I am adding to the blog beginning at Day One–June 15.
The day had finally arrived. We gathered at Cornerstone Institute to begin the journey across South Africa, exploring truth, memory and reconciliation. The reading, writing and discussions are more or less done and now we are to experience the learning firsthand. We are a group of 20+ students from South Africa and Canada. We are a quite diverse group: old and young, queer and straight, married and single, graduate and undergraduate, white, coloured (the term used here in Africa to mean mixed race), and black, men and women, Christian and not, South Africans and Canadians, French and English, Afrikaner and English, Afrikaner and a couple of the other African national languages, and city dweller and country folk.
Today’s session helped us build group norms and begin to establish some relationships with one another. The introduction to one another and even the ice-breaker games made me think of Jonathan Jansen’s story in Knowledge of the Blood of the bridge and how we must all promise to meet in the middle. These are the initial steps towards the bridge. The weeks ahead will reveal how far onto the bridge we get.
Marius and Tami then led us through some history and helpful language and cultural tips that will guide us along in the journey to the mid-point of that bridge. To understand the “other” one must know where they have come and so this was a valuable morning for me. Relationships are crucial, as Jansen illustrated a number of times in his book. The more we know of another’s history, the easier it is to try to move towards a common place.
This is the opposite of the story that Dean told today with the line: “Sowing confusion is my greatest joy.” There can be no meeting on the bridge in an environment of confusion and chaos—there is not enough room to maneuver. As I embark on this two-week trek across South Africa, I am praying that the seeds of confusion are not scattered in my heart. I want to struggle with hard questions, and I am not interested in getting final answers to them, but rather I hope to pack the experience in a tool kit that can be utilized as I grow into answers in the coming years. This should not be a time of judgment but rather one of openness. I hope that the trip changes me in significant ways.