Ubuntu: I am, because of you.
This word, ubuntu, conveys the sheer beauty and connectedness of South Africans to themselves and others. It is the expressed opposition of rugged individualism, which is probably one of the reasons South Africans seem to have, as a whole, the most open hearts of any culture we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Ubuntu embodies the idea of interconnection and mutual love, of interdependence. It was common to hear South Africans use the word “love” much more so than anywhere we’ve ever lived or visited. Click here and here to learn more about this beautiful philosophy.
Along with the lovely ideology of Ubuntu, we picked up some South African lingo and body language during our travels. For instance, on dozens of occasions we were thanked with two hands folded together in prayer fashion. The word (excuse the potential misspelling), Bhashasa translates to “it’s all cool”. Folks ask, “Where do you stay?” meaning where do you live? A sundowner is a cocktail at happy hour, cooldrink is mad money (often given through a tip), everyone is “man” including small children. I laughed the first time I heard a mother call her small child, “man”. And the most curious lingo was “Is it?” which would be like how Americans use the word “really”. Here’s a conversational example – slight exaggeration, but you’ll get the point:
Me: We’re from the United States.
Other person: Is it?
Me: um. yes.
Other person: Where are you staying?
Me: At the Ascot Gardens in Bergvliet.
Other person: Is it?
Me: um. yes.
Other person: But in California, where are you staying?
Me: Santa Cruz?
Other person: Is it?
Back to Ubuntu. Traveling about and holding the notion of Ubuntu, I began asking South Africans what they love BEST about living in South Africa. And below are their answers. Hope you enjoy their responses as much as I enjoyed chatting with these folks.
Godwin at Blyde River Canyon
What Godwin loves best about South Africa is soccer. He’s very passionate about it and believes that if he had started practicing when he was much younger, he would have had the chance to play professionally. His advice for a tourist is to learn about the history of South Africa.
Bednek at Blyde River Canyon
Meet Bednek our dam boat tour operator at Blyde River Canyon. Bednek was charming and laughed easily. When asked what he loves best about living in South Africa, Bednek responded with “Progress” He sees a lot of change.
NOW, I’m driving the boat. In the old days, you don’t see black men driving boats. And I can shake hands with white ladies.
Bednek told us the white operators make four times his wage, and yet he remains spirited and upbeat about his rich life. I was more than honored to shake his hand. We drove him back to his bus stop after the tour. What would’ve otherwise been about a 30-minute walk uphill for Bednek became a refreshing and informative 10-minute drive for us. This man reads a lot about different cultures – especially the US – and he was happy to share his knowledge with us. We were happy to receive his riches.
Frida of Sabie
Frida was our waitress at the African Elephant Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Sabie. Frida is a delight. She is articulate and kind and filled with radiance. What Frida loves most about living in South Africa are the mountains and the waterfalls.
Life in Sabie
This is Life. Yes, that’s his name, and he seems to live up to it. I was ambling about taking photos in Sabie when he jumped in the viewfinder. He came up to me and gave me a hardy hand bump and a smile that lit up the town. Life’s favorite things about living in South Africa are the waterfalls, and he believes South africa is a country of foreign people (diversity) and that it’s a peace country. I think this soft-spoken young guy with the gentle face is a peace person sharing his golden soul everywhere he goes.
Jan in Marloth Park
Jan owns the Bush Laundry and Bush Kitchen in Marloth Park. He is a total sweetheart with a kind disposition, so I had to interview him. He calls Scott and me, “Pepper” and “Salt”. When I asked Jan what he loved best about living in South Africa, this is what he said:
Such a lot of things. It’s beautiful. Amazing to stay here. There’s a freedom of nature. The way of living is really quite fine. Especially in this part where we’re not crowded. You have nature all around you. You can’t believe in the 21st century you have this kind of living.
Louise in Marloth Park
It’s about Marloth Park for me. What I love? The animals that are wandering around the houses, the fresh air and the sounds, like the lions and the hyenas. I love where I stay because of the animals.
And if you recall, Louise is like the female version of Dr. Dolittle. Living in Marloth Park, Louise has two rescues living at her house, a Duiker named Dinkie and a Banded Mongoose named Goosie. Bush babies are living in her thatched roof and jump around her kitchen at 5:00 AM before heading back to bed. Bowls of snacks and a safe home for abandoned or tortured animals. Sounds like the makings of a sanctuary.
Mexandi in Cape Town
Mexandi is a Tech Specialist who has had a difficult time finding work in his area of expertise. He is currently working at the Mount Nelson Hotel in front entrance security.
It’s not expensive to live in South Africa, especially in Cape Town city, the Mother City. Is a country where everyone can live together. We all are the same- white and black. It’s been twenty years since we have democracy, and the country is moving forward. If we can keep moving, there will be big change.
He proceeded to share how when the new president took over the country, the people’s opportunities to get work has gone down, unlike when Mandela was in power. Mandela is clearly missed. It was a joy to speak with Mexandi. He’s quick and smart and chats easily.
Joel Matshoba in Cape Town
We met Joel in Cape Town on Freedom Day. He is a Member of Parliament and welcomed us into an office sharing his knowledge on South African recent history. Joel was born and raised in South Africa. He is proud of it. His optimism and love for his country was infectious.
I am proud of my history. There are some challenges. We know where we’re coming from and where we’re going. It’s a long road. We must have patience.
Mama Lulu in Cape Town
We met Mama Lulu, her daughter, Lulu, and her granddaughter on Freedom Day at Parliament. She is about 76 years worth of inspiration. Beaming, because of Freedom Day, Mama Lulu told me:
I am happy because years ago, I could not be in Parliament. I don’t think I would be able to live such a long time to do this. I lived before and after. Now, I am allowed to walk anywhere, to stay in the city, to go places. I was born 1938. I’ve seen a lot.
She worked for a family, the Pietri’s who gave her a flat to retire in. Mama Lulu was very generous with compliments about her bosses, the Pietri’s. She said they are taking good care of her and that this is not the story for all workers. Sounds like they practice ubuntu too.
Nokude and Fransel at Betty’s Bay
Fransel is the awesome proprietor of the Betty’s Bay Guest House. You can read more about that here.
There are a lot of things, the natural beauty, the diversity of the people. I’m so happy to have many cultures mixed up. It gives a richness to everyday life. I think it’s great. I love the Zimbabwean people. My Dad was a minister, he was preaching high up in the mountains of Lesotho with the Sotos people. He was working for the people. I only realize now how lucky I am. I didn’t experience Apartheid because I saw us as all the same.
Nokude is Fransel’s employee. In one lovely sentence, she summarized her sentiments.
I love the South African people because they love each other.
Joe at Alguhas
Joe’s been living on the Western Cape since 2009. He’s been a SanPark employee for six months. Alguhas was one of our all-time favorite places. At the Southernmost tip of Africa, this coastal community is a windswept oasis of tranquility. You can read more about it here.
One thing about my country, it’s very beautiful. It’s a get-away place with a lot of opportunities. It favors all the people. I am welcomed anywhere. South Africans, they have a lot of love. There is love more than violence. Besides my province, Mpumalanga, I love the Western Cape.
Ronell and Quinton of Dana’s Bay
Ronell and Quinton run the exquisite Dana Bay Guesthouse. When asked what they love most about their country, they had no difficulty finding a response. They clearly love their Dana Bay.
Quinton: The nature. The difference is in the sea, the mountains. Specifically the serenity, the quietness. You learn to experience nature in a small place like this. It brings you to a place you feel part of nature. You’re not more special then the animals or the next person. You’re just part of existence. Ronell: And the food. Everything is just available, meat, fruit, vegetables. Our climate here is the 2nd most moderate in the world. Only Hawaii is better.
Ronell continued by sharing there is no frost in Dana Bay because it doesn’t get cold enough and that they receive just the right amount of rain and sun to make it a perfect place to live. You can read more about our lodging at Dana Bay Guesthouse here.
Barry of Cape Town
Barry and his wife, Lesley, own the lovely Ascot Gardens in the Bergvliet suburb of Cape Town. I wrote all about Ascot Gardens here.
So many reasons why I love living in South Africa and particularly in Cape Town, known as the Mother City. Things move slowly here; business decisions are made in 9 months time. We are blessed with mountains, beaches, vineyards, beautiful floral and fauna, pollution-free clean crisp air all year round, sunshine, one can eat fresh healthy food, and can live with and alongside the most friendly people in the world. Nelson Mandela can truly look down and be proud of his “Rainbow Nation” that he has left behind!
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality — Ubuntu — you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.
Photos, videos and stuff*** Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use. And please do follow this blog and/or write comments. Two million and seventy-seventy thanks and may your days be blessed with ubuntu.
Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
This is South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu