Three months from now, we will be in South Africa. The reality is sinking in.
South Africa has been on my "bucket list" since I first read The Power of One, probably back in 1992. I'm rereading this novel now because I'm teaching it in my Humanities Special Topics: The Culture and History of South Africa course. It's a long, dense novel, but it gives a sweeping sense of South African history from the turn of the 20th century (the Boer War) to Apartheid. I've taught the novel in World Lit. and Film class, but this time, I've spent so much time trying to absorb South African history, that it all makes much more sense...and I can see more clearly how it's a historical novel, a political novel, and the story of one man's sense of self and inner strength, and a great criticsim of all racism and prejudice. Realizing that it's based on the author Bryce Courtenay's life is all that keeps the sweeping epic from being unbelievable.
There's a great moment on the first page of chapter 21, where Courtenay says the Nationalist Party won the election and came into power in 1948 because they promised that they'd bring back WHITE BREAD isntead of the healthier, more rustic whole wheat loaf which had been introduced during the war!
Apartheid ensued immediately. A short description follows:
"...for the invention of a new game where black South Africans voluntarily fell on their heads from the third story of police headquarters to the pavement below. It was curious that the whites, renowned for their sporting prowess, never learned how to play this game, and there isn't a single instance of a whilte South African becoming proficient at it. Nobody ever got their Sprinbok blazer for this new national game, even though a lot of very good heads played it with great courage."
"Morrie[the protagonist's best buddy], in a grim pun, said the election of the Nationalists to power was one of the crummiest moments in the history of any people." (Courtenay 415).
On the other, more practical hand, I'm trying to keep all ducks in a row: the paperwork, the student questions, the planning, the budget (of which Scott is in charge, but I feel responsible for the SCC end of things), trying to be of help in fundraising, etc., etc.
Thursday, Caryn Lindsey, Director of International Programs at MSU came to class and led my students through the application process for their ISICs (International Student Identification Cards). All of my students have passports. Two more things checked off the TO DO list.
Sout Africa, here we come.
Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Random House, 1989.