Awareness and Gratitude

My daily commute to the lab is rarely eventful, it is exactly thirty minutes from my house to my lab bench. Thirty minutes spent listening to my daily dose of Freshlyground, scrolling through my Twitter feed, and planning my day. It is a routine I am accustomed to — a routine that brings me serenity and much-needed structure. You see, structure and routine are very important to me. I have every hour of my day planned out and I know what to and when to do it. But, today’s commute was different.

As the métro began its approach to my intended stop a thought popped into my mind, and I as I slowly walked up the stairs I followed this train of thought, spurred by what I had seen on my Twitter feed. My fellow SAYAS blogger Sipokazi Nyeleka wrote an amazing piece on women in science (here). My intended blog post for this month was on the importance of mentorships in graduates school. I began to think about the numerous women whose work has directly or indirectly influenced how I do science. It was at that moment, at that precise moment when I reached the top of the stairs that I realised the hurdles women face in science, and the amount of privilege my sex and gender has awarded me.

It is from this place of understanding that I began to write this blog post. Like most things in life, the more you think, the more you know. I became aware of the damage and hurt that patriarchy has inflicted upon women and the disenfranchised. Like my fellow blogger, I want to express my boundless gratitude to those amazing scientist who inspired and continue to inspire to be a better scientist. As men, we are made to feel that every space was for us to occupy. And it is this sense of entitlement that puts many men in a position where they are unable to understand the obstacles of many women face in academia — how could we possibly understand if have never experienced it? As with other minority groups, women have always had to work harder, speaker louder to simply have their voices heard. I am fortunate enough to be in an environment that fosters mutual respect and acceptance for all — women, LBGTI, physically challenged groups etc… In closing, I wish to see academia be filled with the spirit that our country has; the Rainbow Nation. It is only through welcoming diversity into the workspace that we can truly transform the academic landscape.


When Africa calls

Eight years. . . That is how long ago I left the shores of sunny South Africa for frigid Montreal (I had a few detours along the way). I am self-sufficient, independent, and uncomfortable in my comfort zone. I have always been a restless spirit and enjoyed spending my time seeking new experiences. Ever since childhood, I have been that way. But, every couple of years or so this feeling creeps up and snatches my heart and screams, AFRICA!

Some call it homesickness — seeking feelings and qualities associated with your home country. For me, it is not about South Africa, but Africa! After all these years, I have learned a thing or two about thwarting homesickness: create new friends/family (check), new traditions (check), learn a new language (oui, Je parle Français maintenant), and keep busy ( Yep, Ph.D. got that covered). But, as clichéd as it may sound- there is no place like Africa. The people, the cultures, the colours, the immense diversity in landscapes and wildlife, and of course the amazing beaches. It is an indescribable feeling. Africa is my home, yes, but Africa is me too!

Whenever I get an opportunity to come home I become overwhelmed with excitement and joy. Every time, I am flooded with anticipation – who am I am going to see? Where will I go? How long will I stay? In previous years, whenever I came home I would plan elaborate road trips with my friends and family to catch up. This time, I am more than excited to not only to see my friends and family but to engage with amazing researchers. My mental preparation includes: deciding which researchers to visit (and there are plenty to choose from), putting my finger on the pulse to understand the discourse of science research in South Africa, and deciding which beaches to visit. For you see dear reader, Africa has awoken and what greater honour is there than seeding back into the continent that made me! I am constantly inspired to hear and read of the great efforts/achievements made by fellow researchers in Africa AND the diaspora envies it all! When historians write about THAT time Africa become a leader in scientific research- they will be talking about THIS moment!

I often wonder if other people ever feel the same way about their countries/cities or even continents. How do you cope with homesickness? Are there any tips to share?