Friday, February 25, 2011

Sliding Rock

Brushes with history can happen in mysterious ways.  You may visit a museum or a cathedral or you may slide down a rockface that a world icon used to play on!  The reflection workshop for the long and valued partnership between Niagara College and South Africa was held in Qunu, Mr. Nelson Mandela’s hometown and a breathtaking part of the Eastern Cape.  The drive from East London to Mthatha on the N2 is my favourite stretch of highway and to spend 3 days on the top of a hill looking down into village where a part of history was born was an amazing way to begin our farewell to South Africa. 

Not only did it feel like we stumbled onto a part of history (and my mathematical formula is that if Nelson Mandela’s bum touched this rock and my bum touched the rock, then basically I’ve touched bums with Nelson Mandela), but it was also an opportunity for all of the different groups at the workshop to laugh and play! 
And it wasn’t all poignant moments in a beautiful landscape as I provided a bit of humour with my graceful turn on the sliding rock.  I jumped on that tattered slab of rubber in my white skirt and strappy sandals and went flying down the hill, skidding into the grass, dirt, and rocks and giving myself some sweet carpet burn on my bum.  When my dear friend Sarah managed to hold her laughter for a moment, she reached out to give me a hug in my moment of pain and embarrassment and I went running across the bottom of the hill (worn down by years of children’s bums) into her open arms only to go flying again.  My fall was broken by my left kneecap and left toe bone, two body parts that were made to break falls!  At that point, the whole group was already staring in amusement and howling with laughter.  I couldn’t stop laughing either and my attempts to get up were hampered by uncontrollable giggling and my strappy sandals.  I was helped up the hill and given lots of medical advice for my puffy, scratched and bruised knee and swollen toe.  
The next morning at breakfast, people who weren’t even there were asking me about the state of my knee.  My pride and lower body may have taken a bit of a hit, but I like to think that I now have a sweet story about my experience in Qunu and a bunch of South Africans can think of their reflection workshop and the Canadian intern on her ass in the bushes!  And I have an awesome bruise that is an ever changing rainbow of colours!
The workshop was an opportunity to work with professional facilitators from the Centre for Intercultural Learning and see our “Niagara parents”.  We also reunited with the cooperative members and learned more about projects and the impacts they’ve made.  Selfishly, it was also a confidence boost to receive praise from the organizations we’ve worked with and hopefully continue the legacy of big shoes for interns to fill!
When it was time to say goodbye, we hugged and kissed and I think I may have promised myself as a daughter-in-law to more than a few of the cooperative mamas!  I think we forget how much the people around us can impact our lives—so if some tomato farmers from Nxarhuni have warm memories of Canadians, I really hope they understand how their lives and experiences are intertwined with and valued in ours too.

Chintsa beach for pre-conference planning

Mama Ghana at Chintsa

Chintsa sunset (courtesy Sarah Vickery)

Nelson Mandela Conference Centre at Qunu
Views from Qunu village below
Mr. Mandela's home village

Eastern Cape landscape

Mamas from the cooperatives

Facilitators from the Centre for Intercultural Learning
and Mama Ghana

Nomhlope Maxaxuma and Nomvula Twaise

Mr. Templeton Njokweni expaining
his tomato cooperative's priorities

The workshop "rapporteur"

Lumka, our international translator

Team Canada hard at work

Da Boyz

Singing everyday

Nomonde Ndarana and Mama G

Some participants in traditional dress and song


Our wedding photo

On our Nelson Mandela tour

The views on our walk

The sliding rock
The sliding rock audience


My walk of shame back up the hill

You can't quite see the rainbow of colours...

My two abafazi

Our group

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