21 December 2009

Lion Hunting

I rode in a safari jeep for nearly 12 hours through Kruger National Park, eyes peeled for a fierce, majestic wildcat...

I finally spotted one behind a sheet of glass at the MGM Hotel
in Las Vegas.

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about all this. At least safari made for some good photo opps.



They are curiously charming, and charmingly curious.
They are collectively chaotic, consistently capricious and candidly cheerful.

They are children. They are kiddos, adolescents, bambinos, bambinas innocents, cherubs, crianças, niños pequeños, infants, enfants… No matter what we call them, they are representatives of youth, and sweet immaturity. They remind us fondly of our own naivety. And they remind us how to play,

The squirts I spent time with in Sea Wind, South Africa are dancers and singers.

They play dress-up.

And they fall asleep in your arms when they’ve had enough.

These little lambs were especially tired on this day because a slew of new playmates from Semester at Sea crowded their classroom. We were there to take data for the school’s nutrition surveillance program sponsored by Operation Hunger, a local nonprofit.

We took each of the 86 students’ weight, height and arm circumference measurement and graphed their nutritional intake as a bell graph. The top of the curve represented ideal weight, which most of the girls reached. Most of the boys, however, fell below the curve. One program volunteer explained that boys are often more malnourished than girls because they have more freedom throughout the day to go out and play with friends. Girls are required to stay home and help their mothers with household chores, thus they have greater access to food.

Most of the children suffering from malnutrition in the school are experiencing Kwashiorkor malnutrition, a condition attributed to older siblings receiving more food within families and characterized by gaunt arms and legs, and bloated bellies.

30 million children in Africa are undernourished. To learn more about Operation Hunger’s attempt to combat this statistic, go to http://www.operationhunger.co.za/index.html.

17 December 2009

Sunday Brunch

I’m six beers deep rummaging through a 3-foot by 3-foot blue plastic bucket of chicken seeking to devour my next piece of meat. It’s a challenge to get past the many hands grabbing into the bucket; I’ve got to act fast to feast on the rapidly disappearing pile of poultry.

There are one hundred plus hungry mouths surrounding me and they’re all smeared with barbeque sauce, and dripping with beer. We don’t have napkins, or silverware, or even chairs. Our standing, at this point stumbling, bodies pack the entire township block for Mazoli’s barbeque. Booming beats and freestyle rap rhythms sound in the background. Smoke from sizzling meat fills remaining light in the sky just before sunset.

An hour prior to the raging feast, I was cheering bottles with students from the University of Cape Town. I even made drunken, pathetic attempts to spout out rhymes to rap music with some locals clad in shoulder boom boxes.

An hour before that I walked across the street to use the facilities. I had to meander through the masses crowding the street, shoulder bumping dancers and stepping on rappers’ toes.

An hour before that we ordered our protein bucket. My comrades laughed at me when I asked for a menu. The waitress took our order and asked where we might be sitting. “We’ll be around,” says my buddy Ned.

Ned has been in South Africa for half a year now. He’s study abroad at UCT and showing us around while our vessel is docked at the Waterfront. Ned casually suggested that morning that we go to a Sunday barbeque. It sounded low-key.

Ned brought us to the convenience store down the road upon arrival at the township. He pointed out that most of the people filling up the block were coming straight from church. He grabs a six-pack off the shelf, and I suggest we split it at lunch. Through chuckles he responds, “Get your own—you have some time to kill. I’m not sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. We’re going to a brai, for Christ’s sake!”