Memoirs of Life in South Africa

English 162: Literature and Place (A Queens College Study Abroad Course)

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Blog # 1

January 5th, 2012 by Talisa Feliciano · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

One of the topics discussed in the seminar today was about service learning. A professor at the University of Cape Town came to speak with us about volunteering and tourism. The conversation made me reflect about my own role here as a tourist, a student, a human. A main theme of the discussion was the consequences, good and bad, of being a volunteer and a tourist. My role here, I hope, will be a student and tourist. Although I want to shy away from the tourist role, I understand that this is a part of my identity. For the next few weeks, I will be able to do sightseeing, explore natural attractions and see parts of Cape Town that are not visible or available to many citizens of South Africa. Of course, I am excited to do these things, but I am also aware that they are not available to all citizens. At the back of my mind is the idea of belonging and ownership. Table Mountain, Robin Island, and other attractions physically belong to South Africans, but their socio-economic status, class, and just a few years ago race, do not make these things accessible to them. Who gets to rightfully enjoy these things? In this instance citizenship does not necessarily guarantee access to cultural attractions.
The idea of possession and belonging is one that was recently re-negotiated de jure in South Africa. The reality is a different and not so instantaneous process. Yesterday, I went to Camps Bay-an affluent beach. Before 1994, it was a white only beach. Ownership of that beach was not extended to the majority of the population. Belonging in many aspects of life was limited.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Merzela

    I agree with you Mike, as a New Yorker I have not had the desire to go to Tourist heavy places in NYC. Mainly because I know these places are well organized constructed images of unrealistic ideals of NYC. Also because they are way over priced. However, when we travel we instantly become tourist whether we are at a tourist heavy place or a place where locals go. As Talisa expressed, I do have concerns about my role as a tourist. But I am aware that I will never be able to experience South Africa in a different way unless I live here and become part of the culture and the society. With that being said, I will enjoy my role as a tourist but I will do so with an open mind. I will not claim to know what South Africa is like or what the people or culture are like from my brief time here. I will simply experience my time as an outsider.

  • mikestrianese

    You raised a good point that I have not thought of until reading your post. Though many of the citizens of Cape Town live here it is possible that they don’t have the funds to spend on doing fun things. But, even if they did would they want to? I know it’s a silly question that generalizes a group of many, but I’ve lived in New York my entire life and have never seen the Statue of Liberty. It’s not a financial issue, I simply just don’t have the desire and I don’t know why. Maybe I’m weird, or maybe some things just do attract tourists. I agree with you not wanting to become a tourist, but we have to remember that we are indeed tourists and not seeing some great things this beautiful place that we are blessed to be in has to offer would just be denying ourselves opportunity for the silly reason of denial for what we truly are.

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