South Africa Reflections




Six hours left until we land at the Doha international airport on our way to Jordan. Even with the immense amount of work our staff and student leaders have done to prepare our group for this trip, I still have great curiosity about the unknowns regarding our plans there. I feel ready to land and start programming once we reach Amman now that I have had time to process my South African experiences in the way that allows me to practice reflexivity, be grateful for what I have gone through, and afford everyone involved grace if needed. South Africa was much busier than India in regard to extracurricular activities and I still had enough space to review my days with introspection so as to prevent myself from suppressing emotions, chronically overthinking, and feeling stuck on a situation that did not go as I would have preferred. Having a mental review session at the end of each day also helps me in committing my experiences and personal connections to memory. One such connection is one we made today with a collaborator of Music for Bridges, a nonprofit based in Langa dedicated to expanding access to music and careers in music for residents of Langa and nearby communities. We met an artist who showed us their DJ’ing skills and music production inside of the studio. They taught us some DJ knowledge, let us try DJ’ing with professional equipment, showed us their tunes, and told us about the music scene in South Africa. At the same location, our group did a drumming workshop where we danced, sang, and played music using drums. I was able to let go of bodily tension that I had while learning how to play traditional African drums. As we debriefed on the experience later on, I shared that I would have enjoyed having this visit earlier in the program along with other visits or activities the same day with organizations or people who do similar artistic work that may directly or indirectly contribute to people’s wellbeing. Personally, I love cooking, singing, dancing, baking, painting, and crocheting as artistic ways of expressing my emotions to larger audiences outside of myself. I feel appreciative of the people we met at Bridges for Music and the kindness they offered us. Granted that I am freshly removed from the city, my time there was a web of interconnected experiences and observations that added nuance to my initial and bare-bones impression of Cape Town. I learned from perspectives on how to problematize “normal” language such as “white areas” and how to think about what does not meet the eye when in spaces of geographical and social privilege. Meeting locals and hopefully candidly talking to them about their community or their livelihood makes their regions more visible for me. Dr. Dio said that even “fake” human interactions are performances in themselves and can be telling of who the person communicating is. I am not sure that I agree and nonetheless, I will continue to strive for having honest and transparent conversations with people who are local to the area I am living within to add realities to my conception of the larger neighborhood, city, and/or country.