Pictures and Thoughts in London… Yes, I did leave the airport.

I took these pictures while I was in London. Unfortunately, I only was allowed to stay for 12 hours. This will sound ignorant, I know, but when I stepped onto the street after getting of the subway, I was amazed by people driving on the right side. I knew that this was true – I have watched my fair share of movies – but I guess seeing is believing. More than that, I found it difficult to cross the street. And a lot of times I avoided going to an aesthetically appealing place for fear that I was going to be hit by an oncoming vehicle. Shame. And now for some pictures!

Americans Don't Have These

 

 

I have never seen a mailbox like this in America, can you say “Culture Shock?” To this day, I still do not know what “Franked Mail” means. My thought was that it was mail that did not require a stamp, but doesn’t all mail require a stamp? If you have any input to solve this dilemma, I would greatly appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

This a shot of the tip of my index finger, as well as the street. No, I do not know the name of the street, but I thought it was pretty interesting. Most of the streets in London, at least there area that I was in, look quite similar, so if you have never been to London, this is what you can expect when you do go. And if you take a look, a very close look…that’s it, just a little closer…you will notice that they are two Priuses. It is not extraordinary to find two Priuses (I hope I am spelling that right) in America, but what I will say is that we are the only country, it seems, that has so many large vehicles. Most of the people in London that I saw drove compact cars, which, as you all know, are environmentally friendly. Maybe we should take this example.

Street Shot

Nothing too special about these next few pictures, except for the fact that they are beautiful.

This is Nice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody likes a treat right? Too bad I did not have the proper currency to purchase any.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I enjoyed most about London was the diversity. From the movies, and from the stories I had heard, my perception of London was that of a predominantly white city. The majority of the people living there may be white, true, but I was not expecting to see people from India, Korea, Japan, different countries in the Middle East, Africans, and South Americans. I am not fluent in any other language other than English, but I have been exposed to a plethora of languages because of the diversity that exists in Houston, Texas. However, I remember listening in on a conversation in the airport, and not being able to recognize the language at all. It sounded Arabic, but I had no way of confirming this. I introduced myself to a French girl. I spoke briefly with a young lady from Canada, who was going to South Africa to study as well – imagine that. I spoke extensively with a couple from Germany.

I am not sure that there are many places in the world where this is possible.

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The Day of Departure

My blog, up until this point, has not been updated on a regular basis; my sincerest apologies for this lack of communication. However, the memories and experiences are still fresh in my mind.

South Africa was a life changing experience, and I want to share my stories of personal growth, entailing my successes and failures, with all of you. I do not usually provide pictures, but I am making a point of displaying pictures and videos on this blog. Please enjoy!

This entry that I am providing comes from the plane ride to London, my first stop, though only for 12 hours, before arriving in Cape Town. It is called “An Emotional High”

August 24, 2011

Inspiration comes only once in a lifetime for most, but I can find it anywhere. It is easy to do when the people serve as the ultimate source of inspiration.

I am currently aboard a flight that is headed to London (yes, I am going overseas!). No more than twenty minutes ago there was a PA announcement that interrupted my movie – Lincoln Lawyer (awesome film by the way). Initially, I was a little annoyed by the interruption. I am very focused person, so when I do choose to do something, I give my full and undivided attention to whatever project it might be — in this case, it was a movie. But after hearing the announcement, and realizing that somebody was in need of medical attention, I could not help but to worry about the person that was having difficulty. The captain, or whoever gave the announcement, asked if there was anybody on board who was a part of the medical profession and would be willing to help. A few moments, that seemed like an eternity, elapsed and nobody, at least not from my vantage point arose. I felt helpless. I knew that I could not be a service, as far as technical skills are concerned, but I still felt compelled to assist the person and the flight staff. I mean how terrible would it have been if a person died on my flight. That would be one of the worst ways to start my journey. Death.

Fortunately, a man across the aisle rose from his seat and went to go assist the man. This was a miracle in my book. Here the people are taking care of one another without expecting any monetary gain. And as the man went to the rear of the cabin, a woman rose from her seat with a worried but stern look to go assist as well. I cannot be exactly sure of their actions, but from what I could tell, they were both going to assist the person that was in need. And I assume this was the case because the person who made the announcement did not come back on the PA with any unfortunate news. So, with that in mind, I cannot help but to feel an enormous amount of warmth in my chest. I am surrounded by people who care for others, who believe in the goodness of humanity, who are unafraid to demonstrate their capacity for love and compassion towards another, and it feels incredible.

Never have I felt like this about so many people who I do not know. There is not a single person that I know on this plane, but in my heart I truly believe that the seemingly impenetrable barriers of human expression have been broken. The people are free to do as they choose. All too often the concern for monetary gain interrupts the flow human expression. Altruism becomes impossible, and people avoid one another, for fear of being taken advantaged of. But what I just witnessed refutes such grave claims.

My trip has barely begun, and I am already on one of the greatest emotional highs that I have experienced. I only wonder what is in store for me in London.

Peace and Love

-Roulhac

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Robben Island

This a portion of a letter that I wrote to my mom that I thought would be appropriate and interesting to post, please enjoy!

Aside from that, we, the group, took a trip to Robben Island last Saturday. It was great. I am sure that you remember me reading Mandela’s book, and by doing so before visiting Robben Island, I was able to make the experience “real.” I felt that I could hear my ancestors and the past prisoners telling me all that they had to contend with while there, which, let me tell you, was traumatic in every sense of the word. Our tour guide had been imprisoned there for 10 years, and he told us about the torture that he faced – he was shocked, his ribs were broken, and his testicles were used as an ashtray. I was in disbelief, but the more I discover about the history of the atrocious system of Apartheid, the more inclined I am to accept the realities of the past that grant me a higher level of consciousness, which I have come to enjoy, despite its paradoxical effects. Yes, it always nice to be informed, but at the same time the “gravity of suffering (a phrase I borrowed from a lecturer here in Cape Town),” can easily depress you. When you watch about the suffering of so many people, irrespective of race, but primarily black, over and over again, one cannot help but to react in an emotional manner. On more than one occasion, I have shed tears. It is not easy for me to cry, but the past is real, and, at times, it can be supremely evil, so it becomes impossible for me to restrain those tears. I honestly need more time to process the event, but I know that is has impacted me in ways that will allow me to understand more of what it means to be human in any context.

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Cape Town: First Impressions

So, it has obviously been awhile since I have posted last, and for that, I must apologize. It has been difficult, as I have explained to quite a few people back at home, to access the internet on a regular basis, which is a paradox in itself. At first, I was so excited to tell everybody all that was happening to me here in South Africa, but after going without internet for a week or so, I habituated myself to the liberating effects of life without technology; it was grand. But before I get too carried away talking about how wonderful it felt to not have to worry about what was going on 5,000 miles (not quite sure about this estimate, sorry) away, let me talk about my first impression of Cape Town.

I did stay in Johannesburg for a few days, but the disparities of wealth are not as obvious there in Cape Town. I was happy to see such a diverse population of people working in the airport, and there is always some initial excitement about residing in a new and unexplored place. This excitement, however, quickly changed into a perturbing sense of depression and anger.

As were making our way to the lodge in Cape Town, one of the first things that I saw was shantytowns (townships). I was appalled by these living conditions. I did not quite understand how people, lots of people, could live like this. The shanties (shacks) seemed to stretch for miles, and once everybody in the van noticed them, silence pervaded the atmosphere. It was breathtaking, but not in a positive way. I wanted to say something, but I just could not find the words. I am sure that most of my fellow classmates felt the same way.

The experience itself was surreal. It is one thing to see people living this way in movies and films, but to see such conditions in person is a whole nother (I’m pretty sure that is not a word, but let’s go with it) matter. My sense of reality had been shattered for the moment, and I gradually felt myself slipping away – depression anyone? We continued to drive further into town, and again I was shocked. I honestly believed that all of Africa was the same, so I was not expecting much civilization. I was expecting there to be elephants, zebras, and baboons running around, but I was mistaken, sadly mistaken. If anything, Cape Town is like being in America, San Francisco to be specific. I was pissed. This was not the “African” experience I was hoping for. I was wanting to run around in the bush, play with the kids from the tribe, and sit around a camp fire, listening to stories of my AFRICAN ancestors, but no. Again, I was in a place that was super expensive and frankly overpriced (I say again because the London pound killed a brother). I am not a rich American. The only reason I am in Africa now is because of my scholarship – I am broke! Anyway, I took a moment to take a deep breath, so I could calm myself – always a good idea. I was determined to make this experience the best one of my life, so with that attitude, I accepted the current situation for what it was, well somewhat… I continued to voice my displeasure about the ridiculous disparity of wealth, and the fact that there was an absence of animals and tribes.

Now that I have had some time to reflect on these ideas, thoughts, and beliefs, I recognize my own American biases. Most Americans think of Africa as the Dark Continent, and, in this case, I am no different. Yet because of this experience, I am starting to realize that there is more to Africa than most probably think. Furthermore, all countries of Africa are not the same by any means. Each country has its own rich culture, history, and heritage. I am currently in South Africa, but I do plan to see as many African countries as possible. Trust me there is more to come, and I promise pictures are coming, I promise…

Peace and Love

Roulhac

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An Interesting Lesson – Welcome!

Welcome, welcome followers to my blog about South Africa. I was hoping to complete a few entries before I left, and while I was in London, but I was having some difficulty getting my blog started (I misread the directions, imagine that, college kids, gosh). So, to bring you all up to speed, I have now been in South Africa for two whole days, and I already feel as if this experience has changed my life in a major way. I did not have many expectations about my study abroad experience, so all of what I learned has been a complete and total surprise, at least for the most part, I did have some prior knowledge about the struggle of Apartheid before arriving. But before I talk too much about the ideas, which I have a tendency to do, I will begin by describing my visit at the… ah, the name of the museum escapes me at the current moment, but it was a museum that identified with the student uprisings in Soweto in 1976.

As I entered the museum, I felt an immediate sense of disconnection. The words that I read on different panels and the like were informative and insightful, but there was an element to the struggle that I was missing. I felt as if I did not have a strong personal connection to all that had transpired, so the task of reading so much information that I could not readily identify with, at least initially, was tedious, but I was determined to learn. I knew that a connection would arise soon…

As I continued to move through the exhibits, I continually noticed that so many of the people involved in the uprisings were so young. But age did not matter in this instance. The young people of Soweto had been treated unfairly, oppressed by the Nationalist party for years that decided to change the language of instruction to Afrikaans, limiting the capacity for blacks to prosper. They did not want to be subjected to further injustice, so they did something about it. They did not sit and wait for their parents or other authority figures to get involved, they took to the streets. This action in itself is inspirational, but the fact that a number of these young people died for what they believed in almost brought me to tears. As I looked at their faces, I sensed an overwhelming sense of pride. The whites had continually stripped these young blacks of their dignity, forcing them live in poverty only to allow whites to live in the suburbs “undisturbed” by blacks. This type of policy measure is only one in a myriad of others imposed upon the blacks of Johannesburg. So, for the children to have any sense of pride after being continually denigrated was simply amazing. It would have been easy to accept the seemingly inevitable, considering the extraordinary forces they were up against, but instead they decided to use their voice to bring about change, and what a voice it was. Powerful is the only word that I can muster at this time, but it was beyond that. Just imagine thousands of young people, some no older than seven years of age taking to the street to correct an injustice. In America, such action has never occurred, and it is highly inconceivable that it would ever occur to be quiet honest. Yet for the young people of Soweto such action was necessary to bring about change. And as I started to understand the struggle of these young and courageous people, I began to develop an answer to the eerie feeling that I felt when I first stepped foot in the museum. I talked to my Academic Advisor, Stewart, about my overall experience so far, and then I articulated why I felt so out of place.
This struggle was not about the language change itself, but about the system that constantly strips the rights and freedoms of so many people who are underserving of such cruelty. This is a common struggle that oppressed people have had to contend with for centuries, but how often do such struggles around the world stand together and fight for what is right? Why is it that we do not lend more support to our brothers and sisters that our facing the harsh realities of system that is meant to enslave people mentally and physically? Why was I so disconnected from this history? All of these questions created a strong sense of righteous indignation. I felt myself wanting to cry and scream. To me, it is just not fair that so many young people had to suffer so much to gain so little. A proper education, that is all that they demanded, and yet they had to fight incessantly to receive it. And some might argue that their efforts amounted to nothing. Soweto’s educational system is only slightly better than it was during the time of the uprising. It is scenarios like this that make me wonder why the world can be such an evil place, stripping people of their basic rights, and relegating them to a inferior position in society. Is this humanity? Is this justice? No. But what I did learn is that although injustice is all too familiar in all places of the world, I cannot give up hope.

Today, the young people of Soweto inspired me, and I will make it a point to fight for what I believe in no matter the consequences.

Aside from this enlightening experience, I have had a wonderful time here in South Africa (not to say the museum experience was not wonderful itself). I am the only male in my program, which I found to be somewhat uncomfortable at first (no bromance), but it is affording my an opportunity to see and investigate a new perspective. Quickly, I have learned to be more open about my feelings, taking time to describe the details of certain situations and scenarios. This is a fantastic accomplishment for me. Typically, I only want to talk about ideas, and develop ways to implement those ideas, but gradually I am learning to describe the events of a certain situation, interpret them, and then evaluate what I have learned. This makes the process of life more immediate, rather than so future oriented, which I find to be refreshing. Instead of hoping to change on, let’s say, a weekly or even monthly bases by describing certain situations, I feel that I am growing stronger as a person with each passing moment. There is always something new to learn about myself or the people around me, but I cannot learn if I am unwilling to address my feelings and actions at any given time.

This entry does not provide you with many details, stories, or even pictures, but, trust me, there is definitely more to come. As my academic director explained, each day should be a surprise, and if I am surprised by an event, you better believe I am going to blog about it. Thanks for reading!

-Roulhac

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