South Africa is a country of boldness and vibrancy, and it’s hard to believe I have been taking it all in for the past 18 days already! The people here are so welcoming, and I think that their past challenges have truly shaped their relational culture and hospitality. My host mother (Mme Esther) shared a few of her past experiences with apartheid (including being taken to jail three times and participating in the 1976 Soweto Uprising), and I believe that she has so much to teach the world about true forgiveness and freedom.
South Africa history really came alive for me when the group went on a tour of Soweto this past week. Soweto is home to five million people and it was refreshing to experience life outside of Pimville Zone 2 for the day. Some personal highlights of the tour were visiting the Regina Mundi Church and the Hector Peterson Museum.
Regina Mundi church was a safe place for students to meet and discuss their frustrations openly. During the 1976 Soweto Uprising, black students marched in a peaceful protest against being forced to be taught in Afrikans. Violence eventually broke out, and the kids ran for safety in the Regina Mundi church. Here there were bullet holes in the roof, and a broken marble table from the police at the time. In the upstairs of the church there is now a memorial where people can write thoughts and view pictures of Soweto’s history.
Another challenging and moving part of the tour was visiting and viewing the pillars of South Africa’s Freedom Charter. I think that South Africa has a wonderful bill of rights, but it was challenging to see the equality and freedom expressed in the charter, and then to visit one of the poorest communities I have seen (Kliptown) only a few blocks away. I have learned and experienced so many things since living in Soweto and it will be hard to leave these lovely people in less than a week. But for now, I am taking in everything that I can because these people are individuals who have already taught me so much about forgiveness, freedom and how to be rich in spirit despite my material blessings.
– Laci Gautsche
On Friday, September 16th our group went to Emshukantambo High School. It was a mild 15 minute walk from where our group was staying in Soweto. The point of our visit was to debate racism with the high school students, but since we were visitors they insisted on giving us a show. With the whole school in attendance we watched traditional Sesotho and Zulu dancing as well as modern dancing to popular Hip Hop. After their piece, our group sang a traditional African song, “Puleng We” in front of the entire school. Unfortunately, only the first four rows of students heard us, due to our lack of volume.
After the concert/show we crowded into a classroom to watch role-plays and songs performed by students of Emshukantambo. Most of the role plays related to racism issues but a few were difficult to decipher, mostly because of a language barrier. Before we left, Todd, Leah, and Kimberly performed a role-play on racism and we debated racism with the school debate Team.
My favorite part was the traditional food. Local students brought home-cooked food for us to taste test. The food included chicken feet, sheep feet, split peas, dumplings, sugared potatoes, spinach, and soup. I can say truthfully I tried everything, and the most interesting was the chicken feet. The consumer of a chicken foot had to bite off the three toes, chew for approximately 10 minutes to separate the meat from the bones, and then spit out the bones. The most delicious were the dumplings.
It’s interesting to see South Africa go through similar racism issues as the United States but at an earlier stage. Even the United States, who is still fighting racism at a later stage, can learn from South Africa, and the same goes from South Africa learning from the United States. I concluded the journey to a non-racist society takes time but one way to speed up the process is to educate others and understand a culture before judging it.
– Justin Hershey