I was fortunate to virtually link up with Shelby when I started looking for stories to share for #CurvesandaCollab! I think her story is so powerful, and so beautiful. It’s truly amazing that she uses her talents to help others, and that she got such a life-changing print on her heart from her time in Cape Town. I know you’ll be as enraptured with her story, just as I was! -S
One part of traveling I enjoy the most is the ability to connect with people from around the world. What a gift to be able to learn about new cultures and different ways of life. It opens your eyes and allows you to have a better understanding of others and where they come from. In Cape Town, South Africa I was able to experience connecting with people on a whole new level. Myself and 30 others had the unique opportunity to stay in people’s homes while going into schools to teach music and dance to the local children.
Cape Town is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The skies are beyond blue, the water looks like it is being viewed in HD, and the mountains are breathtaking. All of this beauty, however, does not mask the harsh reality. The realities lie in the strong racial divide, extreme poverty levels, and serious gang violence that impacts the daily lives of the people.
When I first arrived I was completely shocked. One of the first sights after leaving the airport was complete towns made out of metal shanty homes. I could not even comprehend how humans actually lived there. As we drove into the “wealthier” areas. even the million dollar mansions had barbwire fences around their homes and bars on the windows. We were told it was not safe to walk alone because the crime rate is very high. I was honestly terrified. It broke my heart that this was so normal.
As we arrived at the first school and started our workshop with the children there was a feeling I had never felt before. The children were just full of love. They gave the best hugs had the biggest smile’s with the brightest eyes. Even though their lives were filled with death, gang violence, and drugs, they still had so much spirit and life. I have never witnessed so many individuals that were as open and able to just be themselves. It hit me like a wave. I know people from home who have everything you could ever want and more, but lacked true happiness and love.
These children live in fear day to day of what may happen but had the most love and joy I had ever experienced. Even though they knew the reality of where they lived, they had incredible dreams for their lives and I truly hoped that they would be able to achieve their dreams. After only spending a few hours with the children, it felt as though we had been friends forever. One of the girls I connected with the most told me she wanted to be a massage therapist and travel the world. As we said goodbye waving through the bus window, we gestured to each other not to cry because we will always be in each others hearts. I can only hope that she’s able to break out of her reality and live the life that she dreams of. What she does not know is the lesson she taught me, even with nothing you actually have everything. It became even more clear that no amount of things or money would ever give you the true satisfaction of happiness. Happiness and love is found within by making deep meaningful connections with other people and being true to yourself.
As we moved into the next town we found out we would actually be home staying in the metal shanty homes. Yes, my house for two nights was a metal shanty. If someone would have told me I would be staying there I would have said they are crazy. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. Soon after getting settled in I forgot about all the bad and could only see the beautiful and the good! My homestay mom made us feel so safe and welcome. She barely had anything yet was so grateful to have us in her home. The toilet was located outside so if we had to go at night you needed a flashlight. If you needed a shower you had to boil the water on the stove. Our mom slept on the couch so we could have the bed. To me this was insane but to her this was completely normal. My homestay moms sister actually thanked us for coming to see and care about how they live and what their lives are like because people don’t care. In these townships the reality is harsh. I saw middle school children doing drug deals, gangs walking around, and people eating with the casing from the back of a cell phone.
This life is a dirty cycle and some get out but many get sucked right back in. Still with this reality, so many of the people had such positive and warm hearts. No matter who we met and what their story was, they had hope. We were able to make deep connections because we didn’t have any distractions. With no tv, computer, or really much of anything, we talked, played outside, went for walks, and hung out with the neighbors. We did what truly matters as opposed to being consumed with society and our electronics.
After an emotionally taxing 16 days, my heart and soul were forever changed. I had left a piece of my heart there and took a piece bigger than I could have imagined. I had experienced both the wealthy and the poor sides of South Africa. I stayed in million dollar homes and homes that barely had all four walls. I met successful people and struggling people. But beyond the black and white, I experienced intangible moments that will forever impact my life. I learned lessons and had once in a lifetime experiences that no amount of money could ever replace. Cape Town will forever hold an extra special spot in my heart and I hope I can share a little bit of the love I experienced there with the world.
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