Hi friends, as you have probably figured out I am in South Africa for the summer. These weeks, I’m interning with Project Isizwe, an NGO whose work I was excited about before getting here – and am growing increasingly more passionate about as I stay here. In part because the mission and purpose of this organization is something I really believe in. In part because the people I work with are just so awesome.
Over the next few days (till Friday the 11th to be precise) I will be traveling with Winston, our decked-out Wifi Mobile. In short (in case you were wondering) Project Isizwe’s mission is to spread wifi to low-income neighborhoods across South Africa — and eventually Africa. Their model is incredibly complex to explain (blog post coming soon, I promise! I have learned so much already that I want to tell you but you can watch this video here if you are overeager like me :) but for now the big picture is that they do this by partnering with municipal governments. The point of Winston is to drive around the country crowd-sourcing support in these lower income communities and to talk to different municipality leaders to a) tell them about Project Isizwe (hey we want to give your community free stuff! really?) and b) to get them on board. The cooler part is interacting with people in so many different communities – Winston is decked out with Wifi so we’ll pull out our computers and tablets to show kids and older folk alike what exactly we mean by wifi and what exactly we can use it for. It’s pretty powerful stuff – powerful stuff that most of us don’t even think about if we grew up surrounded by it, always knowing about Google and Wikipedia and Facebook. We plant the seed, as Gerrit – who works at Project Isizwe and who is the prime guy behind Winston (and my traveling companion for the next week) – puts it.
I’m going to try and be better about blogging from the road so you can see all I’m capturing of South Africa as I go :) This post starts off this series.
Wednesday, 4 pm. “Craig, so what is the deal with Winston?”
(Winston is a decked out wifi-mobile. Geritt, my traveling companion/security guard/friend is driving Winston around the country on our NGO’s behalf, spreading the word, connecting people, in theory, crowd-sourcing support for more wifi hot spots.)
Wednesday, 4:30 pm. So can I join in on the trek?
Wednesday, 8:30 pm. Inesha, can we fly you out to Durban on Thursday. You can join Winston through Cape Town next Friday.
Thursday, 1:00 pm. My love affair with airports continues. And this airport is one of the finest. There are sofas at the boarding gate. And wifi for me to skype my dad. And the security is very un-American like. No shoe-stripping. No water bottle stealing. No awkward let me feighn innocence in the hunky scanner machine thing. The efficiency, I tell you.
1:30 pm. On a flight, en route to Durban. Giddy. Watching all the different passengers board, I think I am going to see a very different part of South Africa. It’s funny how even the people themselves sort of change as you travel. Their mannerisms. Their attitudes. The headlines on their newspapers. The color of their skins. It is clear to me why they call this the rainbow colored nation. Durban is a little India outside of India. My brown skin helps me blend in just as much as my smile does on this flight. Anyone, as they say, can live in South Africa.
1:45 pm. Sitting in my airplane seat right next to the aisle. A three year old girl taps me on the shoulder. Matter of factly she says to me, with a very very serious face, “I am ready for this plane to fly.”
And I think, ME TOOOOOOO.
“My bags were packed from the day I was born
I knew there was something I was living for
I found my place in a runaway car
And I never looked back, never looked back
I never was much for falling in line
Had a long time fire in this heart of mine
I may look crazy in mama’s eyes
But I don’t mind
It could be a dead end road
I could be chasing down a broken dream
But I don’t need to know
Just where this thing is gonna lead, it’s a mystery
Oh and ain’t life a trip,
No it don’t get better than this.”