Breakfast Table Mountain

At midnight last night, I finally connected to the Internet on my JSI laptop. I have no idea how it happened – perhaps the interweb gods decided to smile on me for a few hours. It was shortlived, though, as it crashed just as I was sending yesterday’s blog post live. Oh well.

I woke yesterday morning after a semi restless night with childlike curiosity about all that the daylight promised. I scampered (yes, scampered) to the window and threw open the shutters to take in the view… And wow. Where there was nothing but pitch black space just 2 hours before, Table Mountain was standing large and much closer than I had imagined. It reminded me of my first sight of McKinley in Alaska 13 years ago. Who would have thought that darkness and clouds could make such monstrous and beautiful mountains completely disappear?

Around 930, I made my way down to the lobby to a working breakfast with my JSI colleagues. Though I will play a very minimal role in the technical training and action planning part of this week, it was so helpful for me to be included in the planning session. I have a newfound respect for the senior advisors and international project coordinators at JSI, but moreover, I have a better sense of how I can work with the grantees to help target their communications around these technical areas.

I know I have been quite vague about my role here. Some more information: the New Partners Initiative is a PEPFAR experiment supported by AID, CDC, and HRSA to expand the number of local partners in PEPFAR countries to address the HIV epidemic. Rather than throwing large sums of money at these new grantees, USG has hired two technical assistance provider firms ( JSI and AED) to provide all kinds of administrative support. I am here as a communications specialist to help one group of the grantees better utilize tools to connect with partners and donors. The help I provide depends on the grantees’ needs and initiatives. I’m definitely excited.

Following another meeting with our technical advisor cohort, several of us decoded to take a walk. We originally hoped to go up Table Mountain, but we learned that the cablecar to the top is closed this week, so we settled for an uphill walk to the base of the mountain. Two hours later, and several San fraciscan-like hills later, we veered off the road and climbed up to a ledge to the right of the mountain. With the mountains above us and a great spanse of waterfront below, we sat for a brief respite, then took note of the cries of our rumbling stomachs and headed back down toward the waterfront for lunch.

As we decended, we walked along a narrow path lined with barbed wire fences. The fences were protecting houses with such cool, mod architecture. My roommate would have loved it. It was starkly different than the scenes we saw on the way up, when we had several subtle reminders of the poverty in south Africa ( it can be easy to overlook when you are staying on the 27th floor of a glitzy hotel next to a woolworths.)

It turns out the waterfront was further than it appeared from our ledge. After another hour of walking, we gave up on our intentions to be healthy and hopped in a cab to the waterfront, where we treated outselves to oysters, seafood plates, and white wine. Once again, I thought back to Alaska, where my initial affair with seafood began. I was told then that i might never taste seafood quite as fresh, but I think it’s fair to say after yesterday’s lunch that Capetown gives Seward a run for it’s money.

I had another meeting early in the evening to map out my communications plan for the week. I retired to my room for a while, where I fruitlessly attempted to connect to the interweb, but after an hour of wishing ill to the laptop, I decided to take a power nap, as I was basically running on fumes.

An invitation to savor another glass of wine in the hotel bar with a current and former colleague easily lured me from my insta-slumber. Downstairs, I was treated to a host of stories about life in international development. I felt a bit embarrassed that prior to this trip, my international experiences were limited to the more mainstream European countries. I didnot have much to add to a conversation about international schools in India and guatemala, but it was fun to listen. As more people joined us, the stories of hippos, crocodiles, and cape buffalo rolled out. I cannot do any of them justice in this format, but I will leave you with this take home message: do not go kayaking on a crocodile infested river in Zambia with a stranger at dusk.

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