Slightly under a year ago I flew to Cape Town in South Africa for a conference. I had the good luck of landing on a sunny cloudless sky. Now, if you’ve never been to Cape Town, imagine that when God created Africa he poured out all his artistic skill over the Cape tableau. Then came Man to seek refuge in the crags of the mountains. He perfected the art and called it Cape Town, in my estimation the most beautiful city on earth.

The rugged Table Mountains make a fantastic backdrop to the ultra modern hotels and business complexes, vintage homes nestling against the mountainside and the Cape Town Stadium, venue to World Cup 2010. The slopes that fall away from the mountains flourish with rich green scenery. And the intersection of the Pacific and Atlantic waters creates a beautiful waterfront. It is a dreamy paradise for hopeless romantics like me.

But you know what is interesting, when your feet are solidly on Cape Town soil, you begin to see the less than perfect picture. A set of slum-like shacks is one of the first sights that greet you on the drive from the airport to the city. The harried concierge, the traffic, the pickpocket (I got my camera stolen), the high cost of living; it’s the same old world after all.

That kind of reality check has been my experience these last couple of weeks. There was all the novelty of the pursuit of higher levels education and lofty ideals about how you will use this knowledge to change the world. And then the apparent excitement of friends, which if it gets into your head, it is dead weight capable of immobilizing you from doing the actual study.   My balloon was quickly deflated as I was burning the midnight oil to beat assignment deadlines ahead of the modular classes in September. Even during the class weeks I had several late nights; most of my fellow students were also playing catch up. By the end of the first week, we were pretty overwhelmed.

We had a respite at a get to know each other weekend retreat. Ben, an older PhD candidate at AIU graphically illustrated that the realm of knowledge is so big our particular contribution will be but a tiny dot. To even make that dot will take a lot of discipline and study smarts. The paradox is that there is such a huge need to generate knowledge, especially in Africa, for Africa. Our contribution as PhD students in Intercultural Studies will be worth every effort and expense we can invest into it.

To ease the angst over the workload, Prof Mark Shaw introduced us Pomodoro Technique® as a study tool. It is a way to get the most out of your time in 25 minutes chunks. You simply set a kitchen timer then enter into a competition between task and clock. You score yourself a goal for getting a task done and move to the next 25 minutes. I thought it was really cool. Shaw also added for good measure that this season of study is also your real life so do your work as play, not as duty. Do not motivate yourself with big plans for the future, just focus on making incremental steps in the now.

You know, now that I’m back to work as well as assignments by deadlines, my new tagline is “Four years in 25 minutes”. Let’s see if the Pomodoro will prove the genius over the next couple of weeks. If I’m successful I will introduce you into the world of my PhD program, Intercultural Studies, World Christianity concentration. Keep the little mouse locked onto this blog.

Maggie Gitau
An Ignite Excellence Scholarship Recipient