Although I try to avoid having preconceptions about people and places, one of the things I wondered about when coming to South Africa was racism. I was happy to meet tons of cool, open-minded people. In fact, the celebration of their ‘Rainbow Culture’ is one of the things I love about SA. But just like in the States, many of the not-so cool people live way out in the small corners of the country. Nothing seems to make them surface more than helping the street kids. Since beginning this I have really starting developing a relationship with the kids, and I’ve discovered that eating with them is a great way to bond. Sometimes I make or buy some food and go eat with them. It seems like every time I am doing anything with the kids, someone feels the need to come up to me and spend a half hour telling me about how they’ve tried to help the kids, but they are worthless and don’t want help. Some people say ‘be careful, they’ll steal from you, they’ll rape you’ etc, etc. The other day I was buying burgers and chips from a takeaway place across from my house to eat with them. The woman behind the counter saw me talking to the kids, and proceeded to tell me that they would sell the food I give them to buy glue. She also complained that her car-guard didn’t chase them away. Now, why would you speak that way to a customer when you know that person is buying food (from your business) for those kids? The other thing that amazes me is how many people have ‘tried to help the street kids’. The takeaway woman tried to convince me that there are homes for the kids to sleep and get meals, but when I asked her where, because I’d been looking for these places, she had no answer. These people are always negative about what we’re doing. Meanwhile, the social workers and police officers that actually do work with these kids are extremely positive and supportive of the program.
One of the things that drives me crazy is the attitude that people already know everything about you, and you know nothing about Africa. These people don’t even take 2 minutes to ask you who you are, or what you’ve done. Mostly I think they just want to hear themselves talk. And boy do they love to talk. In fact, while I’m being negative I might as well bring up the issue that most people from this town are completely full of shit. What I mean is they exaggerate stories to a ridiculous extent, they agree to do things they have no intention of doing, and they gossip all the time. The gossiping is a classic small-town symptom, I know, but sheesh! I’m not from here and I don’t know Jane Smith, so what makes you think I care if she went to jail for marijuana possession years ago?
J-Bay is unique as far as small towns go in that it has so much potential. Beautiful beaches and visitors from all around the world bring in a constant flow of fresh energy, which seems to be completely squandered. People even pay to come and volunteer, then leave angry because they are not being utilized. Yet non-profits struggle supposedly due to lack of people and resources. A lot of people need to get out of their ruts and off their butts. They also need to stop being bitter about foreigners coming in and ‘criticizing’ what they are doing. Criticism is a good thing; it should motivate you and help you to grow.
These are some of the reasons why I have decided to leave J-Bay. Don’t get me wrong, I had some great times here. I had fun bartending at the Moroccan Lounge, made good friends, met inspiring travelers from all over the world, got to know the street kids, and even surfed in a world-famous spot. I am ready to continue my travels and see more of Africa. The most difficult decision to make while traveling is the decision to leave. But I can’t ignore the signs that tell me to go, and I know when it feels right. Just call me Mary fuckin’ Poppins. Next stop, Cape Town.
After writing this blog I felt bad about being so negative. Then I realized that I can’t only blog about positive things. The fact is that sometimes you run into jerks, or shitty situations, or sometimes you are just plain unhappy for no good reason. I do apologize for being negative, but I’m just keepin’ it real.