From Africa with Love

31725416_10209360529370402_4545358378913759232_oWhen my daughter was little, people always told me, “Enjoy this while you can. Soon she’ll grow up and it will be all over.” They were wrong. For you moms out there with little ones, it gets better every year. Encourage your children to leave home and travel. Be happy and proud when they leave you to explore the world.

I had a great FaceTime conversation with Kat last night. She is getting ready to leave South Africa and return to Norway. She is very sad to leave the wonderful friends she’s made while living and teaching there. At 21 years old, she is one of the most interesting and kind-hearted people I know. Now, instead of me teaching her things, she’s teaching me.

Kat grew up in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural family. Being tolerant of others was ingrained in her. With a feminist mom, a gay uncle, aunties, uncles and cousins of Mexican, Palestinian, Asian and South Pacific ancestry, being racist, sexist or homophobic was not an option. By that, I mean we actively called out and admonished bigotry when we saw it. It’s not enough to tell your children to not be bigoted, it needs to be modeled. We need to recognize bigotry when we see it in ourselves and work to correct it.

That being said, living in South Africa has been an interesting experience for her. She said it’s what she imagined life in the 1960’s in the US was like. The segregation and racism is blatant and ingrained. She explained that people are categorized into three groups – White, Black, and Colored (not considered a derogatory term in South Africa). I had to ask her to define the difference. Black being indigenous and colored meaning part white (Dutch ancestry).

She shared a story of being in a coffee shop with her (white) friend who was upset about a (black) young man she had just broken up with. The server, who was also their friend, started laughing. Feeling offended, she asked why he was laughing and he said, “We don’t date interracially here.” She said the three groups are not just separated by skin color, but culturally as well. They speak three distinct languages, live in different communities, and live completely different lives.

She lives in one of the few multi-cultural neighborhoods where she can hang out with all her friends with a bit less judgement, but still feels the strong racist undertones of the environment she is in. She also says South Africa has the warmest, friendliest people she has ever met (even more so than Hawaii!). She is welcomed into the homes of all her friends regardless of their or her skin color. I can see her returning to this country she loves so much and to the people she has become so attached to and fond of. She has a lot to share with the world and I’m so proud of her journey.