Friday, August 27, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010, 11:00 PM Cape Town Time- My Dorm (LBG)

Was actually pretty sad to leave Jo'burg and the place I stayed there. The woman who owned was very sweet to us. We headed out to this "village tour" destination called Lepedi. It was very tourist-y. There were a ton of crafts and souvenirs for sale and we spent a long time sitting around and waiting. Eventually the tour thing started. This might've been my least favorite thing we've done since I've been in Africa.

It was marketed as "tribal experience" of South Africa and it had 4 different "villages" set up that showcased the way particular peoples lived. The way the tour was set up seemed kind of exploitative to the peoples to me and I think presented a very simplistic version of each people's history and culture. Also the video they showed us definitely had footage from the old movie "Chaka Zulu." In one of the villages one of the "village women" was I'm pretty sure hungover from the previous night and it kind of underscored for me how corny that piece of things was. In a way it felt like I was back in America because I felt very much like a tourist. With the understanding that I'm not from here and that is obvious to many people I generally try to avoid feeling super "touristy" (if that makes sense). I don't know.

            After the tour there was a big dance exhibition that the people performed for us. That was pretty tight. There was some gumboot dancing which is strikingly similar to stepping and then other African dances. That was all pretty interesting. Though throughout there were a few people in the audience who were doing too much (this old white guy who was wearing a dashiki and standing next to the "chief" the whole time dancing and this nun who kind of hovered close to the performers and put her video camera all in people's faces). Not that people shouldn't enjoy an experience they paid for, but again it just came off weird.

            We ate at the place afterwards. For all the negative things I felt about the tour, the food was awesome! Quite possibly the best food I've had since I've been in South Africa. I have chicken, beef, lamb, ostrich, and crocodile. It was all really good. Crocodile also might be my new favorite meat. It's maaaad good.

After we left there we went to a market. We didn't have much time there so we kind of rushed through but it was interesting. The people who were selling were very aggressive in trying to come and shake your hand or engage you immediately and they all claimed their stuff was handmade by them or something though a lot of the places had similar items. I didn't buy anything but when we got back on the bus a lot of people had different stories about their success (or extreme failure) haggling for prices. It was definitely an experience.

One funny thing that happened when we were in the airport was in the terminal all of the black students happened to be sitting together. One of the people who runs the program (she's a white South African lady) asked us if we had ever read the book "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Lunchroom?" I actually have read the book and I told her, "Yes, I have and I'm writing the sequel. It's called 'The White Kids are Sitting Together Too So Leave Me Alone'." Afterwards we actually had a conversation about the book she asked about and self-segregation and how it plays out but it was a very funny moment.

The plane ride back to Cape Town was pretty decent. I sat next to a white South African guy. Eventually we started talking and had a quite good conversation. We talked about sports and travel and the differences and similarities between our two countries. The guy seemed cool and he's actually the first white South African who I've spoken to who wasn't affiliated with my study abroad program. He ended up paying for my soda on the plane so that was a cool also. Talking to him kind of made some things that black South Africans had told me about white South Africans stick out. At one point in the conversation he kind of switched gears and started pointing out how he was a total "non-racist" and how he had great friends who were black and white. Directly after that he started talking about the South African Black Business Empowerment program. He said he was fine with them but wished that the ANC government would give them a public "expiration date" after which everything would be "equal." He was also quick to point out that even though whites had a leg up because of history there was a lot of opportunity in the country for anyone who is willing to work hard. He himself was not an educated man but he was in business for himself and doing quite well. He told me he had two children and in a way that made me understand his concern with "reverse racism." Though I think some of his views oversimplified really complex problems I understand that as a parent his first impulse probably would (and should be) the thing that will most benefit his children.

He also told me his favorite sports were cricket, golf, and rugby. That kind of highlighted the segregation in the sports system of South Africa. When we were talking about golf he asked me a really interesting question. He pointed out that Tiger Woods was an "African American" and then he asked if white people in America were "Native Americans" since in South Africa blacks were "Native." I tried to explain to him what a Native American was and what place white people occupy in American society but it kind of pointed out to me that often times things that are very apparent to us are not understood by others, even if they seem basic to us.

"if you can talk you can sing if you can walk you can dance"

-talib kweli



1 comment:

Bridget Riley said...

It's been a while since I've looked at your blog, but it was good to catch up on some reading tonight. Thanks for continuing to challenge me.

PS-need to talk with you sometime about "Their Eyes Were Watching God"; just don't really buy that it is a story of self-discovery (maybe that process is just starting at the end of hte novel...?). I'm thinking of assigning/discussing it with a group of students this year. Would love your thoughts on whether high school kids can handle it.