On Wednesday, it was back to the grind. The group had classes in the hotel with speakers Kevin Corbin and Leon, a teacher at University of Cape Town.
Kevin was fascinating. He worked at First National Bank for 21 years, moving the ranking of the bank from fourth in the nation to number one. Then, he left to support the Amy Biehl Foundation. The Foundation works to keep kids off the streets and away from violence, while also trying to form programs to help kids coming out of juvenile delinquency to find a better path. He spoke about leadership qualities, like positivity and hard work and service. I really liked it (and it reminded me of my mother) when he kept saying, “You do good, and everything else falls into place.” Since his foundation is about keeping children away from violence, we also talked about how, even post-apartheid, there is still some anger and bitterness but forgiveness and reconciliation can triumph it. The Amy Biehl story is one of that exactly. She was an American student, came to South Africa to support the anti-apartheid movement. Driving some friends home one night, Amy was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a Pan-African Militant group rally, and she drove right into it. The rally became a mob, pulling her out of her car chanting their slogan one settler, one bullet! Amy was stoned and stabbed to death at 26 years old. Four young men were arrested for her murder.
Five years later, the government is trying to move past the hurt apartheid caused on both sides, and form the Truth and Reconciliation committee. The TRC tells the boys they won’t have to finish the 18 years left on their sentence if they apologize and show remorse. To their surprise, at their public apology, Amy’s parents showed up. They not only showed up, but spoke on the boys’ behalf, asking for them to be shown amnesty. The boys were released, and that’s when Amy’s parents started the foundation with the help of two of Amy’s murderers. Linda Biehl said on a CNN interview (paraphrased from what I remember) “This is what Amy wanted. She knew the risks she was taking when she went to South Africa and understood what the people were going through. She would have wanted us to forgive the boys and help them find a better life.” And when she was asked what she saw every time she looked at the man beside her, who helped kill Amy, she said “I see a man who suffered growing up, but now he has done magnificent things. He is a father, and through the foundation he helps thousands of children. You wouldn’t want all that potential rotting in jail, would you?”
My mother cried when I told her the story, and said “I wish that if something like that were to ever to happen to me, I’d be able to show God’s grace and forgiveness the way they did.” These are the lessons that stick with you. People tell you to be positive and look for the best in people, and it’s like yea yea, whatever. But this story proves the value and strength in being a good person, as well as the extents people will go to when under duress. There was actually a heated conversation in class about how the killers may not have immediately felt remorse, but the bottom line is we have NO IDEA what they went through. Not eating for days, walking miles to get anywhere since your house got taken and the being forced to move, then hearing, “It’s because of the white man.”
Leon, a professor at UCT, brought two students with him to help his presentation. Where does violence stem from? Which came first, poverty or violence? It was a powerful talk about how desperate people do desperate things. How, when living impoverished, the desperate measures become the norm. Not only is it survival, but it is a way to rid yourself of frustration. It was a tough talk with tough questions, but it made a difference. They weren’t at a point where they were putting their studies I violence into effect, but hearing and reading about it was phenomenal.
On Thursday, life got fun again. The group was loaded onto a bus and rode through South Africa. First, we stopped in Faals Bay, known for not being Cale Town when settlers arrived. It was a cute little town we walked around for a little while that had an awesome art shop filled with items from local artists. I got an awesome candle stick (pictured below) for my first apartment next fall! Next stop was Boulders, a national park full of penguins playing on the beach! Tons of pictures were taken there. We drove from there to Cape of Good Hope, where we climbed up to a lighthouse on Cape Point. It was a doozy of a walk, but totally worth it (minus sweating for the rest of trip). Finally we hit up Hault Bay and took a boat to see Seal Island, a famed Shark Week location. It was a fun day running around like the tourists that we are, seeing the sights and taking pictures.
Still up in the trip is a Rugby match (Cape Town Stormers versus the Australia Reds) and our safari! So much to do, so little time.