Updates from IBD: South Africa – Lessons Learned, Part II

Hello again from Steph, Togay, Alex and me (Gloria) in South Africa!

Another week has disappeared but don’t fret, here are some more valuable lessons we’d like to share.

Lesson #1: One week is all it takes for a bromance to develop.

Alex has taken to calling Togay “brother” and they share all their meals. There is talk of marrying each other’s sisters so that they will be real brothers. We celebrated Togay’s birthday on Monday and Alex bought him a rose from a roaming rose vendor. Imagine the vendor’s confusion as Alex presented the rose to Togay instead of the two ladies on our team.

Lesson #2: Malls are in again.

Welcome to South African suburbia. Where do we hang out almost every evening? At the mall, of course. Rosebank, Santon City, Melrose Arch, the Randberg Waterfront – the malls are countless, huge, with endless stores and restaurants, and sometimes include full sized grocery stores. I fear being lost in one, but if I ever am, I’ll have everything I could ever possibly need!

Lesson #3: Weather is all about perspective.

People keep telling us that we chose a bad time to come to South Africa because it’s winter, it’s “cold,” and the weather is bad. Alex is from DC, Steph is from Michigan, and Togay’s hometown is covered in snow 6 months out of the year. This is not cold. It’s absolute perfection.  It’s so good, in fact, that it makes us jump for joy!

Lesson #4: “Don’t touch the sharks, for obvious reasons.”

South Africa’s southern coast is one of the few spots in the world where you can dive with great white sharks, and Steph and Alex decided to try it out during our weekend in Cape Town. Near a sea lion colony (10,000 strong!), the sharks will come right up to the boat and submerged cage, just inches from your fingertips. The skipper and crew aboard the shark diving ship will never explicitly tell you that you could lose an arm or a leg, but it’s implied in their warnings. “Keep your hands inside the cage, for obvious reasons!”

Lesson #5: Sunset in Cape Town is phenomenal.

Cape Town in general is one of the most gorgeous places we’ve ever seen. It’s a city sandwiched between amazing mountain formations and pristine beaches. It has a lovely waterfront area dubbed the V&A, and the view from the top of Table Mountain is breathtaking and completely unforgettable. The most used phrase during our weekend trip: “It’s sooo beautiful!”

Lesson #6: The Cape of Good Hope is not the southernmost tip of Africa.

It’s the south-westernmost! It’s still “sooo beautiful” though!

Lesson #7: Ostriches enjoy the beachfront and penguins hang out in bushes.

What kind of post about South Africa would this be without photos of animals?!


Lesson #8: District 9 is really District Six.

You know that sci-fi movie that came out in 2009 about aliens and segregation in Johannesburg? Turns out the movie was inspired by a real place – the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town. On Saturday, while Alex and Steph went shark diving, Togay and I visited the District Six Museum, which commemorates the history of a residential neighborhood near the city center. Forced removal of over 60,000 of its residents to a township 25 km away during apartheid left the area neglected and abandoned, with most buildings bulldozed. But the area is rebuilding and the museum stands as a lovely tribute to the once vibrant and thriving community that was home to generations of families from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Lesson #9: Political expression is alive in South Africa!

Following a week and a half of controversy surrounding a painting which depicts the South African president with his genitals exposed, several thousand protesters assembled at an art gallery located just down the block from the offices where we are working to demand the painting be destroyed or removed from public view. Ah, public protests – feels just like home.

Lesson #10: The last week of IBD is serious business!

We’ve had a wonderful two and a half weeks working with our client, ChemCity. We’ve interviewed numerous individuals at all levels of the organization and have greatly enjoyed learning more about the company, the people here and the country. We plan to present our findings on Friday to ChemCity’s executive management and have been working hard to finalize presentation materials and wrap up our project. The last two days have flown by and we anticipate some late nights before Friday rolls around.  But hey, we’re business school students – we can handle late nights!

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