It's hard to believe that my time here in Cape Town has come to an end, and it's amazing how quickly five and a half months can pass. I am so thankful for my experiences abroad.
I think about the Bonnytoun boys often, having to accept that I will never know the outcomes of their lives. I hope that they are doing okay for now at least. One of my favorite students, Moegamat, went home the last week of May. I'm sure many of the other boys won't fare so well. It hurts deeply to think about the likely possibility that some of them will end up in Pollsmoor Prison, a place that sounds like about the closest thing to hell that I could ever imagine. Something needs to be done for the youth in South Africa. And, they need a president that sets a better example of manhood for the young men and boys in South Africa. I am a strong believer that many of the problems that afflict women (largely rape, especially in South Africa) are a result of a skewed perception of manhood. As I worked at Bonnytoun all semester, I hoped that my presence as a female could act as a way to encourage the boys to view women respectfully, instead of mimicking the perceptions of the gangsters in their townships, or their American rapper idols, or their fathers or older brothers. I will never know if I had any effect in that area, but I know that even if I did, it is only the tiniest victory in a long and terrible battle that both women and men struggle with here and all over the world. Even if I changed the mindset of every boy in the class (which I know I didn't), it was a grain of salt in comparison with the enormity of the problem.
South Africa is a young country, a country with a democracy younger than me. It is a beautiful country, the rainbow country, with a plethora of cultures, traditions, and histories, as well as an incredible landscape of natural beauty. It also has racism, HIV/AIDS, rape, homicide, gangsterism, drugs, poverty, sexism, and crime... some topping the international charts. It has a president who excused rape allegations by claiming that he knew the woman wanted to have sex with him because she was wearing a short skirt... and later responded to questioning about HIV testing by saying that he knew he didn't have HIV - he took a shower after having sex with her! South Africa has a long way to go, and I believe that the people of South Africa must lead the struggle toward progress. Despite my involvement in it, I am skeptical of the foreign aid and help that is occurring throughout all of Africa. Certainly I believe that other countries should provide help and support, but I fear it prevents nations from learning to help themselves, and gives them a sense of dependency on others. There must be a balance. South Africans are strong, and I think they can accomplish more alone than they believe.
South Africa also needs time. Some day, South Africans will live in much greater circumstances, and in unity among the races and genders. But sadly, I don't think that day will come soon.
I have great hope for South Africa. I worked this semester with teenage boys facing criminal charges... those considered the "bad guys." And they had so much goodness in their hearts. If they are the bad guys, then I think this country will be okay. If these "bad guys" were only given a decent chance and treated right, they would all grow up to be wonderful men. If people could just get a decent chance here, then everything would change. But that's easier said than done.
I am thankful for my time here, and that I was able to see so many sides to South Africa, both good and bad, and from so many different angles. I am thankful for the people that I shared my semester with, from South Africa, the United States, Botswana, and Trinidad. I have learned from every one of them, and I feel more confident in who I am than ever before. It's been a wonderful five and a half months. And now, I look forward to going home, to my favorite people in the world - my family.
Farewell, South Africa! I will hold you in my heart. Sala kakuhle (Stay well).