Category Archives: South Africa 2011

Soweto history tour and Emshukantambo High School

South Africa 2South 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 Eva Stutzman and Rebekah Graham read messages from visitors to a church where student protesters ran to hide from the police during Apartheid 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. IMG_0608 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.

Sarah Grace Fitzsimmons samples a delicious chicken foot 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


Soweto, South Africa

Nervousness, frustration, excitement, joy, loneliness, love, fear… each of these emotions has crossed my mind at least once recently. I may have been on cross-cultural for only two weeks so far, but it is definitely already turning out to be an adventure! Honestly, I still have a hard time believing I am actually in South Africa. On the other hand, I have been greatly blessed with a loving host family and a wonderful roommate, so this is unknown land has quickly become my home.

Madelyn Cooper plays a game of netballHow can I even begin to find the words to describe this to you? Everything here is a new experience – the houses, the beliefs, the clothing, the food, and especially the people. When we first arrived in the Johannesburg/Soweto area, I was surprised to see that virtually every house is barricaded with a wall, barbed wire, spikes, electric fencing, a snapping, growling guard dog or some combination of all of the above. Not exactly the friendliest feeling of welcome! However, South Africa’s walls do not define its people. These are the beautiful people of “Ubuntu,” a message of love, community, friendship, and acceptance. Passing by someone and spitting out a quick “hey” is certainly not a proper greeting. Instead, the people here say hello, ask your name, and expect to hear an answer when they ask how you are doing. In short, the kindness we have experienced here has been overwhelming and touching.

South Africa. Wow…I am blessed to be here. A Black-Headed Oriole weaves a nest at St. Benedict's Retreat Center Whether playing with school children, visiting an African Independent Church (AIC) for the first time, reading about the 1976 Soweto uprising, or eating mohodu (cow stomach/intestines), I am so grateful to have this opportunity. I learn something new every day! We have already done so much in so little time… It’s hard to believe we’ve only just begun.

– Rebekah Graham (A.K.A. Bohlokwa Mareas)  Sept. 15th 2011

The months and weeks I spent preparing for this trip could not have prepared me for the amount of joy and excitement I have experienced in just two short weeks! I have to pinch myself to believe I am in Africa. I have dreamt of coming to this continent for years and the reality is still sinking in. The people are warm here and my host family has accepted my roommate and me with open arms. I miss home, but I am not homesick because South Africa is already starting to feel like my home.

Todd Hooley practices Sesotho with a member of his host familyAfter spending a week at a lodge near Johannesburg bonding with the group and practicing Sesotho, we traveled to Soweto for our first home stay. Since arriving in Soweto our days have been busy and packed full. We have gone to schools, The Apartheid Museum, a club soccer game and even attended a traditional African Zionist Church – all the while spending time with our families and speaking Sesotho the best we can.

I am already sad to think that in ten days I will be leaving Soweto and the host family I have come to love. Each person that I have formed a relationship with will forever hold a piece of my heart. I hope to one day return to South Africa because I know the moment I leave here, a part of me will remain behind.

-Sarah Grace Fitzsimmons (Dikamano Mareas) Sept. 15th 2011