Orientation has been an exercise in patience and trust. It is fairly disorganized here. While UCT admits a large number of international diploma students and semester study abroad students (SSA, of which I am one), they do not have the system down tight. Yes, there are nearly 700 of us, and yet the process has been somewhat baffling and frustrating.

We met in the Baxter Theatre, the campus arts theatre, which is truly gorgeous. We sat through several addresses by the head of IAPO (International Academic Programmes Office), various campus services, one of the heads of campus security, and a man discussing culture shock. There was a dance performance demonstrating the international and varied South African origins of our Orientation Leaders (OL's, or sometimes just O's).

Then, much to our horror, we were split into groups to create a fun, innovative, and informative presentation on a specific campus service. While I have done such things before, they were usually in a group of 5-8 people. Our group consisted of 18 individuals, with students from the United States, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, and France. Our task was to present the services of the Campus Disability Unit. Of course, this added the pressure that we present our fun, innovative, and informative presentation in a manner that is not offensive or belittling to anyone with any form of visible or invisible disability.

Our initial work as a group consisted of following our O who does not seem to understand that you need to speak up if addressing a large group of people. She also could use a tutorial in waiting for everyone to catch up before giving important details, at least if she wishes to avoid the frustration of repeating herself. We milled about campus, got lunch, walked to the rugby field to eat (apparently, she thought a field would be a shady place to sit...), then walked back to actually visit the Disability Services Unit.

Oh yeah, we had in total maybe 2 hours as a group of 18 to conceive of and prepare this presentation. On top of that, they added the pressure that the best group presentation would win a tour to go see the population of penguins that lives on the South African coast a little ways outside of Cape Town. Everyone, of course, wanted to see the penguins, and so it was VERY important to win, rather than just get through this task. Half of our household ditched out, and our group thinned somewhat as we progressed.

Fortunately, our international task force on disabilities managed to split into three subsets. One, of which I was a part, worked out an empathy building introduction. The second group converted the list of services to a call-and-response song set to a funky piece of music. We added some gospel-like flourishes in our brief practices. The third part of our group created a video (brilliantly done) showing the way from the theatre to the unit.

We then all attended a brief and thoroughly uninformative tour of the campus.

After that, all of the SSAs reconvened in Jammison Hall (that columnated temple-looking building at the centre of the UCT upper campus...do a google image search for UCT). We received an address by the vice chancellor and then a small talk delivered by the head of the student government (a portion of which was delivered in Xhosa).

Each of our chairs also had a small drum and a boomwhacker (a plastic tube that when struck against the hand created a distinctive note). What followed was an African drumming workshop.

This workshop was amazing. It was a load of fun, drumming along. The guys were true pros, working with a large group of mostly American and European to create a hall full of poly-rhythms. I have a really bitchin' blood blister on my hand where my ring (the one that was smashed and no longer can come off) pinched due to the drumming.

Following that, there was a reception of light finger food on the steps of Jameson Hall. While the view of the University is stunning, the view from the campus is no slouch either...

In the plaza there is a fountain with some i-ching symbols. I wonder what they mean.

The campus also has some fun graffiti.

The following day, our groups did their presentations on the campus services. I am pleased to report that our thoughtful, empathy- and community-building multimedia song and dance presentation on the campus disability services won us a trip to see the penguins. More importantly, in my opinion, a woman from that office was in the auditorium and came up to me afterwards to say how excited and pleased she was with our performance.

Today is more orientation, and we near our pre-registration and registration. Still not entirely certain about what all that entails. I will find out, I guess.

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