Thursday, 16 June 2011

And we're off!

The day is finally here!  The students arrive from the US today and the program is officially launched.  Well I suppose it launched when they gathered in Mason Hall on the JHU campus yesterday, but being the one waiting for them here in South Africa, today seems more significant.  I arrived in Johannesburg a few hours ahead of time to meet our guides, Thapz and Hillano, face to face.  Having made our arrangements via email, it was wonderful to be able to talk to them about our program, and about their backgrounds and what brought them to this role.  Both studied at UCT, it turns out, Thapz in Chemistry, and Hillano in business/marketing.  Thapz is now based in Durban where he is doing research for his Masters, and Hillano lives in Cape Town where he does some consulting.  Hillano told me he has seen a few episodes of “The Wire” but did not know it was about Baltimore! 
The students’ plane was 15 minutes early, and we had them all gathered in the arrivals hall quickly and easily.  Awesome.  Then, as Hillano said to me, there is this thing called “Africa time”.  The transport from the backpackers took another hour to arrive – it had rained heavily today, which is not typical in Jo-burg this time of year, so lots of ‘robots’ (stoplights) out and some accidents apparently mucking things up.  We then all crammed in to one van and one car, making use of every inch, and soon enough we pulled in to Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers [].  Everyone seemed very much at home very quickly!  Dinner was served and delicious, rooms were allocated, and before I knew it, there was a heated foosball game in full swing and a group cozying up near the fire pit (definitely a chill in the air…hard to believe when they left 90+ degrees in Baltimore). 
So, to the clack of the (tiny) pool table I leave them, thrilled that we have such a great group to kick things off.  Tomorrow: to the Apartheid Museum!

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