29 October 2009

Apartheid and the Part I Hated

Thursday was a day to ponder the history of Apartheid. In the morning Marina and I went to the Apartheid Museum, where
I think I could have certainly spent another two hours than we did. There is a lot to absorb. Fortunately I would get the chance to spend additional time taking in first-hand accounts and personal experiences at the Hector Pieterson museum in Soweto during my afternoon tour through the township. This small but moving museum traces the events leading up to and following the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Before today I didn't realize that the Uprising was a protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of education. Talk about a Language War!

The most awkward and uncomfortable aspect of the township tour was walking into someone's home in the middle of the afternoon with my [very] local guide (not the driver who'd been showing me around Soweto), in a very poor part of the township. I was led into the mini compound/home of a woman who has 11 people living with her in total. Her family (she and three young girls) stay in one tiny shack, while the rest of the people are basically tenants that stay within the confines of her fence line. She was in the middle of cleaning some chicken innards to prepare for dinner. I am not sure what questions I was supposed to have for her, but I was free to ask them. "How many people live here?" That was a good one. "What are you cooking for dinner?" There's another. It is not that I would not have liked to spek with this woman, but the encounter, despite its natural setting, felt completely unnatural, forced, and awkward. Only a few minutes after leaving her place did I have to tell some locals selling curios just by where the car was parked that I was not in the market for ANYTHING I'd have to traipse around the globe with. Great.

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