Okay, so I guess it’s time you heard my voice on the blog. (This is Jenny).
We’ve been here a week and a day, and are learning exponentially. Culture and the use of language especially fascinate me, and South African customs and English usage are just different enough from ours that it’s been a lot of fun uncovering, understanding, and trying to make our way here. Ryan is the perfect partner to have this experience with–he is excellent at decoding new cultural experiences and loves experiencing and discussing them as much as I.
As Ryan wrote, Friday was a wonderful day. Thanks to my mentor and host at the University of Pretoria, the esteemed Professor Stella Nkomo, and the rest of the Department of Human Resource Management, I was warmly welcomed to the Department. A mid-morning tea was held to welcome Ryan and me, complete with traditional South African hors d’oeuvres (think meats, cheeses, and custards in phyllo pastry) and tea, all served on real china. The group photo is of all attendees–faculty, staff, and a couple of student workers. Stella, especially, has done so much to get us here, and to help us settle into our new lives.
To say I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome would be an understatement. My office was all ready for me, complete with two welcome signs (see photo), fresh tulips, and office supplies. Everyone couldn’t have been nicer. I’m sure I’m going to like it here.
By and large, I can tell you, South Africans are very, very friendly. As a new colleague in my Department related, “If you say you like oranges, careful, or tomorrow you’ll have two bags.”
Next week I hope to dig into the research I’m here to do: looking at the impact of race and gender on South African women’s career progress. I’ll start the week by attending some of the sessions from the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies’ conference on campus: Gender in question: rights, representation and substantive freedom. There are some sessions on the program I’m interested in regarding women in the workplace, feminism in modern South Africa, and quota systems for women’s representation in government. Ryan and I will both be attending the opening sessions tomorrow, Sunday.
I’m ready to learn, and the great folks in my new department have provided the forum for me to do so.