Timothy Lewis '08
Stories have always been a kind of fuel in my life. When I was young, I was fascinated by stories about superheroes. Dinnertime at my house lasted as long as three hours, each of us sharing what had happened in our day in the most dramatic fashion possible. Stories and their impact on our lives and culture - this is what directed me to study communications and media at Gordon.
Much of my interest in the South Africa Seminar was the rumor of its story: a mosaic of cultures, languages and religions coexisting in the shadow of a history that divided and destroyed human lives. Having returned from six weeks in South Africa, I can now say there is no rumor, rather a reality. It is simultaneously beautiful and ugly, peaceful and agitated, easy and difficult. My experience reflects that. I was the recipient of warm hospitality and the victIm of a city street mugging. Through my internship with the South African Council of Churches, I sat in on parliamentary hearings on the welfare of the elderly and the state of correctional facilities On safari, our group had a Jurassic Park-like experience with an angst-ridden, vision-impaired teenage elephant. I experienced a challenging group dynamic, yet very rewarding friendships. And maybe most difficult of all, I experienced beautiful people living in both poverty and disease and flourishing wealth, all within the context of a remarkably impressive landscape.
I'd like to offer some words on what I learned while I was there. I'd like to prescribe some wisdom that the program or the country had to offer, but I'm afraid I'm unable. I returned from Africa to a Federal disaster zone, my home ruined by what has been described as a "500-year flood." The immediacy of this situation sets my South African story aside; a box to place down and unpack another time. I trust that God will provide the most appropriate time to explore the stories that he has placed in that box.
On one of our first days in Cape Town, we visited St. George's Cathedral. There we walked the labyrinth on the cathedral grounds. The time meant different things to different people, but it was a reminder to us that we move throughout our lives near and far from the heart of God, sometimes not knowing where the heart of God is--but it is a journey worth pursuing.
This is the first structure built by the Dutch upon their arrival on the continent of Africa--an armed castle to establish their authority and keep the original inhabitants at bay. The castle was the headquarters for the South African Army, but today it houses the Castle Military Museum.
The view from an antiquated piece of the castle's artillery, still fixed on downtown Cape Town. Cape Town is the third most populous city in South Africa, with a population of 2.9 million. Only Johannesburg and Durban are larger.
The flagged balcony is where Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech upon being released from prison.
"I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands. On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release. I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners."
Nelson Mandela, Feb 11, 1990
Birds fly from Cape Point at the tip of South Africa. Here the group spent a Sunday afternoon, where baboons stole our lunch and we took time to experience life unique to the area where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet in tidal pools.
The Taal monument is erected to Afrikaans, the language of the Afrikaners, which depicts all Western and local African languages diminishing and Afrikaans dominating. Afrikaans is the Dutch word for African. The 1961 constitution mandated that the two languages of South Africa were Afrikaans and English.
This photo was taken on the steps of Parliament after a morning tour. The group was composed of professors Ivy George, Dan Johnson, Lawrence Holcomb, Judith Olesen, Donna Robinson, Ming Zheng and Jim Zingarelli; and Gordon students Lindsey Retterath, Charis Idicheria, Freda Obeng-Ampofo, Christine Ellsmore, John Hoag, Julie Hodgson, Adithya Joseph, Kristina Whitehead. Two students from other colleges also participated: Stasia Hermes from Emory University and Christy MacBeth from Houghton College.
This is the view from the 5-bedroom, 4-bath and 2-swimming pool home in a wealthy section of Cape Town, where we stayed during the first ten days of the program. The mountain in the background is named Table Mountain. Hout Bay ("Wood Bay") was named by a Dutch explorer, for its dense forests.
The sun sets in the Unfolizi nature reserve where we took two days to be on safari.
The group in my safari van--keeping our eyes peeled for whatever animals might be out and about.
A young zebra trails behind a group of zebras moving across the bush in the late afternoon.
This was the view from the home at which I stayed during my time in the township. My short walk to the main road to catch a taxi in the morning was accompanied by the sun rising behind a beautiful mountain range.
My host mother, Cynthia, was a gracious woman who took great care of me. She offered a unique perspective on life in the township, giving of herself for her community while recognizing and agonising over the hardships they face.
A black Jesus is depicted in the window of St. George's Cathedral, walking on water and bringing an end to oppression and injustice; he is the Christ of reconciliation.