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‘Cape Town’ Category

  1. A few good interns?

    August 30, 2011 by Kaitlin

    I can’t believe I didn’t link to this sooner.

    Before I left Cape Town, Mike Rahfaldt, the executive director of the Children’s Radio Foundation, asked me to write a little bit about my experience as an intern at CRF.

    The piece ended up getting posted on, which is super cool because Transom is the place to go to find out what’s new in public radio and also to read priceless bits of radio storytelling advice from industry veterans like Chris Brooks and Alex Blumberg.

    I understand if you don’t want to read the whole sidebar—it’s a little on the long side (Me? Wordy? Never!)–but I’ll issue the same plea here that I did there. If you’re at all interested in youth radio, Africa or experimental storytelling, please shoot an email to Mike or me. Even if you’re not in a situation where you could go to Cape Town right now, CRF has a great radio family around the world, and they’re always looking to add members.

  2. Lion’s Head Hike…now with a slideshow!

    August 15, 2011 by Kaitlin

    When I mentioned the full moon hike on Lion’s Head in an earlier post, it occurred to me that I never wrote about my own experience hiking Lion’s Head.

    No one really wants to read about a hike unless we’re talking “Into Thin Air,” and since nothing went disastrously wrong (although there was that potential—those chains are intense!), I’ll spare you the words and present you with a slideshow.

    *This slideshow is a blatant rip-off of Sarah Golden’s Grahamstown roadtrip slideshow. Please take a moment and check out the source of my inspiration.

  3. The blog post I didn’t want to write

    August 13, 2011 by Kaitlin

    But I knew I would have to eventually.

    I have only good things to report. After three ridiculous plane rides (Joburg to Dubai: 8 hours, Dubai to Los Angeles: 16 hours, Los Angeles to Montreal: 6 hours), I’m safely settled with my family on the lovely Lake Titus in upstate New York.

    The only bad news of course is that Africa is over.

    I’m in that weird post-fantastic adventure phase where all these little occurrences—songs, foods, a glance at the Mozambican bracelets still adorning my wrists—remind me of the past three months. The recent memories surge forward only to hit a wall. I’m in a completely different place with different people dealing with different concerns, about to start another semester that demands all energies and attentions be focused towards the here and now in Los Angeles. There is seemingly no place for South Africa.

    But I know the people I met and the experiences I had in and around Cape Town have changed me, shaped me, in some ways subtly, in other ways more obvious. In the words of Cynthia from Dazed and Confused, “I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin’ else.” Africa wasn’t a preamble to something else, it was my life for three months, and it didn’t happen in a vacuum.

    I’m more patient now. Arriving in the Montreal airport and being greeted with the longest customs line I’ve ever seen, I could feel the anger and the impatience of the people around me building. The woman behind me in line kept physically pushing on my backpack, as if propelling me into the people in front of me would make the line move faster. I stood my ground, turned around, and gave her the most saccharine smile I could muster. I know I’ll eventually transition out of “Africa time,” but for the moment, I’m still OK with being slow.

    I can’t click fast enough to keep up with American internet. Pictures load faster than my brain can process the images. I finally have the unlimited access to the web I had been craving, but it’s a paltry prize I’d trade in an instant for one more leisurely afternoon in Cape Town. Social media is a bore (no offense pregnant friends, I LOVE reading about the details of your morning sickness). News sites are frustrating. London is burning and it’s an epic task to find any coverage on the reasons why, Rick Perry, the man who fast tracked horribly debasing abortion laws in Texas announced his presidential run to no apparent signs of outrage, and the only clear explanation I’ve come across of the debt ceiling fiasco is one that hardly anyone will read because it requires, well, a good five whole minutes of uninterrupted reading.

    In frustration, I closed my laptop and picked up a book. The relief was instant. I could never had predicted that re-falling in love with novels would be a consequence of going to Africa, but it’s one of the many I’m happy to embrace and hope continues.

    And I’m blessed to have a couple days surrounded by the protective layers of the Adirondack mountains. Lake Titus is a place that moves on it’s own time table, a sense of urgency almost entirely absent. This is good. I need a few more days before LA where the biggest decision of the day is whether we should cook green beans or asparagus for dinner, or whether we’ll hike Mt. Immortelle or Elephant’s Head (epic sounding names for mountains that are little more than glorified hills). There’s a full moon tonight, and people are meeting on the lake at 9pm for a moonlight canoe. I think I’ll join them. And paddling around, making small talk and trying not to spill a thermos of buchu tea with lemon and brown sugar, my thoughts will be with my Capetonian friends who hours earlier, no doubt made the full moon hike up Lion’s Head.

  4. Closing a chapter, but not the book

    July 27, 2011 by Kaitlin

    I’m not sure how it happened, but here I find myself. My last night in Cape Town. There’s still two weeks of fun to be had in Joburg, Kruger, and Mozambique, but tonight is it for Kaapstad. Emotions are mixed, to put it mildly.

    I miss my family, of course, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss grocery stores that actually stay open past 6 p.m., but I’d also be lying if I said I was super excited to go back to smoggy, overpriced LA and be bombarded with complaints about problems that are not actually problems (“Ugh! The next iPhone doesn’t come out until September! ”).

    I’ve met so many wonderful people here, and it makes me too sad to think that I’ll never see any of them again, so I’ve told myself I’m coming back.

    And in many ways, I have more friends here after 3 months than I did in LA after a whole year. I know some truly incredible and inspiring people through Annenberg, but save for a few close friends, the depth of the relationships is different.

    In LA, sometimes it feels like there’s this hesitancy to get close to people. Everyone is competing for the same jobs, the same guys, the same traffic lane. Here, hearts seem more open. Which is especially incredible given the country’s not-so-ancient history.


  5. International ‘Cats

    July 27, 2011 by Kaitlin

    After I had been in Cape Town a month or so, it occurred to me that I should check with the Davidson College (my undergrad alma mater) alumni office to see if there were any fellow Wildcats in South Africa. Davidson is a small school and there’s a special bond between alums. The alumni office never wrote me back (what’s up with that?), but it turns out I didn’t need them anyway. One of my favorite Davidsonians was already here.

    Me, Jamie Cullum, and Molly after a UK concert in 2005. We've looked better, yes, but what a fun night.

    Molly McGowan was in the class above me, and we first met in the UK during a summer study program in Cambridge. Molly is vivacious. I liked her instantly. But we really bonded on our birthday weekend that summer in 2005. Leos unite—our birthdays are one day apart. Instead of going with the rest of the group into London, we took a train to stately home in the middle of the country and watched Jamie Cullum play an outdoor concert to 20,000 or so of his fans. Long story, but through the sheer luck of sitting next to a couple that booked Jamie his first jazz gig ever, we ended up backstage after the show, drinking a beer with Jamie himself.

    Needless to say, Molly holds a special place in my heart, so my reaction when I learned via Facebook she was also working in Cape Town for the summer was nothing less than a minor freak out. Molly is getting her masters in public service from the Clinton School and working with the Desmond Tutu Foundation. We’ve both been busy, but the nights we’ve been able to grab dinner and have a glass (or bottle?) or two of wine have been these awesome, unexpected treats. Having her here has elevated the entire experience.

    Looking at pictures from this summer and from that summer six years ago, I think two things are clear. We’ve haven’t aged too badly, and I really need to invest in a new denim jacket.

    Six years later, we can still rock a dinner party. And in my case, really old jean jackets, apparently.

  6. Does this website make my internet look fat?

    July 22, 2011 by Kaitlin

    As any roommate I’ve ever had in the States can tell you, if I’m at home, I’m probably on my computer. I may be writing an article or editing some audio, but I’m more likely simply sucked into the abyss that is the internet. I’ve probably got 10-15 tabs open on my browser, and half of those will have video or some other multimedia element. The other half will have content that’s updating constantly, like Facebook or Twitter, and I’ve probably got a couple podcasts downloading too.

    Those habits have changed since coming to South Africa. For one thing, the internet here is slow. A pigeon is faster. Literally. The other thing is that for something like in-home wifi, you don’t pay by the month, you pay by the amount. For instance, you might buy a gig’s worth of data, but that means every time you connect, the clock is ticking, and the more tabs you have open, videos you’re watching, or automatic updates you’re allowing, the faster the sand falls through the hourglass. Even coffee shops and cafes that offer wifi only give you a certain amount—usually 50 megs or so, which is fine for checking email, but not enough to have more than a 10 minute Skype chat or download an hour-long podcast.

    Mary Beth: So many devices, no way to connect.

    The same is true for cell phones. No contracts, rather, load your phone with minutes and talk fast or SMS a lot. Clothes dryers are used sparingly. Showers have gotten shorter to avoid sudden hot water drop offs.

    So I’ve adjusted. Three months ago, I would have told you I couldn’t function without weekly infusions of 30 Rock and Parks & Rec. Hulu doesn’t work in South Africa, so that took care of that. DJ Roomba does still sometimes mockingly haunt my dreams, but I’m slowly moving on.

    The contrast between here and the States really hit after spending some days at Bulungula Lodge in the Eastern Cape. At this eco-lodge, if you wanted a hot shower, it involved lighting a fire at the base of the water pipes. Your hot water lasted as long as the fire. The toilets were the composting variety, so no need to even flush. After a few hours of adjusting, this seemed totally natural. Here, entire (amazingly temperature controlled) houses are biodegradable. When their time is up, the mud bricks and grass and stick thatching crumbles back into the earth. On the van ride out of the Transkei, I was listening to my fave quirky podcast, TBTL, and the host and producer, Luke and Jen were talking about the new studies that show how much energy DVR boxes use—as much as a refrigerator apparently. Normally quite levelheaded people, on this one, Luke and Jen refused to budge. Their response to the cable companies was basically, “FIX IT,” because neither was willing to give up their TiVo. I understand that part of their jobs is being informed, and thus, watching certain TV programs is essential, but damn. After being without electricity, not to even mention TV for a week, their complaints seemed utterly ridiculous.

    No internet, no problem. Who needs Facebook when you can edit audio with a view of Table Mountain?

    And here’s the thing. When you’re not constantly watching TV or sending emails or posting updates on various social media outlets (and now with Google + you’re telling me I’ve got one more personal digital representation to worry about?), the feedback loop slows and the desire to constantly be checking these things fades. My online journalism professors would probably say this is bad for my digital footprint.

    But you know what it’s good for? Dinner conversations. Seriously. When’s the last time you sat through a meal without someone checking something on a smart phone?

    The other flip side is books. Like real paper ones. I’ve read more of them in the past 3 months than I did in the entire previous year. So many in fact, that I’ve run out and need to make another trip to the bookstore—my favorite one located a good walk across town. It’s moments like these when I wish I had a Kindle. I’ve vowed to get one as soon as I return to the States. But once I’m back in LA, dripping with it’s nectar of unlimited broadband, will I really have time to read again?

    Here’s to hoping and the occasional, conscious internet disconnect–Spanish Pipe Dream style.

  7. Radio Workshop Listening Bonanza

    July 8, 2011 by Kaitlin

    I realized it’s been a while since I’ve posted any new Radio Workshop episodes, the things that actually consume most of my time in Cape Town. I’ve had so much fun planning, interviewing, writing, and editing these episodes. Even shows that are repackages of earlier episodes, like the refugee piece, were like this fun audio adventure since it was my first time hearing the tape and my coworkers are very generous and let me run wild with the editing software.

    The shows run about 15 minutes each, so if you’d like to download and listen on the go, you can subscribe to our free podcast via iTunes. Otherwise, have a listen right here.

    Radio Workshop: Crossing borders to find a home by childrensradiofoundation

    Radio Workshop: Is the World Cup more than just a memory? by childrensradiofoundation

    Radio Workshop: A difficult conversation with parents by childrensradiofoundation


  8. 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!