Credit: Vanessa Thomas
So I’ve been in South Africa for a little over a week now. I’ve spent quite a bit of time alone, exploring the city and as a result, I have had ample amount of time to reflect. As I mentioned in another post (Cape Town is NOT Africa), it was quite the reverse culture shock coming directly here after spending almost two months in East and West Africa.
For me, the biggest challenge was managing two very different ideals of Africa at once. In Ghana and Tanzania, I saw poverty. True poverty. Children coming to school without proper shoes, wearing the same dirty clothes everyday, children not having enough supplies in the classroom, living in not the best or cleanest conditions. Orphans. So many orphans. People who didn’t know how they were going to eat that day, and the list goes on.
Unsurprisingly then, I felt a strange feeling when I arrived in Cape Town and felt like I was back home in Miami. People living lavishly, or at the very least, comfortably, seemed out of place compared to what I had gotten accustomed to. Big fancy malls with expensive things seemed just plain – shameful. On my first day, I decide to go and treat myself to a pedicure – it was much needed, believe me. As I sat in the chair getting my feet scrubbed, I looked over at the seat next to me. A little boy – no older than 8 or 9 years old was sipping on a latte, playing on and iPad, and getting a pedicure as well, while his mother sat next to him, doing the same. I immediately thought of Comfort. Comfort is a 12 year old girl that I met while at the orphanage in Ghana. At only 12 years old (she doesn’t actually know her true age, given that she is considered to be an “abandoned” child), she cares for the smaller children with such ease. Instead of texting and taking selfies and going to the mall like other preteen girls her age, she’s bathing, feeding, and rocking babies. After that, she’s hand washing clothes of hers and all the other girls in the compound. She prepares food and feeds the disabled children. All of this while still going to school. And this is her life. Every, single day.
I couldn’t help but to feel a wave of sadness. Sad that while some children are blessed enough to be born in a world where they are cared for and live comfortably, or luxuriously even; other children are born into poverty. Abandoned, orphaned. Forced to grow up way too fast. I find it heartbreaking.
Obviously, I realize that people suffer everywhere in the world. Even right at home in the U.S. I guess it just strikes something within you when you see firsthand the stark contrast within a matter of 24 hours. One day I was playing in an orphanage with children who’s shoes were so broken down, that they would just play barefoot – the very next day, I was in South Africa getting a pedicure next to an 8 year old boy with a latte and an iPad.
It just isn’t fair. But then, life isn’t fair.
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