South Africa May-mester
This May-mester trip has drastically changed my world-view of South Africa in its entirety. During the spring semester meetings in preparation for the trip I was learned that I should expect to be blown away by the South African society. Now, having spent over a week in Cape Town, SA, I can truly say that the beautiful country amazed me.
When I think of the word African, my brain automatically registers a person with black skin, living in the dry plains of the Savannah possibly even in little huts made of mud and clay. My ignorance did not last for a minute longer once we stepped off the plain and entered into the South African environment. Cape Town was one of the nicest cities that I have ever seen in my life and it was beautiful in any direction you looked. The combination of staying in the business district, and majority of our speakers also having a business background it allowed me to have a better understanding of what was really going on in the country. By simply walking around throughout the city I could visually take in observations and by adding in teaching from people like Stuart Hendry and Kevin Chaplin I was able to get some sort of grasp on what was actually taking place throughout the city.
I had no idea that there was going to be so much diversity within the country. The only thing that I could compare it to was San Diego, California. South Africa is made up of 41 different ethnic groups and 11 different languages are used throughout. Being from the “melting pot” I feel like I should be used to this type of mixed atmosphere, but it was still extremely interesting to me how all these ethnicities have come together while still holding onto their own cultural treasures like language. It seemed as though to be considered intelligent you were required to know at least three languages. And if you wanted to be successful as an individual and really set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd it would be wise for you to know these different languages because there is always an instant connection if you are doing business in someone’s native tongue. It was easy to see how this truth clashed with the “American mindset” that everyone should be able to speak English implying that we are of some superiority. It was refreshing to see this new approach to communication. Instead of demanding the other party come to you, how about you meet them where they are? It is not a burden, but a privilege to serve the other party in this way and help them feel comfortable from the first time you meet them which was portrayed to be so crucial in South Africa.
It has been a goal of South Africa to continue to raise up good leaders among the population so that the country can continue in the right direction. I loved hearing Dr. Stuart Hendry speak about leadership the first lecture we had on Friday, May 17th. He said, “When good leaders are presented good people come together, and resources are directed into their best possible uses.” This quote has stuck with me more so than the rest. After learning about the state that South Africa is in and their mindset in looking towards the future I feel like Dr. Hendry’s quote describes their goal as a country. Producing good leaders in the next generation is what the country is pouring all of their resources into which is beautiful to see. That means the individuals in the country are realizing that it is not all about them and everything they can achieve in one lifetime. They want to invest in that next generation early on so that they can create and environment that produces successful men and women that will be able to lead their country into a brighter future.
The impression that I was left with leaving South Africa was that they are a nation dedicated to building themselves up for the future. I loved every minute of our trip regardless of what we were doing. I will say that my favorite part was the hiking and nature side of things, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the history of the country and where it has come from, where it is now, and where it is planning to go in the future. The DinoKeng scenarios look to be a pivotal point in the recent history of the country that helps them think the way they do now. South Africa now holds a place in my mind as one of the most beautiful and magnificent countries in the world and I am so fortunate to have gone on this Presbyterian College May-mester. South Africa was Lekker!!!!