Friday, January 10, 2014

"So how was your trip?"

I am still at a loss as to how to share the trip with anyone....

I have thousands of photos to bore you to death with and really although people ask "How was your trip?" they mostly want a one sentence answer.....which is impossible for me....

Of course there are those who care to know more, who ask deep and thoughtful questions.... but even for them there is only so much they want to hear.

I totally get that.

It was our trip.  It means the most to us.

I will use photos in many of my Wordless Wednesdays over the next few months - I took a few sets of shots with that in mind.

I will also post some albums on my FaceBook page as I get the editing done.

And I will write here about some things.

As the first week of being home comes to a close, the most common question or observation from people has been about what it was like to be in South Africa for the celebration of Nelson Mandelas life and his memorial and funeral.

 It was, of course, incredible to be in the country at such an historic moment not just in its own history but really in the history of the world as was clear from the international presence at the events.

While I had wondered how the country would react it was clear from the moment of getting off the plane in Cape Town that the country was going to celebrate the father of their nation.....their esteemed leader.  His death was no surprise, no shock (some might say it was perfectly timed) so the country and the world were ready.

There was a somberness at times but for the most part people of every colour united in their out pouring of love and sentiment for Madiba.

It was inescapable, at times a bit overwhelming, every shop, every restaurant, every building had photos and posters, there were street banners, TV screens full of his image, even the ATM screens at the bank.  All monuments or important places (like Parliament and the Capture site) had flowers and flags and tributes around them.  Official books of condolence were set up for people to sign (and signing it was an emotional moment for me and one I am grateful to have had) Although we didn't watch any TV, the newspapers and the radio had nothing but Mandela clips and interviews and tributes..... literally nothing else on any radio station.

All the flags were at half mast.

On our second day there we had a pre-booked tour of Robben Island - the place of his incarceration for so many years.  It would have been a poignant visit on any day but to be there with all that national emotion only amplified the moments we spent there.  To see the single candle lit in his cell and to walk from the cell block to the ocean, the walk all prisoners took when leaving the island .... brought tears....and that visit is on all our highlight could hardly be otherwise.

And so we felt caught up in the emotion, the celebration of the life of a remarkable man.  A man who changed history.  We watched some of the funeral on TV as we were leaving our bed and breakfast in Barrydale and listened to the rest on the radio as we drove through the desert....wide open roads under hot African skies....and for me the tears came again.

I think South Africa did a wonderful job of coming together and remembering and celebrating and paying tribute to Mandela.  For a while, like during the world cup rugby and the world cup soccer  - South Africans were South Africans....united in their love for Tata.

So, yes, I am grateful to have been in that time and place for this event...I will never forget it or him, the man, the freedom fighter, the forgiver, the father of democracy, the intelligent and reasonable leader, the pragmatist and the peacemaker.

What I wish is for the current leaders to listen to their own words of tribute and those of others who paid tribute and live up to those words, to lead South Africa with integrity and to inspire the nation and bring unity as Nelson Mandela did......that would be a true tribute to a remarkable man.

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