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Post Conflict Communities: Part II

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
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“Embracing community- especially through diversity”

 

Diversity has always been a source of great contention in most post conflict societies. I mean, one need not be a genius to understand that you have a very polarizing social dynamic at the point of emancipation, or freedom of one from another. Firstly, you have a perpetrator who now must co-exist with those they’ve wronged, and secondly, you have a society that is structured in a way that systematically benefits one and takes from the other.

 

These conditions are the convention, sure, but they are huge challenges in forging a sense of community. It would seem natural that some form of justice would be necessary, but that is impossible without hampering the benefactors- though not necessarily perpetrators- of the injustice suffered during prior “conflict”. This, at a very subtle level, will always threaten to dismember the components of a united community, regardless of the understanding for the need for reform, redress, restitution or re-appropriation by both ends of the spectrum.

 

However, these are components we cannot run away from; a reality of justice we must fight relentlessly to institute. The question of diversity has always been at the core of the matter. In the case of South Africa’s history, the divide was racial, and though systematic- at face value at least, it seems as though this was the root of necessity the policy implementation. There are other nations where the reason was different, be it in the Rwandan or Bosnian genocides, or the Troubles in Ireland- each nation must stare its own “monster” down.

 

The challenge for any leadership in post conflict circumstances is to use the attribute which caused the divide and inspired the perpetuation of the various forms of injustice to unite the people again; almost in an attempt to trivialise the divisive nature of the root of the conflict. Instead we magnify its pietistic qualities- a messianic unifier of sort. Though I am a fan of this approach, the reality is that unless there is some sort of tangible change, there is NO community- the nation is STILL divided, merely in a diversely different way.

 

The understanding of diversity in a greater sense will aid us in cultivating a sense of belonging. Essentially, coming from a historical context of chronic exclusivity and division, both as a general global community and in our own nuanced experienced as citizens of various nations; how do we bridge this divide and embrace community- even through diversity?

 

As multifaceted and complex as that answer may be, the first step is not to equate our diversity. Though we reinforce the idea of equal intrinsic value of every human being, and we believe that all people of all nations are born equal- we must understand that we are not all the same. Trying to equate the two will continue to entrench the traditional sectarian divisions; as it is based on a flawed concept of comparative analysis as though the yardstick for each individual is identical- (while I agree it should meet some standard of uniformity)- in reality, it must be nuanced to accommodate the diversity of people. Simply stated, we are dealing with human beings with capacity, not livestock.

 

Now, I understand this view can be discussed further to include the role of paternalism and governance in the ecosystem of community (which I will do in my next blog), but I need you to come to the cinch understanding that the first step to community with diversity, is not equating the one’s differences. That has often been the fundamental flaw in our understanding and implementation. The idea is not to recreate the imbalance of the past, but to address it in every way possible. This is not an arithmetic path to success, where free education and a monthly grant stipend will address the issue. This is a very dynamic, ever changing struggle we have yet to diagnose clearly, and thus tackle it successfully.

 

When we understand that our diversity is not the same, not equal- there is no room to say my difference is “better” or of “greater worth” than yours. When we understand that our diversity is of equal importance though they cannot be measured comparatively- we will begin to see the beginning of a new social order, one that is far less cynical to discourse about what divides us, and far more optimistic about the prospects of real, functional community.

 

As we build our nation, and the nations of the world!

 

Nolo Mokoena!


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Highlights

by Boipelo Ndlovu
Boipelo Ndlovu
http://www.sawip.org/sawip-team/sawip-team-2014
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

 

 

Those moments you get to spend by yourself or with others, which have such a formidable impact on your being, that you recognise a renewed person the more you turn to the mirror. Amongst the many wonderful experiences I have had while in Washington DC, two have left me with a more positive perspective and have changed my life.

 

On 2 July 2014, I attended my very first Baseball game, the Washington Nationals vs Colorado Rockie at Nationals Park. It was the atmosphere at Nationals Park that changed how I used to view support. People came out in numbers. I could not believe it.

 

There was a time when I was trying to make my way from buying food, to my seat, before the game started. While I was hustling and rushing to get to my seat, everyone starting singing the national anthem. I did not realise that everyone was standing still and so i keep walking until someone stopped me and said that I could not go up the escalator until the singing was done. I guess I have never seen my country having that much respect for sport. Atleast not to this extent. Perhaps I needed that to happen so that I could realise that there is a need for a deeper spirit of patriotism in South Africa. It should not matter that some of teams keep losing games over and over. I realise now that sometimes players stop caring when fans stop caring. Think about how you feel when someone gives up on you. So, I think we need to stop giving up on our players too quickly and actually allow the humanity that I know is in all of us, to surface.

 

I saw both teams that were playing try their level best on the field. It did not matter, in this context, which team was ahead in points or which one lost for that matter. Everyone was still cheering for their teams. I truly believe that both teams saw the game through because of their supporters.

 

That day and the 4th of July truly taught me what patriotism means. On the 4th of July, my SAWIP team members and I made our way to the Lincoln Memorial to go see the fireworks in celebration of the U.S. Independence Day. Even greater numbers showed up that day. I could not help but feel a little jealous because ideally, that is how I think South Africa should celebrate days like Freedom day. I could be generalising, maybe I am the one that has not been focusing much on being a patriot. The barriers that were broken down by our freedom fighters is exactly what we should celebrate or atleast acknowledge but we don't. We see those days as opportunities to either sleep in, go on holiday with family or friends, or just as an opportunity to go on a rampage of having 'fun'.

 

Where is the disconnect? 20 years of Democracy and it seems as though we have forgotten. I certainly forgot. I am so happy that this quest for learning has left me digging deep into who I am and why I am not the patriot that I should be in my country. As a young South African, so many issues leave one angry, but that should not necessarily take away from celebrating our country. One may say, 'but there is nothing to celebrate'. Oh yes, there is. For example, if you go to http://www.gov.za/issues/20years/index.html, you will see some of the progressive steps we have taken as a nation. Some are flawed but its progress nonetheless and so we ought to be more patriotic. We have reasons to be.

When I go back to South Africa, the shift in my perspective about what it means to be a patriot will reflect in my actions. My hope is that others will join me too. I don't know why I had to leave South Africa in order to recognise its beauty but i'm glad I did sooner than later. Now I can be active in a space that I now see as positive.

 

Tags: Patriotism
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Rock ‘n’ Rye

by Erwyn Durman
Erwyn Durman
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
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I’m sittin’ ‘n’ rockin’, in front of the fire,

Watchin’ the flames as they dance,

Sippin’ a glass full of old rock and rye, and

Drinkin’ a toast to the past:

Here’s to the people and places I’ve known.

Here’s to the love and pain that is gone.

Here’s to the joy and sadness I’ve seen.

Here’s to the unfinished dreams, and

Here’s to what memories mean.

Rock ‘n’ Rye, rock ‘n’ rye,

I’m sittin’ here rockin’ with tears in my eyes,

Sittin’ here’ rockin’ with tears in my eyes,

I’m sitting ‘n’ rockin’, in front of the fire,

Thinkin’ of things as they are,

And how all that I am is just pieces and parts

Of the memories I’ve gathered so far.

Here’s to the goodness and kindness I’ve shown.

Here’s to the people I’ve treated wrong

Here’s to the mistakes that I wish I could change.

Here’s to the pride and the shame,

And the growin’ that comes with the pain.

I’m sittin ‘n’ rockin’ in front of the fire,

Thinkin’ of things yet to be:

How the present’s a doorway that leads from the past

To a future that I’ve yet to see.

Here’s to the man I was in the past.

Here’s to the man I am now at last

Here’s to the man I someday will be.

Here’s to the hoping he’s better than me,

Because of these old memories.

Mike Cross is an American singer and song-writer, who blends the genres of rock, country, pop and folk music. The words to this song are a sentiment to an old American tradition that seems to be fading out of their society.

My work exposure is at the Faith and Politics Institute and I have recently read an essay by our founder Doug Tanner, entitled: ‘The Truth Can Set Us Free’. Doug references the words to this song in his essay and alludes to an American society that has on the face of it lost this age old tradition and with it a time set aside for reflection.

The idea of ‘reflection’ as a value was first introduced to me on selection camp. It was during an activity of identifying what values were important to each of the individuals present to determine the commonalities between our value sets and to see how they aligned with the values of SAWIP. In a world where improvement is predicated on acceleration, it is a struggle to find time to reflect. As I explore this new founded value, I have made a commitment to myself: To preserve time in my day to allow for reflection.

 

Other than this high frequency tempo that our lives are expected to move at, another obstacle we face in finding time to reflect is of the constant background noise that fills the void of silence. Remedial tasks that can be used for reflection (washing the dishes in my case) are surrounded by a bombardment of white noise, often presenting itself in the form of TV, social media or youtube. Doug expresses his thoughts, on the song Rock ‘n’ Rye, that there is no better moment to reflect than rocking in front of a fire or on the porch of one’s house. The depth of consciousness, required for true reflection, is unattainable when this white noise, pollutes our minds with a myriad of thoughts other than our own.

 

Reflection is a cornerstone of the Faith and Politics Institute and the work that is done here is centered on this idea of going back to remember the struggle that was faced to achieve democracy. A major chapter of the SAWIP experience has to do with reflection. These BLOGS serve as one expression of the emphasis SAWIP places on re-visiting your thoughts to allow for assimilation of the week’s events.

 

I am but a novice in learning how to reflect but a novice that is cognizant of its importance. In my next blog I will share with you more on the purpose behind the retreats and pilgrimages hosted by the Faith and Politics Institute. I will also provide a backdrop of how the institute supplies, nourishes and sustains many of the Congressman and notable government figures with a sacred time of remembrance.

 

This week Wednesday we will be heading off to the big apple, it is said to be the city that never sleeps. I do hope for my sake that it is not too busy so I able to safeguard a time for reflection.

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ON THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

by Kessler Perumalsamy
Kessler Perumalsamy
Law student with an appreciation for wit, irony and humor. Frequent tea-drinker
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

About a block away from where I work, sits the most important and powerful court in the United States. The Supreme Court is the highest court in all federal matters, and has the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution. Its impressive and gargantuan structure, which directly faces the Capitol reflects the grand authority and power of this institution. One of the most profound things about the building, I find, is the inscription that sits atop of it: “Equal justice under law” is a salient feature of the jurisprudence encompassed in the Constitution of the United States, and more directly the values and terms of the fourteenth amendment. The most apposite visual of this is perhaps the picture of Nettie Hunt and her daughter sitting on the stairs of the court, holding a newspaper that reads “High Court Bans Segregation in Schools”, a day after the sagacious decision in Brown v Board of Education.

 

Courts, by their very nature, are a bulwark against the overmighty power of the executive.  They exist to protect the liberties of the individual, where they may be so encroached upon by the state, and to interpret the law so determined by the legislature, provided the terms of the Constitution are satisfied. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the institutions of the judiciary are the most respected organs of the state, when compared to the other two organs of the state. In South Africa, the Constitutional Court is seen by most South Africans as a bastion of security for those who are on the outskirts of society- the poor and the marginalised.  There is no politics in court: whatever political views you may have cannot influence the decisions you make.  All you do is interpret the law in the most reasonable manner required by the circumstances of each case.

 

Many of the discussions America still has, South Africa has had many years ago. Debates about abortion rights, voting rights, and the rights of same-sex couples to marry, no longer enter our public discourse with such force because they have been decided such a long time ago.  The decision of our Constitutional Court in the case of Fourie, for example, almost a decade ago found that a definition of “marriage” that excludes same-sex couples, unfairly discriminates against them, and fundamentally affronts their dignity.

 

It is thus troubling to see such an important institution in the United States being a masked extension of the legislature. The House of Representatives is startlingly divided on almost every issue. The pervasive partisan lines bolster a great deal of progress that could be made. The approach many South African judges take when interpreting the law is not to protect or advance a certain political ideology- it is to decide the law in the most reasonable, equitable and fair manner demanded by the circumstances of each case.  The Supreme Court does the exact opposite: it seems to ignore a rational consideration of multiple factors, and rather easily, without any mental effort, decides matters on political preferences. This too, is masked under the “orginalist or textualist” form of interpretation in which some judges- most notably, Justice Scalia, argues that the Constitution must be interpreted as it was originally written (Yes, so women and black people don’t have equal protection before the law). If this is the case, it would perhaps be more expedient to appoint a bench of historians to decide matters rather than jurists.

 

A recent example of this is the decision of SCOTUS in the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby in which the majority of the court (all men by the way and Republican appointees) ruled that “the owners of many closely held corporations could not in good conscience provide such (the right of workers to have abortion costs covered in the Affordable Care Act) coverage”. Essentially, the court decided that religious views of owners could be used to discriminate against that of workers who may not share those views. One important thing the court seemed to have forgotten is that corporations, unlike religious organizations, don’t exist to serve a community of religious observers, as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.

 

 

For any democracy to properly function, an independent judiciary is needed to safeguard the liberties of peoples and prevent abhorrent discrimination. This cannot be done when judges sit on the bench to advance a political agenda, and casually ignore a mass of information that is required to make a considered decision. America’s progress on social and economic issues, when compared to the rest of the world, is vastly backtracked, and a great deal of this can be attributed to a bench of pseudo-legislators in jurists’ clothing.

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Power families - A Continued Dream Over Two Generations

by Ishara Ramkissoon
Ishara Ramkissoon
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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"Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold" - Andre Maurois

Halfway through the D.C.  our SAWIP journey, I find myself missing my family more and more each day. As I mentioned in a session previously, I am really close to my family so the time difference doesn't really help! Living with the Pace family has been great in this regard as it feels just like home. During this trip, I have had some time to reflect on my own family, our dynamics and what represent in South Africa.

Being really close to my parents, I really enjoy learning and meeting Parent-Child power houses and how the idea of a shared vision or ideal is carried across two generations which can further strengthen the goal. The idea that a parent(s) can "dream vicariously" through their children and instill the necessary values in order to carry forth this dream. Meeting Congressman Clyburn and Commissioner Clyburn was especially profound as I had been reflecting so much on my own relationship with my father and how our lives journeys are so similar the older I become.

As I shared the story of my life and views at Orientation Camp( too long to post here but I'd love to share it with anyone that's interested), the session with the Congressman and Commissioner once again reminded me of how much of an influence my parents have had in my life; so much so that I can only fully appreciate it years later. The value of positive role models, particularly a parent, is often forgotten in modern society as a sport player or pop star seems far more glamorous than mum and dad. Just hearing the pearls of wisdom that the Congressman and his wife passed on to the Commissioner, which very much made her who she is today; I felt excited at the prospect of sitting on a couch with both my parents sharing our story as a family and the struggles we faced and success we celebrated in reforming religious education in South Africa.

Of course I wouldn't be me if I didn't share something medical with the team - so this is a TedTalk about a mother-daughter power team that transformed Woman's Healthcare in Somalia. Even though this video is three years old, it still bears relevance today, especially in light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling and that many woman are still marginalized in Somalia because of religious and political beliefs.

{video:"http://blog.ted.com/2011/02/09/mother-and-daughter-doctor-heroes-hawa-abdi-deqo-mohamed/",width:"400",height:"300"}

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No 'sad pandas' here!

by Lauren Hess
Lauren Hess
Hi, I'm Lauren Hess - tea drinker, critical thinker and lover of all things witt
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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- Is this what Dante’s Inferno feels like?

- Is it this little boy’s goal in life to be the most annoying organism on Earth?

- Surely having this many people here can’t be legal…

- Can someone push me around in one of those kiddie strollers? I’ll squeeze!


These are but a few of the thoughts that swirled around my head (and believe me, there were some less PC ones floating around too) as we waited in line to see the giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo. A spur of the moment plan saw myself and a few of my teammates exploring the beautifully green environment of the zoo where weird and wonderful creatures alike are all housed.


Although we are spoilt for choice when it comes to nature reserves in South Africa, where a wide variety of animals can be seen, pandas remain unheard of. As my love for these furry animals is no secret, I enthusiastically bounded in the direction of the panda exhibit as soon as we entered the zoo. Unfortunately, my path came to an abrupt halt when I encountered a line of about 100 equally eager visitors who were all waiting to see Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their little cub Bao Bao. After a moment of slight deflation, we resigned ourselves to standing in line.


After about 15 minutes of stop-start movement, we finally saw one of the pandas! All the little frustrations of waiting seemed to melt away as I observed what must be the most content animal I have ever seen, munching away on his bamboo leaves. The more I watched, the more I thought about what it would take to reach my own level of ‘panda-esque contentment’ and the answer appears to be surprisingly simple (and ever so clichéd): it’s the little things. So, with each day that goes by, I’ll be looking for my bamboo leaf equivalent – no matter how small – to get myself ever closer to that level of ‘panda-esque contentment’.

 

(On a somewhat related note – here’s an example of a less than content panda that clearly needs professional help; enjoy!)

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Post Conflict Communities

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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“A commentary on Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool’s address at the Woodrow Wilson centre”

“South Africa is a violent nation. There is violence against our women, children and all vulnerable citizens. We need to move away from the violence that was invested in us a community during Apartheid, if we’re ever going to realise the full extent of our freedom.”, said Ambassador Rasool. No statement would’ve better summarised the societal challenges we face as a nation 2 decades post transition. He painted a clear narrative. One that was both true and appealing to my moral and ethical compass; one that was challenging- how is this acceptable in today’s society?

 

The more cynical reader is nodding in agreement at this point; the sentiment most likely reinforced by some sort of injustice they’ve suffered themselves as a by-product of sheer societal dysfunction. This view is valid- it is however not absolute. Likewise the optimist will claim it’s a generational attribute, and the roots of the cancer will pass with the more senior citizens of the country. This theory does hold to some degree; but the recurring attacks on some of our university campuses would suggest the water is far from under the bridge.

 

Historically, violence has been the primary medium for democratic discourse [in terms of mass movements]. I am not talking about us, the educated and privileged minority, I am speaking about my neighbours in Bekkersdal, who still have to burn tires and vandalise stores to feel they have a been heard. Often times we respond to the violence more than we do the plea. The language of democracy has to change; how is violence the loudest voice in society?

 

The idea that one fights for their freedom, was once true in the literal sense. However, in a post conflict nation, it is imperative to preserve the willingness to fight for the ideals of democracy and freedom, while substituting the ammunition for revolution with other tools, be it education, economic opportunity, welfare etc. The fight carries on, but the rules have to change. It is pointless to change the rules of engagement yet not provide the necessary tools for the transition.

 

While the solution to the root of violence in our post-conflict nations may be multifaceted, this one aspect remains clear as day- you cannot change the rules of the game without changing the tools with which it is played. How does one play water polo with a croquet set? In the same way, you cannot expect the masses of your nation to use new “channels” of free expression, while they live in pre-transition like circumstances. When marginalised, they used violence as an amplifier to air their defiance. Now, though legislatively free, those who remain marginalised by will use what freed others to free themselves.

 

 

No, this is not mob mentality. This is a “freedom story” narrative; and if we are going to successfully counteract the violence invested into our communities in post conflict nations- we must fight this fire strategically, not with fire, but with finesse and intentional policy.

 

Ambassador Rasool's speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My2r42SRvbM [from 25min onwards].


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When we talk...

by Velani Mboweni
Velani Mboweni
Hand to the helpless, Friend to the lonely. Wears glasses that are prescribed fo
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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A popular anecdote says that "courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen"

 

I write this post proudly as the last blog I will post as a 21 year old man; for on wednesday the 9th I turn 22 and hope to be much wiser than ever. However, this was not the purpose of this blog.

 

Following our journey as SAWIPers of 2014, you may have noticed that there are two concurrent sister programs with us in the form of the Washington Ireland Program (WIP) and the New Story Leadership for the Middle East (NSL). Central to each of these programs is an ongoing conflict between the various nations of which the participants originate from. Learning from their views about the conflicts and sharing what one has experienced in South Africa, you begin to observe that there is a lot of noise being made, however who is really listening? In fact, who should be listening?

 

Earlier today, my host family and I prepared supper for some of our guests who have lived in the USA for 38 years. This family left South Africa in 1976. Whilst we may have been born and raised in two different looking South Africas, the mood was one of camaraderie, intent of sharing knowledge and the good old "how is SA doing?" We engaged in discussions that were of a pressing nature, sometimes controversial; sometimes philosophical but nonetheless an exchange between two human beings with a key interest in a specific state(s). So engaged were we that, I even forgot to eat my starter salad on the table. Subsequently, we found it hard to say goodbye when time was over, let alone eat the food because of our conversations. This leads me somewhere....

 

You see, traditionally, there are many stereotypes and prejudices that could have come to the fore when one mentioned that there are three South Africans representative of two different eras coming to meet up and have a meal together, one cooked by the other. This could have had a lot of disagreement or agreement based on how one has grown up and a number of the experiences that have shaped us - yet, we sat down and spoke- as human beings ought to do.

What happens when we talk? What happens when one prepares a meal for someone else and they share in the partaking of the food - communion - the common union of man? When one considers the world and which war and conflict run rife, you begin to think that some people just don't get it. When the IFP and ANC experienced violence in the early 90s, how could we have had a different outcome? Looking at Iraq and many Arab states - as human beings - where do we learn the idea that war would produce a winner and a loser? Whilst I may not profess to be the oracle of all conflict, allow me to shed some light on my findings:

 

Firstly, when an individual sits around a table there is a sense of comfort and trust in the hosts to feed you appropriately. This illustrates an environment where dialogue could take place. Coming together as people joins us when we thought we were apart. The world continues to suffer great deals of violence, poverty, genocide and oppression and it has made me ask "when will we truly begin to work, to not only solve my interests but also to look at the issues of others?" Are we the right ones to be talking? We certainly are! We may not be the president of South Africa but we are Present in South Africa and the world. Lastly, I know there are many angles to look at, however, when we talk we accomplish a lot. It pushes our boundaries and stimulates our arguments. When we use the Elenchus (Socratic method) we even begin to understand that what we may believe is not really "what we believe" and establishes a new ground for people to then go on and reevaluate their perspectives.

 

When we talk...
we must realise that it is a procedure necessary for progress to occur. When we talk, we get all the uncertainties out the way. When we talk, we gain understanding. When we talk, we realise our similarities. When we talk, we are on the right path to peace. For better or worse, when we talk, we are assured that "this too shall pass"...


I leave you with the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1859 drawing on from Edward Fitzgerald,

 

How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! -- how consoling in the depths of affliction! "And this, too, shall pass away." And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.

Let us talk, so that all our troubles, will indeed pass...


- Vela Di- Vela -

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"The Amazingness that is this family"

by Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni
Sihle Isipho Nontshokweni has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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Thinking about my host family makes me happy, genuinely happy. I have been thinking about them quite abit this week and I think it is only fitting that I share some of my precious thoughts about Patti, Jon and Sam.

Yesterday we went to the 6 Flag Amusement park, yes at our old age we joyfully rode bumper cars, stomach churning roller coasters and water rides. Before I get carried away, remembering the pop-corn aroma that filled the air yesterday, let me introduce you to my most happy place here.. my host family.

Patti and Jon have been hosting SAWIP students for the last 4 years.  Before coming to DC, as soon as I found out who my host family is - I anxiously emailed Elroy Bell, from the SAWIP class of 2013 who lived with the Paces. He enthusiastically sent me a full page email describing Patti and Jon, their house, their likes, diets, experiences and the long list of things that they did together...

"We went to Baltimore together, we took day trips to places, we went to Basketball games together, birthday parties, swimming pools and parks etc" he shared. The phrase that striked me the most in his entire email simply read "the Amazingness that is this family".

Whilst I am sure that Elroy made this word up, this phrase perfectly explains just how amazing they have been to me and Ishara.

Firstly, Patti and Jon are so comfortable and honest with whom they are. I think this is why we sit around the kitchen floor and pour out our hearts to Patti, or find ourselves spending late nights lost in conversation. Who they are is the reason we attentively, quietly watch the way they love their son Sam and each other. I have been so moved by this picture!

In the past I have seen love in action, and I have had a complete list of what love looks like derived from the famous chapter in 1Cor 13. "Love is patient and kind, it always hopes, always trusts it keeps no record of wrongs, it always believes and hopes" etc....



Whilst I have been able to define love, testing my own love for other by this standard, living with Jon and Patti has allowed me to see this word in action.  Love looks simple between the two of them and their son, Sam. It looks natural and it feels like something. If I were to put it in one word, I would say living with Jon and Patti feels like Love. And not the romanticized, soppy view of love. I see it in their selflessness and thoughtfulness towards each other. Ifeel it when Patti adoringly says to Sam who is the cutest two and half year old

"Sammy you're my heart"

and with great courage, reluctance and shades of baby language, he responds,

"No! I am Sam."

I would say living with Jon and Patti feels like Love. It feels like the warmth and the welcome that I feel in their home, the chuckles and jokes we crack. I experience it in Jons sarcasm and wit, which I don't think I would have entirely gotten if not for Ishara, (thee best host sister).

It looks like their instinctive kindness towards us and those around them, their seemingly endless generosity, their willingness to wake up early and pre-plan our day trips on free Weekends. Love in their home looks like Pattis intentional suggestion that we sit out on the deck, brew coffee and just connect on a Saturday morning. It is Jon waking me up early in the morning to go for a run with him, or him coming in carrying a blue and lime water bottle for Ishara and myself so we don't get dehydrated whilst at work.

 

If you asked me at this very moment what the best part of this trip has been, I would instinctively say... my host family. Experiencing so much welcome, love, nurture and generosity from 'strangers' is changing my heart. It is genuinely making me want to seek the opportunity to do good and to share my life driven by the value that I can add to others.  Moreover, moment by moment, I get to learn just how beautiful love, patience and understanding is shared between two people.

 

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Fourth of July

by Courtney Roots
Courtney Roots
Hello! My name is Courtney. I am from Cape Town but currently studying postgradu
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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It was an unbelievable experience to be a part of the American Independence Day celebrations. The week of the 4th of July was filled with a heightened sense of patriotism. The fact that, at the beginning of the week, the USA football (‘soccer’) team was battling for a place in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals might have been a contributing factor! I can vouch for the fact that there were a few South Africans rooting for the US and saddened by the final outcome of their match against Belgium. Nevertheless when the evening of the 4th of July arrived, the SAWIP 2014 team, as per SAWIP tradition, travelled to the National Mall to watch the annual Independence Day firework celebrations on the steps of the Lincoln memorial. It was simply fantastic. I must admit that I was slightly in awe (and maybe a little jealous) of the fact that fireworks are allowed in the US! But all in all the experience is one that I will treasure. It is an experience that is truly unique and simply put very American.

 

Being in the US for the 4th of July I felt that I needed a better understanding of the history behind the American Independence Day. SAWIP is an opportunity for us young South African’s to share a bit of our country’s history while in the US and so I felt it was apt to find out a bit more (through an informative internet video) about the history behind the date 04.06.1976 (or if you prefer 06.04.1976). Feel free to check it out.


http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th/videos/fourth-of-july-history#

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Pledging Allegiance

by Brynne Guthrie
Brynne Guthrie
3rd year LLB student at the University of Pretoria. Passionate about debate, hum
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands…” These words rang out across my suburban neighbourhood on Friday the 4th of July, as the residents of Chevy Chase gathered to celebrate their nation’s independence. It is traditional for the 4th of July parade to start at my host parents’ house and the whole affair was about as stereotypically American as I could have hoped. The fire truck leads the procession and all of the children ride bicycles behind it, dressed in the customary red, white and blue. The crowd was led in a chorus or two of America the Beautiful before passionately belting out the national anthem. Couple this micro experience with the fireworks display at the National Mall and I can safely say that I never imagined that patriotism like this existed.

The Declaration of Independence, which we had the privilege of seeing at the National Archives, was signed more than 230 years ago and yet the nation celebrates its signing with unbounded enthusiasm every year. South Africa gained its freedom just 20 years ago and yet, the 27th of April is embraced because it is a public holiday – a day away from work – (by many at least) rather than because it is one of the most important days in our young nation’s history. There are no fireworks displays – to be fair fireworks are illegal – and the celebrations at the Union Buildings go largely unadvertised. There are so many wonderful things about South Africa and 27 April seems like the perfect opportunity to hail them.

There are many arguments against patriotism – especially the kind practiced by America. People blame it for the massive numbers of young military recruits and for giving the government the political capital necessary to start numerous wars. I believe, however, that South Africa would do well to try and instill a little more patriotism into its people. In a state that has numerous problems between social groups, any unifying force has to transcend race, class and gender. The idea of belonging to a particular nation is one that, if used correctly, could be inclusive because it focuses on heritage rather than what you look like or what belief system you hold. Initiatives such as ‘Proudly South African’ are going a long way to promote the South African national identity and a feeling of patriotism could be the key to greater reconciliation in our society. Just look at how people united behind the Springboks in 1995, or how we, as a nation joined in pride and excitement, welcomed the world to South Africa in 2010, or how we mourned the loss of our beloved Madiba together. All of these are moments in our country’s history that brought people together and embodied the idealism that our Constitution or the TRC tried to promote.

Politics is all about striking a balance, and I don’t think that South Africa should go so far as to mandate that all people must pledge allegiance to the flag. I do think, however, that we need to latch onto the moments in our history that have brought us together as one, united nation and celebrate them with as much fervor, enthusiasm and passion as we can muster.

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Global Think Tank on Sports for Development (Part 1)

by Bongani Ndlovu
Bongani Ndlovu
Hey There, glad you finally found your way to my SAWIP Blog. I am a Finance and
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
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On Olympic Day, the 23rd of June, I had an awesome opportunity to listen to a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. This is where fellow SAWIPper Joshua Nott is doing his work placement; I was incredibly stoked as he managed to join me for the discussion. The panel discussion was chaired by Nicole Goldin who is the director for the youth and security initiative at the center. Her guests were Paul Teeple, Awista Ayub and Briana Scurry. The talk focused on the use of sport in order to promote gender equality and also ensure social progress.


The panel was involved in different regions of the globe advocating for the use of sport as a catalyst to social change. With over 40 years of experience in the field of sport for development, the panel had a very robust and informative discussion. The theme of the discussion moved around the use of sports for building self-esteem. ‘Also how it provides an alternative to risky or anti-social behavior amongst young people, creating sufficient structure, discipline, and incentive to keep some people away from drugs, violence, or criminal activity’. The issues which were being discussed spoke to what I am currently doing in South Africa.

 

At this point of the discussion, I am hoping you are asking yourself, why sport? Why don’t we simply the youth within the townships of South Africa in schools and educate them? Surely the educators will deal with the problem. Is that not what they are trained to do?

 

However with a drop-out rate of over forty percent, South Africa needs more than just textbooks to keep the young people in the classroom. I believe that sport is that catalyst that has the potential to keep young people in classrooms.

 

My answer to the above questions is fully vested in my belief in the magic that sport brings. There is a great deal of magic that lies in sport and especially when young people partake in sport. Sport has many life skills to teach young people, changing the way they approach challenges and the way they interact with others.

 

I believe that sport fosters resilience among young people and enables them to build leadership and teamwork skills. These partnerships will ensure that they become leaders in their respective communities and also agents of change that will inspire a generation that will follow in their footsteps.

 

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Our Greatest Export

by Joshua Nott
Joshua Nott
I am a proud son of Africa. Political science and law student at the University
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on Sunday, 06 July 2014
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My experiences in Washington DC have continuously reminded me about the innovation and technological advancement of the American people. This week the team and I visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Throughout the tour I was in awe of the great achievements of American scientists, pilots and astronauts. I not only learned on my own accord but was also informed by our tour guide, which the SAWIP has arranged for each museum we visit.

 

Throughout the tour I kept wondering how South Africa could ever compete with this global power, that is America. After my experiences in the United States, I have no doubt that South Africa has a long way to go in many respects. Having this realization made me feel small and insignificant. Moreover, I am constantly reminded of the efficiency of American society. From self-check out services to reliable public transport, we seem to be behind on all fronts.

 

However, feeling intimidated and defeated has never driven human development. With this understanding, I tried to determine what South Africa’s contribution to the global village has been. At first I was disappointed in that our history is one, which is defined by a poor human rights record and a history of domination of one group over another.

 

I then recalled the words of our ambassador to the United States, the honorable Ebrahim Rasool. In his keynote address at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the ambassador spoke of South Africa’s greatest export to the world. Our export is one, which showcases the very essence of humanity. South Africa’s peaceful transition from tyrannical minority rule to a constitutional democracy is our gift to the world.

 

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What's in an anthem? Part 2: The now.

by Imaad Isaacs
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on Sunday, 06 July 2014
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In this post, we’ll look at the amalgamated version of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and The Call of South Africa (known in Afrikaans as Die Stem van Suid-Afrika) that were the essential contributors to South Africa’s present-day anthem.

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Small differences leading in new territory = Growing

by Kabelo Gildenhuys
Kabelo Gildenhuys
Young Urban Gentleman. Passionate about leadership and contributing towards buil
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on Thursday, 03 July 2014
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This week we have surpassed our half way mark of the DC journey for 2014. This hallmark requires first and foremost conscious reflection as to determine our own personal progress and assessing our experience thus far. This is not only necessary in order to optimize this valuable experience but crucially also to ensure that we either stay on course or adapt as to get the most of the remaining time. It was no surprise that the first few days were mostly about soaking in the environment and trying to find our feet among the consistent movement of this wonderful albeit extremely humid city. Now that I am more comfortable with my new surroundings (particularly getting around on the public transport) I am starting to sense and observe all the minuscule differences between the USA and SA. On a surface level one could say that there are more similarities (people, food entertainment etc), but it is in the small things, that which you do not initially notice that one starts to see the difference and hence reminisce for that which you are used to. This made me wonder how other Africans that come to South Africa in search of a better life experience our country. Do they also feel a bit out of place? Fearful? Discouraged? Once again one could say that one a macro level the differences our not that significant, but it is with the small things (signs, contextual language etc) that the ‘differences’ becomes ever more omnipresent. Yes we are a more globalised world and yes we are more interconnected, yet this does not replace our longing for understanding or our desire for expressing ourselves in forms that do not require consistent explanation or consent from others. This becomes particularly evident when the initial excitement of new uncharted territory and exclusion of all the accompanied difference surpasses and the attention shifts to the small things that are different and essentially lacking (one can even making a link to the post 1994 and so called post ‘honeymoon’ phase in South Africa). In this situation it can become very easy to be unmotivated, depressed, anxious and initiating an intense longing for the familiar. Yet this phase is the biggest learning curve and obstacle of the entire journey and therefore being able to manage with this change and still thrive is when most of the ‘production’ of growth takes shape. Going through this experience of being in DC is invaluable for the molding of leaders as leadership demands being able to feel comfortable despite being in a new ‘uncomfortable’ environment, i.e. being able to still perform and lead at an optimum level even though everything feels out of place. Ultimately leaders are required to consistently enter unknown territory and once there not only lead others but crucially themselves as well. For me dealing with the emotions of feeling out of place and longing for the familiar, has meant opting to search for inner peace as to rather feel comfortable from within and in so doing lessening the desire to be in familiar spaces. This process thus far has allowed me to not only grow professionally but more importantly also emotionally and thus allowing me to appreciate the time here to the utmost.

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English -The Modern-Day Verwoerd

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Wednesday, 02 July 2014
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There is no denying the prestige that the English language has in South Africa. It is the language of socialisation, the language of business, tertiary academia and it commands a lot of power within the professional aspects of one's life and professional development as well. Part of that prestige can be attributed to the fact that English is a global language, even though it may not be the most popular language in the world. It is also a better alternative to Afrikaans, which is still perceived by a lot of black people as a language of oppression and a language of the denial of many freedoms.

 

 

English is a language which is taught in township schools in order to meet the additional language requirements as stipulated by the Department of Education's Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) document. The rationale is to make students able to be active members in social, academic and professional spheres. The Department of Education employs and additive approach when it comes to language teaching; this means that children are taught in their mother-tongue during the initial and foundation years of their schooling and English only gets introduced as an additional language during the Grade 3/4 years. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this method.

 

I strongly feel that we need to use simultaneous bilingualism as an approach in language teaching, children should acquire their mother-tongue and English simultaneously. According to a language study conducted, the stage for optimum language acquisition is early childhood. Why are we not taking advantage of this? Why are we not exploring a different approach to language teaching?And the beauty of language is that some theoretical frameworks from a language can be transferred onto another.

 

 

Sadly, many township school students are being dealt an unjust hand; the combination of when English is introduced and also how it is taught, form a seamingly insurmountable obstacle. The traditional, intensive approaches of language teaching  are not reaping any rewards in terms of the academic performance of our students. The focus is too much on the actual words (doing generic word exercises), completing pre-set worksheets which don't incorporate achieveing a communicative competence in the language. Most lessons follow a parrot-style, straight out of the book method which does little for achieving a communicative competence in the language.

 

I believe that there needs to be the utilisation of extensive reading an approach to language teaching; reading for pleasure must be greatly emphasised. Particularly since recent studies have shown that there is a strong interdependent relationship between reading and writing; and these are key aspects in developing a communicative competence in the target language -which in this case is English. The assessment standards used to assess learners' progress is quite unfair. They'e expected to answer questions during tests and examinations in a language that they are not familiar with. This leads to a lot of frustration being felt by the learners, especially since the society we live in dictates that if you are not fluent in English then that is a sign of 'stupidity'. Our newspapers and television channels ridicule politicians for the grammar, spelling and punctuation errors which they make. This deters learners from seeing the necessity of school as the language issue alienates them. This results in report cards marked with huge 'F's and even GG's. Do we blame students for dropping out? Ofcourse not.

 

 

 

We need innovative ways to teach languages in our schools, ways which will preserve our mother-tongues and not linguistically oppress anyone. We need to do that fast especially since English and how it is taught in township schools has become the modern-day Verwoerd - an oppressor of note. A measurement of 'intelligence' and no longer just a language. It condemns the black child to a sub-standard educational qualification and prepares them for the kind of reality experienced by any marginalised person living within an oppressive state. It violently screams, "You will never be good enough, and you will never get an education which can bring you the socio-economic tranformation that you need". The Black Child has been failed....again.

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What’s in an anthem? Part 1: The story

by Imaad Isaacs
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on Tuesday, 01 July 2014
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South Africa’s national anthem is considered to be amongst the most beautiful in the world. It brings together all the leaders, servants, the mighty and the less-mighty in our country. It’s the words that Helen Zille, Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema all know and can sing together.

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The Not-So Invisible Teacher (Part two) -My Work Placement

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Tuesday, 01 July 2014
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When I heard that I would be placed at Higher Achievement, I was very pleased with that. Being someone who is unfathomably passionate about education and using education as a tool for socio-economic transformation, Higher Achievement is right up my alley. It is an organization which aims to provide scholars -usually from 'disadvantaged' (that is how the government eloquently puts it) background -with a headstart in their upcoming academic year in the form of extra and co-curricular programs. These programs are ultimately designed to enable scholars to meet the admission requirements of prestigious high schools so that the opportunity gap between social classes can be narrowed. I love Higher Achievement because I believe in its goals and its mission; equal opportunity and bridging the opportunity gap so much that quality education becomes accessible to all students -irrespective of their socio-economic background.

 

 

I have been very fortunate in that I have had some wonderful opportunities thrown into my path. I attended a prestigious pre-primary school, which effectively laid a good educational foundation. By the time I got to grade 1, I was already able to read and write words which were far beyond my age-group. I was fortunate enough to attend schools outside of my beloved Gugulethu, which is something I don't take for granted at all. Life would have been very different had I not had the fortune of that. I hope, through my work exposure at Higher Achievement, I can gain all the knowledge and the skills required to start something like the organization in my community as well.

 

 

I believe, unapologetically at that, that quality education and equal opportunities are an inalienable and non-negotiable human right. I believe that everyone has a specific purpose and a specific calling, mine would be transforming the ducation system in South Africa -starting with my community and starting by introducing a program which closes the opportunity gap. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There's a new sheriff in town. Some serious change needs to be catalyzed. I'm not playing games. A life and a society where there is still blatant inequality infuriates me, and I won't sit around and let that continue on my watch. I'm about many lives but not that one in particular, and as my new American friends would say, "I aint about that life yo".

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50 Shades of Coloured

by Lauren Hess
Lauren Hess
Hi, I'm Lauren Hess - tea drinker, critical thinker and lover of all things witt
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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Sitting on the metro, I looked up to notice a woman and her husband staring in my direction. Not sure how to respond, I went with my go-to reaction of smiling which seemed to prompt her to approach me.


Her: “You have such exotic skin.”

Me: “Uhh. Thank you.”

Her: “So, what are you?”

Me: “…”


Across continents, cultures, cities and all sorts of spaces; my ethnicity never ceases to confuse or spark some kind of curiosity in people – and DC has been no exception. As markers of race and ethnicity continue to be viewed as inherent biological differences; for many, the need to know is partly curiosity and partly trying to figure out how to process me through a lens of what is ‘expected’ from someone of my race. To answer those, I identify as ‘coloured’ (a perfectly acceptable term back in South Africa), which I would guess would make me ‘mixed race’ here. But what does that mean? With so many combinations, shades and cultural practices found across the coloured spectrum (as found in any and all race groups) the process of trying to classify a people group according to specific physical characteristics is shown to be particularly ludicrous.


Along with more specific requirements such as hair type the general requirement for Apartheid classification was that one should be “in appearance, obviously a [insert race group] person who is generally not accepted as a [insert another race group] person”. Due to these vague classifications, which had as much to do with appearance as social behaviours, many members of the coloured populations attempted to be reclassified – and were often successful. ‘Successful’ reclassifications resulted in the splitting of families based of varying shades of ‘colouredness.


This reclassification (and the apartheid system in general) created a hierarchy, within the coloured community, as the majority aspired to ‘whiteness’. This is a trend that has been seen across the world, but more often in societies where race has been used as an instrument of oppression and privilege. Today, these ideas still permeate the subconscious of the ‘coloured’ community in Cape Town where straight hair, green eyes and lighter skin remain prized possessions. In my own family we range from having afro’s to silky straight hair; from porcelain pale skin to the richest of ebonies.

 

While race continues to be an important part of society and a necessary one in order to address past inequalities, I hope that in future we will be able to transcend these socially constructed boundaries which have caused such real tragedies – not only in South Africa, but across the world.


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The Spirit Of St Louis

by Erwyn Durman
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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Over the past week we have been to a host of museums and memorials and all have been contributory to the themes of war, civil rights or politics in some way or another. Yesterday, on the 29th of June we went to the National Air and Space Museum, which changed up the general trend and allowed us to learn about some fun facts from the scientific world.


There were many impressive exhibits on display some of the hi-lights included: Sputnick 1, the Wright Flyer (the worlds first successful aeroplane) and the Moon Rover. The exhibit that I will most remember was the one where we made our last stop on the tour. It was of an Aeroplane called the Spirit of St Louis. The story behind this plane is an enduring one and serves as an example of determination of one mans will power to succeed in an outrageous task. That man is Charles Lindbergh.


Charles Lindbergh, was an aviator who is known famously for the FIRST non stop solo flight across the Atlantic. The purpose behind Lindebergh achieving this feat was as a result of a challenge set out by Raymond Orteig, for a total of 25,000 dollars, to the first person who would make the trip from New York City to Paris.


What is so remarkable about Lindbergh's journey is his employment of some rational yet irrational methods. There were many that doubted whether he would succeed but also whether he would make it out alive. Here are a few of the crazy techniques Lindbergh used in his arduous journey:


1. Side panel windows were removed: There was a method to Lindbergh's madness. He did this so he would have a constant flow of air in the cockpit. Lindbergh was fearful that he would fall asleep and relied on the constant flow of air to keep him awake. He did report that there was one occasion that he recalled of falling asleep but fortunately he awoke to steer on.


2. There is NO cockpit window: Lindbergh requested that the large main and forward fuel tanks were placed in the forward section of the fuelage, which was in front of the pilot. This helped with the center of gravity but also meant that he had no window to look out of. Lindbergh's argument was that he had no need for a cockpit window as either the sun blocked his view or the cloudy atmosphere did not allow him to use the window. How then did he navigate himself? Well he would constantly look out the window frame of the side panels. Our tour guide explained to us that at some points he would fly close to the ocean and estimate the height of the waves and the direction in which they moved to orientate himself. He also had his trusty compass assisting him.

 

3. What did he eat?: Food was not a problem ,he took three sandwiches with him on his trip, of which he only hate half of one sandwich.

 

 

Lindbergh flew a distance of 3600 miles or 5800 km non stop which translates to a total of 33.5 hours without any sleep. The Spirit of St Louis captures the minds of both the elderly and the young. It is a story of bravery but also of a man who was determined to see through a task, no matter how ludicrous it may have been. Charles Lindbergh's adventure is not only a story of one persons life experience but a metaphor of the Human Spirit. As each day continues here in DC and with many of the conversations I have with my peers, the interns at work and the highly profiled people I have met, there is one thing  I am always left bewildered by. That one thing is the infinite potential that of the Human Spirit.

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