Eat, Braai, Love
This blog post was written by Education Abroad Peer Advisor, Danielle Cataldo ’17…
“What did you just say?” was the first phrase that came to mind when a local friend approached me and asked if I was going to the braai later on that night. In that moment I went through numerous options as to what a “braai” could be: a restaurant, a place downtown Rondebosch, a club, a sports game, etc. What did not come to mind was a barbeque. Not just the type of American barbeque where people cook hamburgers and hotdogs, but a South African braai with friends, irresistible boerewors (spicy sausages), and air filled with only laughter and music. I chose to study abroad in Cape Town to leave my cultural comfort zone, which is exactly what happened at every braai I attended. I was fortunate enough to be in Cape Town on Braai Day, a national holiday where everyone celebrated their heritage and forgot about any political controversies or hardships in their lives to focus on what matters the most in life: appreciating family and friends.
While you may wonder how obvious this life lesson is, it was hard for me to accept. To imagine one day or even one event where people only emphasize the positive happenings in their lives despite how many challenges have been thrown at them (and let me tell you, South African people have not had it easy) is astounding. From birthday celebrations to a lazy Tuesday afternoon, locals would find any reason they could for a braai and I was extremely grateful they “dragged me along” with them. People were welcoming on first encounters, willing to share when they barely had any food, and enthusiastic to tell me personal stories as I questioned differences between my home environment of Boston, MA and my new placement in Mowbray, South Africa. Braais with my club volleyball and club yacht teams, my housemates and my classmates each taught me to love outsiders without hesitation or judgment; however, it took me about half the semester to leave my cozy comfort zone and speak with new people.
In Boston we do not normally give strangers the benefit of the doubt when we first meet even if we are introduced through a mutual friend. What a braai represents for me is the chance to give and receive love in an appreciative manner; additionally, this culture consists of reminding myself to love in unexpected places, to support others in all endeavors (including learning how to braai), and to absorb as much as possible from everyone I meet. It humbles me knowing these random people I only spent a semester with turned into my family who still supports me from halfway across the world and teaches me the power of appreciation when I forget how lucky I have it. Whether it is a reminder by message or only a memory running through my head, I will carry the blessing of gratitude with me in my future business endeavors and travel adventures. Eat, braai, and love with all your heart as we will soon be the leaders of this world and we need to encourage an environment of thankfulness for others and their cultures to truly be the best we can be.