Journal Entry: Monday, October 11th, 2010
Our visit to Soweto was pretty intense. Only our second day here in SA and we're starting off with a packed day.
Laura and I started our day a bit late. Our phones hadn't switched over from London time, so when her alarm went off at 7am, it was actually 8am. So, needless to say, we were in a bit of a rush. However, we still managed to enjoy a lovely English breakfast, sip some tea, read a bit of scripture and pray before we set out to the Oasis Haven SA office. We meet the SA team, took a brief tour of the office, and then headed to Soweto. Soweto is the largest township in South Africa. It is home to 4 million people. FOUR million!! This area is quite large, but not nearly large enough to house 4 million people. Not comfortably at least. I still need to get the square mileage for Soweto. I asked a couple people, but they were unsure. When I do find this bit of information, I will most definitely come back to it in this post. It's worth knowing.
I also learned that Soweto is abbreviated for South West Township. I also was informed that Soweto is a township home to primarily black people and of those 4 million people, alone about 4 people living there are white.....and they are witch doctors. I wouldn't classify them as good people to be around. We definitely stuck out as tourists. It's rather uncommon for white people to visit Soweto.
It's pretty difficult to describe in detail what I saw and felt. It's a culture shock. There were corrugated tin metal houses built up against brick homes, run down homes, rubbish and rubble, dumps, etc... There were people selling fruit and other items along side the roads. Little shacks were set up called tuck shops, which sold items like chips, soda, etc.... There aren't a lot of opportunities for work in the township. People work in the city, Johannesburg, or they create their own informal business...such as the tuck shops or fruit stands on the side of the road.
I also noticed that most people were on foot. The vehicles on the road were mostly tourists and taxi's. It made me both sad and angry seeing how many children were walking home from school alone. It's so dangerous. You want to offer them a ride but then reconsider when you think about how dangerous that is as well. You'd be teaching them to accept rides from strangers and putting them at risk of getting in the car with someone who doesn't have a kind heart.
Beth told us about the transportation in and out of Soweto. Most walked a few blocks to get a taxi which would take them to a stop where they would then take another taxi, or more, to get to their final destination.....which they usually had to walk a few blocks to get to. The taxi's here are not like our taxi's in the States. They don't pick you up and take you to any destination you'd like. If you're walking and a taxi is driving by, the honk, you then give a sign, which is a symbol of the destination/part of town that you're needing to get to, and if that's where they're headed, they'll pick you up. If not, you keep walking, or waiting, until another taxi comes by that is going in your direction. Another form of transportation is the train. There are two railways that run through Soweto. And both are very dangerous. I think the train is like the last resort. Women are often rapped on the train. Beth said that it is rather common for women to put on 3 pairs of underwear before leaving the house in hopes to slow a rapist down. I couldn't imagine going through what these people face and live with everyday.
During our visit in Soweto we went to the Oppenheimer Tower which was built to honor Ernest Oppenheimer. He was an architect from Germany who came to Johannesburg during the time it was settled as a mining town, and built 1,400 matchbox homes for the men working in the mines.
We also went to the Nelson Mandela Family Museum and the Hector Peterson Museum. Both were very informative about Apartheid, the forced segregation among whites, coloreds and blacks. I really should post more information about these museums, but right now I can't locate the information I received while at each museum. However, if you do want to know more, you can google Apartheid, Hector Peterson and Nelson Mandela. And, as soon as I do find those pieces of literature on the museums, I will post it in this blog.
Oh, side note.... I also fainted at the Tower. Yeah, how could I forget about that!? lol
It's sort of comical, really. I mean, it is now but it definitely wasn't at the time. I'm not really sure what exactly happened but all I know is that I felt an anxiety attack coming on while we were at the top of the tower, then my vision blurred and then I was on the floor with both the US and SA team surrounding me. Thank God for Paula and Lori who caught me and kept me from tumbling down the curvy set of 49 stone steps. Phew!!
After our adventures in Soweto, we went back to the B&B to freshen up before dinner. We went to dinner at the Chairman of the board's home. He and his wife made us a delicious South African meal of bibotti and pavlova for dessert.
Our day ended at 10:00pm and we were all surprised to have made it up so late.
These first couple of days have been amazing. I thank God for this wonderful opportunity.