International Nelson Mandela Day

We arrived home 2 weeks ago after being away in Europe for just over 3 weeks. Home – the reality was as joyful as the anticipation. All was well on our return thanks to Jane (Kgomotso, her African name) our housekeeper; Angie our ginger cat was happy to have us back home to lord it over us.. The winter garden looked healthy, bright and green though I was warned beforehand that the cold bite was due the next day. And boy did it bite. From the northern summer climes to hard hitting bitter biting cold. Snow all over South Africa. The temperatures plunged overnight … and it is still cold cold cold. Up here on the highveld (Johannesburg, 2000 mts above sea level) the cold is different – the skies are bright blue, so it is deceptive.

Our European trip was eventful and wonderful. There are a few photographs at the end of this post.

As eventful on our return was the rescue of the Thai schoolboys in the cave and the death of the courageous Thai Navy Seal diver Saman Kunan. And learning that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, taught them to meditate to stay calm in the cave, made my blood corpuscles expand in a good way. The Wimbledon semi finals kept us on the edge of our seats, Kevin Anderson (SA) playing against John Isner (US). The 5th & final set was Anderson’s, 26:24, the longest in Wimbledon history. Anderson lost to Djokovic in the finals. The soccer World Cup was also pretty exciting, some of it we watched while in Europe. The political dramas around the world are worrying, here in South Africa also. Every day our heads spin at the latest uncovering of graft and corruption of those in power. Riots, strikes, violent protests are the order of the day –

Today is Nelson Mandela International Day, a day set up by ‘The Elders’ 16 years ago to honour this man and all for which he stood. Today is the day of his birth, 100 years ago. Yesterday afternoon I watched the live TV broadcast at the Wanderers Stadium, just a short way from where I live in Johannesburg. Persons in the past who’ve been invited to give the annual lecture include Mary Robinson (former prime minister of Ireland);  Kofi Annan former general secretary of the UN; Ellen Sirleaf former president of Liberia; Kgalema Motlanthe former president and deputy president of South Africa and many other dignitaries over the years.

Yesterday’s invited guest was US former president Barack Obama. There were several speeches beforehand, the first given by Prof. Njabulo Ndebele, academic and chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. My heart swelled at listening to him. One of his anecdotes was of Richard Stengel, American editor, journalist and author who collaborated with Mandela’s book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. Stengel and Mandela were in an airplane over Natal when Stengel saw that the prop of the plane had stopped turning. He told Mandela who merely nodded his head – You’d better tell the pilot, he said. Which Stengel did. The pilot was aware and said he’d alerted ground forces in the event of a crash landing. Stengel relayed this back to Mandela who merely nodded his head and said yes. They landed safely. Afterwards Mandela expressed his real fear of this incident but he also spoke of his fear for humanity. Stengel relayed how calm and calming Mandela was in his ability to suppress his inner fears so as to be brave for other people. 

Mr. Mandela has also said that if the poor and marginalised do not have a future, then those who are privileged also do not have a future –

Patrick Motsepe founder of the Motsepe foundation followed Prof. Ndebele’s speech, then Graça Machel widow of Mr. Mandela. She made her husband come alive for us when she spoke of him. Her essential message was to recognise our common humanity. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa our president then stepped up to the microphone to rapturous applause. It was lovely to see him beaming and looking much less stressed and exhausted than he usually does. He spoke inter alia of the need to clean up and fix our broken institutions. And the need for accountability and responsibility of each and every person.

Mr Barack Obama followed also to rapturous applause. He gave a rousing speech, highlighting many advances in all fields made since 100 years ago and the strides in the last few decades. He spoke of the current danger of going back to the old ways, of authoritarianism, nationalism, restriction of freedom of speech. The more things change the more they stay the same. He reminded us of the value of activism at the grass roots level.

I’ve excerpted a few of Obama’s statements thanks to the FB feed of Don Maxwell Searll.

 “It is in part because of the failures of governments and powerful elites to squarely address the failures and shortcomings of this international order that we now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business.”.

“We have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken these last decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of power and privilege and injustice and exploitation never completely went away.”

 “It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists both in the United States and in South Africa.”

 “The politics of resentment and fear and retrenchment began to appeal. And that kind of politics is now on the move.”

 “On Madiba’s 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads. A moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories, two different narratives about who we are and who we should be.”

 “I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal and they’re endowed by our Creator certain inalienable rights. And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation and pursuit of a common good.”

BUT what really was heart stopping for me was Prof. Patrick Lumbumba’s (Kenyan legal expert and scholar) speech that he gave on campus at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape last night. As wonderful and inspiring as the memorial at Wanderers stadium was with its audience of 15000, Lumumba’s speech was much more powerful (not related to but named after Patrice Lumbumba, the first and only elected Prime Minister of the Congo Republic who was assassinated – believed to be by the CIA – a few months after Congo gained formal independence 50 years ago)…The clip below is long. Prof. Lumbumba starts speaking at 59 mins into this video after being addressed by I think a Xhosa headman singing his praises (added after I realised my mistake – not a Zulu warrior) for about 5 mins. He reminded us not to repeat the mistakes of history. It is so worth watching – not the whole meeting but Prof. Patrick Lumbumba’s speech. … what questions would Nelson Mandela have asked if he was alive today? He would have asked questions as in eg ‘how is it that a country’s people (Africa) so well endowed, are still so poor?’ He would not have stopped at that question, he would have asked, ‘how is it that people are still fighting and killing each other?’ He would not have stopped at that question .. Nelson Mandela would have asked ‘are we liberated from the pain of killing our brothers and sisters?’ He would not have stopped at that question, he would have asked ‘how is it that Africa produces what it does, but does not consume it; but consumes what it does not produce?’ … but you can hear him for yourself … he talks for about a half hour … the last 30 mins. He urges us to continue petitions and protests, we need leaders not dealers, we need teachers not cheaters.

WATCH: Prof Lumumba delivers Nelson Mandela memorial lecture

I heard Mr. Mandela’s personal chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya speak today. She served him porridge every single morning for 19 years when he was at his Johannesburg home, with nuts, raisins and currants. One morning he asked for Frosties for breakfast. Ooooo Tata she said, no you cannot have sugar. Why do you want Frosties? Are your grandchildren encouraging you? No, he said, I’ve listened and honoured my mother eating porridge for breakfast for a long time now and now I want a change!

Well, this has been a long post, probably my longest ever. But I wanted to share this historic moment which makes me think and feel that more than ever, we need to find it in ourselves to continue opening our heart, to realise the common humanity we share, to practise kindness and the art of giving, the art of listening, the art of appreciating what we have, to continue to wonder at the small things that bring us joy, to continue to be curious about this strange mystery called life.

A few days in Paris, this one overlooking the Seine, close to Notre Dame Cathedral, before flying to Lisbon to catch a taxi to Sintra –

The villa in Sintra
view from balcony of villa, castles everywhere on the mountainside –
Down the lane from the villa we were staying in, in Sintra, I was admiring the lemons in the garden. This lovely lady picked some for me. They were huge!
family photograph of my sister-in-law Jenny, her husband Mike, Neil, their son Alex and his twin daughters
After our wonderful family holiday in Portugal, we flew to Zurich. There were so many highlights, the ride on the tram to Einsiedeln and seeing the Black Madonna on 21st June which was the solstice or close enough to it. She was magnificent – words cannot describe the emotions that were evoked in both Neil and myself.We went on a boat to Küsnacht and visited the Jung Institute there. I bought this book …
and walked down the road to see Jung’s house…
Our hotel in Zurich was central to much … the restaurant over the road called Tibits was one we frequented often, 100% vegetarian.

From Basel after 4 nights in Zurich, we embarked on the boat for the river cruise up the Rhine. So many photos of beauty, hard to select one … this from the deck in Canal d’Alsace

There were many excursions to places of historical interest when the boat docked. We could either join planned excursions or walk about towns at our own leisure. We did both … I’ll write about some of those places another time –

7 nights later after cruising through countryside of great beauty we docked in Amsterdam where we spent two nights on the boat.  We did a cruise seeing Amsterdam from the river. We also did a lot of walking. The one below is standing outside Anne Frank’s house –

Thank you for reading. May this find you well and may your centre hold.

38 Comments on International Nelson Mandela Day

  1. So many thoughtful comments, so many familiar faces here. I have nothing to add. I just wanted you to know I popped in, soaked up your words and shared them to my fb author page. You write so fluently, it’s a pleasure to read. Even when the content is painful. Keep up the good fight. We are in this together.

    • Thanks Janet so much for popping in – and for your lovely compliment, which I return to you – I always enjoy your posts. A good fight indeed … and yes, we’re in it together, for the long haul.

  2. Mandela was a truly wonderful man. Sounds like it was a fitting tribute.

  3. I finally got here, Susan. Long after Nelson Mandela’s celebration day. Every day should be Nelson Mandela Day. I loved the questions posed by Prof. Patrick Lumbumba. They sound like what Mandela might ask.

    I was proud to see our past American president there–and feel for a moment a bit of pride in my country. So much has been lost. And what wonderful adventures you take while I stay home raising Monarch butterflies and watching birds. Thank you for taking me with you in this blog and for sharing photos. Black Madonnas and lunch at Tibits and then to that wonderful quiet place called home. Thank you for the blessing: “may your centre hold.”

    • Thanks Elaine for coming by! I so enjoy your FB posts on the monarchs and the birth of the baby birds. Over the last several hours I was thinking about this – how much joy it gives to see Nature at work, even vicariously, but always affirming the beauty of the rhythm of the cycles and that we have the gift of witnessing ..

      Yes, here in SA so much, too much has been lost, the ordinary citizen bearing the cost, not only in monetary ways, of corruption and ineptitude. I was sorry to miss a talk on the radio this morning – I had to be out and am hoping I’ll be able to access a podcast. It was on the question: do we need government? There is a part of me that is anarchic, not in the destructive sense, but of saying NO to governments and their unconscionable ways ..

  4. Wow Susan 🙂 I envy you 🙂 for the time you took to travel to Europe, enjoyed reading your experiences of your travel. Loved all the pictures and there is so much to reflect upon, i am touched my Nelson Mandala’s words… they are so powerful – if the poor and marginalized do not have a future, then the privileged also do not…. this post is full of deep thoughts and is good for reflection, thank you for sharing; and yes Susan I was also very impressed with the way the Thai boys were rescued from the cave … it was so inspiring and beautiful to see the courage, passion and commitment of all those lovely people who were involved in getting these young boys out…. the whats app had so many videos doing its round and I felt so comforted to see there is so much of goodness still there in the world. I liked your first quote on peace… . thanks for sharing so much about yourself, trips, motivating phrases and images that has put a desire in my heart to visit Europe. Its been a pleasure reading your post, stay blessed and Let there be love and peace in you and your family, today and always. Hugs

    • Thank you dear Genevive for your lovely comment. Yes, peace – who knows when this may happen. It begins with each and every one of us. May I say to you and everyone else what you said – Let there be love and peace in you and your family today and always. Thank you for that xx

  5. Hi Susan – let’s see if this one gets through … thanks for writing such a full post and I’ll be back to re-read and to listen to the recording … and your holiday – sounds wonderful … so glad you had such a great time. There’s so much to offer us to see in the world – both Africa and Europe … I know I’d love to do more …

    Oh I remember those cold days! take care and Spring is not far away – sadly the opposite for us … so I’ll go and enjoy our summer days – ‘cept it looks like it might rain today! Still they need it …

    Cheers Hilary

    • Hi Hilary, maybe you were using your phone first time round? I say this because someone else said via messenger the other day that she couldn’t post using her phone. My son phoned this morning re: upcoming visit and said he tried to comment using his phone and couldn’t so he’s going to fix it! But thank you for coming through! (my WP needs an update he said …)

      Those of us who can are so fortunate to be able to travel – and there’s so much I still want to see! The world has much to offer.

      It’s still pretty cold here ip on the highveld – maybe not as dreadful since the day after our return! And the sun is up in the sky a little longer. August can be especially cold!

      Hope all well with you Hilary – I want to pop around and see your reviews on books on Canada – I hope to do so in the next day or so.. Susan xx

  6. How much do I love this post, and Nelson Mandela, and his Big Vision! Glad you had such a nice vacation, Susan.

  7. I agree with Nelson Mandela, “if the poor and marginalised do not have a future, then those who are privileged also do not have a future –”

    Your vacation photos look wonderful. I remember such large lemons in southern Italy.

  8. So much goodness here Susan. The Mandela celebrations and the thoughtful musings about the collective state of humanity and our part in it is a beautiful reminder of how much we still need to keep both our feet and hearts on the path.

    It’s a genuine delight to see photos and hear about your marvelous vacation adventure. I can truly appreciate the richness of what you gathered with your eyes and how you’re unpacking it with your heart. And that of course, is the best of experiences isn’t it?

    • Thanks so much Deborah – yes, it was something to watch from the comfort of my sofa with the wood fire going .. and the Lumbumba speech was an extra gift. Unexpected – I didn’t know. IF you can access it and have a half hour to watch it, I think you would appreciate it.

      Yes, there was much heart in our experience – from family, to beauty, several synchronicities, walking, talking and wonderful food! I’m amazed I didn’t pick up weight .. it must have been all the walking 🙂 But the heart made it all what it was …

  9. It looks like you had a wonderful trip (it really looks wonderful!), but “there’s no place like home.” Strange to think of you with snow, while here we are happy that we are getting some relief from the heat–sunny, not humid, going up to mid 80s F later today.
    I heard some of Obama’s speech. I kept thinking that the current resident of the White House will never be invited to speak anywhere. What a horror he is!

    • Thanks Merril, yes a grand time was had by all and it was lovely to enjoy the beginnings of summer in Europe. I hear of high heat in the US … which I’ve yet to experience. I’ve only been to the east and west coast and inland in March a few years ago and I remember attending Alex’s wedding on the west coast in 2002 in February and it was cool.

      We’re all aware of the should and shouldn’t uttered by the certain (or uncertain) person. It really is unbelievable – though since we heard it we cannot deny that it was said ..

  10. aaahhh yes winter still reigns in this hemisphere – though here too the days are gorgeous but those winds are viscious when they get going…
    and the amazing story of the thai boys and the power of meditation – maybe the world could learn to … lets meditate together instead of firing missiles at each other – gosh the possibilities of healing and change are infinite if we could discover the inner world the inner light and the oneness we all share…
    great to hear of your journey susan

    • Thanks Sandra so much … the Thai soccer team being taught by their captain to meditate while trapped was so inspiring! Imagine those feelings of peace and oneness permeating throughout society… now that’s a journey I’d like to take. I do meditate and I am convinced it keeps me a little bit sane 🙂

      Down in Cape Town (about 1600 kms away, or 1000 miles) the wind blows like you can’t imagine. Well, I guess you do know if you say yours are vicious. And it rains in winter – not here up on the highveld; our rains come in summer. I used to live there and visit often – I’ll be flying down there next weekend) and that wind can blow you off your feet!

  11. Dear Susan, Welcome home! Thank you for sharing all your wonderful reflections with us. By painting in the personal details you’ve created such a rich tapestry with news of Jane, Angie and a biting cold, snow covered country. I loved your photos, they added instant colour and wonderful depth to your travels. What a glorious time you’ve had celebrating your big 70th birthday! Btw, your short silver mane looks fab! And oh my Goddess, I especially loved the Black Madonna photo … so incredibly beautiful, beyond words!

    Thank you, I really enjoyed reading the excerpts you shared from Barack Obama’s recent Nelson Mandela’s memorial speech. Most especially the last quote, what an upbeat, rousing speech! What a great day and historic moment for South Africa! I did try to listen to the video given by Prof Lumumba but sadly the video didn’t work … I’ll try again later this morning because I love your reaction to it so know it’ll be great! I echo your finishing sentiments may all our souls continue to flow towards wholeness. Love and blessings, Deborah.

    • Thank you dear Deborah on this yet another cold day, though the skies are bright blue and it’s sunny! Thanks for your compliment re my silver mane – although when I see photos when it was brown, I’m tempted … 🙂

      I’m sorry to hear you couldn’t access the video – I just tried it again and it’s working on my side .. the live feed has ended though the video supplied above works. Unless you’d like to see the Zulu warrior which is rather terrific and a bit terrifying in its way, you’d have to fast forward on to about an hour. He asked the questions that Mr. Mandela would have asked … and didn’t stop there – more questions and more – which of course is just up my street!

      Love and blessings to you, Susan.

  12. I’m glad you wrote about Nelson Mandela day. Our daughter has been here two weeks, and I haven’t been keeping up with world events. I’m looking forward to reading more about your European jaunt.

  13. Nelson Mandela a man who hopefully taught the world.
    And, your trip sounds like around the world as well with many ventures and adventures.
    All important for living…

    • Thank you Susan for coming by – are we willing to learn is the first question that comes to mind. Yet, he remains a world icon for his lack of bitterness and his willingness to forgive as he stated on his release from Robben Island ..

  14. Love this post, Susan; like a newsy letter to a friend. Love the photo of you in front of Anne Frank’s house. Want to hear more of your European travels. But, of greatest significance to humanity are your thoughts and the quotes you post here. I, of course, especially like what President Obama says, his voice so true and comforting. So glad you got to see and hear him. There’s a wonderful David Letterman conversation with him on David Letterman’s Netflix TV show — at once intelligent and comforting. I could go on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences here with us. This, too, is my creed, as President Obama says: “I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal and they’re endowed by our Creator certain inalienable rights. And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation and pursuit of a common good.”

    • It’s what I feel when I write posts Samantha, as if I’m writing to a friend 🙂 These quotes and questions I felt I had to share – they were inspiring to me but there is of course universality in them. Barack Obama certainly summed it up in the quote you’ve highlighted. It’s a creed to live by.

      It’s been interesting to see various other interviews with Obama on TV while he is still here. He’s been speaking to the youth today – stressing that they really have to bring the message forward.

      Thank you for coming by – I so appreciate it!

  15. Thank you for your always insightful musings, Susan. Your posts are like a gentle stroll through your garden: here a regal red rose, there a lily, over there a bright patch of petunias.Your trip sounds rich and full of inspiration. Welcome home. To repeat your blessing, may this find you well and may your centre hold.

    • Thank you Jeannie for your lovely descriptive comment! It’s always lovely to be home even though it’s bleeding freezing! Blessings to you…

  16. My first comment might have gone into a spam folder since I don’t see it. This comment is just a test to see if it shows up.

    • It went into ‘moderate comment’ which invariably happens when a URL (is that the right term?) is added to the comment. Luckily I found it!

  17. Your trip sounds outstanding. One of my neighbors is leaving today with his family to take a very similar trip as you’ve described. My trips have almost always been confined to North America, but that’s fine. There’s a lot of cool stuff to visit here–most importantly for me it’s my family.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    • They’re bound to enjoy it Arlee! Hope it’s not too crowded though. The tourist season is bound to be in full swing. I would love to travel more in my own country. I know that you’ve been doing some serious cross country, the last stretch of it on your own. Hope you’re back home safe and sound .. I suspect you are 🙂

  18. So much to think about in this post. You summed up my current rambling thoughts about world affairs and personal relationships with one simple line: “to realise the common humanity we share.” If that can be accomplished, all else will fall into place, I do believe.

    Your photos are a delight. I’ve never been to where you visited, but seeing you there makes me want to go to Europe. I’m glad that you had a good time and that you got back to South Africa in time to celebrate International Nelson Mandela Day at home. Seems appropriate somehow.

    • Thanks Ally Bean for coming by. Yes, that statement of realising our common humanity rungs true for me as well.

      Would I or wouldn’t I 🙂 travel to Europe again? You bet I would. I’ve slack packed/hiked the Amalfi Coast some years ago – truly astoundingly beautiful (even tho I got lost on the mountains along with two friends – the others took the correct path) and I would love to go back. I’ve seen some of Europe but places like Croatia, Bulgaria and many others I would to see more of.

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