Tag Archives: Johannesburg

Wordless Wednesday: Maboneng Part II

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Where’s the struggle, Cape Town?

When visiting Johannesburg and Cape Town the difference in the two cities is remarkable.  Cape Town is the light and airy beach city with Table Mountain providing a constant backdrop for your perfect Instagram post #blessed. Johannesburg is a bustling African city that feels like the heart of South Africa. Every day people arrive to Johannesburg from other parts of South Africa and the larger African continent and push all-in on the “City of Gold”.  However, its difficult to find the story of the struggle against Apartheid in “The Mother City” of Cape Town.

Cape Town has two notable tourist sites when it comes to telling the story of the struggle here in Cape Town. One is Robben Island and the other is the District Six Museum.  Everyone knows Robben Island as the prison island where Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years imprisoned by the Apartheid government.   The tour guides on Robben Island are s mix of former political prisoners and paid guides.  The paid tour guides take you through the bus portion of your tour and tell you about the history of the island and some of the other sites on the island other than the main prison block.  They do a good job of telling tourist about Robert Sobukwe, the leader of the PAC, who was imprisoned on Robben Island in a house, but in solitary.  He was not allowed any communication with anyone during his confinement. The government considered him extremely dangerous for his mind and sought to destroy it because it was his most powerful weapon against their regime. The prison portion of the tour is still conducted by former political prisoners.  They tell you about their time on the island, in prison, and their political activism.  The guide we had this time was still fired up about political activism and I think everyone in my group would have followed him wherever he lead us!


District Six Museum is staffed with former residents of the neighborhood. They do a great job of telling their stories of forced removal. Each time I’ve visited this museum I have been moved to tears (today was no exception). Our guide today told us the story about his prized racing pigeons. Three months after the forced removal he decided to let his pigeons out, to see if they would come back home.  He went to work and when he got home that night the pigeons had not returned home.  He drove through his old neighborhood of District Six and found all of his pigeons waiting for him in the rubble of his old home.  They didn’t understand what had happened to their home and even after all of these years the people are still trying to figure it out.  The racism of the old regime is such an unsatisfactory answer, but its the only one we’re left with.


Tonight, as I watched the full moon rise over the city-I couldn’t help but wonder “where are the rest of the stories of the struggle in this massive city?” Has Cape Town not recorded this important history because the tourism industry does not need it to? I don’t have the answers to these questions but I will now add this to my repertoire of questions I ask to the activists I encounter.

Please, if there are more sights regarding the struggle or resistance in Cape Town let me know!


Wordless Wednesday: Maboneng Edition


The fun of getting there

Funny, how much can happen before you even land at your destination.

My route to South Africa was DC to Atlanta an then Atlanta to Joburg.  I have discovered that you just never know who you are going to sit next to flying out of DC, especially National.  I think National might be a bit more interesting because of its proximity to DC proper. The lady sitting next to me started a pleasant conversation, but when it lulled I started listening to one of my audio books.  Thankfully, my bluetooth headphones died and I was able to strike up the conversation with her again. She told me about her work related trips to Uganda and Tanzania.  She showed me pictures from her safaris on the Serengeti. By the time we’d landed I’d given her my card and we made tentative plans for lunch when we are both back in DC.

The trip from Atlanta to Joburg was a first-class experience at budget prices!  I was the only passenger in a row of three seats.  I luxuriated in every moment.  I laid across all three seats and slept for about 5 + hours.  But woke up and we were still over the ocean.  I think about 90% of that route is over the ocean though.  Once we fly southeast out of Atlanta and hit the Atlantic, there’s no land again until Namibia.  I was able to watch the last Avenger’s movie and Brave.  We landed when I was 3/4 the way through Wall-E.  Once on the ground customs took forever, but I didn’t mind the standing after the long flight.  The man in the line next to me got into a back and forth with the immigration official. All I heard was, “No, I am a student.” She said, “No, you are not because you don’t have a student VISA.” He tried to insist a couple more times that he is actually a student, but he didn’t understand she was trying to help him since his didn’t have a VISA. I wanted to be like, “Dude, chill. She’s helping you!” He’ll get it…all part of the learning process.

My first oder of business was the ATM, post cards, stamps, and getting my South African phone sorted.  Thankfully my old trusty Samsung was mailed to me just before I left, but no charger.  So, I went to buy a charger and min. at the Vodocom store. Unfortunately, they don’t carry that little phone any more and no charger either.  But wouldn’t you know it, one of the guys had a charger that he sold to me!  Gotta love South Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit!

As I left the Vodocom store I saw my name on a sign, which surprised me.  Last time I stayed here the backpackers told me to call them when I got in.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was the same driver.  Last year he told me that he was learning French because “of all the beautiful French-speaking women.” I asked him how his French was coming along. After he got over the surprise that I remembered him, he said he gave it up because the French women were “too much trouble” and with that he gave a big belly laugh.

My smile went all the way through me as we rode to the backpackers.


South Africa at an intersection, not a fork in the road

Jakkie Cilliers presents a forecast of South Africa at the 2014 Tedx Johannesburg event. He presents three possible futures for South Africa: Mandela Magic, Nation Divided, and Bafana Bafana.


A step closer

Tickets have been booked! Today, I got an email notifying me that my reservations had been made for South Africa! I need to pick my seats on the plane and then I’m set. One step closer to leaving for the semester abroad. We are flying out of Minneapolis and connecting to our international flight at Dulles Airport in D.C. From there we fly into Joburg which is a 14 hour flight. I’m really excited because right now we are scheduled to spend a day in Joburg. Hopefully, all of our flights stay on schedule so we can keep the day of sight-seeing. I know previous groups have visited Soweto, Mandela‘s house, and other historical sites.

Before I left St. Cloud for winter break, I got a thick envelope from NMMU. It had my acceptance letter from the university, information about health insurance and other items that SCSU had already taken care of for us, and a thick orientation book for the university. Our first weekend in country we will gather with all of the other study abroad students at   I think this is such a great idea because we can meet other students before we are on-campus.  All of the SCSU students (other than me) are going to be enrolled in classes at NMMU; it’ll be interesting to see if there are any students from other schools doing internships this semester.

There are still some unknowns. Unknowns like: where will I live? Who am I going to be working with or for? You know little things like that.

But I am excited about the unknowns. They are all part of the discovery process!


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