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South Africa Adventure

Reflections on suffering

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today we visited several places that reflected the suffering of South Africa. The first place we stopped was at the Apartheid Museum. Because I have been to the Holocaust Museum, I was somewhat prepared for the type of museum we were going to visit. Our students hung on every word of our tour guide, thus they got a very personal glimpse into that time period. After a drive through one of the townships, we visited Nelson Mandela's house and The Elton John Masibambisane Centre. The students thoughts while visiting the Apartheid Museum and the children's centre as well as my thoughts on the townships follow:

Kelby: Apartheid, spelled A-P-A-R-T-heid. The spelling literally talks about the separation this movement caused. Today we visited the Apartheid museum - sometimes explained as the South African equivalent of the Holocaust. The entrance to the museum is segragated, making a very powerful statement to those who haven't experienced this level of segregation. The museum covers every aspect of the apartheid, using historical documents, pictures, videos, and artifacts. The beginning, middle, and end were covered very thoroughly. Seeing that the very same people who've been running the restaurants, driving the coach, and planning our trip are the same people that fought for their freedom some fourteen years ago is very compelling.
Niki: The first place we went today was the Apartheid Museum. The museum was not like I expected. I thought it would be just another museum filled with historical documents; instead, it was more of an interactive museum. The tour through the museum came to mean so much more to me because of our tour guide, Kenny. Kenny was twenty years old during the last days of Apartheid. He had lived his whole life being told he was a lesser person than the white people of South Africa. His whole identity was tied into the color of his skin. The one video that touched me the most showed the scars on the bodies of the men who had resisted the police. It had footage of a young boy trying to get away by jumping over a razor fence, but before he could get away the police dragged him through the fence. The thing that upset me the most is that these events occurred just a few years before I was born. The world should have known better than that.

Danae: Tears filled my eyes as I walked into the The Elton John Masibambisane Centre and saw the faces of all the children. There was a glow to their smiling faces. They were very proud to see us and their love showed through their eyes. They taught us how to play their games and laughed at our lack of rhythm. It was a very heartwarming experience to see how content and happy they are even though some are affected by HIV.
Meagan: When we visited the centre, we not only learned about them, but they learned about us also. We got in a circle and sang and danced with them for what seemed like hours. They were all so filled with enthusiasm. It is amazing how one little face can make someone view things so differently.

Seven million people live in Johannesburg and its surrounding townships. As we drove through the townships, I decided that today I would put down my laptop and my ever increasing need to blog to really focus on the world outside the coach's window. The sheer number of the population came home. While some parts of the townships were orderly, far too many were not. It seemed to me that there were people everywhere. Women picking through the trash on the side of the road, children playing in the streets, and men standing around fires. With immigrants coming to Johannesburg because of the economy in outlying areas, there are too many people seeking jobs that are just not there. Government preference for help is being given to families with young children with more people here living on welfare than in any other country. On a positive note, education is free with no child being turned away because of an inability to pay school fees. Health care is also provided by the government, and there is a concentrated effort to see that all South African children are healthy and educated. They feel this is the only way to make sure that future generations of South Africa can overcome poverty. While the plan sounds like it will work, the people of South Africa know they will have to take ownership of their own personal lives and strive to work toward a more progressive South Africa.

SoWeTo (South-Western Township)has 30% unemployment and covers eighty square miles. Although the government supplies some water and some electricity,4% of its people are still without electricity. As I continued to watch from the comfort of the coach and eat my McDonald's cheeseburger, I contemplated the absolute unfairness of life. Why should someone who was born the same year I was but only in a different part of the world have to suffer so much more than I ever did? Probably most bothersome to me was why I had never even thought about the absolute terror that most of these people had lived with for countless years.

Ending on a more upbeat note with images from the children's centre.


Anonymous said...

I cried reading your posts from today. We are such a spoiled, spoiled people. Thank you so much for giving this opportunity to our kids. I know this group will make our little part of the world better just because of what they are experiencing now.

Anonymous said...

I just had to smile when I saw those sweet babies with your students. What a experience for Midland kids. Keep safe-Kathy

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 12 days
When June 2nd - 13th, 2009
Focus Wildlife Research/Conservation
Political History