When I first arrive at a field site and tell people I’ll be there for about two months, it always sounds like such a long time. But somehow I blink-- and I’ve already been in South Africa nearly a month!
My time here thus far has been good. From a research perspective, people have been incredibly open and helpful. I’ve managed to “jump in” a lot here, not just as a researcher but as a consultant and student mentor. For example, two weekends ago I joined a group of student service leaders on a leadership retreat (bed #24 was at our retreat site, about a 5 hour drive from Johannesburg). It was so fun to be able to be so hands on after what feels like a long hiatus from teaching. At this site, I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy the hands on parts of education, and how I need to be mindful of that in any post-doctorate career paths I pursue (I get asked at least five times a week what my next steps are). I’ve really enjoyed learning from the team of educators here (such inspiring people!) and the students have made me feel very welcome as well.
Johannesburg itself has been an interesting place to stay. I came here with low expectations, as I didn’t love this city the last time I visited. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. International media accentuates the gritty under belly of the city: carjackings, violent crime, etc. While safety is still certainly an issue in certain parts of the city, the suburb I have been staying in is quite safe. I can run in the neighborhood without fear. The bulk of my time on this continent has been in developing cities. Johannesburg, however, has nearly everything you might find in a major North American city—everything from seemingly endless grocery variety, to western goods, to live music, to variety of cuisines, to organic farms, to cover bands performing American 80’s music. Johnannesburg is quite an easy place to live (albeit a bit gated-suburbia and far too racially segregated for my taste).
All in all, I am looking forward to my last month or so in this part of the world. While I’ll be thrilled to have my own bed, pets, routines, car, etc. in just 6 weeks, the last 5 months have taught me so much! I continue to be incredibly grateful for all those that have enabled this journey to happen.