Sensations

 

The heat was a tangible force in the surrounding air. Insects hummed busily and the oppressive sun beat down on my bare arms and legs. The faded grass seemed to be gradually wilting in the sweltering air. I brushed sweaty strands of frizzy hair from my eyes as I trekked into the abandoned ruins of what was once someone’s home.

 

The stark, white walls contrasted the savage tone of the graffiti that was haphazardly strewn on the inside of the little building. None of the artistry seemed to be related suggesting that it had been done by different people. I found the images of two shadowy people to be the most striking. Everywhere was quiet but even silence has a sound of its own. In the near distance Grahamstown lay sprawled like a lazy, outstretched dog.

 

I stared up at the sky through the roofless house and watched the expanse of endless blue. A strange feeling encompassed me, I felt peaceful. I knew that just a few roads away, people were carrying on with their daily routines and bustling about (or rather slogging damply through the heat).

 

It was isolated in this windowless and open room. My eyes squinted in the intense light of a 9am morning and my feet already felt claustrophobic in my sneakers. I had dressed coolly but that didn’t seem to make any difference.

 

This is what it would feel like to be lost in the desert somewhere without water, your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth and inhaling dry, searing breaths of air. I could envisage it so clearly, stumbling in the sand, delirious with thirst under the unrelenting pulsing of the African sun.

 

Snapping out of my reverie, I gave the desolate building one last glance and then walked down the hill, reluctant to re-enter reality.

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Vermiculture at Rhodes

Clang! You slam your plastic tray with the half-eaten remainders of Braised-Tenderised into the holder and leave the dining hall without a backward glance.

What is left on your plate is no longer your concern and how it will be discarded isn’t either.

Rhodes University usually prides itself on being exceptionally environmentally friendly.

This is most adeptly seen with the various societies around campus who attempt to promote Green Peace like RUEC (Rhodes University Environmental Committee) and RUGF (Rhodes University Green Fund).

The latter of the two states that it “aims to stimulate learning and practice in environmental sustainability so as to make Rhodes University and Grahamstown a model sustainable town in Southern Africa.”

Out of the twelve dining halls at Rhodes, only Nelson Mandela Hall supplies worm farms with some of their food waste for composting.

These worm farms are located and taken care of in and by the Grounds and Gardens Services who also offer to mow your lawns, weed and care for your garden, trim your hedges, and so forth.

Brett Sutherland, a past Rhodes student who won the Environmental Award in 2012 proposed that biodegradable food waste such as egg shells, vegetable peelings and other scraps should be composted. It was due to his passion and love for the environment that saw this idea brought to life.

Vermiculture, as it is more formally referred involves the worms Eisenia fetida or commonly known as the ‘red wriggler’ ingesting wasted food scraps and then excreting the nutrient-enriched compost.

This ‘vermitea’ can then be poured onto your other garden plants which will thrive with the added minerals.

Chelsea Idensohn the SRC Environmental Representative for 2015 maintained that she had plans on implementing a way for food to be properly disposed of in dining halls,

“Discussions have already been held and this is going to be a major project of mine next year, I would like to get as many res’s involved as I possibly can. My motives behind this are that first of all, it is an organic way of disposing of the vegetable scraps. Second of all the juices that are produced by these worms can be used as compost so that res’s can start their own veggie gardens and use it.”

Usually the other wasted dining hall food is dropped off at pig farms but is this the most environmental way of disposing of it?

Also what about the leftovers? Should it not be given to homeless children on the streets? Grahamstown is well known for its beggars especially on High Street and more often than not they plead for food.

Allan Mlambo, a SRC Hall Representative Candidate for 2015 and member of ENACTUS (now known as SIFE) voices his opinion on what problems he believes this would incur.

“The university is the economy of Grahamstown but it cannot sustain everyone. Why is there leftover food in the first place? Student meals are automatically booked and then they don’t pitch.”

He went on to explain that while he believes it is the university’s problem to get rid of the waste in an environmental fashion at the same time students should “know beforehand whether or not they’re coming”

Whether or not Rhodes will execute a more eco-friendly and green way of disposing waste food will only be seen in the future. Until then, it’s up to our prerogative and own initiative to do what we can to help save our planet.

The ‘Rock ‘N Roll Thugs’ – Icon For Hire

Piercing green eyes surrounded by splashes of bright blue, pink, purple and black are framed with almost grotesquely thick eyelashes centre the cover of Icon for Hire’s latest album. The leading singer’s face Ariel Bloomer is painted somewhat garishly but still appears quite attractive.

The Illinois-formed band’s second album was released last year in October by the recording company Tooth & Nail. Shawn Jump, Adam Kronshagen and Josh Kincheloe are the other members and play electric guitar, drums and bass guitar respectively.

Besides the pulsating beat behind the words, Icon for Hire’s specialty lie in their evocative and compelling lyrics. The edgy energy exuded from Icon For Hire’s latest album not only has you head-banging in your bedroom, but their catchy, emphatic lyrics, “we’re a copy of a copy, everything we swore we’d not be” (Cynics & Critics) convey quite a few pertinent messages for their listeners too.

This is not your usual run-of-the-mill rock ‘n roll with the female lead screeching ‘sexily’ into the mike about how much she wants to “put another dime in the Jukebox, baby” (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts). Instead audiences are subjected to lyrics that condemn and scorn certain societal norms and explore subjects that may be considered taboo.

Quite a few of the Icon For Hire’s songs reconnoitre depression and its many facets, “Wear my scars on my sleeve, for all the world to see/Like look what they did to me quick, lay on the sympathy thick” (Sorry About Your Parents).

The music itself cannot be simply limited to the genre of rock, there are elements of electronic, metal, Alternative, punk and even rap present as well even though Ariel has stated that it is “first and foremost just a rock band”.

The entire album is quite refreshing and the two more relaxed songs, “Slow Down” and “Fix Me” provide a soothing contrast the higher tempo of the other songs. It is difficult to determine the best song because quite frankly, they are all equally good.

With regards to live performance, Ariel is most definitely the star of the show. Her flamingo-pink hair, black, fingerless gloves, leather boots and ripped stockings immediately draws people’s attention. This image coupled with her strong, passionate vocals leaves audiences in awe.

The band is currently on tour and are set to perform thirteen concerts including the upcoming ones in Springfield (Illinois), Houston (Texas), Oslo (Norway) and Gothenberg (Sweden).

So, if you’re looking for something that packs the punch of the beat, lyrics and voice, Icon For Hire is definitely a worthwhile choice.

Hail Technology

Silence descends heavily in the tiny room. There is no conversation and no laughing. Just screens obscuring the gazes of people who could become your friends. If only they would face one another instead of a mechanical device.

Technological expansion has become a part of our daily lives and unfortunately for some, an addiction. There are numerous ways that we benefit from these developments as they are designed to make our lives simpler and save us time. Whether it is heating up your food quickly in the microwave or typing out a document on your iPad – it is undoubtable that technology is advantageous. Tessa Ware, a second year reasoned that “The ability it affords us to express things connected with global events and see what others think about them – like the debate over the “Bring back our girls” campaign, to mention one issue – is, I believe a positive thing.” However, it is wise to acknowledge the many negative effects that result from its use, especially toward the student population. Now they are confronted with issues they would not necessarily have to face if they did not have cellphones, laptops and various other gadgets.

Social networking has become the latest gig that everyone seems to be attending. As students, most of us have a limited budget which means that it is costly to contact people if we are away from home. Thus phone-calls have been replaced with WhatsApps and visiting with skyping. As fourth-year Felisha Solomon aptly said, “It is similar to that of a catch 22, you socialize less with the people around you because you’re preoccupied with the technology that allows you to socialize with people that are not around you.” Awareness does not seem to be the problem when it comes to the knowing about the adverse effects of technology. Instead people are so used to the convenience it brings that they don’t want to relinquish that effortless lifestyle, regardless of the detriments it may have on their psychological health.

Cyber bullying is a good example of this. This practice is the use of technology (usually over the internet) to harm, intimidate and control others. Bullying itself is a detestable crime, but abusing the platform that the online world provides us with, is even worse. The PEW Internet Research Centre found that 90% of social media-using say they have ignored mean behaviour on social media forums. The result of this is exceedingly bad for the self esteem of young people everywhere, especially because they are the ones who mostly perpetuate this matter. According to Webmd.com victims of cyber bullying had newfound emotional, concentration, and behavioural issues, as well as trouble interacting with their peers.

It has become the norm to see people around campus with earphones in their ears, blocking out everyone else and walking obliviously past people. So many opportunities to meet new people are lost. A recent video by Gary Turk depicting the unfavourable consequences of the constant use of social networking and technology received a lot of attention. He referred to our generation saying that “When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.” Saajida Francis, a third-year student from Rhodes University also stated that, “We’re so immersed with online profiles that we have retracted from our true selves and fail to forge meaningful relations”.

Students are forced to spend time with each other every day, whether in lectures, tutorials or even in the dining hall. There is no way to avoid contact – so why do people sometimes choose to ignore those around them unless absolutely necessary? Why do lecture rooms stand silent until the rest of your friends arrive? Why not bridge the gap by starting to talk to someone sitting a few seats away? You never know what you might have in common. But instead people sit, silently chatting with people through the medium of characters typed on a screen – indicating our emotions with tiny little faces instead of showing them in person. Is that an adequate representation of how you really feel? Or did you just put that smiley emoticon because you knew it would incur an appropriate response from your friend?

It is for reasons like these that Samantha Munro, a Masters student in Fine Art recently chose to do her exhibition on the interactions between people. The audience was forced to participate and become “immersed in the entire event, like a game,” she said. Students were voluntarily used as props to portray a queue of people waiting at a bus or train station. They wore stockings over their faces which blurred the details of their faces making them seem almost wax-like and inanimate. None of them were allowed to look at each other or make eye contact with the audience.

Sometimes people around us seem to appear just like that – no smiles grace their faces and no greeting slip from their tongues. You have to wonder – is there actually any air passing through their lungs? Or have we have we become robots ruled by that authoritative power called technology?

Confessions: Uncouth or Cool?

So you had sex at the back of the Rat and Parrot, simultaneously cheating on your girlfriend/boyfriend with an audience of twenty or more people watching.

Who on earth could you confide in about your illicit and yet succulent secret? Surely keeping quiet about your forbidden exploitations has been eating you alive on the inside?

 

Fear not! The Rhodes Confessions Page on Facebook is here to save the day (and thousands of hapless students from boredom). Finally you have licence to post about absolutely anything you desire. This can range from pure drivel (including spelling or grammatical errors) to vulgarity, profanity and feelings of growing inferiority.

 

You are at liberty to describe in vivid detail your worst hour and expose all your flaws for the entire world to read. An added perk is that you will remain totally anonymous. The act of confession has always been one that was said to provide catharsis, especially in the Catholic doctrine. Penance was used as a means to repent or atone for sins committed against God to receive pardon and simultaneously be reconciled with the church.

 

However, unlike asking for forgiveness in a cathedral from God, confessors here are given advice that is sometimes very judgemental and critical. ‘The whole point of the confessions page is that it is a platform where students can express themselves without facing condemnation,” stated Cara Ribeiro, a first-year Journalism student.

 

This has become a popular tool for students to utilise to inform people of the incidents they have participated in without revealing their true selves. With just over 14, 400 likes, it is apparent that the page is something that has sparked a massive response in students across the board.

 

While the site is mostly concerned with students who are currently studying at Rhodes University, visitors from other tertiary academies do occasionally comment on stories. This is an indication of how epic (and perhaps a tad bizarre) our adventures are here.

 

But what sort of image does this portray of our university academically? Rhodes is renowned for its excellent results and educational successes. When asked what they thought the impression other institutions got from this page, an anonymous source said that “Of the worst image. People usually confess the bad things because those are the most juicy stories and therefore most likely to get the attention. So outsiders assume that the terrible things are the norm when they aren’t.”

 

Every university has students who party hard but Rhodes is also especially notorious for its excessive alcoholism. According to Vivian de Klerk (Dean of Students) and Charles Young, who wrote a report on the patterns of alcoholism at Rhodes University in 2007, just under 90% of the 2049 students who participated in the survey, consumed alcohol either occasionally or excessively. It is highly probable that this has increased in the past few years.

 

The tales uploaded are sometimes quite shocking and depict Rhodes as an institution of insidious indulgences rather than that of where intellectuals are bred.

This isn’t an accurate summation because Rhodes seems to be pretty well-balanced when it comes to work and play. How else would we have acquired such a grand academic reputation? According to 4international Colleges & Universities, Rhodes placed 8th out of the 23 universities in South Africa.

 

It is fascinating to learn how people have succeeded in getting away with flagrant rule-breaking like managing to attain a DP certificate without attending a single tutorial the entire year.

 

But the page isn’t merely a stage to relinquish your darkest desires as though you are dramatic protagonists in a Shakespearean play. Some people post about the good things they have experienced here at Rhodes or question why certain things are the way they are.

 

A survey I performed showed that out of the 45 candidates that answered, 15 said that they liked the page because found it amusing or funny. Only 17.78% said they did not follow the Confession page at all.

 

However, sometimes you have to wonder why so many feel the need to share every infinitesimal detail of their personal lives like Rhodes Confession 4728, “I promise I’m not rude, just awkward.”

 

I suppose you could argue that it is your own prerogative to click on that friendly blue icon that says ‘like’ and therefore whether you access the feeds or not is completely up to you.

 

Is it uncouth to share your sexual or personal encounters notwithstanding the fact that your identity it concealed? Or is it cool to brag about them? The decision is yours to make.