Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hakuna ma tata?

I’m not sure what was worse: driving through the township in the biggest, most colorful, and basically most expensive looking bus, or taking pictures of the people and their homes as if they were a tourist attraction or an exhibition on display for outsiders. Some exchange students took a tour of Port Elizabeth last week and one of the stops we made was the Red Location Museum, which is a very nice building located right on the edge of a township. As we drove through the township to get to the historical museum, most people smiled and waved at us in our insanely noticeable bus—a double-decker painted with all the colors of the rainbow. Kids chased the bus, yelling and waving. They wanted us to take their picture and they wanted to take pictures of us as well with their cell phones, which surely they did not buy. They would try to talk to us (I didn’t talk to any that spoke English) and dance for us. I saw some very good dancers! I wish Disney or something like it had agents that would travel to places like these and find kids whose talents would let them escape their doomed future. I hate to be pessimistic, but realistically, most of these kids will never leave their township, never get a good education, take up drinking as their only skill, and continue the vicious cycle of poverty. The kids were great trying to entertain us. We hung around with them when we first got off the bus and I couldn’t wait to leave the museum to see them again. When we were watching the kids, two middle-aged women approached a friend and me. I was glad and a little surprised that they wanted to talk to us. Although the conversation was a little difficult with the language barrier, after a little while I understood that they were drunk and were asking us for money. The smell of liquor on their breath was heart-breaking when I thought about it. I’m making assumptions here but I bet these women have children, probably many, possibly HIV-positive (about 50% of the sexually active population in SA does) and they may not even know it, unemployed, obviously poor, and spending their money and time drinking. I don’t even care that much that they’re doing this to themselves, but their children…the innocent…the naïve… This is all these kids know. If they only know a poor, unhealthy family and community, how are they supposed to strive for anything else? They don’t know that there is anything else. Angelina and Madonna can only adopt so many. Oprah can only put so many through school. What about the rest of them?

On a much lighter note, I’ve started classes. This term I have Health and Healing in Cross-Cultural Perspectives and the first of two terms of Afrikaans. Health and Healing seemed like it would be pretty easy with not a lot of work to do and I’m very excited about Afrikaans. I switched to Afrikaans from Xhosa because it seemed like Afrikaans would be much more practical because I have already met so many South Africans that speak it (along with English). I originally wanted to learn Xhosa because it was more traditional, a real African language, spoken by blacks, and I saw Afrikaans as the white language the Europeans made using their own original languages, such as German and Dutch. Although it is that, I can’t hold it against them that long ago white Europeans invaded Africa and saw blacks as worthless. It was a long time ago and no matter how it happened, it is their language now and I’m sure the Afrikaans people don’t think about its roots when they speak it. Plus, it’s easier. I don’t think I could learn the clicks in Xhosa. Especially at 7:45 in the morning! I can’t click that early. And because it is so difficult, I don’t think I would have learned a lot in the semester I’ll be here. In Afrikaans, however, we have already learned a lot in our first class. I’m really looking forward to learning more and hopefully speaking it with my new South African friends.

Other random things I’ve learned/observed: Pickles are just called cucumbers. Capers are called green peppercorns. Hake is their most common and cheap fish, like our haddock. Butter and margarine are called fat. Recognizable chains here are McDonalds and KFC. South Africans take their time. They show up late or may not come at all, they may or may not do something you ask them to do, the city bus may never come, and everything they do is not rushed like it is in the States. *I still do not have internet after three weeks of begging for it!* Electricity and internet must be prepaid for. They drive on the left side of the road and use the metric system and Celsius for temperature, which is very annoying for us Americans. We don’t even know what everyone’s talking about when they’re saying simple things about weight, distance, or temperature. It’s very windy here in PE. Rugby and cricket are very popular sports and people make fun of the US for making up its own sports like football, basketball, and baseball. A futon is called a sleeper couch. Absinthe is legal. They don’t have limes. And this is just about South Africa and its people. I’ve learned a lot about other countries too! I really believe everyone should have an experience like this, however you choose to do it, to learn about the world. People, governments, beliefs…they can be so similar or so different. It has been fascinating to learn about these similarities and differences. Every person contributes, even those from other parts of the United States. Of course you’re expected to learn in your classes, but I will be very happy even if I take nothing from them because I have already gained more knowledge just from getting to know different people than I may be able to listening to a lecture.

1 comment:

  1. Wow i cant believe you are so far away. Its amazing what you are doing. I am so jealous. Keep your head up. Its hard to be away from home at first but it gets easier as time goes. I have been gone for 5 years now and i get out in 12 days!! Just know you have all of your friends and family praying for you and you will always have all of us here for you. I love and miss you em...

    Love Mike