It’s the day before I leave for South Africa, and I could not be more excited. Amazingly, and against the advisement of the Study Abroad office, I did pack the day before and yet I feel strangely confident that I have everything. I’m going Dutch (heh…get it…’cause the Dutch settled South Africa…). I’ve packed enough clothes for about a week to 10 days, because I figured I can just wear jeans, shorts and other clothing multiples times as I always do, and who would care? Better yet, who would know? I’ve got it all packed into the biggest suitcase I’ve ever used, and I still have room for souvenirs.
Some people have asked me: why do you want to go to South Africa, isn’t it like, dangerous there with monkeys running around and stuff? I try my best to hide my contempt for stereotypical views of Africa like that one, but I just smile and explain to them how wonderful South Africa is (relatively), and how much it has accomplished that other countries in the continent haven’t. Then they ask me why, and I say, I’ll let you know when I get back. That’s why I’m going. South Africa always seems to come up in my research whenever I talk of economic development, countries overcoming the odds, societies bringing classes together harmoniously (no, I am not a Maoist), and the like. I knew I wanted to travel somewhere in the world during my college career, but I never knew where to go. When I saw the flier for Nation Building in the New South Africa, I knew right then and there that that was the place I wanted to go. It was almost like a “love at first sight” kind of feeling.
As a somewhat avid traveler, I know what to expect going abroad. But I’ve never been this far before, and certainly never been on a 20 hour plane ride–with a transfer in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, no time to stop and smell the coffee or see the windmills. Another day, Europe. Another day. Anyway…and after being in Haiti, I somewhat know what to expect of African culture. But that’s what I look forward to also, South Africa, culturally, is so remarkably different than, say Ghana or Sudan or even the Congo. I wouldn’t want to say it’s a “white” or European culture, but more modern; which isn’t mean to disregard tribal societies either. South Africa is so entirely complex in some ways, and I can’t wait to experience it for my own. And I hope this blog will help me to really get my thoughts down (on…not…paper…?). I’m taking a digital camera with me somewhere for the first time since, what, 2008? Takin’ it back to the old-skool.