When I decided to move to Durban my friends in Sweden looked at me like I was insane. Just seeing their reaction made me more eager to work towards relocating to South Africa. Knowing myself very well I knew this would be a huge challenge for me.
As much as the culture would be a challenge, so would letting go of my sense of freedom. Because freedom here versus sense of freedom in Sweden would prove to be completely different in many ways.
However, it would be impossible (and a waste of energy exchange) to describe the differences between Sweden and South Africa. They are like two different planets, like Neptune and Jupiter. Neptune is cold just like Sweden, and Jupiter is our solar system’s vacuum cleaner, (actually literally absorbing space debris and other dangerous objects thanks to its magnetic field), which reminds me of South Africa’s ability to still stand against all odds.
The first advice I acquired even before I moved to South Africa was by my mother. “You cannot walk around after dark”. I knew this and al though it is a huge change going from feeling comfortable enough to walk around anywhere in Sweden at 3 am to never walk alone anywhere after dark. This I know is a “first world problem”. Al though it should be considered a human right to feel safe regardless of gender, color, background or age, I still have to keep reminding myself that I grew up in a completely different environment and that It would be foolish to try and understand the hardship people have gone through here.
In the beginning, 1 month into my move I didn’t want to walk anywhere. I relied on uber and friends cars. (Me being the half Swede I am makes me highly uncomfortable when friends offer me a ride). One day I suddenly decide to walk to a café a few km from my house. The streets were so empty and I was freaking out internally when I suddenly realized that I was on the wrong street, an unknown street to me. My mother popped up in my head saying, “Saskia, load shedding will prove to be a challenge for you”. There was load shedding that day and I was on a mission to find some wifi, (Hey, what’s up Glenwood Bakery). I swore to myself thinking why the fudge are you on an unknown street, then I saw a man walking towards me with both his hands in his pocket. Let me tell you, that instantly freaked me out. It freaked me out because I don’t know if he has a concealed weapon in his pocket.
As he came closer I tried to calm myself down, and then like a revelation I got the idea that I would acknowledge him instead of fearing this random person. When we passed each other I looked at him and greeted him. He removed his one hand from his pocket and waved at me. Just acknowledged that he saw me. That small interaction made all the fear I preciously had instantly wash away. I repeated the same procedure with the next man that passed me and it felt just as great as the first time. I passed these men smiling because I could see the progress. You create your own safety and it took me a while to really grasp that. Realizing much of the advice I was told from people around me created a wall between me and my growth here in Durban. I believe that’s what happens to many tourist that come to our beautiful Durban to visit. They hear stories that scare them, probably more than they realize or want to admit to themselves. That’s why they travel in their bubble most of the time. The westernized bubble, because they consider it to be more safe. Sometimes humans trust the words of people more, neglecting their own ability to explore other options. Could this be because making your own perception is too “risky” or just due to not being open to critize your sources.
Now, I am sometimes seen as this delicate flower, or exotic lady of sort. Therefore I shall be protected from harm with all this advice. Turns out most of the advice I have gotten just made me fearful and limited my experiences in the beginning. The advice tried to keep me in this westernized bubble I come from, indirectly told me who and what to stay away from. Not wanting me to live my own life.
Being a millennial I am the generation of connectivity, al though I don’t believe my generation is connecting at all. Surpressing all of the natural instincts of communicating with other people is one of the abilities many of us lack. Being part of Green Camp hasn’t made me more creative or more street smart. It has always been there but it comes with encouragement and advice, (helpful advice).
Coming to Green Camp for the first time was very fascinating. Seeing a former depressed space turned into an oasis of creativity and hope. I saw all of the rubble yes, but that only made me think of all the potential it had, which many modern society’s do not offer since they are already considered “finished”. We are so focused on finishing buildings, making it in our eyes “perfect”, which is why I feel some people come to Green Camp and only see the rubble. Because that’s what they want to see. Generally people want to fix what they consider broken or messy. Not seeing the possibilities and the process of cleaning that also connects to our minds. The rubble doesn’t represent a dirty place, to me it represents a process that we are all working on. As the old saying goes, “rome was not built in a day”.
In society now a days people are so focused on the outer appearance. Looking your best, impressing others in order to be accepted. Parts of the ideology of Green Camp is how we can get away from that. Not if we can. How do we do it. The government already controls people economically and also tells us by norms what is attractive and what is a good way of living. A good life.
Because if teaching kids has taught me anything, it is that by the huge technological and social media influence we are steering them away from individuality. Letting kids as young as 2 years old play with the ipad, 10 year olds having an instagram account, etc. It creates self doubt and a feeling of having to live up to a certain standard amongst kids. Chasing likes and basing your worth upon that. At the end of the day life is not easy, but we can make it easier by loving ourselves along with our flaws and weaknesses regardless of what society tells us.
I found a really nice quote while walking around the Botanical Gardens here in Durban.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
C’est tout, meaning that’s all in French. For now anyway.