This made me reflect on our time in South Africa, and it made me realize that we had our own stories involving prisoners.
Zax, as part of a school trip to Franschhoek, had the opportunity to visit Victor Verster Prison (now Drakenstein Correctional Centre), the very place where Nelson Mandela spent the waning months of his incarceration. It now mainly houses youthful offenders, and Zax’s group was invited to talk to them. It made a lasting impression and we retain a pretty enamel mug, hand inscripted, as a memory in our kitchen.
Hand–painted mug from Victor Verster Prison
My other prison connection stems from my involvement with Alexandra Baseball. While I have worked with the indefatigable Tedius for years – he is the one running practices, organizing transport for Sunday games, and everything in between – he was not my first contact there. Who first opened the world of Alexandra for me was Lucky. That was his name, even though it turns out in the end he was perhaps not so lucky. Lucky was the one I had that first coffee with, who then told me he’d walked all the way to my “respectable” part of town, who I then drove back into Alexandra though I’d been warned by every South African I’d met until that point that I should never ever do just that, and who proudly showed me the place. He introduced me to Tedius and the other guys, and we took it from there. One day I asked, whatever happened to Lucky? He seemed to have gone AWOL. I got a lot of hemming and hawing but eventually was told that the other guys thought he was probably in prison somewhere in Cape Town on a drug related charge. Almost a year later he reappeared briefly, but only to disappear again, this time with a donated (by me, as it turns out) laptop in tow.
Not much honor to be found in either of those instances. Perhaps because they failed the “over 30 years old” test. But that’s okay. Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners on Robben Island spread enough honor around South Africa to last a lifetime. I’ll now leave you with a reminder to visit the Robben Island Museum if you ever find yourself in Cape Town. Which is, after all, the #1 travel destination for 2014, according to the New York Times.
Keep posted about my upcoming book on my author website, Melusine.