Meet Ntsikohlanga Kitsili, a.k.a. "Ntsika". He's a 23-year-old college student in South Africa, visiting the U.S. on a cultural excursion. The TMM crew was glad to have him hang out with us for a few days just before returning home. He's a thoughtful guy with lots of perspective. Ntsika definitely deserves a formal introduction. So, here goes:
Ntsika, what brings you to the U.S., and to Washington, D.C.?
I was invited by D.C.'s St. Columba's Episcopal Church to come over to the U.S. and share my cultural experiences, and also gain journalistic experiences in Washington, D.C., as a journalism student.
Is this your first trip to the States? What is your impression?
Yes, this is my first trip to the States. I think the U.S. (Washington, D.C.) is the most well-planned, beautiful and diverse city I have ever been to. I like its sense of tranquility, and the fact that it is a nice, laid-back city.
You've been here now for two months. Much of your time was spent as a cultural ambassador, of sorts, speaking with school and community groups about your own life experiences and perspectives as a South African. Is there anyone you've met here whose life experience has particularly inspired you?
Ray Suarez, a reporter for (PBS' ) The Newshour. He is well-read, well-traveled and very funny, too. I stayed with him and his family for two weeks and got an opportunity to observe him in his work. He is just an amazing person to watch and also to speak to. We spoke a lot about the work he has done in South Africa as a journalist and his impression of South Africa.
He is a great person and his stories and experiences inspired me to continue seeking for opportunities that will help me to be a good journalist, and to remember that I owe it to my community to speak for them.
You are a journalism student at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. How and when did you become interested in telling the stories of others?
I became interested in journalism in high school, back in 2001. A group of journalism students from Rhodes University came to our high school to help us establish our newsletter. From that experience, I thought journalism would be something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The other reason: I wanted to be a mouthpiece for the muted, both politically and socially.
A little more than a week ago Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States. South Africa, in ways not so different than this country, has a conflicted history with justice and equality, infamously marked by years of apartheid. Has your visit to the U.S. made you think any differently about the continued fight for equality at home?
Oh, definitely. I was very encouraged to write stories and articles that would challenge the government about the great inequality back home that still exists, especially regarding the education black South Africans receive, compared to that of white South Africans.
What do you think you'll miss most about the States?
Going to the museums in D.C. for free, beautiful sites, food, and nightlife.
... And, the least?
I can't think of anything.
When we first met a few weeks ago, you had a tough time finding recreation and fun, particularly at night, in D.C. People here can be pretty uptight, until they just ... aren't. Curious, what ever came of your "nightlife explorations"? Find any real fun?
I definitely had great fun when I went out with my friends, but it was not the same as going out back home. I was not familiar with the environment, and was very uncomfortable sometimes.
You're on track to graduate soon. What's next?
I hope to come back to the U.S. to do an internship with any media company that will take me. "Plan B" is to continue with my studies. I'm thinking of pursuing a teaching diploma, as I enjoy teaching so much.
It was shocking to discover that the U.S. is still confronted with issues being faced by many developing countries. One would never think that a country like America, which has enforced its ideas of democracy in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, still practices customs that do not recognize a human right to life. States like Virginia still carry the [death] sentence. That is just appalling (to me).
I was also astounded and shocked to discover that there are areas here still segregated racially, and that there are areas where the quality of education is so poor. It is scary because education is the most important tool to develop people and a country.
But I definitely feel like things will change for the better. I'm sure the whole world is looking at America with hopeful eyes.