Monday, May 28, 2012

Build Up to Departure (Phase 2)

Departure is slated for July 4th, and copious amounts of planning consumes much of my time. Having been notified in late April that I was selected as a grantee, the window until departure is rather minimal. Designated contacts within the Fulbright organization send assurances that all required steps will be completed prior to departure and I'll arrive on the scheduled date.  Had I included a "Phase 1" in this blog, it would have focused upon the lengthy application and notification process, which is quite different from these concluding and somewhat manic steps.  Throughout the last few weeks my time has been dedicated to:
Securing medical clearance:  involved a lengthy exam, signed and documented paperwork, and a review of immunizations. While South Africa requires minimal immunizations to enter the country, I am secure in the knowledge that I've been inoculated against all sorts of nasty diseases! Further armor of DEET and malaria tablets will, hopefully, keep me from further invasions.....time will tell.
Obtaining criminal background clearance from the FBI:  a tricky step. While the application process is rather simple, the processing time has presented a significant hurdle. After having been fingerprinted by a local police officer and submission of necessary information, FBI processing can take up to eight weeks. This is not a problem with a grantee who claims a large window of time until departure, but for me the mad dash is significant. Why? I still need a treaty permit, which I can apply for AFTER having received FBI clearance...hence, a bit of angst comes into play.....
Obtaining a treaty permit: a necessary document for my lengthy stay in South Africa. A treaty permit is obtained through the South African Consular's office, and can take up to six weeks to process. My hope lies in the knowledge that I can pay an extra fee to expedite the process. Of course, I can't submit my application until the FBI determines I'm not a criminal. So I wait. But without the treaty permit I won't be entering South Africa on July 5th.
Working with UFS: flexibility is key! One aspect of the project proposal requires a Fulbright applicant to work with an educational institution in the host country to devise a sort of plan for the length of the grant. My proposal included specific tasks and responsibilities I would perform during my Fulbright year. Since notifying UFS of my award, these tasks have become more clearly defined by the head of the theatre program. My first task is to write an article reviewing the performances in English at the Vryfees Arts Festival in Bloemfontein. In addition to other responsibilities, I've learned I'll be directing a production that opens in August---which will be interesting since the audience will be native speakers of Afrikaans...certainly a new challenge!  I'm currently proposing play titles.  I should note that I do not speak Afrikaans....more on this later.  I'm trying to prepare by learning some basic vocabulary.   "Ek verstaan nie" (I don't understand) and "Ek is jammer, ek kan nie Afrikaans praat nie" (I'm sorry, I don't speak Afrikaans).  On the other hand, I hope to never use "Ek kry nie my bagasie " (I can't find my luggage), or  "Se asseblief vir die olifant sy voet van my rug to verwyder!" (Please tell the elephant to remove his foot from my back!) 
Personal arrangements: a definite challenge. Moving to the other side of the world for a year requires many "to do" lists and reminders.  The house, the dog, finances, etc. Organization is obviously paramount to the departure process, but I can't undervalue the importance of a solid support group at home base. I'm blessed with very supportive colleagues, friends, and family who are working together to ensure my journey is as successful as possible.