Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If I Should Die...

"...think only this of me; that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England." So opens the classic poem The Soldier by Rupert Brooke. Such is how I felt when I lived in South Africa. But returning there for a few weeks over the holidays, I realised that no matter where I am, dead or alive, there will be a part of me that is forever Africa.

I have missed South Africa dearly and really only appreciated how much during my recent trip. She raised me during a politically cruel time, which afforded me great opportunities thanks merely to the colour of my skin. Messed up, absurd and beyond forgiveness, I fortunately managed to grasp some of the complexities of the society in which I was raised as a child. She was beautiful even then and is even more so now, after a decade and a half of democracy.

There are many improvements and the country has grown and flourished. But despite the remarkable transition engineered by an extraordinary man from a prison cell, plans set out and put to test by Nelson Mandela, sadly not all of her people have felt the good fortune that a comparative few have enjoyed in large amounts. It's not a perfect science and while she has been a beacon of hope for the rest of Africa and indeed the world, especially insofar as peaceful transition is concerned, her challenges remain vast and at times, insurmountable. Nevertheless, I believe the vast majority of her people want peace and prosperity for all. With the FIFA World Cup mere months away, she is spotlit once again, as she was during the '95 Rugby World Cup, to show the unifying power of sport.

I miss Africa: the warmth of her people, the big skies, the thunderstorms, the smell of rain on parched earth. When Mandela was elected, there was an incredible anticipation and joy that crossed colour and economic lines. With thousands of people working hard to ensure the 2010 Soccer World Cup goes off without a hitch, I felt that same excitement once more. From corporate SA to the humblest street vendor, there seems a thrill, a spark in the eyes, a new hope for the future.

I wish you well, my friend, my beautiful South Africa. You will always be with me.

Be bold. Be beautiful. Be glorious.