The afternoon we had basically free, so of course we all headed down to the beach! I am a little scared of the water after hearing all about sharks back in Cape Town, but there were lots of locals out. It was so nice to get some down time after being so busy. The sun was perfect, and the water was really warm because we are now in the Indian Ocean. The waves were really strong, so I didn’t last long cooling off in the deeper area. The rest of the group got past the worst of it, though, and swam out in the deep. When I say strong waves, though, I mean strong so I ended up with a group of young boys who were content to ride the smaller waves in to the shore.
We also made some friends with some girls who were at the public pool with their school. I think they were probably Coloured, but I am still kind of confused on that old classification. Anyway, it was cool to see some real South African education at work! Plus, you really can’t beat the view of sunset here. The sky just seems huge.
On the way back into the hotel, we saw some soccer players (maybe semi-pros?) showing off their moves in the little park area. Lots of people were watching them, and I was amazed with their tricks. Really, there are no recognizable sports here on TV. Rugby, soccer, cricket, and golf are the most common. I’m trying to learn more about rugby, though! After a shower and some down time, a few of us agreed to go out to dinner and share taxis to Florida Avenue.
We left pretty early and ate at a place called “Chill,” which seemed to cater to tourists and a wealthier crowd. On the way there, though, we had a very interesting talk with our cabbie. He was an Indian man who was extremely open, which I am starting to notice seems to be a pretty common trait here. We asked him if he voted today after explaining why we are here and studying political science. He let out a vehement, “No!” and went on to describe all that he hated about post-apartheid government. Actually, he described what he hated about government in general and showed us certain bars where we were certain to see the ANC’s leaders’ sons and daughters spending lots of money, the “fat cats,” as he said. He explained that he lost his job after apartheid at a good company and they gave it to “the guy who used to take out the trash and mop the floors. This happens all the time. That is why I am driving this car instead of at a nice job.” He seemed very open about how fed up he is with the government and said that he feels unheard and that nothing really gets done. Though pretty depressing, it gave us all a perspective on one popular opinion of a local here. He was also really nice in explaining to us all of the good places to go on Florida Ave.
The other cabbie apparently was saying a lot of angry comments about our cabbie. He was black. Our cabbie ended up saying about one bar, “Only black people go there, you won’t want to go there.” No wonder the other cabbie seemed so frustrated! Anyway, after dinner at Chill, we went to De la Sol, which was pretty empty but very nice. After an hour or so there, we went to Cubaña which interestingly only allows 23 year olds and up. This seemed strange to me, but since they were really slow that night they let us in.
Our waiter was a self-proclaimed “Khoikhoi bushman,” probably in his late 30’s and with a glowing personality. When I thanked him for a drink, he literally spun on his heel and said, “Did you just say ‘thank you?’ I haven’t heard that in about 3 weeks!” He made other funny comments on his wealthy clientele, explaining that a celebrity had just walked in with a big posse. He asked us, “Do celebrities in the US just think they can get anything for free? Famous people have money, and they should pay for their drinks!” He also explained that he had married a Coloured woman and that it caused a huge rift in her family. Now, though, her family likes him because they have a child together. It was interesting that even two groups I had thought were similar, there is still a lot of racial tension. I don’t really understand it, but maybe with time and more family-mixing like our waiter’s, better understanding can be reached.
the first pic is the Mosque again. Again showing the GIGANTIC indian influence. 2nd largest Indian population outside of India!
Then the coolest kids—Zulu dancers. (spoiler alert, I did get a Zulu beaded dance skirt):D
Then there are a lot of a really beautiful mural of many walls that pictorally describe and write out the NEW South African Constitution (which is beautiful, as well as inspiring & idealistic in a new democracy.) To see it this was was not only cool, but memorable and another positive sign (after a rocky election) that democracy is being taken in by the people and is being taught to the new generation, too.
The last pic is of the bus stop we were at for awhile where Prof Munro got super African & talked to some Durban-ites, figured out we should just walk home, and was just another way of seeing the city in a local’s eyes… transportation is a HUGE concern in SA, and the majority of the population takes those large bus taxies into the city from the townships to work. much like in Dominican Republic, they honk at passers-by and people cram in, pay a minimal fee, & get off wherever.
the first night, Prof. Munro took us to a place he likes, it was delicious, on the beach, and a fun crowd. so much indian influence on this food. and seafood!!
salmon on a baked potato?? OKAY. SO GOOD
…these guys…. haha but they were great and fun & got us out of being hassled for money a few times, thanks scotty & jj!
the girls! the strip on the beach is SOOOOO long, but we stayed around our area toward the south, lots of cool restaurants.
but now, why i came here: politics!
It is finally, officially, Election Day! I am glad we are in Durban to experience this big day. We began by walking to City Hall and kind of just taking in the atmosphere. Here, Election Day is a national holiday. Shops are closed, and there is no work or school so that everyone can go vote. What an awesome concept. There were, of course, lots of stands outside with flyers. We talked to the young people at the ANC table. (It was pretty obvious—bright yellow everywhere.) One young man gave us fliers and talked to us about how excited they all are to participate in a true democracy. I thought it was so interesting what he said about the ANC being in power for so long. He said that they know the ANC won’t always be in power because that wouldn’t be a true democracy, that he wants them to win but he knows other voices are out there and that someday the ANC won’t be in power. He almost seemed excited at the prospect of another strong party. Very interesting. He also called us “Obama’s children” because we are from Chicago, and was just open and proud to be South African and part of the democratic process.
The building itself was beautiful, old, and European seeming. The ANC youth told us that before freedom, blacks couldn’t even be on the sidewalk in front of the City Hall building. And now it is a voting center! How poignant. We were even allowed to look at the voting room. (Not actually enter, but see what it was like.) It reminded me of voting in the US, actually. They seemed busy the whole time we were there. Afterwards, we walked around the city streets, and that was probably my favorite part of the day.
We really got a feel for Durban. There was music, it was very hot and sunny, and of course we drew attention for being obviously American and a big group. The shops were cool, though. We also got handed all types of fliers, for parties and most often for healers and medicines that would cure our love, sex, relationship, health, or mental issues. Super interesting. We also saw lots more IFP posters and other new party posters. We passed by a huge, beautiful mosque. Durban has the second-largest Indian population after India itself, so it made sense. We ended up walking by a bus and taxi stand, too, and received lots of attention there. The coolest part of the day, though, was seeing a performance by youth of classic Zulu dances with traditional music, drums, and dress. I loved it because it was authentic and not really meant for tourists, even though we were there. (And received lots of attention again, especially from one male dancer.) It was absolutely awesome and totally appropriate for Election Day. I have got to get one of those skirts. And learn to dance like that.
check the video in the next post!
a theater under construction…apparently very old & famous
SO many political parties but this one hada woman!
largest mosque in Africa… we didn’t have time to go in but yet another example of we were running after Professor Munro (a lá running after my dad in Washington D.C. in 8th grade) just following his little backpack & his skinny little legs running ahead. but he knew the streets so well and we saw so much of the city! one of the MANY MANY perks of traveling with a local, and a genius. such a good teacher. and a good day! more to come in the next post
Jenalyn & I in Johannesburg :)
finally we saw GREEN! AFRICA!
passing by the world cup stadium on our way in to the city
I love (and was originally creeped out by) the doorman at our hotel, Sunny. He is this older, short Indian guy who is super happy, “sunny” all the time, and calls us his friends. He was so happy to see us and kept trying to help us, and then awkwardly waited in our room for a tip. He is great, though, and he deserved it! We are right across the street from the beach and a public pool. We can walk to the World Cup Stadium from our hotel. It is insane how much I love it here. (Thanks to Marissa who helped prep me on Durban!) After an early flight, though, Jenalyn and I needed naps before heading to the beach.
Jenalyn checking out the beach from our room! we loved napping there but preferred walking around & seeing the city… AND THE BEACH
the view from across the street
our neighborhood in durban… i mean, can you really ask for more???
Is winning all that counts? Are you absolutely sure about that?
Very little has been said about this…..On December 2, Basque athlete Iván Fernández Anaya was competing in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. He was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai - bronze medalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics. As they entered the finishing straight, he saw the Kenyan runner - the certain winner of the race - mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.
Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.
Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Basque runner of 24 years who is considered an athlete with a big future (champion of Spain of 5,000 meters in promise category two years ago) said after the test:
“But even if they had told me that winning would have earned me a place in the Spanish team for the European championships, I wouldn’t have done it either. I also think that I have earned more of a name having done what I did than if I had won. And that is very important, because today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well.”
He said at the beginning: “unfortunately, very little has been said of the gesture. And it’s a shame. In my opinion, it would be nice to explain to children, so they do not think that sport is only what they see on TV: violent kicks in abundance, posh statements, fingers in the eyes of the enemy …”
This made me smile. :) Faith in humanity restored for the day!
UNfortunately, I don’t have tons of this particular day; my camera died. However, I’m looking to get some from
Today was welcome; I am having a bit of cabin fever! Even though our hotel is lovely, big, and gorgeous, I am getting a “cooped up” feeling, and since we are in the suburbs, it seems dead all around us. I know it isn’t safe to go many places at night, especially not walking, but I really want to see this city!
After filling up on a typical giant, fresh breakfast with some cucumber water (this place is so fancy I can’t get over it!), we headed out to see Constitutional Hill and the Constitutional Court. I love even just seeing the city from the bus; it’s a nice way to see a lot and pick up on things even when we haven’t arrived somewhere. When we first got there, we talked to and met a few other American students and their teacher. They were there for about the same amount of time as us, but I was glad that we had a South African professor and students with a strong educational background, especially in political science and international studies. During the tour, we all seemed a little more respectful and somber, and it bothered me how they seemed to disrespect the history a few times. However, the best remedy for ignorance is education, and I think a lot of them learned just as much as we did on the tour!
We began at the women’s prison. I thought the display of everything was unique and important. There were plenty of pictures of women who survived or who have come back or are now political icons. It was the perfect juxtaposition of past and present. A lot of stories and images were disturbing in general and especially upsetting to me as a woman. I liked hearing personal stories, but some of them were just so psychologically damaging. It didn’t feel like a political prison, but a physical and mental prison, too. That is the part that made me so angry—that it was more about trying to break these women down and break their minds and spirits. They were living with killers and robbers, but their only crime was fighting for their rights and for speaking the truth. Women who had only committed crimes for not having their pass books were subjected to harsh cruelty. It was also interesting and strange that there were black women jailers who were also treated as “less than” by their white superiors. It reminded me of hearing about black police officers during apartheid. Those stories were interesting for their complex psychology; some said they almost felt closer to their prisoners than their co-workers.
We later moved to the men’s prison. It reminded me of Robben Island when we saw the different food allotments, but this was much more detailed and much more structured. Other forms of degradation were just as horrible. For example, there was a certain “dance test” men had to undergo while naked in front of everyone to check for “contraband.” The shower and sleeping situation was power-controlled, and it just sounded very violent. What struck me most about the men’s prison, besides the strong physical violence, was the juxtaposition of hardened, serious criminals and political prisoners who ranged from breaking a “pass law” to leading resistance movements. The struggle is starting to seem so real to me. We just keep seeing so many layers of it, from Soweto to everyday racism that still exists to the horrors of prison.
The coolest thing about the prison today, though, is that its bricks were used to create the Constitutional Court. Though maybe a controversial decision, I think it shows great progress and symbolism.
^ Flower garden outside the prison area. A beautiful reminder that hope & change can come out of evil, too.
The court itself was just full of symbols and everything had a meaning. Literally, the court was built from the past, showing that the past is part of the future. Though it’s never forgotten, it is being actively overcome. On the front, our guide showed us that the words “Constitutional Court” are written in all 11 official languages of South Africa. The doors to the court themselves blended in with the rest of the entrance, so you almost couldn’t see them. They were beautiful and a work of art in and of themselves.
We had to go through security to get in, but after all of these flights we’ve been taking, it seemed pretty old hat. The inner atrium was absolutely gorgeous. There were beautifully colored sculptures, and everything seemed open. It was meant to look like a tree, the symbol shown before the entrance to the court, which represents the historical African justice under a tree. The tree symbol has 11 people underneath the tree, which represent the 11 official languages of South Africa. It almost seemed more like an art museum than a high court, which I think was an extremely innovative way to go. It only makes sense because the South African Constitution is so liberal and innovative itself.
^this is the door into the Constitutional Court. It includes all of the languages spoken in South Africa (all 11 official languages!!) and sign language terms as shown by the hands
^our group in the Constitutional Court
Once we entered the actual court, it seemed more like what I was expecting, but it was still symbolic and rich. The judges’ chairs and desks were decorated with skins from Nguni cattle, which are indigenous to South Africa and represent the history and indigenous roots of the country. Each skin looks similar with black and one white stripe to represent unity, but the stripes are different to represent each judge’s individuality. The bricks of the building are open for one long strip to represent transparency and honesty—that all should know what happens in the court and be a part of it. The cases are open to the public to witness, too. One huge beaded South African flag hangs above the court room. It is the largest beaded South African flag and was made by Zulu women. Basically, the construction of the court represents the qualities that South Africans strive for in their future.
^The judges’ posts, South African flag, the bricks from the prison, and the small windows that represent openness.
^Our group with the hand-beaded South African flag.
The two most interesting cases our guide told us about were revolutionary. One legalized gay marriage, and one of the judges is gay and HIV positive himself. There are also multiple races represented and both male and female judges. It was stunning to see the court and realize all the symbolism and how South Africa is truly rising from its past and trying to make the ideals of their Constitution a reality. We discussed the Constitution while looking at all of the art in the hallways that relate to it. It is extremely liberal and idealistic. In many ways this is a good thing; with one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, South Africa strives for greatness and real freedom for all of its people. However, how can the government ensure all of the rights stated in the Constitution come to fruition? The reality of safe and equitable housing and water is a big enough struggle. In my opinion, it is better to have a document that is idealistic than to have a weak document that may be more realistic. With open interpretations, like, for example, our Constitution, more possibilities reveal themselves. As one saying goes, “If you reach for the stars and fall, you will at least land on the top of the world.” This trip really showed me how much progress has been possible in really a short time. We still have problems with our constitution after several hundred years; that’s politics!
^another picture of the Court. All government buildings should be so beautiful!
I also liked getting to walk around the prison area afterwards and see a really cool part of Jozi. After our discussions on city layouts and urban planning, it was cool to see where life is here in Johannesburg as compared to our suburban hotel compound, where it seems as if everyone is gone. Our driver even took us around Hillbrow, and even though our really nice, older white tour guide seemed a little nervous, it was awesome to see a vibrant part of the city. People taking buses, selling things on the street, plenty of Indian and other restaurants. I also loved going to look out over the city, where we stopped for a quick look. It is still chilly here, but so beautiful. The city from higher above on the hill looked so incredibly green and uniquely South African. All the jacaranda trees turn purple in summer, and I could see how beautiful that would be to see. Maybe I’ll have to come back!
^Jozi from above.
^Jenalyn & I above Johannesburg!
We also drove by Nelson Mandela’s house, well, mansion complex. A white and black guard stood looking out from the compound, and it was obvious there was incredible security, including gates and high walls. The house looked huge and gorgeous, though. No one is allowed to even stop outside the house, but it was so cool to see Madiba’s home after seeing his old home in Soweto.
^The white guard outside of Mandela’s main Johannesburg home. He was mad we were going so slowly. No one is allowed to actually stop at the compound.
^The rest of Mandela’s house.
In the afternoon, we caught up on reading, worked out, and had class. It gets freezing by the time the sun goes down here, but it is still not as bad as a winter in Bloomington! I can’t believe how quickly this trip is going. I love every minute of it, though. Packing was tough, but we are all so excited to get to Durban! I won’t even mind waking up too early to do it!
^They said this belonged to the “Munros!” Professor Munro of course cracked a joke about how he was inheriting this house soon & liked to vacation there. :)
^Jozi is a hilly city, but thankfully we had a wonderful bus driver.
^ Me above Johannesburg! What a beautiful, rich city. Moments like this made me think, re-focus, & truly take in the whole experience.
We were still in Jozi, mostly in our compound…
True, it’s a dangerous city, but we were in the ‘burbs without much going on.
Lots of catch-up time for classwork, discussion, journals, and some time on the pool deck (although it was “winter,” and a little too chilly to be out in a swimsuit much).
Thoughts from that Sunday::
We are getting closer and closer to Election Day! This morning at the typically giant breakfast served at the hotel, we saw a good number of people decked out in bright yellow shirts with the words “VOTE ANC” in bold letters on the front. Today, there is going to be an ANC rally in Soweto with Jacob Zuma in attendance. I wish we could go, but it will probably be a better idea to stay here for the day since this election is garnering so much emotion and attention. Regardless, it was interesting that the guests in this hotel must be paying top dollar since it is such a fancy area. The ANC’s slogan this whole campaign has been a confident, “Vote ANC,” and it seems their supporters are enjoying the benefits of being tight with the party. But what about all the people living in shanties we saw yesterday? Where are their services and their repayment for being loyal to the party? Just something I’ve been thinking about. I know it takes time, but all of this inter-party politics is becoming evident.
pool deck attached to the indoor dining room
Today is basically a free day for us, which is nice to catch up on readings and journals and just reflect right here in Jozi. Jenalyn and I are staying in our hotel’s big compound and have found a state of the art gym full of trainers with their wealthy clients, so we will probably check that out. Everyone else is going to walk to a nearby famous flea market full of artists from all over Africa. We are probably going to the pool as well, even though we wil probably only be joined by elderly Bocce Ball players next door since this is pretty “wintry” weather for South Africa, and fall weather for us! In the sun, it is just perfect.
Class today was also outside on the pool deck. We discussed urban policy, and what better place than in Johannesburg? Basically, urbanization and urban growth happens and will happen, so management is need. This also puts a pressure on services which are already feeling pressure. Urban growth can cause health problems, social control problems like crime and violence, and increase the gaps between “poor” and “rich” areas and create more housing problems. A lot of problems with urban growth come from location—where do we “put” people and where do we “put” their services in relation to them? Where are people and services now? That always relates back to apartheid, it seems.
We also discussed housing policies specifically. Housing policy, as we talked about it, should provide housing that is secure and adequate, there should be enough, should be sustainable, integrate into cities, and may have to undertake city reconstruction. Once we really started diving into these issues, I began to realize how far South Africa may have to come and how complicated these problems really are. These problems are just plain difficult and the real challenge in South Africa will be logistically undertaking housing and urban growth planning. How do they fund it? How do they keep funding sustainable? Logistically, where are they going to put people and how? Wow.
our lovely bathroom
We discussed two major approaches that could be taken, specifically for RDP houses. If it was a market-based approach, there would be jobs created and a profit to be made, more discipline in use of resources, would not waste, and would be less bureaucratic. However, the market tends to move toward money instead of need. In other words, it is profit driven instead of need driven, and the houses would be for those who have more need than money. A market-driven approach is based on a transaction and isn’t simply given to those in need, which can be both a pro and a con.
a welcome addition! instant coffee here is actually super delicious, and tea to get us through an afternoon. with some naps and watching the Tyra Banks show :)
We also discussed housing as a human right; shouldn’t the government provide a basic need such as shelter? The problem, though, is that cost recovery is critical. Whatever is spent must be recovered. Therefore, how and to whom does the state provide services? We have discussed this issue with water before, too. Perhaps there should be some sort of baseline (e.g. so much water for free), and then payment is required. But if those in need get free water, why would everyone not receive a free amount of water? I also thought of the unemployment rate here; where are people going to get money to pay for services without jobs? All of this is so interrelated and complicated!
Jenalyn studying hard!
One way we talked about to get houses to those with need would be taxing the rich to subsidize the poor. This would be a political program. In a market based program, the biggest con would be making houses credit-based and making housing available to those with more resources first, because the market says if people can’t pay, then let’s evict them. The other main problems are deregulation and competition. Over-regulating the housing market would slow production of houses, but it could get people to participate in building of their own homes. Regulation also shifts the role of the state and takes money from the most rich to help build homes. Competition is normal in a city, but structuring people’s access to resources makes a city more equitable. For example, making jobs available where people can easily get to work or moving houses closer to jobs draws resources to a city and makes access to work more equitable for all.
fresh, “famous” apples every morning!
Never ceases to amaze me how seriously multi-cultural this country is. We went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner near our hotel, and we were the only non-Japanese people in there! From workers to patrons! Seriously one of the most delicious sushi meals ever, along with seriously authentic squid, chicken, rice, and more. Jenalyn & i split this platter, but we got to see the chefs make everything. I’ve noticed in this city, in particular, people are a little more stand-offish. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re a large group of American students or if it may have more to do with less re-integration here, and especially a huge socio-economic separation (the rich here are REALLY rich & set apart form everyone). Or maybe just that we were in an all-Japanese environment for the dinner… or the burbs are more focused on security in a dangerous area… not that people are mean, just a little less open. Our taxi driver, for example, was super friendly, but people at the mall were not as much. Looking forward to more action tomorrow!
Moving on from the emotional morning, I think our group did a great job at preparing for the afternoon debate. I was glad that I was on the side that I was. We were “for” the statement, “The ANC’s history, tradition, and internal characteristics are the enemy of democracy.” At first I was thrown off by the severity of the statement, but it ended up being something I really agreed with. Basically, our argument was that its internal characteristics were the strongest point against democracy. Ignoring their coalition partners and other interests, like those of the PAC and in some ways silencing their partners in the tripartite alliance. After being so powerful for so long, it seems that most of the members of their party are more preoccupied with staying in power and keeping their secure financial positions.
As far as their tradition and history, we called upon the history of long-standing power in South African politics. In the colonial era, the British had entered and stayed in power in an undemocratic fashion for so long, and were eventually followed by the National Party. The National Party, like the ANC, had no real, strong political counterparts. Under their rule and during apartheid, the NP was the opposite of a democratic party. But besides this tradition of one party rule, our side of the debate also feels that there is a true problem of complacency in the ANC today because their constituency still feels fiercely loyal to them for many reasons. One reason is because of the role that the ANC played in the struggle, and in many ways their constituency feels loyal on the basis of race. Because of their constituents’ loyalty and the ANC’s continued power without real opposition, there is a lot of complacency among ANC party members.
This complacency may have also led to the problem of inter-party politics. Within the ANC, there have been instances where patronage and party loyalty may play more of a role in winning an election than loyalty to constituents. The list system in South Africa in which a citizen votes for a party instead of a candidate isn’t inherently anti-democratic, but it seems to be increasing inter-party politics in the ANC and less of a loyalty to constituents and delivery of services. A democracy should promote every citizen having a voice, and in the opinion of our side, the ANC has been silencing the voices of any opposition within the party or among any other oppositional parties.
Overall, the other side’s argument was sound; they said the longevity, legitimacy, capacity, and experience of the ANC would pull the nation through the period after apartheid into a service-delivering, fully democratic period. I think, though, we ended up both being of the same mind at the end; we both agreed, basically, that the ANC should not forever continue to be the dominating party and that there needs to be at least one more real, strong oppositional party that will act as another, balancing voice. We both seemed stumped, though, as to who that should be or if there yet exists one or more strong parties that will be able to shift the ANC’s one-party rule into real democracy. (The DA is probably the biggest contender so far.)
After the debate, we were excited to once again get out of our small yet beautiful compound. Jenny led us on about an hour walk to Sandton. According to the
hotel workers, we would be pretty safe walking there while it was still light out, and we would take a taxi back to our hotel. It was beautiful out, in the “winter” here, the weather is colder than Cape Town, but still very comfortable. Sandton was like a different world. The shopping complex we went to looked like a wealthy suburb in the States or a fancy European fashion mall. It was weird after the morning spent in Soweto, which was really nice in some areas but still made me emotional, to come to the Sandton mall. It was literally lined in gold, and we took a picture by this giant golden statue of Nelson Mandela. We ate at a fancy Italian restaurant, had some great conversation (political and otherwise), and then spent awhile walking around the mall and taking everything in.
We talked about how we were just kind of surprised. Even the really young kids were dressed in a very European style, and some of the shops were insanely expensive. The mall complex itself was huge. It was just drastically different than what we had seen that morning. We even had gelato at a little boutique. Again, I thought about the strangeness of it all and the set up of apartheid. Truly, there were like two separate worlds. In Invictus, one of the players commented on how he grew up not knowing what apartheid was, even during the struggle and during uprisings. On the expensive ride back with our taxi driver who barely spoke English, I understood how that could happen back then. There were just two different worlds happening at the same time, and that legacy still shows up today.
We spent the evening in our 4-star hotel’s lobby & bar (SO beautiful!) & it was awesome to get time to socialize/bond/debrief with my intelligent, fun, hilarious travel partners! We were tired, but Nick HAD to get Lady Gaga’s new CD, so I let him use my computer… totally worth it! We all loved it :)
I’m glad we could enjoy each other as well as the trip. Me & Jenalyn had our first Irish coffees… DELICIOUS! perfect for a coffee addict like me :)
So, there wasn’t enough time/space to explain the whole day as it was, but the rest of the day was spent like this::
Desmond Tutu’s house
awesome photo in Mandela’s old house of he & Helen Suzman (read more about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Suzman)
I was excited to see more of Soweto, and once we got to Vilakazi Street, I knew today would continue to be surprising. From shanties to RDP houses, we saw beautifully, modern-crafted houses on Vilakazi. It was news to me that Bishop Desmond Tutu and the famous Madiba lived on this street- the only street in the world to have homes of two Nobel Prize winners! This street seemed so much more developed than where we had been before. The tour guide for Mandela’s house/museum explained its history to us, and I felt somewhat emotional as we walked through the small house.
It was exciting to learn more about Mandela’s life and history, to go back before his imprisonment on Robben Island and his life after release. I was especially struck by two objects in the house—the bedspread, which was representative of Mandela’s royal Xhosa heritage, and the photo of he and Helen Suzman on the dining room table. Those two items just really stuck out to me, maybe because they represent both his roots and personal self, and the peaceful activist and President. I was also interested in the tree outside the Mandela house, which has family umbilical cords buried beneath it. Though a small detail, this made the legend of Madiba seem more human and, of course, a chieftan.
the Xhosa bedspread
me & Jenalyn at the Mandela family tree!
Afterwards, we went to the Hector Pieterson museum. Just seeing the picture and fountain outside made me start thinking. I loved the set-up of the museum. It was interactive, educational, and emotional. The Soweto school uprisings moved me completely. As a prospective ESL teacher, the students’ stand on learning the language of their oppressors deeply touched me. I loved how interactive every display was, but it was also very emotional. Seeing current South African schoolchildren on field trips at the museum called to mind some things we’ve been talking about. We’ve kept saying that the younger generation hasn’t gone through the struggle and may not understand what their predecessors went through to gain their rights. However, seeing young students learning about past South African students fighting for what they deserve was refreshing. It made me feel more positively about education in South Africa and about the importance of keeping the tradition of the struggle alive.
Picture of Hector being carried. No photos allowed in the museum, out of respect. It was one of the best set-up museums I’ve ever been to, but nearly as emotional to learn about as the Holocaust museum. Something that will always be in my mind & heart.
Water Towers with powerful pictures from Soweto’s past & present… people can bungee jump off of the bridge in the middle! We saw one! But of course, Professor Munro said, “Don’t even think about it, guys…”
I think this morning in Soweto was probably the most emotional I’ve felt on the trip so far. I think because we have learned so much about apartheid, politics, and the current state of this country, today felt very concentrated. It felt like a strong mixture of past and present, and the feeling of injustice at the Hector Pieterson museum as well as the injustice of the current state of living in many townships still in Soweto. Especially at the museum, I was overwhelmed with the constant injustice of apartheid—not only at the uprisings and riots, but the everyday injustice and the constant oppression in everyday life.
Saturday: 5/14/11…. in SOWETO! which stands for “SOuth WEstern TOwnships.” This was a HUGE heart of the struggle during apartheid in S.A. One of my fav experiences! Here it is::
I was excited to go to Soweto, after hearing about the big role it played during the struggle. Driving through Johannesburg was nice; I don’t feel like we get to see enough of it from our hotel area. Our guide pointed out a lot of old mining areas, which was cool to see. It was as if “Jozi” was literally built on gold and other natural resources.
I could tell it was going to be a good day when we met our tour guide. He was so excited to show us Soweto, his home, and how much it has grown and changed since the struggle and afterwards, as well. Just like Robben Island, I was very much looking forward to seeing Soweto. I had always heard about it as a center of the struggle against apartheid. It was interesting to see the stark contrasts again between the city of Jozi and the township of Soweto, even though it does seem to have grown quite a bit. For example, our tour guide showed us a fairly large hospital that had been named after important struggle figures (for example, Hector Peterson’s wing—a young student who was shot & killed by police during riots by school children that fought for education in their own language like Zulu or Xhosa as opposed to Afrikaans). We also passed by a huge shopping mall that our guide explained was opened by then-President Mandela. The guide seemed extremely proud of the mall and explained how it gave jobs to many in the area. It made me wonder, though, who is able to shop there? And is that really a sign of progress when we still passed by so many tin shanties?
I was also really glad we were able to stop by one of the neighborhoods in Soweto. Our guide seemed so excited to show us around his home and his area; I think it’s great that he was so excited and proud to educate us. I found it particularly interesting the name of the small township: Elias Motsoeledi. Our guide explained that he was like the “black Moses:” he fought for his people’s freedom from apartheid but never got to see the “Promised Land.” It just goes to show how current the legacy of the struggle still is to so many people.
It was hot getting off the bus, but I kept thinking that it must be so much more hot in the summer and knowing how cold Jo’burg had gotten already, I wondered what it was like to live without heat or air. We were allowed to enter the home of one of our guide’s neighbors. She explained how hard it is to cook with and heat with paraffin since it hurt her lungs, and that it is never comfortable in the shanty because it is always too hot or too cold. It was humbling for me to be allowed to walk through the streets and especially the houses of those women. I was struck both by their living situations and the beauty of the garden they had cultivated in the front of their home. It was an interesting contrast.
The community feel of the area also intrigued me. Children ran around the street and seemed to know all the adults they saw; the adults seemed to know the children and each other, as if it was one large family.
While we were leaving, we were sort of bombarded by people with different arts and crafts to sell us. It was strange because I had just given our guide money to help the community, yet I still felt the strong desire to give to the men and women trying to make a living on their own. It was another strange contrast, because we had a just seen a large mall and heard about the progress of Soweto, yet we had just seen the real poverty in Soweto. And again, I was reminded of how huge and penetrating the problem of unemployment is here. We were seeing what that really meant for everyday people: health problems, compromised living situations, and selling small objects to tourists or whomever may stop by the neighborhood. However, I think we were all profoundly touched by the community atmosphere of the area and the positive spirit of our tour guides and their neighbors.
I was excited to see Freedom Square and the monument to the Freedom Charter. It was almost surreal to walk around the circular room, while a local man played the South African national anthem on a plastic recorder. It was fantastic, though, to see how far the country really has progressed since the days that document was written. I felt particularly compelled by the truth of those words for South Africa today. I liked the structure of the monument, and that it seemed so open. Mostly, I was struck by the words, very similar in spirit to the New Constitution, were written when apartheid was still strong and thriving. This country never fails to surprise me.
the outside of the monument
the inside: each triangular piece was a different piece of the document & addresses a different issue in S.A.
of course i took to the education piece shown above.
a pic from Soweto… upcoming concert w/ Professor & black coffee, love them!!
We watched Ninja warriors at the restaurant… a good time for bonding :)
the pool at our compound… we had a lot of classes out there. Let me tell you: class with a Jo’burg breeze, relaxing by the pool provokes some serious, intense discussions about city planning and political climate :)
Since South Africa! Can you believe it?? Well, to finish up the story, let’s start where we left off. The last night it Cape Town was wonderful, but it was time to move on to Johannesburg. Even though it was May, the season are opposite in South Africa (different hemisphere!) so it was kind of chilly. Here’s my journal from the day we got to Jo’burg:
An early morning for travel! One last super BIG breakfast, and then a tour by Annie (our Afrikaans guide). I thought a lot of what she said on the ride to the airport was kind of strange and definitely a carry over from apartheid. She was describing District 5 as a slum that should have been destroyed anyway, that it was a “sad part of our history,” but there was lots of crime and drugs in the area anyway. Though surely those were a part of District 6, after learning more about the area, there’s no way it seemed like a total slum that deserved to be destroyed. The way she talked about the “Hotentot” and “Bushmen” kind of bothered me, too. I’m sure it is the way she grew up under apartheid and sort of a justification of things past. It was also interesting that our black driver, Allen, looked back and made some funny faces while she was making some of those remarks.
Flying into Johannesburg, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was able to read some on the flight and catch up a bit on articles. We also got to catch up a bit on sleep once we arrived (thank GOD!) The drive to our hotel from O.R. Thambo was pretty boring, really. The highway was just lined with walls and trees, although on some hills we got a cool view of the city, especially old mining areas. I was shocked when we pulled up to our hotel. Definitely a four-star resort compound! I mean a large pool deck, a cricket course and country club next door, greeted with apple juice from the “world famous apples” of the Protea Wanderers, and porters who took our luggage upstairs. The hotel itself is just gorgeous; Jenalyn and I literally screamed when we got into our room!
It was weird, though, how sort of dead it seemed around the Wanderers. We walked as a large group to dinner at a mini-mall area with a lot of different restaurants down the way. It was my first time eating Indian food, and I was so happy with it! I hoped it would be very authentic, knowing how there is a large Indian population in South Africa. Even the decorations and music was authentic. There were hardly any other diners, though. Walking as a group in our little area was safe, but we all know about the high crime rate in Jo’burg. On the walk back, we even saw some prostitutes on the street. But other than that it was just completely dead… We were kind of in the outskirts of the city (a safer area) but it was eerie. Good thing our compound is so big and nice that we can hang out here a lot! Definitely going to get a good night sleep in the big comfy bed & fabulous room tonight!