Brian in South Africa

Brian Fennig, a lecturer in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, is traveling to South Africa in summer 2010: “Robben Island, Table Mountain, vineyards, car-jacking baboons, beauty, poverty, racial division and unity; not to mention the multitude of nations coming for the 2010 World Cup Soccer Finals. This is Cape Town, South Africa, and I’ll be sharing my travel experiences with you this summer.”

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Lessons of travel

I’m camped at the airport in Amsterdam. After 12 hours on the plane and a six-hour layover ahead of me, I’m happy to find an unglamorous space to spread out and write the final blog entry. The Cup is winding down and most of the teams have gone home.

me%20airport.jpg I’m proud of the U.S. effort. Starting the tournament against England was no easy task, and they did well. It’s too bad they made such a quick exit after the first round, but they did make it out of their group in first place. Ghana had the sharper game in the round of 16, but I’m happy for the African countries; they made a much better showing than most had predicted. (PHOTO: me at the airport, left)

A few days ago, I walked down to the local grocery store early in the morning to pick up some cash for my remaining time here, and I noticed some repeating elements: the daily arrival of cleaning staff parading toward the rental properties, a woman wiping down a table at the local cafe, the recycling truck picking up its cargo and the smell of bread wafting from the exhaust vents of the bakery. If I travel for an extended period of time, what I miss when I return is what I had established: routine.

there%20shall%20be%20work.jpg I’ve been in Cape Town for almost a month and just as I’m settling in, it’s time to leave. It’s impossible for me to travel without asking the question “what is different?” When I spend a little time in another country I can’t help but notice the dissimilarity with home. (PHOTO: Graffiti, “There shall be work”)

Some things are obvious: traffic moves opposite to that of the States (folks drive on the left), you are constantly surrounded by a different national history as evidenced in the monuments, the city name, the townships and the people. The value of the currency allows you to buy more with your U.S. dollar, and I haven’t seen a single Wal-Mart type mega-store. I have seen two KFCs and two McDonalds, but they are less in number than the “take away” fish ‘n chips places that seem ubiquitous in this seaport town. Perhaps most striking was the broadcast of a morning television news show in three different languages: English, German and Xhosa.

district%206%20one.jpg These are the obvious ones, but I find many similarities as well. Again with television, local programming had the equivalent of Good Morning America and of course CNN has a 24-hour broadcast. I saw commercials about HDTV, dvrs and cell phones, while MTV had its own South African slant. The daily soap opera, “Generations”, displayed the drama of business, family and love relationships, not unlike the “Young and the Restless.” (PHOTO: District 6 museum)

On the streets I found friendly people, bad drivers, people not stopping at stop signs and plenty of folks texting behind the wheel. The local newspaper spoke of The World Cup, business, the BP oil spill, union strikes, poverty and corruption. While touring the Castle of Good Hope or the District 6 museum, it was easy to see in one camera frame: modern architecture, historical structures, mass transportation and the homeless.

statue%20garden.jpg I don’t consider coming home as a return to reality, just a return to mine. The beauty of travel comes from the realization that the myriad of people and worlds that I have encountered exist every day. When I arrive in Dallas and fall into another routine, those realities on the other side of the globe will still be there; changing, forming and evolving without me. (PHOTO: Statue Garden)

castle%20homeless.jpg It simply makes me excited anticipating the next moment when that certain song or smell, a forgotten article that falls from a book shelf, a receipt tucked in my wallet or dirt scuff on my boot nudges my memory. Something from this summer will send me back to a mountainous area in a small part of Cape Town. In my mind I’ll smell the bread, hear the language and begin a long walk up a steep hill. (PHOTO: Homeless outside a castle)

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