It’s hard to believe that today marks one week of being in South Africa. It feels like I've been here for a month. Honestly, I haven’t even processed this experience for myself yet. As I sit here on my bed while raindrops trickle down my bedroom window, I am scrambling for words.
We arrived as a group of 23 college students from all over the United States and Canada. We were once strangers now woven together by the tread of shared experience. It has been both a challenge and a source of self-discovery.
Two days into our arrival we went on our township experience. Our guides helped us explore the township of Langa, a historic town where many black Africans were designated before apartheid. In one day we interacted with children and the locals all in while immersing ourselves in its culture and cuisine. This gave us a firsthand look into the lives of the bottom millions- the undercurrent population of the city that goes unnoticed by tourists annually. Upon initial observation the city is masked by its urban landscape, glittering lights, and all the luxuries of an industrialized world. But children still lurk visibly in street corners begging for food and slums are perfectly interwoven within the urban landscape- it’s deceiving. One particular time we visited a “home” of migrant labor workers where three couples were living in one tiny bedroom (equivalent to a small sized apartment room). I came out consumed with overwhelming feelings of privilege and guilt, something that has followed me like a shadow since. Sometimes it feels like I never left the luxuries of the first world only to find myself thrown into the heart of the developing world. Such stark contrasts stare are me in the face, wide eyed, always asking- how did we get here? How do we fix this? I find hope in the sights of shirtless children playing along roadside filth, lost in innocence. It has got me thinking about the randomness of where we are born and its ability to shape who we become.
During the weekend we went on the garden route trip that took us along the eastern coast of South Africa. We traveled by bus and stayed the nights in multiple different cities (known for accommodating tourists year round). Never have I been to such well serviced hotels before. During the day time we took part in activities such as riding Ostriches, petting Cheetahs, chilling with Monkeys ( the amount of happiness I felt during this experience was truly magical), exploring caves, canoeing, and the list goes on and on. All this was done while exploring some of the most scenic destinations in the whole world. Needless to say, it was a weekend of many firsts. Who knew you could fit so many activities in such short amount of time.
After getting a full spectrum view of the highs and lows of South Africa we finally began class on Tuesday. Lectures, readings, and in class discussions are paired with field placements in various healthcare institutions. The latter is crucial in helping us contextualize our studies. I can’t wait to see how this part of the trip unfolds to help deepen our understanding of health and community development.
It has been a roller coaster of a week already filled with many adventures and opportunities for growth. I still can’t shake off the feeling of smallness when visiting underdeveloped areas of the city that house the majority of the population. Even if I am not yet making a direct and physical contribution to this progressing system, I am here, learning, trying to understand the scope and severity of the problem. This is a form of action in itself. I am here.
"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph" - Haile Selassie
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<p>My name is Sangya Gyawali. I am a rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh and an Anthropology major and a Chemistry minor. I am an adventure enthusiast and a real foodie. I hope to foster my love for cultures and people this summer while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Join me as I capture new experiences from different perspectives through words and photos.</p>