It is easy to fall in love with South Africa; to wake up to the sweet voices of school children singing on Sunday mornings, walk along the colorful patterns of the houses in BoKaap, and stare at the mesmerizing sunsets settling in against the mountains. It is easy to fall for the deep sounds of African music, with each beat of the drums controlling every limb of your body. It is so easy to feel alive with every day that passes, every adventure cultivating a new home in your heart, shaping you into a better person than you were the last.
It is so easy to fall in love with South Africa, looking at each day through rose-colored lenses.
However, the part that's not so easy is seeing South Africa for all that it represents and endures. The hard part is driving by beautifully crafted luxurious houses juxtaposed to shacks and townships cramming in entire families without adequate heating and electricity. The hard part is walking down the street with groceries, and counting the number of people that ask for food, and not knowing when to stop or keep going. The hard part is seeing a reality that is not your own and trying to give it a voice. I am beginning to understand how issues of poverty and race disparities seep into my lectures at UCT. I am beginning to understand the way students in South Africa truly understand the role of education as a priviledge, not a right. There is a difference in taking classes with students that have been historically stripped of a voice and the right to equal education. Students here are driven by their struggles and their desires to overcome the realities and complexities of their history. There is empowerment in this capacity to use struggle as fuel for success. There is empowerment in South Africa's ability to overcome complacency, and continue to strive towards equality.
Classes are not simply focused on grades or subjects, but rather in deep cultural identities and complexities and how they stand in relation to the world. Walking to class entails school-led protests regarding conflicts in Palestine and Israel, corruption of President Zuma's power in office, as well as the Fees must Fall movement, which is fighting to lower tutition fees across South Africa. These protests are eye-opening but also essential to understanding the deep-set struggles and complexities of apartheid. This world has unfolded in front of me, and while I recognize the interwoven struggles that entrench South Africa, I cannot help but see beauty and strength in the people of this country.
Yes, it is true that it is easy to fall in love with South Africa without understanding the underlying struggle that propels this country. But it is also possible to fall in love with this country, while taking both beauty and struggle in, success and defeat, and watching as as a country that has gone through so much hurt, can shine through with so much light.
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of those depths." -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross