The effects of the apartheid government system are still very much present in the everyday experience of South Africa. Though the government and citizens take steps to change it and have made lots of progress in the last 20 years, it is very hard to change systematic oppression quickly, because it affects the mindset of those living through it so much.
One thing I have noticed and greatly appreciate here is the fact that most of the people we have talked to and interacted with do not shy away from the apartheid. They accept it as a part of their history and acknowledge the progress they have made as well as how much farther they have to go. I find this refreshing because I feel like back home in the States we don’t acknowledge our history as openly as we should.
When we walked around and took tours of the different townships, it made me rethink a lot about how I view myself and how I view those around me. As well as how I view myself and others in the world. I learned that dreams are what carry you through life, and without them you get into trouble and make mistakes. Walking through and seeing people living in so much poverty made me extremely sad, and somewhat guilty because I’ve only ever known a life of privilege. But as I saw people who had accepted their situation as their present not their future and were happy, heard stories of those who had dreams and aspirations, and because of this were doing well, and learned how close these communities can actually be, I began to realize that feeling guilty or sad isn’t going to change anything. They have to accept their present situation and so do I.
Seeing all this poverty has completely opened my eyes and I saw a different part of the world, which is helping me to see a different part of humanity and myself. I’m beginning to learn many incredible things about myself and those I’m visiting and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience so far. South Africa is an amazing country for many reasons, one of them being the fact that poverty and wealth live side by side literally, to see this in person is incredible. You can’t understand it until you are here.