Sometime last August, Joe DiChristina thought back to Oberlin. He thought about the stifling summer heat and the inevitable administrative hassles. And then he thought about lions.
DiChristina, studying in South Africa, was in the park watching two lions fight and reconcile. Oberlin seemed very far away.
After working in the Departments of Student Life and Services and Safety and Security, DiChristina left Oberlin last year to become a student again. DiChristina studied at the University of Cape Town. It was the first time DiChristina visited a foreign country.
"I had a chance in 1983 to go overseas, but I stayed here because of athletics," DiChristina said. "Finally, I just did it. People talked about South Africa as a beautiful place."
Now DiChristina is the one talking about South Africa as a beautiful place. He proudly carries an album of photographs taken in the Namibian desert and on the South African shore. It's a beauty that is often marred by the overwhelming poverty of the country.
"People live in poverty and it's what the government designed," DiChristina said. "Some of it is very depressing, and for my life it was a very important experience."
DiChristina and his wife attended one of the many Truth and Reconciliation hearings. They heard Bishop Desmond Tutu tell the tale of children who were mercilessly slaughtered in 1985 under the system of apartheid.
"I was 20 years old then, and going to school in Wisconsin," DiChristina said. "You reflect on the privilege. I was just happy-go-lucky then."
"A man talked to me and he said, 'Joe, you probably think I don't have much here, but I don't have to carry a pass.' It's really moving."
DiChristina is now studying at the University of Akron and working part-time for Assistant to the President Diana Roose.
DiChristina sometimes felt lost in South Africa. Sometimes he didn't know where to go, or how to open a bank account. He said he would remember that feeling as he works with students again.
"You learn sensitivity," DiChristina said. "You just have to have a lot of patience."
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 16, February 27, 1998
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