Country of Contrasts

As I walked off the plane and saw South Africa for the first time, it was everything I had expected and more: beautiful, full of luscious greenery and diverse. The first day, we went to Nelson Mandela Square, a mall filled with designer stores and trendy and beautiful people.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we were seeing the South Africa we were supposed to see instead of the real South Africa.The next day proved to me that, like most countries, South Africa is more than a picturesque, spotless place. On the drive through Johannesburg on the way to NISAA, a women’s shelter, we passed a community of shacks resembling a town in a movie we had seen in class back in Lexington, Va. The sight of that community made me question the drastic differences in income inequality in the country–some people are buying Prada bags while others live in tin shacks. South Africa is a beautiful, diverse nation with many strengths, but it has another side to it that the world doesn’t always see–a side that many of its people say needs to change.

–Claire Hoffert