One With the Locals

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. – Nelson Mandela

It has only been a week since we left Joburg and landed in Cape Town, but I already feel like I have a daily routine. Everyday I wake up and go to work at the District Six Museum. I come back home and then I have to pick up Justin from the bus stop so we can go to the gym, where I can count on seeing a few familiar faces. Sometimes we’ll finish off the night with a group dinner, and then I’ll then occasionally sneak off by myself and watch a World Cup game or two. But my favorite part of the day is walking up and down Long Street. Everyday I say what’s up to my friend at YoursTruly and then I give the guy outside of Rafiki’s the occasional head nod. It’s crazy how in only a week I have been able to feel at home here.

One of the great things about the people here is their sense of unity and kindness. Despite the fact that there are still many race and gender issues in the country, it almost seems as if acceptance and kindness have been engrained in the new generation. I first took notice of this back in Joburg when we visited the Albert Street School, which is home to many Zimbabwe refugees. The school manages to produce some of the most successful students in the country despite poor funding, underpaid teachers, and faulty electricity. Due to these conditions, the school is on the verge of shutting down. However, the school staff stays committed and the students continue to excel. When we visited, I was in a group that had a discussion with the 9th grade class. At first, I thought the kids wouldn’t be responsive in our discussion, but instead they were engaged. They were just as, if not more excited to see us than we were to see them. Talking to the kids, I felt that they had a consciousness of their own country’s political and social issues. They were actively paying attention to the news, and had genuine concerns about their future. It was amazing to have an enriching experience with the youth at the Albert Street School. The same can’t be said for Justin and me at the daycare, but that’s a story for a different time.

One of my best friends from Duke, Uzo, is from Cape Town. He told a few of his childhood friends to meet up with me once I made it to the city. I didn’t know what to expect from them, but we hit it off the second we met each other. Talking to them, I feel like I am hanging out with people who I have known for a long time. It’s cool to have that kind of friendship across borders. One of the best parts of my relationship with them is the insight about the country I get from them. I get a different perspective then the typical DukeEngage experience. The same cognizance of the world that I sensed in the Albert Street School is the same cognizance my friends in Cape Town have. They have a truly global view on life. Being from the US, we have a mentality of only thinking about ourselves, but talking to these kids have opened my eyes to think beyond the US, but globally. It’s more than a matter of pride, but rather of perception. I thank these kids for making me think issues in new ways.

I still have six weeks left here, and I expect to grow not only as a person but to learn more about our differences and similarities. So as I continue to grow an addiction to Malva pudding, I will continue to learn more about South Africa, the United States, and myself.

P.S Shoutout to Bill on his last week! We’re gonna miss you buddy!

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