Monday, June 27, 2011

dear world...


i've never been fond of winter, let me tell ya! some people love the crisp air, dragon breath, curling up under mountains of blankets with books and movies and hot tea/hot chocolate and junk food. okay, yes, i love those things too... but still.

i was born in January, which (in South Africa, at least) is nice, sweaty weather, right when summer begins to heat up. i partially blame this for my fetish with balmy weather. i love the summer months so much that i even wrote a series of haikus for them. no, really. i'm OBSESSED.

conversely, i dislike winter A LOT a lot. i was blessed to grow up in the province that i did - easily the warmest of all nine in our country. our winters aren't harsh at all. we-ell... compared to other places, at least. like Grahamstown, for instance. something i was dreading the most about moving halfway across the country this year was... *drumroll*... the bitterly cold winter weather Grahamstown is known for. and let's not joke around - it got C-C-COLD. but i was, once again, blessed. not only was the winter milder than usual (this was affirmed by my sister, who has experienced the past two winters and can attest to their coldness) but my res room is the size of a matchbox, which meant that my body heat combined with the (blissful) heater got the job done easily, and my room was actually rather toasty. who knew i'd be grateful for having such a tiny room, right? ;)

now that i'm home (WOOP!) i'm happy to be back in a relatively mellow clime. that being said, my room at home is (gasp!) bigger than my res room, and more open; there is no heater; and on top of it all, our house is pretty much famous for being a refrigerator in winter. so i am still shivering away!

all i can say is this....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

first semester: BOOM.

it's honestly amazing how fast time flies.

i remember my first day of Grade 1, walking up those steep black stairs, sitting on the carpet next to my friend Natasha and proudly proclaiming, "i'm still five!". i remember my awful handwriting, "Charlotte's Web", writing collective stories as a class.

i remember the escapades of Grade 2 - creating masterpieces in the Minor Hall, Annabelle "losing" her pencil after putting it behind her ear, and having the world's greatest desire to be a dolphin trainer.

i remember Grade 3's dramas - storytelling for the Speech and Drama Festival, viciously yanking lantana from the fence which ran between our playground and the forest, and rolling our "table" - a big concrete slab - from the far end of the field to our corner beneath the banana trees.

and so each year goes - another grade, another volley of memories. i started at a new school; i finished there. i began high school - lost some friends, made new ones, grew taller, grew older, grew up. i finished high school. and just the other day, i could swear i began varsity.

i clearly remember it: all the ferocious packing, the bare room, the long car ride. i remember the knot that made itself at home in my gut while i stood in line, bedraggled from a ten-hour trip; sat for fingerprints, made nervous jokes, got my photo taken. i remember being terrified to talk to people, closing myself up in my res room when i heard voices down the corridor; subsequently meeting my beautiful neighbour, and then meeting the other girls that would wind up being some of my very best friends.

okay, so maybe i'm exaggerating. it hasn't really been THAT long. it's the end of June now; i began university in the first week of February. a total of five months have gone by. but i still can't believe that a whole semester is over; i still can't get that half of my first year has already passed.

so what did i do in the first half of my first year, i hear you ask? well, i:

a) made some amazing friends
no, but srsly. see these beauts? legends, each and every one :)

in particular...
me and my Pamalam... and my Robyn (aka Batman)...

...and me and my Sarah Bear :)

b) went on my first date
...of which i have no photos but some very precious memories. and we can leave it at that.

c) fell in love with John Keats
i don't have any photos with him, either. SAD FACE! but for real... please go read "Ode To A Nightingale" if you haven't already. and then go read all of the letters he ever wrote to his love Fanny Brawne. and tell me that you do not love him, too, after doing that.

d) read several phenomenal books
...the three main ones of which were:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
um, hello. why have i never read this book before? oh, the shame! i am hiding my head under a rock. anyway, Jane Eyre was our prescribed novel for English I this semester, and so i picked it up and read, not really knowing what to expect. love love loved every bit of it. love Jane, love Mr Rochester; love Helen Burns, and Diana and Mary, and even St John and Adele, in their own special ways.
"I was mortally afraid of its trampling fore-feet"  Illustration by F.H. Townsend (1896)
"You are altogether a human being, Jane?  You are certain of that?"  Illustration by F.H. Townsend (1896)

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
once again, a book i should've read before and that was recommended to me ages ago (by the lovely Lauren, if you don't already know her) has FINALLY been read! and wow, Ender's Game is some serious stuff. it made me think, question, laugh, cry, shout, facepalm... really. if you could choose any book in the world right now that you'd want to read, it should be this one :)

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
i started this book just under a year ago, when i picked it up in San Francisco at a little shop called Forest Books. with one thing and another, i never got around to reading past the 7th chapter, and finally i decided to pick it back up again about a month ago. what a phenomenal read! i simply love Maya Angelou's turn of phrase and her beautiful way of describing everything she recalls from her childhood. please please please humour me if you haven't read it before, and give it a shot. you won't be disappointed :)

e) shaved my hair off (we've discussed this before, i'm sure of it... ;) )

f) discovered some incredible new music
...such as The Civil Wars and Sleeping At Last. go listen to "To Whom It May Concern", "Poison & Wine", "My Father's Father", "Side By Side" and "Pacific Blues". just do it. then report back. okay? GO!

g) bonded with Steers
...since dining hall food can be slightly off-putting at times :)
oh chicken burger, how do i love thee? let me count the ways...

h) learnt to adore Grahamstown
...which i now honestly believe is one of the most beautiful places in South Africa. never before have i seen skies like Grahamstown's! they make up for the moody weather, i'd say ;) this was from outside my res.

i) was visited by my beautiful friend Rachel
...who came all the way from Canada just to see me! and this is the only photo we took together while she was here. epic fail.

j) found home at Frontiers
...which is the church i worship at each Sunday. i am so blessed by and grateful for this new family i have found :)

k) was adopted by a cat
...whom i have named Honey. (she has named me "Slave", in case you were wondering.) i actually haven't seen her in ages - she lives around a particular spot on campus, but the last few times i've been down around that area, she's been AWOL. sad face! i love me some Honey :)

l) read with the lovely Amanda a part of the Paired Reading Programme which i'm involved with through the Inkwenkwezi Society at Rhodes, which basically aims to help underprivileged kids with their education. my Amanda, with whom i read, is a sweetheart of note... i love her to pieces and miss her greatly.

m) came to understand the importance of junk food
...that is, if you consider peanut butter to be a form of junk food. (i won't contest NikNaks and condensed milk. those are undisputedly in the "junk food" category.) yes... these treats are totally what i snack on when i'm hungry. i'm such a health boffin ;)

n) took part in a couple protests
...both of which protested sexual violence and rape (one protesting this type of treatment against women, the other protesting the same thing against men), both of which were powerful and affirming and showed me just how far we still have to go as a society.

o) adored each and every one of my classes
...which are, in case you're interested, Journalism, Drama, English and Xhosa. yes, they're tons of work... but they are fantastic and engaging and full of open-minded students who question and debate and are generally awesome :)

and that has been my year so far! i honestly still can't believe that it's already the 25th of June (SIX MONTHS TILL CHRISTMAS, Y'ALL!) ... oh, how time flies :) what have YOU been up to in the last five months, lovelies?

Monday, June 20, 2011

homeward bound.

in three days, i'll be sitting at the PE airport, waiting to fly home! kannie waggie.
now, just to get through this Journ work... sigh.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

the hair story.

once upon a time, there was a maiden who had long golden locks. her name was Hannah. (not Rapunzel... that's a different story. go watch Tangled. kbye.)

Hannah lived in the magical land of Grahamstown, along with her beautiful sister Sindi and ±7000 other university students. Sindi, too, had long tresses, only hers were a rich shade of chestnut brown.

one day, late in the month of March, the two sisters heard word of an event which would be taking place that very week. at that event, volunteers would pay to have their hair either sprayed a variety of different colours, or shaved off. after some deliberation, the sisters decided to attend the event. and thus, on the night of the 30th of March 2011, Sindi and Hannah made their way to the hall in which the event was being held, and proceeded to cut their braids off...

and then have their heads shaved.

wait, what?

i can see your facial expressions in my mind... amazing :) yes, this story is my own, as well as my sister's. but it's a little more complicated than just that.

see, the full story starts about nine months ago, when a similar event was held in Grahamstown, before i lived here. (since our school year runs from February to November instead of September to June, i was still in the midst of my senior year of high school last year in September.) it's a pretty well-known occurrence, named a "Shavathon". the idea was coined by CANSA - the Cancer Association of South Africa - and the aims of the exercise are to raise money for cancer survivors, to raise awareness about cancer and to show solidarity with cancer fighters and survivors.

in any case, at the Shavathon held last September in Grahamstown, Sindi had her hair sprayed multiple colours and her boyfriend, Alan, had his hair shaved off. a few days later, i was speaking to her on the phone and she said, "you know, i'm thinking of shaving my head next time there's a Shavathon." i responded by laughing. no WAY would i ever do that! ha! i LOVED my hair... it was going nowhere.

and still this little thought nibbled in the back of my mind. and the little thought was saying, "what is it you'd lose by shaving your head? your dignity? your pride? your soul?" that little voice bothered me because it made me ponder what it was that i considered to be really important. was i really vain enough to justify not shaving my head just because i thought i'd look weird? was i defined by my hair, or did my value come from something more? and if i honestly didn't place my value in my appearance but in something greater, then why was the idea of shaving my head so repulsive to me?

let me clarify - this event means a lot to me. my beautiful grandmother battled several different forms of cancer over the course of her life, and she eventually died close to two years ago because of an aggressive type of bone cancer. she was still one of the most beautiful, loving souls i've ever encountered; despite the pain she endured and the hell she went through, she had a smile of sunshine and cared so deeply about other people. my little cousin, who is now 6 years old, was diagnosed with cancer when he was only a few months. he's now in first grade; he has no vision in one eye and very limited vision in the other, and it's very likely that he'll soon lose his vision completely because of the cancer. blind before he turns ten. and yet, in spite of the battles he's already had to fight at such a young age, he is positive and full of energy and joy and love. these two people - Jessica and Erynn - are two of my heroes in this life, courageous and gorgeous and wonderful.


really. a week or two later, i sent Sindi a text message saying, "yeah, let's shave our heads together next year." it bothered me that i was so tied to my hair. it didn't define me; i wouldn't let it. in the words of India Arie, "i am not my hair". and what about Granny Jess and Erynn? they hadn't even had a choice in the matter. they were the real heroes. this was a salute to them. we were resolved and determined.

that being said, we didn't know when exactly the Shavathon would be held, so we expected it to be in September, as it had been the year before. i moved to Grahamstown at the beginning of February, started attending classes and making incredible friends, familiarising myself with and coming to love this place and the people that inhabit it. there were essays to write and books to read, societies to join, decisions to make and dining hall meals to complain about.

and then on the night of the 27th of March, i happened to be down campus and saw a poster advertising a Shavathon. on the 30th of March. which was... that Wednesday.

but we bit the bullet. we went along that night, after i'd written a test (we write our subject tests at night... fuuuun!), we paid our money, we waited around. Sindi had plaited her hair; i did the same. then we chopped one another's plaits off. and then i sat down in a chair and got shorn; Sindi followed me.

it's been just over 11 weeks now, and i can say this:
shaving my head was easily one of the best experiences of my life.
i have quite honestly never felt so liberated as i did that night! people's reactions have been so absolutely cool. when i spoke about what i planned to do beforehand, most people raised their eyebrows or exclaimed, "no - don't do that!", expressions of concern lodged on their faces. because of this, i expected the majority of people with whom i interact to react with shock and horror after i'd shaved my head; instead, most people told me how cool i looked, saying that they wished they had the guts to do the same. but i laughed when they called me brave. i didn't feel brave... i felt free.

and you know what? i still do. i miss my long hair sometimes, sure... but not half as frequently as i thought i might. i love how easy it is to wash and dry my hair; i love the little ducktail i now have; i love twirling the hair at the nape of my neck around with my finger when i'm thinking. i love telling people what the Shavathon's all about, telling them the stories of Granny Jess and Erynn - the bravehearts, the resolutes. a reminder that there are countless others out there who are fighting similar battles with just as much courage and chutzpah, a lesson in humility and an incredible affirmation that my value is found in nothing less than Christ alone.

...and that, my friends, is the full story :)

P.S. in case you're interested, here's a little then and now:


Sunday, June 12, 2011

stopping by to say hi...

oh, hi there! it's been another two months! i'm just really terrible at this blogging thing, it appears ;) maybe i'm spreading myself too thin over the internet - i now have:

...and this here blog :) sheesh! i'm in the midst of university exams at the moment, however, so most of those blogs are being neglected. (this one not the least...) so this is a check-in, a "hi! how're you doing?", a "don't disappear, i'll come back!". as soon as i'm done with my impending isiXhosa exam which takes place tomorrow afternoon (gulp!) i plan to do a post on my hair and how awesome it is at the moment... so stick around. i'll be back - i promise ;)