too much to blog

OOOooh I just came from the best talk. Judith Favish - Director of Institutional Planning for UCT -
On the Social Responsiveness of an Institution, of people within an institution. Not only in response to TRANSFORMATION which seems to be the elephant in the room - even when it's being directly discussed - but also more generally coming up with an institutional model which supports social action. Of course, social action is mandated both by the University's mission and by the government which funds it. However, if social action interupts the speed of publishing for a young academic, that social action is effectively punished in hiring & promotion practices. Same with contract research or services collaborating with NGOs in applied research and/or assessment. So it's been suggested to amend the holy trinity (RESEARCH, Service, teaching) to add social responsiveness. Sticky! but... progressive? Or promoting a particular political agenda? WELL, YES! This would be tabu in the US. But it's a fact of life here. We have an agenda. It's TRANSFORMATION.

What about those academics in fields where the research is not directly relevant to TRANSFORMATION? Short answer: everything in ZA is related to transformation. Long answer: They can do community service.

The Kenyan academics gave her a little bit of hell - UCT has increased fees 10% a year. What kind of social responsiveness is that? In fact, the increase in black students has been largely populated by blacks from other African nations - not poor South African blacks. The gov't mandated a certain change in racial dynamic, but also capped the size of the University and restricted the number of need-based scholarships. Well.

UCT is one of, if not THE premier university in Africa. We are not just a transformation-enabling institution - we must also maintain our status and bring ZA and larger Africa up to this academic standard. But we must also be a leader in this field. One issue is that of curriculum - not so much in geology per say, more of an issue in social science or engineering or architecture. Some examples include the selection of specialties that should be represented in hiring in the archeology department. The old guard was heavy on European Greek/Roman focus - maybe that should shift as they retire. Not all to South African, but maybe more Egyptian, Arabic, all over African. But there are those that consider the "classical" education top priority, and the best job prospects are still going to be overseas - for a long time. So if the architecture curriculum follows what's "cutting edge" globally, they are setting their graduates up to move to Europe or America. If they focus on African styles and climate and materials, they may be serving South Africa, they may be limiting the opportunities of the people who are the vehicles for this service, or marginalizing them in the global marketplace of ideas - these are the conversations that are going on. Heady Stuff!

Anyway to bring it all home - my 12 students are: 4 white, 2 Indian (maybe one of them is Pakastani? not sure), 1 Colored, 5 Black. They are from Namibia (1), Lesotho (1), Germany (1) and ZA (9). They speak, in order of prevalence: English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda... I forget the other one. They are 7 women and 5 men. They are darling and I gave them a doozy of a practical this week (Mohr circles, stereonets & stress, X-section construction). Have a good weekend kids! Heh heh.

Too much to think about. Must start again with new post.


Say what?

Occasional confusion over slight variations in American "English" vs. South African "English". When we discussed the angle of internal friction today, I called the Greek letter "phee", which caused my class to erupt in laughter, because they call it "phy". Well soooory. Thus I am starting a table of things we say and things they say and whose way is better. My criteria for better include clarity, functionality, and funniness. I'll post it today and add to it later. Submissions are welcome, especially from South Africans or Americans who have lived or traveled here - save me the trouble of finding them all out the hard way!
American WaySouth African WayWinner
I'll do it eventuallyI'll do it nowUSA
I'll do it nowI'll do it now nowUSA
I'll do it very soonI'll do it just nowUSA
3.5" floppy diskstiffydefinitely ZA
pick up truckbakkietoss-up
van or mini-vancombitoss-up
Lab (as for a class)PracticalZA
any old examtesttoss-up
final examexamUSA
tuna sandwichtuna & mayonaisse sandwichZA obviously, but like I really want to know what I'm eating.
AluminumAluminiumUSA (from amber)
take-outcarry-outtoss-up (from amber)
tea (means there will be cookies)Tea time (no cookies in evidence unless it's Ronel's birthday, then there is "milk tart"USA unless it is Ronel's birthday
To go out and check something out"have a recce"ZA

If it's not obvious, I'm having trouble figuring out when things either have happened or are going to happen. This is a bit of a problem. You can also see how it was possible to freak some students out by suggesting that we have an exam next Wednesday. Whoops. Little things folks. Now if I could just make out what the sandwich lady is saying.

Ed 31/08/06** Mom reminds me of the US fraternity "Chi Phi" (ky fy). But I remind mom of the sorority "Alpha Phi" (alfa fee)!


More eye candy

In case I haven't mentioned it before, a week from Sunday we'll be taking off in two combis and a couple of bakkies to the UCT Laingsburg field station. In case you're not familiar with Laingsburg - here it is - looking for all the world like Wyoming, but in fact this is the northern edge of the great CAPE FOLD AND THRUST BELT about which I hope to learn ... something... prior to teaching it. White bar is 10km. Luckily my co-instructor John Rogers is quite knowledgable although he fakes an ignorance of structural geology. Anyway, I think I could make the map directly from this google earth image. Two of our staff - Bruce and Jon - BT's UCT counterparts - drove out last weekend to check the field station and found the well head buried under trees and rubble from the recent floods, and a colony of bees under the kitchen. People keep apologizing to me for the horrible "roughing it", etc. I've quit saying "Summer in Alaska was much much worse," and "We had no well at Poleta," because, well, who cares already. The students will be cooking so it could be pretty rough, who knows.

I swear to god I did not alter this photo in any way, I just glanced out the window when I was typing the above and snapped this picture. No contrast or hue or saturation or brightness or anything. This is the 2nd brightest rainbow I've ever seen. After this one (22 July, 2006, Pasagshak Point, Alaska:


Not much New on Monday

I was going to show you the R4 veggie samosas I had for lunch (that's $0.56 today) but you're too late, they're gone. Yum.

So I'll show you what I've got in my office - this sweet de Beers poster. Find the diamond. It's already almost 3 000 000 000 years old in this cartoon. And hey - did anybody know the diamonds are metasomatic? They're not igneous. How amazing is that.

Waterfront Stroll

My dear colleague John Rogers and his lovely wife Phil took me out for a night on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. This area is just off downtown Cape Town, and has been totally rejeuvenated. Most of the eastern part of the harbor seems to be industrial, there is even a huge offshore drilling rig towering over the eastern harbor, in for repairs I think. But the V&A section is all upscale shopping, dining, touring, the huge Two Oceans aquarium, and historical shipping and exploring exhibits. There was a huge "discover Islam" festival going on with food and music and a big tent with different booths in it - not sure what the different booths were doing. The Muslim community here is very active and very diverse - it seems so many sects are represented, and from so many countries. After the close of the festival a marimba band played, they were AWESOME, I think I should buy some music for Mom. We had a very good dinner at a pub-type fish and chips place, which reminded me that I have to get on board with the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative and download my little wallet card. It's hard to eat sustainable when you don't know what any of the fish are! I hope I ate a "green" fish last night. John certainly did as he had the hake and calamari combo. Next mission: find out how to get some local fish that's not deepfried. You'd think this was Alaska or something. I blame the English.
In a continued effort to not carry things which I'm afraid of losing, I left my camera at home again. So both these photos are stolen off the internet. These little wire-bead creatures are available from street venders all over town and I just love them somehow. They are just so cute. If you want me to bring you one, just tell me what animals you like and I will bring it. They also make beautiful baskets in this style. OK sorry that was dorky.


Getting out & about

People have gotten me paranoid about walking around the city. Well, I can't live here if I can't walk around the city. So I figured Sunday morning is as safe as it comes, I'll go out for a stroll. It was lovely! People everywhere walking home from church, all dressed up, busses weaving around the streets - they pick up passengers apparently by yelling and whistling and honking at people. Only "honking" is called "tooting". I walked down Main Road from center Rondebosch through the "suburbs" of Rosebank, Mowbray, Observatory, into Salt River. At Salt River it started looking a little sketchier so I turned back and walked down into the heart of "Obz" to Lower Main Road. These suburbs are either super tiny, or else they are elongated down the hill, because I don't think I was ever farther than 3km from Rondebosch.

So anywhere along Main Road would be an easy commute on foot, bike, moped, car, anything. In fact, the train is parallel and only a block or two downhill of Main Road. The campus "Jammie shuttle" runs into most of these neighborhoods until 11pm, and is widely considered to be safe (unlike the train after dark). Like Santa Cruz, the U. overlooks everything so it's uphill in the morning, downhill in the afternoon. Although Observatory was clearly still asleep at 11:00 on a Sunday morning, my stroll reaffirmed my impression that it would be a fun place to live. Lots of walk-away food stands, bars and cafes that overhang the streets, and off Lower Main, there are small streets with brightly painted cottages with white washed walls around them. The bars on windows and spikes on gates are ubiquitous here - there seems no way around it as it would be imprudent to be the first house on the block to take down the bars. But Obz has less of a white fortress feeling, and there were people of all races sitting on the porch drinking their coffee, chatting to their neighbors in the street, doing what I plan to be doing.

Sorry I didn't bring my camera to show you what the neighborhoods looked like - Didn't want to get paranoid about getting it stolen, and taking pictures like a tourist seems like a dumb thing to do. Just trying to be careful until I figure it out. Anyway in case I didn't mention it before, I have been twice to see the relocation people. There are a lot of them! They're really nice. And cute. I think Sila will get a big crush on all the pretty girls who will be helping us relocate. Anyway, they will set up rentals for us to visit. Apparently "unfurnished" really means it, there is no fridge or oven or the sort of appliances that we normally consider part of the woodwork. This is because of some squatters rights law, which basically says that if a tennant removes these things from the premises, they belong to him. So naturally no landlords will provide them. This also means that there's a roaring marking in second hand kitchen appliances, and I saw several sort of pawn-shop looking places on my walk which could furnish out a kitchen in no time. Interesting twist.

So I blew the rest of the morning wandering between coffee shops back to Rondebosch and reading newspapers wherever one was left around on a table. I'm glad to say that in spite of the foreign slang I can make sense of the rugby page now - I guess it's not too complicated when the Boks keep getting smashed - yesterday by the All Blacks, who looked amazing.


A little geography

Ah the beautiful Cape Peninsula. As you may be aware, this is not, in fact, the southern point of Africa. I've marked this beautiful google earth image with little white Westsail icons to show potential harbor locations. Simonstown is the coolest, but also the farthest away and pretty upscale. Hout Baai on the Atlantic coast is the most beautiful but supposedly a bit rough as there is a large "informal settlement" there - meaning squatter shanty town. You can see from the photo that it's right on the beach. Granger Bay nearby is probably the most exclusive, don't know if you can get in there without buying a condo. I haven't been there but it looks beautiful. But either Granger or the RCYC would require driving, as it's about 2 miles into the city center along some pretty major roads, no sidewalks. I walked down there before but it was a little sketchy. The moped idea is sounding better and better. Cheap parking on campus too.

The Royal Cape Yacht Club might be the best option. Close to the U and it's out in a sort of industrial area of the harbor - so nobody's around at night. Safer, supposedly.

Alright yall. I just have time to watch an episode of Queer Eye before John Rogers comes to pick me up for a dinner party at Chris Harris's house. Wonder if it will be the famous BRAAI.


Some of the people I miss

This small angel, is in fact, my new niece. Being the only one of her generation anywhere in my family, she is at this moment, my only hope for the future of the line, as circuitous as that line may be. I will have to find an African tutu or an African magic wand or something for her. Who knows what.

The amazing thing is, I got this niece bundled with my darling husband. Who did an awesome amount of errands and paperwork in one day in order to get his visa application together, so he can come down here to Cape Town with me. This is, especially considering Sila's aversion to errands and/or paperwork, an impressive feat for which I am very grateful. You will notice however, that Neviya's angelic charm is not ... as well expressed... in her uncle's passport photo. Miss you sweetie pie. So glad I have a photo of you to put up on my bulletin board and explain to people who come to see me in my office. Some day I'll get a real picture of my husband.

So, family - just because you're reading my blog does not mean that you don't have to write to me! Or at least post comments. Click the little pencil at the bottom of the message to post a comment. You might have to log in.

And also,
HELL YEAH IT'S FRIDAY AND I'M DONE LECTURING FOR THE WEEK! Nothin to do now but collate 78 billets and write instructions for the tech, get trained on the XRD, finish my staff webpage, tutor 2 students on stereonets, go to the library and get out books on vitrinite reflectance, and start writing up the Pasagshak structure chapter. SWEET FREEDOM! Click this picture to see why working in my office is a happy place.


Only a matter of time...

... before the Research and Development Manager for De Beers came around to buy me a cup of coffee. And leave me a couple of cast off rock slabs. Like just a little old 2.9BYO KYANITE-BEARING ECOLOGITE XENOLITH WITH OMPHACITE SYMPLECTITES and just this old thing, a Cr-GARNET DIAMONDIFEROUS KIMBERLITE. They've got a Game Ranch up near Kimberly with some lineaments on it... where the Bushmen used to come to get water. Funny thing. And nobody's been out to look at them yet. Wouldn't I like to come see. WOULD I LIKE TO COME SEE!!!! Road trip Sila! Road Trip. We'll hire a bakkie. You drive. Watch out for the robots.

But back to my coffee with Jock... He's got an amazing job, signing off on all the initial characterizations of new discoveries done by the exploration group - anywhere in the world. All the kimberlites. shoot. His business today at UCT was to pick up a part of a new exhibit being assembled at Kimberly, where the last major pipes were shut down last year. As part of the exhibit, there will be a huge backlit kaleidoscope with an old iron crank that kids can turn. The colored plates of the kaleidascope are made up of 8"x8" tiles, thin section collages, of kimberlites and mantle xenoliths from the kimberlites! They are INCREDIBLE! I can't imagine making these by hand, it would be near impossible to get it right. The thicknesses look perfect and they are gorgeous. And the man who made those, David, will be working on my rocks shortly. I can't even believe my good fortune.

In other good social news, I stopped by the Knightsbury Guest House, where I stayed during my interview, to see Tom and Enid Knight. They are absolutely kind hosts and when you all come to visit me, this place will be the top priority to try to book. Enid was out taking her mother to have her hair done, and Tom made me tea and scones and we talked for quite a while about all sorts of things. For some reason the Knights make me feel so at home. Of course the little dog Tess is one of the heros of the house. Quite the welcoming party. Tess says "hi", Chris.

hire = rent
bakkie = pick-up truck
robots = traffic lights

**Edited 25/08/06 to improve rock photos

Grass in your teeth

Ah the old rugby pitch.

Here's what it looked like in the summer when I came here last January. Pristine. Perfect. Begging to be ground into a muddy pulp by a messy scrum. This (along with the clearly RAGING rugby clubhouse at the far end) was enough to give me serious nostalgia pangs for the old game.

Of course now I'm here at the tail end of rugby season - winter is just about over, the rains are gone, and the spring winds (Cape Doctor) are getting stronger seemingly every day. I had the good fortune to catch a couple of matches, Saturday and last night. They do play better rugby here. But not that much better! Not that much different actually. One of my students is a prop so I saw his last game. They have something like intramurals I think, it's called "hostiles" or something? Not sure I understood that right. Anyway, there are 34 15-man squads in the hostiles, 18 A-teams and 15 B-teams. That's right, one campus, no less than 510 rugby players. Oh but wait, I didn't even mention the 3 21-man squads on varsity. Contrast that to your typical American university where they can't find a 15th man on game day. But these are all men!! Where are the counterparts to my 80 bright and beautiful Smith Women! Ah, they get brighter and more beautiful as the memories fade. Bitches. No just kidding.

There is not a single women's side at UCT. There are some in local clubs, and the province is fielding a team. Best yet - while I stood on the sidelines, one woman walked around in shorts and cleats. As it was cold (not shorts weather), I figured she was a lost soccer player or something. But then I overheard a man explaining to her to run forward and out to the strong side in front of the scrumhalf after he had passed the ball out to the flyhalf - he was coaching her in referee positioning! A few minutes later, another woman walked up and he spoke to her similarly, this time in Afrikaans, but from his wild hand and body motions I could see he was explaining where to go if you think the scrumhalf is going to throw weak out of a set scrum. This guy was very expressive.

Naturally I had to introduce myself and lie about the depth of my expertise and exaggerate my experience level. This establishes one rugger to another. Nah just kidding but it turns out he's a sort of? retired professional ref, running the Wynberg chapter of the Western Cape referees association. They have a major clinic to mentor and train new refs, some of whom are ex-players (as all American refs are) but some of whom - like these women - have never played but are huge fans of the game and have a strong desire to get involved! The UCT intermurals are the training grounds for these new refs. The whole referee association then meets Monday nights for the play by play, the breakdown, coaching and story telling etc.

I got his number. Now I have to get my endurance back up by January so I don't make an ass of myself. A typical ref can sprint in bursts totalling 3-8 miles per game depending on the level of play and fitness of the players. Here's how I'll keep myself busy when Sila's out of town.


I just bought a chicken liver sandwich and ate part of it. These people talk so fast. EW.


A Long History

Cape Town was essentially established by the Dutch as a refueling station in 1651. In 350 years, no one has been more influential over the course of history of southern Africa than Cecil Rhodes. Within a quarter century, he consolidated the diamond and gold mines, created DeBeers, and used his gains to essentially raise his own armies, politically dominate the Cape Colony, and conquer nearly a third of the continent under the English flag. In the process, he realized that world domination depended on large-scale labor at nearly no cost. Whereas English policy in the Cape Colony was less oppressive and violent, he found his political base in siding with the Afrikaaner population of the interior in restriction of movement, association, and rights for non-whites. He was instrumental in laying the basis for the future system of aparteid.

Dr. Leander Starr Jameson was Rhodes' right-hand man. He was forced to resign as prime minister after leading the ill-fated Jameson Raid which was an effort by Rhodes to essentially annex the gold-rich Boer states of Transvaal and Orange Free State. Dr. Jameson was also implicated in "conquer by epidemic" schemes against the Africans when he denied outbreaks of disease in the forced labor camps of the diamond mines.

Rhodes' Cape Town estate Groote Schuur makes up much of modern-day Cape Town suburbs, and the campus is situated on land donated by Rhodes for that purpose. Rhode's house was the site of the 1990 agreement between Mandela and De Klerk which removed barriers to negotiation, pardoned political prisoners and exiles, and generally paved the way for the negotiations which ended aparteid. So the legacy of the estate encompasses both the dark and the light sides of South African history.

What fascinates me is the treatment of this legacy in campus monuments.

Here's Cecil Rhodes. This statue looks down from the forefront of campus, over Cape Flats, northeast into Africa and Beyond. On the granite podium is a Rudyard Kipling quote basically about the saintiness of the British Empire.

Here's the sign the university has erected near the statue. In case you can't read it, an excerpt: "Just as many young Afrikaaners were uncomfortable in the 1930s and 1940s on a campus which provided daily reminders of Rhodes and Jameson, today many students question the ways in which these figures continue to be memorialised." The discomfort of the young Afrikaaners might be attributed to the lasting tensions between English and Afrikaans-speaking South African whites after the Boer Wars. The continued questioning of the memorialisation of these figures has not, to date, resulted in any removal of any of the many Rhodes memorials.

Here's the plaque on Leander Starr Jameson Hall, the architectural centerpiece of this beautiful campus. It's much more subtle than the many large bronzes of Rhodes. However, the university-posted sign sort of seems to make things worse:
After explaining a bit about Jameson, the sign goes on to say that portraits of the four chancellors of UCT since the erection of the hall in 1918 are hanging inside. However, the first woman and first black chancellor, who has been at her post since 1999, does not have a portrait hanging inside yet. Now why would they bother to get a sign made up to tell people there is no portrait? Why not just hang a portrait? Or doesn't she get one?

A large symposium is going on Sept 2, the topic of which is something like Changing Afrikaaner Masculinity or What is Whiteness now? or both. White guilt takes a different form here than back home. It's less. . . common. But still present. There are strong incentives, even requirements, for racial hiring quotas. This is a bit of a problem because white males are still the best educated and highest trained workers in the country. As one of the office staff told me this morning, the children now will grow up their entire adult lives in "Transition". The benefits won't come until their children are growing up. I wonder if she's right. But it's inspiring to see that the whole of society, while grumbling, seems to feel the burden to shoulder the cost of rapid integration. Not everybody, but on the whole. Maybe I'm optimistic because I'm new. But the air feels somewhat clearer here around race issues than it feels back home.

**Edit 24/8/06: Casey's right! They don't post chancellors' photos until they've left the post. So scratch that bit. But check out this other statue of Rhodes at the memorial at the top of campus:


Dropping into place

First Lecture Went Fine! Whoooo. The students seem cool and enthusiastic. And I got through everything in just under 45 minutes. amazing. Once was a miracle, we'll see what happens tomorrow. It's just like UC Santa Cruz, with all the loud dudes waving their hands around and all the girls sitting quietly and giggling together. We went over the basics of structure, the issue of scale, and introduced strike/dip trend/plunge. Only they define a plane here by dip azimuth/dip angle. this will take a while to get used to. Next lecture will be basic morphology of faults & folds. Moving right along!

This is the view I had during my walk up to the geology building at 8am. Beautiful.

This is the All Africa house where I am staying.

This is one of the lab rooms where I'll be teaching. I love this room.

This is a tachylyte vein I found in the prac room. Not a pseudotachylyte vein. Nice to know what tachylyte looks like finally.


Stupid American (#1)

Groceries are cheap here. Dirt Cheap. However, if you can't divide by 7 in your head, you might still come up short at the checkstand. Or so I hear. What's really awesome is when all the store employees (who I could be seeing again in my lecture at 9am tomorrow?) gather around the register to watch the stupid American sort through her bags to remove the high ticket items (shampoo, R15. french press, R49. cottage cheese, R8.)

The good news: There are three groceries on the main road through Rondebosch. I never have to go back to the first one.

((Note to self: Go ahead and just count your basket in Rand instead of trying to covert each item to dollars and then add them up in dollars and then convert them back to Rand.))

Fascinating new friends (name dropping)

I arrived yesterday morning and dept. head Chris Harris kindly picked me up from the airport and checked me in at the All Africa house. I got to explore campus a bit and watch some pretty good rugby on the fields. Better than NERFU guys, but I guess that shouldn't surprise me!

I slept through the afternoon, then Chris and his wife Chandra picked me up for a dinner party at John & Lynn Moss's house. John is a chemistry professor but other than that seems to be a wild man. Rock climbing and mountaineering are his other pursuits. Lynn is a tour guide locally and they are both hilarious characters. In attendence were some serious sail voyaging luminaries, including Skip Novak (of high-latitude craft Pelagic) and another gentlemen whose singlehanded voyage in an all-carbon ship from Cape Town to New Zealand was derailed by a broken tendon in his forearm. I'm hoping to go down to the docks with John and view the ships next weekend. John showed his rock climbing trip up Table Mountain with Nobel Laureate in chemistry Bob Grubbs, who was there visiting from Pasadena with his wife, both were very nice. John also showed his trips to various granite mountains in Namibia, all of which seem to be spalled pointy domes like the Sugarloaf. Chris showed his recent exploration into the Chinese Himalayan foreland. It seems these guys really know how to take advantage of their conference travel.
Everyone seems very friendly here. I especially enjoyed trying to explain to a curious South African how to differentiate between Americans and Canadians. I hope I told her to ask a Canadian, because Americans usually can't tell.

This morning I rose early and saw the tail end of the sunrise with whisps of fog trailing across the Cape Flats and between the peaks of the cederberg mountains. I wish I could get my computer on the network so I could show it to you. Maybe tomorrow.