Throughout our time in South Africa, communication was a huge component of our learning. We heard what locals had to say about their community and society, and we spoke to locals about our thoughts and questions. Listening to the people we encountered allowed us to gain an all-ecompassing picture of life in South Africa.
I think, for the most part, communication was very much fulfilled on this trip. In the article, Rogers spoke about communication only being achieved when one fully takes in what the other has to say and responding to it. In every encounter our group had, we fully considered the viewpoint of others and responded accordingly. The incidence that comes to mind when I think of this concept is our lunch with locals at Soweto; we talked openly about the problems our respective society faces and considered the problems they face as well. I am interested in learning more about segregation and that conversation was the first time I realized that segregation, while not a legal entity, still exists in South Africa today and is still a problem. My research topic is about the history of segregation and how that evolved from institutionalized segregation to societal racism. We learned all about institutionalized racism during apartheid in museums but I think societal racism is harder to learn about and the conversations we had during lunch fulfilled this knowledge. As the women talked about during lunch, societal racism is still present through schools, communities, and jobs and while this segregation is not mandated by government it does still exist and is a problem.
On our last full day in South Africa, we went surfing! I have actually gone surfing in Australia years ago and didn’t really enjoy it, but surfing at Muizenburg Beach was a lot of fun. After our surfing experience we ate burgers and tanned (AKA got sunburnt) on the beach. That night we enjoyed a dinner where we played the drums and ate traditional African food. It was a relaxing end to an amazing two weeks.
Today we hiked Table Mountain, toured Malay quarter, and had a cooking class.
In the cooking class, we learned how to make traditional South African food like samoosas. It is obvious there is a huge cultural component in South African dining; all of our home cooked meals was an affair that a whole family, sometimes even a whole community, was present for. It was mentioned today that a huge meal was prepared for funerals, weddings, and baby showers and food plays a huge role in familial closeness. Sharing meals are a way for families to connect and converse and events like these motivate a family to meet, and being around loved ones in this setting offers comfort to grieving families.
Today we toured the Solms Delta Winery and learned about their cultural history while trying their award-winning wine. The winery began as a farm with slaves, and the winery’s owner has gone to extensive lengths to discover the cultural history of the farm and its slaves. We then went to the Huguenot Memorial Museum and learned about the history of the French Protestants who traveled to South Africa.
After dinner, we spoke with University of Cape Town student activists about the Fees Must Fall movement. Fees Must Fall is a student-led movement to protest increases in fees at universities, and a result of the movement is that the South African President announced there will be no more fee increases from 2018 on. The US also has an astronomically high tuition rate, and it was interesting to hear their perspective on it.
The New York Times article essentially says that regardless of where you travel or what you do there, a trip can never be a truly authentic experience. I do agree with this… to some degree. I think to be able to truly experience what a place is like, one would have to live there. You can’t possibly get a true feel for what actual life is like at a place over a vacation. While you can’t ever really have an all-encompassing, truly authentic experience traveling, you can stray away from tourist attractions and see things that give you a more realistic picture of the place you’re traveling.
On this trip, we have done things that offer experiences that are as authentic as tourists could possibly get. To me, authentic is an experience that isn’t staged or displayed; it is seeing the raw, complete version of a place including the bad. I think the closest we got to authenticity was in the townships – the locals didn’t try to embellish or hide their problems. They showed us what was unique and wonderful about their home, but also what was problematic. I think a huge component of authenticity is honesty, and most places have been quite honest when introducing us to their home.
Today started off hiking the Cape of Good Hope, which was an incredible sight. We then ate lunch and saw the penguins, then listened to Jenny Eaves who is a folksinger from Cape Town.
Jenny Eaves’s songs allude to many topics, ranging from depression to political inequality. Subtlety, like many folk artists, was a feature of her music and often tells political stories through alluding to nature. Like the other speakers we’ve met, she uses her platform as a way to bring about social justice.
Today started off with a tour of Parliament. I’m very interested in government and politics so it was cool to see the center of their legislative body. I found it interesting that all racial classifications, except for Blacks, were represented under a different branch in the tricameral legislature during apartheid – Blacks were segregated even in government.
After our tour of Parliament, we had lunch at a food market that had Indian, Middle Eastern, and South African food options. We then went to the Slave Lodge and learned about the history of slave trade in South Africa. I thought the AIDS exhibit was particularly interesting; it featured a plethora of pictures of many different people and had captions of their own testimonies as it relates to their disease.
On the way back to the team house we stopped to see amazing views of the mountains and shoreline. We finally got a chance to go to the beach which looked incredible during sunset.