A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kindness and History


One thing I love about traveling is meeting different people and seeing the kindness they bestow on others. Another thing I love about travel is getting to learn more about a places history and gaining hope for people because of that history.

There is an American foreign service worker staying at the same guest house as me. He is on temporary assignment in South Africa to help with the influx at the embassy because of the World Cup. We have very little interaction with this man but have had a few good conversations about US foreign policy, the role of Peace Corps, being in the foreign service and marrying a non-American (he's married to an Ethiopian woman).

South Africa is in the midst of hosting the World Cup which starts at the end of this week. Most teams are already here and have been playing friendly warm-up matches. As is common as a Peace Corps Volunteer, we are the last to find out information and so heard about the US playing Australia is a free match the day before the game. Though it was free, because of security you needed to have a ticket and tickets could only be obtained from the embassy of the countries playing. To make a long story short we got the information at the end of the day and were only able to obtain two tickets.

Our new friend, who is temporarily working at the US embassy, heard about our plight and was sad he didn't know of it earlier as he could have gotten us all tickets. Feeling bad for us he pulled out his wallet and gave us a wad of money. He thanked us for the work we do and told us to use the money however we wanted. He's meet PC workers all around the world and is amazed at the work and dedication they give to the countries they serve in. He thanked us for representing the United States in such a great way.

We then drew names and two girls got to go to the game (Alice and Haley) while the rest of us used the money to go to Johannesburg to the Apartheid Museum and back in a rented car with a driver.

The museum was beautiful and incredibly well done. It covered Southern Africa's history for the last 2000 years focusing on colonization and apartheid. South Africa has come through a lot. I never want to down play what a nation or a people have experienced that have brought them to the place they are at now. It's hard to read and watch film clips about apartheid and say I see how horrible it was when I wasn't actually here and I am still only a visitor living and moving in a very white part of town. Being here now, almost 20 years after, and seeing the advancements that have been made is truly amazing. While apartheid is technically over, there is still a lot of racism in South Africa. I've heard a number of comments about, "the blacks," "whities," or, "those people." As an American who views these comments as pure racism and takes offense when hearing them, it is hard to step back and remember South Africa is only 20 years from apartheid. As I see in Uganda everyday, change takes a long time. I have hope for South Africa. They are a nation who desires equality and is making advancements, though small, to bring further racial, sexual and religious equality.

AMANDA, MELISSA, KHRISSY, and GLENNA Standing with Johannesburg to our backs while at the Apartheid Museum.

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