Monday the 17th of May 2010 – 18.29
This morning I was sat in the car with Jeremy on our way to coach the children at St. Johns school. We were both sat in silence, the sun blazing ferociously on us as we cruised through the suburbs of Cape Town. As we drove from one street to another I observed my surroundings. I noticed plenty of people wondering around without any sort of urgency, not seeming to need to be anywhere in a rush, in fact looking lost in their own world.
I looked at the time, it was 10.30 am. I wondered what I would be doing at this moment in time had I stayed in Barcelona. Monday mornings at Elisa Interactive would generally involve either being in the office working on my macbook trying to get through my long list of tasks, or maybe in a meeting with a colleague talking about tasks or projects that need to be done or even possibly in a meeting room with a client explaining how we are improving their business or giving explanations as to why things are not going accordingly. Everything I would do in Barcelona on a Monday morning has a matter of urgency, people waiting for things to get done, and in a hurry.
As I was cruising the streets of Cape Town this morning I was thinking to myself, “are these people happy just to be wondering around doing what they are doing?” I have decided to give up what I do for a living for the next three months wanting to come and experience something different, and at the same time try and help out somewhere which I believed needed help. BUT, do these people actually need my help?
In my time so far in South Africa I have barely seen any miserable faces. People seem to be generally very happy with what they do, I hear people laughing in the streets, I look around and I see people smiling. I compare this with what I would be witnessing at 9 am on a Monday morning on the underground in Barcelona on my way to work. People looking sleepy and generally miserable that the weekend is over and they are having to go back to work on a Monday morning. Why do I have the right to impose myself in a country which seem to live happier lives (or just as happy) as the people in my own country?
I am fortunate enough to have had the upbringing that I have had which has given me the opportunity to do whatever I want and try to become whatever I want, with no boundaries in place stopping me. This is what I believe is the difference between what I have seen in my Monday morning today with what it would be like back in Barcelona. Opportunities and a desire to do something with your life, have dreams that you want to achieve and fight for them. There are lots of people here in South Africa that do not have this privilege.
On Saturday night I went for a few drinks with the other volunteers in the house. There is a very good atmosphere in the house, everybody generally getting along very well. We went to a bar called Stones in Observatory, the area where we live. Gabriel, the Swedish volunteer who I am living with has a South African girlfriend that he has met since he has been out here. Through Gabriel we met a guy called Donny who is a friend of Gabriel’s girlfriend.
Donny is a coloured South African guy, about 35 years old. He is over 7 foot tall and built like a brick house. From the outside he looked like a pretty scary guy and I was delighted to have him sat at our table talking to him about the World Cup and all the places us volunteers come from, instead of having him sat on a table opposite, snarling at us.
Donny looked amazed to be talking to us. When I told him I live in Spain, Ronaldo told him he was from Brazil, Gabriel and Albin told him they were from Sweden and Henry told him he was from England, Donny just kept on shouting out the countries we were from, hysterically impressed. Just as amazed he looked at us being from countries so far away, I was amazed by what he was telling us. He has never left South Africa, he has lived here all his life. He has never managed to go on holiday anywhere outside South Africa. He said he couldn’t bear living in this country any more, he was fed up of everything. As we told him which countries we were from and how nice the girls are from our countries (as guys generally do) his eyes were burning with envy. He told us that he cannot even dream of going to Spain, England, Brazil or Sweden. He would never have the opportunity to go travelling, to see the world, to meet people from other countries and learn about their culture (something we do, and take for granted).
I have been to more countries I can count on my fingers. I have had the opportunity to pack up what I do for a living and piss off to Africa for three months just because I felt like it. I feel guilty. Why have I had the opportunity to do this whilst others can’t even dream of doing something similar?
Having thought carefully about the role I am playing over the next three months here in South Africa, I have come to the conclusion that I, alone, am not capable of changing anything. As a volunteer in Africa, my role here is to assist the organisations which are currently in place to help South Africa develop away from being a third world country. From what I have seen and experienced so far, for this to happen I believe it is essential that the government, schools and other similar organisations are working hard on ensuring that the following is improved:
- More jobs are being created
- Rules and regulations are well documented, clear and being followed
- Those committing crimes are being properly dealt with
- Teachers at schools have the necessary skills to educate the children
- Children are well disciplined and given the opportunity to further their education
As I previously mentioned, I alone am not capable of making this “change” here. One person is not capable of making a difference. The organisations I mentioned above are in the driving seat and people like me can only assist in any way we can.
It is amazing to see that we are currently 9 volunteers all living the experience of Africa and involved in lots of different programmes trying to show what we have learnt from our own cultures and applying this to the lives of people that live here in South Africa. The more people that decide to do this kind of experience the quicker people like Donny will have the opportunity to dream and fight for their dreams.
Thursday the 20th of May 2010 – 18.31
Happy Birthday Mum. Love you zillions.