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June, 2011

  1. Moments from Paarl

    June 23, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Paarl: A city of contrasts

    Before we even left for Cape Town, Erna, our USC faculty adviser for the program, asked me to help lead a radio workshop in Paarl, a beautiful mountain town in the wine country surrounding Cape Town. I agreed months ago, not fully aware what I’d be getting myself into.

    Now that the long weekend in Paarl has come and gone, I’m still processing the experiences, lessons, and surprising discoveries that came out of the workshop.

    On a Thursday morning, our whole group piled into Gavin’s van for the trip out to Paarl. We spent the afternoon getting to know the young adults we’d be working with and becoming familiar with the recording and editing equipment. When we gathered into the small computer lab, over 20 people in all, and everyone suddenly turned to me, and it hit me. Holy shit, I’ve got to lead this thing. So I took a deep breath, had everyone pick up their Tascam recorders and press the “on” button. You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

    If you’d have asked me then if we’d have produced 20 minute radio show three days later, I’d have said heck no.


  2. Father’s Day, belated.

    June 20, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Here’s another Radio Workshop show I helped produce. It presents three very different versions of fatherhood. South Africa has a high rate of absent fathers–the second highest in Africa (after Namibia), so it was nice to be able to share stories of some incredible fathers and father figures in Cape Town.

    Radio Workshop: Celebrating fathers by childrensradiofoundation

    The first story about Mario and Greater Commission United was the first interview I did for CRF. I first met Mario on a tour with Uthando, and when I called to ask about an interview for radio, he was totally willing and excited. We agreed to meet at a Mugg & Bean (the SA equivalent of Starbucks) at a mall near his home in Heideveld. I figured we would meet up there and then go somewhere else to record. I took a cab to the Cape Flats, found the coffee shop inside the bustling mall, sipped on a mediocre latte and waited.

    Mario Van Niekerk, founder of Greater Commission United and star of the documentary "Mario and the Rude Boys"

    Mario was late. I checked and double checked my notes–we had definitely agreed on a time, but he was nowhere to be seen and wasn’t answering his phone. About 20 minutes later, he finally showed up. But it wasn’t just him–he brought about 6 other people who were also doing exciting things in his community and whom he thought I should meet. Indeed, these were interesting and inspiring people–some were working to get young boys out of gangs, others were doing music therapy in the townships. Problem was, there were now seven of us sitting in a coffeeshop inside a mall–not exactly the ideal recording environment. The other people clearly weren’t aware that I had planned to do an interview, and Mario had another meeting in a half hour. We agreed that he would come into the city the next day for the interview.

    My first assignment for my new job…and I came back completely empty handed. No interviews, no recordings, not even some nat sound.

    Fortunately, CRF was understanding. Apparently the showing up with an entourage thing is not unusual in Cape Town.

    The next day, Mario was late again. I stood outside our building for a half hour waiting and watching. Again, no luck on the cell phone. I came back into the office as quietly as possible in hopes of avoiding having to announce that I had failed yet another interview attempt. An hour or so later, I went back downstairs almost on a whim, just to check the sign-in book at security one more time–maybe I had just missed him.

    Miraculously, he was making his way across the street towards our building just as I stepped out the front door. He apologized profusely and then proceeded to give one of the most heartfelt and emotional interviews I’ve ever done. We talked about many other topics than just what made the final cut for this show, and I hope to be able to use more of the interview for another piece.

    And hey, now if I ever want to do a show on music therapy in Heideveld, I’ve got a contact!

  3. Let’s talk yoga

    June 13, 2011 by Kaitlin

    There was a point in my life where I was doing a lot of yoga. Taking it, teaching it, eating it up.

    Then, I moved to LA. For many people, a move to LA is probably the entry point to yoga, but I just never had the time or patience to connect to a studio there. I found a place kinda close to my apartment, but it was still driving distance, and the classes just weren’t my style. My ability to do endless chaturangas faded by the day.

    But, I’m happy to report that coming to Cape Town has led to a rediscovery of the wonders of yoga. There’s a studio here that’s run by the same person who founded the franchise I taught at in the States. Who knew he was a Capetonian? The classes are hot, intense, and packed. After a day of sitting still and transcribing interviews, an hour of power vinyasa at this place feels like heaven. Combined with all the walking, my body just feels better than it’s felt in a long time. I’ve regained a lot of strength and flexibility that LA seems to have zapped.

    Sometimes when I think about the three years I spent in Portland, scooting from funny job to funny job (toy company to a farm run by dwarfs, anyone?), I wonder what the hell I was doing there for so long. But I think I forget that a lot of those years were consumed with yoga. Teacher training took months. I’d sometimes teach 3 classes a day in just as many locations and come home feeling exhausted and anti-social. But it was those many trips to and from far-flung studios that I really discovered podcasts and started connecting to radio. And now, being in Africa, working in radio, and feeling fabulously re-inspired by yoga, I see that all those years weren’t just wasted youth. They were laying a foundation. At the time, I just wasn’t sure for what.

    But some things still feel weird. First of all, why is yoga here so, well, white? My classes in Portland, one of the “whitest” cities in America were more diverse than the classes I’ve gone to here, in a country where white people make up only 9% of the population. Granted, that percentage is about double in Cape Town, but still, I don’t pass 10 white people on my busy walk to work in the morning, but within a half hour after work, just down the road, 40 white people are crammed in a room together exhaling in child’s pose.

    I’ve been to two studios where this is the case, and they also happen to be the first two studios that come up when you do a Google search for “Cape Town yoga.” So maybe all yoga here isn’t white, just the ones with the best SEO.

    Another thing that strikes me are the yoga truisms that get thrown around studios all the time and never really bothered me in the States but are somehow harder to swallow here. The one that really gets me is “May all beings everywhere be happy, peaceful, and free.” Yes, apartheid is officially over, and on paper, everyone here has the opportunity to be happy, peaceful, and free. But you only have to go a couple miles outside of city center to realize that this is not the case. The ramifications of apartheid are brutal and long lasting, and when upper class whites are sitting in a climate controlled studio wishing each other peace and happiness, part of me thinks, “Yeah, OK, let’s send those good vibes out into the world,” but a bigger part of me wants to scream, “Are you kidding me!?”


  4. The crew

    June 10, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Today is Maddie’s last day at the CRF Cape Town before she heads back to New York. Sad!

    My first week in the office Maddie took me out for post-work drinks, and we had a great chat about living abroad, small liberal arts colleges, and yoga–I remember feeling lucky to have such cool coworkers, and I still feel that way!–but I’m bummed to be losing one. I’m sure our paths will cross again, on one continent or another.

    Maddie, me, Kondwani and Yumna--outside 6 Spin Street

    Not gonna lie–I really didn’t feel like hiking down and then back up four flights of stairs to take this picture, but I’m glad Kondwani insisted–I think we’re pretty cute!

  5. Radio Workshop Youth Day Show

    June 9, 2011 by Kaitlin

    …or what I’ve been doing with my life for the past week.

    Had a blast interviewing, writing, and editing for the Radio Workshop. Nina, Yumna, and Kondwani were all so helpful and supportive–it was such a fun, collaborative radio experience. Also, editing on Pro Tools is a dream. Annenberg has got to update their editing software.

    There were serious, emotional moments too. If you’re not familiar with the history of Youth Day and the Soweto uprising (like I wasn’t before I came here), take a moment and read some of the history.

    Then, take a listen to our show.

    Radio Workshop: Youth Day remembered and reinvented by childrensradiofoundation

    I love the music we used in the show this week. You can listen to the full versions of the songs below.

    Miriam Makeba – Soweto Blues

    Hugh Masekela with Malaika – Open the Door

    We do a weekly show out of the CRF Cape Town office. If you know people who would be interested, please consider sending them a link to the show or our Facebook page. You can also download the show as a podcast on iTunes for free.

  6. In (wacky) vino veritas

    June 7, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.

    –Enzo, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein

    A couple of memorable things happened this past weekend. One was the Wacky Wine Festival in and around Robertson. En route to and from said silly-named festival, I read “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” The symbolism was heavy-handed and overdone, the concept a bit contrived, and the story itself unlikely, but man if it didn’t make me cry (and miss my dog. Hi, Pivo). But in between the watery-eyes-inducing first chapter and the last chapter that led to convulsive sobbing, there was a lot of wine. There was also a lot of listening.

    We listened as a man at Graham Beck Winery told us about the champagne Michelle Obama ordered the night Barack secured the Democratic nomination for president. And then he poured us some.

    You are adorable. And make the most potent alcohol I've ever encountered.

    We listened as old Afrikaner men in flat caps explained how they distilled gin that’s too alcoholic to legally be sold in stores.

    And we listened as some new friends pointed out the finer points of the Afrikaner home they had rented for the weekend via Gum Tree, the South African version of craigslist. Mustard-yellow cabinets, about eight different devices for cooking meat, and a freezer full of pasta and rice and margarine. And that’s just the kitchen. We sat around an outdoor fire built in an ancient cauldron/wheel well and talked about politics, power, and wealth distribution in our respective countries.

    Other highlights from the weekend include watching people go down a slide into a pool of red wine, managing to hang on to one wine glass (made of real glass) the entire day and then dancing with that same glass filled with good, cheap wine that was only available for purchase by the bottle to a live set by Goldfish. There was also a crowded taxi, a driver named Biggie Smalls, and a meandering tent-search excursion that stopped dead in its tracks when we looked up at the sky and were caught off guard by all the unfamiliar stars.

    The next day, on the ride home, the bus broke down in Worcester, about an hour outside of Cape Town. For a while, this was OK because they were showing a bootleg version of “Hangover 2” (spoiler alert: it happens again) on the bus. But then it became clear they weren’t going to be able to do a fast fix and were sending another bus from Cape Town.

    At this point, the uncle of the bus driver offered us a ride in his cab to a KFC. None of us really wanted KFC, but it would be a change of scenery, at least. So we hop in his car and he decides the first KFC is too crowded, so he takes us to another one, but not before first stopping at the largest brandy cellar in the world. Then it’s KFC, then there’s some off-roading, then a stop at a janky circus that had camels and lions and tigers all pacing grumpily around a tiny cage.

    That would be me, holding a KFC milkshake in front of a traveling circus. In Africa.

    Fascinating and depressing. Then we went to his house, conveniently located across the street from the circus, where we met his wife, mother, five kids, and a parrot that can say “Scratch my head” in Afrikans. He showed us pictures of himself with Mandela, Zuma, and a copy of the 1994 ballot. Then it was back in the car, but still not quite ready to go back, we drove past Karoo Botanical Gardens, and into the hills to this one spot where you can put the car in neutral from a full stop and it mysteriously goes uphill. I know there are a couple places in the States like this too, but I still don’t really understand the science of it.

    What I do understand is that I fall a little bit more in love with Cape Town and its surroundings every day I’m here. The weekend was incredible on so many levels–the scenery, the hospitality, the openness–all of it unplanned and frankly, unexpected.

    The only hostility came from the other Americans who had to wait for us back on the bus. After all our adventures (he just kept taking us places, I swear!), we were just a few measly minutes late getting back to the bus. Whoops? Sorry, friends!

    There are details from the weekend that I know made me smile at the time; small moments that have already slipped away. You can read about some of those on a friend’s blog, here. And thanks to Mary Beth Barker for the pictures. I didn’t trust myself with a camera this weekend, but I’m glad she was bold enough to bring hers along.

    Mountains around Worcester, Westen Cape

  7. Interns Gone Wild

    June 3, 2011 by Kaitlin

    Just back from week two of work at the Children’s Radio Foundation.

    After being out and about collecting sound, I came back to a quiet office—the bosses were working from other locations for the day, so it was the interns—Maddie, Kondwani and me holding down the fort.

    Kondwani hard at work and shunning overhead lights at CRF

    As afternoon sun and the sounds of pre-weekend traffic spilled through the open windows, we were all sitting with our headphones on working on various projects—transcribing interviews, editing voxpops, writing annual reports—I was struck by this moment of peace.

    For years I had anxiety about finding the right job, or any job for that matter, and suddenly, here I was, sitting in a place with people I really, really like, doing work I really, really love. How did that happen?

    The anxiety is still there, and the bliss ended as realized I had been laughing with an interview subject and messed up another sound bite, but it was a nice moment, all the same.

  8. Routines

    June 1, 2011 by Kaitlin


    So, I sleep with long johns on now. Ain’t no thang, but damn, it got cold all of a sudden. And rainy! And windy! I guess places are allowed to do that in winter, but it still seems wrong somehow. I think it has to do with the fact that it’s June freakin’ first and probably hothothot in LA.

    Only mildly creepy

    Also, here’s the “painting” that hangs above my bed. Hi, Ronaldo.


    But, when I look in the mirror hanging on the other side of the room, this is what I see, watching me as I sleep.

    Seriously creepy

    And I’m in the bedroom with a window, which is awesome, because it has a window (duh). The bad part is the window is single-paned and lets in cold air (see long johns) and it’s noisy in the morning as Greenmarket Square is setting up.

    Here’s what that sounds like.

    Greenmarket Square setup

    Rise and shine, right? At least I don’t have to worry about oversleeping.

    It’s funny how much I can sense about the day just based on the sounds of the market. If I wake up in the morning and don’t hear any sounds outside, it’s before 6 a.m. and I can go back to sleep. If I wake up to the sounds of metal rods scraping against cobblestones, it’s probably between 6:30 and 7:00, unless it’s raining, then setup doesn’t start in full until 7:30 or so. The whole process happens in reverse in the evening around 5:30 p.m.

    It’s amazing how much goes into setting up and taking down this market every day. And especially at this time of year, the down season for tourism, it never seems to be that busy. But every morning and every evening, every day of the week, the routine is the same.