There are no words.

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Nelson Mandela has been a hero of mine for many, many years. The South Africans I met today refer to him as Father Nelson Mandiba Mandela, and they thank God for their freedom. The people I am speaking of are former political prisonoers, also known as terrorists. They were called terrorists because they wouldn’t follow the laws and fought apartheid.

Today, we took the 50 minute ferry from Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island. We rode at the bow of the little ferry and sailed in quite choppy waters. The swell was unbelievable and quite entertaining, the weather could not have been more amazing.

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Upon arrival into the island, we disembarked and walked toward the cells where the prisoners of power, and Nelson Mandela, we’re imprisoned. The cells were similar to what I had seen in books, and I remember thinking they were larger than cells in the USA. My thoughts were confirmed, when an American spoke up, who worked in criminal justice and said the same thing.

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Mandela's cell for 18 years

I had remembered photos of Mandela imprisoned in what looked like a white cell, this cell had more of a greenish tint to it. These are minor details, but still a part of the history that I remember and now have experienced. Our tour guide was a former political prisoner who served between 1975-1980. He was very animated, had a huge smile and a warm heart. He teased the children in our group and thanked God, and us, for helping fight apartheid from afar. He personally knew Mandela. He said that Mandela was a good listener, that he had time for everyone and hope always. It was at this point, standing in the prison courtyard, seeing his face change into a complete softness, that I felt tears well up into my eyes. Truly a leader, Mandela was and is revered in the eyes of his people- as well as ideaologists as myself.

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Mandela's Garden

The tour went on, our guide spoke of the minimal food that they were given, the freezing temperatures, dirty clothes, showers only twice a week and solitary confinement that one faced. He mentioned that many suffered and died under these harsh conditions.

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How only one letter could be written per month if you were a certain class of prisoner, and the letters, as shown above, we’re highly censored. The censorship of the letters often left those outside the prison thinking their loved ones were very bad individuals in prison.

The trip affected us so deeply. I am still feeling the effects of it…and yet our guide said not to be sad-for what was truly a LONG WALK TO FREEDOM ended with apartheid being outlawed. It is hard to imagine this joy in the midst of injustice, but again, this is something that as an American, I truly can never understand.

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Cape Town views from Robben Island

We started and ended our tour with amazing food today, a quick breakfast at Food Lovers Market and a late lunch at Cape Town Fish Market {located right axross from the Nelson Mandela Gateway, a perfect stop post tour}. Both were divine!

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Our second day in Cape Town is a day I will ever hold in my soul, as I could feel Mandiba’s footsteps and struggle. His LONG WALK TO FREEDOM.

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