Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June, and I should be in South Africa

I have been fortunate enough to have had 5 trips to South Africa.  All of them  have been in May-June, so when it is this time of year, I find my heart frequently on another continent, with the places and people that I love.  For some reason this past week, I have had Belize on my mind much of the time and visualize myself walking up the beach at San Pedro.  Now this strikes me as odd, since I did not necessarily fall in love with San Pedro.  It has a place in my heart and head, to be sure, for various reasons.  I can be like a dog with a bone when something gets stuck in my head and I have to make sense of it.

This past week has been one of those weeks--what with being at class at 8, working all day on class preps, training, research, routine department work, interviewing people for our new position, and in between, trying to take better care of my self physically and mentally, it has been a challenging week.  I have had some great times with my colleagues during the week, but that is true for most summers.  It is not as rushed and hectic, and though busy, we also enjoy the less frantic pace with fewer students and fewer routine business deadlines.  

I have been sensing some real differences in myself: emotionally, physically, and mentally--as in my cognitions.  All of that brings me back to wondering why I am thinking about Belize, when my cognitive self says, rather like my visit to London, I am glad I went, but feel no need to go back.
One of my favorite sites in Cape Town is the Table Mountain--from any angle.  While it is often clear and starkly beautiful, it has it share of being obscured by clouds or at the least, a vision of clouds rolling down the mountain side.  
Randy has been with me on two of my trips, and the year we went to the Cape of Good Hope, he took this picture of the ocean.  Two oceans meet at the Cape--in fact, there is even a South African wine called Two Oceans.  The warm waters of the Indian Ocean meet the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the result is breathtaking.
Heading east from Cape Town toward Port Elizabeth, one drives along the coast and past numerous beaches.  My colleague and I were talking about our pending study abroad classes for next year--hers in Belize and mine in South Africa--and I mentioned that South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world where surfing is popular.  On this particular day, the mist was so heavy it was almost impossible to see, and created the most surreal feeling, yet one of total peace.
The Western Province around Cape Town and Stellenbosch is also home to one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the world.  The vineyards supply much needed employment in the area.  Though under apartheid the workers were exploited, many vineyards today have empowerment programs that provide land, resources, or other opportunities for workers to enhance their lives.

Maybe Belize has been on my mind because my friend is home, and there is been much conversation around it.  Perhaps it is because one of the similarities between Belize and South Africa--besides their beauty--is the heart of the people.  Everywhere, I tend to find it is people who are marginalized who are the kindest and most generous to me.

Yesterday following our interview of a candidate, I was asking one of our grad students who is on the committee about a song I heard in a black church during a funeral.  All I could remember was the line "Jesus will fix it, He will fix it for you."  She broke into the song with a beautiful clear voice, and our chair joined her seconds later.  This woman is a regional supervisor with DHS, has children, is caretaker for her mother, is a superb grad student with many obligations related to that, and yet the joy in her life is unmistakable.  She transfers that joy to all around her.  It is her heart for people that makes the difference in her life.

Maybe that is why Belize has been on my mind, and why South Africa stays on it continuously, and why St. Paul is pretty well rooted in there now, too.  It is the heart that tells us what is important.

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