Today is Mandela Day! It is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. South Africans celebrate this day as a day of peace. They take 67 (Mandela’s prison number) minutes out of their day to do something nice for another person. The whole city seemed alive and happy today! Here’s the front page of the newspaper today:
This afternoon we stopped by the hospital that Mandela is currently being treated at. I was so very close to this amazing icon! The streets were very crowded with people celebrating the day. In this picture, you can see the hospital in the background, with posters of support in the front:
Here is a picture of several of us in front of the ‘get well’ posters:
We ate at Cafe 41 today, which was very good. I had a sandwich and soup. Several University of Pretoria students offered to drive us there. Here we are all crammed in the car:
After lunch, we went to the Union Building (where Parliament meets). Here is a view of Pretoria from the Union Building:
The afternoon portion of the day was nice… the morning however gave me much time to reflect on this trip. This morning we met with several University of Pretoria students. The intent was to have a roundtable, asking each other questions about the education system and culture of the respective country. We spent over an hour introducing ourselves and asking questions. By the end of the 2 hours, there had only been 1-2 questions answered (at least 20 were asked). It was very disappointing that our discussion did not lead to more questions being answered.
During the discussion, I reflected on this trip. Warning: the following reflection is very pessimistic.
I have decided that I am on the wrong trip. I came with the Teaching and Learning department (I am in the Educational Administration for Higher Ed department). I have enjoyed learning about elementary and secondary teaching, but I would have been better suited to attend a trip with my own department. This trip is also highly focused on research. I am not interested in conducting research in South Africa. I am not at the point where I can collaborate on research with someone who wants to study the education system. This whole trip has been revolving around this and it’s been very disappointing. I did not realize that this would be the case when signing up for the trip.
Much of the trip has also revolved around creating a relationship with the University of Pretoria. While I have enjoyed my time at UP and with the UP students, it seems that we are attempting to make a good name for UNL, without concern or consideration for the students’ interests that are currently on the trip. I joined the trip hoping to learn about South African culture and I definitely expected to see the country. I must have misunderstood the intent of the study abroad trip and have been greatly disappointed because of it.
My top place to visit has been South Africa. I have been here for 2 weeks and feel like I have not been able to see and experience the country. I paid UNL Education Abroad a good chunk of money and I have no idea where that money has gone. We have had to pay for most everything while being here. Due to crime, we are told to stay at the guest house after dark (it gets dark around 5:30pm). Nothing is planned for the evenings, which can be nice so we can rest, but many of us want to go see and experience South Africa. We can’t do that from a classroom or from our hotel room. I wish I would have travelled to South Africa on my own. I feel as though my money would have been better spent and I would have been able to experience South Africa in a way of my choosing.
For those of you that read my blog, I hope you can appreciate my honesty. I know I sound very pessimistic, but I am extremely disappointed with this trip. I have attempted to stay positive for the past 2 weeks, but I keep getting disappointed day after day. I’m certain that things will pick up once we arrive in Cape Town (in 2 days), but until then I fear that I will continue to feel heartbroken over missed opportunities. I’m in South Africa… I want to see and do more! Unfortunately, a large part of our trip has been spent in the classroom and in the hotel room. I have learned to pay more attention to the description of a study abroad trip before signing up for it. This one was definitely not a good fit for me.
On a positive note, the people that are on the trip with me are awesome! Many of them feel the same way about the trip as I do. Unfortunately, we spend much of our time together discussing the disappointment that we feel. It is nice to have some great people by my side while we’re here.
Please pray that things will get better. I don’t want to leave South Africa feeling disappointed. I want to leave feeling rejuvenated and excited to share my trip experience.