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Cutchogue Woman Speaks On Life in South Africa; Death of Nelson Mandela

A Cutchogue resident remembers meeting the world leader and reflects on how it changed her life.

Photo Credit: Andi Levin Parks
Photo Credit: Andi Levin Parks
Growing up in South Africa, Andi Levin Parks was a world away from Cutchogue, where she now lives.

Born in Johannesburg as a second generation South African, Levin Parks said she was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died on Thursday at the age of 95.

"Nelson Mandela was more than an icon or figurehead, he was a symbol of hope and resilience. I personally have suffered many setbacks and the powerful example that Madiba — a title of respect deriving from his Xhosa clan name — personified was that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I have lived by that adage, many times."

Levin Parks said today, the world is a better place because of Mandela. "Under apartheid — which was the official policy in South Africa of racial segregation — black and white South Africans lived parallel lives, yet we were worlds apart. Mandela’s governing without malice when he came to power transformed our society overnight into the united 'rainbow nation' that I never believed I would witness in my lifetime," she said.

The iconic leader shaped the future, Levin Parks said. "Mandela was larger than life, and continues to grow as a giant of our times, after death. His actions and sweeping gestures have set the groundwork for all of us, to continue the reign of peace he bestowed on all of us."

Levin Parks said she will never forget the one time that she met Mandela. "It was gob-smacking. I was stymied and was rendered speechless. The experience was so powerful that I all I knew was that I was in the presence of greatness."

Later, when she regained her composure, Levin Parks said what she was most struck by were Mandela's "wit, his razor sharp mind and his ability to be all things to all people, no matter their age, their religion, their political beliefs or the color of their skin. To me, he ranks among Mother Theresa, Ghandi and other life-changers in our history."

Meeting Mandela changed Levin Parks' perspective forever. "Mandela taught us all that there is freedom in forgiveness and that it is better to live with an open heart than a closed mind,' she said.

Having grown up in South Africa, Levin Parks lived there until she graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with an honors in industrial, or organizational, psychology.

She moved to Cutchogue from New York City nine years ago, with an eye toward giving her children a better life.

"Cutchogue in many ways is similar to the lifestyle I was used to when I grew up with in South Africa: beautiful surroundings and a strong sense of community," she said.
Frank T December 10, 2013 at 05:10 PM
"Cutchogue is similar to South Africa" except we have deer and they have lions. Actually we have more deaths related to deer accidents and disease than lion attacks in SA.
ann mccaughey December 11, 2013 at 08:49 AM
Gosh Andi, I'm a bit gob-smacked by your beautiful story. Wish I could hear more, Thanks for it!
Susan Tamborello-Toman December 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM
So glad you choose to come to the North Fork, love your views and refreshing attitudes, thank you for sharing them.

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