A Night at Lotus Park

By Jessica Burkard — Unique experiences are never in short supply on this adventure I am having in South Africa.

That being said, there are nights like tonight where I find myself in shock and awe. This evening the group went to a dinner at Lotus Park, which is located in the township Gugulethu.

Before I go into talking about our amazing evening, I think it’s probably a good idea to establish what exactly this means. Essentially, a township refers to residential area where non-white individuals live, and in South Africa, these townships are very poor. To add more background, Lotus Park is specifically an informal settlement, which is comprised of slums.

Prior to our arrival, we were all under the impression that we would be eating a low-key dinner with about ten other people. However, within about fifteen minutes of getting there, a group of children, teenagers, and adults came towards us singing and dancing. Some were dressed in traditional clothing and others were not, but it was perhaps one of the warmest and most enthusiastic greetings I have ever received. Men and women came up to each of us to shake our hands, and give us hugs.

In such a place as this, most people would expect a somber feeling to be in the air, but there was so much light, color, and vibrancy emanating through the individuals and the settlement itself.

During our time at Lotus Park, we watched the children dance with such a natural rhythm, and then had the opportunity to eat traditional, home cooked African food. In the spirit of things, I tried everything at the table, which included lung, intestines, and sheep’s head.

I can only imagine the number of cringes I just received with that last sentences, but if there is anything I have learned here, it’s to give it your all and try everything. I encourage everyone to take a little of that philosophy with you when entering any daunting experience. Doing so leads to the best kinds of experiences, like the one I had in Lotus Park, and it’s one that I will never forget.

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