Ryan Akiba and his shipmates aboard the Semester at Sea boat just called at their fifth port in their voyage, spending some quality time in South Africa.
Akiba saw both the lavish parts of Cape Town and the destitute living conditions just 10 minutes away.
“Within a five minute walk of the ship there existed a grandiose mall and renowned restaurants,” Akiba wrote in an email. “(But) a drive no more than 10 minutes revealed a very different and unsettling existence in South Africa.”
People lived on less than $5 a day in what Akiba described as “small, metal boxes” in townships just outside the popular tourist city.
“The harrowing truth of Cape Town is that within a few miles there exists the difference between a store selling designer bags for over $1,000 and people living on less than one percent of that every day,” Akiba wrote.
Akiba first arrived in South Africa after spending an extra day at sea because of unexpected rough waves. When Akiba and his shipmates finally did set foot on South African soil, the headed to a nearby mall, smaller yet similar to South Coast Plaza, Akiba wrote.
It was comforting, he added, that after weeks of seeing cities and countries that were so visually and culturally different than what he is used to in the U.S., to see that Cape Town was somewhat similar, superficially at least, to his home country.
But when he reflects on his time in South Africa, the difference between Cape Town and nearby communities weighs heavily on his mind.
“The overtly apparent and omnipresent distribution of wealth and inequality came to dominate my thoughts when remembering South Africa,” Akiba wrote. “It left me with a feeling of personal insecurity regarding my own somewhat “wealthy” upbringing and a rather enlightened need for further perusal of equality.”
See photos from his visit to South Africa here.