Who am I?

Hello! Sawubona! Molo! I am Vasiliki. I am from Thessaloniki, Greece and this summer (/winter, because everything is relevant!) I will be interning at an educational non-profit organization in South Africa. My internship is structured in the most ideal way. I will be working at the M&E division, so I will be primarily based in Cape Town. However, since the head offices are in Johannesburg, I am lucky to be spending the first and last week of my internship there. Having never been to the continent of Africa before, you can imagine that I was overly excited preparing for this trip and getting to Johannesburg!

Winter morning in Joburg

First week at work

Arriving at the office and enjoying a South African Rooibos tea!

I arrived in Johannesburg on Friday, June 28, with my internship starting on Monday. My co-worker, Cleo, came to pick me up at the airport and helped me get my local SIM card. My first week in Johannesburg happened to coincide with the organization’s “knowledge week”. Knowledge week happens once a year and it’s a time for all staff and researchers to come together and present on the work or projects they have been involved with recently. It was an absolutely amazing opportunity for me to gain a good understanding of what the organization does and also to get to meet the majority of the people working there. I was really impressed to hear about the great variety of projects that they are all engaged in, from AI and the digitalization of education to physical accessibility to school and primary math teaching methods.

I also was assigned to my first project, which is an evaluation of a government program aimed to tackle unemployment and support work seekers and business owners. I am currently developing an evaluation matrix for the project, including a survey analysis map for all the instruments that have been sent out. I will also be assisting with the data analysis for this project, and highly likely be also involved in the evaluation of another program whose goal is to instill reading habits in kids. There will be more updates on how this is going on my second blog!

Music, food and friends in Joburg

There is not much to say about that first Friday that I arrived, as I spent most of it sleeping after my lovely host, Wikus, took me around in his car to show me the neighborhood. The following day (officially my first day in South Africa), I went straight to to the “Neighbourgoods Market”. It was the best start to a Saturday morning! There was a great selection of fresh food, drinks, organic products and even clothing and accessories. The merchants were all happy to share samples of their products and I tried some blood orange & vodka ice cream, a pickled onion cracker and coffee beans honey, among others. There was also a fun live band playing on the top floor which was like an open terrace. I was so impressed with the singer being so lively dancing in his t-shirt, when everyone else was tucked up in their jackets on this cold winter day.

Saturday morning at the Neighborgoods market

I left the market to go to the Constitutional Hill, which is a former prison complex that now hosts a museum and the South African Constitutional court.

AND THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING.

When I got there, I realized that the biggest part of the venue was closed today for a music & art festival, the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival. While waiting at the entrance, I met a photographer from the “Sunday Times” who was there to cover the festival. We started talking and walked around a little bit and I then found out that there was one part in the complex that was still open for tourists for the next hour. Before I said goodbye to him, he offered me a media pass for the festival, with access to the VIP lounge, and advised me to introduce myself as a Greek journalist/observer!! What a legend!

IT NOW GETS MORE INTERESTING.

I went to the part that was open for tourists but the person at the museum lobby told me I needed a ticket to do the tour. And then this happened:

– Hi! Is this the part of the Constitutional Hill that’s open for tourists?

– Yes, but you need a ticket to get in and do the tour.

– Oh, you mean a festival ticket or a tour ticket? I have a festival ticket!

– Let me see what you have… Ohhhhh you’re a journalist? It’s fine, you can just go ahead. And when you see the tour guide, just tell him you’re a journalist and you can tag along.

Courtyard of Prison Number 4, where Mandela and Gandhi were imprisoned

I caught up with the tour guide and we visited Prison Number 4, where Mandela and Gandhi were briefly imprisoned. It was very interesting to see how this former place of oppression and violence has now turned into an icon of democracy. I met a young couple from Nigeria at the tour and then we all ended up at the festival eating and listening to the live music.

WAIT, IT GETS EVEN BETTER!

Enjoying a (free!) glass of wine at the VIP lounge

Around 5pm, I somehow lost the Nigerian couple and that’s when I thought it was a good time for me to go home. As it’s winter, it starts getting dark around 5:30pm and I had been persistently advised to not be out after dark, even though the festival venue itself was safe and full of people. Before leaving, I thought of checking out the VIP lounge which I had access to thanks to my media pass. The lounge was at an elevated terrace with great views to the city of Johannesburg, from where I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets. The bartender who was explaining to me what I was seeing in the skyline offered me a glass of wine, and that’s when I thought I really didn’t deserve all this and life was too good to be true.

The most beautiful sunset in Johannesburg!

HOW CAN THE NIGHT END SO GREAT?

Finishing up my wine and feeling so fulfilled and ready to go home, I saw two people greeting me among the audience. Guess who it was? The Nigerian couple! I joined them back in the crowd and we agreed to leave at 6pm. Oh well, of course we ended up leaving around 9pm, even though I now regret it and wish I could have stayed longer to see Riky Rik, a huuuuge rapper in South Africa whom I knew as a judge at the South African edition of ”the Voice”. We danced, we sang, we met some very nice South Africans (shout out to Nthaby, Lindo and Kamo) and it was overall an A++ night!

Dancing at the festival!

There are so many more exciting things that I have done since then, such as visiting the city zoo and seeing a gorilla for the first time, doing “First Thursdays”, which is an initiative where on every first Thursday of the month, certain art galleries and markets stay open until late, and going out to the hippy neighborhood of Melville on a Friday night. I need to give some more shout outs to Patrick, Kurhula, Amkelwa, Daniel, Milisa and Admire for being the friendliest and funniest Johannesburg hosts.

I just got to the Cape Town office for my second week and I have since been working on the evaluation matrix as well as creating a database for all the M&E teams that my organization has been working on. I am looking forward to exploring the “Mother City”, yet I am not going to lie, I do miss Johannesburg already!