Hello loyal fans!!! Time in SA is flying by and I seem to have fallen remiss in my blogging duties. Nonetheless, I am thrilled to share what I’ve been up to recently- this week you get two for one!
Work has been B-U-S-Y these past couple weeks! Not only were we working on our CRM implementation plan and finishing up final key interviews with students and faculty from various universities, but I’ve also been spearheading a project for Shaun, the Enterprise Development Manager. Shaun approached my team and I at the beginning of Week 5 and asked that we draft a contract for incubation program members that would hopefully fix the problem he’s been having with program members not showing up to events and/or being disrespectful during such events. As a Law, Ethics, and Decision-Making co-major, this project really excited me as many of my classes have covered contract law. Over these two weeks I drafted a contract that creates accountability surrounding attendance, sets up standards for reporting attendance and tardiness, establishes clear behavior guidelines, and institutes disciplinary measures for behavior and attendance violations. I met with many different entrepreneurs to test for fairness and readability and sat down with Shaun to go through my first draft and then later my second. I’m currently on my third round of edits and excited to see the final outcome! Otherwise, our student engagement project is coming along really well and I am excited to present to Tshimologong at the end of the month!
At the end of Week 5, we ventured out to Durban, a beach town on the Indian Ocean. Durban’s Golden Mile is full of beautiful beaches, cute waterfront cafes, and nice hotels. We stayed at an AirBnB right off the coast and it was incredible to wake up and head straight to the beach! Our first morning we woke up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise over the vast ocean. We spent the rest of the day walking along the boardwalk and reading on the beach, I even dug myself a reading nook in the sand! It was nice to get some much-needed Vitamin D after some cold weeks in Joburg!
I consider myself a fairly risk averse person and I especially do not characterize myself as an adrenaline junkie. However, my friend Haley is passionate about sharks and is possibly the biggest Shark Week fan I’ve ever met. So when she heard about the possibility to go swimming with sharks, she was sure to arrange it for our group. As you can imagine, I was very hesitant- in my opinion, no sane person would voluntarily jump into shark-infested waters for a fun, morning swim. I was initially persuaded to hop onto the small speed boat that took our group far out into the Indian Ocean as our guide promised that I could stay in the cage instead of snorkeling right next to the sharks! However, he fooled me and said that he was not going to get the cage out. He said I would regret going in the cage… and boy was he right! After a few nervous minutes of coming to terms that I had no other choice, I timidly jumped into the ocean. It was FREEZING! Once I got the courage to place my head underwater I found dozens and dozens of black tip sharks circling around me. Some even brushed up on my legs and I’m pretty sure one of them smiled at me (not creepy at all!) Stay tuned on my Facebook page for a video of the whole experience!
Although I joke that my guide tricked me, his ultimate goal was for me to experience sharks as the inherently friendly species that they are! Part of the the guide’s mission is to raise awareness surrounding shark conservation and a large part of that revolves around demystifing the fear of “shark attacks” and more. We were instructed to keep our hands tucked under our arms because otherwise the sharks mistake our fingers for little sardines… obviously adding to the human-eating, monster persona sharks are given! Although I may still be slightly afraid of sharks, I know that they are a loving and misunderstood group of animals that humans are driving sharks close to the brink of extinction and spreading awareness is so important!
Much to my surprise, Durban turned out to be much more than a beach town, the city has a deep and complex history that is not exempt from the challenges South Africa faces. Durban has the highest concentration of Indians outside of India and Gandhi even lived and practiced law in Durban! Indians began arriving in the area as early as 1860 in two separate waves. First as indentured labour for the British to work in the nearby sugar cane fields and secondly as paid passengers, most of whom were men traveling to do business in Africa. The indentured laborers were eventually freed but stayed back and became land owners in Durban. However, during the apartheid system, Indians were categorized as non-whites. Thus, Indians faced the same harsh regulations placed against black South Africans, meaning they were moved into townships and were refused entry in stores, some beaches, and even certain roads. According to many locals, the divide between where the white and where the Indian “Durbanites” live is still drastic and will take years to overcome.
The following weekend we stayed back in Joburg to celebrate my 21st birthday! I went with the boys to the SAB World of Beer, a museum that covers the cultural, social, and economic role that beer has played in South Africa. It has twice been named the top tourist attraction in South Africa- so I had to go! We learned how South Africans brewed beer long before the arrival of the European settlers who too-often claim that they “brought” beer to the Cape. We even tasted the traditional beer brewed in one area of SA, called ‘Umqombothi.’ It is traditionally the duty of the woman to prepare Umqombothi for the men, especially during an important meeting. The tour also highlights the growth of breweries during the gold rush in Johannesburg and the traditional Soweto sheebens, which were unlicensed houses that sold beer. Under the apartheid system, shebeens provided a relaxing and carefree meeting space for friends to share a drink.
To culminate the end of a great birthday my entire house had dinner at a local Greek restaurant. I’ve been craving some of my Yia-Yia’s cooking and this was the second best option! After an awesome dinner full of laughs and too much hummus, the girls made everyone peach cobbler and peanut butter brownies… have I mentioned that these people know me so well?! I still have a few weeks left with everyone- so I REFUSE to get sappy yet!
Only a few weeks left in SA and I’m excited to cherish every moment left in this beautiful country with these incredible people!