A very good friend from my travels to South Africa is here visiting us in Virginia Beach this weekend: Elsolet Joubert of Graphics24, the team that provides infographics to all the Media24 newspapers: Beeld in Johannesburg, die Burger in Cape Town, Volksblad in Bloemfontein and national Sunday papers Rapport and City Press.

When I first met her in August 2009, Elsolet was the business graphics artist. She now handles assignments in all subject matters for all sections of the paper.

And, I might add, she’s very, very sharp. Hungry to learn more. Plus, in addition to working full-time, she’s earning a degree in law in her spare time.

Her company rewarded her this year with a travel grant to come to the U.S. and further her skills. She spent a few days enjoying New York City, she flew to Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., to attend the superb Kalish Visual Editing Workshop and then her company flew her here to Hampton Roads for three days of one-on-one tutoring and mentoring with yours truly.

That was us Friday, working hard around the Apple kitchen nook. We worked a half-day in her hotel lobby on Thursday and we’ll be working three-quarters of a day today here at the Apple house.

Thursday afternoon, my former colleagues at the Virginian-Pilot were gracious enough to allow us to visit and sit in on the Pilot‘s afternoon news meeting, which they call a “pod meeting.”

Elsolet, I think, was fascinated by the bottom-up way the meeting runs and the input various junior staffers get in the decisionmaking process. The Pilot has carefully crafted a culture that results in creativity and out-of-the-box solutions. And it shows on their front pages.

Several of my old colleagues there took the time to chat with Elsolet and answer her questions. Here, she’s hanging with features designer Luis Vilches and master special projects genius Sam Hundley.

My old graphics department is pretty much a one-man operation these days. My old right-hand man, Bob Voros, walked Elsolet through his work flow and — more importantly — showed her how he tries to stay proactive by pitching ideas and projects.

Bob, I might add, is looking pretty good. He’s quitting smoking, he’s changed his diet and he’s lost 70 lbs. This gives him the right to rib his old boss about his weight.

Speaking of eating unhealthy, I’ve taken the opportunity to pollute Elsolet with all sorts of American fast food. Here, she’s eating country ham biscuits at Hardee’s.

To a South African, a “biscuit” is a cookie. I asked her what she’d call her breakfast that day. She thought for a moment and said this would be “a scone with bacon.” Bacon in South Africa is what I’d call fried ham; what we call bacon they call “streaky bacon.”

Here, Elsolet tries her first Chick-Fil-A sandwich…

…and she mentioned that she loves hamburgers. So naturally, I had to take her to Five Guys last night for dinner.

After all the hard work this week, we took the day off yesterday. My wife, Sharon (right) and my daughter, Elizabeth (left) and I took Elsolet on a quick sightseeing trip around the area.

We went to downtown Norfolk to see the waterfront area. And, of course, we went to the beachfront area of Virginia Beach.

We probably got quite a bit more sun than we really needed. I know I did.

We took the obligatory pictures: Standing on the boardwalk and posing with the “no swearing” signs in the Virginia Beach resort area.

After dinner last night, we drove up to First Landing State Park and enjoyed the evening shooting pictures along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

We took lots and lots of photos, of course…

…ending our day with the most gorgeous sunset in the history of Virginia.

It’s really hard to top a day like that.

On the agenda for today: I’m picking Elsolet up at her hotel in a few minutes. We’ll work for several hours today and complete our sessions. We’ll end in time for a huge “low-country boil” shrimp dinner tonight.

Tomorrow, I’ll drive Elsolet to the airport where she’ll fly to JFK airport in New York, she’ll enjoy a 12-hour layover in London and then she’ll arrive in Johanneburg Wednesday morning. Most likely, she’ll be completely exhausted. But hopefully, she’ll be re-energized about visual journalism and full of ideas about how to surprise and delight her readers.

At least, that’s my hope.

Find Elsolet’s portfolio site here.

See more of my pictures from Elsolet’s week here in my Facebook gallery.