This Time, Last Year: South Africa

waiting in line for medical services

One of my favorite iPhone apps is Timehop. Every day, it takes a trip down memory lane — 1, 4, 7 years through social media postings. Its been really funny to see what I was doing in college, and its been awesome realizing how all of my friends look better now. With one of the most recent software updates, it now shows photos taken by your iPhone on that day, and recently, mine hasn’t been filled with moments of parties and nights in bars, but rather rural sub-Saharan Africa.

Views of Pretoria and the Government Palace

This time last year, I was on a month-long trip (for work) to South Africa and Namibia. I went with one colleague, and we split our time between Hatfield, a suburb of Pretoria, Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and the northern region of Namibia (I was hanging out in the 4 O’s). I’ve briefly mentioned it, but I work in global HIV/AIDS policy, and so — not surprisingly — most of what I do deals with people in resource-poor countries. My first foray to Africa was in college (I spent several weeks in Kenya), and this trip was my second. I think that everyone should, at some point in their lives, travel to sub-Saharan Africa — and not just Cape Town/Joburg/Zanzibar/insert trendy, basically Western tourist destination here.

Seeing some of my pictures that I took last year made me reflect on all that I saw, and I thought that I’d share some of that with the four people that read this.

logo on a counseling and testing tent
One of SA’s first ladies, the Minister of Health, and the founder of RFFA with a traditional South African choir at the launch event in Zandspruit

In South Africa, we were working on communications strategy surrounding Rotary Family Health Days. Now, I’m a (sports) lawyer by training and so communications is not something I’ve ever really done; that said, I really enjoyed the work. We were in Hatfield for a little over two weeks (its where our South Africa-based office is), but we were able to travel to RFHD sites in surrounding provinces.

From the Rosebank Market in Joburg. I’m sure those of you that know me in real life are unsurprised how much I hated bargaining.
A few scenes from the Apartheid Museum, located right outside of Johannesburg

There was also time to be “tourists” around Johannesburg (Hatfield is about an hour away) at the markets and at the Apartheid Museum. Other than that, most of my time was spent at work/working/at the City Lodge-Hatfield, our “fab” hotel.

Hatfield is also home to the University of Hatfield (I bet you never would have guessed), whichwas an Afrikaner-only school during the days of apartheid. I’m not going to go into big details about apartheid, but this is a resource I used in preparation for my trip. What was shocking to me is that I was often mistaken for an Afrikaner, or a white South African of Northern European descent — at least until I opened my mouth!

Full disclosure: I never ate at Cheeky Pizza Draft (what is that name?), Señor Frogs, or Chicken Licken. I just liked the names. Also, I wish I had those all sorts pretty much every day.

The food in Hatfield was surprising. This was not my first trip abroad, nor was it my first trip to Africa. I pretty much knew what to expect going in — nothing too exciting, not that many vegetables, lots of meat, intriguing flavors. Some things still stand out, even a year later. There were fast food restaurants everywhere — KFC even delivered! Most things were meat with a side of meat, in restaurants; either that, or there was a lot of mayonnaise based sauces involved. Not the healthiest of diets, to be sure. Granted, this was a metropolitan area, and they were catering to a student population — it isn’t that different from the States! I did find some things that I loved though; there was a wonderful pizza restaurant in Brooklyn Mall, I was obsessed with the licorice allsorts from Woolrich, and our hotel was around the corner from a Chipotle-type restaurant. Pretty much every night for dinner I had the “Hawaiian bowl” with brown rice, pineapple salsa, beef, and avocado. I wouldn’t mind having that right now.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 7.55.29 PM

I also started a tumblr – Elizabeth the Explorer – to document that trip, but [spoiler] that didn’t work out for me. The internet was horrible, I was working like 16 hours a day, and I was able to just email/text/instagram. Here are the three posts I actually wrote: Hello from Hatfield, Apartheid MuseumAfrican Craft Market. Since they were written at the time I was there, it actually tells a lot about all of my feelings (I have so many feelings). I still like the tagline, though.

I’ll post about Namibia – completely different experience! – next week, and my new role at my current job means much more international travel, which is super exciting.

I know this is a pretty cursory explanation, but I’m happy to go into greater detail about anything listed above — or not listed above that may fall into the realm of what I’m talking about! Just post a comment below.


One thought on “This Time, Last Year: South Africa

  1. What an amazing experience! I’m so glad you shared even though it was a year ago. A lot of my med school classmates are really into public health in third world countries…it’s such a great cause to work for.

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