Eish. It has been a difficult two weeks for my municipality and South Africa. Two Mondays ago, there was a horrific car accident right outside of Schnizteland where 5 learners and 1 teacher were killed. This plus heightened cases of typhoid fever in the country (no one wants to call it an outbreak yet) combined with terrorist attacks that have wacked the public health and international development fields the past few months…I rest my case. I needed slices of humanity.
Then South Africa shared some good in the world. The first school for Autistic children in Soweto opened and my favourite magazine in South Africa (FreshLiving) had a heartwarming feature in their January edition. I tried to find an online version of the article but below is a picture of the story (apologizes for the quality I owe y’all a scanned edition once those capabilities are available). A few notes: “domestic worker” is the South African term of decorum for maid and Gugulethu “our Precious/treasure” is a large township outside of Cape Town.
Traveling is viewed as a privilege, an experience that only people with money and education are able to access. This article reinforces how traveling benefits everyone, even those with high school diploma benefit from traveling. When people step outside their comfort zones and learn from other nations, there will be additional cultural understanding in the world. Cultural understanding kills prejudice and as long as people continue to go abroad, people motivated by hate cannot win.
The study abroad coordinator at my alma mater closes her e-mails with this quote:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
When Mark Twain wrote his novels, America was in a transition similar to South Africa’s current state. The Civil War fractured society and everyone was trying to piece the American psyche back together with the new perspectives. Now, youth in South Africa want to learn from other cultures and how they incorporate all the identities into one nation. Most South Africans that I talk to dream about traveling the world or seeing their neighboring countries. It is easy to remember how privileged I am and forget about how the community members I serve share my dreams. They also want a fulfilling life, to see the world outside rural KZN and learn as much as possible.
Hopefully we continue to move towards travel as a “human right” as opposed towards a privilege, but granted we have enough development goals to keep us occupied in the meantime.
All the best,