I will be spending every moment of this year in Africa. Isn't that exciting?
Sorry I haven't updated in a while- it's been pretty busy.
Just wrapping up my first vacation here. We went to Durban, which is in KwaZulu Natal, and spent practically the whole time on the beach. It was all dandy and swell except for a few things:
- I was sick the majority of the time
- The sun here is way burnier.
- I got stung by a jerk jellyfish.
When I got stung, I didn't have any pee. So a friend of mine went into the ocean and peed into a bottle for me. I poured it on my leg, and it didn't really work. So I had a horrible stinging leg with someone else's pee all over it.
Vacation's ending soon (tomorrow) and I'm ready to go back.
It was nice, obviously (especially the showers), but I am excited to get back to my village and start working again. I also felt like a bit of a fish out of water on the other coast, because I just didn't know any Zulu. It's such a comfort to be able to greet and speak enough to ingratiate myself just a bit among the Tswana- and I had none of that on the east.
Race relations on that side are also a bit different. And to be honest, I think it is a bit rougher there.
I have a theory on what's going on here:
Where I live used to be what was called Baphutatswana- and it was basically a black homeland for the Tswana people. A lot of pretty terrible things happened just at the end of the Apartheid and in some ways made it pretty uncomfortable for most white people to stick around (it sure wasn't easy on blacks either, though.) The ones that did would for the most part need to be relatively racially tolerant. That's my theory anyway.
My shopping town, Mafikeng, I believe is one of the blackest towns in SA. If I were to estimate, there'd be about a 4% white population. Of course, in my village, the white population is me.
But what that means is that there is a smaller white population, and they are generally not openly jerks to black people. What I've gathered on my vacation, is that that is not necessarily the case everywhere. That was an extremely rough realization to come to. I knew it was the case- but seeing it in person (on more than one occasion) is a different story.
In some ways it was surprising because practically all the white people that I know in Mafikeng are pretty damn neat. They definitely don't have the same mindset that I've come across a bit more frequently in other towns.
Race relations here are by far the biggest challenge that I am facing. Things are so, so, so complex. There are decades of history of oppression and injustice that influence the collective psyche of this country- and every part of the country is affected in different ways.
I am constantly reminded of my own race, constantly confronted with what being white implies, every single day. Coming from the Bay Area, which is more or less the most racially diverse, and possibly one of the most racially tolerant areas in the world- it can be bewildering at times.
It can be a lot of pressure, too. Along with my awareness there is a sense of responsibility that I have in every single interaction that I partake in. In some ways, I represent all white people, or all Americans, or women, or zebras or whatever minority I am at the time.
It can be overwhelming, sure. It makes practically every moment of my life here active service.
Though, in its own way, it is also a profound honor.
I'm looking forward to 2008.