Mosquitoes or no, when I sank into my seat on that plane going home, I felt pretty conflicted. Despite moments of difficulty one always has in new places, I felt like I had found a place I could *maybe* actually live and thrive. The weather was just right, the people friendly, the environment just enough like home in terms of available food and daily comforts to give a modicum of sanity. And yet, there was so much that was radically different and, well, as my best friend puts it, "South African society is like crack for social scientists." So, in April, I started on an eight month mind-eff of a process of applying to grad school and navigating South African bureaucracy to get back to Johannesburg.
|I know, another personal post|
In some ways, this has been a really blessed (there's my inner Midwesterner coming out, ha) year. I
have had a lot of time to spend with my family and friends who are still in Minnesota. I took some professional development classes for geography teachers with the local association MAGE, which gave me more pedagogical and technological tools to engage students in my last semester of teaching AP and world geography. MAGE also asked me to present at their fall workshop/conference, where I got a chance to share some of my super-nerdy strategies for using world cinema to teach social studies. I read a lot of world and classic fiction books and saw probably 50 films of different stripes, which y'all will probably get some posts about soon (whether you want them or not!). I dug into some new language study: Mandarin (semi-formally) and Afrikaans (informally). My new stepmom (very new--as of two weeks ago) is from Beijing (also one of my favorite places I've ever traveled), and I'm having fun trying to interact (badly, albeit) with her in her home language. And obviously, Afrikaans is spoken by a significant minority in SA, and more importantly, by most of my friends there.
|Black Narcissus--the book more than film--helped me deal |
(maybe I'll leave that to another post about Rumer Godden)
Though I've certainly had every advantage in terms of being an international applicant, it's been a mind-eff of a year. Half the time I thought it wouldn't work out at all. Even at the moment I finally finished my applications, most of the universities in SA were shut down over the student "Fees must fall" movement.
But, long freaking story short, the universities reopened, I got a couple of acceptance letters, and last week I finally was granted a study visa. So, now, as long as things continue to go smoothly with arrangements for housing, finances, registration, etc., I will be at the University of the Witwatersrand (affectionately known as WITS) in Johannesburg by February, 2017. I'll be studying "migration and displacement" at the African Centre for Migration and Society. Maybe if I like it (and they like me) I might even stay on another year or so to continue studies in public health or health sociology.
I'm excited and scared and delighted for this new plan. Maybe I'll love it, maybe I'll hate it, but either way, I'm sure it's going to be a real adventure. I hope you'll stay tuned.
P.S. I am in the middle of this fabulous Bengali film, so look for a post on that soon.
*The first photo isn't mine, but those towers are a pretty famous site when you're driving away from Joburg to Free State. The second screen-shot is from No Regrets for our Youth (Japan, 1946), an anti-fascist Akira Kurosawa film that I strangely got the urge to watch after our *ahem* American election. The fourth is of jacaranda trees in Joburg (via pinterest).