All About Perspective

By Sabrina Romeo

Throughout my travels, many people we’ve encountered have asked me what my favorite part of the trip has been. I would typically answer with a most treasured animal encounters or a pretty place we’ve visited, but after the homestay in Ha’ Makuya, my opinion drastically changed. While at the Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve, a few days after leaving Ha’ Makuya, one of the men, who had explained to us how the area joined together surrounding communities with their conservation efforts, asked me what my favorite part of the trip had been so far and it was a new, but an easy answer.

I answered that my favorite part of the entire trip so far (now over half way through) was experiencing what true happiness looked like. Not influenced by materialistic desires or societal “norms”, the people in our village of Dotha seemed to be genuinely happy with the life they had. They had very minimal possessions, including many things that we as Americans would view as “essential,” such as continuous running sanitary water, an abundance of food, modes of transportation, shoes, clothes, laundry machines and other items along these lines. Not only were they lacking in those needs, but they also didn’t have easy access to anything resembling a super market, well-paying jobs, proper education or other circumstances that absolutely would not be acceptable to not have by our standards.

All of this in consideration, when we asked the mom of our home what she would change about her life in Dotha if given the opportunity to, she said “well, it would be nice if the neighborhood boys would keep the music down at night”. That was her one and only wish to improve her life. That moment really stuck with me throughout our visit in the village and is what has really summarized my experiences of the people in South Africa as a whole.

While the homestay showed me just how grateful people here are for the little they had, it wasn’t the only example I witnessed of people being abundantly appreciative for so little. Many of the people we’ve talked to look at the water situation in Cape Town as if those people have it way worse when in reality, Ha’ Makuya actually has a way worse water situation in regards to access and water quality. It has been an issue for them much longer and on top of that, has gotten no media attention/help whatsoever. I keep thinking that maybe to some extent, it’s a good thing the people we have gotten to meet don’t even realize how bad their situation is because at this point, I have no idea how we would even begin help them. It has been an issue for so long and with no actual governmental help, it is so out of my control that dwelling on it as much as I have has even become null.

Regardless of all of the unfortunate conditions I was exposed to while in Dotha and how I perceived things in comparison to my own life, they remain to be the most thoroughly content group of people I have met so far. We spent many hours just dancing, talking, playing soccer and actually enjoying each other’s company, which is something I feel is so lost in American society. We need to disconnect from our phones and just start embracing the people and places we get to encounter. I hope to bring my beautiful experience home with me and find that level of fulfillment.

Natalie Miller