Lindsey Ricker
Lindsey Ricker
South Africa 2012-2014
My studies at Belmont University in restorative justice, liberation theology, entrepreneurship, and philosophical ethics guided me to explore South Africa through an interdisciplinary lens. Academic and experiential work in these fields prepared me for a year in Cape Town interning in human rights, business consulting, and sustainable development. Read More About Lindsey →

Spontaneity, the Lack Thereof, and a Beachy Start to Summer

Similar to most activities in Cape Town, going to see the new James Bond movie was a mission. While there is still room for spontaneity in Capetonian life, most events I have participated in took foresight, a moderate amount of time, and reasonable effort to implement. Skyfall was no different.

To obtain seats together, one must get to the theater early to select reserved seats. While the Victoria and Albert Waterfront theater is the closest, it is also the most expensive. Tickets cost R50 for a regular movie or R60 for a ticket at the independent film theater.[1] This is about a third more expensive than other Cape Town cinemas. However, another Connect intern and I decided to save money by walking to the waterfront rather than taking a R30 cab ride. (I know I must sound stingy and absurd considering price in USD, but it adds up in a year!) Our walk ended up taking an hour, getting us to the theater on time, but not early enough to get seats together (James Bond is a South African favorite apparently).

While the other intern, Ashley and I waited for the movie to start, two friendly Bond fans beside me suggested for the crowd to rearrange for her to sit beside me. Eventually Ashley ended up sitting beside me and we were able to munch on the sandwiches we packed to save more money on dinner.


While writing this blog, about the lack of spontaneity in my life, my friend Hannah called and ironically asked if I wanted to jump in her car in 15 minutes to go to Lagoon Beach. I quickly left the coffee shop I was writing at and got ready just in time to visit one of the loveliest beaches I have visited. Hannah and I also made a sand lady and children rushed up to help us, making afro-spaghetti hair.

Lagoon Beach


Hannah walking towards Table Mountain and Lion’s Head

Me with our new sand-lady friend, Judith

Along with Lagoon Beach, I have also been able to visit the Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Cool Bay, Kalk Bay, and Clifton Beach 2 and 4. In the States, I never found much distinction between the beach towns I visited, but perhaps I wasn’t looking. In Cape Town, my curiosity lead me to find different characteristics in each beach.

I visited the Strand beach with my friends Cathy Arendse. The Stand was filled with coloured and black locals eating “ice lollies” and splashing in the shallow waters. Families restlessly moved around the strip of beach in from of high rise condos, looking for the next piece of beach to settle. Cathy and I decided to indulge in ice lollies of our own, forgetting that I did not wear sunscreen. On the way to Cathy’s house she noticed the color of my shoulders and apologized for keeping me out in the sun. She said, “I’m so sorry! I forgot you were white!” I laughed and said that was probably the nicest thing she said to me. Races distinction is such a part of life in South Africa, so it was nice to be thought of without reference to a skin color.

I also visited Gordon’s Bay at the beginning of my trip, but I recently passed by it on my way to hike the Crystal Pools. The other interns and I needed a permit, so our adventure instead took us to Cool Bay. This ended up being the same beach I went to after shark cage diving, only I did not discover the shallow caves at that time. Cliffs and mountains surround the beach, leaving pockets of shadowy breaks in the cliffs to retreat from the strong African sun. This was one of the most beautiful places I have visited thus far, but I, of course, have no photographic documentation.

My recent holiday leave from work has also allowed me time to explore during the week. Due to our time off, a friend from TSiBA was able to join me in an excursion down the Cape Peninsula to Kalk Bay. While exploring the quaint beach town, My friend was able to give me a local perspective about the current political state of the Congo. As a Congolese citizen, he is technically considered a refugee by the South African government, but his rights are hardly met. Refugees have an exceptionally hard time gaining work permits from the government. Even if these are obtained, the xenophobia in the country is pervasive, steadily fueling hatred and poverty. Fortunately and not that surprisingly, he and I were not met with any nasty xenophobic people in Kalk Bay. We walked by the eclectic shops and beach cafes in peace while enjoying the lovely view. On the way back to the city, he pointed out a woman sitting on the train in a dressy, traditional African garment. He said she was Congolese and she must be on her way to see an important person, like a doctor, due to the nature of her outfit.

Clifton is a dramatic change of scene to places like Strand, Muizenberg, or Gordon’s Bay. Beach 2 is almost all white and (not surprisingly) trendy and pretentious. However, my only experience at beach 4 was with TSiBA at our Staff Fun Day. My cheery coworkers were the most enjoyable company while we played games and ate “Kentucky” (KFC) under the shade of umbrellas. While eating, Cindy and I watched workers clean up the seaweed, making the beach spotless. She commented that the act was racist since the “black beaches” were not cleaned like that. I am inclined to believe that the issue is more complex than it seems, however, Cindy’s opinion is very relevant and valid through her experience as a local from the Gugulethu community. Fianlly, her opinion rings true for me in regards to my experiences so far.

Clifton Beach 4

Lion’s Head

Linda, Lindelwa, and Tyson at TSiBA Staff Fun Day

Ignition Centre manager, Abe. I started the tradition of singing “Abie started the fireeeeeeeee” whenever our group won a game

Cindy and I took shelter from the harsh rays under the umbrella

[1] The conversion rate is usually 1 USD to 8 ZAR

Mango Groove and Matriculation

Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens

During a Thanksgiving celebration, I met some Capetonians who pointed me in the direction of a local tradition. In the summer, the Kristenbosch botanical gardens come alive. Every Sunday, people pour into the gardens for a picnic and a concert. This Sunday was no different, except my friend Hannah and I decided to join the crowd.

Hannah and I in the Mango Groove crowd

We made a day out of the event and arrived early for a picnic. Thanks to Hannah’s delicious contributions, we enjoyed a salad, fruit salad, and sandwiches containing salmon, cheese and avocadoes. To create space for our plethora of food, Hannnah and I (slightly awkwardly) sat in the middle of the meadow. After a time, people started sitting next to us. Finally, we noticed that random groups of people had created a line of picnics in front and behind of us. While surrounded, a group of concert-goers approached us as asked us which end was the beginning of the queue. Apparently, these South Africans did not know what to do with our random picnic placements and they just assumed that we had created the line for gate and crowded around us.

People awkwardly creating a line around us

Our unintentional picnic placement got us prime seats for the concert, allowing us to save room for nine other friends. After enjoying delicious food, incredible wine, and lovely company, we were finally able to enjoy the sounds of the classic South African band, Mango Groove. I don’t have much frame of reference to be able to describe their music, but what others told me is that they are a fusion of township jazz with Afrikaans vocals. Apart from their sound, the vibe of the band reminded me of a South African version of Wham.

Mango Groove

Mango Groove is only one of the many ways music pervades the South African culture. In many different communities, music is not only present, but also a central part of traditions and activities. On Tuesday, I joined Abe and Cindy, members of TSiBA’s Ignition Centre, to attend an Ekasi Academy matric (graduation) in Khayelitsha. The word “ekasi” translates from Xhosa[1] as “township,” identifying the Academy as a place of learning for township community members. Cindy is the TSiBA lecturer for accelerated classes at the Ekasi Academy and she teaches courses like Business Essentials, Business Plan Writing, and Financial Management. December 5 marked a significant day in the lives of several students as they crossed the graduation stage.

Ekasi Academy and Silulo Ulutho Technologies matriculation

The ceremony was far different than any graduation I have attended because the graduates, their friends, and their family all seemed to actually want to be there. Let me clarify by adding that most American students are glad to finally graduate and their loved ones almost always want to experience that moment with them; however, the ceremony itself is usually an event I would only take someone to if I wanted to punish them. Most graduations are long, drawn out occasions that mostly consist of attendees waiting for the 30 seconds of recognition the graduate receives by walking across the stage.

A former student speaking to the new matrics

The Ekasi Academy graduation was an entirely different matter. The ceremony was prolonged before and after each speaker when the graduates would burst into mighty unison of Xhosa melody, singing in honor of the guests. The sporadic singing continued throughout the program for the people the crowd recognized. Before my manager, Abe’s turn to speak, he leaned to Cindy and asked, “Who is going to sing for me?” Cindy replied, “Lindsey I guess,” then they both died laughing. They know me well.

True to their name, the Heavenly Quartet

After Abe’s motivational speech, a traditional Xhosa choir sang several pieces before a local band called the Heavenly Quartet came on stage. The four men sang with such soul, humor, and passion, that the crowd remained standing and danced along to the songs (not that the crowd did not do that most of the time anyways). After Cindy gave certificates to her graduates, we left the ceremony early since it was guaranteed to last for several hours longer. While making our clandestine exit, a couple people rushed us with muffins and cans of juice to take with us.

Traditional Xhosa Choir

Hospitality was also prevalent throughout the event while members from the community, Ekasi Academy, and Silulo Ulutho Technologies welcomed our Ignition Centre team. The entire event was coordinated by one of TSiBA’s key partners and facilitator of the Ekasi Academy, Silulo Ulutho Technologies. Luvuyo Rani, one of the organization’s founders, originally created the company to sell affordable computers to disadvantaged communities. After an unsuccessful trial, he realized that the venture needed to also educate the market about how to use the computers he was selling. This lead to the creation of e-cafes and computer training classes all over the Western Cape, later forming the large crowd of graduates I met on Tuesday. The graduation lasted for two days in order to properly recognize and appreciate each member of the graduation and their stakeholders.

Luvuyo Rani, a founder of Silulo Ulutho Technologies


[1] Xhosa is the language of the Xhosa people. During apartheid, almost all of the Xhosa people suffered horrific oppression, cruelty, and violence whether individuals passively accepted their degradation or if they fought for their rights and dignity. Townships, like Khayelitsha, are products of the inhumane, white supremacist government that displaced people in areas according to race. However, the continuation of townships post-apartheid remains a complex issue as many members choose to stay in informal settlements.

Initial Thoughts on Race and Wealth in Relation to Markets

If so inclined, a Capetonian could visit a food and craft market almost every day of the week. Each market has a slightly different ambiance reflecting its neighborhood or customers. However, I have found that the local markets that I hear about and visit are overwhelming white and hipster. From industrial Salt River to the winelands of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, I stumble upon similar vendors and hip consumers. Race and ethnicity issues are inescapable in every part of South African culture, but today the market culture is what causes me to pause and ponder. What follows are the questions:

Am I unobservant? Are minorities more present than I can detect? Are most of the white people at the markets South African? Would I be at different markets if I was of a different race, nationality, or ethnicity? Why are black, coloured, Indian, and other races/ethnicity/nationalities not represented as much as white South Africans at these markets? Is there a greater number of white South Africans living in the market neighborhood? Is race closely tied to ethnicity, generating different cultural preferences and/or is there a disparity of wealthy and disposable income between races and ethnicity?

What I am left with are generalizations, incomplete answers, and an absence of many other important questions I have yet to recognize. I have been a Cape Town resident for only two months and have not conducted or studied formal research to give me the authority to answer such questions, but I will give an unofficial, uninformed, and limited opinion from my initial observations, readings, and discussions with South Africans.

The segregation of races during apartheid left strong community bonds, leaving individuals with close ties to their ethnic heritage. Each of these cultures has different preferences and these preferences sometimes do not overlap with other communities. Also, similar to the oppression of racial minorities in the United States through slavery and segregation, the abolition of apartheid left the country with unresolved disparities of wealth between a significant ratio of affluent White South Africans and deprived black, coloured, and Indian South Africans. The country with the greatest disparity between the wealthy and the poor usually falls to either Brazil or South Africa and most of the wealth in South Africa lies in the hands of the racial minority—white South Africans.  Therefore, while the population of white South Africans is much smaller than other races, white South Africans are much more likely to have extensive disposable incomes.

However, there seems to be a shift. More communities are slowly integrating, and educational and professional institutions have started to fuse cultures. While there is not a majority of black, coloured, and Indian races at the markets I have attended, there is still at least a marginal mixture of races.

While vendors may slightly vary in relation to demographics and goods, what remain consistent are the five basic components: food, alcoholic beverage, clothing/accessories, home goods, and farmers’ market. These components are found at almost every market I have attended so far. The markets gain personalities, however, according to location. In Stellenbosh, I have visited a night market and a slow market. Both descriptions are fairly straight forward, but for those of you unfamiliar of the concept of a slow market or slow food, it is not literally slow. Instead, it is an attempt to buy goods local through ethical production and distribution. The night I visited the slow market it was actually Christmas and holiday themed, which seemed so odd during 70 degree weather. This market was mostly food, but my new friends Jen and Nthabi split a bottle of champagne with me as we explored the different booths.

I also indulged myself with a glass of sparkling wine filled with pomegranate pieces from the Old Biscuit Mill market in Salt River. The area is fairly industrial other than some residential streets far from grocery stores. I know that this area is nearly a food desert because another intern Rachel and I are looking for flats all over the city and ruled out Salt River due to its distance from restaurants and grocery stores. Old Biscuit Mill is a market in a literal old mill every Saturday morning, and it is full of trendy fedoras, mint lemonade sold in mason jars, and hay stacks to sit on. Every time we walk through the stores, Rachel points out the millions of clothes and jewelry that have hip birds designs, and she cites the Portlandia reference of “Put a Bird on It,” suggesting that you can up-sale anything to hipsters if the item has birds on it.

Apparently this Saturday, we missed the Champagne festival in Franschhoek, but luckily I had already visited the city and the market before. The quaint town lies in a valley between two magnificent mountain ranges, protecting it from the infamous wind of Cape Town. This creates a perfect habitat for wine farming. Other than the local wine, the village attracts an international crowd through its chocolate factory and Saturday market. This market had far more touristy goods including beaded animal figurines, animals made from aluminum cans, and wires constructed into the shapes of famous South Africans.

At a monthly Sunday market in Observatory, I also found similar food to what I had tasted at other markets. Cupcakes, fancy cheese, and curries are always easy to find at such ventures. However, this location seemed much more open and the crowd was possibly more of a laid back, local scene. It was also much more family oriented with a bounce house for children. I went to this market with a new local friend who moved to Cape Town from the US seven years ago. Ashley works in drug rehabilitation in the neighborhood and invited me to come with her friend Nicole. A girl named Penny also came with them. While exploring the market, Penny proposed one of the funniest protest ideas I had ever heard. While sitting at the market, Penny looks over to the golf course and says, “I think gold courses are the biggest waste of space. We should tear them all down and create more houses.” Ashley, Nicole, and I laughed at her dramatic idea. Ashley said, “What if the people who golf there are volunteer doctors who work in (the township) Khayelitsha, and need to let out their stress by golfing?” Penny said she did not care, she thought we should burn them down and the people from Khayelitsha should take their shacks and rebuild them on the golf course. While Penny raises a valid point about serious housing issues in townships, it was a very dramatic, random, humorous, and slightly misleading plan to burn golf courses to solve South Africa’s housing problems. It is unusual and obscure to hear someone finding golfers as the scapegoat to blame in complex, residential disputes.

The City Bowl Market at Hope Street is the only other market (of many others) that I have visited thus far. It is essentially a shrunken version of the Old Biscuit Mill market only closer and with more live, nineties music. Almost every Thursday night you can find a Connect 123 participant buying cupcakes from the popular gourmet cupcake vendor.

Other markets that are on my list to visit are Green Point, Hout Bay, Muizenberg, and St. George’s Mall organic fair. After hearing short descriptions of these places, maybe you can see how I have rarely had time to long for or miss the familiar Belmont hipster. It is a funny subculture that I cannot seem to escape or truly wish to. The international and South African trendy market-goers remind me of a version of home, and for that I have little to complain.

Sixto Rodrigeuz

During the apartheid years, the nation of South Africa was segregated, censored, and oppressed. Coloured and Black Africans were disenfranchised from society and displaced from their homes. The majority of the white culture remained in positions of power and prosperity. However, Antjie Krog’s description of politics in the book Country of My Skull illustrates that political ideologies are much more complicated than supporting or dissenting apartheid. Similar to politics in the States, there are many people who fall somewhere in between rejecting and supporting apartheid.

Wednesday I learned that during the dark years of apartheid, you could walk into the house of many white, liberal families’ homes and find a collection of music that was rebellious in a conservative South Africa. According to the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, three popular artists in the liberal community were the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Rodrigeuz. The irony is that while Rodrigeuz never was popular in his home country of the United States, he was wildly popular in South Africa. In a country of 40 million people, Rodrigeuz sold at least half a million albums in South Africa (excluding the immeasurable black market albums that sold during periods of censorship).

Due to filtered and misinformed news, the country of South Africa thought Rodrigeuz committed suicide. Searching for Sugar Man is the story of South African Rodrigeuz fans who wanted to know more about their favorite, mysterious musician. Through their investigation, they discovered that Sixto Rodrigeuz was in fact alive and well. He was an American artist who never knew of his fame in South Africa and worked in manual labor to support his simple life in Detroit. Rogdrigeuz played a sold out tour in South Africa and has now been here several times since his resurrection. His music reminds me most of Bob Dylan with his voice, style, and lyrics that resonate with a community fighting for love in a hateful world. See below to hear one of my favorite Rodrigeuz songs.

Crucify Your Mind

A Different Type of Gratitude

November is looking to be a month full of celebrations. So far, I have managed to turn 23, successfully survive a Great White shark cage dive, understand most South African accents, and achieve lung-disease-free X-rays! While my calendar lists Thanksgiving around the corner, I did not need the holiday’s close proximity to reminded me of the people, places, and possessions most dear to me.

My stay has not been without illness or sadness so far, but my misfortunes have been eclipsed by the immense kindness, hospitality, and love sent from overseas and throughout the streets of Cape Town. When I was flying from Knoxville to DC, coughing was so ferociously that fellow passenger gave me her unopened bottle of water and a fresh pack of gum to get me through the next 33 hours of traveling. I was still coughing by the time that I reached Cape Town and woke up my poor, new roommate in the middle of the night. She helped me to navigate my new kitchen and make tea, bringing me salvation. Moments like that have helped me to heal physically and comfort me spiritually. I am constantly reassured that there are good people everywhere. Although, my bumpy start prevented me from engaging with others in the beginning, I have found plenty of kindred spirits to share joyful moments.

Now, I am much healthier, but my cough is lingering. I will have an entirely separate post for you to describe the delightful South African healthcare experience. You may think that if American doctors cannot heal my bronchitis in a month, then there is no hope for my cure. However, I will assure you that from appearances at least, South African physicians are providing to be more thorough. Also, I now know the ins and outs of international medical insurance (don’t even bother… it’s a rip off unless you have an absurd emergency outside of the UK). I will visit the doctor again on Wednesday to hopefully put an end to this three month long plague. The moral of the story? American healthcare is overrated.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Igniting Opportunities”

While packing for South Africa, I had difficulty selecting clothes would be the most appropriate for Cape Town climate and culture. My main solution was to pray and pack a vast variety of outfits. While I am far from dressing like a Capetonian, my clothing fit well with my recreational and work activities. The business casual atmosphere of my work placement made my packing selection even easier since I have been able to wear the same clothes for work and social settings.

One of many indicators that I was at the right place

However, my placement at TSiBA has been appropriate for far more significant reasons than closet compatibility. The Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) is pronounced the same as a Xhosa word meaning “to jump.” (This is the language of the Xhosa people, who make up a large percentage of the Cape Town population.) The school provides Bachelors of Business Administration degrees and majors in entrepreneurship very similar to my own. Instead of paying tuition, the school raises funds for the students and they earn their degree by completing community service in replace of their fees. This allows more students from low income communities to receive the same privileges of affluent scholars. TSiBA’s curriculum is demonstrably successful, shown by its production of five Mandela Rhodes scholars for the previous five years (similar to a Rhodes Scholar in the States).

Sonja’s desk, the gateway to the Ignition Centre

My position resides in the TSiBA Ignition Centre which is home for all entrepreneurial activities and the mission to “ignite opportunities.” The Centre manages the academic curriculum for the entrepreneurship major as well as the Centre’s members, consisting of entrepreneurs from the local community. As Director of the Centre, Mr. Oliver manages the program activities, Ms. Hagins works as the Coordinator of the Centre, wearing many hats, and Ms.Krawe is in charge of growing the Ekasi Academy program. Ekasi students are entrepreneurs in the township Khayelitsha, who take Accelerator Venture courses to develop their enterprise ideas. I support these individuals and the Centre’s program activities as the Ignition Centre intern. The Ignition Centre’s culture is a happy fusion of warmth and professionalism, leaving me grateful and comfortable at TSiBA.

Cindy and My workspace. My desk is on the left and hers is straight ahead.

My assorted tasks have given me a diverse exposure to entrepreneurship in South Africa. The Centre is very mobile, allowing me to visit many of TSiBA’s partners and community events. The first trip I took out of the office was to Khayelitsha to listen to Ekasi students’ business pitches. This was my first week at work and my first encounter with life inside a township. To hear more about my experience, feel free to read the blog posts I wrote for TSiBA HERE (just look for my byline at the bottom of the last four articles). Along with this post, you will find three other post describing my trip to Cape Peninsula University of Technology CPUT), and my observations of student business pitches.

Abe captured in his creative environment

Apart from those events, my other external visit was with a well established micro-lending firm in the City Bowl. While it is early to discuss many of the details from the meeting, I can say that it went so well that I received two chocolate chip muffins and an orange juice carton to celebrate the success of our team. Since the meeting I have created a Prezi and an excel spreadsheet, further defining the potential start of a new partnership.


Stay tuned to hear if I receive a third muffin for my work...

Encountering the African Outdoors

Camps Bay

After a month of living in Cape Town, I am proud to say that I have discovered how to download pictures from my iPhone to my computer. Yes, this should not have been a difficult feat, and yes I have my degree. This has been an unexpected technology struggle since I assumed that my iPhone would receive internet reception. Also, I thought I packed my camera, and was disappointed to find that I left it in Knoxville. However, I have managed to document some of my favorite moments in South Africa so far, three of which being an excursion with TSiBA’s SIFE students to Muizenberg beach, sea kayaking with whales in Hermanus, and a sunset hike on Lion’s Head Mountain.

I cannot provide photo documentation of Muizenberg yet, but all you need to know about it trip is that I imagined it as an African version of Rent‘s “Sante Fe.” For the 45 minute ride to the beach, the SIFE team sungand danced all throughout the train. Of course, they tried and failed to teach me Xhosa songs, but they died laughing when I gave my white, American imitation of their choreography. Many of the students live in the township Khayelitsha, so we rode third class, rather than Metro Plus during our commute to save money. On the return trip, I learned why I always traveled first class—we were smashed together so tightly in the crowded train, that we literally could not move at all. Regardless of the momentary discomfort, the team building trip helped me understand the dynamics of the SIFE team.

Fellow Connect interns kayaking

The next day I went with eighteen of the other Connect interns to Hermanus. We spent two hours sea kayaking in one of the best coastal cities known for whale watching. As we paddled, we saw at least five whales and a curious baby whale followed after the group at one point. Apart from the whales and a delicious cup of gelato, my favorite aspects of Hermanus were the picturesque mountains, bays, and cliffs scattered all around the city.

Hiking Lion’s Head at sunset

The night after my trip to Hermanus was October’s full moon and therefore the night of a monthly hiking event to the top of Lion’s Head Mountain. I found the hike to be much easier than the first time I attempted it and the sunset and moonrise completely transformed the city sights surrounding the mountain. I think I have found a new tradition. Below I will post pictures from Lion’s Head, so you can finally see what my new home looks like.

The City Bowl, where my apartment is located


Signal Hill

Local Immersion

From my interactions so far, I have a feeling that South Africans are my kind of people. I have already attended a baby shower, a matriculation send off party (pre prom party with friends and family if you will), confirmation party, coloured church service, my first braai (South Africa barbeque), and a staff bowling party. At first I thought it was a coincidence that I have attended so many local celebrations in such a short time, but I have come to realize that South Africans take the time to celebrate most life experiences. Kindred spirits.

As soon I arrived to Cape Town I have intentionally sought a deeper, local experience, rather than the less enriched, but enjoyable life of a tourist. Inevitably, I will always be some form of a tourist, but these celebrations have allowed me to venture further into the Capetonian life. So far, I have visited Khayelitsha, Bellville, Bonteheuwel, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Stellenboch, and the Pinelands. My explorations into Cape Town’s townships and suburbs are thanks to two local sources: my co-workers at TSiBA and my new friend Cathy Arendse.

The one and only Cathy Arendse

TSiBA or Tertiary School in Business Administration is my first internship placement in business consulting. The placement is compatible with my business degree in entrepreneurship since I work in TSiBA’s Ignition (entrepreneurship) Centre. It was at TSiBA that I first realized how much South Africans value greetings and appreciation.

TSiBA’s cottage where entrepreneurship magic happens

On my third day, the entire staff came together for a meeting. To recognize staff birthdays and weddings, the organization gave a massage gift card and wedding gifts. Even more significant, however, were the words of appreciation several staff members said about the birthday girl and the groom. South Africans even have a tradition of having married friends give advice to the new bride or groom. Since none of these individuals were particularly chatty that day, I was put on a spot to give the groom advice on his new marriage. Needless to say, I politely declined due to a lack of wisdom to pass on.

My friendship with Cathy, however, was not through my internship program. Since Cathy was introduced to me from a friend of a friend, I decided to stay with her in Strand last weekend. She and her husband William are extraordinarily generous people and they invited me to attend their church where William is pastor.

Cathy and me at Gordon’s Bay

Not long ago, Cathy earned a yearlong Humphrey Scholarship through the Fulbright Commission and the U.S. Department of State to study improvements in the workplace for people with physical disabilities at Vanderbilt University. While she was living in Nashville, Cathy took the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the U.S., making her easily relatable and understanding of the social context I bring to South Africa.

Through these people, places, and events, I am starting to better understand the place I call home this year.

A New Normal

Apparently large consumption of South Africa’s Rooibos tea will lead to slight discoloration of the consumer’s teeth; at least this is my finding so far. I am still recovering from a nasty batch of bronchitis, so hot, delicious, and inexpensive tea has been one of my frequent remedies.

Along with an increase in tea consumption, I am attempting to integrate other healthy rituals into my routine in Cape Town. I read and write nearly every day, but I try to save my half-hour long train commutes for enjoying the scenery and interacting with fellow passengers. Also, most days I try to find an excuse to interject ‘cheers’ into casual conversation (my success is fifty-fifty).

Thus far I have been very fortunate to meet lovely people, move into a conveniently-located flat, enjoy the first week of work at my new internship, and explore several regions and communities in Cape Town. My second night in South Africa I went to Margarita Night at a local cantina with the other Connect-123 interns and met many kindred spirits. This past Saturday, several of the interns and I attended a Pinotage on Tap event at a local vineyard called Diemersfontien. Along with delicious picnic food and wine, we dipped strawberries into a chocolate fountain and enjoyed music by Goodluck.

Pinotage on Tap

While this was a wonderful way to start my stay, my favorite outing with interns has been a hike on Lion’s Head Mountain. The fierce winds of Cape Town let up enough for us to enjoy the sights; African wildflowers are vibrant shades of violet, gold, and cream against a panoramic view of waterfront, urban city, and mountains.

Another intern here for a year, Rachel Cohen.

On the cab ride back to our apartments, we noticed that our cab driver had a bandage on his hand and asked if he was alright. He nonchalantly said he was fine; he just sliced his hand while trimming his fingernails with a razor blade before he picked us up.

For so many reasons, this country will never cease to amaze me.

My home for the next year

An Ambitious Start?

A midflight stop in Dakar, FBI background check, and chest x-ray are only few of many delightful surprises I have encountered while preparing and traveling to live in South Africa. Truthfully, none of these experiences should have been unexpected, but the convoluted world of international travel makes me understand why travel agents are so popular. Nonetheless, ample planning time and helpful tips have minimized my moving stress significantly. My stingy flight choices have also added to my relaxation as I have about nine more hours before I need to board my plane in DC. Luckily, I have Mumford and Sons, Ben Folds Five and Google Voice to keep me entertained.

I’m waiting until I start my internship placement with TSIBA before I establish work related expectations. However, from talking to several South Africa visitors and a few residents, I have a fairly clear idea of what my to-do list should look like:

-go to rugby and soccer games with locals

-stay a night in a township

-give Nelson Mandela a highfive

-travel throughout South Africa and to neighboring countries

-learn helpful phrases from Afrikaans and Xhosa languages

-fall in love with a man who dances like Michael Jackson then coordinate
magical choreography like in “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” but to “Waka Waka”

-tickle a penguin (

-get on “Shark Week,” but not for being eaten

-befriend a Kiwi and holiday in New Zealand

-spend Christmas dinner with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

-go horseback riding on a safari

-Spread the love for Dolly Parton all over the continent

-Casually find and befriend Peter Storey while talking about our mutual friend, Judy Parks

-learn to discern the difference between blog material and inner dialogue

-all while avoiding a first world lifestyle (this I failed before I finished packing)

Completely achievable in a year, right? More to come on my actual experience and obtainable/project related/sincere goals if I survive this layover and make it to Cape Town…