It as been a month today since I have been in Cape Town! WOW! I still have to pinch myself that this is real! It is the most beautiful, calm day right now. I woke up to it raining (woohoo!), and went for a run along the beachfront. I am writing this from my favorite little cafe overlooking the beach. The water is iridescent blue and there are the most gentle waves I have seen in my time here. The clouds have cleared over the mountains and the sun is shinning, revealing every little rock and crevice that was hazy just a few hours ago. I can see the sailboats on the other side of False Bay and the seagulls flying east towards the hills of Simons Town.
The past two weeks have been very busy in the best way. I have learned a lot of things like
- How to drive a manual car on the other side of the road
- About the private and public South African health care system
- The importance of self care
- That I am simply fascinated with people and the world (sometimes to a fault)
- That I do not need to think so much, sometimes I just need to feel.
I forgot how much I missed driving until I got behind the wheel on the right side of the car. It is pretty empowering to finally be able to help drive the women to necessary appointments and outings. I am able to help in ways I really wanted to, but wasn’t able to because, unlike the rest of the world, I was only taught how to drive an automatic car. I have become more and more aware of my own culture and way of life through relationship with people that are not American. In fact, I am the only American at S-CAPE right now, and I am very thankful for that. It has humbled me and taught me so much about new ways to see the world, while simultaneously reminding me of our undeniable interconnectedness.
In South Africa, health care is a human right, and for that I am incredibly thankful. There are private hospitals (that are similar to American hospitals and for people with insurance or the money to pay), and there are public hospitals/clinics that are free of charge and will serve anyone in South Africa. There is a pharmacy in the public clinics with medicine that is also free. South Africa also has ARV’s (retrovirals used in the management of HIV/AIDS) that are free, which is amazing because those drugs can be very expensive. I have had the privilege of experiencing both private and public health care, being right within my comfort zone and way outside anything I have ever experienced before. The public clinics are located in lower income areas and they are packed. We must arrive before 08:00 and we still wait in queues for up to five hours to see a doctor. There are few times in my life I have been that aware of my skin color and foreigner status as I am when I sit in the clinic. It is a humbling experience and again a reminder of our shared humanity. We all get sick, we all experience some sort of trauma, we all want to be healthy and happy and free. We met with the sweetest counselor in the clinic that reminded me of this. I have not been to many hospitals in my life so perhaps this is a normal occurrence, but it was beautiful to have a counselor in a clinic to be there for hard diagnosis’s and to talk through what it looks like to move forward. She was what I would imagine an angel to be. It makes me think about all the individuals in America who don’t have access to healthcare and what that means for us as a society. When one is sick, we are all sick. When one is oppressed, we are all oppressed. When one is denied a basic human right, we are all denied a basic human right, because my flourishing is intertwined with yours.
Last week some of our team went to a training on stress management, and on Monday, the director of the organization challenged us to make an intentional effort to practice self care this week. The past two weeks have been busy, and I have found myself rushing around a lot trying to do all the things, but not really being present. It is a constant lesson, the reminder of the importance of presence, but I am thankful that always we can begin again. This week I was getting flustered quickly and more easily annoyed when changes would come up that I had not planned. I was rushing out of habit, not out of necessity. I was reminded of how cruel humanity can be and how I say we are all interconnected, but in reality, I do not want traffickers and pimps and johns to be connected to the greater beloved community in any way. It is much easier for me to talk in generalizations, than to encounter an individual that has no regard for human dignity or life, and say, “you too, are my brother (or sister).” So this week I made it a point to spend more time in silence and read more, read people that challenge me to see beyond the dualities, and see that those who oppress and hurt others are caught up in their own personal hell. It is not my job to fix the world, but to love the world and when I feel overwhelmed by the injustice and hurt and suffering, I can choose to be present and love those around me well, or I can come apart in a blame and shame spiral of hopelessness. And even though I do not want to be apart of the inextricable network of mutuality with the men who exploit the women I love so dearly, I must realize that they too have most likely never experienced what it means to be loved, just as many of the women have not. And it is not me who loves perfectly, it is the Divine within that does, that teaches me to love without expectations or stipulations just as I have been loved.
I have met SO many incredible people already, from all over the world. I am also in the most beautiful place in the whole world, and so this is an enneagram 7’s DREAM! But I noticed myself waking up on Friday’s and immediately trying to plan my weekend, and being anxious when I did not have anything scheduled because I would be wasting precious time and energy if I didn’t see every inch of Cape Town that I have not seen! One morning I awoke so anxious because I didn’t have anything to do and thankfully I was aware of my tendencies enough that I could say to myself, “I am being an unhealthy 7 right now!” Joy doesn’t come from doing, it comes from being. From assimilating all these experiences into something deeper and more profound than just a check on a bucket list. And this is a lesson I have to remind myself of every single day.
Finally, getting out of my head. Enneagram 7’s are in the head triad, meaning that we do indeed live deep inside our head and crave certainty. Going through a long and very challenging spiritual deconstruction about a year ago, I threw basically everything I was taught about God out and started over because it was the only way I knew how to salvage my faith. Evangelical and charismatic groups had really wounded me because I was fed an Americanized, individualistic, self help version of Jesus that I later came to understand to be totally false and incredibly destructive. I had unconsciously made a little mental checklist of words and statements that would immediately turn me off (like hell, fire, blood, pretty much anything that depicts God as angry, vengeful, unloving or exclusive) and didn’t fit my new understanding of Jesus (as the one who taught we can have heaven now, we can see beyond the dualities, we must work tirelessly for justice and stand up for the oppressed, and above all, we must love all beings everywhere). But being back in South Africa, I am surrounded by evangelicals, and people with the most genuine child like faith, and I have come to really respect that and even miss some aspects of my upbringing. So it has been interesting navigating some of my spiritual dissonance and conflicting ideas in a place where those around me have such deep, authentic faith. The other day on a walk I had a revelation that I suppose I knew deep down, but it never stuck. I realized that it is okay, in fact it is GOOD to change your mind. That I don’t have to run every thing through a mental gymnastics, but what feels right can stay, and what doesn’t fit can go. Certitude is death, it leaves no room for creativity or growth or revelation, but willingness to change your mind, that is the greatest gift and oftentimes the most difficult work to do.
So yes, the last few weeks have been challenging and thought provoking and times of immense growth and change! I am reminded daily of what ubuntu looks like in practice, not just ideas. It has been a beautiful month of falling more and more in love with S-CAPE, the people around me, and Cape Town. And it certainly would be a dream to stay here forever.