Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Last Days in South Africa


I have now returned to Chicago and I have been home for three weeks and one day. People have been asking me if it has been difficult to adjust to being back in the United States, but after returning from Ghana to the United States nothing is a culture shock. While saying this, I realize that probably nobody is reading this, because I have been back for so long. So at this point, this last post is for my posterity.

The last couple weeks of school were pretty hectic. In the last couple weeks I had my final reflection paper, applications, and my Capstone paper to finish. I finished my reflection paper on time, got accepted into the Oberlin Business Scholars programs, and finished my Capstone. It was obviously a huge surprise that I accepted into the OBS program because I have no background in business, but it will be a completely new interesting experience. I was able to get a good enough start on my Capstone I that was not too freaked out about turning it in on time. I was able to get a draft done early enough that I was even able to have Joey at EE and Gerald from CIEE to take a look at it. Their feedback and meetings definitely helped with the writing process. I think it turned out pretty well and I am proud of the work. At completion it was a total of 72 pages, which to me feels like a lot, but when I am writing my thesis years down the road, I will be laughing at this post. Regardless, I hope the information will be helpful to the organization.

Aside from the work I was doing I got a few messages from Zackie Achmat, who I mentioned in the previous post. I ended up helping him out with a project that he was working on. He was compiling all of the letters he wrote and received while he was imprisoned in 1980, for "terrorist activity." It was extremely interesting to talk and work with him. It is rare that you get to work with a leading anti-Apartheid activist, so I jumped at the opportunity to help him out. We had discussions about my future, the future of the United States, and he let me read a book he is currently working on about his life during the Apartheid. For me it was like the equivalent of working alongside Stokely Carmichael (before he started hating Jews).

That work made my schedule a bit more hectic, but it was worth the later nights. However, this was not the only thing I was doing outside of school and service. We still had some closing ceremonies for our group, which included our final at Moyo and celebrating Angela's 50th Birthday. It was special for us and I think her that we got to be the first CIEE group to celebrate her birthday with her. Moyo was also a great time. It was my second time at Moyo, the last time being in 2008 during Winter Term, but it was not any less special. How could you not like African buffet all night?

The last day in South Africa was filled with many tearful goodbyes. Eva and I were the first ones to depart, but it was nice to have someone to hang out until heading back to the United States. I had a slightly earlier flight than Eva to Johannesburg, but we were able to hang out in the Jo-burg airport because our flights were not that different. In fact they were short on seats when I checked in, so I got to ride in business class for the first time in my life. I sat next to a nice guy from the States, who ran his own NGO in Philippi. We chatted the whole way to Jo-burg about our organizations. On the way to New York I sat next to a South African student at UCT named Dean, who happened to be doing an internship in New York. For the majority of the trip we either talked or I slept. I warned him of people not understanding South African slang such as, lekker, just now, now-now, howzit, and bru. However, I should have taken some of my own advise because I find myself using some South African slang.

The final leg of the trip was heading from New York to Chicago, which was complicated by a heavy charge for bringing bags on Delta, but after was put in order I made it on my way. Just a short time later I was home in the Chicago, where my parents picked me up.

The biggest surprise about this whole return travel was that my Springbok skull made it all the way back the United States, through customs and everything. They did not even check to see what it was. The Springbok skull I found on the game reserve, which I then boiled and cleaned with a toothbrush to remove the remaining skin. But luckily it made it home in one piece.

South Africa was an amazing trip. I had a great time. I did amazing things, met incredible people and made great relationships, and got to be a part of a top notch organization. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything and I attribute that to CIEE staff such as Ronel and Angela, my house mates, and friends made in SA. I could also see myself living in Cape Town in the years to come. I hope to return shortly after graduation with Fulbright but that is a whole other discussion.

I want to say enkosi (thank you) for reading my blog and the positive messages along the way. South Africa is an amazing place, filled with natural beauty. The people are some of the nicest people in the world. The country has a long way to go, but I think it is heading in the right direction. It just needs guidance from organizations such as EE.

I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity to go to South Africa or anywhere in Africa DO IT! It will be a unique experience, different than anything you have ever done, and you will learn everyday you are there.

Also I ran from a pack of Baboons while hiking in the Tokai Forrest. No big though.

And for the last time.

Salani Kakuhle.

Amandla! Owethu!