Friday, September 05, 2008
South Africa: So what do you do?
After visiting Cape Town, South Africa, I have been trying to integrate and understand many of the experiences I had there. I think the time could be reflected upon in reference to 1) the incredible natural beauty of the place, 2) the wonderful IASSID conference at which I met dozens of people working for persons with intellectual disabilities from many countries, and made some new friends, I think, and 3) my eye opening interactions with average people, as I spent many hours just walking around the streets of Cape Town, talking to merchants, security guards, cab drivers and the many people who were begging on the street. It was through these interactions that I got to know many black Africans living there. To a person, they were friendly and a delight to talk to. I found I could get them to open up a bit (although it didn't take much effort to get them to open up) if I would ask them where they were originally from, as Cape Town seems to be a kind of magnet for people from all over Africa who are looking for a better life. As a backdrop, these experiences were then also impacted by the reading each evening of Nelson Mandella's Long Walk to Freedom, which is basically his autobiography, and an insight into apartheid in 20th century South Africa and its ultimate reform. It was interesting to read that entire book while I was in South Africa. I want to comment on it in a separate entry.
My time with average, South African citizens caused me to write a poem that I called, So what do you do? that I provide at this link. Each of the stanzas relates to specific or general incidents I had, interacting with specific people. I am not a poet, but it has been helpful to write it as a way of trying to comprehend and make sense of the experiences you will see related in the poem. I will tell you that the trip kinda "rocked my world" a bit.
More on disability issues forthcoming.