Friday, July 3, 2009

This place rocks!

Another wonderful South African day! We learned so much more of the history of this country today through our tours of Gold Reef City and the Apartheid Museum.

The discovery of gold in the early 1900’s was the driving force behind the development of Johannesburg, not only providing jobs and opportunities but also contributing to the prevalent discriminatory practices that remained both common and widely acceptable into the final quarter of the 20th century. We descended into a gold mine to a depth equal to a 70 story building and walked through the dark tunnels where gold was mined, a very uninviting and restricting environment. Did you know that it took @3 tons of rock to extract just one ounce of gold?!

After our ascent in a very crowded elevator, we spent some time in the park browsing, shopping, and enjoying the rides. Some of us took on the Tower of Terror, while others enjoyed the roller coaster and Big Wheel (Ferris wheel!). Lots of fun!

The experience in Gold Reef City was in stark contrast to the Apartheid Museum where the regrettable history of the country became disturbingly clear. “Apartheid” means “separateness” in Afrikaans and was a political system in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990’s that separated the different peoples living here giving privileges to those of European origin. It was not only a discriminatory system that kept the darker skinned people from social, political, and financial progress but it also caused, at times, an extremely violent reaction by the population of the country. There were photographs and exhibits depicting the history of this system and several films that made the consequences of these principles impossible to doubt. I left the museum wondering what drives humans to isolate and attempt to control those who are different from themselves. How do these perpetrators justify their actions? Why does the world allow these behaviors to continue without feeling any responsibility, without including the fate of the victims in their personal circle of obligation?

We lightened the day by visiting Sandton Square, the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere! When we arrived at Nelson Mandela Square, we were greeted with loud music and a crowd paying tribute to Michael Jackson. There were people dressed as the pop star and lots of dancing and singing and even the Associated Press covering the event. Even though we have all read about it, it’s amazing to see the world’s reaction to his death. Before leaving, we signed a HUGE jersey representing England’s rugby team, the Lions, that was spread out on the square.

All around the mall, and the country for that matter, there is evidence of the upcoming World Cup. Billboards and print advertisements, t-shirts and jerseys, and a huge amount of construction to accommodate the anticipated influx of soccer fans in 2010. There are roads and highways being built, repaired or improved, a new monorail system and train stops, buildings and stadium! Quite exciting, really!

We had a fabulous dinner tonight at a restaurant called TRIBES. They offered some very local food, including lots of game, such as ostrich, warthog, impala, and kudu. Mmmmm…tasty! It was a wonderful evening of good conversation and new friends.

We really appreciate your comments, too, and hope you enjoy the photos and video!

Baie Danke! (Thank you in Afrikaans)

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