Sunday, December 22, 2013

Paul's Country Review: South Africa

South Africa is a great place. With stunning scenery and really nice people it was a good place to spend a bunch of time in. The exchange rate was really in our favor and prices were reasonable to begin with: add those two together and things can get pretty cheap. Like the wine, we were buying bottles of wine from the store for about $2.50 and $4-$8 from the winery! The bonus being the wine is very good, needless to say we sampled our share of SA wines.

Most of the things to see involve taking in the scenic countryside and natural wonders like Table Mountain, Cape Point and the coast road, driving through the small seaside towns.

The other things to do involve learning about South Africa's troubled past and it's policy of apartheid. We took a trip to Robben Island a quick boat ride from Cape Town's waterfront and visited the prison for political prisoners. These were the people fighting against apartheid and were basically given life sentences (whether it was ruled a life sentence or not). The prisoners had to work in a quarry all day long for no reason but to dig, moving the pile of stone around. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and where he wrote his autobiography, "The Long Walk to Freedom" (in theaters now). It was hidden in a garden and copied into very small print and smuggled out to England. Once printing began a message was delivered to Mandela to destroy the original and world awareness of apartheid began. All very interesting and very sad but the amazing part being once Mandela was released he urged reconciliation and forgiveness rather than revenge and resentment. People here will never forget but they are quickly moving on, working together and living not as Black, White and Colored, but as South Africans. I find it to be a really interesting concept. Before everyone freaks out about my apparent lack of PCness (something that only exists in the US by the way), South Africans refer to themselves in this way so relax. We need to focus more on how we treat one another and not spend so much time worrying about what to call each other.

We went to Johannesburg, not a bad place not a great place - it wasn't really my place. We were there during Nelson Mandela's passing and it was a privilege to be there during this historic event. We stood in a line for a couple of hours to get on a bus to take us to where he was lying in state, which took another couple of hours, all to walk passed Mandela for 5 seconds. It was totally worth it to be able to pay my last respects to the man and to spend that time with South Africans; to be able to experience how they celebrated this man's life. It is something I will never forget.

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