One of the hardest sights for me to see is when people do not have the opportunity to have a good life, a life that makes them happy. I know these areas are within the United States and all over the world, but no matter where I go, I hate seeing them.I think when one travels anywhere in the world, it’s nice to see people happy and experiencing the joys that there country offers. Yet one of the most ironic things about visiting the townships of South Africa—which seem to me much worse than any depressed neighborhood in the U.S.—is that people there were enjoying their lives.
In South Africa, it seems that every city has a place outside of it known as the townships. According to authors of the topic “Townships” in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences:
“Possibly the most famous townships are in South Africa and were a creation of the apartheid system and its predecessor regimes of white rule. Apartheid was formally instituted as state policy in1948, but dating from the white settlers’ permanent landing at what is now Cape Town in 1652, racial segregation was formal practice. The townships were racially discriminatory in that “black African, colored” (mixed-race) and “Indian” people were ordered by the Land Act of 1913 and the Group Areas Act of 1950 to live separately. Even within black townships, ethnic groups were often segregated into separate areas for Zulus, Xhosas, Sothos, and others. These laws existed until the early 1990s, and since then there has been only gradual desegregation of formerly white, colored, and Indian areas.”
Seeing the conditions of the townships outside the city of Grahamstown and outside the city of Cape Town really touched me. It was like looking racism straight in the face.
I felt as if I was seeing how bad racism was in South Africa before and during the apartheid era. Even talking to people about how that time period impacted their lives is quite touching. Yet it is even sadder to see that these areas still exist, areas often filled with great poverty.
Still, the most inspiring thing about the townships is the people within them. In fact, for me, talking with people of the townships and gaining life-changing relationships with them was the best part of my journey in South Africa.
I love the drive these people have for life and for being so generous to others. Instead of pitying their situation and becoming bitter towards the rest of society, most people that I met from the townships were amazingly hospitable, generous, and loving.
As I continue to live my life now, I always try to remember to treat others with kindness. I also try to remember that it is possible to rise above any situation and to make something positive out of every situation I encounter within my life. Though we have challenges, I truly believe that God makes us stronger and more humane. It is through our tragedies and heartaches that we each can touch and help one another. We should strive to inspire one another to never lose faith in the joys of life.