Warning: The blog post you are about to read is so incredibly nondescript that it may seem almost out of place on a blog like ours. Please remain calm.
The past weeks have been by all accounts extraordinarily…ordinary.
Two Saturdays ago we travelled to Robben Island to tour the Robben Island prison where Madiba spent the majority of his prison sentence. I had expected the experience to leave me with more emotional after-effects than it did. After all, this was the location where Mandela spent 18 years (let’s re-read that: eighteen years) in prison as a political detainee. The prison itself, though, is not much to look at. It looks just like any other prison. It feels like any other prison. That’s because it is just like any other prison. The experience was not what I had expected because I anticipated an awesome (by that I mean, Extremely impressive or daunting) site. It was nevertheless a great opportunity to see one of the most important historical sites in South Africa. What’s more, the next day, President Obama decided to take a leaf out of our book and visit Robben Island as well. I felt pretty good that day knowing that we had, obviously through our visit, inspired the President to learn more about Madiba’s time in prison. I hope he learned a great deal and, if he wants, we have an entire list of other locations for him to visit if and when the opportunity presents itself to him.
On to the workweeks.
Work has recently centered on research tasks for a woman named Lieve, at TAC, who helps manage the research department. We have been spending our days informing her on issues ranging from TB in prisons and associated architectural factors to Human Papillomavirus and its affiliated vaccination program in lower quintile schools. Personally, I found it refreshing to break back into a repertoire of cold, plain and pedantic scientific vocabulary after weeks of using a vernacular filled with far too much emotion, investment and Pollyanna for my taste. For the first time of my stint at TAC I find myself using words that really speak to me like “polyadenalated monocistronic mRNA” and “cell”. After spending weeks entering membership data (question of the internship: The form says female, the name says male…what. do. I. do?) even the most basic of research tasks can placate me. It’s been really fun, actually, to research almost random infectious disease topics all day long without knowing exactly why we’re being asked to do it. But you know what, the science aficionado within me is starved to the point that I don’t even care what the motive of our work is right now.
This past weekend has been, if anything, extraordinary. On Saturday we toured the wine country outside of Cape Town called Stellenbosch. Its sprawling hills and beautiful vistas aside, Stellenbosch has reinforced my assertion that Cape Town is actually San Francisco in disguise. Both cities have a large immigrant population (Malay/Indian vs. Chinese), both have their own prison island (I mean HELLO, is it not obvious?), both are built into hills, their climates are *basically* the same and, after touring Stellenbosch, I realize that both have a gorgeous wine country just hours away. You might as well call Cape Town the San Francisco of Africa (or should we call San Francisco the Cape Town of North America?). Regardless, the trip to Stellenbosch was incredible.
The next day, our group had a celebratory Braai (barbecue) for the 4th of July (ok, we were a few days late cut us some slack. Cape Town time is about 4 days slow). I came in touch with my grilling side, and our entire group worked together marvelously to produce a feast of chicken, sausages and grilled veg. We all went to sleep as happy and as bloated as can be expected with over a kilo of food in each of us.
That’s my update for the past two weeks–and we only have two weeks left here.
In the words of the great philosopher, Nelly Furtado, “Why must all good things come to an end?