My husband and I recently returned from a trip to the “new" South Africa. We received the greatest enjoyment from a safari and learning about the history and culture. The response to living through apartheid was fascinating.

Our safari in Kruger National Park was God’s creation at its best. We saw four of the big five – elephants, lions, rhinos, and water buffaloes, but not leopards. We were able to watch giraffes, springbok antelope, impalas, hippos, warthogs, wild dogs, baboons, all in their natural habitat, grazing together. God created these magnificent animals with different abilities and purposes in nature, which has always amazed me.

The landscape is so diverse across South Africa. You have the bush, the mountains, rolling hills, and the seacoast. It is a beautiful country. We visited botanical gardens in Knysna, a winery in Stellenbosch, and an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn, before traveling to Cape Town for our last three days.

The "new" South Africa is working its way through change from colonialism and apartheid rule to the current democratic government, formed in 1994. The Dutch arrived in 1652 and instituted the forced labor form of colonialism. The English arrived in 1820 and in 1834 brought the effort to legally end slavery, although one can argue it existed for another century. South Africa has 11 official languages; English is one of the five major languages.

South Africa’s Constitution has been touted as “one of the most liberal in the world” (National Geographic Traveler). People have access to medical care, education, and housing, but there is still, unfortunately, a huge economic gap between the opulence of the rich and the poor, many of whom live in shanties.

Our first leg of the trip was to visit the Apartheid Museum outside Johannesburg and the home in Soweto where Nelson Mandela stayed prior to his arrest and imprisonment. Mandela went into prison as one person and came out an entirely different person. According to Richard Stengel’s book, "Mandela’s Way," “Prison taught him self-control, discipline, and focus - the things he considers essential to leadership - and it taught him how to be a full human being.” His statesman-like approach was what was needed to forge a new South Africa.

Mandela’s philosophy was all people should be treated equally. He did not take a retributive approach nor seek reparations from the white ruling class. Forgive and forget was more Mandela’s style. There were militants in Mandela’s party, the African National Committee, who didn’t like his conservative, positive approach to reuniting the country. But his approach won over South Africans.

Our tour guide was a treasure who shared his story of growing up under apartheid rule as an individual of mixed-race ancestry. In addition, 11 of us had the privilege of dining at a local couple’s home in Cape Town where we spent two hours listening to their experiences of living through apartheid as mixed-race individuals.

We were able to visit a pre-school in one of the villages. It was located in a village comprised of shanties with no electricity or running water. Even though the government provided free “Mandela houses" consisting of what appeared to be a 10-foot-by-10-foot stucco home with electricity and indoor plumbing, many still chose to live in these shanties, according to our tour guide. We frequently saw television dishes attached to a shanty. It is evident they love their sports, especially soccer, rugby, cricket, and cycling, and that may explain the satellite dishes.

I do recommend this trip. Lessons learned: Don’t drink the water, don’t put valuables in your checked luggage, take Probiotics each day and get up and walk around on the overnight plane ride.

Finally, courtesy of the Dec. 6, 2013, USA Today, some examples of Mandela wisdom:

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Next week: Katie Colling

Linda Holub, of Dakota Dunes, S.D., has lived in the Sioux City metro area for more than 40 years. She and her husband, Dave, have four adult children. A certified life coach professional with a master of arts degree from Liberty University in Human Services, Counseling: Life Coaching, Holub is co-chair of the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

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