Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last Blog Maybe

I've been negligent, but no more. Today I will manage to completely fulfill my commitment: one last blog. I've been bad about them anyway...

Yesterday was amazing. I woke up as the deciding states reported their votes. When I turned on my computer at 5:45 Durban time, there were around 230 electoral votes for Obama. As I drank my tea--english breakfast with milk and honey--I refreshed the New York Times page over and over and over, tapping anxiously until the scales tipped and Barack Obama became our president. My South African roommate, Karina stood by, and when it happened we first double and then triple checked the confirmation (we were waiting for someone to say, "America's new president is Barack Obama" before we let go all that self-preserving doubt we've been carrying for a while) and then gave each other a huge hug.

A couple minutes later--alone again--I said a prayer for Obama and his family. I don't know if people back home are talking about Obama's safety. I don't know if it's an inappropriate subject. But honestly, I am concerned. We all keep referring to Dr. Martin Luther King's dream--we see it's fruition in this day--and yet we know the dream is not fully realized. Ignorance, fear, and hatred turn into exclusion and violence all around us. Not just at home but everywhere. Immigrants in South Africa this year have been tortured, made homeless, and killed for their difference. Ethnic warfare rages on in Congo.

I remember the day when Dad took our family to "paradise valley." We played at the foot of an awesome waterfall in a valley of the Great Smoky Mountains for hours. The creekbed and beach were made of a million broken pieces of mica, and shined like diamonds. If I'm remembering correctly, we even had tuna-fish sandwiches and cokes (my mom makes the best tuna-fish!). On our walk back to the car, we met an old man, and he and Dad struck up a pleasant conversation. ...Until he told us to be careful out there in those woods....'there's niggers out there'. My Dad asked him not to talk like that, but it was too late, Katie and I had already heard. For Katie, it was the first time she had heard someone actually verbalize such meanness. She cried and cried.

I suppose things have changed even since then, but deep in my heart, I fear those backwoods. I fear the backwoods of the human heart where ignorance and fear still so often reside. I don't know if it's uncool to voice my fear--my excuse is that I'm out of the country--but I'll go ahead and say it: I'm worried that people will try to kill our beloved new president. So I pray with gratitude for this day, and I petition God--I petition the capacity for love in all of us--to transform ignorance into understanding. Although ignorance does persist in all of us to some extent, Dr. King was a man of heavenly vision; he saw a paradise where lion and lamb lay together. It is our privilege and responsibility as human beings to always be working toward such a world. But as we work, we can also revel in the beauty of the Kingdom as it we can rest and soak in the sun!

I have two weeks left in South Africa. Today, I'm making last stops to St. Martin's Diocesan Home for Children, the Department of Vehicular Registration, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Rotary Club of Durban North. Half those people are getting the peanut-butter, oatmeal cranberry, and chocolate chip cookies I spent Tuesday afternoon baking (busy work to keep my mind off the election). Mom sent me reeses pieces, giardelli morsels, and tollhouse butterscotch chips so that I could make a real American show of gratitude for all the people who have made Durban home for me this year.

When I return homehome, it's off to Tim's wedding, then back to Atlanta for Wilson's. The holidays will culminate with the largest celebration EVER: my little sis is gettin hitched! Then, I'll be working on my thesis, looking for a job, and eating lots of lentils so that I can pay off my credit card. My last big purchase in South Africa: my upstairs roommate is a fashion designer and he is making me a silk little black dress to wear to all these wedding!!! Maybe I'll look so good I'll find my own honey to squeeze on...

Signing off, yours truly,