South Africa: Diving into Culture
Traveling to Africa is not about the animals, it’s not about trinkets and it’s not about getting double miles on your frequent flyer card. Its about meeting the people. Don’t get me wrong, I adore all of the above, and I see them as benefits of spending time on the ground exchanging culture and diving in to a place face first and mouth wide open. I shot a beautiful impala on a game preserve, a thrill for me as an avid outdoorsman, and got to follow the culled animal all the way through the process of seeing every part of the creature being utilized for food, tools and clothing. Very impressive stuff, and at the same farm I saw a 5 day old giraffe eating with his mom and dad. This was the first giraffe born in this area in 50 years, a huge by product of game and land management and a sign that things are getting better in a part of the world that sorely needed it, and still does. I nursed some penguins back to health and released them in the ocean off of Cape Town, and wandered the witch doctor markets of Jo-Burg, and I bought my share of trinkets too, and I got my miles, but the best day of my South African experience was connecting with people I never thought I would get a chance to meet.
Jeppie’s Hostel is one of a series of run down ancient factory style slum buildings that are populated by thousands of families so far below the safety net that their lives are dominated by a level of hopelessness that I have rarely encountered. But yet hope is alive there. The level of violence is such that the police don’t even go into the Hostels, when there is trouble there they simply allow all the rioters, criminals and evil doers to have it out, and when the calm replaces the storm the army rolls in to clean up. Its horrifying and many experts call it the scariest piece of land on earth. So we went there one Saturday evening to a basement room packed to the rafters with hundreds of Zulu men eager to sing and dance with each other as a way to keep their culture alive and their spirits high.
By the time we left, we had made many friends, dozens of whom simply showed up to see a white man for themselves. Many told us they had never seen one in the Hostel itself. Ever. Our show continues to be a mechanism for lowering barriers and uniting people around the world and it’s the aspect of the show that gets the least attention and yet makes me the proudest. Enjoy the South Africa episode.