Though called the Rainbow Nation, South Africa is also known for it’s stark contrasts. Even after traveling to South Africa for the past 13 years, I continue to be in awe of it’s beauty, friendliness of people, and numerous curiosities. Though a Rainbow Nation the country is much like the United States as true melting pot of cultures, languages, religions, ideas, people, nationalities, foods, etc, but to an extreme. The country is comprised of 47 million people with 11 official languages, and Gauteng Province (where we begin our adventure) is the most densely populated of all the provinces with more than 9.6 million, but it makes up only about 1% of the geographic area of S. Africa. It is staggering when you consider that South Africa is about the same size as Texas, with Gauteng Province being a little larger than the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. YIKES!! It’s not unusual to find people in Johannesburg (a city in Gauteng Province) speaking any of the local languages (isiZulu, Afrikaans, Sesotho, and English) and the English YOU speak not being understandable.
In some ways the deep and rich history for the many cultures here seem to be to a more extreme than what you find in Europe or the United States. A more recent history of S. Africa involves the creation of Townships which still today maintain a constant flow of foreign nationals mixed with local S. Africans. Townships are known their very dense population who live in small tin shacks often no/limited electricity, no running water. During these harsh winter months when I complain that it’s 30 – 50 degrees F and there is NO CENTRAL HEAT in some of the poorly insulated homes (for Pete’s sake), I remind myself of families living in the townships with perhaps ONE blanket, no heat, sometime little food with nothing more than tin separating them from those harsh elements. Extremes of poverty live in the shadows of the wealth here.
Though, I love my home in the U.S.A., it’s always good to be back in S. Africa. My friends in S. Africa have been very helpful in making preparations to be sure the team can also see the beauty of their country. Despite the contrasts and extremes, most S. Africans are very proud of their country and all that has been accomplished in only a decade after Apartheid. It is MUCH to marvel over, for sure.