Alright, South Africa- you finally won me over. For whatever reason my first week here I was feeling a bit off, uncomfortable about where I was and what I was doing. It doesn’t feel like what I know of Africa here, it’s more Western, developed, and there are a bunch of white people that speak English (I’m not a muzungu anymore). Maybe I should have gone somewhere (like Tanzania) that I’m more comfortable?
I mean, how do you pick where to go or what the right path is? It seems to usually pick me and things just unfold. At the end of the first week I wanted to keep to myself, to do my own thing instead of being with my volunteer group and the kids from the townships. That didn’t work – they totally busted me walking home as they were walking towards the surf school and scooped me up.
I’m glad this happened, because they forced me to get out of myself. We played soccer on the beach for hours that afternoon, and in this moment, I fell in love with South Africa. I was part of this resilient group of children, running, playing barefoot, stepping on clam shells as we had a soccer match by the ocean. The reality is that if these kids didn’t have something to do after school, they’d get into drugs or worse. I had so much fun, that I forgot about how uncomfortable I was and that I wasn’t sure if I liked it here.
It occured to me that this is an excellent (maybe obvious) stragety to integrate into a new community- join it. Like really join it- get active in it, get to know people, work side by side with them, and don’t stay on the outskirts in a comfortable bubble. In playing soccer with the community I was suddenly part of and one of them. We laughed together, rolled around in the sand, and got beat up kicking around an old soccer ball. So, game on! I’m in, and determined to enjoy my 3 months in this beautiful place.