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Make The Circle Bigger!

Upon learning of my intention to come to Cape Town for an internship in sustainability from my home in San Francisco, many of my friends and family were congratulatory and jealous, but quite concerned for my safety as well.  "You're heading to the most dangerous country in the world!"  I was warned by more than a few people.

From second-hand reports and stories of people being robbed, shot at, killed, and taken advantage of, I understandably had a vigilant attitude upon my arrival. Upon my first inclusion in a round of "Make the Circle Bigga!" in middle of Long Street, all of these negative perceptions began to erode.  While talking with a man and his (?) children at a braai in Nyanga, about Apartheid, forgiveness, and the hopeful future of South Africa, they eroded even further.  My numerous minibus conversations with college students and people on their way to work not only brought these perceptions crashing down, but built new ones of South Africans as incredibly warm, resilient, and hopeful people who wanted no more than to live peaceful lives and knew how to enjoy themselves in many vibrant ways.  The World Cup celebrations I witnessed in the street and took part in were an incredible balance of rowdy exhilaration, sportsmanship, inclusiveness, and restraint.

These new perceptions were not completely naive, however.  Tales from interns working at NGO's health clinics, and a range of other places were riddled with stories of xenophobia, violent injuries, robberies, and political corruption kept me from comparing South Africa to a fantasyland by any means.  I had read inspiring reports and white papers about South Africa's ambitious green goals, pushing for clean energy and sustainable development.  What I learned after arriving was not so inspiring.  Many were reluctant to believe Eskom really wanted to move ahead with the REFIT program, and was simply giving lip service to an image of sustainability.  I had heard that the stadiums being built for the World Cup were the greenest in the world, as well as having been the pride of South Africa; they represented the great feats that could be accomplished when people worked together for a common goal.

Now that the World Cup is over, having been an enormous success, a great boost to South Africa’s economy, and, incidentally, a ton of fun, what happens now?  Can the great machine of South African brawn and cooperation that built the infrastructure for the World Cup be focused to address the blaring ills of poverty, violent crime, and injustice that still stalk the beautiful people of this country?  I hope so.  If the people of the Rainbow Nation, or our incredibly diverse Rainbow World for that matter, wish to develop in a sustainable manner, we will definitely have to make the circle not only bigger, but better, safer, and filled with Ubuntu.

Thank you, South Africa, and the wonderful people I met here.  Just because the World Cup is over, the World has not stopped cheering for you, make us proud.

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