The last page of my class notebook from South Africa has the following notes:
N.K. Jemison – read
Retire in Kommetjie
(check real estate prices – w/Kelly)
Lebone II – send kids
Back in San Diego, it’s easy for me to think I was romanticizing my experience in South Africa. I do know that this experience has been life-changing and I’m still trying to figure out how and why I am different. I’m trying to remember Dr. Jez’s exact words about a heart breaking so that it can fill in with more love. I am thinking this is how I am different. The history of South Africa is heartbreaking, much like living in America under Trump is. I am in no way comparing the two contexts, but the similarities between the U.S. and S.A. are telling. The counterbalance to the heartbreak that is South Africa is the majestic resilience of its people and its landscape.
At Harambe, there was a mural in the stairwell with the word RESILIENCE and to the side, in the faintest of a pastel blue hue, a smaller phrase was painted: PRESSURE MAKES DIAMONDS. South African land is teeming with diamonds and precious minerals. However, the people of South Africa are its greatest natural resource. Under the pressure of political oppression, historic leaders surfaced. Diamonds, if you will. South Africa is a true melting pot of cultures, identities and languages. As an American, the concept of a melting pot truly resonates with me. The class started with a social reflection essay and now is ending with a reflection on my social location. I identify as Mexican-American and that is the only Latin American culture/nation that is truly distinguishable by their “mestizaje” or the fact that it is a country born of a mixing of Spanish and indigenous blood and cultures.
Ultimately, I felt very much at home in South Africa and this caused a bit of dissonance because it is so different from anything that I know. This is where the transcendence piece fits in - it fills my heart with love that I can travel halfway across the globe and meet people with totally different customs and cultures and feel an instant sense of belonging and connection.