Arriving in South Africa was quite a struggle. On Tuesday, I first had to travel from home to Greenville/Spartanburg to meet up with the class, so that put me at about 6 hours of airport/airplane time already. And then it was Wednesday… I got to the airport at 10:30 am Eastern Time and we officially arrived in Cape Town at 4:30 pm Eastern Time on Thursday (10:30 pm in Cape Town). So that was 30 hours of airport/airplane time. The flights to Charlotte and then to D.C. weren’t bad, although I was in the very last row both times! The international flight was not as bad as I thought it was, but there is no way I will ever do it again just for fun. Thank goodness I had an aisle seat otherwise it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly. The flight served us dinner (a beef/curry/rice mixture) pretty soon after take-off and everybody got settled in for the night, watching movies and trying to get some sleep. After about 7 or 8 hours, we landed in Dakar, Senegal to refuel and drop off some passengers and pick up some others. Since this is a country where yellow fever is present, we were not allowed off the plane, and I’m pretty sure they had to spray the people coming onto the plane with DEET which made me nervous if they missed something! (but I am not 100% sure because I was in the 70th row!). The break was nice because we all got to stand up for about an hour and socialize. Once it was time to take off again, it was breakfast time (pancakes rolled up with blueberries inside). We all tried to sleep more and wait out the 6 or 7 more hours left to go. Lunch was also provided, but by that time, dinner and breakfast weren’t feeling too good so I just ate the biscuit. I slept on and off the whole flight with a sprinkling of 3 movies from the little TV on the back of the seat in front of me. Finally we arrived!… in Johannesburg. We had about a 3 or 4 hour layover until our flight to Cape Town. We spent that time going through customs (not as scary as I thought it would be) and running around the airport confused and lead by a man whose job it is to direct us where to go (who expected a bunch of tips once he got us to security). We also had out first meal officially in South Africa. A few of my friends and I ate at Wimpy Burger, which was kind of like the burgers you get at T.G.I.Friday’s or Applebees. It was delicious to have real food finally! The burgers came with tomato relish instead of pickles and we learned that the ketchup here is much watery and sweeter. The Coca-Cola is also much sweeter. Eventually it was time to get on our final plane. The flight was 2 hours but we were all so exhausted that I think we all slept the whole flight. When we finally got to leave an airport after 30 hours, I got really excited! We made it! I never thought I would be in South Africa, and here I am! A bus took us to the hotel where Dr. Turner met up with us for the first time; he was much more energetic than we were because he has been here for several days already. My roommates and I were showered and in bed by midnight.
Our first official day started with breakfast at 8 am and class started about 8:45 am in a conference room of the hotel (let’s just keep in mind that it’s 2 am at home). This is when we first met Stu Hendry. Stu is a professor at the University of Cape Town. He holds degrees in many things including law, but he is seriously focused on teaching leadership and entrepreneurship. The first notes I took from his lectures that day was about how a good leader equals good things and that leadership development is key. Small business is also unbelievably important to all, especially in South Africa. Small business contributes to 40% of South Africa’s GDP and 50% of the population is involved with small business. He taught us a lot of the history of South Africa and Cape Town, including several fun facts like Afrikaans (spoken by most South Africans) is the youngest language of the world and South Africa had 11 official languages, 20 ethnic groups, and over 50 million people. Afrikaans sounds like a beautiful language, especially since the heritage is Dutch, but most people also know English because you can communicate with the most variety of people with it. We learned more about South Africa including the fact that 60% of South Africans can’t read which absolutely blew my mind! How can so few people know how to read is such a modern time such as the 21st century?? He showed us a graph about effective government with character of civil society on one axis, ranging from disengaged to engaged, and capacity of state on the other axis, ranging from ineffective to effective. This graph was similar to a graph I learned about in Dr. Lipford’s Comparative Economic Systems class this past semester- just something to picture in your head if you’re reading this and you also took that class. Something that really stuck out to me was a quote, from whom I don’t remember, but it was “if you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.” It really displayed to me the importance of teamwork and communication that is critical is any relationship regardless of if it is just between two people or a government and its citizens. Next we took some time to work on our Sunrise Exercise which is a packet of papers with questions regarding what leadership positions we hold now and want to hold and our goals and our personal vision. We have to turn these into Stu on Friday and he is going to mail these to us in 6 months. It will be quite interesting to see if we’ve any progress toward our goals of maybe even achieved them already! A buzzword we use now from Stu’s first day of lectures is “proactive”. Basically, what he was saying was that when you are presented with a stimulus, you need not to react immediately and take time to think about what to do next instead. I have struggled with this because in a Life Choices class I had to take at my middle school in the 7th grade, we learned that being proactive is being prepared for something that hasn’t happened yet, not stopping to think after something has already happened. I guess this new type of being proactive is just knowing how to take control. With everything there are risks, and we talked about the risks of not taking control. You find out later in life that you should’ve taken the risk or wondering why you didn’t do something sooner.
For lunch this day we just had finger sandwiches. We began to get the suspicion that South Africans eat a big breakfast (we get to eat in the hotel everyday and it is better than any breakfast I’ve ever had, except for when my mom makes chocolate chip muffins for breakfast!) and a big dinner but a tiny lunch. More on this later, I’m sure. In the afternoon we finished up the lecture that I’ve already discussed and then it was finally time to leave the hotel for the first time. We all got in minibus taxis and headed towards Table Mountain. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. You just can’t get used to seeing such an amazing creation in the background all the time. I took several hundred pictures so far and I’m not ashamed. In the taxi, I was just staring at the mountain wondering how it the world we are going to get to the top and also freaking out because I am not very good at being in high places without thinking constantly that I’m going to fall. We started at the bottom of the mountain which is as far as cars are able to go. We got into a cable car that holds about 40 people and goes literally almost straight up the mountain. At first I couldn’t even look out the window, but eventually the beauty of the world around me helped ease my anxiety. Did I mention that the cable car is round at the floor rotates so that you can see a full panoramic view of everything before you get to the top and also there is NOTHING to hold onto if you freak out like I almost did. When we got to the top, it was unbelievable. You can look at the pictures all day but you will never understand unless you see it yourself. I was fairly shaky when we first got outside the cable car but after a few minutes, I was good to go. It was significantly cooler at the top of the mountain than at the bottom and even colder as the sun started to go down around 4 pm. The wind started blowing and the Table Cloth Started to move it, something equally as unbelievable. For those of you readers that don’t know what the Table Cloth is, it is clouds that form on top of the mountain and blow and fall down the side looking just like a grayish-white cotton table cloth. The wind was actually getting so strong that I became nervous and no longer stood too close to the side… and I may have given parents of tiny children looks that urged them to grab their energetic children by the hand otherwise nothing good could come if a gust of wind was big enough to sweep them off the side. We took the cable car back down as the sun set and gather into taxis again and headed back to the hotel. From here we changed quickly because we were hungry from our tiny lunch and it was dinnertime! Our hotel is so centrally located that we all walked down to the Waterfront, which is the port used by European cargo ships as a stop to recuperate on their way to India. I’d say it is pretty popular place for South Africans and tourists alike. There is a mall bigger than I’ve ever seen and many restaurants and even a ferris wheel. Several of us ate dinner at Ferryman’s, a mostly seafood restaurant. I had fish and chips. We spent the rest of the night before our 1 am curfew hanging out with more people from our group and meeting new people, especially a bunch of sailors from the Royal Navy! Before we knew it, it was time to go back to the hotel and Day 1 was officially over.