Ordinary Day

Most of my weekdays start at 6:30 – the sun rises before I do, which is novel for months that I’m in school. I typically forgo breakfast in the dining hall for fruit and toast in my room – unless it’s French toast day, in which case I’ll go and eat second helpings. School starts at 8 technically, but on Wednesday, we have assembly and on Thursday we have community service, so school really only starts at 8 on the other days. Luckily for me, I have free periods on both Tuesday and Friday mornings so Monday is the only day when I have to start actual school before 9. 
On most days I have four or five classes with a nice sprinkling of free periods, before school ends at 4. From 4-5, I’ll typically have some sort of co-curricular – choir, tango, a forum theatre project, ect. From 5-6 I might go back to my room to get a head start on homework, and from 6-7 is dinner. From 7-8 I’ll probably have another activity – SAGA (sexuality and gender alliance) a planning session for the next time we…

Midterm in Johannesburg

Joburg smacks you in the face with noise and heat and life. Navigating the streets means stepping over broken patches of cobblestone, and manholes that are gushing water from broken pipes. The sidewalks are packed with vendors selling chilled fruits and beaded jewelry, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants hawk hot chips and curry. It's amazing to be back in a city with so much vitality, but the disparity of wealth is sobering. My friends and I are staying in an AirBnB in a trendy converted industrial building, on a street full of health food cafes and boutiques featuring local designers. Two blocks away, we begin to attract stares and whistles - we are painfully conspicuous. I've been in Johannesburg for a day and a half and I'm already developing complicated emotions about this city. My prior time in South Africa was also full of contradictions and full of things I both loved and hated. The most painful irony was our visit today to Nelson Mandela Square - the huge metal statu…

Mpaka Refugee Camp

On Saturday I visited a refugee camp. A crowded school bus carried me and 40 other students through the lush hills of rural Swaziland, bumping over potholes and gravel roads. The trip took over an hour. The mood on the bus was anticipatory - it was the first trip of the year to the Mpaka refugee camp (pronounced 'Mmpagka') where Waterford runs a program called 'Mpaka Peers.' It's a program aimed at helping the students in the camp with school and English proficiency. Visiting Mpaka is also a chance to play with some of the younger kids. For me, hearing about this experience was one of the reasons I wanted to go to Waterford. The work the school was doing in the camp looked amazing, and the Mpaka Peers program is also aimed at giving Waterford students a chance to learn from students in the camp.

The refugees come from Burundi, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Somalia and the camp has begun to become overcrowded. We were told that many of the…

I Miss Good Food

Those who know me, know that I care a great deal about food. My mother jokes that I can remember all the places I’ve been solely by what I’ve eaten there. She’s not wrong. I love learning about the food of different places – the traditions surrounding different recipes and cooking styles, the meaning behind dishes. I love finding new ingredients and new spices to incorporate into my own well-loved recipes, and I love cooking with new friends and learning about their culture through food.
When I spent time in the Comoros, their spice markets are some of the most richly stocked in the world. I could buy huge bags of freshly dried cloves, packets of cardamom pods, jars of star anise and black pepper. Every few days I would brew a huge pot of fresh chai, after speaking to women in the market stalls about their own traditional recipes. In Madagascar, discussion with the local people who hand-pollinated vanilla beans yielded a recipe for a vanilla cream sauce that was perfect when served …

Hostel Life

Waterford is somewhat unique among other UWCs in how the living arrangements work. At most UWCs, including Pearson on Vancouver Island, you have multiple roommates from a variety of different countries and cultures. At Waterford, most people are in small single rooms called 'QBs.' They're simple - a bed, a closet, a desk, and a shelf. The IBs are housed in two hostels; Elangeni and Emhlabeni. They're affectionately known as Ela and Emhla (Em-fla.) Emhla is more central to the rest of campus, and considerably larger. It houses about 120 students. It's one building that has been split into a girls' side and a boys' side, connected by a common room and small kitchen. It's also older than the other hostel, so the rooms are a little more run down, the furniture and amenities are more basic, and the kitchen is - sadder.

I live in Emhlabeni, in a corridor called 'Utopia' along with 10 other girls. The corridors are all given names - on the girls' s…

Course Selection

After our orientation week of fun icebreaker activities and exploring Mbabane, things have gotten more intense. This week is Shopping Week – where we hear from various teachers about their respective courses. This week, we pick the six courses that we’ll be taking for the next two years.
Plenty has been written about the IB, but I’ll give you a brief overview. For the two years of the program, you take six courses from six ‘streams’ – three at a higher level, and three at a standard level. The streams are Maths, Sciences, Humanities, Arts, English, and Language. This is one of the many things that distinguish an IB diploma from a typical diploma. At this age, students have typically started leaning towards the arts, or towards STEM. For IB, a student must remain well-rounded. We also do Theory of Knowledge (more on that below) and CAS (or Creativity, Activity, and Service.)
This week is focused on presentations from various teachers, and we’ve been hearing about syllabuses, course l…

Orientation Week

Orientation week is coming to a close, and I've found myself with a free hour. This past week has been exhilarating, nerve wracking, and exhausting.

The days have been filled with ice breaker activities - (one especially memorable one involved directing your blind folded teammates through an obstacle course by giving them left and right directions,) speeches from teachers - (I especially liked the Sex, Drugs, and Water talk. It's still not entirely clear why water was part of that talk,) and long nights of talking.

We also made a trip to a game reserve, a traditional Swazi village, and the eSwatini glass factory.

I've made friends faster than I thought possible, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I've only been here a week, and don't actually know these people yet. It feels like we've been here for months already, but the days still feel very long.

I think everyone is still settling in and testing the waters, but it's already a very close group. Thi…