Clare Coughlan in South Africa, 2013

Reflections from a Northeastern journalism student abroad

Claaaasic New Chapter

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Here’s two girls at my service site about to tear a stray dog limb from limb as they fight over who can hold it. I’m no longer phased by ridiculous events like this (Ben got stabbed by a mathematical compass today) and I’ve come to accept and even embrace the chaos. Everyone in our program agrees that the New Chapter interns have the best stories, at the very least.

 

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October 22, 2013 at 7:29 pm

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Last Month Lists

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I only have three weeks left in Cape Town and I’m really, really not happy about it. I’ve done so much in my time here, but I still feel like there’s so much of this country left to explore. To make myself feel better, and inspired by Haley and Catherine’s blog post (I stole their title, but all overlaps are coincidental!), here are the things I’m going to miss and the things I’m looking forward to.

Things I will miss about Cape Town

  • Old Biscuit Mill – Saturday marketing with delicious food
  • Living with 10 people so there’s always someone to talk to
  • Laughing about the ridiculousness that is volunteering at New Chapter
  • Caleb’s wardrobe
  • Dancing on stools
  • $6 handles of vodka
  • Having other people making baked goods every night
  • Hearing about 4 different languages in the span of 5 minutes
  • Watching 7 movies a week
  • Living in what is probably the most beautiful, confusing city in the world
  • The constant support, encouragement, and love from this group of 15 strangers that has turned into a family

Things I’m looking forward to

  • Chips and salsa
  • Fast and reliable internet access (also known as binge watching TV shows in my bed)
  • Clothes fresh out of the dryer
  • Not hearing the words “human rights” for a long, long time
  • Thanksgiving, the day of sleeping and eating (making it my favorite holiday)
  • Travelling more throughout December
  • Tilly (if she remembers me)(probably not)
  • Most importantly, seeing my friends and family

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October 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The Avett Brothers Will Pull Me Through

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When I start to stress out, I tend to find a song and listen to it on repeat. It becomes a sort of grown up security blanket, something that forces me to take a deep breath and think “it will all be okay.” It doesn’t have much to do with the lyrics, but a general calming effect of the song. For a while this song was “The Riot’s Gone” by Santigold, followed by “Jessica” by Regina Spektor. The past few days, with our capstone presentations looming, I’ve had the overwhelming urge to run away and fail all my classes. But after my friends telling me this is probably a bad idea and listening to this song a few times, I’m feeling slightly more prepared to tackle the project.

What are your favorite songs to listen to when you’re stressed out? I’m sure I’ll start to tire of this one by next week.

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October 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

It’s Finally Spring in Cape Town!

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It's Finally Spring in Cape Town!

This beautiful weather is making me want to go to classes even less than I did before, which I didn’t even think was possible.

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October 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Phumlani and Drug Abuse

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For those interested in learning more about the neighborhood I volunteer in, this Vice article is a pretty good place to start. Phumlani is often considered part of Lavender Hill and shares many of the same problems, including the rampant drug use. While walking around the neighborhood yesterday, we saw many kids who should have been in school and dogs clearly trained to fight. Scary stuff.

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October 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Making Someone a Grilled Cheese For the First Time is Always Worth It

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This weekend our group participated in a home stay in the township of Langa, a suburb of Cape Town. It’s one of the largest Xhosa townships in the area and is classified as a Heritage Site due to the long history of apartheid struggles. Langa still celebrates many African traditions – singing, dancing, and eating (sheep’s heads and chicken feet!) are all important parts of the culture. We took a tour of the neighborhood and had kids following us for most of the way, asking to be held and to have their photographs taken.Image

Haley A. and I stayed with Nobo (pictured above) in her apartment complex near the center of Langa. She welcomed us with open arms, calling us her children immediately upon meeting and answering all of our incessant questions about life in Langa.

On Sunday morning we went to her Baptist Church, an interesting experience to say the least. After that she started to prepare our second breakfast (staying in Langa = endless stream of heavy food). I noticed she had white bread, processed cheese singles, and lots of butter. I asked if she had ever had grilled cheese and she looked at me like I was crazy. So Haley and I proceeded to make Nobo her first grilled cheese, which she seemed to enjoy. Overall, it was  a great experience!

Nobo, me, Kristin, Wendy (Nobo's 15-year-old downstairs neighbor), Anita (Wendy's friend and a student at Haley's school) and Haley T standing outside our apartment for the weekend.

Nobo, me, Kristin, Wendy (Nobo’s 15-year-old downstairs neighbor), Anita (Wendy’s friend and a student at Haley’s school) and Haley T standing outside our apartment for the weekend.

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September 30, 2013 at 9:55 am

Much Needed Update from the Rainbow Nation

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So apparently it’s been almost a month since my last blog post. Sorry to everyone (anyone) who has been disappointed to not hear about my travels. With spring break (10 days in Botswana and Zimbabwe!), lots of time at service, and trying to do and see everything in South Africa, it’s been a busy month. Yesterday was Heritage Day (also known as National Braai – or barbecue – Day) so we had a long weekend. I spent last night watching Invictus and coloring a South African flag on a pair of white sneakers. It was very patriotic.

On Saturday and Sunday our group took advantage of the break to go to the Hermanus Whale Festival. For the first time in a long time the weather was perfect. The whales were cooperative too! So many of them breeched, but I wasn’t quick enough to grab a photo. 

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On Monday I went to the Mount Nelson Hotel for my first ever English tea. Here’s a picture of us post-tea after we had eaten every finger sandwich, cake, and scone in sight.

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Whether you celebrate it or not, I hope everyone had a wonderful Heritage Day!

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September 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm

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