Friday, June 20, 2008

travel disciplines the imagination

four letters.
help. four letters which can ask for a world of things.
food.
blankets.
shelter.
aid.

four letters.
hate. a word which can represent a world of things.
anger. pain.
lack of housing.
unemployment.
loss of government grants.

Somewhere in between those eight letters and two words, here I am.
In the middle of Jo'burg South Africa trying to figure out how the two starkly different words can be so entangled in one world. Here I am, trying to figure out how to tell you why it is so important to understand both and their balance together. I'm trying to understand why one must integrate the other for a solution and why the opposite must stand in the first place.

The past few days I've spent in South Africa have felt like a century of days compiled into six. Each day I've felt inspired by my peers and the people I have been interviewing. As I grapple with questions of human interest, human dignity, origin and heritage I can hardly remember a time when I have felt more alive.

Today I went to a camp located outside of Jo'burg where internally displaced people from multiple African nations have been sent in the wake of the xenaphobic violence. Rifle Range Camp is home to more than 2,000 men, women and children. As I walked through the camp and talked to the people staying there I was overwhelmed with people asking for help.
Help from someone, anyone who would listen and do something. Help from anyone who does not hate them. I saw people today who were living with few belongings but surviving with strong words and strong hearts.

The people I met today where forced into tents by hate. Hate that is still prevelant and boiling. It is a hate I have to understand by the end of this trip. A hate I must see objectively to tell all sides of the story, so I can explain how the hate and help on both sides can be transformed into hope.

Right now my hair smells like a camp fire. The stinch is from the fires at Rifle Range. These fires burn into the night and through the day. These fires heat their bodies and their water, but not water for a warm shower. When I take a warm shower tonight the smell in my hair will be washed away. The memories of what I saw today will not.

2 comments:

Lindsay said...

beautifully written
Lindsay

Shannon Smith said...

What an experience. We don't about anything as Americans do we? I am so glad to read that your trip is changing you, giving you a new perspective on life, although sometimes it is darker, the truth is always better. Just don't let it leave you.

Love you.