Category Archives: South Africa

Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) — Afro House King

My first trip to Johannesburg was in June 2014. I was able to travel from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg because when I first arrived in South Africa in January 2014 I got bumped from my SAA flight to PE. At that time I received a voucher for a round-trip flight from PE to Joburg for my trouble. I didn’t know what I would do in Johannesburg on my own because my university had done a terrific job of terrifying us of South Africa in general and Johannesburg more specifically.  Then, the US Embassy hosted a cooperative arts event between African American artists and South African artists and the theme was dealing with race in art. The Embassy held a contest on Facebook to give away tickets to this event. I entered and won! So, now I had a reason to go to Johannesburg coupled with the means to make the trip.

The next step I needed to take was to find a place to stay. I started searching through social media and found Curiocity Backpackers, which had just opened up for the summer travel season in December 2013.  I contacted Curiocity first through Instagram and then through their website. I was worried that this wasn’t a “real” place to stay, meaning that it wasn’t going to be nice or safe. I was able to book a very affordable room (approx. $19 USD/night) and I was able to pre-book transportation from the airport to the backpackers.

At this time Maboneng was just a fledgling community compared to how you find it today. But some of the anchors were already there like Shap Braai, Pata Pata, and Arts on Main. Another anchor that was present in Maboneng was the private security. When I arrived at Curiocity I was told that “at any time you don’t feel safe the security guards will walk with you.”

I took advantage of being in Johannesburg and didn’t just hideout waiting for my event at the embassy. I took a walking tour of the Central Business District (CBD), chatted with other travelers at the backpackers and arranged to go out with a few of them, and I really enjoyed the street vibe of Arts on Main. It was exhilarating to be here, in this city, and traveling/ discovering this place for myself and by myself.

One of the many things that I love about backpackers is that even when you are traveling by yourself, you are never really alone. Other people are traveling by themselves and you just decide to do something together. Additionally, backpackers hold events which allow guests to interact with each other and creates a sense of community within the hostel. In 2014, they were hosting different types of musicians at the backpackers. My first night there it was a punk band, but on Sunday it was much more chill with an unsigned singer/songwriter Msaki. I instantly fell in love with her voice and bought several of her CDs, one to keep and several to gift.

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Then, I added her as a friend on Facebook and follwed her on Instagram. I have really enjoyed seeing her succeed and bloom as an artist. Now, this Saturday, four and a half years after seeing her perform at the backpackers, I will get to see her on stage in front of thousands as she performs with The Real Black Coffee at his Music is King Festival!

I adore their new single and I am beyond stoked for Saturday!

Black Coffee’s Wish You Were Here is one of the major music from his new EP “Music is King“. “Wish You Were Here” featuring Msaki is already Buzzing all over the country and World. Check out this House masterpiece by Black Coffee. MUSIC: Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) FORMAT: Mp3 QUALITY: 224 Kbps […]

via Black Coffee – Wish You Were Here (feat. Msaki) — Afro House King

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My heavy heart

I met with my students today for January’s study abroad. They are a small, but mighty group and I look forward to the ways they will challenge me as an instructor. One of the first tasks they do for the course is to create their blog. Then I follow them as a way to keep up with their writing throughout the study abroad program. Well, when I was connecting to their blog I had mine up and started scrolling through my posts.
I ran across this one and I’m about in the same place as I was in 2014 when I wrote it. I’m trying really hard to focus on all that I’ve had here. I’ve had amazing experiences that have enriched me in ways that I could not have imagined when I left the US back in July. I feel like my pedagogy has grown roots that now reach deep into the ground.
I have been trying to appreciate my time here, especially as it got down to the last 30 days in this apartment. I’m about to head back to the US for Christmas and then back here to teach my study abroad. My time here, in this place, in this way is about to come to an end. However, I do not want my relationship with Johannesburg or South Africa to come to an end. I don’t know how it will develop in the future, but I refuse to use the metaphor of an ex. I almost started to use that metaphor today since I have so often used the metaphor of a relationship to describe how I feel about South Africa and Jozi more specifically. Sometimes, I suppose, there is no clear metaphorical equivalency that helps other people understand. How can there be? I am not clear on this myself. The only metaphor that has ever really made sense to me is love. I deeply love this place, this city. Love is a complicated thing. So, we will go back to having a long-distance relationship when I leave at the end of January. Still, the relationship between us will exist and live into the future.

Star Thrower

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As I get ready to leave South Africa my time could quite easily be consumed with marking a list of lasts.  But then I would forget to marvel in the beauty that each new day brings. I keep thinking that this is a bittersweet moment. However, today I had a realization, my heart is not heavy from sadness. On the contrary, I leave South Africa with my soul opened, a wealth of new experiences, and friends. My heart is heavy with love.

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Travel as rhetorical listening

I firmly believe that travel itself can be an act of rhetorical listening. Listening to the questions people ask you about yourself and your home country. Listening to what people reveal about themselves. And listening to the the culture as a whole when you travel.

Last night I heard a news report about the advertising awards and the winner of the gold prize was a radio advertisement for the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. I had to hear this advertisement several times to really process and listen to the message that was being conveyed.

Now, in an award-winning advertisement for the Apartheid Museum, called “Verwoerd”, Trump’s words have been cut together with H.F. Verwoerd, known as the “Architect of Apartheid”.

Hearing the audio clips back-to-back is jarring, but it does provide some new context for Trump’s words and actions that he has taken since becoming president. There is a part in the add that I think is supposed to be Trump that doesn’t sound like him and I’ve never heard that clip anywhere else. However, I think it does speak volumes to how this US president is perceived abroad and provides an interesting point of discussion for students who are learning about South Africa, but also America through another country’s eyes.


Reccomend One Book

My sister sent me an interesting article of book reccomendations from 22 Ambassadors to the United States from various countries. The premise of the piece was for the ambassadors to reccomendone book everyone should read before visiting their country [click here for the article].

Of course as a lecturer, I assign required reading all of the time. Additionally, as someone who teaches a study abroad program, I do require students to do quite a bit of reading before getting to South Africa. However, if I was going to reccomend a single book that everyone should read before visiting South Africa it would be Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (2016). born-a-crimeNoah’s ability to tell his personal story while at the same time teaching the reader about South Africa’s complicated history, makes this book a great read. For an extra treat, get the audio version of the book because its read by Noah himself.

 

What one book would you reccomend for people to read before visiting your country? Either your home country or the country you currently live in?


Breathless Wednesday

On WordPress some blogs do “Wordless Wednesday” and I’ve made a few of those posts. I’ve posted up videos or pictures that could stand on their own.

However, today I’m overwhelmed by words and a myriad of thoughts, but I find my heart skipping a beat and my breath catching. I’m in the edge of my next adventure, headed into the great wide-open of life.

This next academic year is (hopefully) my last. I’m headed to South Africa for fall semester to write my dissertation, I’ve imaged it as a semester’s Long writing retreat. Then spring semester I defend and graduate. Each next step has an outline of a plan, but no definite next steps because I want to remain open to all of the possibilities available to me. It’s exhilarating and a bit scary.

But it also feels right. Time to see what the universe has in store!


2019 Study Abroad Promo

I’m excited for the Winter 2019 study abroad program! The planning for this program is in full force and the program is completely re-vamped from the first two years. This video was made from pictures I took on the 2017 and 2018 programs.


IAD->JFK->AMS->JNB

Cheap tickets can be quite the adventure. I’m taking the long way down to South Africa this time, but the point is that I’m headed back. This trip is an amuse bouche for my longer stay.

This year has felt a little like a dream, but one where I’m conscious writing the lines and designing the plot. I’ve become a bit cautious writing my ideas in my journals because it feels a bit like witchcraft. Me writing down my ideas and dreams, the ink flowing off the page into my life.

Ten years out from one of the most consequential years of my life, it’s hard not to take notice. So many times this year I have been taken aback at how my life has changed over the past ten years.

Ten years ago I was desperate for meaning as each month seemed to break another piece of me off. Life was changing me…

“I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.”

I’m not going to recount all of the details of that year because I can’t fully. The year left marks, impressions, but its cloudy and I cannot see it clearly anymore. Nor, do I want to. I came through, so I didn’t have to be there anymore.

I about to head to the airport…My bags are packed. Items on my “To do” lists are crossed off. The playlists created. Time to take a deep breath and see what the second half of 2018 will do.


Curation or Creeping Africanism (Orientalism)

A few days ago I read a blog post called The weird questions I get asked about Africa. The post was written by a young Ghanian who (rightfully so) was at a boiling point for ignorant questions about the continent. She’s developed a little trick when talking to people about Ghana or Africa more generally. After tiring of explaining from the start she is from a country in West Africa named Ghana etc. She now has a tactic of

“when someone asks where I am from, i just say Africa. Whilst some people are content with it, others who appear to be learned will then ask which country in Africa, then i smile and know, i can actually have a conversation with this one, cause basically who wants to keep explaining themselves over things which are easy to come across on the internet when you really what to know”.

Who wants to be a constant Wikipedia page for people?

Back in January I ran into more Americans my first weekend in Johannesburg than I ever have before. I’m sure that’ll keep happening because AfroPunk now has a festival in South Africa. But  I kept getting asked about “traditions” and in my head I’m thinking, “Um, people are just living their lives. Not everything you see is ‘an old ethnic tradition'”. For me it was a good reminder before I met my students that I need to be mindful of the exoctification of Africa. Its the difference of traveling and helping my students mindfully learn about South Africa, from a place of identification and closeness. I think its a delicate balance because in order to do that students need to be uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable that they shut down.

One of the many pieces I have my students read is “Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic'”, that examines this idea of how global-localization has changed the very idea of what it means to be in a place. But this is the new and authentic reality people everywhere are struggling with and against. So often I’ve found that people’s idea of “authentic” is actually finding experiences that match their preconceived notions of a place. This past year I tried to push against that notion each time my students mentioned that visiting a township was ‘real South Africa’. The next program I’m designing has more space for me to facilitate those conversations throughout their time within the country. I want to try and disrupt their ideas of who and what South Africa is and keeping them engaged throughout the entire program.

I want students to understand, even if it is only in matters of degrees, that South Africa is every bit as complicated and complex as the United States, Virginia, or even their university. As Taiye Selasi argued in her fantastic TED talk [click here] you may say that you are from the United States of America, but does anyone really have a relationship with the United States, all 50 of them? Our experiences are local, specific, and more complicated than we remember.

short-travel-quotes

I would love to hear from other study abroad instructors how how to keep students engaged in these difficult “in between” spaces. Any thoughts, writing prompts? or suggested readings would be greatly appreciated!


Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag

In Just over two weeks I’m headed back to South Africa and Botswana. I’m going to be in Johannesburg for just over a week and I’m spending six days in Gaborone, Botswana for a conference. I’m excited to go, but wanted to go as a single-bag traveler this time, just a backpack and my a purse. Traveling light will make transitioning between four different accommodations in 2.5 weeks much easier.

A couple of years ago, when I traveled to this same conference and then took time to explore Namibia and visit friends in Johannesburg, I went through several backpacks before I settled on a backpack from Tortuga. I really liked that pack and was able to carry enough in it to look professional at my conference and comfortable through the Namib desert. However, there were several drawbacks of that bag. First, it was a little too tall. If I was six feet tall the bag would have been perfectly proportioned, but as it was it was awkward for me to carry. Second, it didn’t have any weather proofing on it. So, I needed to scout out a new bag. I went back to Tortuga and went all in on a bundle they had, which I promptly returned.

Next, I went down the YouTube rabbit hole of professional bag reviewers. (Who knew that was a thing). Then I went to a meeting where someone had a new Eagle Creek bag. And I thought, I should check out the products on their web site. So, I watched videos, looked up reviews on Amazon, and watched videos on how they designed their various bags. After much research and obsessing, I decided on the Gear Hauler. As soon as I unboxed the bag, I was excited to use it. Thankfully, I had a week-long trip just a couple of days away to give the bag a test run.

Here is an inventory of all that I was able to pack in my bag:

  • Five pairs of workout leggings
  • Five workout tops
  • Two pairs of somewhat bulky shoes
  • Five dresses
  • Umbrella
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Socks, underwear, and hose for five days
  • Sports bra
  • Daily wear bra
  • Toiletries: conditioner, hair oil, deodorant, etc.

The bag was not overly heavy and I could have fit more! I cannot wait to use this bag for international travel. It will easily fit my laptop, adapters, and small notebooks. I’m planning on doing single-bag travel when I lead my next study abroad program too and this bag is perfect.


Going back to the country

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“Going back to the villiage”

Johannesburg is famously easy to navigate this time of year because people have traveled home for the extended holidays.  The Northern Virginia and D.C. metro areas experience this as well because so many people have moved there for work but are not from that area.  One of the Instgram accounts I follow posted a picture from Accra showing a taxi rank from before the holidays and during the holidays with a dramatic difference between the two photos. While this story is known and the proverb is widely accepted, there are other people who travel back to their country in this same spirit.

Yes, this is another blog post about people I met on the plane. Just like these previsous posts…this one from my second trip over [click here] and this one from last year’s trip [click here].

The first person I met was on the flight from D.C. to Atlanta.  We didn’t speak at first because he was busy texting before we took off. I figured He just wasn’t chatty and believe it or not I do try not to chat with people who aren’t interested in chatting.  But then he saw me sorting through my boarding passes and showed me his phone where he’d typed out his question for me asking me if I was going to Johannesburg. I pulled my phone out and we had a little chat.  He told me that he was going back to South Africa for his brother’s birthday. His brother is turning 50 and wanted to go back to South Africa, where they were born to celebrate.  He told me they left South Africa in 1989, but he didn’t elaborate from there and I didn’t ask. When we boarded the plane in Atalanta I was sitting close to his brother and the rest of his family.  I think all of the men in the family were deaf. I eventually caught his brother’s attention and wished him a happy birthday before we de-planed. I saw his brother from the back of the plane letting him know how I knew!

My seat mates from Atlanta to Johannesburg was a South African couple who had left  the country in 1988 because they were classified as Indian during the Apartheid government and did not have full opportunities and freedom.  They have dual citizenship as Canadians and South Africans and have been traveling back to South Africa since they left. They still have family here and now that they are both retired they can escape the unfogiving Canadian winter by traveling here during January and Febuary, which they told me they do every year. Toward the end of our flight we started a conversation about South Africa and why we were all going. They were facinated that I was bringing students from the United States to study social movements in South Africa.  Our conversation wound around various topics from Robert Kennedy’s 1966 visit to South Africa to Cyril Ramaphosa and the complications (baggage) that come with him, and his respect for Thabo Mbeki and regret that he was pushed out of the presidency by Zuma. He told me that he still has hope for South Africa, but that he doesn’t expect South Africa will reach its potential for 30 or more years.

These brief encounters gave me a different framing for travel at this time of year and for the type of travel my students are about to embark upon.

 


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