After two weeks of endless traveling around South Africa, you would think I would have countless stories to tell that could last forever. While this might be true in the near future, at this point in time I am actually at a loss for words. I have had the most amazing past two weeks that I can only try to put into words the excitement of it all. My friends and family at home have asked me all about it, and I can merely say it was amazing and that I don’t even know where to begin. We met so many inspiring people along the way, like Tamarin Simpson, that it is hard to move on from what I see as a trip of a lifetime.
At the beginning of this journey, I was merely on it just for the ride. I needed to fulfill the QU301 requirement and thought a good way to do that would be to recruit a few of my close friends and travel abroad. I had a few friends who mentioned the South Africa trip before, and after previously venturing to Europe myself, I thought South Africa was the place to go. I knew absolutely nothing about the culture and really had no idea what to expect, except for the rumors I had heard previously.
Learning about the culture during class did not fascinate me very much as I had perceived it as any other history class. Not until I witnessed everything for my own eyes did I become amazed. I saw the house where Nelson Mandela was arrested, I witnessed the cell where he was imprisoned for 18 years. I was witnessing this all for myself– and not through a movie or story and I thought that made it so much more interesting.
Learning about culture and history is never that exciting, until you know exactly what it means for the people and the community. I can confidently say that we talked to so many locals who expressed their feelings regarding their past and present situations, from our bus drivers, to our tour guides, to our members we met in the community. I wanted to be able to leave South Africa knowing how locals perceived their past.
It was awesome being able to hear people’s experience from students attending the University of Pretoria. They were from all over Africa, and they all had their different stories. It demonstrated that for each different race and family, they all experienced something either during apartheid or afterwards. It was so interesting hearing their opinion first hand and hearing them open up. I think that if I was talking to a bunch of white females from the United States, I might be a little swayed as to whether or not I dive into the whole truth, but I feel as though they felt comfortable enough to open up towards us.
As mentioned in my previous blogs, when we first touched down in South Africa I was still shocked that I had considered the idea of this trip–and here I was. After being completely submerged in the culture right after our flight, the Soweto bike tour set the scene for the trip. We were speaking to community members and learning about their national heritage, which I was looking forward to the most. We read books and watched movies regarding the culture, but we never experienced how the natives felt. Throughout this whole trip, that was the most important insight I really gained. Anyone can see the culture on the outside and make their own perceptions, however I was more curious with how the natives felt and how they were dealing with change.
Although people in the townships are less privileged than me, they still inspired me believe it or not. They showed that even with limited resources, and no direction for the future, they can still continue on with an everyday craft such as painting or weaving in order to support them. Many of them won’t even leave their township or become educated, but it was the simple fact that they were working for their community to make something unique for others to purchase.
Many of them did not have running water or electricity, but to them this was their home, and this was where they made the most of their lives. It made me wonder how when we stayed at the Lion Park how cold I was and we still had a heater. I understand our society is much more developed, but we complain about so much back home. Especially the 90s babies, we are used to fast internet and when something doesn’t load right away we become infuriated. As cliche as this may sound, this trip has opened me up to new experiences and to really be grateful for what I have.
It has also showed me that all around the world, there are historical changes that either pull or push away countries and societies. It is only through time and acceptance that things become resolved and that things work out–and sometimes it takes longer than it may seem. I am so grateful for these experiences and truly believe that South Africa has touched my life in so many fantastic ways. If anyone has the chance, I would highly recommend for them to take on this journey, and create their own memories. This is honestly a trip I can say I will never forget about and hope to some day go back and continue on learning while I am there.