The first thing I wanted to do when I stepped off the plane in South Africa was inhale for as long as I could. I was so excited and had so many ideas about how different Africa would be from America that I thought even the air would smell different. I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to eat the food or drink the water. I also thought that everyone in South Africa lived in the same poor conditions. Nine days later, I was on my way back to the United States with a new perspective on that — and on life.
I believe that South Africa was a window of opportunity that rarely comes around. During the time we were there, I learned a great deal from the people I met. It seemed odd to me that even though some lived in mud houses and came from violent homes, they still managed to find something positive to dwell on about their lives. Many of my lessons learned from this trip came at a time when I was going through a growth phase of my own. I had engaged in a personal mission to become more comfortable with who I am — and in the middle of learning about myself, I was experiencing first-hand a different culture.
It was refreshing to watch people who were so comfortable in their own skin that they would just sing out loud even though they knew they weren’t very good singers at all. I learned that the whole point of being true to yourself is to live your life and not worry so much about impressing others.
Even though living conditions for most people are better here than there, lifestyles are very similar. They have satellite TV, restaurants, convenience stores, shopping malls, computers and the Internet. I was expecting to be in a place that was outside my comfort zone. However, because of the welcoming nature and spirit that I felt in South Africa, it quickly became a second home.