Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Year In Review

2016 has been a rough year for ye olde SeeReeves blog and a rough year in general. In 2015, I posted in six out of 12 months. Not a lot of action, but still some. However, in 2016 I only posted in March when I staffed the McCombs MBA Global Connections trip to South Africa. Other than that, the SeeReeves has been silent this year. There are a lot of reasons for that. Normal life isn't too exciting. I haven't been taking any classes or doing any things that warrant reflection in a blog post. Cale doesn't share his life with the world for some strange reason. And well, are the kids even writing blogs these days? Shouldn't I have just tweeted out our lives?

Regardless, it is time for the 2016 Reevesi Year In Review, and I will not disappoint.


In 2015 we got a new cat, Penfold. She turned out to be all kill, no cuddle. But in early January this year, I was under the impression that maybe the cuddling was coming.

We even documented a cuddle.

As it turns out, I was wrong. She still refuses to cuddle with me. Cale claims to get cuddles when I am at work.

Bigger news than our cat's lack of cuddle was Cale's first publication as an LBJ PhD student - "Overcoming barriers and uncertainties in the adoption of residential solar PV."

We hung out with friends.

A photo posted by Sara Reeves (@seereeves) on

I overcame my fear of heights to jump off a building. And did a terrible job at filming it.

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I volunteered with STEMed Labs' 2016 STEMPRENEUR program. High school students took weekly coding classes for one month, concluding with a 3 Day Startup weekend at Capital Factory.

And we totally enjoyed the winter weather in Austin. That's tank-top weather on January 31.

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I continued to enjoy Austin winter weather with my lunchtime walks at work.

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We went to our last Dinner Lab; we just had no idea it was the last one at the time.

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I voted for the Bern in the primary.

And the high school program I volunteered with was on TV.


The big (and apparently only blog-worthy) event for me in March was the Global Connections trip to South Africa. Unlike the Ghana trip the year before (which was two weeks and multiple cities), this study abroad course was more like a strategic strike. We were in and out of Cape Town in five days. I loved the city. Mountains, ocean, English, a 16-to-1 exchange rate!

If you haven't already, you can follow my adventure starting here.

Overall, it was a great trip. There was some action and adventure.

And it took me a while to get home.

We had a Peace Corps reunion in Austin.

We went on a motorcycle Spring Break vacation trip to New Orleans.

It was also Holi, and I was at the MBA celebration again. However, I somehow failed to upload those pictures to the Flickr and the internets are being too slow to rectify that now as I create the year in review.

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In April, it was my favorite Austin festival, HONKTX.

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And a very Peace Corps wedding.

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Some big news, is I left my job at the MBA+ Leadership Program at UT...

...and accepted a position with Notley. My job was to expand two nonprofit organizations, Startup Games and Philanthropitch to new cities.

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I was going to miss the MBA+ team.

The new job started off with a bang, the second annual Startup Games: Level Up. Ten teams, $50k raised for local nonprofits, lots of drinking.

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My first weekend at the new job was Startup Games: Level Up. The next week it was Philanthropitch.

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May also finally brought my favorite season in Austin...creek season.

This year, Cale and I have been married for 13 years. Apparently, we only have our picture taken together when in the presence of other Pisikoa.

We celebrated by treating ourselves to the tasting menu at Barley Swine.

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In June, I was in Atlanta. We launched our first Philanthropitch expansion city.


It appears July was just normal life stuff. Go to the creek, hang out with the Kelly-Smiths for America Day, stuffs.


August was a huge month for Cale. He sat and passed his Comprehensive Exams. It's so important, I am doing August out of order to put this at the top. No more classes for Cale. Next up, proposal approval.

The whole PhD crew celebrated at Kitty Cohen's

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August also brought my second favorite Austin festival, Quesoff.

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I was in Denver for Startup Week as I worked to expand Startup Games there.

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October was our very first time at ACL Live.

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Can you believe that it was the 10th anniversary of Idiocracy? And it's all coming true!

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We launched our first expansion city for Startup Games - Denver.

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Cale presented at back-to-back academic conferences in October. He went from BECC in Baltimore to USAEE/IAEE in Tulsa.

We spent Halloween having a very SPEA reunion.

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As I am sure you all know, early November was rough, and it's still too soon. I typed a number of follow up sentences here, but I am just going to leave it with it was rough.

Annette came to visit for Thanksgiving. So we had a great dinner with her and friends

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And then we went to see iconic Austin street art.

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The Samoan Disney movie came out and it was amazing.

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Cale and I had the chance to attend Black Fret's Black Ball. They were a 2016 Philanthropitch finalist. It was amazing. If I had a spare $1,500 lying around, I would totally become a member.

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The kitten upped her cuddle game.

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We continued to marvel at Austin's weather with a short-sleeved hike on December 17th.

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I spent Electoral College Day preparing for a dim women's health future.

And then it was Christmas.

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I'll update this with the Very Carusillo Christmas pictures soon and any other excitement that happens in the remaining few days of the year.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back in the US

One Step Closer to Home

Heading Home

Global Connections South Africa: Day 5

There's nothing like a pre-dawn hike up a mountain.

I had been talking about hiking Lion's Head for sunrise. The views for both sunrise and sunset are supposed to be amazing. The peak is part of the Table Mountain range and from it you are afforded a spectacular look at Table Mountain itself.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do the sunrise hike, as it looks like I was going to have to go it alone, and I preferred company. But then at 5:28 am I was woken by the ding from my What's App.
"Sara - are you hiking lions head this morning? There's four of us going this morning."

I have never gone so quickly from sound asleep to hiking a mountain before.

On a side note, we've used What's App groups for both the Global Connections trips I have staffed so far, and they work wonderfully. The app is incredibly popular in the developing world and works great on even questionable networks. All the students can be connected with the wifi at the hotel or if they have data on their phones.

Now back to the mountain.

The hike up Lion's Head is just as, if not more, strenuous as Table Mountain's Platteklip. However, it is much shorter. I was still breathing hard when we reached the top, just in time for the sun to peek above the low clouds on the horizon.

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The view was spectacular.

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On the climb back down the mountain, we accidentally took another path that led us to the more adventurous "chains" route. There is a small section of the climb that is along a more sheer cliff face with no path. Instead there are metal handholds and metal chains bolted into the cliff. Climbing down reminded me of using those handholds in climbing gyms. Except for the part when I was filled with fear the entire time.

For those that know me, you know I am not a big fan of the potential to fall from heights and the looking down. I went down the temple in Chichen Itza on my butt, I skipped a particularly steep temple in Siem Reap. So to sort of dangle off the side of a mountain changing to a chain with my camera bag and sweater weighing me down was not my favorite.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't that bad.

We were back at the hotel in time for breakfast, and then I had a chance to catch up on some emails and run out for some souvenirs. It was a free morning as the teams prepared their final presentations that took place that afternoon.

The presentation conference went very well. Our project partners joined us in the hotel conference space and the nine teams each presented on their work.

Then we celebrated the successful trip with a closing dinner at Sevruga, also at the Waterfront (we spent a lot of time at the Waterfront this week).

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For dinner I wanted to be adventurous, so I had the springbok. Springbok is an antelope, and I imagine it is comparable to venison. Having never had venison as far as I know, I cannot say for sure.

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And then, just like that, Global Connections South Africa was over. I am typing this last entry on Saturday morning while I wait for a reasonable time to head to the airport. In just over 24 hours I should be back in Austin and ready for our spring break trip to New Orleans!

Global Connections South Africa: Day 4

On Thursday we visited the Media24 headquarters. Media24 is the print arm of the media company Naspers, the largest company (possibly) in Africa. I am not entirely sure if Naspers is the largest company in Africa or just the largest media company.

Though Media24 is the print arm (publishing multiple magazines and newspapers), it is also home to many of the company's internet ventures as well. In addition to hearing from the head of the newspaper division and the editor of their Afrikaans-language paper, we also heard from the head of their careers website and their relatively new e-commerce platform.

Interestingly enough, the company got into e-commerce because if its existing delivery infrastructure. Since the public postal service in South Africa is notoriously unreliable, Media24 had developed its own logistics network in order to deliver its papers and magazines. With this already in place, branching out into e-commerce seemed to be a natural fit for them.

After our morning meeting, we headed off towards the Cape of Good Hope with our hopes high of seeing some penguins. We were not disappointed.

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We also saw Cape Point, which offered spectacular views.

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That evening I joined Raj for diner at a sushi restaurant called Willoughby and Co. I was a little put off by the name and Gaelic looking script. It just didn't look like something that should have good sushi. However, it came highly recommended and some of the other students had eaten there on a previous night and raved about it.

As it turned out, the food was amazing. And thanks to the favorable exchange rate, the prices were ridiculous. I ended up spending about $25 USD and ate just all the fresh raw tuna you can imagine.

The exchange rate has been kind to us this entire trip. From Uber rides that convert to just a few dollars to rock bottom food prices, this trip has been very easy on my wallet.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Global Connections South Africa: Day 3

Wednesday started early for me with a 3 am call from a student who needed medical attention. I had the opportunity to make use of our International SOS support and to spend some quality middle of the night time in a South African hospital.

We were in the hospital for several hours, though nothing that is likely longer than ER waits in the US as well. What really struck me was the lack of urgency. It wasn't that we were seen because they were busy and there were long lines. It was just because everything moves as a much slower, less concerned pace.

Raj and I have actually commented on this throughout the trip. Raj has indicated that he finds South Africa to be one of the most polychronic, least task oriented cultures he has encountered. Though I am not sure about this. I haven't noticed that the difference in time are related to South Africans being more focused on relationships than tasks.

Anyway, after a long morning at the hospital, I returned to the hotel for a nap rather than join the group for their company visit to Heart Capital in the townships. I was disappointed I wasn't able to meet with Peter and his team.

Once I was refreshed, I caught up with the rest of the group that evening at a cricket match.

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South Africa played Australia. My cricket knowledge is such that I have no idea if it was a good game. Raj indicated it wasn't too exciting. I believe Australia won.

Being at the cricket match with these students reminded me of taking GBI and GSEI students to baseball games back in Indiana.

Global Business Institute 2014

Coming up next we'll visit Media24 and wrap up the program with final presentations.

Global Connections South Africa: Day 2

I must start my post for Day 2 by apologizing for failing to take any pictures. That's on me.

We started the morning at Woolworths (or, as they call it Wolly's).

First, I need you to forget everything you think you know about Woolworth's. The Woolworths in South Africa is not the same to the five-and-dime we know from the US. According to Wikipedia:
"The chain was named after the United States chain F. W. Woolworth Company but, because of the contemporary trademark laws, the name was legally used without permission. No financial connection ever existed between the companies. Similarly, Woolworths Holdings Limited is not to be confused with Woolworths Limited, an Australian retail company."
It appears that naming a store Woolworths is popular in many places.

We were visiting the Woolworths at the V&A Waterfront. And on first glance, it looked like any other mid- to high-end department store. However, in the midst of a conversation with Noni Gasa, the head of PR for Woolworths, she mentioned that people compare them to Whole Foods in the US. I am standing in a brightly lit department store surrounded by women's clothing, and I am very confused.

As it turns out, that Woolworths Food is actually the main brand here in SA. They have standalone food stores and also have the foods section in their department stores.

On a side note, Noni. So Noni is amazing. After meeting her, I decided I want to be her when I grow up - though I think we are basically the same age. Her personality was very infectious. Her fashion sense was impeccable. And she had the best freckles in likely all of the world. Add to that being the head of PR for Woolworths SA and that is something to aspire to. Except the freckles. There is nothing I can do about that.

I googled her as I was writing this blog post so I could make sure I was spelling her last name correctly and discovered she's just a little bit a famous model and fashion icon. You know, so there is that.

After the visit to the Woolworths store, we then has a presentation on their My School My Village My Planet CSR and customer loyalty initiative. This was a standalone entity that serves as a CSR arm and customer loyalty scheme for many companies that Woolworths purchased not too long ago. It still operates for many companies, but it is just a part of the Woolworths empire now.

Finally, we heard from a representative of Wesgro the regional government's tourism, trade, and investment entity. He helped provide a broader picture of the SA economy.

Our formal program for the day ended there. We went to lunch and afterwards the students all broke up into their teams for site visits with their clients.

The MBAs in this class have been working in teams with small businesses in Cape Town for the past 6-7 weeks on mini consulting projects. Now that we are on the ground, the teams had a chance to meet their clients in their environment to get a better idea of the situation as they prepare their final presentations for Friday.

While the students were with their clients, Mik and I rented bikes and rode up and down the sea wall. Something I also failed to take phone pictures with. I do have some pictures on my real camera, but I won't be able to process those until I am back in the US and have access to my Mac. I shoot in RAW and I don't have any image processing software on my work laptop.

Mik, you may remember from the Global Connections Ghana course last year, is the GRA for this course. He's managed all the details around this projects for the course.

So that was Tuesday. It's actually Saturday morning as I am typing this, and the official program ended with a closing dinner last night. I am a little behind in my blogging. I will try to catch up.

In my next posts you'll hear why I missed most of the activities for Wednesday, about how adorable penguins are, and how Global Connections South Africa concluded.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Global Connections South Africa: Day 1

Monday was the first official day of Global Connections South Africa.

We started the day with an exceptional sight visit with the Springbok's, the national rugby union team. We had presentations from several high ranking people within the organization, including the current president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) Oregan Hoskin.

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It was a fascinating presentation for many reasons. But for me, the pervasiveness of "transformation" as part of the organization's strategy was really interesting.  Apartheid has cast a long shadow in this country. Mr. Hoskin gave a very personal presentation on his experience as a "coloured" growing up in apartheid South Africa and becoming the elected head of SARU.

After the Springbok's visit, we headed out to Stellenbosch to learn more about the South African wine industry. We had a presentation at the Kanonkop Wine Estates on building a lifestyle brand as well as a wine tasting.

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Then we were off to Anura for another tasting.

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And we closed the night with our Welcome Dinner at Helena's in Stellenbosch.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Global Connections South Africa: Pre-Program Day 1

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So you may have noticed I am in Cape Town. I am staffing the McCombs MBA Global Connections course to South Africa this year. You can follow our adventures from the Ghana course last year here.

The trip to Cape Town was relatively uneventful. It mainly consisted of two, eight-hour legs on the same plan. We stopped halfway through to refuel in Dakar. I can say that South African Airways does not have the best international flight food that I have had.

I arrived in Cape Town late Saturday night (early Saturday afternoon depending on whose time zone you want to use) along with two other students in the program and a third MBA who just happened to be vacationing in South Africa for Spring Break. I had tried my hardest to reset my clock during the flights so that I could (1) be on SA time and (2) be up and ready to see Table Mountain Sunday morning.

This Cape Town trip is very short for me. I am basically in the city from Sunday through Friday night (my return flight is at 2 pm on Saturday March 12), and Monday through Friday we have programming for the course. So my sightseeing time is limited. I knew that I couldn't be in Cape Town and not get up on Table Mountain, a pretty prominent feature of the town.

On Sunday, Mikhail, Eungoo, and I Ubered over to the Platteklip Gorge trail head that would take us to the top of the mountain. I mean sure, there are cable cars that can take you up and down the mountain, but I enjoy a good scramble over rocks. My internet research had indicated the trail was 3k and took about 1-3 hours to hike one-way depending on your speed. It did indicate that it was a strenuous hike. However, as I mentioned, I like to scramble over rocks, and, in my past experience, I am usually towards the quicker end of expected hiking times. So I was not worried about this hike.

Well, Table Mountain kicked my ass. That was just a whole lot of up. Straight up. I felt so old and out of shape as I gasped for breath and requested increasingly frequent breaks from my hiking companions. I had forgotten to apply sunscreen. None of us brought enough water. And every time I looked up, I could still see ant-sized people climbing high above me indicating that the summit was still a long way off.

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But we eventually made it to the top where I enjoyed the amazing views and downed a liter of water in a matter of seconds.

Since I did not bring my laptop with me (just my work computer), you will have to wait until I am home to see most of my photographs and will need to settle for the iPhone shots for now.

I still recommend the hike up. You will certainly feel like you earned that view. But be prepared. Bring more water than you think you need. And pace your self. It's a long way up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Still on the Road

On the Road Again

I am on my way to South Africa with a group of MBAs from McCombs. So the maps are back.

I created my journey maps in advance. I am heading from Austin to Cape Town with a few stops in between. I will see you all on the flip side.