Busta Rhymes and his infamous "Flipmode Squad" crew has always found pride in taking the proverbial hip-hop phraseology and ideologies, and "flipping them on ya!" That has been our experience the past two days. It's safe to say I "flipped" it on the students. We're in the "flipmode." A very confusing, scary, and eye opening place but with some hope in the heart (and a truly open-mind), a wonderful place.
It wasn't necessarily my intent to have such a laissez-faire beginning with a sharp turn towards "reality" but it worked that way thanks to the holidays. It only made sense to have students get their feet wet, find their way from A to B, learn that the people of Cape Town will help, and settle the mind after a long trip. But the time has come to get to work.
Yesterday, as blog readers have gathered, we visited the District 6 Museum, St. George's Cathedral, and the Iziko Slave Lodge (with side trips to Greenmarket Square and a wrong train station that required a long walk to get home). We also simply happened to be in the city center during the Cape Minstrel Carnival parade with more HERE
Today was added exposure to "reality" and the stressed group cohesion (after very hot-button conversations) has made us all revisit the ideas of "community" that we started class with just days ago. I hope the students remain patience with each other and tolerant of their ambiguity of this place and experience.
I had to make some very quick arrangements (and confusing arrangements for many of the students) to nab a quick opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds of Imizamo Yethu aka "Mandela Park" on the outskirts of the beautiful "Republic of Hout Baai" (it's not a Republic but the locals might argue differently; they even have their own "passports"). "Hout" in Afrikaans is "wood" and "Baai" is "bay," meaning: bay of wood. The surrounding pine tree forests give it this name.
Some estimates put Mandela Park at 33,000 people but that's always up for debate. Yet, it is your typical informal South African settlement with no major infrastructure, including water facilities, sewage, bathrooms, electricity, and more. This area is also known as having the worst E-coli levels in the nation, but this is only found in the Disa River that runs near the township. But, let's put negative aside for a moment.
Imizamo Yethu is also a vibrant community, a place of art, color, and life. It is a place I once called home and seeing Auntie Ba and other familiar faces today brought me back to the truth (or at least my truth) of these areas. We tend to attach material items to human worth whether we like it or not. It causes many of us to feel a sense of pity, embarrassment, anger, and sadness to see these poverty stricken areas (to say we don't feel these things is not being honest with ourselves - for we are human). Yet, if we sit in these emotions for too long we can begin to forget our common humanity, stripped of the materialness of our world. We pay more attention to the "shacks" and garbage, and less attention to the "people." People who are proud of their homes (like we); who wish for something more (like we); who struggle with family (like we); who are dealing with daily life (like we); who want you to see their shacks after a good cleaning (like we); who have a pride in their community (like we); and who work hard if given the opportunity (like we).
I will never forget or ignore the fact that my loved ones in Mandela Park were handed an appallingly raw deal yet I will also never be afraid to hug them, visit their proud homes, eat at their table, learn from their experience, discuss world views with them, and work with them to find a common agreement on how to change OUR lives for the better, whether in Hout Baai or Minneapolis.