Southern Africa interterm a ‘life-changing’ experience
by Jocelyn Wilkinson
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The interterm trip to South Africa and Lesotho is an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
I make this statement with a kind of certainty I have never felt before because the trip to Africa was unlike anything I have ever had the chance to participate in. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the world before leaving for Lesotho but Africa proved me wrong.
One of the first things we did on the trip was a home stay in a village just outside the city of Butha-Buthe, Lesotho. Experiencing firsthand the lives of the people of Lesotho, or Basotho, was a humbling experience.
The people of Lesotho are of a sturdy stock. They rejoice in everything they have in their lives and work like dogs to get it. Family is at the heart of daily life and looking out for others is second nature. Simplicity is a main ingredient to their lives and pride in that life is rarely absent.
There is a spirit, generosity and honesty to the Basotho people that makes any interaction a pleasurable one. Electricity and running water in homes is uncommon. Fetching water was a daily occurrence, as was working by kerosene lamp at night.
The village stay was not only humbling, but also a learning experience. Communicating with people who speak little or none of your native language is a challenge. This struggle often went both ways – we spoke no Sesotho and the use of English was limited. We all got very good at charades on this trip.
However, despite the challenges and occasional feeling of being overwhelmed that our attempts at communicating raised, there was always a sense of joy and goodness. We and our hosts worked together to reach an understanding. That’s what mattered most.
I could go through and mention all the places the group visited and things we did, but that’s not what the highlight of the trip was, at least to me. (For more trip details, go to the South Africa/Lesotho trip blog – at www.bethelks.edu, click the “Beyond the Green” button at the bottom and go to the “Africa 2012” link on the side.)
For me, the impressive part of the trip was the affirmation many of us felt in what we believed and the community we experienced. On the trip, we were asked to journal about daily happenings and insights. As I wrote in my journal on the flight home to the United States, I came to this conclusion:
“At our cores, we are all the same. We strive for a good life, live for the ones we love and walk through life on the same fragile feet. We all want peace and happiness and for that reason, we all deserve a nonviolent shot at success. In the end, we all come home to what matters to us and everything between us and that understanding is just white noise, unimportant.”
It is true, South Africa and Lesotho were great places to visit and we did so much more than our village stay. But what was truly impressive about this trip was our personal growth, which I think we all experienced.
Although only my experience is discussed here, I know I’m not alone in that idea. The trip wasn’t just a trip to Africa. It was a life-changing experience.
Jocelyn Wilkinson is a sophomore from San Antonio, Texas. Other members of the Bethel College 2012 interterm course Seminar in Cross-Cultural Learning: South Africa and Lesotho (with leaders William Eash, Bethel professor of music, and Neal Eash, associate professor in biosystems engineering and soil science at the University of Tennessee) were Sam Agoitia, Maize, Leah Bartel, Golden, Colo., Camille Claassen, Whitewater, Mariah Hostetler, Dodge City, Kylie Jantz, Newton, Tiffany Kaufman, Moundridge, Natalia Krahn, Mountain Lake, Minn., Austin McGregor, Noble, Okla., Natasha Orpin, Moundridge, Amanda Regehr, Whitewater, Emma Regier, Newton, John Regier, Beatrice, Neb., Terra Scott, Newton, and Megan Siebert, Topeka.