I’m closing in on five full days here in Cape Town, South Africa. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I’m well-traveled and, with that knowledge, let me tell you that this is one of the most gorgeous, captivating, and intriguing places I’ve encountered.
There’s a familiar smokiness in the air uncommon to urban settings in the U.S. and Europe but comforting to those who’ve known the subaltern. Dubbed “The Rainbow Nation” by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in the aftermath of apartheid, the people and culture are represented well by this title and I am fascinated not only by the lively mix of races, cultures, and languages but also by the pride South Africans take in this diversity–I only wish I could see more of this back home, U.S. of A.!
The physical setting of Cape Town is stunningly set around Table Mountain and between two bays of clear blue Atlantic Ocean. I must constantly remind myself to keep my eyes on the road while driving (on the left!) as they are frequently beckoned by the gorgeous land- and seascapes. Wintry July has lows in the 50s and highs in the high 60s/low 70s. Americans are not a common sight here in South Africa and I am continually (pleasantly) surprised when people ask me where I’m from rather than automatically peg me as an American. Handshakes are less common than Americans: South Africans seem comfortable simply to stand in mutual acknowledgment when making a new acquaintance and I’ve gotten more than my fair share of dead-fish hands when I reach out for a handshake and some don’t seem to know when to let go.
I’m very excited to be working with an award-winning HIV/AIDS treatment organization, Kheth’Impilo, that provides services throughout the Cape area. Next week looks to be an exciting, action-packed week of interviews in areas beyond the posh neighborhoods of central Cape Town. I am so grateful to so many who have made all this research possible, especially Dean Nancy Busch, Nicol Gotsis of Fordham’s GSAS, Michele Kuchera of Fordham’s IRB office, my advisor, Christine Firer Hinze and her spouse, Brad Hinze; the wonderful staff at the University of Pretoria including Dr. Antoinette Lombard, Dr. Charlene Carbonatto and Ms. Tracey Andrew, and Kheth’Impilo’s Dr. Eula Mothibi, Dr. Michael Phillips, Ms. Florence Madikane, and Ms. Frieda Kasper. I am continually reminded that the academy is a team effort and I am grateful for the many networks, including the Santander Summer Grants, that have made this effort possible. It is so exciting to be a part of such an incredible group of scholars and leaders.