Sala Kakuhle (Stay Well), South Africa
As promised, here is one last post about South Africa before I focus on Botswana. Often when talking to people back home, I’m asked the question “How has South Africa been?” In response to their question I normally only say, “Great” and move on to other conversational topics such as how the weather is in the states or why the Auburn Tigers have gone from being a 2010 championship football team to one of the worst teams in college football. I mean, we were on top. In Cam we trusted. Family, we were all in. What happened? Anyway, to bring this post back to Africa, I don’t believe I can sum up my time in SA in one blog post, let alone one sentence. Nonetheless, I will attempt to speak of the profound impact this country has had on me in such a short time. Here goes.
Before coming here, my only vision of South Africa came from academic books on African politics, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and movies like Invictus. I was tremendously excited yet also naïve when first stepping off that plane back in August. The first thing that struck me about South Africa, along with pap, a dried corn meal dish that suspiciously looks and tastes like grits, was its obvious socio-economic inequality, and this can be seen from my first blog post, “African Welcomes”. Yet now that I have travelled across the country from Joburg to Cape Town, I can say that one constant has been South Africans referring to the incredible nature of their fellow citizens, as well as people asking “Is it?” instead of “Really?” in response to an interesting point in conversation. This, I find, throws any American off, especially when “Is it?” is said in response to a statement like “I’m going to the market soon”. A confused American, totally unlike me, might try to clarify if the South African in question was asking whether the market they were going to was actually, indeed, a market. Nonetheless, the incredible nature of the South African people cited above can apparently be observed at any time when the people come together for a common cause, be it a charity or a huge sports event like the 2010 World Cup. Please understand that the idea of blacks and whites walking along side and helping one another was incredibly radical only two decades ago in this country. This phenomenon is even more striking when it is remembered that South Africa is a country still facing enormous social problems including high unemployment and crime.
I often hear it said that South Africa can in many ways have a sense of hopelessness about it. Many people feel unsafe in their own homes and are becoming increasingly frustrated with some changes that have not come since they were promised in 1994. This sense is palpable, and it is something I have experienced first-hand from time to time when talking to the citizens of this country. Yet beyond the natural beauty of wonders like Table Mountain, the Wild Coast, and Gauteng Province (affectionately referred to as “Gangster’s Paradise” by its inhabitants”), I find that there is also a beauty about this nation’s people, in not only their perseverance but in the indelible hope they have for what tomorrow will bring. So, after he or she tells you how frustrated they are with the current state of the country, a South African won’t, in fact, say “Is it?” to an observation that something in their society is getting better, whether it be the schools, the roads, or the crime rate. They will look you square in the eye and deliver an emphatic “Yeahbo!”
- An old worker’s camp, now forming part of a township.