What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
In South Africa, seeing a lion eat an impala, a family of elephants cross the road, two giraffes fight, rhinos hanging out, a leopard chase its prey and a handful of other breathtaking scenes at Kruger National Park was definitely “strange.” It honestly didn’t feel like it could possibly be real.
In Mozambique, the chapas – a shared mini-bus taxi that is typically the only mode of transportation available – are designed to fit 14 people. However, it typically has over 20 people + luggage + household supplies + the occasional live chicken and bag of raw fish. Waiting for and watching everyone squeeze into this vehicle while a guy came up to the window selling a bundle of machetes and an elderly woman came up with a huge barrel of oranges balanced on her head was probably the strangest overall visual of the trip.
Describe a typical day:
South Africa: In Cape Town, I would volunteer with an NGO and then continue to explore the city. In Johannesburg, I spent most of the day hanging out in the Soweto township. I’d walk around the shacks, try the traditional home-made beer and share some amazing food and stories with a group of locals, without utensils of course per their custom.
Mozambique: I’d spend most of the day working remotely on my laptop from a hammock, on a beautiful beach, eating fresh barracuda that I watched being pulled out of the ocean only moments before. I would take the occasional break to swim in the ocean, explore the sand dunes with my new friends or go snorkeling.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
I met a former Robben Island political prisoner – where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison– on the ferry there. He was going back to visit it for the first time since he was a prisoner. He shared stories of the abuse, torture and embarrassment he faced every day at the prison. Even though they had former prisoners conducting the tour, hearing it from a friendly old man that was not part of the museum brought it even more to life.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
In South Africa, I liked seeing how much the country had accomplished in overcoming apartheid and how prideful the people were about it. I disliked how even with this accomplishment, its effects were still very prevalent in the country and there is still a long way to go.
In Mozambique, I liked how friendly and laid back the people were, as well as the great weather and the picturesque beaches. Every day felt like you were living in a postcard. I disliked the transportation infrastructure. While I enjoyed and embraced it at first, it eventually got very tiring and time consuming.
Describe a challenge you faced:
It was Sunday and I was heading to a new destination on Monday morning. There was only one bus and it left at 4:00 AM. As I walked up to an ATM for some much needed cash, I shared a quote that I recently read and enjoyed to my friend: An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered (G.K. Chesterton). Seconds after the words left my mouth, the ATM told me to take my card and my money. However, there was no card and no money there. My friend turned to me and said “well that is about as inconvenient as it gets!” I was forced to embrace the quote in real life, instead of just having it simply sound good. It would be impossible to continue throughout Africa without cash or an ATM card, since very few places except credit cards. I canceled my plans and stayed longer. This forced me to slow down and relax. I ended up finding a beautiful deserted island and snorkeled. I also found a place that accepted credit cards and paid for other travelers and they paid me back in cash to solve my cash problem. And in the end, the bank found my card and I was able to get it back. The little inconvenience did in fact turn out to be a nice adventure and everything worked out.
What new lesson did you learn?
I saw extremely poor villages and townships. One consistent theme I saw was that everyone in the community was extremely close. The whole community knew each other intimately. The children called every woman on their street “mom.” If someone in the village was caught stealing, the whole town conducted “community discipline” (they joked that the police is only called by the thief because they need to be saved from the community). Then, I thought about how many people I know from America and Europe citites (including myself) that live in nice neighborhoods and apartment buildings who do not even know their neighbor’s names, much less the people down the street. Even though our average income is probably fifty times higher, it made me wonder which group is actually “richer?”