Thanksgiving Epilogue

by Bob Sparrow

The Family

Yes, as always I ate too much, and I’m not sure if Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of it or in spite of it. It’s a holiday with no debate about whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, there’s no pressure of buying gifts or accepting unwanted gifts with a gracious, but insincere, “I love it”. There is no dressing up and begging for candy and there is no drinking as much as you can and staying up past midnight. Although Madison Avenue is trying like hell to put the focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s really still just about family, friends, food and football.

It is truly a time when I actually think about how grateful I am as well as think about those less fortunate – families of fire victims, shooting victims, the homeless, those with debilitating diseases or handicaps. It especially a time to be thankful for all the first-responders who put their lives on the line coming to the aid of others.  It’s also at Thanksgiving I am reminded of how fortunate Linda and I are that we had such loving, caring parents, who taught us love of family, mostly by example. We still love and communicate regularly with our siblings and our three kids love each other and have given us three amazing grandchildren . . . so far.

My hope is that everyone has family relations as good or better than we have. Unfortunately the reality is that I’ve heard way too many stories about people who say that they never got along with a parent, or that they haven’t spoken to a sibling in years or have ignored a once-good friend because they had a disagreement years ago. When I encounter people in these situations I can’t help but think of one of the most influential books I’ve ever read about forgiveness, Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela. Among other things Mandela was able to forgive those who imprisoned him for 27 years, 18 of which were on isolated Robben Island, for his efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. A few years ago I personally had an opportunity to visit his cell on Robben Island and believe me, it is no place you would want to spend even 18 minutes in! Once released, Mandela continued his fight against apartheid and was ultimately elected president of South Africa.  While apartheid isn’t completely gone even today, his efforts have gone a long way towards creating social justice.

The good news is you don’t have to be imprisoned for 27 years to reach out to that family member or friend that you’ve been avoiding for the last several years. This is the perfect time of year to extend the olive branch or an eggnog.

 

African Diary – Part 2 Cape Town

by Bob Sparrow (from Africa)

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”

 Getting There

Whoever uttered the above quote never flew from Los Angeles to London, London to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Cape Town on a journey that included 26 hours of flying and 17 hours of lay-overs.  I think I experienced a bending of the space-time continuum – I may have even spent some time in the Twilight Zone; I’m not sure where I was; I wasn’t even sure who I was.  All I know is I left Los Angeles at 5:00 Friday afternoon and arrived in Cape Town, South Africa at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.  Somebody owes me a Saturday!

Being There

12A

12 Apostles Hotel & Spa

I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a suite at a Five-Star hotel . . . OK, maybe never.  I can tell you it’s nothing like camping in the desert.  But when we checked into 5-Star The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa those long hours getting there just seemed to . . . nah, my back still hurt“The 12A” as it’s affectionately called, sits on the coast, by itself, between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope, and it is magnificent!  Our oceanfront suite allowed us to sit on our deck and watch the sun sink into the Atlantic – and all this time we Californians thought the sun always sank into the Pacific.  The facility, the location and particularly the staff, were marvelous.  With “The 12A” as our base, and with the help of our expert guide, Craig Ziman, we squeezed in as many ‘points of interest’ that we could in three days.

 Seeing There

tablemt

Table Mountain

Table Mountain – it’s a must to take the gondola to the top and spend some time checking out the spectacular views of the cape below from various points.  You can even repel down part of the way if you choose – I didn’t choose.  Cape Point – better known as the Cape of Good Hope, where the currents of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet was a bit disappointing in that you really couldn’t tell where the Atlantic Ocean left off and the Indian Ocean began – I suggested they should dye them different colors – I don’t think they were listening.

Ever stay up nights wondering exactly who fought in the Boar Wars?  We visited the Castle of Good Hope, which is filled with military memorabilia where you can find the answer to that question.  We visited a penguin beach, yep, penguins in South Africa, as well as the Waterfront (shopping and restaurants), Camps Bay (more shopping and more restaurants), the diamond district (guys, don’t let your wives go shopping there!), where we learned that most diamonds naturally come in . . . you guessed it, a diamond shape.  We also took a trip out to the wine area of South Africa, conveniently called The Winelands.  

township

“Township”

Juxtaposed to the quaint, up-scale villages and elegant homes in The Winelands are the shanties, euphemistically called Townships, which line the freeway for miles leading back into Cape Town.  The shanties are a 10 x 10 foot room made from aluminum siding and plywood with no running water and public port-o-potties for bathrooms.  We were told that over one million people are living in such conditions.  Apartheid has ended and there are many wonderful sights here, but this is a clear sign that the complete development of South Africa is still a work-in-progress.

The Best Reason to Go

It’s about an hour’s boat ride from the Cape Town Waterfront District to Robben’s Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration. The prisoner’s living quarters varied from one room jammed with 30-40 prisoners, to a single 8 x 8 cell, to something smaller, that were previously used as dog kennels.  Food was bad and sparse; prisoners were forced to work 8-10 hours a day in lime mines on the island and were often physically and mentally tortured for various reasons or for no reason at all.  Solitary confinement was worse.

Robben-Island

Robben Island cell

Our tour of the island’s prison was conducted by a former prisoner who talked about conditions in the prison.  He said, “They tried every way possible to beat us down, they torture us and treated us like animals, but in the evening we were able to gather together for about an hour or so and we would use that time to educate ourselves – there was a saying, ‘Each One, Teach One’ – that way those who could read taught others to read, those who knew math taught other to do math and so on.  The main thing we continued to reinforce with each other was that whatever they did to us, we were not going to let them break our spirit.  At night, if time and guards allowed, we would sing, we would dance, we would do little plays for ourselves – anything to keep our spirit alive – that was the most important thing, to keep our spirit alive.” 

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“African Spirit”

We came away from Robben’s Island amazed and inspired, but what we didn’t know was that we were about to experience that ‘spirit’ on our boat trip back to Cape Town.  We started our return trip sitting on benches on the outside deck of the boat, but as the sun went down it quickly cooled and we moved inside.  Soon after we came inside, a middle-aged black man stood up and started singing in a native language, other blacks, men and women, quickly joined in and although they didn’t all know each other, they all knew the song and each would either join in singing the melody, harmonies or a background beat – they sounded as if they’d been rehearsing this routine together for years.  It didn’t take long before all the black men and women were up singing and dancing in the aisles.  We few whites on board just stood, listened and watched in amazement.  The music was so infectious, I tried to join in, and with the help of the black gentleman standing next to me, I learned a couple of words and joined in the singing.  If my skin color didn’t give me away, my voice and my dance moves did; I soon realized what I should be doing is recording this – so I did.

As we prepare to move to the next phase of our journey, the safaris, we are amazed at all the wonderful things we saw in and around Cape Town, but what I will remember most are the people – their great smiles and wonderful dispositions.  I’m not sure how they do it, but I’m thinking it has something to do with that great ‘African Spirit’ that will not be broken.  Perhaps it is about the journey.

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Next: African Diary – Part 3  Game Drives