7/25 Tonight was interesting- I went to a café/bar with some friends where we started talking with a few Africans who said they were from the Congo. When my friends and I were finished with our meals we took our phones out in order to calculate who needed to pay what, how much tip we should leave, etc. The one African who I was sitting next to laughed at me and began talking to me about the difference between “whites” (American and South African) and “black Africans” when it comes to our perception of material things and money. She explained that while whites will fret about who pays what “15.95 rand or 16?!”, the black Africans will pay for each other. “If I invite my friend,” she explained, “ I will pay this time.” She says it is more about being with the people than the money. “I have a job- but just because I pay for dinner doesn’t mean I have a lot of money…it just means I know I will make more money later.” The girl explained that she (who she described as “we”, referring to black Africans) does not invest her money in big cars or houses, but rather supports her entire family with the money. I don’t believe this goes for all cases, obviously, but it was interesting to hear about her relationship to money and luxury. She explained that if a family member went off to Europe, they might ‘forget us- and leave us behind’. Where as Americans might consider this to be simply another element of “growing up,” to this woman, it was considered rude- the person would be letting her family down. I’m not sure if this is the mentality in South Africa…I haven’t been able to speak to many locals yet, so we will see. As I said, this woman was from the Congo so maybe her lifestyle is different.
Today I went to a big “braai” in one of the townships (like a bbq) with some people from my program- it was really crazy- There were lots of people hanging out (some dancing) and listening to really loud music – all from different backgrounds it seemed. It was nice to see South Africans of all different races at the location because it seems to not always be the case here. Though, many of the races were not partying together (people kind of huddled around there own tables)…The race relations here are very complex and I am far from grasping them…However, people seem to talk about them in a much more open way then they do back home. It has been interesting to hear people discuss race in such blatant ways… hopefully by the end of my stay here I will have a better sense of things. As for now, I won’t say much because I really don’t understand a lot of it.
The Braai was really interesting though- lots of drinks and pieces of meat that were served from a bucket…(literally) it was fun! Then, on the way home our “mini-bus” driver started falling asleep at the wheel (they think he had been drinking??) so one of the program “sol-mates” (like a customs person or RA) had to drive the car home- a crazy day indeed!