Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gotta wear shades...

Well it was couldn't possibly rain the entire time. Today (Thursday) it has been bright and sunny all day. Yesterday, we were scheduled to go to Robben Island, and that got canceled because of the rain. I don't think I realized how much stuff there is to try and manage on these kinds of trips. Call the bus driver, call the travel agent, call the airlines for missing luggage, fix the broken cell phone, reschedule activities, etc. I thought I was going to be teaching...

Our Robben Island trip was rained out yesterday so we all went in our separate directions and hoped that at some point, the rain would stop. I saw headlines in the paper about flooding and that towns were cut off because of flooding on the roads. My first thought, of course, was not "oh how terrible" but "please don't let that be the route we are taking for our all-day tour on Friday" (it's not). However, I did have a very interesting meeting with a woman from Hope Worldwide who arranges the service activities they host...she gave me some good ideas to think about for bringing students back to engage in some volunteer service activities.

And then...we went to an African game restaurant for dinner. Those of you who know me will know just how astonishing it is that I ate a kebab of ostrich, kudu, and eland (I'm pretty sure the last two are part of the antelope family of animals). I also tried warthog and oxtail. Honestly, there was not a significant difference in taste since they were all marinated in the same spices, but the texture was slightly different. And all delicious. Kim had an ostrich steak. We went with 10 students, and only two ordered chicken!

I'm quickly learning that South Africa is quite a mixture of fun and interesting (e.g., the game dinner) and gut-wrenching. Today we rescheduled our trip to Robben Island - the "home" of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners during apartheid (the cell below is where Mandela spent 18 years of his imprisonment). We had a 45 minute boat ride across the bay that gave motion sickness to the strongest stomachs among us. We then took a driving tour around the island and they pointed out the limestone quarry where the prisoners did hard labor. They had no use for the limestone that was being dug, so for 8-hours a day, 5-days a week they would put the limestone in piles and then move the piles from one end to the quarry to the other, or build useless roads on the island, as Mandela said "roads to nowhere". We had a former political prisoner give us the prison tour (the second photo), and he gave a very powerful presentation of the daily life and torture he experienced - beginning at the age of 16. He also gave a poignant and inspiring speech about the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in building a future for SA. The tensions, however, are all still very alive to listen to the stories of the students who have had the chance to go out and meet some local folks.

Kim and I are preparing to go around the mountain to Camps Bay to watch the sunset and have dinner tonight. Totsiens! (Bye in Afrikaans).

1 comment:

Susan said...

Oh, Di,

Thinking about all that you are seeing-- I'm trying not to think about all that you are eating, though clearly you have come a long way from Wisconsin beef stroganoff and jiffy cheescake-- all the history, the poverty, the continuing struggles of race-- is moving.

Reconciliation. Forgiveness. . .
Such powerful ideas.

Thanks for taking time to share ALL of it with us.

I am proud for you that you and your group are there, truly there, and not just as another group of American tourists.