Saturday, January 17, 2009

South Africa trip, Week 4. Hair Chronicles

Well, knitters, I like to talk about hair more than knitting now. :) And I wrote this blog on a hair care forum, so I had to dedicate a post to hair styles.

**Notice, yes, I asked all the hair folk if I could post their pics**

Okay, last entry. When we left off, we were out on the town and I was looking for a pic of someone's hair. Thando pointed a woman out to me. Turns out she was a hair dresser! She was very flirty and asked if I wanted her number, haha. Too bad that I was leaving in 2 days and I like boys. But I got cute pictures anyway:

Let me stop here to say that, unfortunately, South African black women suffer from all the same hair ills that American black women do. Natural hair is a bit more common there, but there are also a lot of bad relaxers. However, I got nothing but love and lots of it for my hair, which really set me apart. Most people's hair is a lot shorter than mine. They abuse their hair just like black women do here. Uncared-for relaxers and very dry and broken off natural hair. The combing is brutal, just like it is here. It was kinda sad to see, though I guess I already knew it having been to S. Africa and Zim before. I was not into hair back then so didn't pay as much attention.

As far as I can gather, Zulu women traditionally kept their hair cut very low. Nowadays, braid extensions are really popular and there are braid shops on almost every corner in the city. It's pretty cheap and prices generally top out at $25 for braids but can be as cheap as $10 in the salon and cheaper if your friend does it. Relaxers start at $5 in the salon and seem to top out around $10. (these are not high-end salons; i wasn't in a high-end neighborhood). Dark and Lovely relaxers and products are popular. So are Sta Sof Fro, where that brand has waaaay more products than we do for it here.

So let's get a few more styles.

This was done by just take a section of hair and twirling it around the finger. No products were used:

This was done by washing hair and just pressing the palm against the head and rubbing in circles to force clumping:

Here is a girl getting her hair braided in the township. Her hair is relaxed here. They often do the braids really thick. I think they put about twice as much fake hair per section as I did for my braids:

There was some version of threading where they wrapped thread around the hair as it was cornrowed or braided down into place. I didn't see it often, but happened to get this girl's hair in a pic of a musical theater performance. You can see a piece of the thread sticking out:

Here's a short natural style, looking pretty nice I think:

Among natural styles, a short afro like above was popular, also the chunked look like in the picture of the guy on the beach. Also some locs, though definitely more popular amongst men.

So that wraps up my South African trip blog posts. I had a great time! Hope you enjoyed reading these.

South Africa trip, Week 4

Well, you know I'm behind because I've actually been back in the country since Dec. 17th. Week 4 was the last week, though.

Let's see. That last week I wrapped up my research questions. But it's the kind of research where new questions are constantly popping up, so I already have more.

I took another trip to a township. The YMCA coordinator that invited me promised me the traditional food that I had wanted (amagwinya or ijeqhe (sp?)). I was fed, but the food turned out to be more of the same as what I had been having. I think he just wanted someone to take all the photos for the awards ceremony there were having and he didn't have a digital camera. I was extra mad, too, because other people who were supposed to come didn't and they were supposed to join me in going back home (to the YMCA). So I had to go back by myself after dark and, as I told you, my neighborhood is not the best. But it all turned out okay.

I was taken out on the town by a couple of guys. One was Zimbabwean (Ndebele), but he had lived in S. Africa since high school. He was a student in Johannesburg and was visiting friends in Durban that weekend. The other was Ugandan, though raised in Australia. I've already forgotten what he was doing in Durban. Anyway, we went out to try to find a hip hop club, which it seems are scarce in Durban. Durban is more of a house music city. But we went to one hip hop / raggae place, then one house place, then back to the first place, and finally to another hip-hop place which was kinda empty (cuz it wasn't free) but at least had better music and places to sit down.

Earlier that night, I had told Thando (Zim guy) that I needed a pic of someone's hair to round out the set of hair photos I promised to show my hair board and he pointed someone out to me. Which brings me around to our favorite topic, hair. For the continued discussion on hair, see Week 4, Hair Chronicals.

South Africa trip, Week 3, part 2. The crime report (group beating)

And I needed to tell someone and everyone back home is sleep or out or whatever at this time. I'm in South Africa right now. I have written a few blog posts about it, but I'm behind now. Will update soon with posts about crime and, of course, hair. Anyway, I'm in Durban and in a really rough neighborhood (the first blog tells how I ended up here). I feel like the past couple of days have been so close to crime, it just keeps coming up, muggings, car jacking, anti-rape and molestation rallies, which I'll go into when I finally update my blog. But today was the awful climax.

First, because it's the southern hemisphere this is early summer. So the sun rises around 5am and I don't know if they do that daylight savings thing here. So I wake up really early cuz I wake with the sun. I was lying in bed watching Spongebob on my laptop (yeah, I brought cartoon comfort from home) when I hear yelling out the window. I am right across the street from a park, which is almost right next to the water, the harbour. Lots of homeless people sleep there, many foreigners as this is one of the places foreigners fled to during the xenophobic attack flare-ups. So I was lying in bed and I hear yelling like "woza la" (come here). I look out the window and I see a guy chasing a couple other younger guys, maybe teens, but it looks like they got away and they were carrying stuff which I assumed they stole. This was the second mugging I've witnessed in 24 hours. But wait, that's not the story. I just brought it up because, dang, this happened the same morning in the same spot.

So I went back to bed figuring that I might skip breakfast because what they serve us here at the YMCA is sometimes not even worth getting up for. Well, I fell asleep with Spongebob playing and was awakened again about 2 hours later by a loud commotion. I went to my window again and I hear the shouting of "woza la" again and also English "come here, n*gg*" (yes, they use that word here, too). But there are trees in the park so at first I couldn't see and couldn't tell where it was coming from. Then it was like chaos and it's hard to remember exactly what happened (now I understand why witnesses give such different accounts). But the next thing I knew a group had gathered and they were pulling and dragging this guy into the street. He looked like a homeless guy. He had long unkempt dirty looking dreadlocks (the kind mostly seen on the homeless) and dirty, raggedy clothes. Someone hit him in the head with something and he was falling down. They had picked up random stuff, shovels, their belts, stick-looking things with cords on the end (i swear, that one could have doubled as a whip) and they were yelling at him and would hit him or punch him or kick him. There were other people who seemed to be trying to stop it. At this point a couple people had him under the arms and were trying to drag him away and I wasn't sure whether they were trying to help him or drag him away from his protectors. Others were trying to pull him back the other way and would occasionally grab at his legs. I remember yelling but I was confused and didn't even understand who I was yelling at. Other people were yelling too. People were watching it from the windows, also passersby. Somebody pulled out a gun, he was on the side (physically at least) of people who were pulling at his legs. The beaten guy's clothes were torn and he was bleeding from the mouth. The guy with the gun was pointing it at people's heads. Some of them stepped back but some of them seemed not too threatened. I don't know how or why that was. They would still yell and occasionally whip or kick the guy.

The police finally came. They were not very forceful. I heard the people yell something about "criminal". That's when it occured to me, half the people yelling, beating, whatever, were wearing church clothes. Like slacks and button up shirts and ties and women around are wearing dresses. There's a big (and loud) chuch nearby and it's Sunday morning. People are still worked up and still trying to kick the guy while the police push them away. They put the guy in the back of the paddy wagon and take him away and at some point, I can't even remember when, one officer is spraying some of the church folk in the eyes with something. A couple of the church guys are holding up another guy (also in slacks) who seems to be hurt that I didn't notice before and they are slowly walking him away somewhere. Afterwards people stay and discuss it in the street, loudly. They seem to be telling the police what happened. They seem to be complaining to the police. One woman is yelling "the police always tell us . . .". The best I can guess, the homeless guy robbed or somehow attacked one of the church-goers and they caught him and beat him.

Sorry for the long story but I had to tell someone and don't want to wake my family and the two friends I feel comfortable waking are not answering the phone.

South Africa trip, Week 3, part 2. The crime report.

Anyway, I wanted to touch on crime in this post. That week seemed to be filled with so many crime-related events. On the way back from 'Maritzburg, I talked to the guy sitting next to me in the khumbi. For a while he wouldn't believe I wasn't S. African, either. What was going on that day? He seemed surprised that an American would be taking this type of transport. Khumbis are like giant vans that people buy and they work essentially like a bus but they seem to be independently owned. Anyway, I was happy to talk to him because I needed to know where to get off so I could catch a metered taxi back to my place. It was night time and I was pretty nervous about going back to my place in any other fashion because my neighborhood is really rough. He was really kind and helped me find a taxi, accompanied me, and even paid for the taxi. On the way he told me he had been mugged twice in the last 3 months by the same guy. Even his laptop was stolen. He said he knew who he was but they wouldn't arrest him because he was the son of a policeman. Anyway, I remember really thinking my neighborhood was bad because when I told this guy, who had been mugged twice in the last 2 months, where I lived, he said "that rough neighborhood?!"

The next day I decided I'd go to the beach. On the way to the beach I ran into a rally in a courtyard, I think that bldg was City Hall. It was against violence against women and children, part of a big affair being called "16 Days of Activism". I've seen posts about it around town. Anyway, it was really interesting to hear all the stories people told. They had speakers from the community and church officials. Also there was a spoken word artist. She would sing a chorus and then she would recite verses about teen pregnancy, abortion, baby rape, etc. It was intense! There were t-shirts strung all along the courtyard with messages painted on them. I took a couple of pictures

Really powerful messages.

I left after a bit and continued on to the beach. As I was walking along the string of hotels across from the beach, I saw a couple of people running. Now, I try not to be the one who jumps to the conclusion that young black males running means they stole something. But, um, these dudes were running hard. It took a second before I saw what they were carrying. One had a small rack of sunglasses and another had several backpacks. A guy (Indian) was chasing them, but they got away, running right past me. The Indian guy went back to console another guy (black), so I guess they were the vendors. I looked at the hotel security guard like , but I guess he was only protecting the hotel, not the vendors across from it. He didn't even budge!

The next morning I heard yelling outside the window. It was 5-something in the morning and I looked out the window, where there's a park. I saw two young black boys running, again a little too hard. A man was yelling behind them and chasing them, but he soon gave up. They were also carrying something, but I couldn't see what it was. I thought to myself "again?" Twice in less than 24 hrs. for me. But I went back to sleep. A couple hours later I was woken by a lot more yelling. That's where this story (here I had a link to a post on the site. I'll post it separately in the next blog) comes in. Not saying necessarily that I'm against a community protecting itself, but it was still disturbing to watch.

All in all that weekend really unsettled me. The weekend before a student where I'm staying was car-jacked. She borrowed the family car to take her stuff from here back home and before she even got fully out of the gate she was car-jacked. Man, my 'hood is really . . . 'hood.

Next time it's the hair report.

South Africa trip, Week 3

I am so behind! Yikes! Okay, let's see, when I left off I said I was going to talk about hair and why I was angry at this dude. I'm going to save hair for later but why was I angry at this dude? Long story short he sees me at the computer (either on 'net or doing my work) and suggested that I go out and do more. He asked where I had been other than Durban and I told him (the short answer) Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town. Then he makes some smart comment about those places being 19th century Europe, "didn't you realize that?" and in the scope of the conversation it was clear that he was saying that he didn't think I was experiencing "the real Africa" or whatever. Now I gave him the short answer, but the list of stuff I've done in S. Africa almost certainly includes stuff he never has done and stuff most visitors to this country never will. I:
-studied Zulu
-had several lectures on various aspects of Zulu culture
-lived in the homes of two (black) S. African families, one in a township outside of Pietermaritzburg and one in a rural area.
-been to Shaka's grave and museum
-went to where Mandela was arrested
-been to a virginity testing/celebration festival
-went to an inter-regional gathering of Shembe followers
-spent a long weekend at a game park
-went to a few art and history museums, malls, marine world, etc.
and other stuff I'm sure I'm forgetting now. So I've done both tourist-y stuff and stuff most tourists don't do. My experiences were similar in Zimbabwe. And how does a city being influenced by white folk not make it African? This is 2008 and this was a colony, so most of the country and most of the world has had some European influence. If he thinks a mixture of elements from Europe invalidates something as really S. African, I wonder what he thinks of himself considering he's colored.


Okay, back to the current trip. I tried to visit my homestay family from the last time I was here last Friday, but they stood me up. I still haven't gotten in touch with them, but it was so odd. They asked me several times when I was coming and I called an hour before I left to say I was going there. But when I got there no one answered the phone (they were supposed to pick me up). I waited for an hour and a half in the rain, my shoes were soaked through, I was hungry, had to pee, and was annoyed by a couple of random men. After a while I just caught a khumbi (shared public transportation) back to Durban.

By the way, one of the men refused to believe I wasn't Zulu. People think I'm Zulu all the time, and I have no problem with that. But this guy just wouldn't believe me. He thought I was "trying to be clever". I told him, in Zulu, that I don't speak Zulu and when he asked what I spoke I told him English. This is common with me here. Because I'm black, they expect that I speak some African language. So he keeps asking me, "no, what's your language?" and I told him English, I'm American. I guess he didn't believe me because I can understand a teeeeensy bit of Zulu and say a few words and once I said them, he was convinced.

It's interesting, this thing. I was in KFC the other day and the servers greeted me in Zulu (everyone always does; they assume I'm Zulu). I can say the greeting back, but then I placed my order in English because Zulu is very awkward for me, can't really do it. But she switches back and forth between English and Zulu with me. I wonder if she also thinks I'm "trying to be clever" or snotty or something. Because some white people came in and I probably know little more Zulu than they do, but the servers spoke to them 100% in English.

This post is getting long, I'm going to break it up and put the next in part 2 for week 3. I'll talk about crime and have a couple of pictures.

South Africa trip, Week 2

So here we are nearing the end of the 2nd week. Research is going okay, I guess. I think I'll set up another meeting tomorrow. It's convenient to be here because if ever my consultants disagree on a point, I can just ask random Zulu people what they think.

So the 2nd week started off with me attending a benefit dinner. It was hosted by the medical school at the Durban UKZN campus, with proceeds to benefit an orphanage. Actually, I think it was just a woman and her husband who adopted like 35 kids or something. She was there and spoke and thanked us. Dinner, live music, and dancing for $10. Not bad, but I think this meant that the bad was doing it really cheap and only a few hundred dollars was raised for the family. Anyway, I had a good time. A "benefit dinner" doesn't sound like anything I could afford to go to back home, so I was happy.

I've gone to the beach a couple of times. The weather now is very humid and usually warm, but often cloudy. So I try to wait until the sun is out. It's about a 25 min walk if you walk briskly. Here I am on the beach. Each ponytail is held by an xl flexi8 clip.

All these blue jellyfish things kept washing up on the beach. I heard one teenage boy (white, though I don't know that that matters.) point out a big one to another, and then he went over and stepped on it. Boys. Taking that hunting instinct too far. Why kill something just for the enjoyment of seeing it die?

Blue bottle (?):

I walked out on the dock (i think that's the right term) and took a video. It might have to wait for my next post. Right after I stopped recording, a man not 10 ft away was on his knee proposing. I heard a squeal and saw a black ring box. Awww.

Um, this city, at least this part, is covered in abortion signs. I mean, covered in them. Like they'll be 10 on a single wall, they might as well be wallpaper. "400 rand (approx $40), same day, pain free." Mostly in English, but occasionally in Zulu just in case you don't speak English.

They go along well with the condom and aids-prevention tv ads. Those make perfect sense to me, though, considering the outrageous rate of hiv-positive folks here. I mean, it is really really high. Stats vary, so I won't go there, but let's just say very high.

Okay, I think that's it for part 1 of week 2. I think in part 2 I'll talk about our favorite subject, hair, and also why I'm ticked off at this dude here at the Y.

South Africa trip, Week 1, part 2

So when I last left off, things weren't looking so great. But they quickly made a turn for the better. The YMCA I'm staying in is in the hood, true enough, but there are also more people here. More people here means more people to help me figure out where things are, take me around town, to the movies, to the beach, etc. And we are really close to the water. I can walk to the beach or walk to the harbor for lunch, where they have a nice lunch special for about $3 at a Thai place. Where in the States can I eat on the water for $3? And this YMCA, unlike the other, provides breakfast and dinner, so that's 2 meals a day I don't have to worry about getting. So not so bad after all.

Also, I am instantly more popular here. I'm foreign and exotic (unlike foreign and hated, as in black foreigners from other countries with the recent rise in xenophobia). In the African countries I have visited, men are more aggressive than in the States. While I have to be cautious, it also means that if ever I need someone to help me with something, I usually don't have a problem getting that. Women, too, are warmer and friendlier. In fact, people just help me out quite a lot here and I just meet warmer and more friendly people. I am a shy person by nature, and introvert actually, and I am more than satisfied if I have a couple of social events a week (too many mentally strain me). So I have been more than satisfied here.

I went to see the new James Bond movie at night. I went with the only 2 white guys in this whole building, but none of us are speakers of a South African language, so we are a natural group. There was a Kenyan guy who was here when I first came, but unfortunately he left just a few days after I arrived. Which is a real shame because he was also a little older than these univ. students (like me) and we got along really well. Anyway, one of the white guys has a car so we were able to go out at night. Otherwise it can be kinda dangerous unless you have a large group. Even still I thought about car jacking, though it's not so bad here as in Jo'burg. In fact, someone was telling a funny (?) story about his friend who was attempted-car-jacked. He said they broke the window and tried to drag her out the window! It was funny because it shows that car jackers in Durban have no idea what they are doing. Why didn't they break the window, open the door, and push her out. He said when she told the police what happened, they laughed at the whole thing!

Then I was invited to a musical theater production. It was in the township of KwaMashu (this is where they put black people to live in crowded areas that were close to the city so they could easily commute work for them). The building it was in didn't even have a complete roof. But the performers were magnificent. Apparently they were 1st in a regional competition of 45 groups. They did 2 plays, one of youths being sent to prison and the other on village girls tempted by false hopes of wealth and glamour into leading lives of prostitution that lead them away from their families and put them in situations where they could be raped or abandoned by their pimps once they got pregnant with their babies. Yep. I'm amazed I understood so much considering I don't speak Zulu and it was 85% in Zulu. Here's a bad video. I'm not sure why it's appearing like this since my videos from this camera never looked like this before. Maybe it's something about Webshots but I'm having trouble with Photobucket now. I'll fix it later if I can. Though it's all pixelated, the sound is still good.

Anyway, I see I am going to need a part 3, but that might have to wait a bit. I'll come back to finish the report soon.

South Africa trip, Week 1

Well, I know I let this blog lapse terribly. But I did want to finally update. Actually, I went to South Africa to collect some data for my dissertation. I wrote a small blog on another site and I want to transfer the writing here, to my real blog. So here is the writing for the first week.

Trip to South Africa, Week 1

Okay, so I am here in South Africa collecting data on Zulu verbs for my dissertation. I'm in my last year of my PhD program in linguistics with a focus in Bantu language family syntax. Today is Wednesday and I got here last week Monday.

It didn't start out too well. A couple of days before I left someone helped me figure out that I had put the deposit down on the wrong YMCA. The recommended one was the one on a univ campus, but when I was told to search for "Durban YMCA" and make the reservation, well, only one came up online. So I reserved there. Turns out this YMCA is in the hood. Once I found out the name of the neighborhood, whenever I mentioned it, people would be like and and and various other emoticons I don't feel like looking up. But I had already paid the deposit.

Then, my plane in Chicago was broken and we sat on the tarmac for 4 hours while they fixed it. Then we took the 8 hour flight to London, but because my plane was so late I wasn't able to meet other LHCF people in London for lunch. Booo!

Then, I was eating popcorn on the plane, caramel and cheese, and my freaking tooth fell out! Or my crown, more accurately. Stupid incompetent dentist! He put in 2 fillings and 1 crown and all of them fell out within a year! None of my other fillings ever came out. So now I'm here missing a molar.

Okay, so things were not going well even before I landed. But after 3 planes (Chicago to London, London to Johannesburg, Jo'burg to Durban), I finally arrived. They put me in a room on the 7th floor and the elevator is out of order. And since this is not American style, the "ground floor" is first, so it's really like I'm on the 8th floor. It was rough carrying my luggage up all those stairs, though I had help. I guess I should look at the bright side, right? I mean, I've been wanting to tone up and lose a few pounds, maybe going up and down these stairs all the time will help, right?

But things have brightened up since I've been here. I'll tell all the more fun stuff and show pictures in part 2 . . .