To kick off our “Get to Know . . . ” series, we did a fun interview with Athena Lamberis, our program and media coordinator.  She just joined the VACorps family in October and is delighted to be working with such a dynamic team that is passionate about international education, travel and South Africa.  Find out more about her:

Athena Lamberis, VACorps coordinator and Lorenzo

Athena on Muizenberg Beach with her dog, Lorenzo.


 Get to Know . . .   Athena Lamberis 

Interview with VACorps Program & Media Coordinator


VACorps:  Hike or bike Cape Town

Athena Lamberis: Hike.  I love walking around the city and up through the foothills of Table Mountain Reserve with my two dogs, Lorenzo and Frida. I’m more likely to stop, smell, touch and taste the amazing plant varieties growing on the mountain than whizz past them on a bike.

VACorps: What are 3 things you want to learn this year? 

Athena Lamberis: Hmmm. Learn more isiXhosa, Afrikaans, and magick. 🙂

VACorps:  Name 5 Cape Town places you’re most likely to be found eating at? 

Athena Lamberis: There are so many!  I’ll have to update this list, but off the top of my head for places around the city centre:

Lazari Cafe for delicious baked goods and rooibos cappuccinos.  I can’t go in there without having the chocolate millionaire squares or the savoury spinach and feta muffin to go. 🙂

Eastern Food Bazaar at 2pm or Food Inn at 3 am. At EFB, I love chowing on the peshwari naan, fresh coconut and mango ice cream and paneer curry with breyani rice & dhal. At Food Inn, you’ll find me finishing off a vegetable thali and a Stoney ginger beer after dancing on Long St.

The Kitchen in Woodstock because her food reminds me of my mom’s cooking.  I adore the hearty and healthy lunch buffet, but get there early! Otherwise, my kitchen. I love to cook and create new recipes. I also write about food as #TheCulinaryLinguist.

Ferdinando’s Pizza in Observatory for the best pizza dough and combinations of ingredients I have ever had.  I eat there so often it’s become my extended living room lounge.  I grew up in Chicago, so I’ve had my fair share of pizza tasting, but Ferdinando’s is my favorite pizza in the world.  Order the Shanico or the Grizzly with aioli and tiger oil.

VACorps:  Why did you choose to study in South Africa?

Athena Lamberis:  I believe education and travelling go together.  I imagined that studying in South Africa would give me a long period of time (6 months) to immerse myself in the local culture and learn about the amazing history and current events while giving me the opportunity to visit different parts of the region -and it did!  I also am a Midwest USA girl, so living in a tropical environment and swimming in the Indian Ocean was a dream – Durban was that dream come true and so much more. 🙂  I was studying various topics in Education in college and was fascinated by the diversity of languages and instruction in public schools around the world.  I took a very broad “African Studies” course at Michigan State University and was told that South Africa has 11 official languages.  I was intrigued by how many mother tongue languages were acknowledged and wanted to know more about how education systems can foster the development of a multi-lingual society.

VACorps:  What did you pack in your luggage when you first left South Africa? 

Athena Lamberis:  I really fell in love with the java wax prints and shweshwe fabrics and bought metres and metres of fabric home.  Also peri-peri sauce & spices, local music and handmade clothes and traditional beaded jewellery.

VACorps:  Which South African slang has become a part of your vernacular? 

Athena Lamberis:  I honestly struggled understanding a lot of local slang for years and still do. But I do find myself saying Yoh! and Eish! no matter where I am in the world now.  Those are common SA exclamations for pleasant, unpleasant and surprising situations. Try them out. 🙂

VACorps:  Where are two places you would like to visit in South Africa that you haven’t been to yet?

Athena Lamberis:  Two!?  I’ll start with Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga and Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg, Kwa-Zulu Natal.


documentary style photos south afirca

Athena loves taking documentary style photos of her travels and everyday sights of Cape Town

Athena Lamberis and hamley the giraffe South Africa

Hamley, the giraffe was Athena’s favorite crew member on set at Glen Afric Game Farm & Lodge while working on a feature film in the Guateng province.

She taught 2nd grade in Honduras after graduating from college.

She taught 2nd grade in Copan Ruinas, Honduras after graduating from college.

She got married on the Umtamvuna River in Kwa Zulu Natal in June 2012

She and her husband, Chris celebrated their  wedding day on the Umtamvuna River in Kwa Zulu Natal in June 2012

Loves music, yoga, and dancing.

Athena also enjoys music, dancing, yoga, coastlines, reading maps and shopping at local markets.

How not to pack for a backpacking trip.

She is a self-proclaimed travelling bag lady who will always pack the most random things.

Her husband, Chris, she met at capoeira class in Durban, South Africa.

She met her husband, Chris, at UKZN’s capoeira class in Durban, South Africa, 2005.

Some of her closest friendships she made on her study abroad. Her sisters, Tasneem from California and Nokulinda from KZN.

Some of her closest friendships  were made during her studies and travel. Above is Tasneem from California and Nokulinda from KZN at Luthuli Residence hall at UKZN in 2005.

Quick Bio: Born in Evanston, IL, USA, she first arrived in South Africa in 2005, during a semester abroad at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, the busiest port town in the country.  She studied education, socio-linguistics, and did ethnographic studies with Zulu maskandi musicians.  She also joined the local student capoeira group and learned to mix South African House music records at her UKZN DJ course.  She has lived, worked and studied in over twelve countries around the world including Guatemala, Brasil, and Greece before graduating from Michigan State University.  Her love for creativity, art, nature and education led her to co-develop a children’s art & environment community program in 2006, on the Pacific rural coast of Nicaragua.  She loves Cape Town’s natural beauty, style, cross-cultural experiences, and the amazing diversity of food in this windy port city.  With her wealth of knowledge to connect you to your own adventures, she can help you align your personal interests and fields of study to explore and experience the many corners that Cape Town has to offer. Email:

She's the first to make a fire at a camp site or dance with it.

If she’s not helping make the fire at the campsite or a braai, she’ll be dancing with it.

Athena has a large extended family

She has family & friends in many corners of the world.


Athena has a large global family spread around the world.

Athena’s global family spread wide around the world. Most love visiting South Africa and end up staying for as long as they can. 🙂