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Dee Olateru: 3 Lessons From a Southern African Adventure

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Last time on BellaNaija, I admitted to not having seen most of the African continent. I wrapped up with a commitment to do better in my own way, starting with a 2.5-week trip through three Southern African countries in August.

I travelled solo, through South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, and the Greater Kruger area), Zimbabwe, and Mauritius; staying in accommodation ranging from hostels to luxury accommodation.

I’ve had some time to digest the experience, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I’m taking away from this trip.

Gosh, we are a Beautiful People and so is the Land
In Cape Town, I received the warmest immigration welcome ever, and you know these officers are usually serious people! I was called ‘Sister’ and I loved it. I experienced the warmth of strangers throughout my time.

I saw hustle and I respect a good hustle! From the young man proudly showing us his shack (built entirely of cardboard and soft drink caps) in Langa township, to the security guard self-studying at my hostel, to the lady up in the wee hours with her sheep roasting business, to the tour guide giving back to his township by employing vendors, to the owner of the Shebeen making Umqombothi, to the ladies killing it in business and media. How can one not be inspired to go hard?

I observed South African women SLAY: from the outfits, to the accessories, to the hair! Oh the hair, I’ve never seen our hair styled so boldly and beautifully in so many different ways!

South Africa and Mauritius are incredibly racially diverse, this diversity is beautiful to behold.

Cape Town is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, I now understand the hype about it. Jozi (Johannesburg) is alive and has a funky vibe to it that I can get with. Sitting on the edge of Victoria Falls in awe of God, the word that came to mind was MAJESTIC.

Representation Matters
As a black, female, traveler, I’m often one of the few or the only black female at many destinations. While this was not the case in the rest of South Africa, it was the case at my Safari lodge. Lebo, a thirty-year old mother of a six-year-old, was so excited to see me. She had not seen a black guest in her time working at the lodge. She told the rest of the kitchen staff and these ladies all came out to say hello. EVERY single one of them.

I’m NOBODY (to say the least), yet to all those women, my presence represented something. There’s something about seeing someone who looks like you (or that has encountered similar challenges as you have) be present in spaces you previously assumed or were told was out of your league. For some, it sparks a fire for some and for others it turns a barely lit candle light into a raging fire. In the end, I was reminded that you just never know what you represent to someone else. It is important not only that we tell our stories, but also that we are physically present.

There is Work to be Done
I’d be lying if I said wasn’t surprised at the disparity in the allocation of resources in South Africa and the existing racial divide. I knew about apartheid but I have to admit that I was a bit clueless about the extent of the wounds that remain unhealed. I read the news and I knew about the corruption in leadership but still, I missed something. None of the blog or Instagram posts I read in preparing for this trip called this out explicitly. I was surprised to find black Africans holding 95% of lower-skilled jobs in the interactions I had. Every janitor, security guard, driver, and housekeeper that I interacted with was Black.
I know the government is making efforts to reallocate resources, and level the playing field but it will take time. There has to be compromise, sacrifice, and forgiveness on all sides. Since I’ve been back, I’ve paid attention more than ever before, but I’ve also shared a rounded view of my experience because awareness is the first step.

What next, you may ask? Maybe consider being intentional about supporting one or two black/minority owned business when next you’re in South Africa. There’s so much beauty and potential here, I remain hopeful for all of South Africa.

In Zimbabwe, I connected with well-educated young man who has big dreams, but could not get a job in his field.

Travelling within Africa is still expensive, I was almost discouraged in trying to get to Zimbabwe but I was committed to the cause, so I drank garri to make it happen. We need more low-cost carriers if we want our people to explore our continent. South Africa and East Africa have a few of these, but West Africa continues to struggle here. I hear there’s a new one coming to Nigeria soon and I’ve got my fingers crossed. Until then, can you blame anyone for going to Europe when the airfare is cheaper, comparatively?

Best Trip Ever!
I’ve been blessed to travel to over 40 countries, all on my Nigerian passport. Each trip is unique and special in its own way so I usually decline requests to pick a favorite. After all, these experiences are subjective. I’ll share most adventurous, my travel mishaps (and there are several of those), best food, best value for money etc. However, without a doubt this trip was my best one to date because of the sum of my experiences.

I accepted the warmth of strangers, and was denied entry into Zambia for no reason. I sat on the edge of ‘the smoke that thunders’ -Victoria falls -and felt small in the best way possible. I drove/biked the Cape Peninsula and watched the sunset on Table Mountain. I sat at a long wooden table and ate with strangers at a market in Johannesburg. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I learned a lot about the countries I visited (history and current affairs). I had a few aha moments as it dawned on me that there’s more to a Safari than seeing animals (that’s pretty great in itself). I danced to Sega in Mauritius, and I sipped on a colorful drink with an umbrella on it as I looked out onto the Indian Ocean.

This is Africa, our diverse stories are rich, and I have no doubt that despite our struggles, God’s hands are on this land! This is Africa, and you have to see it for yourself! For more stories on each stop on my trip, hop on over to my blog! I can’t wait until the next adventure and I hope you’ll come along!

In the spirit of Christmas and adventure, look out for a no-strings attached travel giveaway (to a destination on the African continent) on Instagram this December on @wellwornheels and @kemionabanjo. May the odds be in your favour!

Dee Olateru is a Nigerian girl with a love for a wicked pair of heels and travelling. She’s been to over 30 countries with her Nigerian passport and has no plans to stop. She shares tips, stories, and images from her travels on her blog in the hopes of inspiring others to travel. She blogs at www.wellwornheels.com Instagram handle: @wellwornheels

18 Comments

  1. Titi

    December 1, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Lovely piece

    • Dee

      December 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Jane Nneoma C.

    December 1, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Awwwww….
    That’s a great experience you’ve have got. 30 countries and counting. If there’s ever a slot for one more stranger, I am available to travel to anywhere for the stories and tales. lol

    • Dee

      December 1, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      Thank you Jane, it was a great experience. New travel buddies are always welcome 😉

  3. Mz Socially Awkward....

    December 1, 2017 at 11:09 am

    Dee! Insert happy beam.

    Waka waka woman…. &I could almost feel your experience of the trip. Nicely done, I haven’t explored a lot of Africa yet (not been to anywhere in the south at all) and agree with you on the cost. Often times, it’s far cheaper to book a trip to places as far away as south-east Asia (including flights, accommodation and holiday spending money) than it is to book one to places you might want to visit closer to home.

    However, I’m hoping to change that next year. From my mouth to God’s Ears.

    Plus “we” didn’t know you blogged but “we” are now on it. 😀

    • Dee

      December 1, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Mz SA!!! Now I know who you are, thanks to a little birdie 🙂 . We blog o but we’ve been shy about it, but we are coming out!. Amen to seeing more of Africa, God has heard your prayers. I too have carried this matter on my head!

      Yes, the cost is something else so I’m holding out for that low-cost airline I hear is coming to our area! Thank you thank you for stopping by!!

  4. Engoz

    December 1, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Been looking for a vacation destination (can’t make up my mind at the moment) and at the same time trying to avoid the obviously overpopularized Nigerian vacation spots like Dubai or Capetown.???? your article is swaying me to Capetown, Still fighting it.?

    • Dee

      December 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Honestly, I was skeptical about Cape Town until I went and saw for myself! DO itttt!!!

  5. That African Chic

    December 1, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Great article! Cape Town is a beauty. Did you watch the sunset at Chapmans drive? Absolutely breathtaking and unbelievable. But yeah one BIG problem about Cape Town is the disparity in wealth. You go to the nice areas with outstanding houses (the architecture is wow, and the views are to die for) and it is mostly owned by whites. The blacks you see in these areas are probably working menial jobs. Then then you drive to the townships and what a contrast!! Is it even zinc or aluminium tiny houses with no windows. It’s a bit confusing.
    At most of the nice places I went (my hotel, restaurants etc), I was most of the time the only black person. Any other black person would have been in uniform serving. It was a strange feeling, since I was in AFRICA. South Africa is a beautiful country, blessed with resources and diversity. Like you mentioned I still have hope for them.. Their country is too beautiful and RICH,and they do have everything. NO one should be living the way I saw black people live in Cape Town. It’s just not right.
    If I could afford it I would wed in Cape Town. I visited a winery in Stellenbosch (i believe about 45 mins from CT). And it was just so peaceful. The wine yards, the montains, the weather, when I think of beauty Cape Town comes to mind.

    • Dee

      December 2, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Thank you!!! Yes, I watched the sunset at Chapmans, and I agree with you. I want more of my family and friends to visit for all the reasons, To see the beauty but also the disparities which are stark in Cape Town but also visible in other parts of South Africa. You’ve said it all and I couldn’t agree more!!1 Thanks for lending your voice to share your experience and all that you saw/observed.

      Amen to a Stellenbosch wedding, let us come and crash!

  6. Ajala & Foodie

    December 1, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    You know I love this piece. It is time we (Africans) begin telling our stories. We have heard our stories told time and time again by the West, from the perspective of those who do not know about our past and struggles. Thank you for taking the time out to listen, and share your experience on this trip with us. This is truly Africa.

    As per the travel giveaway, is this for anyone, anywhere in the world or for those only based in Nigeria. P.s: Don’t tell me I don’t qualify o!!!

    • Dee

      December 2, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Ajala & Foodie of life! Thank you and here’s to more of us telling our stories! The giveaway is best for those based in Nigeria as the flight departs from there.

  7. Bee

    December 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I am really excited about an upcoming trip to Capetown for a friend’s wedding. And by the way, does anyone here know a makeup artiste in Capetown? Thanks.

    • Dee

      December 2, 2017 at 8:55 am

      You’re welcome Bee, have a great time at the wedding. I don’t know a MUA but hopefully someone here does, otherwise search on instagram with the right hashtags.. like #capetownmua for example. All the best!

  8. Akpeno

    December 1, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Una still dey go SA… OK O

    • Dee

      December 2, 2017 at 8:54 am

      🙂 Akpeno… share more?

  9. Bob Jusu

    December 2, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Been all three countries and your piece just reinvigorated the memories. We pray that things only get better so we can enjoy the best of the continent. So much treasure in Africa that are unseen. Thanks for this.

    • Dee

      December 2, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Thanks Bob, I’m glad this brought back good memories. Amen and amen to your prayers, I want to enjoy this continent in my life time, not just the next generation 🙂

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