From my interactions so far, I have a feeling that South Africans are my kind of people. I have already attended a baby shower, a matriculation send off party (pre prom party with friends and family if you will), confirmation party, coloured church service, my first braai (South Africa barbeque), and a staff bowling party. At first I thought it was a coincidence that I have attended so many local celebrations in such a short time, but I have come to realize that South Africans take the time to celebrate most life experiences. Kindred spirits.
As soon I arrived to Cape Town I have intentionally sought a deeper, local experience, rather than the less enriched, but enjoyable life of a tourist. Inevitably, I will always be some form of a tourist, but these celebrations have allowed me to venture further into the Capetonian life. So far, I have visited Khayelitsha, Bellville, Bonteheuwel, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Stellenboch, and the Pinelands. My explorations into Cape Town’s townships and suburbs are thanks to two local sources: my co-workers at TSiBA and my new friend Cathy Arendse.
TSiBA or Tertiary School in Business Administration is my first internship placement in business consulting. The placement is compatible with my business degree in entrepreneurship since I work in TSiBA’s Ignition (entrepreneurship) Centre. It was at TSiBA that I first realized how much South Africans value greetings and appreciation.
On my third day, the entire staff came together for a meeting. To recognize staff birthdays and weddings, the organization gave a massage gift card and wedding gifts. Even more significant, however, were the words of appreciation several staff members said about the birthday girl and the groom. South Africans even have a tradition of having married friends give advice to the new bride or groom. Since none of these individuals were particularly chatty that day, I was put on a spot to give the groom advice on his new marriage. Needless to say, I politely declined due to a lack of wisdom to pass on.
My friendship with Cathy, however, was not through my internship program. Since Cathy was introduced to me from a friend of a friend, I decided to stay with her in Strand last weekend. She and her husband William are extraordinarily generous people and they invited me to attend their church where William is pastor.
Not long ago, Cathy earned a yearlong Humphrey Scholarship through the Fulbright Commission and the U.S. Department of State to study improvements in the workplace for people with physical disabilities at Vanderbilt University. While she was living in Nashville, Cathy took the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the U.S., making her easily relatable and understanding of the social context I bring to South Africa.
Through these people, places, and events, I am starting to better understand the place I call home this year.