the undergrad garth



i'm not going to lie, i'm a little overwhelmed right now.

sometimes writing is difficult.

i'm feeling like all i do is generate content, and it's draining me.

a good part of why i'm feeling so uninspired is because i've spent over ten hours today reading articles and writing posts for this week's garden, seeds, and books blog.

i ran out of coffee several hours ago.

and i never went back to make more.

i think my eyeballs might be attacking my skull, but i can't really tell.

normally i can space out the work i do over the week and it's not too bad, but i took an impromptu virtual vacation last week and i'm not going to have the time to write over the next week.

when everything needs to be done at once, it's a lot.


part of what's going on, though, is i'm a little irritated.

i had a kind of upsetting experience the other week and it's been getting to me. any time i try to write something serious or creative or whatever, i get a serious case of writer's block.

you see, i was talking to someone i didn't know very well about food and anthropology and explaining how i was going to go back to school. i do these things. it makes sense. that's just kind of me.

we all talk about what we know and love. it's how we communicate and how we create friendships and share understandings. it's kind of a big part of how we all make conversation.

she told me i was preaching.  


even now, i don't get it. it bugs me. it was just so rude. and mean. and hostile.

maybe i just want to believe people are generally nice. maybe i spend too much time talking to all of you and hanging with really wonderful people like kb, js, nn, ap, and sb. maybe i know too many people who have initials.

i just cannot remember the last time i met someone who was so carelessly flippant with other people.

and i can't imagine telling an almost complete stranger that the things they love and are interested in are worthless.


i'm so upset, i'm distracted.

i wanted to tell you about some of my notes from south africa.

i wanted to tell you about khayelitsha.

i wanted to tell you about the sand — how it was damp and grainy. how the sides of all the buildings in the township seemed to have a fine layer of it clinging to them.

i wanted to tell you how nervous i was before we went into the township. how we drove past it and it just seemed to go on forever — corrugated metal roofs and siding all stretching off into the distance like a slowly churning sea over the dunes. how the power lines broke through like sentries and how the lookout posts gave it air of otherness.

i wanted to tell you about vicky's b&b — the only b&b in the township and billed as, at least at the time, the smallest b&b in the world. i wanted to tell you about how we stayed there. how i helped make dinner (fried chicken, tossed in spices in a plastic bag; a coleslaw made with apples and carrots; pumpkin, all mushed and creamy — so good; a chutney vegetable mix; a spinach and onion dish; and a trifle for desert — i think it might have had m&ms or some other candy in it). how vicky's husband commented about how women had to know how to cook; how that was what a husband looked for; how most of the behavior problems with young men came from industrial food.

i wanted to tell you about how our class was too large for vicky's house. how kb and i, along with a few others, went across the street to vicky's friend beauty's house. how we sat up late into the night, watching beauty sew skirts to sell to a few of the girls in our group. how the fabric had nelson mandela's face on it. how the kerosene lamp filled the room and how beauty didn't notice when one of the skirts almost went into the flame. how we were told beauty had hiv and how her daughter told us about taking care of her mother. how at night the girls shared beds. how the walls were wallpapered with newspaper and almost as thin as cardboard. how in the night i could hear sounds both from in the other rooms and from outside. and how i slept safe and dry, despite my earlier nerves.

i wanted to tell you how it rained. and rained. and rained. how the smell of the rain in the sand made me think we were right on the ocean.

and then i wanted to tell you about how we went to rosie's kitchen the next day. how rosie created warmth community kitchen in 1991 when she moved to khaletishya. how she dealt with food and hunger herself when she first came to the township, but how she went from there to approach the local catholic church to see about running a soup kitchen, focusing primarily on feeding school age children who might not have access to food during the rest of the day. how at first she was just cooking soup out of a shack, but how that shack got extended to deal with a lack of space. how in 1993 other women started to join in and how in 2008 there were 48 kitchens cooking for the community. how, with government help, she was able to build a new house with a larger, modern kitchen to operate out of. how she worked with teenagers and for hiv and aids awareness. how in 2002 there were 200,000 people in the area and the population had grown even bigger when we visited in 2008. how rosie's kitchen worked hard every day, but couldn't even feed 1,000 of those people.

i wanted to tell you about rosie's new kitchen. how it was nicer than my kitchen. how it had a tile flooring. how it was square and had work spaces lining two walls. how we all crowded through her kitchen to sit in her living room to listen to her talk. how there were too many of us for the room. how rosie's family pictures were framed around the space. how someone perched awkwardly on a stool right in the doorway, right so i couldn't see, but how i can't remember who in my class it was.

i wanted to tell you how, when we left khayelitsha, we went to the airport to fly to durban. how a small handful of us drank a bottle of cape jazz shiraz on the bus because we weren't sure about flying with it. how visiting the township was relief, a sadness, a thrill, and a wonder all at once. how nothing else in south africa prepared me for it and how it didn't prepare for anything else in south africa.

i wanted to tell all these things.

about these projects.

about how people are doing things everyday.

about how rosie is working with and within her community to better it.

about how vicky's business works to demystify foreigners about life in townships.

about how these people are passionate about what they're doing.


but maybe if i tell you these things you'll think i'm preaching. i don't ever want that.


you see, i have my things that i'm interested in and passionate about, and i'm sure you do, too.

we're friends, though.

so i trust you'll understand when i ramble, and i'll always understand when you want to ramble.

in fact, i'd love to hear what you love.


to see more about rosie's kitchen, visit the friends of warmth website.

to read more about vicky's b&b, there's an excellent blog post here detailing the experiences of non-anthropologist travelers and travel guide summary/information here and here.

for more about traveling in south africa, the bray family's site great guides is an excellent source.

all of the notes above were notes i took in late may/early june 2008. how accurate they still are i can't really say. also, my handwriting is ridiculously annoying to read: f.y.i.