I’m finding it quite difficult to put into words what I want to say. South Africa is a fabulous place with so much beauty. But beyond the beauty is much more; history. Andrew and Karen (our Radical Journey leaders here in SA) have been talking to us a lot about the history of SA. It’s been a lot to take in, and it’s been a challenge to take it all in as well. The mix between the Afrikaners, the Zulus, the Xhosa, the Indians, the colored, etc. have mesmerized me; being in this brand new culture filled with brand new people has been one of the most incredible journey’s I’ve ever been on. I’m so glad it’s only just begun.
I’m unsure of how to put into words the things I see daily when we go for drives. I find talking about it on this blog quite difficult, actually. It’s nothing like North America. Yes, there are similarities here and there, but overall, South Africa is a very different place. Andrew and Karen told us our job placements last night! All of ours are different; they matched us up based on our personalities and our interests and how we are as a person. (Really cool, right?) I will be working in Mpophomeni, which is I believe 20 minutes outside of PMB. (Pietermaritzburg.) I have to learn how to drive the Ballad, which is this amazingly reliable car (tad bit of sarcasm.) that has been around for quite some time now for the RJ people to use. Not only do I not know how to drive a standard, but add on top of that the fact that it’s driving on the opposite side of the road as well; challenge accepted. I’m starting to get used to the whole opposite side thing when it comes to driving. Now when I think of North America and our driving system, I find it odd because I’m used to seeing driving being done this way. Anyway, so at Mpophomeni, I’ll be working with the HIV/AIDS organization; working with people who are affected and effected but HIV/AIDS. There’s an after school program for the kids and I’ll be working at that about 3 or 4 times a week. On the days where I’m not working there, I’ll be working at my host family’s church. About 40% of the people who live in Maseim Bumbane (the township in Mpophomeni where I’ll be working.) are infected with HIV/AIDS, and there are still countless others who haven’t been tested for it. The kids I’ll be working with either have HIV/AIDS, or their parents do.
We learn about Africa in school. We here about HIV/AIDS, we see pictures, we watch informational videos. Some of us have heard of apartheid, some of us haven’t. We picture what South Africa looks like, but we don’t know for sure because we haven’t been there. All of this is real. The segregation, the black townships, white townships, Indian townships and colored townships are real. HIV/AIDS is real. And I know you’re probably thinking “Well no duh it’s real, Abby.” But you don’t understand. This stuff is REAL. I’m seeing some form of it every day. We sit in school while teachers drill into our brains issues of this world; poverty, segregation, racism, etc. But I’m here to tell you as a person who has never really understood that concept until I came to South Africa that YOU will never really understand what your teachers are telling you. In fact, your teachers probably don’t fully understand it themselves. It’s living here that has given me this understanding that the rest of the world doesn’t live the way I do…THE REST OF THE WORLD. I want to close my blog today with something to think about: The way you live is rare; closet full of clothes, TV in your room, 2 story home, a swing on your front porch, and food in your fridge. The rest of the world lives with less than that. Think about it.