Thursday, May 12, 2016

We meet again, South Africa: The Fulbright Mid-Year Enrichment Seminar...and Cape Town!

Back in the summer of 2007, I was lucky to study abroad for a couple of weeks in South Africa/Botswana/Zambia.  When I saw the signs around campus, advertising this trip, I simply thought it was a great way to easily fulfill my science requirement during my undergraduate years.  Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a love affair I'd have with the African continent and a deep respect for the people/cultures that make up this beautiful part of the world.

Fast forward to May 2016, I find myself back here again -- this time, for our Fulbright Mid-Year Enrichment Seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa.  I think we got really lucky! The seven of us Fulbright ETAs in Senegal got to fly down to Johannesburg, South Africa to participate in a three-day exchange with other ETAs in Sub-Saharan Africa -- South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal.  It was a great opportunity to re-connect with these same folks we met back at our Pre-Departure Orientation in D.C. the year prior (when we first found out we received the Fulbright)!

 First day of our three-day seminar.  It was great to reconnect with fellow Fulbright ETAs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa! 

The days were filled mostly in the (fancy) hotel -- sharing our best practices and talking about our Fulbright experiences thus far.  It amazed me how dramatically different our experiences were; even within one single country.  We had teacher trainers at universities and in the government, but the majority were Teaching Assistants in middle and high schools (with perhaps a couple of elementary schools).  One thing we could all agree on was the interest and need to learn and promote the English language with the respective populations we worked with.  And it was genuine interest for a variety of reasons: learning a language to expand their economic and social opportunities; learn more about American culture (and other Anglophone cultures); and the like.

Because South Africa is rich with history, we were able to tour around quite a bit.  Perhaps one of the most powerful things we did was visit the Apartheid Museum.  We started by receiving cards at random which placed us in "Whites" or "Non-Whites," and then entered the museum to view the history of apartheid through a different lens.  It is quite incredible and powerful to see a country emerge from something so destructive, but realize that there is still much work to be done.

Entrance to the Apartheid Museum. 

And of course, we just enjoyed all being together again and getting to know the Johannesburg nightlife a little bit!  It was truly a great time to reconnect, reflect, and learn a little bit more.  For us Senegal ETAs, this came toward the last couple of months of our time in Senegal -- so we did much more reflecting on our experiences and sharing it with those who are just starting their Fulbright year.  We are quite lucky to be in Senegal, not only because the Senegalese are a welcome group but because of the support we've received from our U.S. Embassy and colleagues alike. 


 In true Senegalese fashion, we all decided to get outfits made of the same fabric -- using pencil fabric we found in a market one time.  Bravo, Senegal! 

Fortunately, the seven of us decided that a trip to Cape Town was a definite must.  I couldn't be happier to travel to another part of the world with seven other people.  I keep saying this, but we are truly lucky and blessed to be placed together.  We all have very similar mindsets and our trip seemed to go by so smoothly!  I highly recommend Cape Town and consider it one of my favorite cities in the world.  Yes, we loved it that much!  I'll let the pictures narrate themselves.  Enjoy!

Kaylin booked this INCREDIBLE AirBnB in Bo-Kaap, formerly the Malay Quarter, in Cape Town.  It was quite the charming house and was perfect for a few days stay in Cape Town. 

Stellenbosch (an area about 45 minutes or so outside of Cape Town and renown for their wine) was a MUST see for us as wine lovers.  SJ, who's perhaps on his way to becoming a sommelier, gave us some tips on how to taste wine and enjoy it.  

Natalie, one of my friends from grad school at Notre Dame, happened to also be in South Africa at the same time and we were able to meet up!  So fun! 

Group picture in beautiful Stellenbosch. 

We also got to visit Boulder Beach with one priority: penguins! 

How can you come to Cape Town and not see the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point on the African continent.  Which we HAD to see, given that we were all working in the westernmost point on the African continent! 

Hiking and biking were on the list, and just refreshing to breathe the fresh air.  

Going to Robben Island and seeing where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years.  Such an inspiring and humbling experience to witness all of this, especially since many of our tour guides were former political prisoners on this very island. 

Cape Town from the waterfront at night.