Home is where the heart is. As I journey back to America, I can’t help but smile and already reminisce about the new friendships made and new knowledge gained. Thank you Lord and thank you South Africa.
I will be back.
Windy hilly Capetown. We arrived yesterday but didn’t do much but walk around and get familiar with the area. It’s quite beautiful here but for some reason I miss Bloem. I think it’s all the people we got to hang out with and question. There’s something magical about living on a college campus, even if it’s for just a week.
But here we are in beautiful Capetown. Some say it gives them a San Francisco feel while others say New Orleans. Since I’ve never been to either-it just feels like something new and different.
It takes approx 40 minutes by boat to the island. As we travelled singing songs and laughing, I couldn’t help but think what Mandela and other prisoners were thinking about and feeling as they made the journey. Did they too think there’s no way to escape now? Was the cold air biting them too? When we arrived, our tour guide (a former political prisoner) explained what life was like on the island. He spoke about his faith giving him hope, the political discussions the prisoners had in the cells, and the strikes they staged for change.
July 13- 18th
So I’d much rather describe this week in photos. However what I will say is this:
Bloem Is Cold. Like New Jersey Cold.
My South African name bestowed on me is Lulama (a Xhosa name meaning soft spoken) given by the sweetest Tabz I know.
Valentino came to our room the first night where we stayed up until 2 am discussing born-frees, Shaka Zulu giving away his riches for trinkets, white teachers, and the state of war we’re in.
9.1% of South Africa’s population is white- who own 87% of the land. 3% of Johannesburg Stock Exchange is owned by black people.
The Bantu Education Act-blacks could not receive education in science or math.
**”If you interrogate the white education system then you’re interrogating God”
Schools are still conducted under a tree in rural areas.
White flight-brain drain-water crisis
Wanting a lobola (a bride price) after David explained how much money one cow can fetch. As well as a pre-lobola where the woman makes a list of everything her heart desires. Ummm…score!
The Anglo Boer War Museum and the concept of black concentration camps..oh and white concentration camps (because even in war, there was a difference between being white and black on the losing side)
Visiting a Shelter for Women and Children where the community pays and provides its needs. UFS is its partner.
National Day of Service or Nelson Mandela’s birthday where we served the community by helping to repaint an organization’s facility.
Haggling prices like a South African woman but yet still failing to secure the best deal!
The dopest closing ceremony I’ve ever been to that really marked the end of our stay in Bloem.
Pure fun! I think I’m a big kid and I think that’s why I get along with kids. Pause.
And Not All Ages.
There’s that special age between 3 and 9 where kids just want to play games and have fun. And sometimes I wish life was still just that simple for me.
Today I got to be the teacher of the day at Teboho Trust. Teboho Trust is an organization that offers supplemental life skill resources and education. My class consisted of way too many energetic and excited 8/9 year olds. We decided (me and 2 other colleagues) to play a game with the multiplication flash cards. I think in that moment I realized that I’ve underestimated every elementary school teacher I’ve ever had. It is no small feat to have a large group of kids all focus and listen to you as you explain directions. But we persevered. We read stories and played a matching game. Finally we went outside and played red light green light. Too much fun. If only we had more time-freeze tag,duck duck goose, and all my favorite childhood games would have been played out in that school yard!
That night we had dinner with Dr. Clifford (President of the Zoological Society) at his beautiful home. Here’s what I’ll say about this experience, it’s not too often that you enjoy the company of complete strangers that you feel so hard pressed to leave. The night felt too easy, too beautiful to surrender. I’d go back in time for that experience.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by information, emotion, and curiosity all in one day? Before this moment I would say no. Today we visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Apartheid Museum, and the Hector Pieterson Museum. I choose to speak on my experience at the Hector Pieterson Museum only. That’s because..to be quite frank-it was only there that I felt the whirlwind of information and emotion that I just mentioned. Not to take away from the work that Nelson Mandela’s foundation is doing or to slight the stories shared at the Apartheid Museum (which honestly could double as Nelson Mandela’s Museum) but to basically state that the Hector Pieterson museum is a must when you travel to South Africa.
I’ll try hard not to over share and take away from anyone’s experience when you go but I will say this, be prepared to be moved. Be prepared to recognize that not much has changed within the black struggle from 1976 to 2015. Understand that there’s just enough willingness to kill black men and women as there is to kill their children. Understand that the signs we see today in Ferguson, Missouri with Hand Up Don’t Shoot, if you stare hard enough, you might see the picture of the teenage girl holding the sign Don’t Shoot. And like me, you might never have heard the name Hector Pieterson before. Know that you’ll never forget it once you leave South Africa. Why? Because no living, breathing person can stomach understanding that an innocent 13 year old, living under the unyielding system of apartheid, was killed by just protesting. By a police officer. And my hope is that none of us will ever become desensitized to the massacre of black lives.
The Voortrekker Monument. It is a monument that “honors” the Afrikaners’ past by maintaining remembrance, that is, remembering the forefather’s Great Trek to a foreign land in which they subjugated its natives. It paints an image of a people who innocently ventured to South Africa to escape oppression, willing a better life for their families. On the wall of the museum, it displays numerous panels that illustrate decisive battles and pseudo treaties signed for land control.
Our tour guide was a petit Afrikaner woman who took pride in her heritage. She explained the various wars and leaders of both the Zulus (the indigenous people) and the Boers. Among many things that struck me, I found the Boer’s faith in God very intriguing. As the story goes (or at least how Emma-the-tour guide told it), the Boers prayed to God for them to win a critical battle against the Zulus. If God honored their request, they would always uphold and set aside the date of December 16th to praise him. Thus today there is an alter in the Voortrekker Museum where families visit every year in December to pray and thank God.
I find it interesting that God is conveniently inserted into this narrative of war, domination, and subjugation. Somehow God is interested and “gracious” in seeing to it that the Boers controlled this new land they inhabited. Could not all the prior defeats the Boers experienced at the hands of the Zulus not be a sign that God did not support this? Is God somehow now pleased that he’s honored on a day that really symbolizes the killing of a people who owned, thrived, and belong to this land? Interesting, right?
As we walked around the monument, our tour guide explained each of the panels on the wall. She made mention that one of the panels was actually changed because it was too graphic. This ironic statement made me look at Emma incredulously because the reality of the matter is-this could have been avoided. All of this could have been avoided really, and I wouldn’t be standing in this God-forsaken monument built by African laborers, that honors morally corrupt men, who thought it was a good idea to massacre a people, and then have the nerve to talk about a panel that isn’t politically correct.
I think I love winter, at least winter in South Africa. The weather is not too hot and not too cold. Pure perfection!
And Johannesburg is beautiful. It has the feel of any other American city, huge buildings and bustling traffic. The obvious differences are street signs, traffic patterns, and the fact that drivers drive on the opposite side of the street and car.
Once settled in our hotel room, we took a shuttle to Sandton Mall-the largest mall in South Africa. It has a library in the middle as well as a huge statue of Nelson Mandela. Unfortunately, many parts of the mall were under construction which took away some of its appeal but it’s still very nice.
Maybe this seems silly but, I found it really cool that we blended in so easily. No long stares or uncomfortable glances. Until we opened our mouth, which honestly didn’t really garner any different results, I felt like I too could pass as a South African. And that…is a good feeling.