Two Weeks Later
Well, I’ve been back in Michigan for two weeks now. It’s a great feeling to be back where I left off three months ago after picking up and leaving to live an entirely different life for the whole summer. I don’t know where to begin…I don’t know how I feel, I don’t know if I’m “different,” I don’t know if & how much I miss South Africa yet. I guess there’s just no place like home. Everything here just feels so right & I definitely want to keep taking every chance I am given to explore the world, but I’ll be more than content to settle down in the Midwest.
I think one of the biggest impacts South Africa had on me is showing me how blessed I am. I’m so grateful for everything I have. I’m not rich & I’m not spoiled, but I have SO MUCH more than SO MANY people in this world have, and I don’t think that’s something I could have wrapped my head around until I really experienced it. I am so deeply grateful for where I come from, even if it’s not “perfect.”
I learned a lot about how to treat people and how to live my life to the fullest in South Africa & I really hope I am able to translate that mentality into my every day life. I hope that the people I met, even if it was only once, know that their kindness, compassion, and their willingness to show me their side of the world had a great impact on me, & I sincerely appreciate who they are.
Now that I’m home, back to work, back to class, and back to my daily routine, it sometimes feels like I wasn’t actually in Cape Town for the summer. I definitely won’t forget this trip, but I’m also so happy to be home. :)
On August 9, 1956, 20,000 women, representing all racial backgrounds, came from all over South Africa to march on the Union Buildings, where they stood in silent protest for 30 minutes while petitions with 100,000 signatures were delivered to the Prime Minister’s office. Many men in the anti-apartheid movement were surprised by the women’s militancy, and the protest contributed to women playing a bigger role in the struggle for freedom and democracy. August 9th now is celebrated as National Women’s Day in South Africa.
A Tiny Girl From the City by the Lake
"A tiny girl from the city by the lake,
was preparing herself,
for the journey she would to take.
She would travel far,
to a land unknown.
A place it is said,
where the wild animals roam.
She packed her bags,
and planned her trails.
Her family seemed scared,
but she was tough as nails.
She said her goodbyes,
and got on her way,
to an exciting new land,
Cape Town, was where she would stay.
She arrived in the city,
which was said to be warm.
Only to arrive in their winter,
And face heavy storms.
She checked in at her flat,
got settled in her room.
Soon she’d start her new job,
at a placed called Zoom.
Her first day was strange,
almost as weird as the people who worked there.
They were all kinda quirky.
Made bets on what she would wear.
She soon made some friends,
and fitted in well.
Though she didn’t have much to do,
the boredom was hell.
She learned about their sports,
and watched all the games.
Pretended she knew the rules,
and tried to learn the names.
Her weekends were nice,
but she always prayed for sun.
She went touring anyway,
wine tasting is always fun.
A friend took her out,
to see the fancy mall,
but that wasn’t all.
She went to the theme park,
but it was closed for the day,
cursed the weather,
and went on her way.
She entered a cricket match.
She did it with ease.
Took the first wicket,
no idea what that means.
It was time to leave,
and travel back alone.
She would miss Cape Town,
but there’s no place like home.
She learned a few things,
from her journey across the border.
Wild animals don’t roam free,
and you can drink the water.
Just a few more days,
and she’ll be eating “welcome home” cake.
Back with family and friends,
In the city by the lake.”
— A poem one of my coworkers wrote for me
I have no idea what I want to do with my life. This is probably the biggest thing I have learned while living in South Africa.
See you all in two weeks!! :)
"As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own."
Margaret Mead (via travellinginspiration)
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."
Make It Happen
At this point, it seems like everyone is having a different experience in Cape Town. It’s so interesting to me that the interns I came with all arrived here at the same time, and we are all at such different stages in our process of integrating with the culture – or only integrating with the other students here. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all…everyone came here with different goals & what they wanted to learn and experience, and I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunities to experience above and beyond what I was hoping to.
Last weekend, I competed in an indoor cricket tournament with a few of my colleagues against the other advertising agencies in Cape Town. I also coordinated the entire tournament from our agency’s side, and seeing this entire project come together was an awesome experience. I know event planning isn’t my niche, but I got to meet some people that I never would have had the chance to, and I am glad I went through all the stress to see my hard work pay off. I’m also not much of an athlete, but the game was so easy to understand and catch on to, and I only got pelted with a ball once. This was one of the first times I had the chance to really be PART of South Africa in a small way – I have a job here, I have new friends here, and now I have co-workers here that I do things with outside of work. I feel like I’ve had a slice of what life is like when you have a real job and real responsibilities, even if it is in another country. I ended up writing a quick thank-you note to the man who REALLY coordinated the entire event for the agencies, because I felt so compelled to share my appreciation for the opportunity to be involved and a part of the team. Today he wrote me back saying that he couldn’t express how much he appreciated what I did, and that he hung up my note on his bulletin board. He told me that he could tell from the few short minutes that we spoke that I have a fantastic personality, and to never change. Wow. I don’t think I deserve that much appreciation, but his compliment put the biggest smile on my face for the rest of the day. This one person made me feel like I am doing something right, and that I really can make it happen.
Some of my favorite co-workers and me
Last week I decided to bite the bullet and ask for more work, because I hate sitting around – especially as an intern. This resulted in a pile of work over my head, but I tackled the job like any other, and now I have a grip on the seemingly never-ending jobs, however menial they may be. I also had the chance to sit on a casting set this Tuesday and Wednesday, and met some outrageous characters. I realised just how much I like the people here. Everyone seems so genuinely interested in what I have to say. To them I’m not just another student on holiday…I’m an adult with opinions and a reasonable amount of knowledge (not to say I won’t always have more to learn). On set, I also got to hang out with Sedick, my favourite photographer, and meet the quirkiest director. I have been on sets before, but I will always take the opportunity to get out of the office – especially for free food and coffee, and the chance to meet so many different people from Africa. I also decided that I want to see how the other side of the agency works. Of course I know what they do in the studio, but I want to actually DO it, so I asked my boss if I could sit in with some people and try my hand at copywriting. We’ll see how it goes!
Some days, I really feel like I belong here. I’m not the new girl, and I’m not even the newest intern at the office any more. I have been asked to coordinate the other interns for jobs, and it makes me feel like I am actually, finally, maybe… being trusted a little. I know I have a lot to offer at this job, but it’s hard to raise your hand and prove it. I’m learning so much more about life in the business world, at that. I can’t wait to get out there and conquer the world. At this point, I sometimes really feel like I could do it. It’s so inspiring to me that the people here don’t fall into a slump; every day they do their best, and they smile and genuinely put themselves out there in the world. Every day. It never fails. I wish everyone at home could feel the hospitality I have had a chance to experience. I feel like some of the people here treat me better than people I have known for years…and then I wonder why I ever put up with peoples’ crap. Some people have so much to offer but aren’t given the time of day because of others’ preconceptions or intolerance, and it amazes me that there is so much more to explore in the world – so many people to meet, so many cultures to experience, and so much good food & wine to try. I just don’t know why it took me this long to realise it.
This week has been a frustrating one. I feel like I have come to a roadblock in more than one area of my life. I haven’t had much to do at work, and I’m not one to be content just sitting around doing nothing. I feel worthless in the workplace when I have no point in being there, and I just want to go back to my job at home. I’m also frustrated with how judgmental some of the locals are of Americans. Today I’ve been here one month, and I’m hoping the next month and a half start looking up.
I have been working on my first project, and although it’s nice to have some responsibility, it’s not much. I have had the chance to learn a few things from this – that it’s important to keep my coworkers in the loop, even if they aren’t a part of the planning process, and that people want to be involved even when it’s not their project. It’s nice to have the first-hand experience to really drive home the point that at work, your projects are not your own. They are everyone’s, and you can’t take full ownership if you want the best results; everyone has something to contribute.
What sent me over the edge this week was one of my co-workers. He asked me if I was being paid for this internship, and when I said no, he said, “Oh your parents must be rich.” Excuse me, what?! But when I said that no…they actually aren’t, he ignored me and said, “Yeah, how much are your parents giving you?” Is it SO hard to believe that I worked my way here? That I don’t have everything handed to me? That maybe not all Americans are rich?
I’m so sick of the stereotypes here. At first I really empathized with the South Africans I met who had these notions of what Americans are like. I understand that we are sometimes ignorant and take things for granted. But those people who can’t grasp the fact that we don’t all fall into that Beverly Hills stereotype are doing so much more harm than good. I left work that day bitter at everyone in South Africa. Everyone who sees me seems to think I’m this spoiled white girl on holiday, and they couldn’t be further from the truth. It hurts me so much that people can’t see through that.
On another note, I am so grateful for where I come from. Today we walked around Langa township and had the chance to really get to know the locale. I was in awe of how cheerful people from such an impoverished location were. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, more than happy to invite us into their homes and share their stories. I am really happy I decided to go with everyone to see the township. I was a little wary at first because I thought it might be like we were going to observe people from the outside. It turned out to be well worth the visit; we walked around the streets and heard first-hand about the development projects occurring in the area. We also visited a sangoma, a hostel, a traditional shebeen (and tried the interesting home-brewed beer), a few craft markets, their development center, and Mzoli’s (in Guguletu). It was all very eye-opening. Our guide also tried to teach us a few words in Xhosa, but I couldn’t really catch on. We had the opportunity to see just how hard it is to rise out of poverty when you are born in a shack - I saw a suit hanging up in one of the hostels, covered in a trash bag, and it really hit home seeing how hard it is just to keep your clothes clean, let alone get a job.
Unfortunately my camera died, but these are some pics one of my friends took:
The man who showed us around brought up very legitimate points – guilt is a very common feeling among privileged people who visit these areas, but it’s not doing anyone any good. Pity helps no one. Understanding that the people living in Langa are doing the best they can, and that they aren’t “others” really helped me face that feeling. However, I still have mixed thoughts about the situation after hearing about how the people aren’t allowed to build past their boundaries, and that the government doesn’t want the public to see the shacks. However, seeing life in the townships firsthand was worth it, and the sense of community there was pretty inspiring. To the people who let us walk around their township and showed us how they live - enkosi!
I think this week was my first week really feeling at home. The work week was long, but we haven’t had much to do on our side of the agency… I’m still hoping it will pick up. I did get two of my own projects to work on though, which is a nice step up. I’m coordinating the agency cricket tournament (which I’m also playing in!) and will be working on a presentation for one of our clients. I’ve finally had the chance to work with the creatives on the other side of the agency, and I get to meet some of the other people in our agency that I haven’t worked with yet.
At the end of the week, I got to go with Justin to a photo shoot with models, which was actually a fun experience. The toddlers modeling were ADORABLE, and it was fun to see how the photos for our ads are produced. I’ve met with the photographer a few times, and he’s awesome to work with, so that was a nice way to end the week. One of my other co-workers talked to me this week about setting up some times to have dinner with our other co-workers so I can see how people in Cape Town live, and even have a Cape Malay dinner. I was so shocked at their kindness, and especially to find out that everyone had already gotten together to talk about taking me in and making me dinner. I can’t wait to take them up on their offer and get to know the people and different cultures I work with better.
I decided to skip the work bar this week and hang out with some of the other students here, which ended up being a really fun night. I met some other students from Cape Town who we’ll hopefully go out with again. The locals here continue to amaze me with how outgoing and accepting of others they are.
Yesterday Justin invited me to get the real rugby experience with his friends and our co-worker, so we went to the pub early, and I got to watch what happens when an entire COUNTRY is rooting for their team to win (it got ugly at a few points). I barely understood the game, but we ended up in a tie (which I guess means we won?!). I’m still working on learning the ins and outs of rugby, but I finally got to wear my SA Rugby shirt and hopefully I’ll be an expert in no time! I felt so lucky to be able to see how the people here really support their team, and it made me feel like I was back at school supporting our Spartans :)
Today we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium at the Waterfront because the weather was really crappy, so we couldn’t really go on a bus tour like we were planning to do. It was a nice relaxing way to spend our Sunday, and pretty much our only option for activities since the city closes down for the weekend and nothing is open. We also went to the theater in the mall, which was actually a lot like the theaters at home, and then Emily and I bought some paintings from the craft fair. I got a simple but really nice painting of the cable car on Table Mountain, so now I REALLY have to climb it soon. I also finally found some ornaments for Mama Newton, so hopefully she’s excited about that :)
I’m getting used to our crappy accommodation – the leaking shower (which is an understatement), the lack of laundry facilities (I had to wash my clothes in the shower this week), the freezing flat, no dishwasher – but I’ve been trying to spend most of my weekends out of the apartment, and spending my days at work bundled in clothes.
I definitely want to take back with me the sense of community and genuine care for others that I have found in Cape Town. I’ve never felt so welcomed and cared for by people who barely know me or have only known me for a few weeks. I really feel at home in the city and with everyone I’ve met, and I can’t wait to see what the next two months bring. The longer I’m here, the more I realize how similar my life is to the lives of those here. There are obviously some differences, but it’s comforting to see that people here are just that – people. They aren’t really South Africans to me – not to discredit their amazing heritage, however – they’re more friends than anything.
I’m ALMOST finished with my second week of work…this week was a lot more low-key than last week, and I realized just how much I hate being bored. I mostly caught up on reading and the news, so I guess things could be worse than not having much work to do as an intern. I’m also trying to get used to coming home after work and barely being able to function. I’m SO tired at the end of the day, but I still have to make dinner and be social!
This week one of the marketing assistants at one of our clients’ offices offered to take me wine-tasting, which sounds like an offer I really can’t refuse. I think I should take advantage of the opportunity to see Cape Town from the perspective of someone who actually grew up and lives here, but I’m also a little anxious about the whole situation. I have been making a conscious effort to not get involved in anything with guys here, but I don’t want that to hold me back from experiencing the real South Africa that I can’t see when I’m only hanging out with other students.
One of my co-workers also offered to show me the “real Cape Town,” and I really want to take him up on that as well. He grew up here, and can probably show me a side of life that I would otherwise not have the opportunity to see.
I feel so welcomed by the people here who keep inviting me to see their side of life and how they spend their winters in Cape Town. I’m just not used to being in a situation where I don’t know the city well, don’t know how to work the transportation, and don’t speak the dominant languages. Do I overlook it and take the leap and go for the adventure, or do I stay back and watch from the sidelines just so I can stay safe? I don’t want to be reckless, but I don’t want to miss out on life because I’m worried what my parents would think or if I’m being “smart.”
I guess I’ve come to a point where I have to decide if I want to take actual risks. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat of a rebel, often doing things just to get a rise out of people and show my independence, but I’ve never really gone off on my own. I guess it’s time I get over that. I certainly don’t want to be ignorant because I’m scared to see the real world, but is there a place I should draw a line? I can definitely see some of the “culture shock” that I am supposed to experience in my own life - everything is different, sometimes hard, and often annoying - but I have been lucky to not feel lonely or excluded. I just definitely don’t feel like myself yet…at work anyway. I haven’t really come out of my shell, but I’m so busy observing everyone’s habits and mannerisms that I just don’t know if I can “be myself” yet.
I’ve been having trouble explaining this to other people, and they keep telling me to "just be yourself", but it’s not that easy, and it upsets me when people think they can just tell me how I am supposed to behave. I think it’s more important to see how other people behave in their own setting, and for my to not impose my “American” ways on them before they can get a feel for me, too. Maybe I’m looking way too into this, but maybe it’s just part of the process.
Emily and I went to the V&A Waterfront today, which is the super touristy part of Cape Town. It was gorgeous! And it was actually really nice to be somewhere that feels like home, with a huge mall and the water. I’ve been having a little bit harder time than I expected with transitioning to life here. I find it really depressing how so much of the city is in intense poverty, and I’ve never seen anything like it, even when I lived in Chicago. I guess I’m not sure how to go about my emotions in regards to the poverty, because there’s no right way to feel, and I don’t know how to help.
I’ve also been having a hard time understanding the South African accents, and I’ve even offended a couple people because they think Americans should be able to understand them. I hate when people think I am ignorant, and this language barrier is REALLY messing with my head. I’ve also been bashing on America a lot lately, and I don’t know why. I feel like now that I am in South Africa, I can really let out my real feelings, because people here probably understand them. I just find a lot of Americans to be pretty ignorant, and I wish we would actually learn more than English in school…almost everyone here speaks at least THREE different languages. Everyone in South Africa knows so much about where I am from, but I’m starting to realize that I don’t know nearly as much about the world as I thought I did. It makes me want to travel more, but then it makes me sad that I’m embarrassed to tell people I am from America. Hopefully it’s something I can come to terms with over the next few months.
My first week at work was great, but I’m still trying to figure out what the appropriate way to behave is, because the business setting in South Africa is MUCH more casual than at home. I had my first experience with the work bar yesterday! But it was a little awkward because everyone already has their friends there and I’m the new girl, but my boss has been awesome with helping me meet people and making me feel included. I can’t even express how grateful I am to the people who have taken me under their wing like that. I love that everyone in South Africa is so casual about everything, even the girls wear leggings to work! That’s somewhat how advertising as a field is anyway, but everyone’s definitely quirkier and more outspoken than in the US. I love it, but it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around - I was always taught to conform to this very strict mold in the business world, but I’m the odd one out here! I’m definitely going to grow to love this job and I am already sad that I will have to leave everyone in three months. But for now I’m going to just sit back and figure out what’s normal here. I’m used to being the crazy one at work, but I have a lot to compete with here :)
I’m pretty sick of how cold it is here, and it’s a whole lot colder than I expected. I had to buy a ton of warm clothes at the Waterfront today, which is really draining my bank account. OH and then my card got denied. Again. I am so sick of having to work with the bank every day when they block my card because I’m in South Africa. But my dad was the BEST and called the bank and figured everything out for me. Thanks dad!! :) I’ve been living off Ramen noodles and chocolate milk all week, so it’s probably time I actually learn to cook something. It’s just so hard trying to buy groceries and figure out what the equivalent of the food I am used to is, and then trying to eat new food but not waste my money. Everything is just so HARD for me to do here! But I wouldn’t want to be spending my summer anywhere else.
It’s already been a long week.
I started at Zoom on Monday and immediately loved it. When I showed up, half the office had already read my entire blog and took bets on what I was going to wear to my first day based on my post about what I packed for Africa. I guess some people might think that’s creepy, but I thought it was hilarious, and I loved that they had done their research on me in true marketing fashion. Everyone had found my Facebook, too. I am SO lucky that this agency took me on, and I have learned so much in the past three days just from being able to follow around other employees. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see what parts of an agency I like, as well as the kind of agency I want to work in. I have had the chance to attend every client meeting and traffic meeting (and drink all the coffee that comes with it). Of course I’ve had to do some filing and copying and pasting information from one document to the other, but there’s no way I would be managing accounts after three days, either. The people at Zoom have been teaching me things, not just giving me jobs to do, and I could not be any happier with my placement, except for the location…
I have to either take the bus or a taxi to work because it’s not in a good area, even though it is within walking distance. Yesterday I took a taxi to work and back, and the taxi didn’t show up for half an hour after work, and it was raining and my phone died :( This morning my taxi NEVER showed up, and I called the office in a frenzy because we had a meeting to leave for at 8:30. They sent me a driver to pick me up because I had no other way to get to work – the people here continue to amaze me with how helpful and considerate they are!!
Yesterday was just the crappiest, my card was declined, and it took me 2 hours and a few international calls to get everything straightened out. Marc at the Chase from home spent a ton of time helping me out, and I am SO grateful to him, too. My day was super stressful, but the help of a person who genuinely cares makes such a huge difference – something I need to keep in mind and practice in my own life. I have also realized just HOW hard it is to do simple everyday tasks when you are not familiar with the location you are living in. I have a new respect for all the international students at school, because I really feel like I have experienced the confusion and misunderstanding that goes on when you aren’t sure about the social norms in the country you are living in.
When I finally got to work today, we left for our meeting by the airport. We drove by Langa township, which a few people in our internship placement program are going to tour later this month. It’s really eye-opening to see how other people live – especially so close to where I am living. It’s been hard getting used to not having a dishwasher, washing machine, reliable phone or transportation, but it’s nothing close to how these people live.
After our meeting, we toured Formeset, a printing press in Cape Town. It was so cool to get to tour the place where all of our ads are made. I knew how a press worked before, but seeing it in action is always interesting, and I am so glad I was able to do the tour with the office, even though I’m just the intern :)
Working with Zoom, I have definitely learned a few things about international business, and I know I want to work in a medium-sized agency like this. The office has such a quirky and genuinely friendly feeling, and I can’t take for granted how lucky I am to have been taken under their wing for these next three months (not to mention, they have an espresso machine!!!)
Plus, my boss sent me this today…in true South African fashion: Baby’s on Fire