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UBUNTU

Not so long ago I received an email from someone who had commented on my blog, which reminded me that I haven’t updated it for a long time. Funnily enough my last post was all about my anxiety for university offers. Now I can happily say that I got offers from all five universities that I applied to (including SOAS, LSE, Edinburgh…)! Of course I still need to work very hard these next couple of weeks, so I don’t trip on the finish line! Otherwise I applied to some insurance choices in Sweden.

Other than that: I was in South Africa last week for a Global Issues Service Summit (I left 2-3 hours after my final math mock exam) and only missed 2 days of school. It was an amazing trip, since I got to meet lots of other students and discuss their service projects that they’re doing around Africa. We were the only non-African international school, so it felt a little odd at first, but I loved how people had much better local knowledge than those who i spoke to at the Global Issues Conferences in Geneva and Dusseldorf, where everyone seemed to ‘talk the talk’ more rather than actually “walk the walk”.

UBUNTU: "I am because we are" in zulu

Team-building

Some of the people we got to know the most over the couple of days (from the African Leadership Academy)

Personally we held a workshop on Green-Mapping. On the last day, I visited a shelter for abused women and children in Johannesburg. We played with the children, organized an easter-egg hunt, made lunches for them etc. The women who ran the shelter said something really insightful that I will always remember. She asked us what the difference was between us and the children at the shelter. After a few comments like: “They have HIV” or “They’ve been abused”, she suggested that perhaps we also had HIV or had been abused… The only difference between us was that we grow up in a society that believes in us and expects us to dream big, whereas they are taught not to dream. That made me realize the importance of simply believing in youth and children as young as 3, so that they can escape the cycle of poverty. 2 years ago, so many children wanted to be soccer stars in South Africa but the Daily Bread Charity (where I volunteered for the day) challenges the children to dream even bigger. The cutest thing was that they had each child write down on a piece of paper their dream a couple of months ago and plant it in the soil. Ever since then, they have watered their “plant” every evening before they go to bed.

While we were in South Africa, we also visited the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park where we saw 6 lions (including 2 cubs!), elephants, rhinos etc.

stunning sun-rise

evening safari

We also saw Soweto (where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu come from). We went into a shebeen. “In South Africa and Zimbabwe, shebeens are most often located in black townships as an alternative to pubs and bars, where under apartheid and the Rhodesian era, black Africans could not enter a pub or bar reserved for whites.” (wikipedia) Finally, we saw “Soccer City”, the FIFA World Cup Stadium, in which the final was played.

Soweto's 'twin towers' which are painted with motifs from life in the township. More than 2 million people live in Soweto out of the total 6 million people in Johannesburg. 80% of all whites living in Johannesburg have never been to Soweto... And yes, that is bungee jumping you see between the two water towers.

One of the most famous streets in the world: 2 nobel peace prize winners have lived there.

i thought this was interesting... or rather frightening

Soweto

Soccer City (and the best group photo!)

Finally we had a braii (barbecue) the last evening with dance and music. Although I’ve only been to Senegal and South Africa in Sub-saharan Africa, both times I have been struck by the lovely, friendly, and optimistic people. The mentality couldn’t be more different from Hungary, where everyone seems to be stuck in the past and still moan about the Treaty of Trianon which happened nearly 100 years ago. I saw so much hope and ambition in South Africa, even if apartheid only ended 1994.

I love how I saw so many people out on the streets, socializing, reading the newspaper, smoking shishah pipe, dancing and so forth. People were curious and welcoming to foreigners, always trying to find connections – just like the fantastic key-note speaker Buhle Dlamini said: In a eurocentric worldview, you ask “what’s your name?” In Africa, you ask the person’s surname. If that isn’t the same as yours, you ask: “What’s your mother’s surname?”

Going on with Buhle Dlamini’s great speech, I laughed hysterically at his comparison between European and African Values. Time for example: if you would miss the bus in Europe, you would say: “aah I missed the bus!” However, in Zulu you would say in the same situation: “aah the bus missed me!” I have to say it confirmed my stereotype of African’s approach to time, but i like it in many ways. In Europe, you would often be frustrated if someone didn’t come on time to a meeting. In many societies in Africa, you would not start the meeting until every person is present. I like that sense of community and wish we in the “west” could learn more from that! 

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Back for Good?

I’m not sure if anyone has ‘popped in’ to read my blog since my last post. If you have, you have probably noticed that I’m no longer updating. It is a little sad, considering that I’ve had this blog for a few years. But I really don’t have time to write anymore. I’m in the middle of my senior year and have my eyes on the prize, to say the least! My top choice is still SOAS, London, closely followed by Lund University in Sweden. If I will make it? I’m really not sure…

Maybe I will write an occasional post here, in the future. Something important that I would like to keep documented if you see what I mean. Now there is nothing much worth recognizing. I was in Barcelona last weekend with my family; my extended essay is finished; and my university applications are moving along. Something at least!

Oh and I’ve started an initiative here at AISB where the upper elementary, middle school, and high school are each going to raise money and sponsor a Senegalese child to go to school in Warang (the same school that I helped build!). It will be linked to the french department and  “service-learning” because the students will learn about la francophonie by exchanging pen-pal letters and picture books that will be passed on during the february break when Noa is going to Warang. I’m so excited! Next monday, the NGO founder Sophie Camara, is going to skype with my french class, and Evelyn and I are going to present to the middle school and upper elementary about Senegal, what sponsorship means, why it’s important, and so forth.

Salonta Romania, October 7th-8th

Salonta Romania, October 7th-8th

Salonta Romania, October 7th-8th

NYC: Day 4

Looking back, it seems as if we were a little all over the place on the fourth day! We started off by looking around Rockefeller Center before SAKS opened. And oh my: the department store has so many beautiful things! After some persuasion and tipping in with my own money, I got a lovely silk Tibi dress that I am going to save for a very special occasion.

 

For lunch we ate at the trendy restaurant, Café Baltazar. The funny thing was that the menu was basically identical to that of “Café Deryné” here in Budapest. Not only were the dishes familiar, but the layout of the menu and the interior of the restaurant as a whole was the same. It was quite evident where the owner of Café Dernyné got his inspiration from to create a replica in Budapest!

My dad left in the early afternoon to go back to Luxembourg; the rest of the day was basically dedicated to shopping and looking around SoHo, Lafayette Street, and Madison Avenue.

Erik trying out his new 'portrait lens'

We also visited the extremely modern and abstract art museum called “Whiney.” There were some very strange pieces of art. For example, one enormous screen taking up an entire wall of the museum showed a video of computerized bowling (like a video-game) on repeat.  There was also another room where a video was playing on the floor –facing up towards the ceiling and another room, which showed a graphic photo of a dead person in the 80’s as a result of aids. Interesting, to say the least! Unfortunately the Whitney Museum didn’t have any Andy Warhol pieces, which our guidebook had taken up 2 pages to describe! Finally we visited the world’s largest synaogue “Emanuel.” Then again, I still think the main synagogue in Budapest looks more magnificent.

Driver’s License

A couple of months ago I wrote in my blog that my goal for the near future was to get my driver’s license. To be frank, it seems quite impossible to do this- at least for me! It feels like I know the test-center inside out, and trust me, it’s not a good reason!

To make a long story short, I failed my theory test the first time. The second time, my driving school forgot to book a time at the test-center so I showed up for no reason. And now the third time, there was a bomb alert so the building had to be evacuated! Talk about frustration when I’m nearly halfway through my exam with no mistakes, and police officers suddenly barge into the room with walkie-talkies. Three police cars were outside, and I had no choice but to stop taking my exam. Right now I feel as if I’ll never be able to get this done before I graduate. It’s such a hassle, and I feel bad because my parents have spent so much money on taxi rides to take me back and forth from the test center, which is on the other side of the city. Next time will be my 4th attempt, and hopefully nothing will get in the way then!  Not to mention that my whole day gets ruined due to the fact that I’m rushing everywhere and missing school. Keep your fingers crossed so I can eventually get my driver’s license!

As you can probably tell by my absence for a couple of days; school has started, and I’m a senior! It’s really unbelievable that I’ll be out of high school in less than 9 months! I have a long way to go until then, but I’m ready for all the challenges. After all it’s my education, and I want to go as far as I’m able to. I can honestly imagine myself studying at SOAS, but then I don’t want to get caught up with only one idea for my future… I have to finalize my application in the next few months, and I’m still not sure what exact subjects I want to study. I definitely want to study international development and would prefer if I could combine it with another subject like Social Anthropology… or…African Studies… or even Politics. You see the problem 🙂 I really have to choose, but everything sounds so interesting! For now my method is to read as much as I can about these subjects and hopefully find an area that I particularly want to find out more about.

Now the picture below really has nothing to do with the post apart from that this is what I’ve had to do for half an hour after school; jump up in the air. My brother loves photography, and he’s always trying out new techniques. This photo is my favorite!

NYC: STK

For the evening we went to the extremely trendy steakhouse, STK, in the meatpacking district. I don’t think the person who recommended the place to us knew that we were planning on having a nice quiet family dinner! Anyhow, it was a great experience and I can imagine that ‘rich new yorkers who want to be seen’ are regulars there. The atmosphere was very club-like with loud music, and the staff was probably only employed considering their looks! My brother was first not allowed to enter because he was wearing shorts, but strangely enough women could wear as short skirts as they wanted 🙂 Despite those details, the food was delicious!

I think their business card says quite a bit about the restaurant!

The funniest memory, however, is from after the restaurant when we went to a bar/café place down the road. There were only chinese waitresses and waitors, and we quickly noticed that their lack of english was a bit of an obstacle!

First problem:

Erik: “Could I please have a hot chocolate?”

Waitress: … (looking puzzled)

Erik: “A hot chocolate please…”

Waitress: “…Can I see your ID?”

Erik: (very confused!)

She must have thought my brother asked for a hot shot or something like that?!? I really have no idea, but my brother gave up on the hot chocolate.

Second problem:

Dad: “An Irish Coffee please”

Waitress: “…hmm” (looking puzzled again)

Dad: “An irish coffee…”

Waitress: “uhm… I don’t understand…” (looking even more puzzled)

Dad: “okay-do you have coffee?”

Waitress: “yes” (nodding eagerly)

Dad: “whiskey?”

Waitress: “…yes!”

Dad: “sugar?”

Waitress: “yes”

Dad: “cream?”

Waitress: “yes”

Dad: “then you have an irish coffee!?!”

Waitress: “oooh okay!”

After a couple of minutes she came out with the ‘irish coffee’ and waited for my dad’s approval.

Dad: (after a sip)… this is not an irish coffee… it’s sweet- it’s baileys (grimacing slightly) But it’s fine; we just want the bill thank you!”

Waitress: …? (extremely puzzled)

I won’t even go into the fact that my mum and I asked for a café laté, and it came after we had paid…

NYC: SoHo shopping

I just absolutely love SoHo! They have so many fun shops there, and I actually got my very first pair of Dr. Martens and a Tumi bag there!

love them!