When I think of my life over the past three weeks the word that keeps coming to mind is overwhelmed. I am completely overwhelmed by the beauty of this country. Beauty that I am stunned can even exist in this world. Beauty so striking, it demands your attention. I wake up to the view of Table Mountain everyday, and I can’t help but feel my worries a lighter and less significant in comparison to the greatness of what is around me. In three weeks I have hiked one of the seven natural wonders of the world, travelled to the Southern most tip of Africa, swam in the Indian Ocean, all the while visiting elephants, penguins and baboons. I’ve watched as South Africans switch from among eleven different languages ranging from Africaans to Xosa, with such ease and fluency, I’m convinced this should constitute as a talent. I’ve tasted foods and spices so good, I’ve questioned how it has taken me twenty years on this earth to try them; and I’ve stared in awe as I walk past the overlook of the city of Cape Town as I walk to class.
While this has truly been as incredible as it sounds, I have also been exposed to parts of South Africa that are interwoven with poverty and vast underdevelopment. I have visited the Langa township, one of the many areas created during apartheid to keep black and colored communities separated from white communities; I have met people living in poverty in walking distance from my home, and have met people who have told me what they would sacrifice to be in my shoes as an American citizen. I am struggling to balance this wide disparity between racial classes. I am struggling to simultaneously appreciate the life I have been blessed with and understand the advantages I have simply because of where I was born, while also living in a city interwoven with complex disparities in socioeconomic class and opportunity.
I have never seen a place have so much beauty but yet so much struggle. The complexities of South Africa are beginning to unfold in front of me, and it is opening my world. I am awestruck at the beauty of this country, but even more so the complexity of South Africa. I am beginning to see the extent to which apartheid continues to shape the culture and attitudes of South Africans, and I feel pushed to further understand the complexities of race and the effects it has on the world. In the best of ways, South Africa is challenging me, and making me more aware of my identity and the parts of myself that I want to see growth and development.
As the culture shock subsides and my reality of this life sets in, I feel myself being pulled toward understanding the progress and development of South Africa. I feel myself questioning if I can ever fully understand the complex relations of race and identity here, but I am being changed and molded by pieces of people and places I meet; and although it may not be much, it is humbling to be shaped by this.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin
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<p>Hi! My name is Alissa; I am from NYC and am studying politics and psychology at Catholic University in Washington DC. I am unbelievably excited to be studying abroad in South Africa, and truly want this blog to reflect on the emotional, cultural, and intellectual experiences that Cape Town will lead me towards. Hope my blog will do this justice!</p>