Maybe it’s because I’m now working on a project related to the trip rather than going on the trip just to try and understand the culture. I think the fact that we’re a lot more focused in our task lends itself to a much greater learning environment. Not to disrespect People to People because I think what they do is great.
Over the past couple of days we’ve visited Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mendela was incarcerated. We were given a tour by a former inmate and he shared his experiences with us, it was quite powerful. We’ve also visited a couple townships with a couple more in the future.
The trips to the townships are very enlightening. The first one we went to we gathered a group of children around us and I couldn’t help but feel like Indiana Jones at the end of Temple of Doom when all the kids are running around his feet. There was this one girl named Janet that I carried around on my shoulders for a while. It was a very moving experience.
The second one we did just today and we didn’t go on a tour of the township but instead visited a local library and tutoring center. I’m probably describing it wrong but that’s the best description I have for it in my head at the moment. We broke up into small groups with the kids and tried our hand at being tutors and doing what we could to help teach them while at the same time get to know them and their customs.
We have also visited UCT, the University of Cape Town, and we tried our hand at mingling with some of the students there. I spoke with one and as we talked and I told her about our schedule and what we’ve been doing she was surprised that we were going to the townships. So were some local technology experts we’ve spoken to. This is because the white South Africans don’t go and it’s strange to see white people go.
But these trips into the townships are definitely what are making this visit to South Africa all the better. We’re really getting into our research and really getting to know our target market. If we weren’t visiting the townships this trip would have been more for show than for us really doing what we were hired for.