Only six days after coming back from South Africa, I’m embarking on another trip. This time it’s a very quick one, down south of Spain, to Sevilla. I could not pass this one by, as I was dreaming about going to Ferrias de Sevilla since last year when I saw it on Snapchat Story (that’s how you find out about things these days).
Ferrias is a week long festival where women and men get to dress up in their finest traditional outfits – women in spectacular flamenco dresses and men in suits with sombreros. Every evening, people dance sevillana, drink wine, and eat tapas. All of this takes place in casetas, special tents that are temporarily built for the fair and beautifully decorated. These casetas belong to prominent families, groups of friends or associations and you need to know someone to get into one of them. Our group was lucky enough to be invited to one of the tents by an IE student from Sevilla, which made our experience unforgettable.
We arrived to Sevilla at 3pm on a Saturday. Girls changed into traditional outfits that we collected last minute in Madrid and the guys put on their finest suits. When we got to the fairground, we were transported into another world. Our heads were turning left and right as we were watching spectacular outfits, beautiful women and handsome looking men. I’m glad we collectively decided to dress up and blend in the crowd because we felt a closer connection with the tradition and culture of that place. We were taught how to dance Sevillana and had an absolute blast all night. Another great trip with a great group of friends. Check!
Easter Weekend was a perfect time to go to Cape Town because we had full 5 days off of work. Or we thought it would be perfect…ticket prices from Johannesburg skyrocketed and it was almost impossible to find accommodation. People from across South Africa and the rest of the world flooded CT because of holidays and Two Oceans Marathon, a popular running event taking place once a year around this time. The moody weather didn’t help either cancelling out trip to Robben Island the first day, not mentioning the rain which spoiled a few other plans along the way.
But enough about the negatives. The city is so beautiful that nothing could have possibly ruined our experience. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Cape Town that it made it hard to go there without high expectations. Yet, I was still surprised and amazed…the beaches, white sand, blue water, the mountains, the food, the cosmopolitan vibe, the waterfront, the people…I can go on and on. You get the idea. I fell in love with the city.
I compiled a list of must see & do things that I recommend for those who are traveling to Cape Town:
Beaches: Camps Bay & Clifton 2nd (the last one is perfect for when it’s windy)
Cape Point – most Southern Tip of Africa
Cape of Good Hope – where two Oceans meet
Boulder’s Beach – swim with the penguins
Robben Island – where Mandela was held (ex prisoners guide you through the Island)
Hike the Lion’s Head!! Or if you’re lazy take the cable car to Table Mountain
Winelands: Franschhoek & Stellenbosch – for wine lovers
V&A Waterfront – stunning and lively harbour (read “touristy”) with shopping, restaurants and bars
Sea Point – take a walk along the ocean
Biscuit Mill – really fun, fresh food market where you can buy homemade and handmade products (only Sundays)
South Africa has, hands down, some of the best food I’ve ever tried. And it’s not about their traditional cuisine but literally everything from salads, sandwiches, steaks (duh!), duck and even pizza! Here are some places I highly recommend:
The Potluck & The Test Kitchen (book way in advance)
Being in South Africa wouldn’t be complete without going on a safari. SA has a few parks where you can spot the “big five” in wilderness. The major one, Kruger Park, was more or less 5 hour drive from Johannesburg, a bit too much of a drive for a weekend only, so we settled on Pilanesberg, only 2 hours away. When we got to our safari loge, the friendly staff warmly greeted us and announced that we arrived just in time for the first game drive. All our group got a designated ranger for the whole time of our stay, so we were able to negotiate 6am drives instead of 5am :D.
Initially, three to four hour rides seemed quite long, but every time trying to spot new animals was as exciting as the first time. Unfortunately, we did not encounter two out of big five – the cheetah and water buffalo. Since there are only a few of them in the park, we had a very little chance. On the other hand, we were very lucky with spotting rhinos, several times during the trip, which nowadays is quite rare due to inhumane and barbaric poaching. Over a thousand rhinos were killed last year in South Africa alone, just because of conviction that rhino’s horn aids with impotence…No prove for that exists. Sick.
The whole safari experience was amazing. The Ivory Tree Game Lodge, which I highly recommend, the rides, our designated ranger and safari sunrises. The culmination of the day in the peaceful game reserve was nothing other than taking an outdoor shower under the perfectly starry sky…
I have never followed a trend of doing a juice cleanse or juice detox. I have refused to spends over $100 on this scientifically unproven fad and I have refused to waste my time “juicing” myself (mainly because I didn’t even own a juicer). I tried other diets here and there telling myself that “this time I will last”, but usually failed before it was the end. So I gave up on them and learned how to eat right. I learned how to make perfect (to my taste) green morning smoothies, healthy lunches and homemade dinners most of the time. I ate out usually when I traveled for work but I was always conscious of what I ordered.
I was good until I came to Spain, where eating out became a social “thing.” Spanish food is not necessarily the healthiest and not even the most delicious but it became a “good” option for a very busy lifestyle. Then, South Africa happened…where basically the food is so delicious and dirt cheap you just can’t stop eating (and it doesn’t make sense cooking because why would you, if everything else will taste better than your own cooking).
Enough is enough though. Through interactions with various people in Johannesburg, I was introduced to One-Juice and decided to give it a try. Because why not. I got delivered a box of 24 bottles of rainbow looking juices a night before my 3 day cleanse. The bottles are 280ml each (comparing to usual 500ml size), that’s why you drink 8 bottles a day instead of 5. (On the side note, I’m hungry as I write this). I must say it has not been bad at all. The juices tasted the best on the first day because they were new and exciting. On the second day some of them lost my favoritism, and on the third…well I’m not there yet! I’m probably less energized than normally during the day, but I’m not sleepy which is good as I can’t drink coffee. In a day it will be over and I will enjoy some delicious and fresh seafood in Cape Town 🙂
My MBA Program consists of 4 periods: 2 core terms that last 10 weeks each, a 5 week lab period and about 12 weeks of electives. The lab period, which I just entered into, gives a student the possibility of working on a start-up idea or on a consulting project for a major local company (business impact lab). Both of those options combine taking classes and group work. There are two other options that are more hands on and outside of the classroom – an internship or a Social Impact Lab in Peru or Johannesburg which is what I have chosen to do. Social Impact Lab is a part of Leadership Development Program led by Emzingo, a company that “prepares and equips responsible leaders to solve the worlds most pressing problems.” The program gives students the opportunity to act as consultants for nonprofit organizations and social business, to help them with problems in their business models from marketing and branding to financial modeling and fundraising strategies.
Social entrepreneurship has been a concept on the rise over the past few years. Having heard little about it before, I got exposed to it during the MBA and very much became interested. More and more young people feel the urge to give back and are not motivated by the financial gains alone. They want to make a difference and change the life of people in their communities, cities, and countries through innovative solutions. They are visionaries but realists, who combine entrepreneurship skills with the passion to create societal value and drive for a change. Here is a list of 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs and their often simple but scalable, and sustainable ideas.
The trend is there and looking promising. I could not be more excited to be working on a project for an ethical business whose mission is to make other people’s lives better. More about the project in my next post.
Second term could not have been busier. Four exams, three presentations, two papers and special group projects all combined with preparations to a 6 week trip to South Africa and a few interviews along the way. All of this equals little sleep and a bit of stress. It’s interesting how your body is able to quickly adjust to changes. Before the MBA, I could not function properly without my 8 hours of beauty sleep. My norm now is 6 hours on average but during crunch time it’s about 4 to 5 and I must say it isn’t as bad as I thought. Coffee in the morning and afternoon is a must and I’m like new (If I’m lucky I’ll take a quick Spanish siesta after classes).
Twenty four hours before departure to Johannesburg were busier than the rest of the week. After the finance exam on Friday I went for a quick lunch with my classmates, after which I came back home, did laundry and packed my suitcase. I intended to take a nap which didn’t happen as my busy mind did not want to rest so I just lied in my bed for 45 minutes and decided to go to the gym. By the time I left my apartment to join everyone at a semester-end celebration, it was midnight. Since I had one more daunting task to do before my departure, an online strategy exam, I just permitted myself an hour at the party in order to get a good night sleep to recover from tiredness. This of course didn’t happen as I ended up in bed at 4:30 in the morning without sleeping for 24hrs. I still wonder where this energy came from.
After 3hrs of sleep I took the exam while my fabulous roommates went for a coffee run, made breakfast and helped me pack for my early flight. I can’t forget about the travel goodie bag they prepared for me. Theses girls are so thoughtful! Now I’m sitting on my first connecting flight to Cairo and I feel the exhaustion is finally hitting me. I’m glad the next flight is a redeye so I can sleep like a baby.
Carnival in Spain is a pretty big deal. It starts some time in February and finishes with the “Burial of the Sardine” on the night of Ash Wednesday which marks the first day of Lent. Yes, the Spanish burry a Sardine and the whole ritual has a sense of a festive mourning with a parade, music and dancing. Since Carnival in Tenerife, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, is known to be the biggest, the wildest and turns out – the longest (it ends the weekend after Ash Wednesday) in Spain, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to relax before the final exams and experience local customs. Why not…
Along with three friends we arrived to Puerto de la Cruz, the northern city of the Island on a Saturday morning. We were hungry for some sunshine and since the weather was delightful we headed out for a walk around the little town and to the black sand beach, which I’ve never seen before. My observation of the day…black sand does not dirty your feet at all! It does not stick to feet so you don’t have the problem of “sand in your shoes.” 🙂 As we continued our stroll, there was one thing that quite worried us – the town looked like a destination for retiree’s retreats…We wondered whether we picked a wrong date to see the carnival. However, we quickly realized that younger crowd was just sleeping through their hangovers from the previous night of partying.
Since we were joining the parade in the afternoon we were on a mission to buy masks, which we did not have problem finding. I went for a seductive gold & black 😉 We dressed in completely unmatched costumes picked from random items collected from different events like Halloween or IMBA unite, which made us look ridiculous, but we couldn’t have more fun when we joined the parade and walked the streets of the city dancing and waving to the crowd (#carnivalqueens). The costumes of others blew our minds. Families and groups of friends were perfectly coordinated and creativity went through the roof (trust me, so much better than any Halloween costumes I’ve ever seen before). An interesting thing was that most men were dressed as women wearing tutus, tights, wigs, and makeup. I don’t know if that’s the Carnival thing or a Tenerife thing, don’t ask me but it was certainly entertaining. My absolute winners were a group of lady bugs and a group of sexy female (I mean male) firefighters. The second, and the last day, was spent in the main city of Tenerife – Santa Cruz, in the southern part of the island. Since the weather was even better than the day before, we hopped on a bus and went to a man made white sand beach (Playa de las Teresitas) which was beautiful. Our luck ended after 15 minutes of sunbathing when we got unpleasantly surprised by the rain. Ariel found it a great opportunity to go for a 45 minutes swim (she’s a mermaid after all), while the rest of us went to a local beach bar which served delicious mojitos….and that’s where the story ends….