South Africa is an exhilarating and complex country. With its post-apartheid identity still in the process of definition, there is undoubtedly an affluence of energy and a sense of progress about the country. But if you want to understand South Africa, you'll have to look at the full spectrum; poverty, AIDS and violence remain a problem. Working for an aid project in a township was both inspiring and challenging for me, as I was confronted with an entirely new world.
My intention was to collect impressions about South Africa and its people, and wealth and poverty. The township in which I worked for five weeks is called Kayamandi. The term “Kayamandi” comes from the isiXhosa language and means "sweet home” (Ikhaya -"at home"; mnandi -"sweet"," pleasant").
The arrival overwhelmed all my senses. The cockroaches in my "bed", the lack of water and electricity in our sheet house and the sheep head for dinner - the reality of it blew me away. I worked every morning in a creche with 50 children. Unfortunately I did not speak isiXhosa and they did not speak English, so our communication was limited to a non-verbal basis. The three assistants in the creche did not feel the need to take care of the children with love and affection. The daily beatings on the hands and heads of the little ones were unbearable for me. News of my arrival in Kayamandi spread quickly. My size and my white skin caused quite a stir in various ways. No matter where I went, no matter what I did, everyone was watching me. For the first time I felt like the “other”, and the one who is different.
Kayamandi is just five minutes from Stellenbosch. This small town is known for good wine and its colonial style. There is everything you need: wonderful restaurants, stores and even a well-known university. I fluctuated repeatedly between these two worlds, which were separated only by a railroad track.
When I arrived in South Africa, I had an idea about this country, just a "single story". The people in Kayamandi had their own single story about myself and my background. In two months I was able to revise my single story. The stay in Kayamandi, my journeys and my enriching conversations and encounters in South Africa gave me the chance to get to know a high-contrast and beautiful country better. I came to my limits until the last day. To be different was not even the most difficult thing. The bigger problem was rather that they have stigmatized me as a white European. Unfortunately, the prejudices, in their view, were generally negative connotations. I, however, felt from the beginning, only pity. Today, I see things differently, from different perspectives. I also realized that to be different, means nothing else than to be myself.