Roza in South Africa

Roza is a junior Hunt Scholar and Mustang Scholar majoring in communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts and political science in Dedman College. During summer 2011, she is participating in SMU-in-South Africa, a four-week study program that introduces students to South African history and culture. She plans to take two courses: “The African Diaspora: Literature and Culture of Black Liberation” as well as “Music Theater Workshop, West Side Story.”

Roza then travels to Washington, D.C., as the 2011 Jack C. and Annette K. Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs intern, through SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. She is working at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars with the center’s Global Health Initiative.

On with the show

Today West Side Story was performed to a live audience, and it turned out incredibly. On Sunday two performances were shown, and the final two were shown today.

The audience turnout was great, and the students performed their hearts out. At the end of the show many SMU students received compliments for their outstanding acting, singing and dancing skills.

More important, everyone including the performers were pleased to see such great teamwork that integrated not only SMU students but also two other universities from South Africa. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and teamwork to pull out a show with only 4 days of practicing together.

Overall the audience was amazed and the students were proud of themselves for pulling out such great performances. One would have thought these were professionals not students from different backgrounds who had been practicing together for only four days. Pictures of the performance are coming soon.

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Introduction to Zulu culture

Today was such an adventures day. Class was cut half a day short, and after that all of us got to go on an excursion. Our destination was to A Valley of a Thousand Hills, where we got to experience the Zulu culture.

Think of the perception that most likely comes to most people’s mind when they think of Africa: rural place, men who have multiple wives, people barely wearing any clothing and staying in small villages, a lot of singing and dancing despite poor living conditions? That is exactly what we saw. In many rural parts of South Africa, these perceptions are a reality.

First we walked into small huts, and our guides explained that this is where a typical Zulu family lives. The man is responsible for building this hut, while the woman is expected to fix the ground and any inside decorations.

Then, he went on to explain that the man is considered the dominant figure in the household, and because of that he is allowed to have as many wives as possible … even up to 10 or 21! … as long as the man can pay for a wife, which is done by giving the father of the bride a minimum of 11 cows. As long as the man can pay for the lady, he can marry her.

Roza-SouthAfrica.jpg So in the Zulu culture, I learned that the more cows a man has, the more women he can marry. Also, while the man can have as many wives as he wishes, the woman can only have one husband. Of course, by that point I just kept thinking how grateful I am to be living in the U.S., where not only is polygamy against the law, but where women’s rights are held to a higher standard.

IMG_0524.jpgAfter getting a depressing yet quite intriguing lesson about the Zulu culture, things got much more exciting when we were taken out of the villages and introduced to Zulu dancing and singing. The entire audience was just blown away by the performance. When the show ended, we kept asking for more and more, till finally they said it was way past our time and we had to leave. The African drums, tribal singing and dancing definitely got all of us singing and dancing, and we even stood around afterward to ask the performers to take pictures with us.

After the performance, we saw some of the oldest, largest and most exotic crocodiles and snakes. I enjoyed all of this by keeping my distance, while a few students braved the journey and wrapped snakes around their head or got near the crocodiles.

By far the best day ever!

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Busy first day

Roza%20balcony.JPG Our day started bright and early with our musical class at the university. We have exactly five days until the West Side Story musical goes live in Durban, so we didn’t waste any time touring the campus, but instead got right to work.

Prior to arriving in Durban, my classmates and I had 10 days of classes at the SMU campus, where from 8 to 10 a.m. we were in our Literature Cultural Formation Class and in the African Diaspora, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. we did music and dance rehearsal. Now, we have to teach the students here what we learned, and they have to teach us what they learned.

There are eight of us from SMU, and most of the students are either music or dance majors. I am the only one of the group without any music or dance experience, so I gladly accepted the role of assistant stage manager. When you are trying to coach over 50 students in less than a week, you need all the assistance you can get, so my role is both needed and appreciated. I was quite busy the first day, but enjoyed assisting the production. I get to spend a lot of time watching the performances, and seeing SMU students work with Cape Town and Durban students is just absolutely remarkable.

Roza%20monkey.JPG There are not a lot of abroad programs that integrate with other foreign students on the same level this class does. Lead by SMU’s music professor Barbara Hill-Moore, and music professor Millicent Johnnie, the West Side Story music production works with dancer professors and students from the University of Cape Town and University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Day two concluded with a lot of hard work and much productivity. As we were leaving campus and heading back to the Pastoral center, I saw the cute monkeys, and of course had to include a picture of one!

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Journey to South Africa

After riding three different planes, we finally made it to our destination! However, before I comment on Durban’s beauty, it’s imperative to talk about our adventures along the way. We left Dallas-Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon. After a 10-hour flight, we landed in London at approximately 8 a.m. Though the flight was long and tiring, it went by more quickly than I expected because on the plane I met another SMU student, and we talked the entire flight!

After arriving in London we had an eight-hour delay, and of course I did not want to stay in the airport for that long. Instead, a few of us decided to take a risk and step out to explore London. It was cold and rainy, but I am so glad I got to see such a unique city. My classmates and I decided to take a tour bus to get the best experience in the limited time we had. Unfortunately, traffic and rain kept us from seeing all of London (as the tour bus guaranteed); however, we did get to see many exciting places. We got to eat London’s famous fish and chips, and took pictures of palaces, homes worth more than 18 million pounds, and spent over four hours in one of the most diverse cities in the world.

Roza%20phone%20booth.JPGWhen it was time to get back on the plane, luckily we did not have any trouble getting through customs and were all relieved about that. However, none of us looked forward to a 10-hour flight all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa. After finding yet another friend to converse with on the plane, I was designated the social chair of the group. Talking with a lady from Trindad and Tobago, on her way to London for a midwife association conference, also helped to hasten the long flight. On top of that, we heard that the Mavericks won the NBA championship, which definitely revived all of our tired spirits.

Just when I thought I had enough of flying, after landing in Johannesburg we had to catch yet another plane to Durban. By now I was both tired and hungry (not a fan of plane meals), but I must say being back in Africa for the first time since I left 11 years ago instilled a sense of wholeness in me. I was blown away both by the beauty of the country and the people. It just felt great to be back in Africa again.

Durban, our home for the next two weeks, is absolutely gorgeous. We are staying at the Pastoral Center, which is about a 15-minute walk from KwaZulu-Natal, the university we will be attending. The campus is surrounded with breathtaking scenery consisting of beaches, trees, plants, gorgeous skyline and sophisticated buildings. After registering at the university, we had dinner at an Italian Resturant, Olive and Oil, with the other South African students who will be attending class with us.

One of the classes I am enrolled in is a musical production class of West Side Story, and dancers from University of Cape Town, as well as singers from the University of KwaZulu Natal, are joining us to put this production together. Our dinner started at 6 p.m. and lasted until nearly till 10 p.m. because we all enjoyed conversing with the 50 other South African students! They looked forward to working with us just as much as we had anticipated meeting them.

Good dinner and great company in a beautiful city = perfect ending of day one in South Africa!

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