Thursday, 16 June 2011

Really? They've only been here a week? Let's recap...

Alright, I'll be honest - it is June 16th, and it is hard to believe that the group only arrived a week ago - lots has happened already.  But I just can't not backtrack a little and add some more here about our time in Soweto and Kruger!  On the morning of Thursday the 9th, we headed to the very impressive Apartheid Museum.  Interesting to me, you have to go through the gates of a theme park - Gold Reef City - complete with roller coaster and log flume to access the Museum...definitely not what I would expect. 
Once inside, we received a designation on our ticket stub as white or non-white, and headed in through the separated doors to the facility.  The museum does a terrific job with interactive exhibits, and really covers a great deal of the history and the process. 
We started with what is currently a temporary exhibit about Nelson Mandela (though, in our opinion, it should be made permanent).  Start to finish, from village royalty, to outspoken lawyer, to convict, to president - what a remarkable journey! 
Upstairs, paraphenalia from the long oppression of rights in South Africa, including troubling video and much reflection on connections to the past, the necessity of forgiveness, and the reasons to be optimistic for the Rainbow Nation.  It was a great way to contextualize our stay.

The afternoon brought a real highlight of the trip - our bike tour of Soweto!  This is where Lebo found his niche, and the tours really put him on the map.  We saw the original mining hostels where laborers were housed, learned about local delicacies like a (weak) home-brewed beer and cow jaw with lots of salt, and biked past other cultural landmarks including Nelson Mandela's Soweto home.  We learned a few songs (that I doubt any of us could recreate, unfortunately) and even caught a glimpse of Abigail Kubeka as she drove past us to her very upscale Soweto home.  Tonight, a braai - the South African cookout - lots of meat and sitting around the fire pit.  The students are showing me NO signs of jet lag, and seem to be enjoying each others' company a lot!  Spirits are high and so is the energy level, despite the cold of Johannesburg...

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