In August 2004, a few months after graduating from
Vanderbilt, Kristin Fleschner began a year’s sojourn in Africa. Aided by a $10,000 Vanderbilt Traveling Fellowship, she traveled to South Africa and Uganda to study sexual violence against women and children and the spread of AIDS.

Often alone, she encountered disease, poverty, violence, mindless bureaucracy, institutionalized oppression of women—but also hope and humanity. Twice she broke up fights between street children; twice she was tear-gassed; at least 10 times she contracted food poisoning. African co-workers gave her the name Thando, which means “to be loved.” This article is an excerpt from the daily journal she kept during her travels.