Friday, July 3, 2009

Lucky Day in Johannesburg

I had the good fortune to tour Johannesburg and Soweto with Mrs. Franky Toussaint. She loves her town and its people. She's old enough to have lived the history and is open about her experiences. She led me through town explaining and showing that Jo'Burg exists because of gold and diamonds.

She interwove history and her pride in progress. As we walked around in the developing arts district near the Market Theatre she attends she explained how everyone- mixed ethnicities, lived there together peacefully until the government decided that the races needed to be separated and pulled everyone apart and tore the housing down. These heads represent the different people who lived there.

In Soweto we were guided through a settlement by one of two young men she has supported to attend tourist guide school and first aid training. We visited this creche.

This settlement felt less chaotic than where we work in India and the Philippines but it is amazing to think that the World Cup is going to be played in 2010 in the newly built stadium in view of metal shacks with no electricity in the homes, or sewage system, and clean water at communal taps only.

What I love about travel is how it pierces little holes through the layers of my ignorance. We visited the Hector Pieterson Museum where I learned about the events of June 16, 1976, a watershed moment that focused the world on apartheid. Franky views it as the beginning of the end, and for her it was the beginning of her involvement as the Secretary of the Women's Leadership Committee and the start of her Soweto visits.

I also got to see Regina Mundie Catholic Church which still has a shattered corner on the alter and bullet holes from government's efforts to break up the organizing that happened behind the scenes there. It was also the scene of Truth and Reconciliation sessions in the late 90's.

We had lunch at Wandie's where I enjoyed the good food. I think it was mielie, samp, and pumpkin, at any rate it was delicious.

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