Molo Sisi and Ubhuti

“One Nation, Many languages”


Much like walking onto campus at MIIS, every day I come to work, I hear a collection of accents and languages. On the brief 10-minute walk from my house to the Obz station, I will likely hear English, Xhosa, and Afrikaans (as spoken by the colored people working nearby my home). At work, a different set of accents hit my ears, as my co-workers come from the UK, Austria, South Africa, and one with a particularly worldly accent (she has lived in Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and now permanently resides in South Africa).

Officially, on paper, this is not surprising. South Africa and Africa in general is known for its many languages. South Africa alone has 11 official languages and an array of unofficial ones. While English is the lingua franca, many of South Africa’s other languages are spoken at home and within communities. And while, it may sometimes be hard to gauge whether to greet someone with “Molo” or “Goeiedag.” The longer I stay here, the easier it is becomes to determine, just what languages people speak at home. How can I tell? Usually by the way a person rolls their “r’s”, how they say “idea” (or “idear)” whether they say “eshh” are often giveaways to what people speak at home.

I could go on and on about language, but its funnier I think to teach than to preach! Below is a mini lesson in 3 of the South African languages. Enjoy!

South African English:

South Africa’s many languages influence each other and so do their historical origins.  This mingling of the many can be seen when hearing or speaking modern day SA English (which originated from the UK). Check it out for yourself.

A taste of South African English!




The second lingua franca is IsiZulu, which is included in a set of Native African languages referred to as Nguni languages. This set of languages also includes isiXhosa, siSwati, and isiNdebele and are similar in syntax and grammar.

Nevertheless, overall, the languages you hear most frequently spoken depends greatly on where in the country you are. In Western Cape, where I am located, this is the breakdown according to– Afrikaans (55.3%), isiXhosa (23.7%), English (19.3%). Thus below is a look or rather a listen in on Xhosa!

Want to learn some basic isiXhosa, check this series out:



In South Africa, most people speak a minimum of two languages and one of the most frequently heard languages in Cape Town is Afrikaans. Cape Town, in fact, can be called the place of its birth. Afrikaans, which originated from Dutch, has seen the number of speakers increase under Apartheid, whereas it was mandatory for many to learn Afrikaans. Nowadays, it is often used at home and among friends with those of Dutch heritage as well as in the Colored communities. It’s a fun language that is closer to English than I would have thought. Give it a listen!

Some basic phrases in Afrikaans


So to all those who wonder, “what does the National Anthem of a country with 11 official language sounds like?”, check this out:

Minibus #1 * or How I came to love screaming men and vans

Ahh the minibus. How I will miss the sounds of strange men screaming “Wyberg??” at me as I walk down Main Street once I get back.


Well let’s start from the beginning, what is a minibus? For those without their own set of wheels, it is the most affordable mode of transportation in Cape Town. Although there is much competition, which includes: cabs, the bus, the train, or walking. The minibus, unlike cabs, trains and other modes of transportation, usually includes someone screaming out the window at you, a trust payment system, and mainly a lot of people squeezing into a van. While I usually take the train to work, just three weeks back, I took a work related trip – as my opportunity to use the minibus system on my own.

Here is my story

Since I have a weekly train pass, I first took the train to Wynberg, a bustling station surrounded by malls and shops, busy passersby’s, sidewalk vendors, and office buildings. I walk towards the Minibus hub where 15-20 minibuses lined up for the chance to take customers to their desired destinations. Each row touting the name of the minibus’s route: Cape Town, Hout Bay, Fish Hoek, etc. I go for Hout Bay. I climb into the first van that looks loaded up and jump in. Where’s the driver? I don’t know, hopefully coming soon. I am I for sure going to Hout Bay? I hope so, trusting the sign. How much is it? No idea. So about 5 minutes later, with a full van,  we are moving!

It soon becomes clear by the fact I am so eager to pay once I get into the minibus, that I am newbie. A local Xhosa woman tells me she will let me know when to pay. And when we finally do, everyone hands up his or her money. It passes through several hands as it moves to the front (where the driver is). And for those who need change, the money makes it back to their owners.

Minutes after paying, our already full van,  makes a stop and picks up 3 more men.  The limit is 16 people per van, but eh rules are meant to be broken. They squeeze into the van, leaving me with only room for one thigh. I soon have two choices: hold one thigh in the air or place over the leg of the women next to me. She’s nice and lets me. We then make a stop to let someone else off, which you do by yelling out what street you want to get off at, when nearby.

Unfortunately I have never been to the Hout area and find this tricky. Thankfully once again the same lady helps me. We then make another stop, this time the door comes off the hinges. Me and the other guy nearest to the door exchange glances and move further inland. We make another stop. This time picking up and letting people off at a local township. In this mountainside township, within 20 walking distances of the beach, there is an array of colorful formal and informal houses. Children are just getting off school and wondering home, while adults both active and idle float around the mini town.

Finally, the helpful lady screams out my stop, we are close. How close, I really had no idea, since she couldn’t understand my pronunciation of the cross street, but with faith in my heart, I jump out.

Want to know more about the minibus. Check out these three videos!

Wish I had saw this video first weeks in SA!

An introduction to the Minibus

A minibus prank

Precious Illusions

“We have been born into a moment of unprecedented danger and opportunity. Our failure to act is itself a choice. Our purpose here is to build a bridge.The purpose of the bridge is to span the distance between our present situation and our vision of a better world. ”        — Joanna Macy, Common Sense


Being here in South Africa, I’ve learned many lessons. One is that waste is a luxury. In a world where we throw away food (when many don’t have enough), we use water thoughtlessly (when many don’t have even have running water), and whereas we don’t think about who or how our waste is disposed off (since it isn’t us!)…its great to see the innovation in South Africa in regards to how waste is being recycled into income generating products.

Innovation, imagination and survival in South Africa for the poor especially has developed into one of the purest forms of proof that most waste is not waste at all. When going to a Braai  (SA BBQ) place, I noticed women and men selling glass beer bottles that were re-modeled to look as cups. In the same Township, I saw shipping carts transformed into Beauty shops and phone repair spots. I have seen oil cartons made into guitars, tires and buckets made into seats, and jewelry made out of tightly coiled magazine strips.

As I see all this innovation around me, it gives me insight into our future, one with less waste and more joy. Less landfills and more parks. Anyway, its like my Dad said: the concept of trash has never been practical. Its always been just a luxury and now its just plain suicidal.

** Also check out these great photos borrowed from my friend JaVeatrice’s facebook page. She has also been in South Africa for the summer. Thanks JaVe and have a safe trip home!


Some cool websites to check out:





Can I have 31603424 cups of water with my hamburger, please?

Photo thanks to

People in Slow Food understand that food is an environmental issue.
                                                                                           — Michael Pollan

Well recently, for work, I have been doing research on greener grilling and greener eating. And I have found some interesting insight into how much water we use and consume through every meal. It is shocking actually.  It takes about 31603424 cups of water to raise one cow for human consumption! That’s right, just one.

With this in mind, its becoming easier to see why the words “Water is the new oil,” are beginning to ring true more and more often. To make matters worse, tumultuous weather continues to perform summer strikes across the US, and worldwide, making matters of water scarcity or at least potable water issues likely to increase. Already, water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people for at least one month each year. Therefore it is becoming clear that water is a commodity for which we will have to learn to rethink.

Alas there is hope! Here are some first steps a regular Jane or Joe can do to make a difference concerning water: simply eat better. Yep! Just eat healthier. Specifically I mean add more veggies to the plate, and while you’re at it, work to purchase those vegetables locally. Veggies take less water to grow and bonus: they are good for you. Just by doing this one thing, you can become like a superhero, but you know, you’ll be more like an eco-hero!

To learn more about water consumption, global food consumption and other things, check out these below links!

1) Your water footprint:

2) A look at a week’s consumption around the world:

3) Learn about your water footprint at:

“Life’s a beach. And then you Braai.”

Today’s topic is food. I love food. Its one of the best things about traveling. Getting a chance to try something new and delectable is awesome. It also lends one insight into a country, its cultures, and its history bite by bite.

South Africa is definitely a country with a lot on its Smörgåsbord. Food varies from dried fish (snoek) to curry bread bowls to a mashed potato-grit hybrid called Pap (said like pop). The food here is truly a reflection of the many cultures and people’s that gather in this Rainbow nation, with influences from throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

And you know what food is on the mind. People think about food here a lot. The food in the market is usually seasonal, minimizing variety, but providing increased availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Also portion sizes are different. Smaller. I grabbed a single size of chips the same size as my camera case. The oversized “do it big” portions that America is known for are pretty much absent here, except at a Braai.

Roosterkoek (image provided by

What is a Braais you ask? Its Thanksgiving on a grill. An array of sausage, chicken, steak, and beef (or vegetables for those who dont eat meat) come to a fine crisp on the grill. Once off, they are soon served with either Pap and Salsa or Roosterkoek (grilled bread). The Braai is so beloved in South Africa, there’s even a national holiday for it. If you don’t believe me, look it up! (

Another interesting aspect of eating in Cape Town is the abundance of vegetarian and Halal (food that follows Islamic dietary guidelines) options. There are usually vegetarian options on the menus in Cape Town. And there seems to be shops that sell Halal goods within many communities.

The only shadow on my Rainbow Nation food tour is that great variety comes with a price. Food is expensive here! Well food from the grocery store anyhow. I can buy a bag of vegetables for about the same price I can buy a meal at some restaurants. While meat and carb laden staples are fairly inexpensive (with 2lbs of rice costing 19R, Pap (small bag) costing 7R, and a loaf of fresh bread being as cheap as 5R), vegetables and fruits can be somewhat costly. Thus moving from the land of big portions and plentitudes of cheap food, to my local Pick n Pay or Woolies supermarket was a bit of a shock to the system.

Well with all comes a silver lining. In my case, the shining light is that now I do not have to feel too guilty about eating out. After all I am saving money!

Wanna make some South African fare yourself? Check out these websites:

1) Want to know about Nelson Mandela’s favorite dish, check this site out:

2) If you want to try Modern day South African recipes

3) South African Afrikaans Comfort Food

4) Some Real South African Favorites


What’s your tool kit got to tell you?

“90 by 2030 means taking action today for a better tomorrow

 — Hin Wah Li

So I’ve been in this position for a while now (almost a month!!). I have learned a lot about Project 90 just by reading! I have been in fact, a reading fool. I have been checking out P90’s (Project 90 by 2030) annual reports, Facebook, Twitter account, Vimeo videos, blog, newsletter and fact sheets.

I have also been looking at their cool online tools that help both individuals and companies measure energy efficiency including: house tools and office tools on the Project 90 website.

So how can you use these wonderful tools you ask?

Check out House Tools at: http://housetool.90×

Also a fun greenie site with inspirational sayings and pretty pictures:

The New Swag

“Green is the new swag”- A Project 90 club youth member

P90 *Two Oceans Wind Turbine

So what happens when you bring high school students together from around the city of Cape Town to the Two Oceans Aquarium?

Well….conversation, laughter and hopefully the beginning of a few new friendships.

This weekend work took me to the Two Oceans Aquarium, where Project 90 by 2030 (referred to as Project 90 from here on), invited students to gather, listen, and explore green energy for an short half-day Club Conference.

Well, so first what’s a club, right?

Project 90 by 2030 has been forming clubs in schools and organization since 2008, whereas it assists students and adults in creating carbon footprint reduction projects. This weekend, Project 90 gathered around 40 students from five local high schools and took the students to the aquarium where they had a chance to not only learn more about an array of Project 90 renewable projects happening all across the city (including the aquarium), but also gave the students a chance to look behind the scenes of the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

Settled in one of the premier aquarium conference rooms students discussed the projects they are conducting at their school, such as recycling programs. They also learned more about Project 90’s phase one projects which included creation of a solar system for a rural school, a hydro-system, solar-golf carts, fences and biogas digester at the Tygerberg Zoo.

It was great to see the collection of excited faces from students across Cape Town. The students were not only enthusiastic about getting the chance to see the aquarium par gratis, they were also eager to share and discuss the range of projects they had initiated at their individual schools with other students. There was a buzz in the room as the day began and as Daniel (the club coordinator) began to talk about the environment and people’s crucial part in it.

The great walking fish!

After Daniel wrapped up about Project 90 and the various renewable projects we are putting into action around the city, students were given a guided tour around and behind the scenes for the aquarium and were also left with free time to explore on their own. Which is awesome, when you realize that the Two Oceans Aqaurium holds over 3000 living sea animals, including sharks, stingrays, turtles, penguins, and a fish with legs (which I found the most enthralling! OMG it walks!!).

After the tour of the aquarium, the students, Project 90 staff, and others were once again pulled into the Aquarium conference room for the second half of the event. Which started with three students battling for prizes using only their sharp memories to recall facts about a range of renewable energy projects. Then we were all taken outside, where we learned more about the green initiatives that happened on site. In specific, Robert (a Project 90 engineer) gave us a detailed talk about the vertical wind turbines and solar panels at the Two Oceans Aquarium, which Project 90 helped put into place.

In all the day was a full and happy one that reminded me how important it the task is of involving youth in building their world. And I too was a happy camper since I got to explore the great Cape Town Aquarium with great people for a great cause.

For more news showing how “the kids are allright” check out:

And to check out more on how NGO’s are connecting to possible volunteers and more, check out:

A New Start

We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits.”

 — Wendell Berry, Recollected Essays

It’s been a wonderful first week in Cape Town, South Africa. Already I have hiked mountains, crawled through caves, been to two Braais (BBQ South African style) and to the beach a couple times. And the cherry on the top, I will be working with an awesome NGO called Project 90 by 2030 throughout the summer.

Project 90 by 2030, is working to re-set the way South Africans and Southern Africans live, by daring people to change how they use energy, what they consider waste, and what they want their futures to look like. It does this by striving to address climate change and energy usage (for the coal dependent South Africa) through research, advocacy/ awareness campaigns, and renewable energy projects.

The staff, a small and lively one, is made of up my bosses Glen and Natalie, as well as Olivia, Hin Wah, Daniel, Candace, Steven, Robert and the director Brenda. There is also a wider network of staff and partners as well. More coming soon! And photos …

**  I plan to start of each of my new posts with a inspirational or thoughtful quote. If you have any suggestions, please send them to me!!

Hello world!

Well, I guess I should introduce myself before I jump into the thick of things!

I am Alexis Gabriel. I am a second year dual degree student with a concentration in both Business (marketing/communications) and International Environmental Policy (sustainable development). These two goals have taken me across the world, and close to Antarctica straight into the winter of South Africa for the summer. Over the next couple of weeks (until late August), I will be neck deep in green living on the south side of the equator.

One step down the rabbit hole…. let’s see where this green trail leads!