I posted my last blog on December 9th.
Today, it’s February 3rd.
I found it hard to sit down and write last month. For a variety of reasons. The old me would be beating myself up for that. Such unnecessary pressure, for sure. But, life happens. I’m not a robot. And sticking to a strict writing schedule while traveling and working isn’t always the most realistic.
So, I’m gonna use this blog to debrief a bit on Cape Town.
I was PUMPED to get to there at the end of December. It would be a month of sunshine, beaches, hikes & good food. All things that speak to my soul. And I have to say, I did get to experience all of those things, while also managing a hectic work month (as January usually is). But there were some elements of Cape Town that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. All part of the journey, I suppose…
I considered my understanding of apartheid to be relatively decent. For those unfamiliar, apartheid was essentially a system of racial segregation that existed in South Africa until 1994. In many ways, this system was similar to what existed in the United States: Whites, the minority, were in complete control over all other groups (Black, Indian & Coloured, primarily).
In the grand scope of time, 1994 isn’t too long ago. So the effects of the system are still very strong and very present. I can’t speak for the entire Remote Year group, but this was something that I felt immediately and also reacted to very strongly. I come from Teaneck, New Jersey, a town that prides itself on diversity and equality, as it was the first municipality in the entire United States to voluntarily integrate its public schools. Talk about a belief ringing strongly; you feel THIS in Teaneck.
That being said, I thought there may be a similar feeling, energy or sentiment in Cape Town. Apartheid is over. The divide is now a thing of the past. Blacks, whites and every other color can now live happily and equally alongside one another. Right?
Theoretically, yes. Those laws don’t exist anymore. And there is no violence or direct, outward resentment towards any majority group. But it takes more than a change in legislation to impact how different cultural groups interact and coexist with one another. To really see and feel those changes … well, that takes time.
Maybe I’m naive for thinking otherwise? Or maybe it’s because I come from a place where black kids and white kids can walk down the street together, or walk into a store together, or grab a bite to eat together, and nobody bats an eye. It was difficult, in many ways, for me to see and experience something different in Cape Town. To go out to a bar and see black faces sitting and mingling with only black faces; and to see white faces sitting and mingling with only white faces. What may seem like a diverse city at first glance, really isn’t. At least not yet.
As I mentioned, 1994 was literally 5 MINUTES AGO in the scope of time. As an American, this has been something interesting to think about and to wrap my head around. In large part because my country’s history is also so young and fresh, and so many of the issues we faced in the last century are still very strong and present today. This is very much the case in Cape Town, too, and throughout most of South Africa, I’d assume … but on an even greater scale. A more intense scale.
Of all the experiences that have made up my Remote Year journey so far, I am especially grateful for this one. For everything that was challenging about it. And for the new way it has caused me to look at the world and the ways in which different people and cultural groups coexist. My understanding of diversity (as someone who comes from a place like Teaneck) has been challenged. I was expecting to see and feel something different in Cape Town. To maybe see and feel a “diversity” that was more familiar. One that I was used to. One that I understood…
Not the case at all, though.
It’s cool when the world checks you. When experiences like this check you.
You only get this from travel.