Tuesday, June 17, 2008

South Africa, Zimbabwe, apartheid and me

So here I am on the second leg of a long ass trip.

You can officially call it long ass when you are traveling for two days on a plane. .. and have to change clothes at least once. Well, that was the situation I was in. I was headed to South Africa for a special project with my students from Arizona State University. these are some very special and talented students who are headed to South Africa as part of a Warren Buffett grant to study the refugee crisis in that country.

Now, to say we were a bit apprehensive is no exaggeration. There had been some very intense, ugly violence during the past month. As a matter of fact, we were close to cancelling the trip, but things calmed down enough for us to keep to our plans.

I have always wanted to travel to South Africa. I was always repulsed by the apartheid movement, and was truly touched by the strong people in that country who fought for their freedom and basic rights, especially the women who put their lives on the line for a moment that would allow everyone to live their lives as free people.

I was excited when I got word that I had been approved to go on the trip as one of the faculty members. After years of waiting and wishing, my moment had come, my chance to actually smell, touch and feel this land that had claimed so many lives. A chance to finally experience the New South Africa.

After stopping over in London for six hours before beginning the next leg to Johannesburg, I have to admit that I was afraid the trip would not live up to all my expectations. But, then more than ten hours into the flight, after my fourth movie, unable to sleep, I took a look out the window, and realized I was being blessed. While most everyone else on the plan was still firmly in the grasp of sleep, I was being treated to a show.

It was that moment when night is not quite ready to give in to day, when you are sort of looking out over the horizon and it curves a little between black, grey, shocking blue and bright hot red orange. It was truly an amazing moment. I felt like this sunrise symbolized everything about South Africa, the darkness of the apartheid years, and the bright hopes people have here for their future. I know, a little hokey, but that's how I feel.

This country right now is going through some challenges, but the millions living in South Africa also are not willing to continue a slide backwards, and relive that dark past.

As this new day was beginning, I realized is was about to finally step onto the blood red dirt of South Africa. I am ready!

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