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Thursday evening, our group was invited to a smal braai (pronounced bry, meaning BBQ) where many of us tried our first boerwors. It is a popular sausage. The braai was held in Retreat, a generally colored community in the Cape Flats. It was there that we met our first host families. The area is nice, many of us are within walking distance from one another and we'll be living here till around the 28th.
The next morning, on Friday, we had our first "Academic" day with Terry and Elizabeth as our leaders. This gave us time to compare and discuss our new host families, process our orientation time, and begin discussing cultural incidents. Friday night was then time spent with families. Many were taken to St. Cyprian's Curch for a night of Karaoke.
Saturday was our day to relax. Kiara Yoder and I found ourselves going shopping for a confirmation party. Other people slept-in or relaxed with host families. Kiara and I enjoyed getting to know our host family a bit more. We really felt welcomed, not only by our imediate host family, but also by the extended family. Saturday afternoon and evening, the group enjoyed a new aspect of culture in South Africa, Rugby! We watched the Western Province smother the Blue Bulls, 63-26.
Sunday morning came quickly for many of us who attended the baptism and confirmation service at St. Cyprians. Encouraged by our host families to leave a half hour early to get seats, most of us enjoyed the approx. 3 hour service. Since it is an Anglican church we found a lot to observe, such as processionals and readings. After the service there were many confirmation parties to attend. One aspect of South African hospitality you need to understand is the idea of food. You will never go hungry because they are always offering something. Sunday also offered a day to relax. Some of the host families went for a braai at the beach or the woods.
Monday we found ourselves back on the academic track. We started at the Cecil Rhodes Memorial. He was a mining giant who encouraged the colonialism of the British empire. More commonly, the Rhodes Scholars originate from his money. We went from there to the District Six museum. District Six was a community that in the 1960's was declared whites only and the coloreds and blacks and Indians were forced out. The area was bulldozed and for various reasons never rebuilt. This wasn't a singular incident in South Africa but one of many. It is really sad to see the affect that Apartheid had on people. Additionally, the effect it has on society today. We find that in our current community people feel that they got put in the middle. A few host families have stated that they would have prefered apartheid, while many others have realized the freedom they gained from the end of the regime.
Tuesday we were joined by three speakers, talking on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. This was formed after 1994 as a way to resolve some issues. It opened up a way for political criminals to recieve amnesty. They could do this only if they brought forth the truth of what they did. It also listened to the victims and allowed their stories to be told and heard. The other aspect was it suggested ways for reparations, which we heard about today, Wednesday. On Tuesday we heard Peter Story, a methodist preacher and chaplin to those on Robben Island (only person allowed to speak to Robert Sobukwe), Mary Burton, a TRC commissioner and former leader of the Black Sash, and Fanie du Toit, an Afrikaner working at the Institute of Peace and Justice. It was really excellent to hear from people who are at the heart of things.
Today, we heard from two more people. Glenda Walvschut, a TRC commissioner for the Reparations part of the TRC and Doug Tilten, an American who works with the parliamentary office of the South African Council of Churches. We really learned about reparations and the current situation here. We finished out the day with an invigorating game of ultimate frisbee. We are really enjoying all that South Africa has to offer.
- Stephanie Miller