Escape and Engagement
By Rachel Brown
As we drove into Cape Town from the airport on Thursday afternoon, one billboard loudly proclaimed “Escape Town,” using a pun off of the city’s name to hawk a company’s vacation condos outside the city. We had just arrived after being in transit for 24+ hours (New Haven –> JFK –> Johannesburg –> Cape Town), so escaping town wasn’t a top priority. But the sign was a reminder of one of the reasons fueling what my parents like to call my “incurable wanderlust.” Travelling is a chance to escape from the familiar, escape from routines and experience something that is entirely new — whether it is a new country or city (no one in our group had been to South Africa or Cape Town before) or meeting new people (we were delighted to meet our counterparts from the University of Cape Town Globalist last night). At best travelling also provides a chance to escape one’s preconceived notions about what a place or an issue through first-hand exploration.
The idea of escaping, however, fails to entirely capture what I love about Globalist trips. After all, escape, connotes a degree of disengaging oneself from the world and that is exactly the opposite of what we hope to do on our reporting trips. Rather, the great thing about GloTrips is that they are all about engagement. The members of our group will be engaging with and immersing themselves in the topic they are writing on, whether it is the effects of gentrification in a formerly-industrial neighborhood in Cape Town, controversies surrounding affirmative action policies at South Africa’s universities, or an array of other topics. This engagement happens not only through a number of meetings and interviews that each participant has arranged, but also through discussions among group members after these meetings that spill into dinner and lunch conversations. While the topics that we choose to tackle are sometimes small in scope, we hope that that they will also serve as lens through which to engage and grapple with (at least to some degree) current affairs in South Africa and the challenges and successes the nation has faced.
On a more technical note, we have all arrived safely in Cape Town and have already had two great days of meetings and exploration. We are looking forward to many more to come!