Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes

Merry Christmas from Cape Town!
Love Lise

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the Road Again-Goodbye East London, Hello World!

Bright and early tomorrow morning, Sarah and I will be embarking on our 2 week long roadtrip through Lesotho and South Africa.  We begin by heading northeast to cross the border into Lesotho, where there will be little Internet or landline access and limited cellphone reception at Malealea Lodge.  From there, we will loop back around into South Africa and drive across the Great Karoo, stopping at Graaff-Reinet and Oudtshoorn with a night in the Winelands before spending Christmas in Cape Town.  After Christmas, we will meander along the Garden Route to Mossel Bay and Jefffrey’s Bay on our way home to New Year’s Eve in East London.  I will be official co-pilot and navigator as Sarah tackles driving on the opposite side of the road!  We are very excited to explore more of our host country and break away from the normal and routine.     
The blog will experience a bit of a dry spell, but stay tuned for an extended food blog section and more from our holiday adventures at the beginning of January! 
I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and wonderful holiday season!  I am sending my big hugs and kisses to all of you! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who Am I Locked In This House With?

They warned me about the dangers outside my front door, but what if you live and work with a very real threat to your personal safety:The Slap Bet? Was that included in my emergency response plan?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tasty Minestrone Soupy Stew Mix Magic

Sarah and I coaxed Simphiwe Bam, a fixture at the Chiselhurst campus, into coming to our house on Sunday to share a slice of the Xhosa culinary world.  We did our usual weekend morning grocery trek and picked up all of the ingredients that the chef requested.

Ancient Xhosa secret ingredient
samp-dried corn kernels that
have been stamped and chopped

samp in its natural state


we hunted for duds

the building blocks

Master Chef Bam

We cleaned and rinsed the samp and beans and threw them in a big pot with lots of water on a rolling boil.  Then we sliced the potatoes, carrots, and mutton (using our big "white people" knives) and waited for the samp to reach a chewable consistency.  We added the other ingredients and stirred in some magic soup mix powder before letting the whole pot simmer away for a couple of hours.

bubbling samp and beans-3 hours on the stove formed an inch thick layer of
burnt bottom which required 4 days of soaking and elbow grease

all together now!

finishing touches

Once everything was in the giant pot, Sarah cracked open our bottle of Malawian gin and we exchanged our own cultural memento of mixing Simphiwe his first gin and tonic.  Out of respect for him, I opted to exclude the photos of him singing and dancing behind the counter!  Who knew gin could be so smooth on a Sunday at 2:30pm?

Everything tastes better with Malawian gin

When the whole pot was bubbling away, Bam decreed that it was time to dish out.  Even with the burnt pot bottom, it turned out very well and I plan to experiment more with beans, samp, and mutton!  My eyes have been opened to a whole new world of meat cuts!  
The final product


Monday, December 6, 2010


December 6 is St. Nicholas' Day; our Dutch Christmas when Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet fill childrens' wooden clogs with presents and sweets!  Children are told that a record is kept of all the things they have done in the past year and that good children will get presents from Sinterklaas but bad children will get chased by Zwarte Piet with a stick!  
What could be more endearing to children than a giant man clad in red velvet
on a white horse whose manservant threatens to beat you with a stick?

I didn't pack my wooden clogs or speculaas recipe, but I am expecting Sarah to procure red velvet robes and a white steed to parade through our yard today.  And although I did not leave out a shoe to collect my gifts, I am expecting Grolsch, gouda cheese, tulips, and a miniature windmill in the Christmas package my mom sent.

Sancta Claus goed heylig Man!
Trek uwe beste Tabaert aen,
Reis daer me'e na Amsterdam
Van Amsterdam na Spanje
Daer Appelen van Oranje
Daer Appelen van granaten
Die rollen door de straaten. [...]

More Ikhwezi Photos

Registration Royalty

Working hard

Still working hard

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Slow Day at the Office

Three months have flown by and nearly every day holds something new.  They may not be earth-shattering days of excitement, but we work hard to be productive, take full advantage of our precious time here, and cherish the small achievements, lessons, and gifts! We have been given the luxury of creating our own schedules, crafting our own work plans, and essentially acting as our own bosses.  Most of the time, it's wonderful but then once in a while, a certain kind of day hits. One of those days where you have nothing scheduled but waiting desperately for an email from an organization you really want to work with.  You pine by the computer, waiting for an answer, and then inevitably hit the wall of rejection (only to find out later that they were actually on holidays anyway).  You feel guilty for not changing the world, but also wonder why the world won't change as fast as you hope.  At that point, the only solution is to take a “personal day”.
My Tuesday consisted of attending an 11am matinee of the new Harry Potter film, making chocolate dipped coconut macaroons, and reading about the upcoming Zimbabwean elections with a cold Castle beer on our front stoop.  Sarah was by my side on this trying day, albeit with a glass of Two Oceans and playing an observer role in the macaroon creation.  It was astonishing how crowded a theatre can be on a Tuesday morning.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones having a slow day at the office. 
I can't help but share the bounty of our tropical fruit bowl,
especially for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere

Red Ribbons and Ikhwezi Shindigs

Ikhwezi Lokusa Wellness Centre was busy this week!  On Monday morning, we hosted the inaugural “Friends of Ikhwezi Breakfast” to launch their fundraising campaign.  Weeks of planning resulted in the event to attract donors to alleviate financial pressures when the major funding contract ends in February.  It was a baby step but hopefully the beginning of something big!  I worked at the registration table (which meant I got to hang out in the sun with other staff during the presentations and dole out the coveted First National Bank pens), Sarah gave the big push to donate during the presentation, and Jason was head usher.  The Daily Dispatch is featuring stories about Ikhwezi for the entire week—a story about violence and HIV and an interview with Aunt K.

Some of the wonderful staff

On Wednesday December 1, we celebrated World AIDS Day with a full day event that was also very successful!  Clients, Ikhwezi staff, and community members shared stories, prayers, and information.  We passed out condoms and brochures while TruFM, a local radio station, broadcast live.   

Da Boyz-Simphiwe, Big King, and Mpumezi
For my first participations in a World AIDS Day, South Africa was an appropriate place to be.  From the UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010: With an estimated 5.6 million people living with HIV in 2009, (of which 3.3  million are women) South Africa’s epidemic remains the largest in the world.   I'm  still in slight disbelief at this statistic, but last weekend's Sunday Times reported estimates that 1 in 3 South Africanwomen between the ages of 24-29 are infected with HIV.  AIDS is the largest cause of maternal mortality in South Africa and also accounts for 35% of deaths in childrenyounger than fi ve years.  For those children that live, the UNAIDS report estimates that there are 1.9 million orphans in South Africa as a result of AIDS.                                                                                                    

It's not all doom and gloom and the day culminated with the entire centre lighting candles with each other and gently praying and singing.  It was a beautiful moment, although my experience was cut short as Sarah and I self-appointed ourselves to watch some of the children who had also been given candles.  One of them, apparently still developing his spatial awareness, managed to singe the back of his sister’s head, leaving the lingering and unmistakable scent of smouldering human hair.  I also think the cleaning women will appreciate the trail of candle wax all over the floor. Oh well, it  is a nice souvenir of a touching  commemoration!  All in all, it was a day well spent and I was honoured to be involved! 
Aunt K

Analise and Mpumezi proudly sporting their red ribbons

Sarah saving a life

Mr. Cool


Monday, November 29, 2010

As Seen On TV

Check out The Girl Effect video, courtesy of Sarah and Oprah!
Also, I've added a new sidebar called "Xhosa Word of the Day" which will offer a new word each day to learn.  Just click on the word to get its definition and some usages!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frightening Mathematics

reprinted from the Mail & Guardian's November 25 article by Faranaaz Parker

The preliminary findings of the study, titled The War at Home, was released at the start of the 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children. "The survey in South Africa's most densely populated and cosmopolitan province shows that while political conflict in the country has subsided, homes and communities are still far from safe, especially for women," said the authors.

South Africans and the international community were shocked last year when the MRC revealed that one in four men surveyed in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal admitted to committing rape. But this new survey shows that gender-based violence may be even more widespread in Gauteng than in other provinces. More than one in three men in Gauteng admitted to perpetrating sexual violence.

Rachel Jewkes, director of the Gender and Health Research Unit at the MRC, pointed out that only 18% of rapes were perpetrated by partners. "This is a unique and special feature seen in South Africa, that to rape a stranger or acquaintance is more common than to rape an intimate partner," she said. In most countries, rape is usually perpetrated by someone close to the victim.

"We're often told by the media and others that we're exaggerating the problem, that abuse is not rife. But only 21,7% of men said they'd never perpetrated a form of violence against women," said Jewkes. She said this said much about ideas of sexual entitlement and gender hierarchy in South African society.

Overlapping forms of violence
The survey data was gathered by interviewing a representative sample of 998 men and women in Gauteng. Researchers say the survey is unique in that it is the first baseline study that looks at various types of violence; the survey investigated emotional, economic, physical and sexual violence.

The MRC and Gender Links will release the full findings of the survey in March next year. They say they will encourage government to replicate the study in other regions to get a better understanding of the extent of gender-based violence in the country.

"The preliminary findings of the prevalence survey show why this is important as police statistics either fail to cover many forms of gender violence or understate the extent of the problem," the authors said.

The survey found that although one in four women in the province said they had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, only one in 25 rapes was reported to police.
Almost 80% of the men in Gauteng admit to perpetrating some form of violence against women. This was revealed through a prevalence survey on gender violence conducted by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the non-governmental organisation Gender Links.

The most common form of violence against women was emotional abuse. This included being insulted, intimidated, threatened with violence or humiliated in front of others. It also included women being stopped from seeing their friends and their partners boasting about or bringing home girlfriends.

Physical violence was the second most common form of violence reported. However, most women suffered more than one form abuse from their partner.

Gender equity still a pipedream
South Africa's constitution may guarantee gender equality but that ideal has yet to trickled down to grassroots level. The study showed that more than 80% of men and women think that people should be treated the same regardless of their sex. But at the same time 58% of women and 87% of men think that a woman should obey her husband.

These views were amplified when study participants were asked about community attitudes towards men and women. For example, 80% of women and 95% of men said their community thinks a woman should obey her husband. This implies that while people's views on gender may slowly be changing, there is still strong pressure from communities for men and women to behave in certain ways.

More than a third of men also think that men should have the final say in all family matters, that a woman needs her husband's permission to do paid work, and that if a woman works, she should give her money to her husband.

Kubi Rama, deputy director of Gender Links, said that when it comes to gender, there is a mismatch between what is said in public and what is practiced privately.

"There's a general acceptance that men and women are equal but in practice we haven't moved very far. Gender roles are very static in the home," she said. "In the public space we're saying politically correct things but in our homes we go back to very patriarchal values."

Rama said South Africans needed to shift private abuse into the public sphere by making it a community issue. She said many people may not realise when hearing signs of a struggle at a neighbour's house, often it takes nothing more than a knock on the door to avert violence.

"Communities need to look after each other … Churches, temples and mosques are well placed to get involved and to promote and grasp that truly about safety and equality and the need to respect each other's rights," she said.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For You, Your Mother, Your Sister,Your Daughter, Your Wife, Your Girlfriend


by Favianna Rodriguez, more info at the click through (findingagency)

Today marks the beginning of South Africa's annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence to Women and Children.  The 16 days start on November 25 to commemorate the International Day for No Violence against Women and will end on December 10 to honour International Human Rights Day with World AIDS Day on December 1 right in the middle.

The Mail & Guardian is running an online special series with articles, archived stories, and commentary to document what is being done nationally and internationally.

Gender Based Violence and the abuse of power against women and children is a global problem that demands our attention, our outrage, our support, and our action.  If you know a woman, wear your white ribbon.  There is simply no excuse.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Machine Guns in Parking Lots

Enough time has passed where I can safely say that I have made it through the stages of culture shock with little or no negative repercussions and am accustmomed to many of the different day-to-day routines here.  One part of daily life in South Africa that will never leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling are the armed guards and tanks that pick up and deliver cash to the ATMs.  There's nothing like watching men in bulletproof vests with giant automatic rifles in their hands stroll through a mall parking lot to really put me at ease.  As a peace-loving Canadian who's never held a gun or even seen one outside of action films or a police officer's belt, my obvious reaction is sheer and utter panic followed by the primal instinct to get as far away as humanly possible in a short period of time.  The paranoia instilled in me before even arriving in South Africa about the perils of withdrawing money from ATMs has only now abated to a reasonable and healthy fear with Sarah as my bodyguard.  Being confronted with a machine gun on your way to pick up milk is one thing that I probably won't be too homesick for when I return home!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Strolling the Aisles

Haven't actually seen this yet but I can imagine...

14 cent rubies

There's a complex formula to ensure you
always have a ripe avocado in the house

 I know this blog is meant for exhilirating travel stories of far flung places I visit and summaries of the professional development and fulfilment I experience.  But, you know what?  I love food and I love writing about food and I love sharing about food I've eaten.  I've extolled the virtues of the meat and its starring role in society and culture and I've expressed my love for the Xhosa plate.  But here's a dirty little secret, one of my favourite places to visit in a new place is a grocery store.  Now that East London feels like home and I have had the time and hindsight to properly observe the various grocery stores here, let me take you down the aisles of the delicious and the unique. 

When you set out grocery shopping, you never know what is going to be on the shelves.  In Canada, you're guaranteed to see the same fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or weather or whether they actually look and taste like what nature intended.  Here, there might be yellow bell peppers one day and then you won't see them for a couple weeks.  Or the spinach bin might be overflowing with emerald bunches or it might be a pathetic wasteland of wilted leaves.  And one day the poultry fridge will have packs and packs of chicken and tomorrow will only have leftover scrapes.  We can get a bunch of spinach (not the delicate baby leaves) for just under 50 cents or a sack of perfect grape tomatoes for $3.  And I get to eat fruits that I haven't had since leaving Maui!

Who needs more in life than fresh from the field spinach?


Certain staples dominate the stores--there is a whole aisle dedicated to bags of samp, beans, maize and mealie meal.  On the other side of the aisle, you have flour, white sugar, and vegetable cooking oil.  Chutnies and mayonnaise also constitute almost an entire side of an aisle as does long life milk and cream.  Decent butter is hard to come by, but you can buy a lifetime supply of margarine.  I'm in the birthplace of rooibos tea and amazing honey, but coffee afficioniados may have trouble with the instant freeze dried particles.  They even sell chicory--I thought only cowboys and the dad from "Little House on the Prairie" indulged in that.  Good luck finding pasta sauce or chocolate chips or tofu.
Sarah and I end up going grocery shopping about 4 times a week and I live in a constant fantasy of fruits and vegetables.  There is much less emphasis on organic, free range, local--perhaps it's just asumed that that's how it is and should be.

My long lost love-where have you been all my life?

1/2 of my stipend goes to these ruby gems

As with any place different from your home, there are unique tastes and combinations that are a novelty.  A few of them are just plain weird and some others have been amazingly pleasant surprises. 
Here are a few of my favourites from strolling the aisles...

Smoked Beef flavoured

Mrs. Balls chutney (delicious as a chip flavour)

Booerwors--throw it on the BBQ

Pine nut flavoured-Who knew?

Tangy mayonnaise gets its own aisle

For Scott & Brianne

Best biscuits ever--"made with real butter, real coconut, and real syrup"
Cashew & Coconut

Current Events

This story has been dominating the news over the past week--check out this Mail & Guardian article and some of the follow-up.

In other related news, Thursday November 25 marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism  which focuses on the awareness and ending of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa.  I have been invited to an event at the University of Fort Hare to mark its beginning.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Your Sunday morning service

Check out this BBC article on the Pope's softening stance on condom usage and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Farewell and A Bowl of Meat

Last Friday, Sarah and I were invited to the going away braai (traditional BBQ) for Mawethu Zita, an honourary Canadian who was a jack of all trades at Ikhwezi Wellness Centre.  There were tearful speeches, singing, and lots of hugs!  I even got to say a few words thanking Mawethu for welcoming us to South Africa and Ikhwezi and congratulating him on his new position on behalf of Niagara College and Canada!  Although some staff members encouraged us to bring a big bottle of cheap whiskey as our contribution (saying it was a customary gift to bring), I believe now that perhaps they were testing how naive two Canadians can be.
In true Xhosa and South African style, the heartwarming ceremony was capped off by the giant bowl of meat I was served.  Featuring a chicken leg, 2 sausages, a T-bone steak, and a porkchop, Sarah and I dug in with reckless abandon with our hands to strip those bones clean of delicious meat.  This seems to be a running theme, but I still cannot get over how much better meat tastes here and the role it plays in every social gathering. 

Work is picking up here--I hadan interesting meeting with the Commission for Gender Equality earlier this week and am very excited about future work opportunities there.  Also, get ready to order your subscription to the Eastern Cape Women's Magazine where yours truly could be a featured editor and contributor! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Table Mountain

Rising 1086 metres above the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Sarah and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun on our first day in Cape Town to take the revolving cable car up to the summit of Table Mountain.   We had just landed in Cape Town after a very bumpy ride and my first zebra sighting!  It was a perilous and spectacular 2.5 minutes ride to see the 360 degree views of the entire city, Robben Island, and the wild coast. 
At the base of Table Mountain

City views from the base of Table Mountain
Looking up from the base

Cable cars

Views as we revolved

A long drop

On top of the world

Lion's Head and Signal Hill

World Cup 2010 Green Point Stadium

Wild coast