Tuesday 27th of July 2010, 22.25h
My time in South Africa is soon coming to an end. I am dreading the day I will have to say bye to everybody and everything that has been part of me over the last three months. I am also very much looking forward to embracing my loved ones when I get back home.
Before I left for Africa many people told me that by living in a third world country I would come back a changed person. I am not sure if I have changed or not. The decision I made to come to Africa has been one of the best decisions of my life. I have experienced so many things here and been through so many emotions that I am sure I have been marked for life.
For some reason, a sermon I was once given by Mr. Potter, my English teacher back at school, about the choices we have in life has stuck with me throughout the years:
In life, you are constantly having to make decisions. By doing so you are creating your path in life. All the decisions you make in life can affect the path you take. Everything you experience, the good and the bad make you the person you are.
Everybody back home is aware of the amount of poverty that exists on the African continent. One thing is being aware of something and another thing is living it. The experience of seeing it with my own eyes and living it day-in day-out has enabled me to put life into perspective.
Before moving to South Africa the thing that intrigued me the most was how people from different races lived side by side after having such a brutal history of racism. As soon as I got here I could see it on the streets, the gap in social class between the different races is still very evident. There are suburbs in Cape Town, like for example Constantia, one of the richest areas you can live in, only a 10 minute drive away from the Imizamo Yethu Township. With all the poverty there is in this country, I have seen a couple of Ferrari’s cruising the streets in Cape Town city centre.
A lot has been said about the amount of crime on the streets in South Africa and what a dangerous country it is. In the three months I have been here, the only crime I have experienced, or seen with my own eyes is a van being broken into, which is a lot less than what I had expected before coming out here. There is crime here but crime exists in every part of the world.
From my time in South Africa, what I hope I will be taking back home with me, above everything else, is what they call the Ubuntu spirit. Ubuntu is an African concept which focuses on people’s relationship with one another. Ubuntu is about unity, people living together, needing each other, respecting one another, helping each other out, being generous, basically doing the right thing in life. The majority of people that I have met in South Africa come across with this Ubuntu spirit and it is something that I think the rest of the world can really learn from. Although there is a big gap in social class and race here in South Africa, I have not heard one black person talk badly about white people (which is very impressive considering all the suffering they have been through in the past) and vice versa. The past is history and with their Ubuntu spirit the impression I get from living here is that most South Africans are trying to re-write history living side by side in peace.
The impression I get is that African people seem to be a lot more family orientated and they do not focus so much on making money and being successful compared to us back home. There seems to be more important things to them in life, like for example being healthy and able to laugh. This I believe is part of the Ubuntu spirit which I am hoping I am able to take back home with me.