Mara has added yet another internship to her timeline…

Hey everyone!

I can’t believe I’m almost four weeks in and have only written one blog post. Disappointing, really. Hopefully in the second month, I will get it together.

This post isn’t as exciting as the last one. It’s basically just me explaining what happened with my internship (now that I’ve gotten the courage to publish this on the web).

So you’re probably thinking, why didn’t Mara mention her internship in her first post? I mean, the reason I came to Cape Town was to intern at a South African magazine. Well here it goes: I started my internship two days after my arrival. What the [company’s name that I won’t write on here] does is hard to explain because they don’t really know what they do either. It’s part online magazine for women (which is what I was supposed to be working on), part non-profit organization for kids, and part business and marketing consulting service. It wasn’t really what I was expecting in regards to the magazine side of the business. There wasn’t really an editorial staff–it was just me and then the 5 people who worked there would sometimes help out. There was no organization or clear idea on what they wanted from me. On top of that, the company was very focused on promoting products, businesses and just marketing in general (which is not my thing at all). But my biggest problem was that they treated my accomplishments as a fault and not as a useful tool for their company.

The internship didn’t work out because it was not meant for a 23-year-old graduate: it was meant for someone who had never worked in a company before and seriously needed experience. I could honestly go on for hours on just how dreadful this internship was but it’s unnecessary at this point. It’s over. The point is that I came to another country to learn, but to also utilize my skills from previous work experiences.

In their heads, I had no previous work experience. I was not an individual, I was part of the “internship program” and whatever the group does, you do. I was told I had to relearn things I already knew, and whenever I reminded them that I had a degree, I was shut down and labeled as a “know-it-all”. Or insinuated that I thought I was better than the other interns because I was from America and had the opportunities.. so obnoxious. I’ve never been in a situation where having a college degree was seen as snobbish. The whole thing was just ridiculous: it was obvious they hadn’t read my resume because they were surprised when I knew how to use basic things like WordPress (……) or that I had my own website and had work published. I was looked down on for my accomplishments or knowing basic programs. Now I know I’ve really entered third world.

It was also difficult not being trusted to do the job I was hired to do. My boss didn’t trust me to find my own stories, do my own interviews or be able to write my own questions. When did it become a thing that bosses hold their employees’ hands for everything they do? I realized a week in that I wouldn’t be getting anything out of this experience. So I talked with my program coordinator, and we decided that I should switch.

It’s unfortunate when anybody has to leave because it’s not a right fit. No one wants to travel to a new country with the intention of working and then leaving a week later. It questions your ability to adapt to new work environments, it questions your maturity and professionalism and I really struggled with whether or not I was making the right decision. I was told to wait and let it get better, to suck it up and appreciate the opportunity. And I just couldn’t. I’m not at that point where any experience is acceptable. My time and work is now valuable to me. And if it’s a waste of time (and I’m not getting paid), the sad truth is it’s not worth it. After a couple of days, I received a call from my program coordinator that after receiving my resume and bylines, I had been accepted to be an intern at Rolling Stone Magazine South Africa! Now, I don’t regret my decision at all.

Rolling Stone SA has been incredible so far. It’s associated with the regular Rolling Stone mag–we use the same layouts and we’re open to use each other’s content–but Rolling Stone SA is independently run to focus on local South African musicians. The overall message is to promote musicians and art as a whole because the music industry just isn’t as advanced here as it is in the states. 3IPublishing started publishing Rolling Stone SA two years ago, so they are still relatively new but very organized and professional. I’m so proud to be part of this company. They’re very appreciative of what I have to offer and have given me a lot of responsibility. And we listen to music all day long, so that’s pretty awesome too.

What have I learned? This isn’t so much about working in South Africa vs. working in America as it is working for different companies. Obviously being American gave me somewhat of a disadvantage, where it was encouraged to know nothing and to gain whatever knowledge had to offer. At Rolling Stone, it’s a very chill environment, where my speedy and “first world” skills, as they call it, are more accepted. So obviously it depends on the company. I think in the end, you have to learn that there will always people you can’t work with, or a job that you don’t like, but it’s how you handle it that makes you grow. I wish I had handled it my leave more professionally. I know in the future, I won’t be able to switch internships or jobs so easily. That eventually when I get a real job, I’m gonna have to suck it up and work with what I have. But that time isn’t now. I had the choice to change if it wasn’t a good fit, and it wasn’t. And I encourage anyone in my program to stand up for themselves, for their time and for their value because they should appreciate what we do for them. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I will never be ashamed of my accomplishments.

I also want to add that even though it ended, I loved the girls I met and spent every waking moment with during my internship. These five girls were so generous and sweet even though we had only known each other for just a couple of days. I appreciate their support for my decision to leave and I’m so glad we still get together for drinks and dinner.

Me and the 'Spice' girls getting drinks at Rafikis

Me and other interns getting dinner at Beleza


Me and my girl JoJo

What to expect in my upcoming blog posts: Some of the places I’ve been around Cape Town such as the Company Gardens, Hope Street Market and Langa. Hopefully after I can get into my trip on the Garden Route! And then a blog post on the differences between “real” Africa and “touristy” Africa. And pictures of me bungee jumping!

What I want to accomplish by the next post: Upload all of my pictures and get them online. Book more trips outside the city. Keep up with blogging. Walk slower and really see everything, but work faster. Oh and write less in my blogs and emails. People have lives.

Till next time,

He said, “One thing before I graduate, Never let your fear decide your fate.”

Welcome friends, family, Facebook and Twitter stalkers and anyone I told I was going to Cape Town and thinks I’m crazy. I know–what’s a Jewish girl doing in South Africa? A country where using #thirdworldproblems is legitimate, a fast internet connection is a luxury and most of the time you’re questioning the meat you’re eating. But a month after I graduated college, sitting at my desk at my 40+ hour, full time internship where I was making next to nothing, I realized that just because I was 22 and had a degree didn’t mean I needed to start my life right away. Also how boring, right? So after getting accepted into the Connect123 program where I got an (unpaid) internship at a magazine in Cape Town, I had found my next home from September to December of 2013.

15 hours to Johannesburg, 2 hours to Cape Town and an eventful time at the Cape Town airport later (where the airline lost my bag and I was sure all of my belongings were gone forever), I was on my way to my apartment at Perspectives to begin my journey. (My bag was sent to my apartment six hours later, but still).

photo 1

Saying my goodbye outside of JFK Airport

Like everyone who travels and has an opinion, I wanted to start a blog to document my time abroad and be able to share it with friends. But I also think it’s important that people really see what Cape Town is all about (through my perspective, that is). I’m frequently asked about what animals I see and how the safari is, or people are very concerned about my health and wellbeing. I’m not in Tanzania, people! Cape Town may be underdeveloped but it’s still a very modern city. Taking a walk in the Company Gardens feels like you’re walking through Boston Common. Camps Bay beach might as well be in Miami. Long Street in Cape Town could put any Philly citizen at ease because of it’s similarities to South Street. Though very far away, there’s a piece of home in many parts of the city (though I’ll add it’s like 100x more beautiful, sorry not sorry!) Obviously not every part is a dream to look at: there is a lot of poverty, where some sections of the city are filled with shacks for homes. It’s definitely unsafe (see my next blog post where I tell the great story of how my wallet got stolen and I have no idea how it happened). And like every place in the world, you have to be smart about where you’re going when you’re alone. But there’s a lot to learn too, like the culture. For example, everything runs so slowly here, and not just the internet, but the people, businesses, work, etc. You realize early on that no one is in a rush. The whole “time is money,” idea just doesn’t exist. My point is that while the stigma of Cape Town and South Africa is that it’s unsafe, unclean or something Americans could never relate to, it just isn’t the truth. I hope that with this blog, people will get a glimpse of what Cape Town life is really like.


View of Table Mountain and Cape Town

Cape Town is so beautiful. The whole city and nearby islands surround this huge mountain called Table Mountain and Lions Head. A group of us are planning on hiking it sometime this month when it gets nicer out (it’s a 6 hour hike but there’s also a cable car). We’re currently transitioning from Winter to Spring. Everyone on the program was under the impression that it would be an extension of summer once we got here but it is anything but. It’s been 50-60 degrees everyday, and though it’s always sunny, it’s freezing! It’s suppose to get really hot in two weeks so I’m very happy about that.

I live on the 10th floor of an 18th floor building called Perspectives with the other Connect123 members and where the Connect123 office is located. We’re very close to cafes, restaurants and a shopping centre. I like the area even though everything closes early. Everything is incredibly cheap here. 1 American dollars = 10 rands so a big meal and drink is typically 50 rands. Not too shabby.  In the mornings, I walk to my friends’ apartment for a ride to my internship and the walk is an unreal experience: there’s Table Mountain to my right, kids in uniforms going to school on my left, Lion-King looking trees everywhere. It’s like America but… South Africa. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. It’s just unbelievable to think how far away I am from everything. Luckily everything is accessible by walking, bus or taxi so I’m looking forward to checking out the city when I’m more settled in.

So far I’ve been to a lot of restaurants and bars on Long Street. We finally had our first program event at a place called Van Hunks. It was nice to finally see everyone in one place since we’ve all met separately. There’s about 30 people in the program, mostly girls, age ranging 18-26. Most are from America, with a couple from Canada and Panama, but we all have very similar backgrounds and goals. After Van Hunks, we went to a place called Rafickis. At this place called Mama Africa, where an authentic African band played live music, I tried crocodile! Hahaha so kosher, right? On the weekend, though, I went to a beach area called Camps Bay, which was beautiful. We went to a restaurant called Mezopoli Wine & Bar and then took pictures by the water.

Some of Connect 123 awkwardly gathering together at Camps Bay

Some of Connect 123 girls gathering together at Camps Bay



A little embarrassed while the lead singer of the band at Mama Africa serenades me

On our 1 week anniversary of being in Cape Town, my friends and I visited the V&A Waterfront, a popular tourist area near the harbor where people can rent boats, go sailing, and shop. At a restaurant called Willoughby’s and Co., I ordered a thai curry calamari and rice dish and it was served to me in a pan! It was seriously delicious and a really nice treat on my first trip to the Waterfront. If you’re ever feeling homesick, the Waterfront is definitely the best place to go for a little American refresher. You can find a lot of American department stores and boutiques; the Apple store is called iStore (lol). We saw The Heat and when I came out of the movie theatre, I honestly felt like I was in America again.

Eating Thai curry calamari and rice, Willoughby's and Co, the Waterfront.

Eating Thai curry calamari and rice, Willoughby’s and Co, the Waterfront.

This weekend I’m going on a walking tour in the Langa Township. Langa is one of the many areas in South Africa that was designated for Black Africans before the apartheid era. There, we will go on a tour throughout the village to learn about the community’s history and eat different types of meat at Mzoli’s, a very popular meathouse where people come to braai (barbecue). I’m really excited to finally be doing different things and seeing more of the South African culture instead of shopping and going to the bars and restaurants. Unfortunately all of this is happening on Yom Kippur, so this just isn’t the best week to be Jewish. Sorry, mom!

Photo taken in Pick N Pay, supermarket in Cape Town

A local grocery store advertises food for Rosh Hashana!

I have to say the best part about this experience is the people. Everyone here, both the Americans and the South Africans I’ve met, regardless of age or their life story, is just so down to earth and real. When you’re out, everyone just talks to everyone and it’s not weird or out there. They’re not separated by their cliques. Cape Town’s style is really about a care-free, live in the moment kind of life. And the people in the program are so open-minded and down to try new things. It’s so refreshing. Though people here take their time for everything, everyone seems to have the same idea: To never waste a moment being negative and to always appreciate everything you have in your life. And it’s nice to be reminded of that fact everyday while I’m here and I’ll continue to think that these next four months.

What to expect from my next blog entry: My second week in Cape Town, the reason why I didn’t mention anything about my internship, my unlucky Friday night, my experience at the Langa Township and other weird and adventurous stories.

Things I want to accomplish before I write my next post: Learn which way to look when crossing the road (since everything is the opposite), start reading some of the books I brought like Disgrace by South African writer J.M Coetzee, take MORE pictures and stop relying on others to send me theirs, to check out the Green Market Square and (this one probably not by the next post) be more patient.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I can’t wait to post more on here because I know I’m just getting started.


PS – The reason I named my blog ‘Anything but Shame’ is because a typical South African saying is ‘shame’ or rather, ‘shaaaaaame.’ It’s used when someone tells someone a story about something bad or horrible happening to you and the person says ‘shame’ as a response to understand or show concern. It’s kind of silly and I’ll probably change it soon.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more pictures – @mars_baars


Panorama view from Camps Bay