Hitting the Ground Running!

Day Two in Joburg started out a little rocky for the Generals. Having spent Day One easing into South African culture under the shelter of Nelson Mandela Square (a large, indoor/outdoor shopping mall with some pretty sweet deals on sunglasses and a very nice salesman who for some reason thought that I was the only one in the group who couldn’t pass for South African), our second day started out on a slightly sour note. We set out at 9 a.m. for University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to get our bearings and acclimate ourselves with campus culture—we’ll be spending much of the next three weeks there reporting on student issues, such as loans and gender inequality. Upon arriving on campus, we promptly learned that the majority of South African co-eds prefer to spend their study breaks circled around a houka. In fact, smoking of all types seems to be more prominent on campuses here than in the states. Unfortunately, while marveling at the curious pastime, Caroline Boras learned that some of the Rainbow Nation’s indigenous species like to leave a special present for tourists. That’s right—a pigeon decided to relieve itself on her. After a rigorous morning getting ourselves acquainted with the campus, we popped into an adorable open-air cafe for a bite to eat while Thule Zwane (our facilitator) arranged several meetings and interviews for us. I got the special—a Cuban sandwich hysterically named “the Castro.” With full stomachs, we made our way to the Nelson Mandela Bridge to take pictures for our website. (You too can have shopping malls and public infrastructures named after you if you desegregate an entire nation.) While walking the streets of Jo’burg, unabashedly snapping selfies like the red-blooded American tourists that we are, we learned that pedestrians apparently do not have the right of way in this country. We quickly came to realize that green means “Sure. Go ahead, but don’t expect us to stop or even slow down for you just because you’re on foot and obviously have no idea where you’re going.” Needless to say, I almost got taken out by a very large truck. We ended the day with a quick jaunt around the university grounds before heading back to our bed and breakfast. Overall, it was a solid first day on campus peppered with a few near-death experiences to keep it interesting. Looking forward to the next three weeks!

–Abby Thornton