Monday, September 10, 2012

Soweto & Jo'Burg

9 September 2012

We were devastated to say goodbye to our Bulungulan paradise, but the rest of Southern Africa was calling our names. From Mthatha, we flew on a jet (so small that Chris could extend his arms and palm both sides of the plane) to Johannesburg, the industrial capital of South Africa.  We were lucky enough to have our friend Dara join us for this part of the trip! Lebo himself, 30-year old entrepreneur and founder of Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, picked us up from the airport.

Ginny paying for her meal....
I was not exaggerating about the size of this woman. 
Our first meal in Soweto was absolutely absurd. We found a tiny hole in the wall around the corner from Lebo's. White walls and a white counter greeted table, chairs, or people to be seen. The only indicator that food could be purchased was a hand-written sign taped to the wall that listed foreign meats and corresponding prices. We asked a few scantily-clad teenagers how we could order, and they said "you wait." Eventually, a woman smaller than the counter top appeared. I could only see her eyes and forehead when I asked if I could order. She seemed very confused. I pointed to something on the menu, and she disappeared behind the wall for 15 minutes. She came back with my food, and Chris asked if the other four of them could order as well. "Four?!" She exclaimed. She looked like she was about to pass out, eyes widening with worry. Dara said it was like we had walked into her home and asked her to cook us lunch. I'm not convinced that that is not exactly what we did...

Soweto, short for Southwestern Township, is the biggest and most historical township in South Africa. Our friends from Stellenbosch were extremely wary of us being here at all (much less spending 3 nights), but it was well worth the “risk.” We were right in the middle of Orlando West, where Nelson Mandela and his family lived. It was unreal to be in Soweto while reading Long Walk To Freedom, his autobiography. I would read how he walked down Commissioner Street in Johannesburg literally hours after I walked down it myself. I read about when he moved into 8115 Vilakazi Street the day before I went to see it. I love learning about his life; he really is one of the most fascinating individuals. He's changed and been molded by every person he's met, every experience he's encountered. He's very human. His internal struggles remind me it's okay to question anything and everything, especially why I believe what I do. 
Outside of Nelson Mandela's old house!
We went to museums and learned about National Youth Day, Hector Pieterson, and the history of how Soweto came to be what it is. I was in awe that I had never learned any of this back home. How is it possible for us to not study something so real, relevant, and recent?! Mind blown.

At night, Lebo’s is the place to be. Locals come to hang out around the fire and dance to the bumpin’ music, while tourists enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and soak up the hilarity of this laid-back culture. We met some incredible people this way…my particular favorites were Kuna (who beat me in chess in under 5 moves), Thami (who had the most beautiful outlook on life and could never stop dancing) and X (which is short for Xcellent). Need I say more? I fell in love with these people.

On Monday, we actually made it to Johannesburg. The plan was to go to the Apartheid Museum, a World of Beer factory, and enjoy a delicious lunch in the city. But whoooooooo knew that everything in northern South Africa is closed on Mondays?! Everyone except us, apparently. We still enjoyed our day, ordering three milk tarts and going to the top of the highest skyscraper on the African continent, but I will see that museum one day. Just not on Monday.

Our final stop took us all the way to Zambia. More on that later! (If I drag out writing these posts, the trip isn’t really over, right?)


  1. Yep. Still haven't written mine yet. Timeliness!

  2. Also this is still on SA time. It says I commented at 7, but really it's midnight! Timezones!