Post by Zak Barry, Class of 2014
Over the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to befriend a family who lives in a shack at the end of our street. Beside the fact that the lot is kept vacant because it used to be a cemetery, this rolling green hill is prime real estate in the vibrant Bo-Kaap neighborhood overlooking Cape Town’s city bowl, nestled underneath the iconic Table Mountain. In the summer months it is a camper’s paradise, but amidst the winter’s howling wind and rain there is nothing but each other’s company to keep warm. Around a small fire stories were shared with me through the eyes that have resided on that property for 28 years, witness of the transformation of the Apartheid system into what it is today. After a night of singing Afrikaans songs and dancing around the fire, I felt moved to give something back.
Sitting on the dirt, squinting my watery smoke filled eyes, I was clothed with the smell of burning wood, which triggered memories of being at home… roasting S’mores! Excited to share a favorite childhood pastime, I was determined to gather all of the supplies for the following day. Have you ever tried to describe a marshmallow to someone who has never had one? Neither had I. A few grocery stores later, I was equipped with the necessary supplies and on my way to my first S’more demonstration.
The adults watched me curiously as I roasted the white, corn starch coated, cylindrical glob of gelatin over the fire. No one joined me except the youngest daughter Cheride. John told me that his wife did not eat sweets because she only has a few teeth. Anna said her husband Moses was a sugar diabetic and it wouldn’t be a good idea. John’s wife asked me if I had brought any Chicken to Braai (South African word for BBQ). They looked hungry, but not for S’mores.
Although they all loved S’mores by the end of the night, I quickly understood why I was not met with the same level of excitement I had expected. My imagined idea of what would be a pleasurable treat for them was merely a projection of my own idea of a “pleasurable treat”. Stuck in my small illusion of reality, I had given little to no thought about what is valued from the South African perspective. A wise man once told me, “In a world where content is king, context is GOD.” As a student who aspires to become a social entrepreneur on a global scale, I realized how important it is to make a conscious and mindful consideration of the setting when conducting business. This lesson will stick with me through the rest of my years at Babson and beyond the bounds of my career because it can be applied to many avenues of life.