It’s official we are stateside. 29 hours in a plane, 19 of which had no movies, and the other 10 had lots of crying children, yet we managed with no delays all the way to snowy Jackson Hole, WY. Our departure day crept upon us so quickly. Todd talked about our amazing motorcycle trip. What a fantastic way to end our stay in Africa. South Africa is a huge country. We didn’t want to leave without exploring a little bit of its greatness, so as you read (hopefully, unless you are a blog slacker and then I would recommend playing catch up before we return and it will be your own secret and non of us will ever know) we took a motorbike trip. I will sum it up in one word, WOW!
What an amazing way to travel. I felt like the postal service at points as we drove through scorching heat, fog, and rain. Nothing would stop us, even wet shoes and socks, which I must add after two days are very nasty. For some reason, if you can figure out what that reason is please let me know, I had a fickle love affair with our bike. Some days I wanted to ride away into the sunset with no trepidation. Other days, I was so nervous I could barely motivate myself to ride to the grocery store. Yet, after the first day and over 200km on the back of the bike, any trepidation I had was thrown to the wind by the intense aching in my rump. Being a permanent passenger on a bike not built for long distance two person travel is a masochistic adventure. So I quickly got over myself and drove Tito with gusto. What great fun it was!
Africa held a lot of firsts for me and this moto trip added a couple more. I finally had the opportunity to rock climb outside. It seems so crazy to me that I never actually climbed on rock just indoor plastic grips. What a different and wonderful feeling! I am not so good at the looking down part, it kinda freaks me out. But I will definitely be doing more outdoor climbing.
We were able to experience small town SA. The cute little towns with gas station cafes to the bustling market hubs of black African dominated towns. The diversity of it all left my mind racing for hours. And hours on a motor bike is what you have, with no one to talk to and nothing to do except get lost in your mind. One thing that is very interesting and yet taboo in the states is the openness of the people to discuss race and race issues. So after 5 months in Africa, I feel it is time we break our own taboo and address the real race issues that face our country. And electing a black president (YEAH!) was a great place to start. Speaking with Africans, black, white, and colored (yes, this word is very common), you begin to realize that without these conversations you just continue in a cyclical motion of inactivity. Apartheid left South Africa very racially conscious. People were and are still identified by color. You have the whites. They generally associate themselves as British or Afrikaans. Afrikaans were the ones who installed the apartheid regime in the 40’s. And you still find those that were raised as Afrikaans have very strong views of blacks and coloreds. NOTE: Before I continue, realize that there are exceptions to everything yet as I have traveled I have begone to realize that stereotypes are generally formed for a reason. Not to say that they are always 100% accurate or politically correct yet they are what they are so it is time to stop sugar coating everything. For example, we were in the Drakensburg Mountains and were talking with a tour guide. She did not identify herself as Afrikaans but the conversation we had immediately told me she was. She was telling me the difference between rural blacks and city blacks. According to her, city blacks had forgotten their place and lacked the appropriate respect. While rural blacks were kinder and understood their place a lot more. She found rural blacks more to her liking. And this is not an unusual conversation. It is so hard not to let your jaw drop when you her such blatant racism, yet they don’t see themselves as racist per se. And the British whites do NOT want to be confused for Afrikaans because of the above reason. It is obviously more complicated but I don’t think you want me to write the whole history. For more background, I recommend a good read.
The first time I heard someone say the word colored was not in SA but in Paris. Where we met our first Afrikaans friend. A wonderful person who had been brought up with an obvious level of fear. She left me petrified to go to SA for fear of rape, murder, and/or violent mugging for something as simple as my cell phone. Colored, this antiquated word left our American vocabulary a long time ago. Yet, people are still vehement about their racial identity. During apartheid coloreds held a much superior position then blacks. Todd and I were out Saturday night in Cape Town and I sat down at the bar next to this man. The politics of S. Africa are so fascinating. In my intoxicated state I took it upon myself to befriend and discuss SA politics with anyone who would listen or more importantly talk. So I asked this man how he felt about the new break away party C.O.P.E vs. ANC (the post Apartheid and majority party). He does not respond with a preference but a quick and strong comment that he is colored. And that his family works hard for what they have not like a lot of the blacks. So again, my jaw was forced to remain in place while my ears were perked. And then there are blacks and don’t forget the browns (no Africa is not all black). Those that I spoke with were primarily ANC supporters. SA is complicated even more by all the tribal cultures i.e. Zulu, Bantu, Xhosa. The openness of race is refreshing. It makes me wonder if the open racial talk creates and perpetuates racism or if it helps break down racial barriers. I would like to believe that it creates an open conversation between races that will eventually lead to greater understanding and a more conducive atmosphere for change. Todd and I have discussed speaking about race in the states. Do we adjust to the taboo of racial speak or do we bring this openness with us. It is a weird point for me to contemplate. Growing up in KC, I feel that speaking of race was very taboo. It is still a fairly segregated city yet nobody wants to talk about these issues.
I have found it very interesting to speak openly with Dale and Jeannie about such topics. It seems natural and untaboo. Yet, you forget that those who may be listening to your conversation start to curl their nose in misunderstanding. Because speaking openly about race, the associated stereotypes and experiences you have encountered obviously mean you are racist. Versus the complete opposite for those that actual eavesdrop properly to what is being said. Todd and I have been debating adding this type of discussion to the blog. Will people understand, do they want to understand, do we even understand, will these observations make a difference, does it even matter, etc. Yet, now that I sit in Victor, ID looking back on my wonderful time in Africa I have decided, yes it does matter, yes it is important. If not for anyone else but for me to work through these experiences and better understand what it all means.