As our plane taxied down the runway at the Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, my first thoughts on South Africa were “This is really…brown.” Although our first impressions might have been a little off considering our 18 hour flight, the last few days in South Africa have been eye-opening, inspiring, and filled with wonderful people and amazing sights.
South Africa, from what I have seen, is a land of fences. A land of walls and gates, guard dogs and barbed wire. Security is a top priority, largely stemming from the remnants of apartheid thinking, which demands that the whites maintain absolute authority to manage the much larger black population. Although this thinking is beginning to recede, the fences still remain.
We will go into Soweto this week for our homestays, and I am excited knowing that through those relationships, we might be able to tear down even just a little bit of the wall that divides black from white, maybe evening learning what it means to be a person instead of just a color. Living in Soweto will (hopefully) open my eyes to see the similarities between Americans and South Africans, between my culture and this new exciting place halfway around the globe.
The novelties had worn off by hour two. We discovered every little gadget there was to find on the airplane. And lo and behold, there were no lions running through the fields when we landed in Africa.
We’re currently staying at Jacaranda Lodge–learning Sesotho, participating in daily group discussions, and bonding over Dutch Blitz and kicking around a flat soccer ball. On Tuesday we’ll head out to Soweto to live with our host families for 3 weeks.
We were able to experience a true South African welcoming as we visited Soweto this morning. There was singing, drumming, story-telling, stepping, eating, and oh… there was dancing. One hour of full out Mennonite/African dancing. It was quite a hoot. It’s unreal to think we’ve only been here for three days with everything we’ve seen, heard, eaten, and processed already.