Not so long ago I received an email from someone who had commented on my blog, which reminded me that I haven’t updated it for a long time. Funnily enough my last post was all about my anxiety for university offers. Now I can happily say that I got offers from all five universities that I applied to (including SOAS, LSE, Edinburgh…)! Of course I still need to work very hard these next couple of weeks, so I don’t trip on the finish line! Otherwise I applied to some insurance choices in Sweden.
Other than that: I was in South Africa last week for a Global Issues Service Summit (I left 2-3 hours after my final math mock exam) and only missed 2 days of school. It was an amazing trip, since I got to meet lots of other students and discuss their service projects that they’re doing around Africa. We were the only non-African international school, so it felt a little odd at first, but I loved how people had much better local knowledge than those who i spoke to at the Global Issues Conferences in Geneva and Dusseldorf, where everyone seemed to ‘talk the talk’ more rather than actually “walk the walk”.
Personally we held a workshop on Green-Mapping. On the last day, I visited a shelter for abused women and children in Johannesburg. We played with the children, organized an easter-egg hunt, made lunches for them etc. The women who ran the shelter said something really insightful that I will always remember. She asked us what the difference was between us and the children at the shelter. After a few comments like: “They have HIV” or “They’ve been abused”, she suggested that perhaps we also had HIV or had been abused… The only difference between us was that we grow up in a society that believes in us and expects us to dream big, whereas they are taught not to dream. That made me realize the importance of simply believing in youth and children as young as 3, so that they can escape the cycle of poverty. 2 years ago, so many children wanted to be soccer stars in South Africa but the Daily Bread Charity (where I volunteered for the day) challenges the children to dream even bigger. The cutest thing was that they had each child write down on a piece of paper their dream a couple of months ago and plant it in the soil. Ever since then, they have watered their “plant” every evening before they go to bed.
While we were in South Africa, we also visited the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park where we saw 6 lions (including 2 cubs!), elephants, rhinos etc.
We also saw Soweto (where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu come from). We went into a shebeen. “In South Africa and Zimbabwe, shebeens are most often located in black townships as an alternative to pubs and bars, where under apartheid and the Rhodesian era, black Africans could not enter a pub or bar reserved for whites.” (wikipedia) Finally, we saw “Soccer City”, the FIFA World Cup Stadium, in which the final was played.
Finally we had a braii (barbecue) the last evening with dance and music. Although I’ve only been to Senegal and South Africa in Sub-saharan Africa, both times I have been struck by the lovely, friendly, and optimistic people. The mentality couldn’t be more different from Hungary, where everyone seems to be stuck in the past and still moan about the Treaty of Trianon which happened nearly 100 years ago. I saw so much hope and ambition in South Africa, even if apartheid only ended 1994.
I love how I saw so many people out on the streets, socializing, reading the newspaper, smoking shishah pipe, dancing and so forth. People were curious and welcoming to foreigners, always trying to find connections – just like the fantastic key-note speaker Buhle Dlamini said: In a eurocentric worldview, you ask “what’s your name?” In Africa, you ask the person’s surname. If that isn’t the same as yours, you ask: “What’s your mother’s surname?”
Going on with Buhle Dlamini’s great speech, I laughed hysterically at his comparison between European and African Values. Time for example: if you would miss the bus in Europe, you would say: “aah I missed the bus!” However, in Zulu you would say in the same situation: “aah the bus missed me!” I have to say it confirmed my stereotype of African’s approach to time, but i like it in many ways. In Europe, you would often be frustrated if someone didn’t come on time to a meeting. In many societies in Africa, you would not start the meeting until every person is present. I like that sense of community and wish we in the “west” could learn more from that!