TTS20 on Safari

Monday, October 29, 2012

Academic Updates from South Africa

The students of TTS20's Modern History and Contemporary African Politics Course have been extremely busy during the month of October. The course has focused on Mozambique and the country's tumultuous past. Beginning with precolonial societies, the students have examined the impacts of European contact and colonial structures in Mozambique. From there, the students studied the Mozambican people's move towards independence and the challenges Mozambique faced post-independence. In studying the challenges, students analyzed how climate catastrophes, policies of neighboring countries, and the global economy can affect a country's internal events. After this, the students devoted their attention to the Renamo-Frelimo conflict that ran rampant across Mozambique for the majority of the last 30 years. Investigating the war and its atrocities gave students greater insight into South Africa's  power, how interconnected the nations of southern Africa are, and the incredible strides the country has made towards a stable democracy in the last 10 years. The class has had lessons beach side and in city centers and has considered the history of Mozambique through the lenses of citizens, political figureheads and even built environments. While in the capitol, Maputo, the class went on a walking tour of some of the city's major monuments and landmarks. Afterwards, each student designed a monument that she would like to see erected to commemorate a portion of the country's history that had not yet been honored, along with a press release announcing the monument's unveiling. If it were up to me, every single monument would be built on one of Maputo's street corners! Now that we are in South Africa, the students have begun their final unit, starting with this country's precolonial history.

Literature & Composition
The students of TTS20's African Literature and Composition class have spent the last few weeks experimenting with writing styles and structures as well as exploring literary themes relevant to Mozambique's history. The class finished Mia Cuoto's Sleepwalking Land,,  a novel that uses magical realism to depict the wars and natural disasters Mozambique faced in the last 30 years in a new light. While reading the novel, students not only became practiced at interpreting magical realism, but also identified stylistic techniques to use in their own magical realism pieces. The students crafted a variety of essays, some drawing on personal experiences, others recasting a historical event in magical realism style, and others writing an original story. Their pieces are fantastic and a testament to the students' willingness to take personal risks in their writing, both in choice of topic and use of style. In addition to this large work, the students have had a series of poetry workshops, ranging from twitter and micro-poetry to the exquisite corpse and other forms of surrealist poetry. Here too, it has been wonderful to see the students' enthusiasm for writing experimentally and to hear them ask "When do we get to play poetry games again??". The answer is, of course, when we next have Lit Class!  

PE & iLife
TTS20's PE class could not feel luckier--where else does one get to SCUBA, snorkel, and surf in PE class?? As TTS20 was traveling along Mozambique's coastline for most of October, that is where PE classes took place. A week of SCUBA lessons and dives was both a physical and mental challenge for students--a great deal of self-discipline and attention to detail is required to earn one's SCUBA certification. Those students who did not finish the certification had the opportunity to go on an ocean safari, swimming and snorkeling for an entire day, sometimes only a few feet from a pod of dolphins! In addition to SCUBA diving and snorkeling, students had morning runs and yoga practices on the beach. The following week, all of the students had the chance to practice their balance and agility skills while surfing--almost everyone was able to get up on the board!
TTS20 Surf class
This month also marked the beginning of our student-led workouts. Thus far we have had an ocean side scavenger hunt, a strength training and plyometrics session, and an Irish dance class--who said gym class couldn't be fun? iLife workshops have focused on the challenges faced living independently, whether here at TTS, at home in the United States, or in the future in college. Topics included coping mechanisms for stress, steps for conflict resolution, and how to establish personal identity within a group setting. Class time is devoted to each of these and the students are then encouraged to use the new skills learned on a daily basis and check in with their mentors regarding their individual progress.


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