Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our first week

Today completed our first week of helping at the Salesians - it has flown by. We have settled into a routine now that Trisha is recovered from her cold and Alex from his twisted ankle. So now we have Trisha as Mr Lungu's TA, Madi as Mrs Nkosie's TA - both will be taking class for the day on Monday - all luck to them :) Cassie has a difficult job being TA to Carmen and FelEsia has the rewarding position with Mrs Jacoba. Lauren and Rohaise have a great position in the skills unit working with kids learning the skill of leather-making : they have both made some fabulous things too. They are going to open up and run class on Monday. Collin and Alex are teaching use of computers. The classes all have mixed ability but maybe none so much as the computer class where some can do lots but a couple today had never used a mouse. I have been floating - the incoming principle has asked us to write a report for him on what works and what can be done better so we are all keeping very detailed notes. Today, I am proud to say, I taught one of the older girls to knit!

Yesterday we went to see the Second Chance boys home. The wonderful and dedicatated Sarah showed us where the boys sleep and one of the best moments for me was to see our students playing instruments with the 2nd chance boys playing drums in unison.

Collin and Alex talked to Soldier. I interviewed the appropriately named, Wiseman. In a few short words he came to the shelter, aged 14. He is now 18 and just finishing his first year of technical college - mechanical engineering. He says he is proud of himeslf to have been able to achieve so much but always wanted to be adopted because he has never had a Mum to whom he could show his work or even ive a hug to when he got home. One can only wish him ever possible luck in the future - a brave boy who is an example to us all.

Weekend of 11/12 June 2011

Another Weekend in Cape Town:

Saturday: We started with class on Saturday morning and enjoyed bringing our experiences in to the classroom. For example, our discussion of cultural haptics was helped by discussing the practices here amongst “our children” at Salesians. We moved on from class to the AGM of Zip Zap and were interested hear their plans for the future, including a new circus school in another area of S Africa lead by, Lionel, a former Zip Zap member who is now a school teacher. Also, we discovered that Zip Zap pays all its bills as it goes along but still needs to set up a fund for building a permanent home. They will be moving from their current home soon because it is being developed into a car park – interesting idea, which is more important I wonder! It was our intention to see the Castle and the Slave Museum but as we walked we came across a street market and there was much shopping for presents. Our carry-on baggage also increased with the purchase buy FelEsia and Lauren of a drum each! Eventually we made it to the Slave Museum which was superbly interesting with information about slavery in Africa for over 5000 years. Also, there was a huge exhibit of Mandela’s life and, upstairs, a whole floor dedicated to colonial life.

Meanwhile what of our tickets to the Stommers (Cape Town) and Bulls (Johannesburg) rugby match? Of course I gave one to Alex, as he is the only one of us who plays, and the second we put names in a hat and Natasha of Zip Zap picked a lucky winner, Cassie.

We fell exhausted into bed so we could be up early on our trip to Cape Point.

Sunday: Cape Point trip. I am sure that the students will write more but we had the most amazing day with a fabulous guide who was born in Zambia when it was still Northern Rhodesia and has a Masters degree in Anthropology. To start with we went to Houts Bay and took a boat trip to see the fur seals at Seal Island. This was truly magical, the wind in our hair, the pure air and the seals – wow! What could surpass that experience? For me nothing in the rest of the day but the rest of the day was so amazing that it only shows how much I enjoyed the boat trip! After a little souvenir shopping we were off to Cape Point, the tip of Africa. Although john told us that in reality we couldn’t see the Indian Ocean one side and the Atlantic the other it made no difference to our excitement. The flora is amazing and very diverse. On the way he told me that he hadn’t seen baboons recently, they are native to the Cape Point reserve but as we drove alone passed the Ostrich farm there was a whole troop! So we were out of the bus at top speed to take photos of baboons amongst the ostriches. On entering the reserve itself we can across two types of antelope and wild ostriches immediately. Then eland, the largest antelope in Africa. When we stopped at Cape Point Trisha found Dasies – the smallest relative of the elephant and looking like a groundhog! Little Black Lizards abounded as we walked around the lighthouse. Many of us rode the funicular railway up to the lighthouse, took me back to my childhood.

Then off to see the penguins on the beach at Simonstown. However, on our way we came across another troop of baboons. They had babies riding on their backs and frolicking in the sun. The alpha males are very large and have very large teeth; John made us stay in the buss to take photos but he put a banana on the dashboard so that the baboons would jump onto the bus and we could take photos. Trisha has a close up of those teeth! The penguins had chicks at various stages of development from eggs to large birds already losing their down. What a splendid experience! We were all tired and happy by then but a last stop at Kirstenbosh Botanical gardens revived us. Over 1000acres the garden has huge collections of Cape flora. They were delightful, peaceful and a fitting end to a magnificent day.

13th June 2010
Cassie and Alex spoke on Cape Talk Radio about our study abroad experience and how they enjoyed the rugby.  Trisha taught a class all by herself, as did Lauren and Rohaise!

Day 19 of our Trip

I am so sorry not to have posted the promised updates.  We have been fantastically busy but I hope to make up for it by posting a few details of our trip from my journal.  I will start with this past week and work backwards!  Cape Town is miserable today, we have high winds and rain, and I have a horrible cold.   The girls had intended to go to Greenmarket,which is a street market with lots of recommended shopping.  I haven't seen them go out yet!  This rain comes for the fact that at Cape Point the very cold Atlantic ocean meets the very warm Indian ocean and boom - rain!  However, they need the rain here, they have been having limited rainfall just like Texas, and it usually rains overnight and then clears up into blue skies and perfect temperatures.   So maybe we will be able to go to the top of table mountain later today...

4 days in South Africa – 13-16 June 2011

Monday 13th

The students, except Madi, who had lost her voice, went to Salesians for their usual commitments. I, too, was unwell. Trisha had a class to teach, alone, and Lauren and Rohaise had a workshop to teach, alone. Lauren made sandwiches so that her students could have a picnic; normally the students in the workshops only get bread, which, for some students, is their only meal of the day. The school students get a hot meal before they leave for the day.

In the afternoon Collin, Lauren, Trisha, FelEsia and Alex went to Zip Zap Circus. Collin interviewed Jose, an original Zip Zap student and the others went with Zip Zap to one of the local townships. Zip Zap has an outreach program there in which they teach circus skills to children who are living with HIV but have their illness in check through the good offices of Doctors without Borders. I will let the students talk about this amazing experience.

Tuesday 14th

We travelled, at 8am, to Kersefontein Farm near Hopefield. This was to prove one of the most educationally important excursions of our time here because of our host, Julian Melck and his historic property. Also, it was Rohaise’s 16th Birthday. We were in a mood of high excitement and the driver played traditional Afrikaner music for us as we travelled. Having stopped for sandwiches in the small country town of Malmesbury, we arrived at the farm at about 11am. It is not possible to do the farm justice by description and so I encourage anyone who is interested to look at the website We were taken into his beautifully, and historically, furnished sitting room where we all had tea served from a silver teapot, with matching silver milk jug and sugar bowl. Then, we had some free time whilst Julian and his staff had an hour off over lunch. It was great to explore our bedrooms, Rohaise and I stayed in the house whilst the others had magnificent rooms in the guest quarters. Lauren in particular had the finest room on the farm. Rohaise, being the birthday girl, had the 4 poster in the main bedroom in the house. The Melck family have owned the farm for 7 generations, since 1770. The farm itself dates back to 1744. Amidst this wealth of history we browsed Julian’s library and the environs; we found a huge boar (male pig) asleep behind one of the girl’s rooms! Julian was then kind enough to take those who had horse-riding experience out for a 2 hour ride across his farm. I stayed behind with Lauren and FelEsia; we took a long walk out over the farm, looking at the Berg river running by and spotting the scourge of Julian’s wheat – wild boar. We were surprised to see the riders returning driving cattle into the yard! They had come back past some cows and calves which Julian wanted to count and so herded them into the corral at the farm. Having untacked and turned the horses out into paddocks in front of the house the students, including Lauren and FelEsia helped Julian to cut the calves from the mothers so they could be counted. They all had a fabulous time.

Having discovered that Alex hunts wild pigs at home Julian offered to talk some of us, who wished to, out over the farm in his pick-up. He gave Alex a rifle and told him to shoot any boar, without babies, of a certain poundage. Unfortunately for Alex he had never shot boar from a moving vehicle before and so he wasn’t able to bring home dinner (Julian eats all that he shoots). The rest of us enjoyed an amazing drive over the farm at sunset. Having stopped to check on his lambs it was back to shower and change for dinner. We had all packed something smart so as not to disgrace the magnificent dining room! Julian, who used to fly in the SA Air force display team, had fitted out one of his farm buildings as an Officers Mess. We went there before dinner and thence to eat wonderful mushroom soup with home- made bread followed by wild boar and Malva pudding, which is an old Afrikaner dish similar to bread and butter pudding with a caramel sauce. Even two of our 4 vegetarians felt able to try the wild boar which was superb. Over dinner we discussed South African and US politics, farming as a global issue, human rights and law. Julian talked about how his income fluctuates depending on the price of wheat in Russia, Australia and the USA. He said that he gets wheat prices sent daily from Kansas so that he can budget. This was a good example for the students of the global market at work. We also discussed human rights. Julian had been at law school during apartheid and talked about what he studied as ‘human rights’ then. We also discussed the case brought by civil society against the health minister in which the courts required the government here to recognize that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. Julian shared with us that his staff though coloured never vote ANC because they are frightened of their culture disappearing. Also, he told us that most of the farm workers were the descendents of workers who had lived and worked on the farm for as many generations as his family had owned it. I think all of the students were taken aback by the fact that he would ring a bell for waiting service during dinner. Further, he shared with us that with farming employing less and less people he would not be able to employ all of the children currently on the farm. That amounts to a major problem for those kids because youth unemployment here is about 50%. Julian ensures that they all go to school but the future must be frightening for a young coloured kid from a farm in rural SA. After supper we all retired to the Mess where we continued to celebrate Rohaise’s birthday with Julian encouraging dancing by playing lots of party music. It was a wonderful, safe location for everyone to unwind after the many sad and difficult things we have seen during our first 14 days here.

15th June

Breakfast at 9.30am in Julian’s breakfast room which was decorated with dried flowers, examples of all the species found on his farm. The night before he had told us that Nelson and Gracia Mandela had been to visit the farm specifically to see his wild flowers. Breakfast was another feast with Kersefontain honey and milk. A classic English breakfast was served but many of the students were subdued either from 2 hours on horseback, or dancing, or both!

After breakfast we all retired to read, write journals and relax, except Alex who went out with Julian and brought back 5 wild boar for future guests’ dinners. I tried to walk but was driven back by high winds and rain; it was lucky that we had ridden the day before.

Lunch was yet another marvelous meal. This time we had fillet steak with lovely vegetables followed by floating islands. Julian told us that he sends his cooks away to Cape Town to cookery school so that the high standard of cuisine at the farm can be maintained.

Over tea Julian showed me a book “Human Rights and the South African Order” printed in 1978. It was very interesting to the students because it showed the level of censorship in Apartheid SA. The book was published by Princeton University Press and had, originally, contained a review on the back cover by a banded person. Thus before it could be sold in SA the review had been cut out of the back cover and a plain piece of hard paper put in its place – talk about experiential learning!

All too soon it was time to leave. We enjoyed our drive back with various points of interest being pointed out by our driver and a very long Afrikaner joke being told. We all fell into our beds, happy but tired. For many, St Bedes feels like home!

16th June

Today is a National holiday in honor of the people killed at Soweto. Thus, we have taken the time to catch up on learning, writing essays, doing research etc. Some of us have been discussing books which have been influential upon us. We are unsure whether the Salesians will be open tomorrow but if they are not we will go to the castle, District 6 museum and Bo Kaap.

I have learned how to pronounce two things in Afrikaans “Kaap” is pronounce Karp and means Cape, “stead” is pronounced stud and means town. Thus, Cape Town in Afrikaner is Kaapstead pronounced Karpstud. Also, I know that a pad is a road. The language, which is based on Dutch, seems difficult because of the way both vowels and consonants are doubled up.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Introducing St. Edward's University Study Abroad Trip to Cape Town, SA 2011

On 1st June 2011 I fly to South Africa with some very special students for a study abroad experience which will last until 25th June 2011.

The students and I will be keeping this blog up to date.  We will record the ups and downs of our trip and some of our photographs.

Why are we going?  Last year, with Dr Myhr, I taught about 800 students from St Edward's about the problems of modern slavery and human trafficking.  During those workshops we were privileged to interview, by SKYPE, Judy Westwater, founder of the Pegasus Children's Trust (PCT).  The PCT supports some 4000 children who, but for it's help, would be living on the streets of South Africa.  Many of our students were inspired by her work and we obtained permission to travel to Cape Town to work with one of her partners, the Salesians Institute.   In Cape Town PCT partners with the Zip Zap Circus to provide street kids with circus skills to build confidence and self.  We are delighted to be doing research for Zip Zap on their methods.

Now, we are about to depart for a trip in which we will be working with PCT through both Zip Zap and the Salesians Institute.   Students will be taking two courses during this trip, Communication and Culture and Contemporary Global Issues.   We will be making visits to various sites in and around Cape Town which complement our studies. 

This our itinerary:



Fly : Austin to London


Arrive London. Fly London to Cape Town. We will have our classes due on 1st June at Heathrow airport today

3 JUNE - Arrive in Cape Town. Travel to Hotel and recover from the journey. Possible visit to Zip Zap Circus

4 JUNE - Visit Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront. Opportunity to catch up on homework

5 JUNE – Botanical Gardens and Rhodes memorial. The Companies Garden and associated features. This includes St Georges Cathedral.

6 JUNE – Salesians and Zip Zap

7 JUNE – Salesians and Cape Talk and Iziko slave museum

8 JUNE – Salesians and Zip Zap

9 JUNE – Salesians and Gold Museum

10 JUNE – Salesians and the District 6 Museum

11 JUNE –Hout Bay Harbour and Seal Island boat trip, Michaelis Collection (Stormers v Bulls Rugby (18.00hrs))

12 JUNE – Table Mountain and Bo Kaap Museum

13 JUNE – Salesians and Zip Zap

14 JUNE – Kersefontein Farm visit and tour and overnight

15 JUNE – Kersefontein Farm and travel back to Cape Town (

16 JUNE – salesians and University of Cape Town - this is a National Holiday so we may have to re-arrange

17 JUNE – salesians and City Hall

18 JUNE – Safari park visit

19 JUNE – Cape of Good Hope, Ostrich farm and Simonstown Boulder beach - penguins

20 JUNE – salesians and Zip Zap

21 JUNE – salesians and SA Museum and National Gallery/Iziko Bertram House Museum

22 JUNE – salesians and Zip Zap

23 JUNE – salesians and Aquarium

24 JUNE – salesians and Castle of Good Hope

25 JUNE – Fly from Cape Town to London. Then our study abroad ends :(

Please join us on this trip of a lifetime...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thanks for all the rice

If you were in my Teaching Showcase talk today, about grading rubrics and have read the handouts, or know me at all, you will recognise the corruption of my title from "thanks for all the fish" (the inimitable Douglas Adams).

So why start with thanks? I have now been on this diet for 10 days. My dear friend Betty helped alleviate the boredom by giving me brown basmati rice. On a more serious note I realise that the rice I have been eating, whilst organic and as fair trade as possible, has probably been produced by hand growing and hand harvesting.

Certainly the tomatoes, onions, okra and peppers in our garden have been produced by the hard labour of my husband who was in the garden, sweating like a pig, digging in compost at 6.30am this morning.

A new lesson learned : food production is hard labour and we should be doubly thankful to those who produce it. Of course, my father-in-law, knows this only too well - he has a mixed farm in Devon, UK (crops and sheep) but somehow, to my mind, not having machinery to help makes growing rice in India a more arduous task. I imagine he would agree with me having spent his childhood years turning hay by hand and riding a plough horse.

A second lesson learned is that I can live on much less than I thought. My Mum lived through rationing in World War II England. She has often told me stories of having a cup of sugar for a week etc. I couldn't think how one managed on rations but I haven't had sugar for 10days and I am really none the worse for it. Like us they had chickens and a garden; I have been truly blessed.

Yet another lesson - we didn't waste much food before but I cannot imagine wasting any in the future! I absented myself from the faculty lunches on Monday and Tuesday, I didn't want the temptation of leftovers and didn't want to see them wasted.

Now, confession time, yesterday I had a mint, Natalie in Brenda Vallance's office keeps them for visitors! Also, at the Humanities lunch at Cannoli Joe's I had a huge plate of vegetables (apparently that Italian restaurant doesn't think Italians eat rice; I had expected risotto at least!).

Tomorrow, is the last day of my suffering, but I am very tempted to go on. I have been cushioned from true hunger by the 'fat' I was carrying. I have lost 10lbs. I feel that, provided I don't get any fainter or weaker, I should go on. I will let you know what I decide...

In the meantime dates:

Tomorrow - 21st August at 15.00 ALLIES meet in TH 112 at St Edward's University. Please come.
5th October 2010 - 7pm Fleck Hall 305 St Edward's University - I will be talking about my experience of attending the United Nations discussions on the 2015 Poverty initiative.


Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking
Free the Slaves
Consortium for Street Children
The Pegasus Children's Trust
GEMS - this organisation rescues slaves (prostitutes) trafficked into the USA
Children of the Night - rescues child and adolescent prostitutes trafficked into and within the USA
Polaris - US joint agency - seeks to implement the laws against slavery and trafficking
The coalition of Immokalee Workers (slaves freed in the USA)

You may be interested to know that, in Texas, we are awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court about whether a mentally retarded child forced into prostitution by an older man should have her conviction for prostitution quashed.

Books by Kevin Bales "Modern Slavery - 27 million slaves" and "Disposable People" and "The Slave Next Door"

Books by Judy Westwater of the Pegasus Children's Trust "Street Kid" and "Nowhere to Run" Judy will be visiting St Edward's University between 18th and 25th October, there will be occasions for you to hear her talk.

You can buy gifts which are ethically made on the websites of Free The Slaves and The Consortium for Street Children.

If you are moved to do so - please donate.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 8

Good Evening!

Today, Monday 16th August 2010, has been difficult for me. The hunger has really hit me today and I found that I was very faint this morning until about 10am. Then the faintness returned this evening and I feel quite light-headed as I write.

Breakfast has become my most important meal. I go to bed hungry and wake up hungry but I can re-instate some equilibrium by 10am ish by eating a good breakfast. I have no idea how I would manage in real life where I would have to fetch my water before I could even cook. It is bad enough refiling our gallon bottles at HEB (you will recall our broken water softener).

I 'stole' food at lunch time. It was new faculty orientation. I had taken my rice but, after everyone had eaten, some vegetable wraps remained uneaten. I have to confess to being so hungry that I took the vegetables out of the wraps to eat with my rice. Of course, had I been a real slave/street kid I would have taken everything I could but I felt that I couldn't be at all true to my principles if I just ate lunch, regardless of my hunger!

This evening as a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner in our house; so I had the vicarious pleasure of the smells and sight of fabulous food.

Tomorrow is the full faculty meeting for a day. I will take my rice and try to remain unmoved by the sight of uneaten food. After living on this diet, I am not sure I shall ever be able to accept food waste again.

Having re-read this post I do sound as if I am whinging. Sorry, the new TV footage of the floods in Pakistan and the extent of the plight of 27million people keeps me focused. Of course, 27 million is an interesting figure because that is the number of slaves in our world.

You don't have to donate to make a difference - read Judy Westwater's autobiographical book "Street Kid", and then give it to someone else to read. Tell your friends, acquaintances, everyone...

To donate:
Pegasus Children's Trust - to help the flood victims.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It is Saturday and, by the time today is over I will have been on the diet for a whole week!

Thursday was a bad day for me. I had to cancel my plans for the morning because I was just too weak to feel it would be sensible to drive. I had a hideous headache and a hole, the size of Texas, in my tummy.

Yesterday morning I was up early to meet the farrier so we could shoe the horses before the, forecast high of 106 arrived. Of course, I could resist discussing my diet, slaves and street children with him. Given that he was in a ‘sneaky’ part of the military before taking to his new career he was largely unimpressed by the fact that I was starving, apparently they are taught which bugs they can eat, but very impressed with the reason I was on the diet. We discussed his time in Mombasa, Kenya, when he had been at a loss as to what to do when he had to step over a dying emaciated man in the street. Also, we talked about the poor, enslaved prostitutes of Thailand, who were the objects of many of his shipmates’ attentions.

He gave me a new perspective on watching others, notably my wonderful, long-suffering daughter and husband, eat. He pointed out that my enslaved farmer would know that his masters were eating lavishly and probably wasting the fruits of his labours. So, he encouraged me, eat their leftovers and what you can scrape out of the pans. Unfortunately for me they are so well brought up to know that waste food is sinful that there are never leftovers which aren’t eaten another day but I will investigate the pans. Also, we compost all our biodegradable waste so that isn’t really a source for me to tap. I believe that would be what is done in India too; you can’t have new vegetables without improving the soil.

Do I feel that hungry – yes – it used to be at night and in the morning, now it is constant? But I think I am getting better at enduring it. Yesterday I sat down to a supper of lentils, tomatoes and peppers with equanimity, whilst my family ate lasagne.

What have I learned in the past two days?

a. Being a self-confessed foodie who often plans trips at home and abroad around restaurants I have read I cannot imagine living on this diet all my life. Never to enjoy the sound of bacon sizzling, never to have your taste buds stimulated by combinations of delicate flavours (goats cheese brie fried and served with toasted pine nuts, raisins, lavender and honey springs to mind – sampled on a very food centred trip to Barcelona!), never to be delighted by the sight of fine food beautifully presented on a plate, never to smell Mum’s roast beef cooking and have the expectation of Yorkshire puddings and gravy and never to touch the icing on a chocolate sheet cake. I could go on with the 'nevers' but it will make me hungry!

b. That slave farmers have it better than street kids. I do not say this in any way to suggest that I think slavery is a good thing – IT IS NOT – but at least they do have food. If you are a street kid you have no expectation of food and source of healthy, albeit starvation level food. You only have the garbage others discard.

c. That when you have eaten your allotted food that is it. No snacks just feeling hungry till the next meal

d. I can confirm that hunger causes extreme tiredness and a feeling of being faint much of the time.

Judy Westwater emailed me this morning to ask if I had started having out of body experiences. The answer is no and I am hoping not to get that far!

Until tomorrow when my family will be having roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for supper – at least I get the smell, sight, and have the knowledge that I will eat it again one day.

(Apologises to vegetarians, I am sure that you would have other food privations just as strongly in my shoes).


Free the Slaves, The Pegasus Children's Trust, The Consortium for Street Children - for direct links see previous posts.

Last, but by no means least, I would like to thank all at St. Edward's University for their support and amazing curriculum which means that not only will their graduates have a social conscience but also, will be educated about the problems and possible solutions.