Thursday watch the walls instead,

On Thursday, the terrific twosome was split up. Selina spent her day editing a thick booklet on the history of slavery, and I spent the day in the conservation lab writing a condition report for a Ghoema drum that is being loaned out to the Paarl Museum. While I had voiced my worries about my perfectionism getting in the way of my timeliness with tasks during our meeting with Jim, after only a week working at the Social History Center I have learned that there is no real sense of urgency with any project. For instance, Fatima gave me two hours to write the condition report and take photographs of the drum. Though I was thorough and edited the edited version of my report several times, I still somehow managed to finish within the hour.  On the bright side, this gave me time to research the history of the Ghoema drum.  On the down side, reading about its linkage to the Klopse and minstrels during carnival makes me wish we were going to be here to experience the parades in January. However, I did the math, and this gives me about 200 days to make $2,000 for a return ticket back. This is only $10 per day! See you in January, carnival!

When Fatima returned, I politely told her that two hours was perhaps a bit more time than I needed to finish the project, and she was very thankful for the input.  She asked me to make a list of all of the recommendations and observations that I have to help her with future interns.

I was then sent to Alta’s room – Alta is Our Lady of Textiles at Iziko, but has unfortunately been out all week with the flu – to type up the condition report, as well as upload the photographs I took of the drum to paste into the document. When I sat down at the computer, Fatima and Fiona began whispering and laughing. I looked at them quizzically, and they then apologized ahead of time for the imminent slowness of the PC. Fatima admitted to refusing to use it because she does not have the patience, and told me it would be a good idea to bring my laptop from now on. Apparently, the Social History Center has asked funders for a laptop for the past five years. For some reason unbeknownst to me, this wish has not been granted and they are therefore left to use machines that should have gone extinct in the nineties. This is sad because not only is it discouraging to sit at a computer that is unable to quickly process the information you’re pelting it with, but the slowness of the technology is a complete time-sucker. For as short-staffed at the Social History Center is, at any given hour there are at least five people sitting at computers waiting for them to unfreeze when they could – and should – be doing other things. Fatima brought up a good point: these computers belong in boxes in the collections department with all of the other ancient artifacts.

Thanks to years of forced typing training in middle school, I often type so quickly smoke comes off of the keyboard. Thus, this task should have taken me no longer than 20 minutes. Unfortunately, however, the computer moves even slower than Selina and I do while walking up the hill to our home each day after work.  This is a feat I assumed was impossible.  The computer was not only slow, but also kept randomly freezing and hour-glassing. Though Fatima asked me to e-mail the finished project to her, I am almost certain snail-mail would have arrived faster. It took 18 minutes to upload the attachment (which was a simple Microsoft Word document), and another 30 to actually send. Anyone have extra computers lying around their homes? If so, send them to the Social History Center! They sure could use them.

Though my lunch break starts at 1, because of this slight roadblock in my day, I didn’t excuse myself until well after 1:30. I met Selina and Chelsie across the street at Milk, Honey, and Bread, and though I had a pocket full of carrot sticks and sliced apples, I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I happily forked over 54 rand for a small bag of almonds and a large box of salad.

We headed back to the museum, and the director, Lalou, pulled Selina and me into her office to debrief a bit. She asked us how we are liking things, how our supervisors are doing, and thanked us for volunteering our time with them. We, of course, had only good things to say, and expressed how happy we are to have been given such a hands on experience thus far. We told her we are mostly relieved that our days are not spent making coffee and sending mail.  She laughed, telling us they simply don’t have enough people working at the center to have their interns perform such mundane tasks.

Afterward, we met up with Fatima in the lobby, and headed over to the Koopmans-de Vet House on Strand Street.  Though it has been renovated from its previous state, this museum does a phenomenal job at evoking the feel of neoclassical style, design, and décor. We gave ourselves a private tour, and then met up with Janine on the second floor. We also met with two photographers who were in the process of photographing the furniture and knick knacks in the house. Fatima and Janine were present in order to move the objects around for the photo-shoots without damaging them.

We were then released for the day, and for as tired as we were on the thirty minute trek back home, we both had an extra bounce in our steps. For one, we were walking home from work with new knowledge and skills that we had not had on our morning walk to the Social History Center, a mere 8 hours previous. For two, we had discovered a beautiful and magical antique mega mall on Wale Street while walking home. And for three, it was on this walk that we were both struck with the realization that we did not have any obligations the following day until 1:30 and could therefore awake Friday morning not to the obtrusive buzzing of our cheap phones’ alarm clocks, but rather to the sound of silence after a long night’s rest following a longer week’s work.


2 thoughts on “Thursday watch the walls instead,

  1. Incredible! What an experience. Thanks for writing up so much about the objects you’re working on– i’m riveted. And happy to be experiencing the ‘life’ aspects of the internship vicariously.

  2. Ahhh, the old wait for the computer game. It’s a favorite of mine. But also a good reminder of all of the challenges of infrastructure that people cope with. We’re so blessed with speedy and regular internet access, fast computers, reliable electricity and so on that it’s easy to forget that those are world luxuries. It’s also good to realize since a lot of times you’ll hear some frustrated “first worlders” complaining that South Africans just can’t seem to get anything done..well they wouldn’t be able to get anything done either if the computer was always frozen! That said, I’m so glad that things are going so well and that you’re learning so much. I love learning about it along with you all.

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