The early part of this past week

After talking about the arrival and first two jet lagged days in Jo’burg, I will continue with our journey at the beginning of the week.  Last Monday, we went to a part of Jo’burg called Soweto, which originally stood for the Southwest Townships but was shortened to Soweto during the Apartheid struggle.  You might remember it because of the black and colored students that were killed by white police officers for protesting the terrible apartheid laws, especially the large disparity between the money spent for white education versus money spent for black and colored education.  One of the most famous pictures from the apartheid era is from the Soweto uprising.  Also, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both lived in Soweto, so it is the only place in the world that has two nobel peace prize winners on the same street.  Our guide of the area was a local pastor, who is leading a church in Soweto.  It is the poorest area of Jo’burg and began as the first site for black miners who came to the goldfields around Jo’burg.

After we stopped in front of the university and talked about the current state of higher education in South Africa, we moved to the main square in Soweto where a large country market was going on as well as a monument to the the new constitution that was created in 1994.  After listening to the South African National Anthem at the monument, we went to an extremely poor area of Soweto where everyone lived in tin shacks and water flowed down the streets, which consisted of dirt and deep ruts from the water erosion.  There were no running water bathrooms, but there were several port-a-potties throughout the community.  Within an eighth-mile by eighth mile area, the pastor told us that the estimated population was 30,000 people, but according to another source, it could have as many as 44,000 people.  The pastor took us to a ministry in the center of this area. It had been started by a group of Catholic nuns and was now being commandeered by a group of young people who shared their vision for the people and children of the population.  The name for this run-down area is Kliptown, which goes all the way back to the miners who settled the area in the early 1900s.  The current name of the organization is the Kliptown Youth Program.  You can check out their work at their website:

In this ministry site is a bunch of different sized trailer’s and permanent buildings.  The site currently serves 380 children from Kliptown.  They have a library, a trailer with eight computers, an office building, a playground, and a large building for the preschool that they started.  They are teaching people many different skills as well as aiding students in thier own educational endeavors.

After our stop in Kliptown, we moved onto the area of Soweto where Nelson Mandela lived.  We saw his house, but we did not have enough time to take a tour.  We then moved on to the school and corner where the students were shot by the white police in 1976.  The Soweto uprising is thought to be the turning point of Apartheid and the beginning of decline of the apartheid government.  Stopping there concluded the trip, so we went back to our meeting place, which was a Mcdonalds, and talked a little while longer with the pastor.  One crazy part about Mcdonalds in South Africa is that it has a more cafe or coffee shop atmosphere, in that while booths and tables are available to sit at, all of the seats are padded and several areas consist of only full-length couches or love-seats.

We spent the rest of the day at the retreat centre in Jo’burg where we had stayed the prior two nights.  On tuesday, we drove to Petermauritzburg, which took us the morning and afternoon.  We arrived at Joan and James Alty’s home late Tuesday afternoon.  The Altys are our country representatives who handle all of the details for our time on assignment.  While Joan and James prepared dinner, we SALTers took a walk around Joan and James’ neighborhood before it got dark.  We had dinner and chilled for the rest of the evening, becoming acclimated again to another new place.  The neighborhoods were much the same as Jo’burg, in that every yard had a fence surrounding it completely as well as all of the doors locked.  We returned to the house and ate dinner.

On Wednesday, we took an interesting trip in a Kombi to Project Gateway, which is the site where two of the SALTers will be working for the year.  Kombis are the bus system of  South Africa.  They are actually 15 passenger vans that take people all over the city like taxis in the US, except that South Africa also has a taxi system.  Riding in them is very intimidating because the pay collector tends to tell westerners a higher price for using the Kombi’s service because they believe that all American’s are rich and should be able to pay any price that they say.  After we made it to Project Gateway, we took a tour of the site and private Christian school.  The site is the old prison of Petermauritburg, which is now being renovated and used for many different projects.  The school is outside the old prison walls, while within the walls are several different organizations that are involved in beer bottle recycling, hand crafts, sewing, urban gardening, and administrative duties, too.  Jared and Madeline, two of the SALTers from Canada, will be involved at the school. Jared will be working with some urban gardening along with peace clubs at the school with Madeline, while Madeline will be leading the physical education classes for all of the students.  We also met the lady in administration who handles SALTers work at the school and student scholarships.

After the tour, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Alty home, working on some preparation stuff for our time in assignment.


~ by randallkoehler on August 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “The early part of this past week”

  1. so how are enjoying Africa so far man??

    • I’m loving it. I have yet to make it to my assignment though. We are driving to Lesotho tomorrow, and then I will see what life will be like for the next year or so. It’s been a lot of fun though spending time in Jo’burg, Petermauritzburg, and Durban. We’ve visited some outstanding and heart-wrenching places including soweto, the Love of Christ ministries, the apartheid museum, constitution court, and other things. We have also had some fun experiences too like swimming in the Indian Ocean and visiting a zulu cultural village outside of Petermauritzburg. Hope you’re having a blast in the state. 🙂

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