Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Random thoughts

As I was thinking about what to put in this blog, it occurred to me that it might be the last one for awhile. We leave tomorrow for Jo-burg and then off to Pilanesburg National Park for our vacation! Maybe our hotel in Jo-burg will have internet and I can fill you in on the Apartheid Museum (our primary destination in Jo-burg).

Anyway, here are some random thoughts…

• There are 12,000 registered social workers for a country of 47 million people (give or take a million or so). We heard from the Deputy Minister for Social Development who said that the recently passed Children’s Policy will require a minimum of 16,000 social workers just to fully implement that one policy. That doesn’t address any of the other needs (although we know that no one specializes…these folks do it all).

• The faculty at UKZN indicated that they are under heavy pressure to admit more students in order to increase the number of trained social workers in the country. They have 6 faculty and have decided to admit 125 per year. SW is a 4-year degree while most bachelor degrees are 3.

• The social workers that we met were mostly Indian, with a few Blacks, particularly doing the HIV/AIDS work. However, I don’t know if that was a function of the fact that the woman who helped us arrange the visits is Indian and these were the agencies she knew the best. Most of the social workers are supported by paraprofessionals who seem to have come up from the ranks…starting as service recipients, moving to volunteers, and then to paid staff. UKZN did tell us that 90% of their students were Black, so the demographic makeup of the workforce is bound to be changing in the coming years.

• The agencies we visited were all NGOs. Some received a modicum of their funding from the government, Hope Worldwide and the Advise Desk for Abuse Women relied on donations of private money or grants.

• Colloquialisms: Instead of “you’re welcome,” folks say “pleasure.” Grandmothers seem to be referred to as Grannies here, and “shame” is used as if saying “that’s too bad.”

• The racism here has been shocking on two levels. First, there are the blatant comments made to us, e.g., “black people aren’t too smart and I don’t think they could come up with this. They may be sneaky, but they’re not too clever.” This from the hotel manager who didn’t think it was his housekeeping staff who ransacked a room. That’s only one example…there are others. The second shocking element was the presumption that because I’m white, that I would be a kindred spirit and surely must share their ideas. Several students described similar experiences. I keep reminding myself that they are only 14 years post-apartheid and that these attitudes are going to take generations to change. And of course, the two people I met here I truly thought were idiots were white.

• Ethnic food run-down: Indian, Pakistani (not much difference between the two as I’m sure you might guess), Ethiopian, and African. I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but I’ve had my fill of Indian food. It’s been delicious, but I think between the meals provided to us and the restaurants we’ve selected on our own, we’ve had curry just about every day that we’ve been here. Kim had had a couple of seafood dishes, although apparently it’s hard to select a dish when you’re not familiar with the fish. She had good luck with a hake. Other local fish include kingklip and dorado, along with mussels, calamari, prawns, etc.

• We’ve had 5 birthdays on the trip (including Kim’s) and everyone has done a great job of making the birthday girl feel important despite being a long way from home. The students all signed a card for Kim, and have generally treated her like one of the gang.

• Did I mention the shark dive? Several students went on a shark dive and one student managed to have the shark bite the cage directly in front of her. It apparently was right out of Jaws.

• Kim had a lovely trip to Pietermariztburg on Monday. She rented a car and jumped in to drive away and then realized she was on the passenger side. Aside from that, most of the driving was uneventful. She was visiting a former co-worker who was at FSU getting her PhD and then returned to SA. She lives about an hour north of Durban in an area that they call the Midlands. She says it looks like an English countryside…like the Cotswolds (sp?) for those of you who have traveled through England.

• Did I also mention that I’ve had it with hanging out with students for awhile? While these folks have really been fun and thoughtful people, they are still students!

Well...I guess that's it for now. Off to a very interesting-sounding plenary session on globalization, women, and children.


Susan said...

Wonderful Blogwork, Di!

I'm happy to report that the hose is in place, the herbs thriving, the ferns hanging in, and San Fransciso is naming a large sewer plant in honor of George W. Bush. Evidently, only 9% of that city is registered Republican, so it's certain to pass. I love that.

I'm headed off for my own vacation. Can't wait to really catch up when you guys return.

Loads of love,

Anonymous said...

Hi gals,
My SA friend ay work was dissapointed to hear that you did not just love the biltong...
He suggested I request Zulu beads and trinkets!?!

Elvie said...

Charlie's just your average repressed Republican hypocrit despite the milk toast (be polite so we can all get along) demeanor.

Thanks for the great description of social work in SA -- fascinating and a look into how SW gets started.

Elvie said...

Kim, you are remarkably spirited and brave to hop in a rental car by yourself and say off I go for a ride to visit a friend IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY! Wow

Julie Ann Rivers said...

Hey there Dina -- thanks so much for taking the time to blog -- I've really enjoyed reading your posts. Can't wait to hear MORE upon your return.

Here's to sighting the Big 5!

Miss ya,


Chip said...

Hello Ms. Muse,
Fantastic tales from the distant lands. I live through your musings.

Sounds as though the two of you are having an incredible time. Thanks for taking the time to write about your adventures.

Take care.