The Wicket in Cricket

27 03 2010

“Is this experience what you expected it to be?”
is the most common question I get asked,
and the hardest one to answer.

First of all,
I don’t know what I expected.
And second of all,
the answer is no.

Probably my biggest learning
is quite simple:
studying the legacies of apartheid is not linear.

It’s like the difference between baseball and cricket.

Have you watched a cricket game?
A player stands in the center of a circle,
the circle being the field,
and when the ball is “bowled,”
he hits it any which way.

Picture someone standing in the middle of a circle
and hitting a ball
in any direction.
Including behind them.

Doesn’t really work for your American linear brain,
does it?
It’s confusing.

I can sit through a cricket match,
but I still can’t get my brain around the concept of the game.

It’s a new definition of linear.
And most of the time, I am just struggling to watch,
keep score,
figure out who’s out,
who’s up,
who’s batting when,
and what the heck a wicket is.

But there are moments,
in a conversation with a teacher,
or an interaction with a student,
where I feel almost ready to walk onto the field,
play an “over,”
or at least pick up a ball
and give it a bowl.

In short,
my definitions are growing,
my idea of linear is evolving,
and no,
there is no way to leave here with anything resembling
some neat and tidy package
of understanding
about post-apartheid history education.

Maybe instead,
my goal is to leave
with a big
every which way
treasure chest.

maybe my goal is simply to figure out
the purpose
of a wicket.


The tip of Africa

17 03 2010

As a side note,
I’m getting a bit tired of traditional blog entries,
and so from time to time,
I’m using my friend Stefan’s writing style.
I’ll call it: Stefan-ese.
He’s been writing this way for years,
first in emails,
then a blog,
now a whole published book!
Drop in on him:

and buy his book
if you are so inclined.
(Perfect for Father’s Day,
I might add.)

This weekend
Sunny and I decided
to take a long drive,
see something new
and get away from the city,
not to mention Sunny’s deep desire
to arrive at the tip of Africa
where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.

On the road again.

You can’t even imagine
how much time we have spent together
in various little cars
over the last seven months.
Most without radios.
Connecticut to South Dakota
New Zealand’s North Island to the South.
Nothing to do
But drive, drive, drive.

Our road trips
bring out all sides of our personalities.
Some good, some only okay.
We usually end up making up songs,
and while it’s quite fun,
there’s a point when one of us is singing and the other has to decide
whether and/or how to participate
and why exactly the entire game is fun.

For example,
when Sunny is on verse 145
of “Farmer John and his sheep”
(to the tune of “La Bamba” I might add),
I’m usually about to lose it.

Or when I’m making up my own tune
(and my own language)
and I expect Sunny to harmonize,
I can tell he wonders
what the hell he’s signed up for.

This weekend,
we left on a Friday
drove drove drove
stayed over in a beach town,
and then on Saturday,
after driving through rain and mist and fog
we arrived at the glorious, much anticipated, tip.
The oceans met.

I chose that opportune moment
to get a tad sensitive
and pick a bit of a fight
which ended with both of us feeling lousy
and not at all excited about the separate oceans crashing around us.

We drove away,
skipping the lighthouse.

After a bit of loud silence,
Sunny pulled over,
and we let the waves of emotions run over us.

We were both more mad at ourselves,
than at the other,
which was sort of easy to understand,
but difficult to say.
Even more complicated to figure out.

But we tried to swim through it
the next day
we got back in the car.

This time,
we turned off the CD player,
and our songs began.

Instead of going to the traditional tip of Africa,
we walked down to a beach,
that if you hit at just the right moment,
you can wade through the low tide,
crawl under a rock,
and find yourself in the middle of a giant cave,
looking out through a huge rock window to the Indian Ocean
the sun shimmering in
the waves lapping at your feet.

It’s like we were the pearls inside an oyster shell
that has just been cracked open to the sea.

As we climbed into the cave,
a concerned girl of five climbing out
advised us:
“You must be careful! The waves are coming in.”

“We will,” I promised.

But I thought to myself,
When you come to the oceans, little one,
you better expect to see some waves.

Sense of Direction

8 03 2010

There are many legacies of apartheid, too many to count. Many are hidden down, away from where you might expect a legacy to live.

One of those is a sense of direction. I’ve been with a number of people who grew up in Cape Town who complain that they can’t find their way around the city.

This weekend, when we were hiking with a local club, four of us broke off from the group to take a different trail. A lively sixty year old woman, who ran circles around us as we panted and sweated our way to the top of the mountain, needed to hurry back to her car and her impending appointment. However, she didn’t trust herself to find the way back. We agreed to accompany her down.

As we started down the mountain, she pointed to the young white guy, and said, “You’re in charge. I always get lost. So, you’ll get us down.”

He humbly protested. She exclaimed, “Come on! You’re a Capetonian! You should know the way!”

Both Sunny and I laughed and teased her, “And what about you?”

But then I stopped, and remembered that I had heard this same refrain from others. I’m not saying it’s true for everyone, but it makes sense. If you can imagine being confined to certain neighborhoods for most of or a significant part of your life, or only allowed to venture out in one direction (namely, to work), one thing that might get lost is a sense of orientation—where you are in relation to everything else.

It’s almost like learning a language. I wonder if there is a window during which we learn to orient ourselves to home, to the map of our community, to the greater world. There must be something to it, because I’ve met several people who claim the directional part of their brain doesn’t feel active. It’s a scar that might not be visible enough to make the TRC, but it sure feels significant to me.

Sunny and I have also been reminded that we, too, are still finding our own way around.

Just the other day, we talked to two wonderful students from a township. Wanting to know what their seemingly superb alternative school had done for them, we asked, “How do you think the LEAP school has helped you most in your life?”

We waited for answers of “a different kind of future”, “a way out of poverty”, “opportunity”, or “university admittance” (as both students are enrolled in college and studying to become teachers).

Instead, one said, “I’ve learned how to have a healthy relationship with my mother.”
The other replied, “I finally feel sure of myself, and I know who I am.”

We were blown away. Not only because teenagers don’t usually talk this way, especially about their education, but also because the direction we expected them to go, the roads we wanted to see paved, were not the roads the students mentioned as being the most important to them.

Maybe we’re looking in the wrong direction.

On Traveling Together…

5 03 2010

“Are you sure this is the right way?”
I ask, 
when I feel sure it’s not.
he nods.

And in the end, 
he’s almost always right.
But even when he’s not,

What’s the problem, anyway
with forty extra steps 
or an extra block or two?

No matter which way we head,
as long as we’re heading somewhere together,
might just be

the right way
to go.