The Tavern of the Sea

“Why do you have to go there?”


My mother asked me this very question not too long ago, after I had told her I was headed to South Africa. Her reaction was not that surprising, given that her oldest child was about to embark on a 10,000 mile journey to Cape Town, South Africa. Not only was I about to go to a region that had a dark history with the Apartheid not too long ago. My closest family is in Spain, which was still significantly far away from Cape Town (approximately 7,000 miles). Also the fact that I was going into “unfamiliar” territory scared my mother because I had never been to this continent before, so I was unaccustomed to everything in regards to South Africa.

 I really can’t blame her for feeling this way because the rest of her two children (my younger sisters) were about to leave home to begin the next phase of their life; University. My younger sister Ana, was about to enter Jacksonville University and my even younger sister Marina was matriculating at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Both are graduating in two weeks, and although I am sad I can’t go see them graduate (and possibly watch my mother faint from the emotional aspect of it all) they understand that I have to go on this journey and engage in research and explore this mystical land that has captured my interest for quite some time.

Before I can begin to write about my adventures (which I haven’t even really begun yet) I think it would be fair to at least tell you all what exactly got me to this point in my life in regards to my upcoming journey to South Africa. 

It all started my freshman year at Brown when I enrolled in a spring semester course entitled “ENGL0130: Critical Reading and Writing II: The Research Essay” taught by the fabulous Lisa Egan. I went in the course, because I took Professor Egan’s ENGL0110 course and really loved her. She’s a great professor who gives phenomenal feedback on your essays which I can say with certainty helped me become a better writer. It was in her spring course that I wrote an essay on HIV and the amount of economical, political, social, and medical effects it has on a nation when a certain portion of the population suffers from it. As you may or may not know, South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland contain some of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with approximately one in every four adults being afflicted with HIV.


While I was preparing for the topic (in terms of outlining) to discuss with Professor Egan, a fellow student approached me after class one day and asked if I would interview him in regards to the topic because he said he had personal experience with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. I was hesitant at first to include an actual interview in my paper, but he seemed very eager to do the interview so I obliged. I interviewed this young man, and found out that he hailed from Lesotho, a landlocked and enclave nation nestled inside of South Africa. He fascinated me in what he had to say in how HIV/AIDS was viewed by his countrymen, and how they reacted to someone who was HIV positive. I included the interview in my essay, and even Professor Egan was thrilled to see me include an actual first hand account of how this young man encountered HIV in his country.


After I had written the essay, I was intrigued by HIV and how it affected sub-Saharan Africa. This along with the young man’s narrative was the driving point for me to learn as much as I could about this infectious disease. He sought me out after the class ended, and continued to discuss this with me at the end of the summer of my freshman year, and it was since then that I have had the pleasure and honor of calling the young man a great friend who I know will continue to be so for a very long time.


It was over the next two years that I began to take courses in other areas of academia, namely, Anthropology, Sociology, and Public Health in order to learn more about the effects of infectious diseases in developing nations. It was next in the fall of 2010, while taking another course entitled “PHP1070: Burden of Disease in Developing Nations” taught by Dr. McGarvey that I first learned of Dr. Mark Lurie, a colleague of Dr. McGarvey’s who not only was a South African native, but worked on various HIV projects throughout South Africa.


Of course I had no choice but to track down Dr. Lurie, and with many attempts (public health people are extremely difficult to get a hold of) I finally set up a meeting in Starbucks with Dr. Lurie and told him of my interest in working with him. It wasn’t until the next semester that I finally convinced him that I was truly dedicated to going to South Africa that he emailed my resume and cover letter to Dr. Catherine Mathews, a colleague of his in Cape Town who worked in the (HIV Component) of the Adolescents Research Institute at the University of Cape Town.


I won’t go into the specifics of the project today, but I will say that it intrigued me enough I began emailing Dr. Mathews and Dr. Lurie continuously in order to make this research trip happen, and through many long nights and elaborate emails and editing, I came up with enough financial aid through grants that allowed me to make the trip happen.


Today I am exactly five days from boarding the flight from JFK in New York to Johannesburg, South Africa then to Cape Town South Africa. I have many feelings about my impending travels, but I have to say that the strongest feeling I am experiencing is excitement. Every time I think about my trip not only do I get this strange adrenaline rush, in the sense that I am viewing this equally as an opportunity to research on a subject matter that I am interested in, as well as an adventure where I will be exploring the Western Cape, and enriching myself in all things South African in terms of it’s culture.

 The next time I write an entry I will be in New York at the airport, about to board the South African Airways flight that will take me to Jo’burg (as it is called by the locals).

 So, I hope you stay tuned into my blog to hear about my adventures, and I will update everyday (although they may not be as lengthy as this first entry) about my experiences in the Western Cape.



Stay tuned.









  • Carolyn Crisp | July 23rd, 2011
    I do apologize for the delay, I have been so busy I have been neglecting this blog so I will try to update it all by the end of this week. Also, I have had some trouble uploading things to this blog but I will do everything in my power to make sure...
  • Carolyn Crisp | June 12th, 2011
      Hello, To all of my readers, I am pleased that you have stay tuned for my adventures. I have decided to blog on this conversation website at least once a week, with full coverage of my doings in my other travel blog which can be found here:...