Third time is a charm.
I booked my tickets yesterday for my trip to South Africa and Botswana next month.
What’s one of the best perks of being a graduate student? Conferences! I know, I know. Conferences get a bad wrap sometimes, but I try to double down on my conference time. Fall semester I got to see Philadelphia for the first time and was blown away.
So, in this same vien-I’m presenting at a conference in Botswana and taking time to visit South Africa while I’m already on that side. The first time I went to South Africa was in 2013 and only for a week. The trip was nine days but a good chunk was traveling. We crammed a lot in during those nine days. Last year, I did an internship at NMMU in Port Elizabeth. I felt lucky each day I was there. Now, I’m going back! I’ll be there for almost a month. I’ll fly into Johannesburg and explore the city until the middle of the month when I go to Gaborone for the conference. After the conference I’ll go to Port Elizabeth for a week. When I leave PE I’ll fly to Johannesburg and back to the US.
Here’s a video compilation of our long trip back to Minnesota from Port Elizabeth. We flew from PE to Johannesburg. From Johannesburg we flew into Dulles (Washington, DC). Then we got a shuttle from Dulles to National Airport to avoid a 12-hour layover. Then from National we flew into Minneapolis.
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.
Small acts of kindness touch me because they are generally unshowy and genuine. I don’t mean that large gestures cannot also be genuine but sometimes it feels grandiose. Those acts seem more about the doer and not about the action. Over the past week I there have been many small acts of kindness people have shown me and I’m very grateful to them. There were a couple of combi drivers who gave me a free lift. One on the day it was raining which was really lovely. I think the clouds here have more water in them because even when it drizzles it seems like I get soaked! Another guy gave me a lift on Friday afternoon from campus to the gym. I had my bag packed for the gym but when leaving campus sometimes it is difficult to turn left towards the gym instead of right towards the hotel. Both of the drivers were guys that I knew from school trips. I guess the upside to getting car sick and not being able to ride with my friends in the back is that I now know about a 1/2 dozen drivers. They’re cool guys and I have learned a lot from each of them. Then Friday evening a group of us girls were walking back from dinner, in the rain, and a little too late when Stephanie accidentally flagged down one of the shuttle buses. He stopped and I ran over to ask if he could give us a lift. He totally could’ve just said “no” because that is normally not how they do things but he didn’t. He was kind and gave us a lift back to our accomodations. Then this evening I went to the student restaurant for dinner after laying down for a couple of hours waiting for the Goody’s Headache powder to kickin. When I finally got up and when down there the lady working there this evening asked me if I wanted chicken for dinner. I was a little confused at first because none of the food trays were empty. When I looked at the meat offerings, I definitely wanted chicken! I told her yes that I would like some and she went to the regular restaurant and brought some back for me. It went perfectly with the rice and squash. I was really moved. I’m sure there are many more incidents where people went out of their way that I am not even aware of but I thought I’d take a minute and share my gratitude.
Saturday night I went to a fundraiser at the Music Kitchen that was organized by a group of NMMU students as part their project for public relations class. They did an amazing job! The event rivaled other fundraisers I’ve been to hosted by professionals. They were raising money for Masifunde, a homework club in Walmer Township. The video gives you an overview of the history of the homework club and the township itself. I really enjoyed being out with a big mix of people, having a few ciders, an awesome burger, and totally chill music.
Today was a nice relaxing day. I slept in until 8:30 and got up slowly. Did a few pieces of laundry (at home it would’ve been a couple of loads not because I have that much laundry here but at home I can procrastinate), had coffee (one of my Woolworth’s purchases), and did a little writing. When I finally did get out of the hotel, I went to the gym for a couple of hours. Instead of taking a combi straight back to the hotel I walked down to the flea market. I’m glad I waited to buy souvenir from the flea market instead of buying them when I first got here. When we first got here there were still lots of tourists and so the starting price was much higher then as compared to now. I was specifically looking for a South Africa purse in George Mason’s school colors. And today I finally found it! I wanted a green bag with South Africa written in yellow. Perfect for fall semester!
When I got to the end of the market I decided to take a break and have lunch at Nando’s while I was at that end. Can I just say, that I’m really excited there is a Nando’s Chicken in D.C.! I’ll be able to get peri-peri sauce! It was a nice, light lunch, and delicious as always.
Nando’s features South African artists on their menus
I went back to the market for a couple of small items I’d scoped out earlier. Then caught a combi back to the hotel. I am about 95% sure that this was an illegal taxi. I found out on Friday from Shane, one of the drivers I know, that they are assigned their route on their taxi license. So, if a driver is on the route he is assigned he knows that route. If someone needs to go off the main route the drivers will take them and if they are slow for fares on a particular day or time they’ll go off the main roads to see if anyone needs a ride. Our student accommodations are within a working hotel and so it is not only students who take the combis to the hotel but also the hotel workers. All of the drivers who are supposed to be on this route know where to go when you say “Summer Inn.” I used to say “Summerstrand Hotel” but “Summer Inn” is what the workers call it and all of the drivers know this place. However, my driver today did not know “Summer Inn.” His helper also didn’t know what I was talking about and of course they didn’t turn down their music to hear me more clearly *smiles* The helper just said, “You can show us.” The process was made less complicated because the passenger in the front seat knew what I was talking about and was able to give the driver directions in Xhosa.
I can still see the poster neatly hung on the wall of my manager’s cubicle at American Express. It was in full color and showed a single daisy in a terracotta pot. However, my understanding of feedback has stayed rooted in corporate America’s space. In my mind thinking of feedback as a gift always felt as genuine as those uber motivational posters every business major had in their dorm rooms in the 1990s. Feedback in work never felt like a gift but rather it always felt judgmental and punitive. Feedback was given with performance reviews where you were told if you were going to get a raise or explained why you were not receiving one. Feedback in school is generally tied to a grade and also feels punitive. The feedback is an explanation of what you did wrong. I’ll also say that receiving feedback in school had its own problematic roots that I’ve already delved into a bit. So, neither experience (work or school) had positive roots for me when it came to receiving feedback as a gift. Until recently. Over the past five semesters I have worked in a writing center, four semesters at SCSU’s The Write Place and one semester here at NMMU’s Writing Centre. Through my immersion in the writing center culture, pedagogy, and practices I realized that feedback can be a gift. I asked two of the people I’m working with this semester at NMMU to read through my thesis chapters and give me feedback on what I had written. When they returned them to me with detailed comments I felt like I had been given a gift. I read through the comments carefully taking in what they had to say. They were deliberative and inquisitive and I processed each one individually. I have now been both a manager and a consultant in the writing center where I gave feedback to employees and students. I hope that as I move into the classroom I can help my students understand how to receive feedback but more importantly, I hope I can model a healthy manor to give feedback as an instructor.