Showing Their Strength

Reflecting South African optimism

South Africa is a land struggling with hangovers. Apartheid and racism ripped the country apart just a few decades ago, now, as Mandela’s infectious optimism may be less present, South Africans are left to keep the flames of reconciliation and progress alive. Likewise, the World Cup was a source of pride and unification, but now as clean up is completed, all South Africans are faced with keeping that same level of energy and focus on improvement without the World’s direct attention.

Reis and new friends in a township

Even in the face of these hangovers, South Africans smile. We visited informal settlements and townships in Cape Town where people proudly invited us into their very humble shelters. As our guide Thando told us “we are not looking at their poverty, we are looking at their strength.” We saw smiles in District Six where blacks were forcibly removed from their homes, we were invited to a beautiful school where boys study and play rugby, we had an inspiring and enlightening breakfast with Colin Eglin – one of the leaders of the liberal opposition against apartheid, we walked among animals, saw Mandela’s cell on Robben Island and marveled at the natural beauty of the Greater Cape region.

None of this was as indelible as our last day in Johannesburg where we spent the entire afternoon in the Apartheid Museum. Atrocities of this kind have always felt so far away. After seeing the exhibits and watching brutally graphic videos, I was struck by how blind I was to all of this even though it was happening while I was in college and the years after.

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3 Responses to “Showing Their Strength”

  1. What an amazing experience. The pics are great. You’re right, we all forget about the atrocities of Apartheid. Nice that you guys are helping us remember. Thanks for sharing. Best, Tony

  2. Maribeth Sanabria 01. Sep, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Just saw Phyllis today (1st day of school), and got the update on your Greece stop. Dana-need to keep a copy of this bikini pic for the next round of Survivor applications! I want to read the book your family needs to write when you return from this year. Love following your blog.

  3. FYI, My cousin, Carolyn, showed to her sister, the librarian, in Houston, Texas. Now, an entire middle school is following your journey. It is really amazing how many people you are touching, influencing and captivating through your amazing experiences! Keep writing! Phyllis