Here in South Africa, we live on the fourth floor of a concrete apartment building surrounded by razor wire and electric fences. To be fair, most of South Africa lives behind similar fences and it is unusual to see a home not heavily protected. Since arriving six weeks ago, we have witnessed crushing poverty and oppression, have been approached by beggars many times, and been crammed onto the third class cars in trains with little room to breath, and yet we have not experienced crime. We have not seen any reason for the fear that must clearly exist for people to go to such extreme lengths to protect themselves. When we ask the residents here about it, most of them talk of a history of violence, and take steps to protect themselves such as placing their purses at their feet as they drive, but we don’t hear of recent issues. It is hard to erase fear from our memories though.
With recent terrorism attacks in Paris, we found ourselves talking about 9/11. About the fear of not knowing what would happen and whether we were safe. And of the support of friends and strangers as we went through that terrible time in NYC.
As we travel around the world, we hope to make smart choices about where to stop. We check the US State Dept. website for visitor warnings and give their recommendations due consideration, and follow a variety of news sources, but we decided early on that we were not going to make our decisions based on fear. After Namibia, our next stop will be Morocco, an Islamic country. We are preparing for the visit by learning Arabic and French so that we can communicate in their languages. We will try to be respectful of their beliefs and will try to see the world through their eyes.
As we travel through Europe this spring, we hope to visit with our friends in Paris, and make new friends in other countries, and not be afraid of what might happen. Our friends in the States read of rioting in Cape Town and are afraid for us (we found out about the rioting from the same media sources that they did). We read of reports of civil unrest in Greece, and yet still want to see that beautiful country.
Terror attacks are intended to make us afraid and if we let that happen, they have won. Nearly every country in the world has been touched by terrorism and we hope that by spreading understanding and acceptance, and teaching this to our children, we can change the future. How has fear shaped your choices?