Category Archives: South Africa

Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (Image: Smithsonian Magazine)

On December 5, 2013 the world bid farewell to one of its modern-day heros: South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. His compelling life story, amazing capacity to forgive and reconcile, and exceptional leadership during a pivotal period in his country’s history made him an icon. His death gave all of us a moment to pause, mourn – and at the same time celebrate his achievements in the successful struggle to end apartheid. These words from his 1994 inaugural presidential address come to mind:

Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. (…) The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.

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Noodkamp diary


South African shantytown (photo:

In another unexpected unearthing of an old travel piece, I found this diary entry I wrote ten years ago during a trip to South Africa that changed my life. It was my first time outside Europe and the U.S., a trip that was delightful, shocking, and inspiring at the same time. And it made me want more – see more, experience more, understand more… Here is one special evening from that trip.

June 4, 2001
Noodkamp, shantytown outside of Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa

As I watch the sun slowly bow its head behind the rugged roofs, another gust of penetrating breeze makes me shiver. Who thought it would be so chilly in Africa of all places?! I still didn’t quite become used to June being the middle of winter. There was not enough time, though, to think about the weather. I was there to record an oral history interview with someone who lived though the painful past of this colorful nation, so deeply torn apart and now awaiting brighter future. Read the rest of this entry