by John D. Hubbard
Five Township children crowded around McKinne Dunn '98 in one of the University of Capetown's squash courts eager to learn the game from this American visitor.
"It was a hard class to teach," says Dunn, who spent the fall semester doing research and living among the segregated "Colored" population on the Cape Flats.
The children spoke three different languages but with "a lot of hand motions" Dunn was able to teach them to hit the ball and start playing.
McKinne Dunn wasn't in South Africa to coach, however. The sociology/anthropology major had enrolled in the School for International Training's home study program. Dunn moved in with Linda and Roger Ronnie, who opened their small and simple home. South Africa's Coloreds are caught between the old guard Afrikaners and the emerging Black population and are all but forgotten as the country goes about redefining itself.
Both the Ronnies are involved in the labor movement. Dunn's host father is the secretary general of the labor union and her host mother heads up the management education programs for the area's clothing industry factories.
"Every day was a mix of the first and third worlds," says Dunn. "I was constantly comparing each while thrown into both." Actually, Dunn plunged into her new environment. She risked the perils of mass transportation, found herself constantly asked to serve as a problem-solver and listened to people.
"Being a foreigner and student, people felt they could talk to me. Everyone felt they needed to tell me their story. It was a good position to be in to learn about politics and history," says Dunn.
Rounding out her education was a research project focusing on Sangomas, traditional religious functionaries who mediate between the ancestors and tribes and engage in healing. Dunn was particularly interested in the effects of urbanization on their practices.
She has continued the research now that she is back on campus, working with associate professor of anthropology Mary Moran on an independent study.
McKinne has also continued playing squash. Co-captain of the club team with Antonia Giardina '99 and honorary captain Emily Farber-Kaiser '98, Dunn has a host of duties beyond the action on the court. Arranging van rentals, making motel reservations, faxing information to tournaments and ordering supplies to restring racquets fall into place along with bigger tasks such as investigating means for fundraising to support the club and petitioning for varsity status.
The team practices every day and travels to events frequently. Colgate is a regular at the Williams tournament and is the only non-varsity team that competes for the Howe Cup. Last year Colgate won its division at the National Squash Tournament at Yale.
"I love the team and the small squash community," says Dunn. "Squash is an individual game but at the same time you are part of a team and representing Colgate. It's very competitive. It's intense in close quarters and it's a mental game. It's a matter of staying consistent. Once your opponent gets mad, you've got the upper hand."
Those Township children had a good coach, but Dunn isn't finished yet. She continues to reflect on her newfound understanding of political implications, gained in South Africa. She has also discovered Hascall Hall, where she is studying traditional religions, and as the squash season is winding down, McKinne is heading up an effort to enlarge Colgate's courts to international dimensions.
McKinne Dunn always takes a world view.