‘gents’ signs on toilet doors. They will now be changed to “toilet” and “toilet with urinals” because the previous names offend transsexuals and transvestites and anything else in tights. Once again money will be wasted to change meaningless signs that are offensive to a percentage of this population. Are there not more offensive things like poverty, rape and child abuse? I am sure whoever rallied for this change is probably bitter and angry and just in need to prove something to the world. The rest of the transsexuals, transvestites and so forth are probably fine with walking into the toilet that suits their personality. As Gareth Cliff said, “If you are going to be transsexual then you have to be prepared for some form of political incorrectness”. I think it will be highly offensive when I am doing my lady business and some guy walks in because he thought “toilet” meant “toilet” and did not see the “toilet with urinals” sign. So for all the Rhodes students, please keep up with the changes and do drop of your complaints at the Student Bureau if you feel offended by something as trivial as toilet signs so that we can waste more money on its changes.

The suction of second rate dreams

An open book, a picture, the sound of a cheerful blossom, the turn of a smiling head or a smell that curls into your nose and penetrates your memory, is all it takes to transport you to a different place and time. Such normal incidents can make you feel so out of place in a split second and then it vanishes and you move on. But in that second your mind does split and you are reminded of something past that you have pushed away in the necessity of sacrifice. I had one of those today, probably everyday but it is not something that you can hold onto because it is already a memory that relies on some movement or gesture to activate it. It was during my English tutorial where we were trying to understand something as elusive as postmodernism and while doing so passing postmodernists and modernist art books around the circle. The weight of the book as it hit my hand and the art, oh the art that stared back from the pages grabbed and pulled me into my memory and I was lost in Edvard Munchs’ scream and Pollock’s tearing mess for a few pleasurable seconds. This is the sacrifice that I made to be here. I love to write but I LOVE art. Unfortunately my insecurities or the force of lucrativeness or another’s words of “wisdom” has shoved that desire aside for a few seconds but I will pluck up enough courage to realise that life is too short to follow your second rate dreams.

Worrying is for the birds

A worry that every student encounters at this time of the year is not exams or whether they will make it into the next year but rather how they will afford to pay for it even if they do receive that much desired acceptance letter. Rhodes is a very pricey experience and with the rise in expenses world wide (and the new library?) the fees are going to rocket. Many students do not have this worry and are usually the ones you find puking up the money over a balcony at some pub. But for those us, who can not afford the “luxury” of drinking our education away, sit and bite our nails to the quick. I do not bite my nails because my grandfather told me that it is cleaner to lick a toilet seat but I am a professional worrier who is addicted to stressing about the unknown. I realised though, after my father emailed me to say that he would pay for next year that I had for a change not worried because I expected to be saved from the horror of taking out a student loan, which you now have to pay back six months after you have completed your studies. I immediately felt bad for expecting my father to swoop in and save me from this burden but simultaneously realised that I see worrying as something that constitutes gratitude and because I had not torn my hair out over this issue, I somehow did not feel I deserved a free ride. The extent to which worry dominates my life and the sick fact that I am addicted to it is what I should be worried about.
I know that I am not the only one who feels like this so here is a verse to hang on to if you feel anything like I do:
“Look at the birds in the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding then. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26