Personally, I think it is a great time for reflection. I guess you could say one of my fundamental needs is idleness. (but not in the drinking manner) We first left on Wednesday leaving a beautiful South Carolina day where we flew into the Charlotte airport and later the Dulles airport in Washington D.C. Knocking those two flights down were fairly simple but I had yet prepared myself for the misery that waited ahead. The appointed dad of the group, Mike, had kept a very responsible eye on us while we tended to wander off into shops or food places to satisfy our adventurous spirit. He consistently counted us off each time we arrived and departed each airport until it became a joke and before you know it the whole group was sounding off on it’s own. I give Mike an A plus though just for dealing with this particular group of people.
Leaving Washington D.C and going to Johannesburg was painful to say the least. The plane offered a wide variety of movies on the screen but this only goes so far. Through the 17 hour plane ride, I experienced the entire spectrum of emotions. I went from excited to happy, from happy to mildly amused, from mildly amused to devoid of emotion, from no feelings to anger, from anger to sorrow, and from sorrow to hopelessness. Through a constant feeling of uncomfortableness and a series of leg cramps, we landed in Senegal to fuel up. This was our halfway point and from here we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. After attempting to try and sleep and lossing all track of time we finally land in “Joburg” where we endure a 4 hour lay over till Cape Town. Cape Town, fortunately, is only 2 more hours of flight time which compared to our endless journey seemed like a piece of cake. We touch down in Cape Town and everything seemed to go blank because I was so tired the next thing I know I am walking into my incredible hotel room where the bed feels like a freaking cloud.
The first day we were here, we had the opportunity to learn the history of South Africa from none other than Stuart Hendry, a professor from the University of Cape Town and a successful entrepreneur. He gave us a 40 minute crash course on their history which allowed us to better understand their country’s problems of today. He also shared some of the great works that him and his colleagues are doing in order to alleviate some of these problems so that the country of South Africa will be better off in the future. One of the things Uncle Stu said to us in that first session that really stuck out in my mind was “a lack of understanding leads to fear” and “we tend to judge something if it is different.” For some reason, that really resonated in my mind and I got to think about that if you can grasp that concept, you can understand the reason for the majority of wars in human history. This quote also holds a lot of relevance in South Africa where a luxurious hotel can be in the middle of Cape Town and 10 kilometers away there will be a starving family living in a shack. The poverty gap is outstanding and it is truly sad to see some of the situations that people live in. We discussed how to change these sad situations which led to the Denokeng outcomes which was essentially a think tank of brilliant South Africans from all walks of life that came together and predicted three different paths that the country would take. The sad thing about these outcomes is that two were negative and the positive one, “Walking Together”, called for “engaged citizens” and an “effective state.” This means that people need to be proactive about their future and where they want to go and the government has to cooperate and listen to the people while providing empowering opportunities to people.
Stuart left us with a Sunrise Exercise where we write where we see ourselves in 6 months and, in 6 months time, Stuart will mail us this completed worksheet where we can evaluate ourselves based on our performance. I believe this will be an effective opportunity to get my life on track and keep myself accountable. It was also a great experience to be able to go on top of Table Top Mountain where we could really think about this exercise while we took in the sights in sounds of one of South Africa’s most sought after destinations.