Every time I look out beyond the South African coastline, I can’t help but feel somewhat distracted. I find myself overlaying the hectic waves upon a static image of a textbook-perfect map and soon, something as simple as my geographical location leaves me baffled. With the globe splayed out in my minds eye I find that point of land protruding out into the Atlantic and think – there I am on that tiny tip of a continent we talk so much about but know so little of.
Even after two months here I realize just how little I know. I still cannot pinpoint a South African accent. I still cannot mimic the Xhosa click. I still cannot recognize the eleven official languages much less list the country’s nine dividing provinces. I’m learning but it’s taking time – way more than I expected and way more than I have..
We’re always told the more you know the more you realize you don’t know – the more you do the more you realize has yet to be done. Working for an NGO in a country vastly different than my own, I find that these platitudes both hit the nail on the head and entirely miss the point.
Yes, the more you know the more you realize you don’t know. The more in-depth you go the more layers you uncover and nuances you unbind. At the same time, however, sometimes a recognition of simply what meets the eye, a recognition of a shared need with no need for an explanation is enough.
I’ve learned how to sink my fingers into some pap and finish it off with a Black Label- sharing a meal. I’ve seen how music can bring people together without a single word – sharing a beat. I’ve heard a sermon with such conviction it made you think if not believe – sharing a moment.
Yes, the more you do the more you realize how much has yet to be done. Yet, when you’ve seen a sex worker defend her rights on the witness stand, a woman successfully divorce her abusive husband, a boy go to a museum for the first time, you realize that even if it’s just a drop, just a single drop in that ocean out there – together, these hectic waves hold great power.