Yesterday, I had my first Skype call with my supervisor in Pietermaritzburg (peter-mare-its-berg), South Africa. Like I said in my last post, most people I talk to are disturbed by the fact I have been working on this since February and just under 2 weeks from departure and after purchasing a ticket I have just now seen these people face to face. But sometimes you just have to be comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty.
This whole process really started my senior year of High School when I applied and was accepted to Franklin College Switzerland (now Franklin University Switzerland). The school piqued my interest due to a romanticized idea of how it would be to spend what everybody said would be the best years of my life studying in the heart of Europe. It was this completely unrealistic expectation that drove me through the process until the reality of its price tag hit and killed it at the 11th hour. So I went to LSU with the nagging desire to go out and explore the world never subsiding.
Cut to a little less than 4 years later and the February of my final semester at University. As I was about to graduate, and like so many of my peers, I was trying to figure out exactly what I was going to do after graduation. My father, henceforth referred to as “the Y guy”, sat around a table in a glass enclosed conference room with the Director of YMCA World Service, I’ll call him “Frequent Flyer” or “FF” and other national leaders of the Y movement. During the meeting Frequent Flyer mentioned in some form or fashion YMCA World Service internships and it piqued the Y guys interest. He made an email connection between me and frequent flyer, whom I had met briefly the previous August, and introduced the possible internship opportunity. This was a Tuesday.
That Friday I had my first call with FF. We spoke for about an hour and discussed a variety of destinations and possible placements. He asked me about my interests, if I spoke any other languages, what I would be looking to get out of the experience, and any similar experiences I may have had. Aside from a brief trip to El Salvador with my church youth group and a few semesters of college Spanish I really didn’t have much. I had, however, taken a few life changing courses with Dr. Solimar Otero that opened my eyes to the wondrous world of the African Diaspora.
So, the combination of my limited linguistic capabilities, my interest in the trans-Atlantic relationship between the African continent and North America, and the close relationship between Y-USA and SAYMCA, FF and I ended the conversation resolved to get the ball rolling on sending me to South Africa for 6 months.