Vail Daily column: Adventure abroad helps set path for future
Ryan Summerlin February 13, 2013
Devon Abbott graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2008 and went on to attend the University of Colorado . Abbott graduated in May 2012 she majored in sociology, minored in women’s studies and received a certificate for peace and conflict studies. I have known Devon for a very long time we played volleyball together in high school and played for the same club in Denver. We were both on the 2006 Battle Mountain state championship volleyball team together. We share a lot of great memories and special moments together, some that have been our proudest accomplishments. Abbott’s experience in Cape Town is definitely an achievement she can add to one of her proudest moments. I know I am extremely proud of her and have enjoyed learning about this opportunity she took on in South Africa. I hope you all appreciate this story as much as I did.
– Britney Brown
I graduated college this past May with great fear and hesitation. The winter before was torturous explaining to my parents, and their friends at Christmas parties, that I in fact have no idea what I want to do for my life and even let alone the next few months. Why did I go to Cape Town? I was more afraid of what it meant to be an unemployed unsuccessful 20-something than to fly over to South Africa alone. The experience was more rewarding than I deserved and returned with a full heart and openness to the future.
I worked for the Commission on Gender Equality. It was staffed with five other employees all with different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and genders. The commission was created in 1994 with the new constitution that complemented the end of the apartheid. It is one of the most progressive, liberal and inclusive political documents in the world. Implementing it to its potential is where the struggle begins. The commission was created as a watchdog that would ideally have power over parliament to make sure gender inequality was addressed in every bill that passed. Along with our constituents, we were continually marginalized by parliament and often our presence ignored in litigation. The budget was regularly cut and inspiration decreased with it. Yet I was reminded of the power of perseverance, the importance of the cause, and the social context we were working within.
Time became a little more flexible and indulgences lost their guilt. Cape Town’s laid-back attitude was difficult to adapt. I was unquestionably the fastest walker in the entire city; lunch hour was from noon to one and you cannot expect anyone to answer to phones between those hours. Internet was a rare commodity and most businesses had never even heard of wi-fi. Getting things done at a fast pace was near impossible, and seemed to bother no one but me. I had to surrender to the slow pace and see the beauty in taking my time.
I was graced with incredible friendships of some locals. A group of individuals with spirits so high, dreams so big, and loyalty so strong I often laughed at their optimism. Fresh off a social revolution where much work still needs to be done, these people, who proudly identify as coloured, were the budding middle class of South Africa. The racial disparities in Cape Town remain as a powerful reminder of the past. The black African population resides in ghettos outside of the city known as townships. Some buildings have running water and electricity; some are put together with scrap metal. My friends found immeasurable worth in helping others who were less fortunate, fighting for what is right like their precious Mandela.
I returned to the inevitable move back into my parent’s basement. Although at this year’s Christmas parties I had similar inability to answer questions of my future, I found it an invitation for adventure and no longer an invitation to failure. I now accept the power as well as the challenge of defining who I am and what I want for me and my America.