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Thoughts on the First Month

One month in, and what a month it’s been! All the craziness is just beginning to die down, and as usual, there’s more just around the corner.

When classes began, the first week was stressful and confusing. I had to find all my classrooms, figure out whether the professors were coming, and settle into my life here in other ways (laundry, food, etc) all at the same time. I learned quickly that the first week of classes is when most of the professors prepare for the coming school year, and thus only about half the professors held class the first week. But by the time the second week rolled around things became much more regular.

My classes feel very similar to the ones back home. The professors are friendly and engaging, and one even invited me to visit his home village sometime. There are also some very interesting classes. In particular, my Botswana Politics class, which is lead by a man who also writes political columns in one of the local newspapers, is always engaging and educational. Because the professor is so up-to-date on current political situations, he always has new and relevant examples to highlight what we’re learning in the abstract, and he encourages enough class discussion that I learn more about Batswana opinions and political view every day! My Historical and Comparative Linguistics in Africa course is also fascinating, and it’s amazing to be able to look at the Setswana I’m learning and compare it to the earlier languages it came from. And for that matter, Setswana class is a blast as well! It’s definitely a struggle to learn a language so different from English, but there are plenty of laughs while we do. I have already made a fool of myself trying to get the difference between “t” and “th” in Setswana (the th sounds like the t in “time,” and the t is soft enough that to my ears it almost resembles a d), and practicing the tones. I discovered at the dining hall how different “mabElE” and “mabEle” sound to a native speaker (the first one means “sorghum,” one of the staple grains of Botswana food, and the second means “breast”). Despite the fact that I’ve never been a math person, I’m even enjoying my Statistics class, thanks to the funny professor and lively class. Read more

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Rose of Tralee

Last Tuesday night saw the climax of the annual Rose of Tralee Festival. The festival is now in its 53rd year. Although originally a type of carnival queen competition, it is has since become a week long festival of music (James Brown and INXS amongst others), pageantry, and a variety of other entertainments.

The festival has had a number of formats over the years (and in truth has perhaps become a little kitsch), but at its centre is the selection of the ‘Rose’. The selection is mainly based on personality – this is no ‘Miss World’ and there is no swim-suit section! The contestants come from as far as New Zealand, Australia and Dubai, and are usually drawn from the Irish diaspora. From the states, New York, Boston, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Southern California, Philadelphia, and Chicago, amongst others, are usually represented.

The idea behind the name is based on the love song ‘The Rose of Tralee’, by William Mulchinock a 19th century wealthy merchant who was in love with Mary O’Connor, his family’s maid. Mary was born in Broguemaker’s Lane in Tralee and worked as a nanny. When William first saw Mary he fell in love with her, but because of the difference in social class and religion between the two families, their love affair was discouraged. William emigrated, and some years later returned to Tralee only to find Mary had died of tuberculosis. He was broken hearted and expressed his love for her in the words of the song. Read more

South African Getaway

I’ve been in Cape Town for over a month now and finally feel settled into the country. The hectic first few weeks in Africa have transformed into a comfortable routine and a confidence of the ins-and-outs of the University of Cape Town. Read more

Excitement in Cape Town: Bikes, Braais, and Classes

There’s no slowing down during my UCT experience, despite the concept of Africa time. The last few weeks of school have kept me busy reading course packs, writing tutorial papers, and scrambling to see something new in every spare second that I have. Sleep really does feel optional some days; however, I’m continuing to wholeheartedly love my time here. The weather is starting to warm up, the palm trees are looking greener, and we can actually see the mountains on most days—we don’t have to squint through the fog anymore! Read more