December 30: Introduction to Cape Town

The purpose of my trip to South Africa is to learn more about how Nelson Mandela was able to go from being a prisoner to revolutionize his country for the benefit of all South Africans. My goal is to learn in depth about how his struggle eventually translated to huge success. In the United States, Martin Luther King was also successful in changing the social atmosphere even after great amount of struggle as well. The essence of my trip to South Africa is gain insight on Mandela’s influence on the anti-apartheid movement and compare it to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement in the United States. In fact, my research question is posted below:

What violation of law led to the detainment of Martin Luther King Jr. and the incarceration of Nelson Mandela; and how did their time behind bars help or hurt the success of the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-apartheid movement respectively?

During my first day in Cape Town, I noticed a difference in culture right away. Although both Cape Town and many cities in the US have similar structure, in a lot of ways, they are different. For example, in Cape Town, people drive on the left side of the road rather than the right, they use kilometers rather than miles, and also have different power outlets on the walls. South Africans also typically refer to restrooms as “toilets” and use a completely different form of currency. Although these seem like little differences, these differences can play a huge role in how social movements operate. In fact, I am beginning to question how these differences may have impacted the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-apartheid movement respectively.

I thought today was successful because I was able to experience a brand new culture related to my research for the first time. I have lived in the United States my whole life, therefore, their history and their way of life is familiar to me. On the other hand, before today, I haven’t experienced the South African way of life at all. That is a start for any area of research while on this trip, including mine. Because of this, I feel as if I have a solid basis of understanding (or at least the bare minimum) to begin to truly understand the differences between these two societies, and in turn, the differences in their major national social movements throughout their histories.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to go to Robben Island and I am extremely excited for it. Not only has it been a personal goal of mine to see the museum on the island since high school, it is also one of the sites that will contribute to my area of research on this trip in a major way!

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