Sunday, October 01, 2006

1st Day in South Africa

I keep saying that I am going to post stuff from my trip to South Africa. I just downloaded a bunch of the pictures onto my computer today, so now I can share what we got to do! I'm going to break it down into days - becuase then I can hopefully share more details.

After traveling for over 2 days (it was 52 hours I think from the time I left my house in Utah until we got to our hotel in Cape Town!) we were excited to do some sight seeing. We woke up and got to go on a township tour. This was the highlight of the trip for me I think. I got to step into a totally different world, a world that changed me the instant I stepped foot into it. This is where the poor people of South Africa live. Poor doesn't even seem like the right word to use...they are beyond poor - they have virtually nothing. We started the tour by driving past the many groups of townships in the area - and we were blown away at how there were just settlements upon settlements - for as far as the eye could see. Then we stopped and got out at a kreche - or a nursery school.

Oh my goodness - what a way to start the tour! We walked in and saw these beautiful children - gorgeous children. They were so excited to see us, and all waved, wanted to shake your hand, hug you - just touch you. They were so sweet and precious. Almost the minute we walked into the school my eyes filled with tears and I cried and cried. To see that children are so sweet, precious, and innocent across the world just really touched me. It made me ache to think of the piles of toys and clothes that we have for Gabe, when these children have nothing. I cried because I wanted to love these children, spend time with them, hug them, and get to spend more time listening to them sing. They sang a song for us that went, "I am special, and so are you - so are you! Very, very special. Very, very special - so are you!" And they'd do these sweet hand actions. I wanted to hug each of those kids when we left - or take them home with me!

After spending time at the school (and bawling my eyes out) we went to a little craft area where ladies were selling the beautiful things they made. There were beaded projects, art, paintings, carvings, pottery, key chains, jewelry - it was all so beautiful. I really wanted to buy something from each of these women - I hated to buy from one and not another. I left with several treasures - a vase, some jewelry, a banana leaf painting. But one thing that I really treasure the most was a very simple bracelet I bought. It was made of telephone wire. When I was in 6th grade I made bracelets out of the same kind of telephone wire. I felt like a connection was made when I saw this little bracelet - like the woman who made it and I actually had more in common than I had previously thought. I look at the bracelet now that I'm home, and I still feel that connection - like there's a piece of me in South Africa.

When we were there shopping I talked to one of the ladies. She was beading a bracelet. I asked her how long something like that would take her to make, and she said, "About a day and 1/2". I looked at the price of the bracelet - and she was charging 50 Rand - which is the equivilant of about 7 dollars American money. I was shocked that she would work for around 5 dollars a day. I was shocked and humbled. I felt very blessed for my life, and for my circumstances.

We went on to tour around several areas of different townships. Our guide was awesome! At the beginning of our tour I was nervous about our safety. But I asked him how safe we were and he reassured us that we were perfectly safe. And I felt that way - I felt safer than most places in the states. Our guide was great at answering questions, teaching us, and making us feel educated. He took us to a bed and breakfast (you can actually stay there - it's in a shack - a woman's home), a medicine man (who reminded me of a witch doctor - that's the picture of me and Jessica with him), we went to a pool hall where my friend Annette beat a poor teenage guy at pool, we shopped at the street vendors, we saw their versions of "McDonalds", or fast food - which was stacks of raw meat sitting out on the side of the road with flies, or crates of chickens they killed and cooked right on the was rather stomach churning, we saw homes, schools, stores, and most of all we saw people, and we saw poverty. By looking at these homes, and these wonderful people my spirit was touched. We are all children of our Heavenly Father, and more than once I could think of the words to the song, "I am a Child of God", and realized that we are all brothers and sisters! I was reminded how blessed I am - how amazingly blessed I am. I had a few moments where I just felt overwhelmed. Here I was on vacation on the other side of the world - experiencing something that will change who I am, and how grateful I am for life.

The end of our tour was at a museum about a place called Section Six. This area of Cape Town was literally wiped out overnight - because the government was trying to segregate all of the races. The history of apartheid, and segregation hit home there, and I was really floored by people's ignorance, and hate. It was heartbreaking to know the things they experienced (and sadly, are still experiencing) because of the color of people's skin. It made me never want to judge someone by their color, or their background - it is deadly.

I don't think I'm adequately expressing how I felt on this day....I don't really know how to. Without experiencing it I wouldn't believe it myself. I am so incredibly grateful we got to experience this, and really hope I can think of the experience through my life, and that it will cause me to be grateful for every blessing I have - both obvious, and not so obvious. What a blessing. If we had gone home right then - the 52 hours of traveling would have been more than worth it.

I'll post more later about our other experiences.....

(GRRRRR.....the pictures aren't working. I'll work on it and try again later.)


The Rhiens said...

I have so enjoyed reading about your experiences and the feelings you felt on your trip. We will be looking forward to hearing about your additional experiences, and very much look forward to seeing the pictures. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Love, Mom

Emeline Anne said...

Joanna- That sounds so awesome!! What a once in a lifetime opportunity! I can't wait to hear more and see the pictures. What a blessing to have gotten to go. I'll have to put South Africa on my "someday" list.
(ps the shelves are from Lowe's and they're great! Even though scary and dangerous!)

MaryRuth said...

You shared it beautifully!! I loved the part about the children. Makes me want to adopt every single one of them!

I watched Stacy Julian's kids last year when she went to South Africa and the stories and the pictures that she came back with were absolutely amazing. Makes me want to go so bad!

I can't wait to see your pictures and hear more stories!

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hey Joanna, Thanks so much for sharing, and from such a heartfelt place. I'm really looking forward to the rest of your postings. Love you, Sandra

Kim & Tammy said...

Your trip sounded awesome! I'm sure it will be one you will never forget. We, too, are looking forward to the pictures.