24 December 2013

Jetlag, Apartheid, Soweto, and so much more

Oh yea, the Jetlag monster has got us.  We all woke up about 1 am and have been up since... it's now 1pm.  This is one of the negative parts of traveling with children, their jetlag hours become your jetlag hours, in addition to your own.  I was ready to go back to sleep by 4am but dude wasn't.  So that meant no one would be able to shut their eyes any longer than a blink until he slept first.... which never happened.  During our late night silent party we played games again, ate everything edible in the house, drank tea, played games on our phones, flipped and flopped.  It was a mess.  The boys were careful to not make a lot of noise.  The last thing I wanted was for other guest to complain of noisy children. The sun rose at 5am and that made it even harder to catch some shut eye.  By 7am I'd had enough of the flipping flopping, shushing, and "Mom, is it time yet?".  I got us all up, we all bathed, and got dressed.  We were all still hungry and needed breakfast.  Our first stop was the front office to ask where the grocery store was.  Patience was there with her big beautiful smile and she pointed out two nearby grocery stores on a neighborhood map.  The Pick'N'Pay was further but cheaper with a wider variety but the local small store was closer despite a small selection and higher prices.  I decided to go with the Pick'N'Pay but changed my mind shortly after our walk began and dude started complaining the he was cold and hungry. The store I found, I'm not sure if it was the one from Patience's map, was small and run down but would do the trick.  We got eggs, bread, apple juice, ramen noodle-ish type packets, and snacks.  Once I can get to a real store I will get milk, cereal, and other things for our cute lil cottage.  After breakfast I returned to Patience to see if she could help us set up the days tour.  I decided on the Apartheid Museum and Soweto tour.  Before I could even get into details about the places I was interested in she already began with ideas and rates she's gotten on tours, rental cars, sites that would make our 4 days here a pleasant experience.  I appreciated her sweetness and took her up on a few of her ideas.  She arranged for Jozi Tours to pick us up at 10:30. And we got together details for the next days journey.

The Apartheid Museum was heavy as expected.  What I didn't expect was there to be so many similarities between the apartheid struggle and the US Civil Rights struggle.  For whatever reason I knew they were similar yet different, but after a couple of hours being given a direct history lesson I see that is was the same monster.  So many atrocities that were committed here also occurred at home.  Children murdered by police, people beaten and jailed for speaking out against a segregation system, peaceful protestors being met with brutal deadly force.  It was an ugly violent déjà vu.  White supremacy enforced by laws to create an inferior laboring class of people who were deemed non-human.  It's was disgusting.  Awe-strikingly disgusting, if I were able to think of another stronger word it would be that as well.  The main difference I see though, in comparison of both countries history is the South Africa seems to be having a better outcome.  Their government acknowledged the wrong past and have made measures to reconcile, apologize, and many ways to right the wrongs of the past.  The US however has never done this. The movent from slavery to full rights for African-Americans during reconstruction, then the landslide backward to our own apartheid system( that just used the name Jim Crow as an alias) was never acknowledged as wrong, our leaders were murdered, there has never been an apology and never a discussion on reparations or how we can try to undo the damage done to victims of vicious governent enforced racism.  Just the thought of all this, if you can tell, pretty much pissed me off.  The oppressor mentality is real and ruthless, they rather stay down with you in a choke hold than to improve life for all through justice and equality.  This sick mentality that was spread through so many places on earth is frustratingly impossible to understand because it is ignorant and irrational at its core.
After the museum our tour guide took us to Soweto.  Soweto is a city of 3.5 millions residents and stands for SOuthWEstern TOwnship.  Townships were government controlled ghettos that blacks were forced to live in.  Their positioning in townships allowed black to be close enough to whites (and the gold mines) to get to them daily to serve them but also trapped them in so that their every movement was controlled.  Up until the early 90s the residents of Soweto weren't allowed to leave  their homes after 8pm, people were not allowed to walk or congregate in a groups larger than 2 people, the people forced to live there were often separated from their family members.  This is all too familiar right?!  Before going to Soweto I was sure that we would encounter a long stretching shanty town trampled with crime and poverty.  Boy was I wrong.  Soweto has 3 sections divided by class (not race).  The wealthy; who lived in beautiful homes that lacked the intense security that you find in other parts of Johannesburg.  Most have tall walls around them but not with the electric spiraled barbed-wire that can be found on top of most house walls.  This was the most shocking part if the Township for me.  My guide, Eric, informed me that the wealthy area was built in about '97 after the first democratic election was held.  What is now the middle class section, the next class of Soweto residents used to be the wealthy section during the Apartheid area which lasted from 1948-1991.  During that time however, blacks were not allowed to own homes and they could only rent.  Once the ANC (Nelson Mandela political party, The African National Congress) was in power residents had opportunity to purchases  their homes for an extremely low price.  Eric says that the people there love their homes and they rarely sell, hoping to pass it down to following generations. The third section is the shanty towns.  The shanty town shacks were built by the Apartheid government like housing barracks to separate families.  According to Eric the shanty town I saw today was just a fraction of what it used to be.
During our time in Soweto we also drove past Desmond TuTu's home, Mandela's home from right before he was released from jail, we saw Winnie Mandela's home, and the area were the 1978 student protest resulted in a police led massacre on peaceful protesters.  We then went to the Hector Pieterson museum.  He was 13 years old at the time when he a was shot and killed by the police during an unarmed peaceful protest.  
Eric was an awesome guide and was able to answer all of my questions.  Once apartheid ended did many whites leave South Africa? Yes, a good number of then fled to Canada and Australia.  What happened to the Apartheid supporting political party?  The party was dismantled.  The ones who saw the errors of their ways joined the ANC (the Africa Natonal Congress) Mandela's party and they immediately began working to try to right wrongs of the past.  Those who were unbudged apartheid supporters joined the other existing white political parties. Do white people live in Soweto? Yes, five of them. They are in relationships with black residents who are from Soweto.  I'm telling you this guy was the best.  On the way home we stopped by the hand craft market near the Hector Pieterson museum.  I bought so goodies for my peep that I'll have to surprise them with at home.  I also bought myself a beaded Zulu bracelet.  Before ending our tour we bought a pizza for dinner and headed home.  Tomorrow is a big day and we will have to get up at 5am and hit the road for our surprise Chtistmas present.  Man I hope we have perfect warm, sunny weather,  and I look forward to see the country outside of Jozi.


  1. Ahh, it's awesome that you noticed the same thing that Dr. Joy Degruy Leary noticed about them having a better outcome than we did because apologies were made and wrongdoing was admitted. Here, not so much...

  2. I love how detailed you are in your writings. I feel I'm right there with you guys :)