After living here for over two months already, I finally decided on writing a blogpost on South Africa. I am sitting here sipping Rooibos tea that I bought on a Rooibos farm close to the Cederberg Mountains, with a wonderful King Protea in a vase next to my laptop, watching how beautifully the sun sets on the mountains, turning their usually grey faces pink. Postcards are scattered all over my desk.
I had been to South Africa before, yet I hardly realised how rich this country really was. Although I have learnt five languages in my life, I now live in a country with eleven official languages of which I only speak and understand one. Yes, you read correctly, eleven different languages. And along with these languages come cultures – every local I have met so far had different aspects and stories to tell me about their culture. And each time I speak to someone, I learn something I did not know before. South Africa also has, unlike any country I had been to before, a few capital cities – how unusual is that?! I often hear South Africans mentioning that they are not like Europe and that they cannot compete with it; but to be honest, I feel like South Africa is at least just as rich as any European country I know. What is more, it is rich in a unique way that could never be imitated by any Western country.
Whenever I meet a local, they ask me what I think of their country. And every time, they are so relieved when I tell them that I love it here and that living here doesn’t feel as dangerous as you might think it does. South Africa is unfortunately known to be one of the countries with the highest crime rate in the world. Some people probably thought I was crazy to do my exchange year here – ‘why not America?!’. For the simple reason that it would have been too normal and easy; and because I wanted to see for myself what living in this country really means.
I hear of international students that have been here longer and whenever anything happened in South Africa, they got worried phone calls from home, asking if they were still alive and alright. Their answer then was that everything was completely normal and that what happens in one place of such a big country does not affect the whole population. Life here really isn’t that bad.
Not that bad at all, actually. South Africa is filled with so, so many lovely and friendly people. South Africa means sunshine and great times chilling in hammocks. It means braais with friends in the evening as the warm day turns into a cold night. It means the best fruit I have ever tasted for the cheapest prices I have ever paid. It means great food in general in some of the coolest locations I’ve ever been to. It means amazing landscapes. Oceans, mountains, beaches, vineyards, orange plantations, fynbos, succulents growing in the desert and so much more. It means really unordinary animals like oryx and hadeda.
There might not be unlimited or free wifi like I have been used to for the past few years, and sometimes the power just goes off for a few hours when all you wanted was warm food – but if anything, this teaches you to appreciate the things you’ve always had. South Africa makes you feel alive in such a good way and it is one of the most amazing feelings. It makes you see things from so many new perspectives. It is so much more special than I ever could have guessed before coming here.