15 February 2012
Culture shock. Apparently I’m supposed to be feeling it: the good, the bad, the ugly. The only “shock” I’ve felt since I’ve been here is how insanely happy I am ALL THE TIME. And if you’re reading this blog, you probably know that I’m pretty happy anyway. But this is different. I am absolutely in love with my new home. Sure, some things I’ve had to get the hang of (like the fact that I only just now have had my first week of classes) but South Africans really know how to live. Everything is slower, more intentional, more in the moment. They don’t live to work; they work to live. They celebrate every day with song and dance. They sit down for 3-hour dinners with friends because no restaurant tries to turn tables. They acknowledge that people they are with are always more important…more important than their email and their cell phones and outside distractions. As someone who is notorious for always overbooking herself and constantly on-the-go, it has been the most wonderful experience to adapt to this lifestyle.
Locals are also extremely proud to be South African. They are in love with their country (almost as much as I am). They acknowledge its history and admit its mistakes, but they are so enthusiastic about South Africa, its progress, and all it has to offer.
I have been here almost one month (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!) and the only issue concerning race I’ve encountered happened just last week. I was sitting outside a restaurant with Sam and Ginny, and a man approached us asking for money. This happens often, and whenever I do have cash I usually give someone at least a bit. This time, however, I was fresh out, and we politely told him so. He mumbled about how the whites always do this to the blacks, how we are so racist and are the reason for his troubles. Every other person who has asked for money has been delightful! No, but really. Even one other time when I didn’t have any cash, the man didn’t care and wanted to talk anyway. After a lovely conversation when we parted ways, he told me “You are a star and deserve to be loved!”
Maybe the culture shock has felt minimal because I hear Sweet Home Alabama at least once a day, or maybe it is because most everyone has been so welcoming its impossible not to make friends. I often don’t even have to do a thing to meet someone new…they will hear us talking and approach us, “ARE YOU AMERICAN?!” Being the Token American is like my new party trick…what is my tactic going to be when I get back to the States?!