International Student Trips Powered By Discovery Education
Stephanie's Blog

Thought Provoking Journey

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This morning was nice. We were able to sleep in. Well that is if you consider 8:00a.m. sleeping in. The latest I’ve been able to sleep in this whole trip anyways. Then at our leisure we went to breakfast before loading the bus for another day filled of festivities. On the bus ride to the Apartheid Museum the tour guide reinforced the concept of ubuntu. Ubuntu is when one person of the same “kind” succeeds then the people of that “kind” also succeed. Same goes for losses. Therefore, everything that a person does affects their “kind”.
Outside the Apartheid Museum stood concrete pillars representing what South Africa now stands for. Some of the pillars said democracy, responsibility, diversity, equality, and reconciliation. I thought this was good, how South Africa had been able to come to such strong roots after Apartheid. When entering the museum I entered through the white people’s entrance. From there I was able to look at white people’s pass cards. These cards were used when going anywhere in South Africa to make sure the people were in the right color boundaries. The black people’s pass cards were more torn and worn than the white people’s meaning that the black people were carded a lot more than white people. I then followed the white person’s path up a ramp. The black people’s path was a bunch of stairs, representing struggle and how much harder they had to work to get to the same destination in life. Next we went to see a quick video on how the conflict of the apartheid began and what had caused it. The apartheid began when the drought came and all the blacks from the country could no longer farm so they moved to the city. People did not want the black people in the city so they started to try segregating people. That didn’t work and the government got mad so they started to make laws that started the apartheid. During the apartheid the type of government system used was a parliament. More and more laws kept getting implemented and before the black people knew it, good jobs were incredibly hard to find. Some of the black people went to work in mines for white people, searching for gold. The conditions in which the black men stayed were horrendous. Basically all they had was a bed. Walking through the museum I was able to see the order of apartheid struggle. The fact that some white people opposed apartheid really surprised me. There was a woman by the name of Helen Suzman who was a member of parliament and was extremely against apartheid and stood up against it, but no one listened to her. In the museum there was an exhibit of pictures that Peter Magubani took during the time of struggle for the black. One of the quotes he used to describe the black people was, “They drift through the streets in small packs, like rubbish in the breeze.” I felt that this really explained nicely how people were treated only because of the color of their skin. The museum also had a part about Nelson Mandela. The section described his life and his commitment to succeed. When walking out of the section we were able to pick up these sticks, and each color represented a characteristic about Nelson Mandela. We then placed the sticks all together in stands to show what Nelson Mandela was all about and had created for South Africa. I chose a blue one which stood for respect because that is what Nelson Mandela fought for. We went through the museum extremely fast and I really wish we had more time to spend there. The museum really helped me to understand exactly what went on during the apartheid. By learning the past I can help prevent this from happening in the future.
Lunch today was a on the go type of thing. We had sandwiches. Mine was cheese and tomato, but the cheese they use here is always shredded. On our way to the house Nelson Mandela had during the apartheid we stopped at the local mall in Soweto. Soweto is a suburb of Johannesburg. At the mall we made a quick stoop at the post office to get some international postage. On the postage was a picture of Nelson Mandela which just showed me how respected he is in South Africa. The picture was celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. Many of my fellow travelers got off the bus to go to the local McDonalds. The teachers came back on the bus with all of their food then wouldn’t let us go and get any. They ended up surprising us and bought us all cheeseburgers and French fries. This just showed me even more how amazing traveling with Discovery Student Adventures is.
The house that Nelson Mandela lived in before the apartheid had about 3 rooms. On the walls outside of the house there were still bullet holes from when the police shot his house during the struggle. Outside of his house stood a tree which was called the Freedom Tree. The tree is where he planted the umbilical cords of all of his children and his grandchildren. They were planted within the first 10 days of the child’s birth. Inside of the house were artifacts from before and after the apartheid. There were also a lot of things from his wife, Winnie, and her struggle while he was in jail. The first time she saw him in jail was 2 months after the arrest and then not again until a whole year later. The Mandela house wasn’t really what I expected it would be like, but I guess that just shows how much of a “normal” person Nelson Mandela was.
The orphaned and vulnerable children we visited was one of those experiences that changes the way you look at the world forever. Let me step back a bit and tell you about the center. The children that were at this center were from the ages of 3-18. These children were somehow affected by HIV/AIDS. Either their parents had it or had died from it, or they themselves had HIV/AIDS. Children went to the center during the day for daycare and food if they were 3-6 years of age. The children that were older went to the center for breakfast and then came back after school to do homework and have a snack, before leaving the center at 5p.m. each night. At the center the children were taught basic life skills such as cleaning, gardening, and health awareness on HIV/AIDS. The place was called Elton John Masibambisane Centre and had about 200 children each day. Touring the place, made me wonder how they ever had enough room for 200 children as the space was limited.
I started to interact with the children right away. First I went to talk to some boys that were working on their math homework. The children were ecstatic to see us, but trying to concentrate so I went onto a reading group. There I read the story of Aladdin to some boys. During the story they commented about specs on a boy that had come. At first I had no idea what they were talking about but then I found out that it was glasses. Sometimes it was hard to understand the children due to their thick accents and some of them didn’t even speak English. The children tried to read some and I was surprised at how low their reading level was for their age. The children were about 10 and could barely read a sentence. That proved to me how lucky I am to have a good education. As I started taking pictures with the children they asked if they could take some of their own on my camera. I let them and they started acting silly but were having a lot of fun. They no longer wanted to read. Then I was approached by a girl that wanted to take some more pictures with me. I allowed and after we were done I began talking to the girl. Her name was Fezeka meaning dreams come true, and she told me that someday all of her dreams would come true. I told her that with a good education anything was possible. Fezeka was 15 years old. One of the questions she asked me hit me hard. She asked if I had parents. Immediately, after she asked that question I was on the verge of tears, because I knew that she didn’t. I went on to tell her that I did. She explained to me that her mother had died when she was 3 years old, along with her dad. Fezeka lives with her aunt and brothers a couple blocks from the center. Each night she walks the other children home first and then goes home to her family. Fezeka asked me about America and if it was nice. I told her that America was nice and full of a promising future. She asked me if I liked South Africa and such and I explained to her that it was an amazing experience. The fact that Fezeka still was so happy even though she had so little made me realize how fortunate I am to have everything I do. We then circled up as a group and began playing African games. I found it great how the children of all ages were able to play peacefully and happily together. A little girl came by me and began holding my hand, she obviously felt left out and I included her right away. Her cute little smile spread to others. We got in groups singing and dancing and playing along. A smile beamed from my face this whole time. The room was vibrating with a rhythm of young people who had promising opportunities ahead of them due to this center, even if they did have HIV/AIDS. When leaving Fezeka told me that someday she was going to come to America and find me. I told her that I would most definitely welcome her into my world as she did for me into hers. The experience at Elton John Masibambisane Centre is extremely hard to convey to other people. The children literally have changed my life and the perspective I see in my future and the future of the world.
For dinner we went to a local buffet and had some African cuisine, similar to what we have experienced in other days of the trip. As today comes to a close, I reflect and cherish what I have learned so far, but can not wait to embark to Kruger Park were more memories and thought provoking facts are waiting.


Liz said...

Knew you would enjoy your experience with the children at the orphanage. Good ingformation on the struggles South Africa has faced and continues to face today. Have fun at Krueger !

Katie Martin said...

this is amazing, keeps up the blogs i love em.
-dsachina student

Christa said...

You've beautifully described your experience...and have brought tears to my eyes!

Liz said...

Sounds like Kruger is living up to everyone's expectations from the email. Look forward to hearing more about it.

Post a Comment

Essential Programs Details

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