Published: September 2nd 2008September 2nd 2008
A look at what the towns look like around the capital city of Maseru.
Today I finally got around to some sort of posting. I have been here in Africa for a little over a month now, and feel I am beginning to settle in. The first week was an interesting experience. In that week we went through orientation, converted dollars into rand, and had our first tests at finding the cheapest taxi fares downtown. People around campus are very friendly, often warning us (other international students) about the dangers of walking at night in Durban. To this point, I am yet to experience any real danger at night, but I get the feeling when locals will NEVER walk around once the sun is down. Our dress and accent gives us away as foreigners immediately, often times resulting in higher prices or laughter. One thing that takes some time to get used to is how fast possessions can be taken, in one short month fellow travelers have already lost iPods, Zunes, and laptops while looking the other way for a couple seconds at most.
Living in one of the largest cities of South Africa does not give you the true feeling of Africa. Although there is plenty of poverty, the cities are packed with
I found this particular picture interesting because the herder brought his herd sheep right into the outskirts of the capital city to stop at a store.
all sizes of taxis and cars. Every block hosts a variety of restaurants, including a ridiculous amount of KFCs. So, I traveled to Lesotho one weekend with some members of my American group which I met here. We rented a car and began our journey. Totally unprepared, we traveled to the border to find out we need a four wheel drive vehicle to enter Lesotho, a country that is entirely above 1,000 meters. Additionally, maps of the area are much less detailed than American maps, usually only listing the major highways. As a result, we drove throughout the night around to the north entrance to their capital city of Maseru. For the two days spent in Lesotho, we began to get a sense of Africa. In the capital houses were crumbling shacks, no running water or electricity. As we drove further into the country, houses became even simpler. Villages of 25-50 grass/straw huts were found every 50-100 kilometers, the surrounding fields filled with crops or burnt to a crisp from slash and burn agriculture which is still practiced on a large scale. The villages of Lesotho, which constitute nearly the whole country, are completely subsistent farming. When stopping, five white
Blue Mountain Pass
The typical height of the mountain passes in the heart of Lesotho.
men get quite the attention. Older men and women watch as if they’ve never seen someone of our color before as children sprinted to us, most holding out their hands yelling ‘sweets’ while the older ones grabbed rocks to sell us. The end of this trip was characterized by a desperate search for gas, or petrol, to return to South Africa. Petrol stations are sporadic and have no guarantee to be open, a single pump operated by a member of the small village. The people of Lesotho that we could communicate with were very friendly, and for the first time since my journey across the Atlantic began, our group felt completely safe, even in one of the poorest countries of the world.
A week later we traveled to traditional villages in the province KwaZulu-Natal with Interstudy (study abroad organization), the same province in which we study. During this weekend, we had the chance to watch the traditional dance of the Zulu people as well as see their style of life. On a tour through a typical village, we were shown their huts, people, traditional dress, and a mock battle. From the tour we were taught that the Zulu people
Children wanting "sweets" and the older children with a board full of rocks to sell.
handed the British some of their highest casualties in colonial times. At the end of the trip we had the chance to try traditional Zulu beer which was thick and chunky; I’ll leave it at that.
The next day we had the chance to see what everyone comes to Africa for, a safari. Waking up early in the morning after a long night of partying with the hostel owner, we drove through Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve. By the end of the safari we were within yards of white rhino, zebra, giraffe, elephants as well as other smaller game. It was amazing to finally see some of these exotic animals up close, and see the vastness of a game reserve.
After a month or so studying in Durban, a few things are very apparent. The first is the separation of races, especially on campus. Although apartheid ended a little over a decade ago, I did not expect to see this much of a separation. When walking through the center of campus or looking at the outdoor café, areas are clearly separated into white, black, and Indian. If a mix is seen, there is a good chance it is due to
Traditional clothing in Lesotho
an international student, although there are some exceptions. The dorms offer the international students an excellent chance to experience the local culture, since all wealthy (typically white) students live off campus. As a result, you meet and hang out with people from various parts of southern Africa, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho. Local students are very eager to tell you about where they come from and join you in a night out. The second difference in this country is time and accountability. All the locals, both teachers and students, often jokingly call it African time. NOTHING is ever on time here. Anytime a trip is organized, transportation is an hour late. At restaurants, food comes out an hour after ordered. Taxis are another story. Although this was frustrating at first, you get used to it and even begin taking advantage of it. It takes us 20 minutes to fill a taxi and show up to reservations 20-30 minutes late.
For now that is all. This should highlight the main aspects of my trip to this point. As we are getting use to Durban, even sick of it at times, we are beginning to plan more trips
The little man had no idea what USA meant but was more than happy to take a picture for some candy.
to neighboring countries. I also added a couple pictures of the things I talked about. Until next time.
There are more photos below