5/28/15 - 5/28/15 70 °F
So it's nearly 3 years since I first stepped foot in South Africa and I have now returned For two months. I must say it feels incredible and the sights, interactions, and lessons are already leaving me inspired.
There is something about this place that is almost mystical - the warmth of those around me, the breeze on the glimmering trees, the sun that heats my skin as I write.
As I sit here inside the Apartheid Museum, I am struck but not only the terrible history before me, but also the amazing hope and inspiration that seems to guide many in front of me. With such a disastrous history, one would imagine a sad place, an almost depressed environment. The numbers do show it - with close to 26% unemployment which is growing every year, one of the largest inequality gaps with a Gini coefficient of .65 (in 2011) and a large percentage of the population that still lives in what many would call desolute poverty (25% to 53% depending on the measurement). All of this in a quote/unquote "upper middle income" economy, which still seems to benefit so little of the overall population.
Yet what you feel here, smell in the air of freshly baked muffins, hear with the kind greeting of 'Sao Bona', is not sadness and despair, but rather that of hope, kindness - yes frustration- but also forgiveness. To see many with so little who appear happier than those with so much, definitely makes you question - what is happiness? What truly makes us happy? And what is the true goal of "development?" For if it is happiness, ironically maybe the "developed" countries have more to learn than they think.
I'd hate to paint a rosy picture when it's not. To push aside the pain and struggling I do see. To discredit our wonderful scholar Bongi's desire to make a few extra dollars to put her daughter and siblings through school while supporting her own education. But to think that the U.S. has it right or that the advances of the West hold the key to happiness, would also be incorrect. We all have lots to learn from one another, we all have so much room to grow.
So I say to South Africa: here I am. You've inspired me already. I am so completely ready to grow, to learn, and if possible, to help in any way I can those who have inspired me.