Today, we visited a Koisan (not sure on the spelling) village, or at least a rendition of one. Overall the trip itself was not long enough and I feel that it could have been more interactive or informative. The Koisan are the indigenous peoples that first inhabited the are thousands of years ago. They lived off the land, learned to track animals and be hunters and gatherers. I supposed they would be comparable to Native Americans here in the states. Our guide was a Koisan, which seems impressive, and indeed it is to talk to them about their heritage, but you can also find many descendants of the Koisan people. The neatest part of the trip was when we learned about the different languages of the area, even up to Zimbabwe. Xhosa, like many other languages of the region, use the clicks in place of X, Q and sometimes K. So if you read something that has a “!” in front of a letter, it is a click sound, and there are about 7 different types of clicks. I’ve found that some of it depends on dialect/accents of the person also. Nonetheless, it was nice to be familiar with the language we’ve been hearing for the past 3 weeks. That said, I wish we could have had the chance to learn a bit of Xhosa or even Zulu before we left for the trip. While mostly everyone speaks English at some level here, it would have been nice to have that connection with people. There is something new to be learned every day, even if you’re not looking to learn. Today I learned a new appreciation for people who can live off the land. That’s what’s always impressed me about the African way of life: how they can use everything nature has to offer and still recycle it. Like when the Koisan would kill an animal for dinner, they would use the meat for nourishment, the hide for clothing, and even the bones for teething toys for children; through their gnawing children would extract the calcium. It’s always amazed me how they come to learn these facts of nature. Like, who was the first person to smoke a plant and realize, “hey, this stuff cures me of my sickness!” Oh, did I mention they would use ostrich eggs as water canteens? And people think Africans are the primitive ones.
My entire perception of Africa has changed. Yes, it has its troubles. No, it’s not filled with saints. But it’s still not the place you think it is. It’s filled with people who love their culture and love to encounter others’. Everyone has a story to tell, and that’s universal; everyone has a story to tell, white or black. Today I was walking down the street and I said hello to someone, and we ended up having a 5-10 minute conversation about where he grew up and his hobbies (we were talking about the beach and how he wishes he knew how to surf). The people are so candid, but maybe some of that is culture shock. I took (rather, was given) a flyer today about someone named Dr. Tina, an inyanga, or herbalist, a medicine man if you’re familiar. The flyer said he could cure anything from loss of spouse, stopping a divorce, earn success in the lotto or horse races, get a job and even “male enhancement.” I kid you not. I don’t think it needs any further explanation.
Our last dinner out was at a place called Gold, with “opulent African cuisine.” It was a set menu of dishes from across the continent, and from time to time, dancers and performers would come out to do traditional drumming, dancing and the like. One pulled me to dance and I took it in stride. I suddenly got lost in a flurry of euphoria, African culture immersion, and at the end everyone was clapping. One person told me I was “a good dancer,” and coming from an African, I take that as a true compliment. I’m going to miss mealie pap, cooked squash, and Black Label beer. I’m going to miss the sweet Coke (made with real sugar) and waking up to the sight of a mountain view every morning. Of course, there are things I will not miss, but as I told someone today, I want to go but I don’t want to leave. Part of it is due to returning America, a trip in itself, and with it jet lag. Part of it is not having the things I can get here, like certain brands and foods. But yet I know I may feel all these “honeymoon” emotions because I’ve been exposed to touristy things, and shown only the best of what Africa has to offer. Miles away, people are living/struggling day to day. People smile because they’re holding back tears. People are nice because I’m a “rich” American. But I’ve been exposed to the best of what Africa has to offer, and that’s all I need.
I can’t believe I’ve been here a month. I’ve missed a lot in the news, and have a lot of catching up to do. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a vacation, and I think I’ve had my fill. I’m excited to spend a few hours in Amsterdam and back in Europe, my future home someday. That much is decided. I feel like I could write more, but there’s too much to put down on word. The rest I keep locked away in my mind with the bunch of other nonsense too. It’s about 6pm and we leave for the airport in an hour. Maybe it’s a good thing that goodbyes aren’t bittersweet. I just can’t believe that a whole world exists inside the same world that we’re all from. I’m happy to have met people I’ll never see again and learn from them. I’ve learned so much more than I’ve taught others, I think, but it goes both ways. For a study abroad, service learning trip, I think I’ve got my fill of learning about service. It was strange not going to church on Sundays for a month, but nonetheless, I’ve met a host of people who are so devout in their faith, hopefully that makes up for it. I pray for Africa, the people I’ve met, and the future of all other 6 billion people on this planet I’ll never meet.