Several months ago Simon received a package of thoughtful treats and letters from his Fargo classmates. The students included some great reflection questions which Simon has answered in several ways. After his last set of responses I told him he should consider making it a blog post. Here it is:
Are there any different holidays than we have in the US?
Today (April 27) is Freedom Day. It’s kind of like 4th of July in America because it represents the birth of a new democracy. It represents the end of Apartheid which was the government policy of segregation and white people controlling the country. This is the date when all South Africans were first able to vote in 1994. They elected Nelson Mandela as their first president. There aren’t big festivities like in America. Today we had a half day of school and the day ended at noon. There was a music concert during the last hour with students performing solos, duets, and in groups.
What has your orchestra/violin experience been like?
I have continued playing violin using the Suzuki method. I’m learning from a teacher in Durban which is a large city about one hour from us. I go there about once or twice a month for lessons. Also at school I’m playing in an ensemble. We played “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the concert today. In the ensemble there are two violins, three flutes, one clarinet, three pianists/percussionists, and one cello. Also today in the concert I played a concerto with my friend Matthew who played a harmony part. It has been a lot of fun playing in the ensemble and has helped me learn a lot more.
Tell us about different foods you’ve encountered/tasted (and liked/disliked)?
In South Africa there are many Indian people so you can get lots of good Indian foods. I especially like curries and samosas. A samosa is like a tiny pie or dumpling filled with either vegetables or meats. Sometimes we stop at a small shop near our house where we can get very good and fresh samosas. My favorite kinds to get are mince and potato.
You can get most of the same foods that you can get in the U.S. but also some different ones too.
In South Africa there is a wide variety of fruits so you can find many different flavours of juice such as mango, guava, passion… to name a few.
A food that is quite different is “chakalaka” which is kind of like salsa. It’s a tangy and spicy sauce that has beans and vegetables in it. It developed as a food that could be made out of any leftover vegetables.
Another different and cheap food that you can make or buy is “mealie pap.” It is like thick bland porridge you eat with a stew of meat or beans. It comes from the heritage of black South Africans.
One way South Africans like to cook meat is over a “braai.” It’s what we would think of as a barbecue in America. They will normally cook lamb or sausages on a charcoal fire for parties or on a Sunday afternoon.
What kind of technology is available to you there?
The technology is mostly the same and there is electricity in most homes. You can get most of the same electronic devices like phones, tablets, computers, etc. However in some places in South Africa people are very poor so they don’t have access to the internet or television and some places don’t even have running water or electricity. Another thing that is different is that air time, internet, and data are much more expensive here so people are really careful about how much they use. Also, it’s not very common to have unlimited internet so people don’t use it for Netflix or streaming videos as much.
At my school there is a computer class where you practice using different programs such as MSWord, making PowerPoints, etc. The kids at my school have good keyboarding and formatting skills. This was difficult for me but I’ve managed to catch up and learn fast.
Do you feel at home there, or does it feel strange/different all the time still?
I mostly feel at home here. When we get back from a long trip away from our house it feels so normal and comfortable because I’m used to the surroundings and I recognize everything around us and the view out the windows.
A time when it still feels strange or different is when we are driving through an unknown or not as well developed part of town. In these places I see buildings that aren’t made very well. Sometimes vendors have brought what they have to sell and set it up on a tarp on the sidewalks rather than a proper shop.
You have to be careful where you walk because sometimes there are manhole covers that are old and broken or missing.
I’ve gotten used to the security precautions and now it feels normal to me to go to such extents for safety. It doesn’t seem peculiar anymore to look through windows that are protected by burglar bars like it did when we got here. I’ve gotten used to waking up earlier for school which was quite difficult when I first started school here.
Another thing we had to get used to was the driving. It is often difficult to drive with all the minibus taxis swerving in and out of the lanes and honking obnoxiously. Often you might pass a “bakkie” (pick-up truck) filled with big loads or sometimes people who are getting a ride.
Alongside the highways you can see people trying to get a lift, even though it’s not really allowed, the traffic police turn a blind eye to it. Some people hold signs with letters for the location they’re going to, for example NP is “Natal Pietermaritzburg” or “ND” would be the city of Durban (not North Dakota). If you want to get to the coast you wave your hands up and down like waves.