Being back in Minneapolis is quite a change from being in the warm weather of Cape Town. On the first day of class, I hurried to the bus anticipating the new semester. There's a class called the History of Modern Africa that I'm taking as an elective towards my major I was particularly excited about. As I headed towards my class, I was excited that my trip would be of much relevance to the course. Our professor Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, began to speak to our small class, and the introduced herself. She said she was from Johannesburg, South Africa and my face lit up. Shortly after, our TA, Virgil Slade, began introducing himself as well with an uncommon yet familiar Afrikaans accent. He told us he was born and raised in Cape Town. I was ecstatic! Both of my professors came from the country, one of them even came from the exact place, I had been for 3 weeks. I feel fortunate to have them as my new teachers; it helps my reentry process to become smooth and more enjoyable. It will remind me of what I learned during my time is South Africa; it's easy to forget. This class will challenge me to continue my learning and explore interrelated subjects similar to my experience. Feels good to be home, but I need to go back!!
Recently in Freesia Towle Category
I've been thinking a lot about lived experience. As we leave South Africa, I want to keep in my mind with me as long as I come home that people come from different lived experiences. As we learned from Nate, our professor, lived experience can be applied with space, time, relationships and the human body. Each person experiences things in completely different ways because they come from different backgrounds and experiences. I think something that becomes challenging for many people including myself, is refraining from naming something using quick judgments. A lot of times it's hard to stop and truly think or just be aware of another person's lived experience; being aware of the deeper meanings behind things. Each experience will always be different. I want to stop myself from making those unnecessary preconceived notions about someone by being more mindful about their personal lived experience. As Nate said in class one day, "be aware of the mundane situations, stop to appreciate the simple things in life." I want to make a personal goal to try to instill this in my mind each day. I hope to take a moment each day to reflect, and allow myself to be aware of people surrounded by me who have different lived experiences. At the end of the day, we each experience different things that make us apart of which we are, influence how we think and act. This doesn't mean we can't find similar connection, but it just means we must be aware and appreciative of the differences. I think for me, being able to know and accept that people come from different lived experiences will help me become more understanding with individual. When I encounter someone I find someone difficult I will stop and breathe. Having that moment to breathe and understand will allow me to be patient and listen to them. Even understanding that people I love and respect have different lived experiences will help me to appreciate them even more. Being aware of lived experience can spark unexpected relationships that may not have occurred because of so much pre-judgment. This trip has positively altered some of my subconscious ways of thinking, and this has been one of them.
It's incredible how music can form deep connection among people. It's amazing to me how closely people can come together over a rhythmic beat. From this trip, I've become more spiritual with the idea music as a soothing, healing and community building method. There have been countless experiences on this trip that have demonstrated connection through song. At nights I've gone to bars with local friends and friends from Minneapolis, we've bonded over knowing the same lyrics to a song and dancing together. I've met mothers and children that played songs in their homes that I knew every lyric to and we sang together happily, once again collectively appreciating music. Tonight, my social justice class gathered together to enjoy a braai and danced to vibrant rhythmic drumming. There is a certain liberation that is experienced while dancing and singing. It's beautiful that a community can intertwine through song and rhythm. The history of black Africans and African Americans using music and song as a ways of communication to deal with the pain and oppression during the Apartheid and slavery is incredibly inspirational to me. To me, that itself proves how the power of music can heal and save a community of people through strength and hope. Music is crucial!
I've been procrastinating with blogging due to so many full days of activities; it's been hard to find time to sit down and write!! When I reflect on the few weeks that have past, I can't believe I've fit all a large number of events into 3 weeks here in South Africa. I can honestly say that I've climbed rocky South African mountains, swam in natural springs after long hikes, assisted a braai with group leaders, celebrated new year's eve with great new friends in the downtown streets of Cape Town, visited the District 6 Museum where our guide shared personal stories with us about his pre/present/post-apartheid journey, walked through the St. George's Cathedral crypt where Desmond Tutu and other leaders preached, enjoyed a day at the beach with new local friends, worked with children and met families in Delft township, contributed to the Afrika Tikkun community center by gardening and painting a few of their offices, visited the only accessible health clinic in the township in Delft, had conversations with nurses from the Delft Clinic, interacted with wonderful families in Delft during the home visits, rode a ferry to Robben Island to see the land and jail cell that Nelson Mandela and many other peace activists were imprisoned in for several years, took cable cars up to the Table Mountain to see Cape Town from above, went to Two Oceans Aquarium to see underwater fish and creatures, enjoyed the privilege to venture through rural lands in South Africa on a Wine Tour and taste homemade wines, cheeses and chocolate, went on a Safari and got the opportunity to see wild animals (elephants, lions, springbok, wildebeests, zebras, ostriches, rhino, hippos and giraffes) up close, bargained for souvenirs at the Green Market, watched the new years day parade, wandered through a diverse butterfly garden, interacted with a small monkey, pet 3 cheetahs and I'm sure there are a few other things I've forgotten to mention. It doesn't seem possible that I've been fortunate enough to be a part of these moments. Each of these experiences have been incredible; they will continue to remain as important memories which have definitely been a positive contribution to my life. Aside from just experience, I've sensed tremendous growth in my learning. Tremendous growth. I feel a shift in some of my naive viewpoints that restricted me from keeping an open mind about culture, language and people. There has been no other class where I've felt such a strong challenge to question my personal beliefs and different ways of thinking. This trip has been humbling in inexplicable ways. There are certain similarities between our contemporary American culture and South African culture but I've witnessed thousands of differences as well which can become quite an interesting discussion. The people I've met who have witnessed and dealt with heavy oppression during and post-apartheid are so wise and free spirited, I am touched by their intellectual thoughts and personal stories they share with me. I love the people here. I've needed this trip so bad! SO THANKFUL!
Hi, my name is Freesia Towle, and I'm a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. Words cannot describe how excited I am to be apart of this trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Initially, I had heard about this trip through one of my friends, Kirsten (Kiki) Benish who had gone last year. Over the past year, we've found in common that we've both gravitated towards subjects within global studies and social justice. Through out the year she continously recommended this trip to me and told me the experiences I'd learn were not comparable to any lesson learned within a classroom. Her inspirational experience with this trip kept me thinking about applying for it. Finally one day I did. When I finally received the news that I had been acepted for the trip, I became incredibly excited. Before the trip, I had little idea of what had happened in South Africa, other than the historical Apartheid law. I had no idea what the racial make up was, other crucial aspects of South African history, or the contemporary social situations that exist today. Even during the time that we've prepared for the trip, I feel I've grasped more of an understanding of the cultural history within South Africa, but I still have much more to learn. One thing I am tremendously excited about is being exposed to completely different lifestyles and cultures within another town, another country. I thought reading Kevin Winge's book was important, because it emphasized Winge's continual feelings of of class divisions, certain privileges he possessed as a White male American and also a lesson he learned about "how to come in right". He talks about "coming in right" as a way to respectfully enter a new place, culture or situation that you have never been a part of before. He emphasizes that it's important to listen more often than speaking aloud in certain situations, and also leaving behind a structured, judgemental viewpoint that prohibits you from learning. On this trip, I plan to do my best to take Winge's advice to "come in right", because I agree with him that it's a very important aspect of traveling abroad and learning in a new environment with completely different lifestyles and cultural patterns. I've traveled to Costa Rica before with my High School, but it was very limiting in terms of understanding different culture and social classes because we were primarily learning within in the wealthier areas within Costa Rica. Personally, I feel that learning about reasons behind social disparities and social divisions is crucial because it's an issue that occurs within so many parts of the world. Even within the city of Minneapolis, there are extreme levels of poverty and wealth. I believe this trip will enhance knowledge I've developed before this trip, and also transform many of my personal values. I feel that situations we'll encounter, discuss and experience in South Africa will teach us lessons that cannot be learned in any other way. I'm looking forward to using this experience in South Africa to apply to other situations in life regarding certain social divisions, disparities or new cultural situations. I look forward to building strong relationships with the group members on this trip; this is a unique experience that we will be exposed to together which will quickly strenghen our friendships.