After 2 years and 6 months, I'm finally in a place where I don't stand out or get stared at? Where am I?
Cape Town, South Africa!
I left India in the early hours of February 3rd surrounded by good vibes. It wasn't easy to leave India. I felt like I had been there forever and could stay another day in hopes of seeing more. However, I realized that India called for a commitment I was no longer ready to make and Africa was calling me. Africa wasn't calling me in a romantic sense though. I just knew deep down in my heart that spending time on African soil would enrich me.
I tried to get to Ethiopia first for several reasons. 1) Ethiopia was never successfully colonized by any Western powers. 2) The country has a rich religious heritage. However, traveling to Ethiopia required more work than I was willing to do. Then I flirted with the idea of going to Kenya. But I still didn't want to do any work to get there.
I was left with one country on my list, South Africa. But I had a lot of hesitations about buying an airline ticket to the land of Nelson Mandela. I was terrified that the legacy of apartheid would weigh so heavily on my shoulders that I wouldn't be able to breath but then I remembered a lesson from home. I've heard some northerners (in the U.S.) air their perceptions about racism in the South without ever visiting the area. And I know many African-Americans from the North and Midwest who are moving back to the South. If areas of the south could change enough to entice northern and Midwestern African-Americans to return to the land of the confederate flag, then maybe I should give South Africa a chance.
I've been in South Africa for 8 days and I'm having a great time. I flew into Johannesburg. I stayed there for 2 nights and came to my senses and got on a bus to Cape Town on the third evening. I honestly couldn't make sense of Johannesburg. Everyone seems afraid of the city. But what is the point of visiting a place if you can't even walk around. I went to the Apartheid Museum which is an amazing place. I also had another dramatic incident there.
I got into a heated argument with a security guard. He accused me of taking photos. Now, I was taking photos after I watched a slew of white visitors take photos. However, I was the only one singled out. The security guard, an Black African man, gave me a lecture. Then I told him to make sure he gave that same lecture to the white people who were taking photos too. He claimed that I was the only one. Then we started to get into it and I started getting emotional. A white woman came to my aid by verifying the fact that a whole slew of people had been taking photos. My last words to the guards were, "I can't have this conversation anymore. I'm getting emotional and this isn't my country. And I don't know why I came here!" I went to another area and had a good cry. The Apartheid Museum is the kind of place that makes you cry. I started freaking out after learning about the Bantu Education Act of 1953.
The then-government gave Black Africans sub-par education in their own tribal languages. I saw parallels between the Bantu Education Act and current government schooling in India which brought tears to my eyes.The photos shown of the Black African schools in the 60s looked like current Indian government elementary schools; overcrowded, sometimes no desks, few teachers, and outdated materials. (Please note that I visited a government school in Pune.
State governments in India are charged with educating their young citizens in the official language of the area. I've always found this policy bizarre. Why are poor kids learning Marathi or other regional languages when the language of business in India, the language of the elite is English? I basically see the reinforcement of regional languages in the Indian primary education system as a way to keep the poor disadvantaged and unable to compete in a more globalized economy. And there are government schools that are conducted in English but families must pay more in school fees. (Please note that government schools are usually attended by the poor. The middle-class and Indian elite usually send their children to English-speaking private or parochial (convent) schools.). In the 1953, the South African government was doing the same thing by not education Black African children in English or even Afrikaans. I then imagined a vast conspiracy all over the world to keep poor in their place and let the elites continue to hold sway.
Once I finished my tour of the Apartheid Museum, I was filled with marvel for the Black African people. I can't believe there wasn't blood shed in 1991 when apartheid ended. The system was harsher than I ever imagined. All non-white people were treated horrifically but Black Africans, the sons of the soil, got the cruelest treatment.
South Africa reminds of California with a lot of Black people. Unfortunately, too many of the Black people are still poor a decade after the death of apartheid. The economic inequalities are openly visible. Blacks are now in positions of political and government authority but the whites have all the keys to the boardrooms. I've heard that "reverse racism" is now being practice which is a preference for Blacks in government and other areas. I laugh when I see signs that read, "STOP ANC RACISM."
I see South Africa heading the way of countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, the majority welds political power while a minority of the population controls the capital. The South African government is desperately trying to bring help the poorer population but is stymied by the effects of decades of very low quality education. So, Black Africans have the freedom to move about their country but many can't enjoy it because of poverty. It is depressing.
In India, everyone thought I was South African. In South African, some people suspect I'm one of them until I open my mouth. It also takes me 5 minutes to count out money since I'm still thinking in Indian Rupees.
Another big issue facing Ms. World in South Africa is money. SOUTH AFRICA isn't a cheap country. It is a little cheaper than the U.S. but it isn't Southeast Asia prices. I've spent money in Johannesburg and Cape Town like I was in Singapore. I've been in Cape Town for a week and I have to escape as soon as possible because of my shrinking bank balance.
Last topic- Cape Town. The Mother City as it is called in South Africa, is like Goa, India and South India-believe the hype. It is a city of breath-taking beauty. The beaches are lovely but the water is freezing cold. The restaurants are going to be the death of my bank account. Cape Town is a town that can't disappoint a beauty lover.