Sunday was a day of good adventures. My friend Teresa, who is an American that has relocated to Johannesburg came to pick me up for a day out. Her friend Ablorde, who is also another American who is just here for 3 months working, was kind enough to drive both of us, as we’re both living in Joburg without cars.
The first stop was the apartheid museum. First of all, although most Americans pronounce apartheid like apart-eyed, here it’s pronounced apart-ate. The museum here is a bit south of the city and ginormous. It’s also quite well kept and has a unique structure so you kind of walk through it like a maze. The first thing that happens is that when you buy your ticket, you get randomly classified as white or non-white (I think every other ticket prints out opposite) and you have to enter the entrance that is designated for you, so you are immediately separated from half of your group. It’s a small thing, but it’s a good way to start the whole experience, to be forced to be separated from something that’s comfortable for you.
The museum basically works chronologically, starting from the very beginning of history in Africa, moving to the time when European settlers came to Southern Africa and onwards from there. I’ve read a lot about apartheid, and I think that most people have a basic understanding of what happens, but the museum goes into intricate detail and gives a much better understanding of what life was actually like under apartheid. There are also many visual aids and videos, which were illuminating. It’s definitely not a feel good museum, but it’s super informative and great to give you an idea of how South Africa got where it is today.
After the museum, we went to meet A’s friend Monde in Soweto. Soweto is a neighborhood south of the city, and under apartheid was one of the black townships that people were relocated to when whites wanted to make more room for themselves in the city. There are parts of Soweto that are much nicer now, but driving down there was the first time that I really saw a serious amount of the poverty that affects so many people here. I’m relatively sheltered on campus and in areas with malls and bars and such, but once you get out of the city and start driving south, the poverty gap becomes much more apparent.
Regardless, there are still places to go and have fun in Soweto. After we met up with Monde, he took us to something called a shisanyama, which is basically a giant outdoor area that’s been set up with tables and tented. There’s a giant braai where you can buy meat, and you can buy six packs of beer and such. There’s also a DJ table set up, and the entire time we were there they were playing house music (it’s VERY popular here). Actually by the time we left it was starting to feel like a dance club. Fortunately Monde’s friends were already there and had a table, so we were able to sit down, chill, have a few beers and a lot of meat. At one point the braai ran out of meat, so they had to go get more and people were carrying huge sides of beef through the crowd. It was awesome.
I also had pap and chakalaka for the first time. Pap is basically a starch made from corn or maize. It’s like very thick polenta; you can pick chunks of it up and eat it with your fingers. Chakalaka is almost like pico de gallo. There’s tomatoes, onions and raw chilis, as well as beans. It’s the perfect accompaniment to chargrilled meat. At one point in the night, a girl came up to Teresa and I to ask where we were from…apparently we look pretty blatantly American? Shocker. We were there for about 3 hours, and with all the music, dancing, beer and meat it was a good time.
I did take pictures, and hopefully I’ll be able to upload them to my flickr page in the next couple of days. Cheers!