Settling in

I have now been in South Africa for 3 weeks, and I feel like I am starting to get used to living here and understanding South Africa.

On a personal level, when I first pictured myself in South Africa, this is honestly not what I envisioned. I expected open fields with wildlife living among the people, extreme poverty everywhere, a lot of desert, and technology that is not as advanced as ours. While extreme poverty and a lot of good technology does exist in some parts, this stereotypical view of Africa that I had is really not true. This is also something we have talked about in our Modern South African History class, that is the “Hollywood portrayal” of Africa. What the movies and sometimes the media shows us about Africa is not what we are getting. I knew Cape Town was a big African city, but I did not expect the hustle and bustle that makes it have such a modernized feel.

On an academic level, I have loved learning about South Africa and the Apartheid era. In most middle and high school curriculum in the United States, most of us do not learn about the Apartheid movement. It is amazing and inspiring to see how the African National Congress (ANC)  led by Nelson Mandela and other similar groups fought for their freedom and the equal rights that they deserved. There were also some courageous white South Africans such as Denis Goldberg and Bram Fischer who knew that what was going on was not right, and sacrificed their own freedoms to try and bring an end to the Apartheid regime. While all of this was moving, there were also the bad parts of the ANC and other parties that are often not talked about. These parties would sometimes find fellow black citizens and their families and target them with violence, sometimes even killing them. A few times, this happened in Winnie Mandela’s backyard. This was astonishing and disappointing to me to figure out. Although, it gave me a better idea of what was really going on, which I am grateful for. This taught me that you cannot always believe everything that people want you to hear, and it is really important to try to dig deep to find the true story from the right sources. While this takes nothing away from the inspirational Apartheid movement, I do not hold some of these heroes in the same light that I previously did.

While I have enjoyed everything that I have done so far, the one thing I have not had that I was hoping to have is that “Wow, I’m in Africa” moment. The first couple weeks in, I thought it was something that I was going to have, but now I do not think I am going to have it. It does not feel to me like I am in Africa because of that mainstream view of Africa that I had talked about earlier. This is not what I expected that I was going to see when I came here. I must admit that I am a little disappointed, only in that I love having that feeling. I had it the first time I went to Europe. Although it is a different idea what I originally had in mind, it is a really good different. I am looking forward to sharing some more great things I do next week. Thanks!

Mark