I never imagined myself loving a place so much as I love being in South Africa. These past two weeks have been such a life changing, wonderful experience. We have done so much and met so many people in the short two weeks that we were here. I was surprised how many opportunities we had for learning about the various cultures and lifestyles of the people here.
I would have to say looking back I would not have imagined that I would have taken so much from this trip. I wanted to take the class because I was interested in traveling, not just for fun, but wanted it to be meaningful. I wanted to be able to participate in a service project and do something for others.
From the visit to Little Eden to the service projects in Varkplaas and the Vaatjie Primary School, so much has been done. After my trip to Costa Rica, now 6 years ago, I felt very accomplished and proud of the work I had done and the people I had interacted with. Now that I am coming home from this trip to South Africa I feel at least 10x more accomplished. I wouldn’t think twice about going back and doing it all again.
Leaving for this trip I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect but I was taken by surprise with some of the things I saw and experienced. Since apartheid has ended over 20 years ago now, I was imagining that there would be better if not slightly improved living conditions for the blacks and coloreds. I was actually surprised by how many shacks and informal settlements there still are even today. As we drove by, there were endless rows of shacks. It really was so upsetting to see. I couldn’t imagine living in such conditions. Even those who were given houses and hostels to live in, the conditions were still shocking.
On our township tour we went inside two different homes. The first one reeked of urine. Working in my clinical settings where often the smell of urine or defecation is present, even this was unbearable for me. I was in such shock by the way this family had to live. A home, as I have mentioned in a previous post, is a place of comfort. The constant scent of urine and the filth of their surroundings just don’t seem to me a place of comfort.
While we were standing in the hostel, the woman who lived there seemed to feel uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell whether it was having us in her home or not. Being there myself I felt very uncomfortable and intrusive. It especially felt uncomfortable standing there thinking of how nice my home is and how I was so glad I didn’t live here and couldn’t wait to go back to my home. Unfortunately this was what her and her family had to call home, there was no where else for them to go.
If I take anything back with me, it’s the appreciation of what we have and the things we are presented with in life every day. Each person I met changed me. They opened my eyes to the differences and diversity of the world and made me appreciate the value of each and every individual. Coming home I will start appreciating everything and everyone around me. The people in the townships and communities around South Africa are the ones to thank for giving me such a wonderful new perspective on life and everything in it. I hope to return there again someday and have just as amazing an experience.
Much thanks goes to Tamarin, her friends, family, and The Tippy Toes Foundation! Without them this experience wouldn’t have been half as amazing as it was!