Campus News

Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Paul Min, Bowdoin College í03

Story posted August 06, 2001

I feel it is very easy to get caught up in the city and get comfortable. And while having fun here is important, I feel as if I need to be more aware of exactly where I am and the reasons why I came.

Cape Town is a place where there is a wealth of learning to be done, and the opportunity to grow is all around. We have been here almost a month now, and time has gone by very quickly. And although I have been learning and growing, I want to become even more aware of what is going on around me. Coming to Cape Town is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I donít want to waste it by remaining a tourist my whole time here. I want to challenge myself and force myself to think about issues that might not be the most pleasant issues, but are necessary for reflection and growth.

When street kids come up to me to ask me for money, I donít want to dismiss them without a thought. I want to think about the reasons why they are on the street and how the legacies of apartheid have affected their lives, and to explore the ways that people in Cape Town deal with this issue. When I go to a club where everyone is white, I want to be reminded of the way that apartheid has created economic inequalities, and how that legacy still remains a harsh reality today. Likewise, the classes that we have been taking at the center and at UCT have raised questions and issues for me.

The breakdown of apartheid only happened 7 years ago, and the time that it will take to reverse the inequalities that were placed in the system will be much, much longer. Change will not come overnight, and it will have to come one thing at a time. The whole system of education must be overhauled. The living conditions in townships must be addressed. The most difficult thing to change will be the way people think about other races. This will take much longer than any other systematic change.

To be here as a Korean-American has been quite an interesting experience, to say the least. The images and stereotypes that people have about Asian people are mostly drawn from what the media has fed them. The kids that I have met all assume that I am Chinese and that I know martial arts. The adults here are not as vocal, and I am not sure what my presence provokes within them, or what they associate with me. As I understand it, Chinese and Japanese people were given honorary white status during apartheid. Iím not sure whether this has created resentment and anti-Asian sentiment within the other racial groups. It is strange to be placed into a different society where my social position has changed.

Overall, I am quite happy that I picked Cape Town as the site of my study abroad program, and am really excited to see what lies ahead. I am going to challenge myself further to deal with issues of race and class and economics in everything I see and in everything around me, and I know that I will grow in ways that I never knew possible. I also hope that what I learn here will help me deal with issues that are relevant in the context of the United States as well. Love is the engine to this revolution

-Paul Min
Bowdoin College í03

Additional information on the Cape Town program is at CBB Cape Town
Other Cape Town Diaries:
Cape Town Diary: July 3. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 14. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Kristen M. Heim
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Rachel Meiklejohn
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Heather Finn.

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