Monday, July 21, 2008
We've been having a low-key time of it these past few days. The conference opened on Sunday evening and the 10-yr old who gave the keynote was beyond remarkable. He tossed around terms like neo-liberal economic policies, oppression, hegemonic, and corporate greed like a pro. He gave a 30-minute speech, and of course, his head could barely be seen over the top of the podium. He is in his second year as an engineering student at Purdue University. He was discovered by conference organizers when his father, who is a professor at Northeastern University in Illinois, was invited to SA to talk about his research on influencing cognitive development in the womb (or something like that). He brought both of his sons to serve as case studies (9 and 11 at the time). He clearly did an amazing amount of research for this presentation as there was nothing that qualified him to give this speech except for the novelty of being a 10-year old genius.
I've wrapped up the formal stuff with the students so the rest of the trip seems like smooth sailing. The ones I've run into so far at the conference seem to be enjoying themselves, and it even seems like most of them have shown up! Imagine that.
We spent the weekend browsing and relaxing. We went to a mall on the north side of Durban that is supposed to be the largest mall in Africa. I felt like I was in a different place going there. If you're wondering, huge malls are huge malls no matter where you are. And the biltong??? A disappointment. It's supposed to be like jerky and a favorite in SA, but I found it a bit greasy and more like week-old meat than jerky. However, we did see someone climbing the highest rock climbing wall in the world, but didn't see anyone surfing on the artificial surfing wave. Several students did try surfing over the weekend with varying success and a wide array of bumps and bruises.
On Saturday evening, Pat, Kim, and I went to the house of one of the members of the social work faculty at UKZN who worked with us on setting up the visits. She is Indian and made us a traditional dinner. What was strange is that the traditional dinner didn't seem to involve our hosts eating with us! We asked Tanusha (our colleague) to join us eating and she got a bowl for herself, but no one else ate. They all had a variety of reasons for not eating but it definitely seemed like a dinner FOR guests rather that WITH guests. However, the evening was delightful. There were 3 generations around and it was a rousing night of conversation. The children (ranging in age from 2 to 10) put on a little performance for us dancing to a song from a Bollywood movie. It was fun.
Everyone (me, included) seems to have relaxed quite a bit about the safety issues. The students have been able to find some places to hang out in the evening and have found some spots with diverse customers. I wish that they hadn't been so over the top about safety when we first arrived. No one has had any problems and I'll know better if I come back here again. There is no need to tempt fate of course, but it seems like basic safety strategies and common sense are enough.
The pic is of the market that is along the street across from our hotel. These folks are called informal merchants.
By the way...did Charlie Christ really propose to someone?!?!?
That's all for now...