As we pulled into the airport, a buzz of excitement began to make its way through our group. The waiting was over, the anticipation gone, and we were finally on our way. Gradually the other passengers on the plane began to learn of our trip, and many expressed concern at our staying in Soweto Township. During apartheid, this area was set aside for blacks to live. White South Africans avoid the area out of fear, and it is uncommon for a white person (let alone a large group) to undertake an extended stay. But, great risks reap great rewards.
Throughout the plane ride (a total of 18 hours), there was much visiting between the EMU students and our excitement refused to be quelled. At our layover in Bakar the general consensus was, “we’re in Africa!” With another eight hours of flight, we forced ourselves to sleep, attempting to adjust the time difference, a feat helped along by the captain and flight crew. Though the flight was long, we remained comfortable and I am told that the accommodations and service on the plane were well above par (something I would not know as a first time flyer).
Our plane landed in Johannesburg around five Thursday evening, constituting 24 hours lost to travel and time zones. After we gathered our luggage and exchanged our dollars to South African rand, we crammed ourselves (and our bags) into two vans, marking the beginning of our tribal bonding.
At St. Benedicts, we took little time to unpack, deciding to sing worship songs late into the night. We followed this with a variety of card games, starting a favored Cross-cultural tradition. Our days here at St. Benedicts have given a sense of surrealism, yet the time has brought us closer to each other than ever before. We are grateful for these days and approach our first homestay with the conviction to rely on the strength and support of God and each other.
It is hard to fully explain to others the experience this semester has been and will become. I feel so blessed to be a part of this group and am excited to continue this journey alongside them. Rea Sechaba. We are a tribe. And together, nothing is going to stop us.