The students are wonderful and since the holiday season is coming to a close, so is the party lifestyle they've already become accustom to in Cape Town. We begin our "work" today with class recitation beginning within the hour. I sense that students, overall, are now dealing with some lessons of "familiarity" and sensitivity to privileges attached to us all as Americans. As most people know who have been to South Africa before, there is LITTLE difference between the infrastructure of Cape Town and those of the most beautiful American cities we know well.
One must remember that Cape Town was built for, by, and to benefit white South Africans during the Apartheid area. Cape Town was their oasis in the midst of African disparities. They could escape the "real" Africa in the cities - their skyscrapers and multi-million dollar homes and shopping districts are proof of this. Before 1991 (or just a little after that), the city was white only with Africans only being allowed in the cities with signatures from their white "bosses." Travel into the cities without passbooks equated to a new home in jail. But, with the money that flowed through white South Africa, the cities - from their very foundations - are ALL that we know as "familiar." The beauty in today's changes could certainly be felt during New Year's Eve, when we all traveled down to Long Street and rung in the New Year with immensely beautiful diversity - an opportunity bestowed on us thanks to the changes that occurred here post-1994. It's truly an amazing thing. I think the students understand this.
But, South Africa still has its complicated challenges - from the HIV/AIDS epidemic (about 1-6 suffering from the disease) to the test of self-worth for many Africans (self-oppression), particularly men who are quickly losing their "manhood" due to unemployment, deficiencies, the need to leave home, illness, a major influx of African immigration to South Africa, and drug abuse in some of the poorest townships in Africa. Their (men's) ability to take care of "house and home" is restricted and this certainly does not mesh well with their very proud culture. The smallest of things (to us) - for example - like obtaining a drivers license prevents employment, licenses can only be obtained for hundreds of US dollars (2,000+ Rand), and corruption is rabid causing a R2,000 fee to be insufficient for certain needs of employment.
I know for a fact that the students are very much ready to dive into these challenges over the next few weeks and we begin today.