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Trip Report Karen's master's degree trip - busy yes, but still fun!

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I'm just back and a bit jet-lagged, but and excited and wanted to tell you a little about my trip. In case you've forgotten (or didn't see the original [controversial!] thread), I'm part of a government-sponsored master's degree program and have been studying national security strategy for the past year. My field studies portion of the curriculum was sub-Saharan Africa and the culmination was a trip (with 8 other students and 2 faculty members) to South Africa, Botswana (and a brief stop in Zambia) - all in 10 days.
Yes, it was rushed. And in Pretoria we spent far too much time listening to briefings in conference rooms (I caused a major ruckus and embarrassed the rest of the group by complaining about it to the U.S. Embassy personnel who hosted us. I was frustrated because they did exactly what we DIDN'T want - a bunch of PowerPoint briefings - and we didn't get to see my number one priority for Jo-burg, the Apartheid Museum.) But overall, the trip was fabulous - I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.
A few highlights...
In inner-city Johannesburg, we were given a tour of a walk-in AIDS clinic (and a package of condoms - condoms, by the way, are widely available for free in both South Africa and Botswana). At the clinic, we saw lots of people waiting to be tested and waiting for treatment - both with ARVs for AIDS and also for TB, which in southern Africa is often a precursor disease to full-blown AIDS. We heard about the clinic's education and counseling program and about the frightening AIDS statistics and the reluctance of people to be tested. It was a fascinating up-close look at an issue that until then had seemed a distant and academic problem. The 3-year-old boy who wandered into one of the rooms where we being briefed made it poignantly real.
We stayed in Pretoria rather than Jo-burg. (I would NOT recommend it - seemed to me there was more to do in Jo-burg, although we didn't get to do any of it!) Our hotel was Villa Via, across the street from the U.S. Embassy - a convenient location for our conference room briefings (sigh), but otherwise not worth a stay.
After two days there, we headed via bus to Gabarone. Enroute we stopped at a very touristy place, Lesido Village (I may have the spelling wrong). It was like a folk park with people dressed in native costumes. We saw dances and typical village huts. I tasted a dried worm that looked kind of like a caterpillar. (I was one of only three in our group to do so and the only woman.) I chewed it up (tasted kind of like jerky), but ended up spitting it out (the texture screamed INSECT and it was more than I swallow). Anyway, we had fun, but this was a VERY touristy spot and a bit disappointing. I think we were expecting a more realistic village.
More later... next stop: Gabarone.

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