Welcome! The first post on this blog calls for an introduction to what I’m going to be doing down here in Cape Town, which all begins with Connect-123. Connect-123 has six locations (Dublin, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Sydney, Shanghai, and Cape Town) across the globe that place students in local internships and volunteer opportunities. The way the whole process works is you “inquire” (submit what and where you’re interested in) and then speak over Skype with one of the Connect representatives in that area. In the Skype call, they give you all pertinent details, prices, etc. Following this call, you fill out an application and submit two references before receiving internship offers. After telling my representative, Saskia, that I was interested in medicine, she said I could be placed at a number of facilities around Cape Town. My first offer was an opportunity at a community clinic in Khayelitsha (a nearby township) which I quickly accepted and, thus, that’s where I’m working this summer! Connect-123 houses participants in two different apartment buildings (all have lots of security and we stay in privately owned units) both located in the center of the City Bowl (CBD).

Now after all of this, you may be asking yourself, “Grace! Why would you trust this strange program you found on the internet?! You don’t even know anybody who has done it before! What if it’s all a sham?” Valid concern! One my mom definitely had! She was so concerned that she ended up coming over to South Africa with me for four days only to be met with welcoming faces and more-than-capable staff at Connect. Seriously, they’re incredible. After unpacking in my apartment (with two other roommates) and getting settled in, my mom and I had a full weekend to explore the city before my internship started.

Our first stop was the V&A Waterfront after a failed attempt to go to Robben Island (Nelson Mandela’s prison, South African version of Azkaban (or Alcatraz)) and let me tell ya, this place is incredible. Starting in 1988, this development has blossomed from food markets to craft markets to aquariums (amazing, please see photo gallery for proof) to a charitable Ferris wheel to a giant shopping center. Seriously, there is always something going on down here in addition to a plethora of painted rhinos, raising money for their conservation. 10/10 would recommend. This trip was followed by a lovely dinner with a dear UVA friend, Rex, who will also be in Cape Town this summer! Overall, a great day for Ann and Grace.

The next day was dedicated to Table Mountain and the Company Gardens. The views from the top of Table Mountain were phenomenal (once again, see photo gallery for proof) and, surprisingly, the food at their café was also outstanding. Definitely would recommend taking the cable car up and down– it turns a treacherous 2 hr hike (one way) into a quick 5 minute ride. After Table Mountain, we explored the Natural History museum on the grounds of the Company’s Garden, a large park behind the old Parliament building. This garden was originally used by Jan van Riebeeck as early as 1652 to grow vegetables for the new colony at the tip of Africa! We witnessed a traditional wedding procession happening within the park in addition to street performers and lots of kids running around. Definitely a cool scene.

On my mom’s last day, we finally made the trek to Robben Island. Though the tour lasted much longer than we expected it to (3 hours on the island, 30 minute ferry each way), it was absolutely worth the trip. Every guide on the island is a former prisoner (mostly political prisoners during the apartheid), making each tour extremely personal complete with harrowing anecdotes and strong emotional ties. It blows my mind that these people are able to show tourists around cells where they were tortured, mentally and physically. Not to mention seeing Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, which was incredible in and of itself. Honorable mention to the lovely couple from Charlotte we met on the ferry! Tammie and Lou, I hope the rest of your stay in South Africa is wonderful!

After a phenomenal weekend with my mom, it was time to bid adieu. She headed off to the airport as I headed to the Africa Café for a welcome feast with all ~50 Connect-123 interns! After a 16-course meal complete with tribal face painting and a beautiful performance from our waiters, it’s now time to give into the food coma and hit the hay before my first day of work. To all who are still reading at this point, thank you! I hope to blog (most) every day about my experiences in the clinic as well as my time in Cape Town. The last four days have already opened my eyes to so much diversity, culture, and tradition and I absolutely cannot wait for even more.