What is a braai, anyways?

Debbie, my boss at ORT SA CAPE had been attempting to arrange an outing with me to show me around the city since the day that I had arrived. Finally, after all of the seasickness and excitement on Robben Island, it was time. Only home long enough to pop a piece of bread into the toaster, Debbie picked Luke and I up for a scenic drive. We went up Signal Hill, something I had not yet done, and had a phenomenal view of the city, the mountains, and interestingly from our day’s adventures, Robben Island. From Signal Hill we drove the back way down through breathtaking views of the beach and the Atlantic at Camps Bay, to a stunning beach where we watched the sun sink over the horizon. I had not seen a proper sun set in a while, so the experience was perfect. Hoping to squeeze every last ounce of sun, we hopped back into the car and drove down the peninsula through Hout Bay, and ultimately back to Debbie’s humble abode. The enormous super moon, the largest moon of the year, shone a deep orange red as it illuminated the road, enhancing the drive.

Arriving at Debbie’s house we were met by her two children and a beautiful braai. Braai is a South African barbeque. As I soon learned, the South African’s believe our gas grill to be an atrocity. It features a plethora of meats and sausages, and is incomplete without literally chewing the bone. We had incredible steaks and boeworst (sausage), complimented with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and corn.

The evening was so great, and the best part (besides the food) was speaking with Debbie. She has had the unique opportunity of growing up during South Africa’s transition and rise, and has many experiences to share. The best part of the conversation was our discussion of Rodriguez.

I realize that most of my blog has been food rants and movie suggestions, but one more movie that you absolutely MUST watch is “Searching for Sugarman”. It is the documentary of the inquiry into the life of a South African superstar Rodriguez. He sang the songs that encompassed the opposition movement, and for that reason, his music was largely banned in the country. However, censorship didn’t stunt his fame. When things are unobtainable they become more alluring, and Rodriguez became the voice of a generation. In the country, nobody had known what had happened to the icon, and this sparked the investigation. With a little inquiry, Rodriguez was found in the unlikely city of Detroit Michigan. As it turns out, he had no idea that he was famous. In fact, he was a manual laborer in the city. Royalties were withheld, and due to the nature of the system, the movement of things in and out of South Africa was stunted. Rodriguez, who was bigger than the Rolling Stones in South Africa, was poor in Detroit. Anyways, the story continues. It is a great watch and his music is really incredible. Debbie told me how Rodriguez was truly the voice of her generation. All of her friends knew every word to every song, and she even brought her kids to the sold out concert when Rodriguez finally came to South Africa. Watching the movie is incredible, but it is somewhat hard to believe. Having a real connection to it makes it real, and makes the story even more phenomenal.

Full and sleepy, we returned to sleep off the weekend and prepare for the coming week, which was a big one for ORT SA CAPE. Below I’ve posted an article that I wrote, which will appear in the Jewish chronicle telling of the workshop. It was a great experience for me because up until this point, I had not had any contact with any poor children in South Africa. The schools that we service with the robotics have been all affluent Jewish white schools. I was so excited for the opportunity to work with Xhosa township children, and they exceeded my expectations. In the morning we had a session for students that paid. These students were all white, loud, and found robotics to be a hobby taken for granted. This was camp for them. For the Xhosa children in the afternoon, who we sponsored to come, it was an eye opening experience. Most of them had never even used a computer before, something I find so hard to believe. They were absolutely silent, contrasting with the rowdy behavior of the first group. It was their first visit to the museum as well, and they experienced it with wide eyes and open ears. Despite a huge language barrier with the smaller children, I made a few new friends who battled for my attention, as I helped them create their robots. The workshop was such great exposure to a different type of people and a different type of life.

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A Holiday of Robotics with ORT SA CAPE

From June 23-26 over 50 students from diverse backgrounds joined ORT SA CAPE at the Izikio museum for a holiday workshop.

United by a love of science, students convened early this week for the second annual robotics holiday workshop, sponsored by ORT SA CAPE and the Izikio museum. The workshop offered museum activities augmented by Lego wedo and mindstorm robotics.

Kicking off the activities, students learned about aviation as they raced their newly crafted paper airplanes through the museum halls. A first visit for some, the students toured the museum, wowed by dinosaur skeletons and South African nature. Concluding the workshop was a celestial experience from the planetarium.

As a highlight, students worked in pairs to problem solve and create complex, functioning Lego robots. Piecing the Legos together, they were challenged to program the robots themselves. Birds twirled, cars raced, and some students even innovated their own operational machines.

With funds raised, ORT SA CAPE was able to sponsor a group of students for the afternoon session, none of whom had ever before visited the museum or touched a computer.

Smiles were infections as students’ confidence and skills were enhanced throughout the sessions. Proud of their hard work, students left energized and passionate for science.

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