A few weeks ago, I journeyed to Africa for a work trip. Having never been to the continent, I was nervous, anxious, and a little bit perplexed at how the trip would go. (It was a super-paced week-long trip through six different countries.)
However, one of the most memorable evenings of the trip occurred the very first evening on the continent. I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I was jet-lagged. I had made plans to see an old friend from college who had recently moved to the city, but I wasn’t feeling very adventurous. So, we decided to dine at a courtyard mall near my hotel.
The outdoor courtyard was Mandela Square, complete with a two-story high statue of the South African leader. As we dined on Kingklip fish and drank South African wine, we watched hundreds of tourists pose with the statue. There were people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds. They giggled as they stood near the leader’s pants, smiling with their arms around one another.
After about an hour, the sun set, and an incredible hailstorm barreled through Mandela Square. The hail was like nothing I had ever seen… measuring the size of large golf balls. The tourists went running for cover under restaurant awnings. The courtyard was evacuated as lightning crackled through the air.
Yet, Mandela stood the course, standing amongst the hail, weathering the storm, as he had done before. It was an incredibly moving moment in an incredibly moving city.
Rest in peace, big guy.
(Here’s a terribly dark picture of the statue in the Courtyard, minutes after the hailstorm.)
(And here’s a pic of us with the mini statue.)