By now, you are well aware that I love the outdoors. If not, welcome to my blog. In this post, I would like to highlight how hiking is like moving mountains for a millennial hustling on the university. It turns out that the crunching sound and whistling noise of the Cape Doctor puts many minds at rest. But, it is not always readily available as we think.
This is just one take on how the cost to something at the foot of your campus can mean the value of your safety, time and friendship. This is a reflective piece on how access to something as clear-cut as a mountain, a walk in the park and sometimes just wine tasting requires the person to step outside their comfort zone and walk with others on edge.
I am a Matie. To those who do not know, it means that I have registered, paid my fees and graduated from Stellenbosch University. I am a product of Stellenbosch University. I am what you can say a product of the good, the bad and the ugly. As a result, I know what it is like to be isolated because of race, religion and ideological beliefs. I am also privileged to be one of many matriculants awarded an opportunity to study because of the recruitment bursary.
That said, I have also become more of myself because of this institution. I have come to embrace nature as it was on my doorstep. To commemorate #Internationalmountainday, I would like to acknowledge that because of Stellenbosch University, ENSTB and a small group in the heart of Stellenbosch, I was able to forge a relationship with people from different racial groups, walks of life, sexual orientations, religions and age groups.
Stellenbosch University is seated at the foot of Coetzenberg Mountains. Yet, many students are unable to join hiking societies such as BTK, i.e. Berg Toer en Klim on campus. Yes, it is readily available for students. It is really cheap to join society. I won’t say that they exclude students. Never. I do not know the history of the organization. But, that small fee was too much when you have class from 8: 00 until 17:00.
Then again, the cost of the hiking society was too much when you had to take care of your family members on weekends. The small cost of joining society was too much as they asked you to bring along things which you just could not afford at the time. So, you opt out. You excuse yourself. You forget that these societies exist on campus.
People say you don’t speak about it all the time. You might tell me. Why, Gabby? Why remind us of things that students don’t complain about. We do not speak about it. Why make an issue of it? It’s just a field trip. It’s just a hike. You should be studying after all. Well, I would like to draw your attention to a small thing that can exclude someone just because it is impossible to include on your small student budget.
The reality is that when you study a BSc or take on additional modules to count for your HERMIS. You do not have time to do the things that most people do.
I should perhaps remain quiet about it. But, the reality is that you wait until vacation or the end of the semester to actually hike. But, then. With who can you hike? You cannot hike with members of your community. Because, you left your Coloured community to study in a different town, a different city. So, who are they to you to ask the neighbors. They are not your hiking buddies.
So, you wait. You wait until someone from campus invite you on a walk to Jonkerhoek or Lions Head, Table Mountain, Scarborough, Kirstenbosch, and Tygerberg Hills. You are reminded by your community that remembers those are “white” people or scouts things.
How did I come to terms with a narrative that hiking is for a particular group of people? How did I shift my thinking against a voice that said it is never safe for women in South Africa to walk alone in Rhode Memorial site? How did I shift my thinking and actions about walking and running in the hills and valleys of my beautiful motherland?
And, yes. It was a mental shift. It was moving from rock bottom. I had to shift my thoughts from chances are that I will be mugged in Cape Town. I had to change my thinking that it would be safer to be among men than women when I am out in the mountains. But, it had to start with accepting the invitation.
Trevor Noah jokes that “Black” people in the generic sense of the term do not do what “White” people want to do in fear of being reminded of poverty. They will not camp in a shack or the outdoors because it tells them of their past. Well, I would like to add to his comment that millennials hustling on university or jobs do not participate in extracurricular activities similar to their wealthier colleagues or classmates are because they are pushing. You are given a choice, and then you renegotiate the terms of participating in social activities.
Things changed for me the moment I left my bubble. I had to shift the thinking, and the narrative perpetuated by my community which I was raised in that things were off limits to me. Apartheid is over. But, the descriptions of exclusion still exists within our communities. It is subtle and pervasive. It might not come from your parents. But, you hear it from friends and family.
It took me a while, but over time, I came to realize that there are beautiful things that you are at liberty to enjoy. Yes, you are hustling to finish a degree. Yes, you are working two jobs. Yes, your parents took a loan to help you through private schooling. But, you are at liberty to live. You are at liberty to walk with the people that appear to make it on varsity.
Samantha, Precious and I started a friendship in the darkest time of our lives. We knew each other as acquaintances in church, and in class. We honestly got to know each other when we walked down the lanes of Stellenbosch. We truly learned from one another when we walked along the coast for hours on end. And, the pounding of our feet, the swaying of our arms and the beats of your hearts knew no age, race or color.
A hiking buddy knows the importance of walking with you. I hope that like many before and many to come in my life. People will realize that hiking is genuinely an act that not everyone can take. It appears that it is readily available to all. But, it’s not.
International Mountains Day commemorate the key hiking trails and mountains across the world. I would like to highlight that it will take a mental shift to have everyone enjoy the beauty of hiking, walking or sitting in the mountains. It is not as readily available to everyone as we post online. So, when you can afford it, feel safe to do it or have the opportunity to invite a student or colleague…just do it.
Invite the person who is hustling or worked themselves to the bone. You never know if you are moving mountains for them. Feel free to post comments on how you have assisted a millennial or colleague hustling this year. How have you moved a mountain for someone?