Last week we learned about the history of South Africa to help us really understand the culture and the region that we are going to. I am very glad that we went over the history of South Africa because it will really make a difference when we arrive in January. Many tourists travel to countries with out knowing basic knowledge of the history or culture and only take away from their trip a superficial understanding of the country. The history is what makes the country what they are today, just like every country in the world, but it helps you to understand why the people act and think the way they do.
The other interesting thing about South African history is that many of the major moments for them was not too long ago. This means that some of the people that we will meet will not only have a recollection of what we had learned about, but may have lived through it. By knowing the history of South Africa, we are allowing ourselves an opportunity to get even closer with people because we can prove that we do care about them and what they have been through.
Before I went to Leon,Nicaragua for a service trip, we learned about the history of the country and all the wars and rebellions. When I arrived down there I was working with this carpenter that was volunteering to assist us in our project. We worked closely with him over the duration of the week. One day I noticed a scar on his leg and asked him where he got it from. He looked excited to tell me the story. He was patient with my Spanish and explained slowly that he fought for the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) when he was 16. He then lifted his shirt and showed my a scar on his ribs and made a motion of a knife sliding across the scar. At that moment I was so grateful to have learned the history of Nicaragua so that I was able to understand what he was talking about and appreciate what those scars truly meant.
South Africa has had some truly respectable people to lead them through some very difficult times. I learned about people and events that I was embarrassed to not know more about like the Sharpeville Massacre, Soweto Uprising and Steve Biko.
Many people when they hear South Africa immediately think “Nelson Mandela“, who definitely is a prominent figure in the region, but there are so many other people that helped him and came before him to help shape the revolution.
As a group we only have a brief understanding of the South African history, but I believe it will still make a difference to help us connect with the people that we will be working with during our time spent there. We can gain so much from learning everything we can before we dive into this new culture with different customs and lifestyles.