On AfricaThe idea of Africa is perhaps far more powerful than the location or the geography. At least I think so. There is this psychology about being as far away as Africa is, or in as remote a place as Africa should be. There exists some strange exoticism about the continent, even when you're there.
Quotes such as these pop up:
"What do you expect, you're in Africa now."
I'm going to study abroad in Africa. -- "Are you going to come back alive?"
You quickly realize that Cape Town is actually quite European in nature. Many preconceptions are skewed if not incorrect, but you also find some things true. A search for the real Africa begins, I guess. In my project about blogging, we talked about the effect that student blogs can have on these perceptions, both positive and negative. In one sense, students probably contribute to the exotic nature of the country, as they travel and highlight the different, the crime, the corruption, and general lack of organization.
On the other hand, I'm of the opinion that most of what students write about "Africa" is fine. It will probably be better or at least challenging to what most people think. And the truth is, there is no one Africa. The continent is obviously immensely diverse, but beyond that... it is full of contradictions. South Africa is a constant dichotomy between luxury and squalor, the modern and traditional. Sure, its true that Africa has expensive cars, beautiful beaches, some great universities, some world class hospitals, TV channels, cinemas, etc. However, it is also true that people still live in huts in many places, there are still piss poor governments and poor countries with rich governments. There isn't a hospital in Mozambique that I would trust with my life, baboons can often be seen on the sides of rural roads, and you can still travel and see women walking with enormous cargo loads atop their heads, often with no hands to support them. Circumcision and other initiation rituals still take place among Xhosa men at around age 20, and many other elements of Traditional African Religion are alive and well, often mixed with Christianity or Islam.
I guess what I'm saying, then, is that one of the overarching themes of being abroad in Africa is simply Africa. Specifically South Africa, but that gets lost in the shuffle. As one black South African student remarked in one of my classes, "We are a colonized people. Our language, our movies, our music. Even Africa isn't African anymore." Looking back, I just wanted to share that, in as much as it may make sense. How about you, has reading this blog surprised you at all about Africa?
How I will remember Johannesburg.
On This BlogWhen I began this blog in January, I certainly didn't have a strong idea of what I was going for. I did, however, set a few ground rules for myself from the beginning. First, I would write for anyone that wanted to read. This meant explaining things that weren't immediately obvious, and generally avoiding inside jokes and lots of specific stories about people that readers didn't know.
More than anything though, my intention was to bring you along. Instead of just telling you what I've been doing, I wanted to capture the places, the stories, and the progression as I blogged. I've made maps, hoping not to assume that you knew where I was going, and also made a point to write often and in a way that reflected the changes that I felt happening for me.
In a way, keeping a blog is a lot like reporting the news. Tons of stuff happens everyday, you see things while walking to class, you have interactions with new people, you witness things in the city. Every so often there is a big event that requires a post, but generally... the most important stuff is hard to articulate. "Shifts" happen within as you stay longer in the country, make realizations about how things "really are", and perhaps get a better sense of where you are and the people you are around. I don't know, I hope I was able to capture some of that. It will be fun to reread my posts when I'm missing Africa.
Anyway, to these ends, I hope it made things more enjoyable to read. Lastly, I doubt anything profoundly exciting will happen in the states when I get back, like pilot whales beaching on the shores of Lake Mendota or hills completely going up in flames, but I may still blog about my adjustment back to the States.