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Published: September 29th 2008
When I returned from my overland trip to stormy Cape Town and my UCT classes, I hit the bottom of the U. I may have slipped near the bottom earlier in the semester, but when I returned we lost our internet for an entire week, and my antidote for homesickness went with it. The internet was the oil to my Tin Man, the cryogenic ice suits to my Mr. Freeze. It kept me smiling reading e-mails from family and friends back home, and enabled me to see what my friends were up to back in the States via Facebook, the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball of the internet. Added with the cold, windy rain and new homework assignments, South Africa lost its excitement. Its boldness became long dragged out days and its wild side became my wet backside from walking uphill in the Wonkavator rainstorm.
No television or internet challenges your creativity, and I passed the time by writing what I hope to be a novel about studying abroad. There don’t seem to be any novels about studying abroad, so maybe there’ll be a new market. I also beat the first level of Minesweeper and got fairly decent at Solitaire. I finished reading “Thank You for Smoking,” the book I brought with me for the plane ride and figured I wouldn’t read again until my flight home. Essentially, I did everything short of talk to a volleyball.
It was during this week long Cast Away phase that I thought about home a lot and how proud South Africans are of their home country. Upon reading about the Zimbabwe crisis before coming to South Africa, I wondered if the white Zimbabweans ever truly felt at home in Zimbabwe. White Zimbabweans descended from mostly British settlers so I figured being forced to move to England wouldn’t be that hard for them. I wondered if all white South Africans felt out of place living in a country that was heavily black and was the political equivalent of a Jenga game, where the slightest loose block will knock the whole structure down. I was, I found out, very wrong.
Take Mike, the 2 Way Travel owner, for example. A white South African, he attended UCT and worked some smaller jobs as a tour guide before opening his own business. He loves South Africa, passionately supporting the Springboks national rugby team, and is always quick with a story about the country. 2 Way’s slogan is “Changing Lives,” because Mike recognizes that not everyone in South Africa has the opportunities that he’s had, so 2 Way also specializes in volunteer tourism to the local townships. They arrange home stays with families in the township, as well as working with township locals on various projects. Although it’s true that Mike, like the majority of white South Africans, had a distinct socio-economic advantage, he’s not willing to leave his fellow countrymen behind, and is doing his part to make South Africa a better home for everyone.
Mike’s business is a perfect example of why Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to the post-Apartheid South Africa as “The Rainbow Nation.” The Apartheid years were the storm of South African history, according to Tutu, but after a storm follows a rainbow. This rainbow symbolized the unity of the new South Africa destined for sunnier days. The new flag consisted of six different colors uniting all the ethnic groups of South Africa; from the British descendents and the Afrikaners, to the Xhosa and the Zulu people. In a way, the 1994 post-Apartheid government was like the reformed Grinch tossing presents back to the Who’s of Whoville. Tutu knew that there would be other storms ahead for the new South Africa, but he had faith that there would always be a rainbow after the storm, and the rainbow would keep South Africa unified.
On the seventh day without internet, I opened my computer and it came back. The rain had held off for the day in Newlands, Devil’s Peak was visible through my bedroom window, and my e-mail antidote was back to revive me. There wasn’t a rainbow outside, although if Speilberg adapts my blog for a movie, I’m sure Hollywood would add a rainbow here, signifying my emergence from the storm. Needless to say, my world had gone from black and white without the internet, to the bright colors of ESPN.com, Yahoo! and Facebook.
It’s ironic that a rainbow happens to be nothing more than an upside down U.
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