Today, we bring you student reflections on some of the sites we’ve visited and the experiences we’ve had!
Day 7 marked the departure point from Cape Town on our trip, but before we left, we held a dialogue with students from a local Jewish high school.
Here are Olivia’s reflections on the dialogue:
Wednesday’s cool air left us debating whether or not to leave the cozy Never@Home Hostel’s surprisingly comfy cots. Cape Town’s salty wind, beaming sun and the upbeat crowd made the city a jewel in the rough, hard to resist. We all felt quite down about leaving the unforgettable destination, but we were still looking forward to the busy schedule tightly planned for the morning. The morning schedule consisted of an engaging discussion with current South African students, and their understanding of current political issues in the United States. We were all very excited to engage in such a discussion, and also to listen to student’s view halfway across the globe. We arrived at Herzlia High School, a Jewish private school, nestled in a predominantly white community.
We started the interaction by splitting into groups of four, Americans with Americans and South Africans with South Africans, where both had to address how they viewed the opposite country’s average high school student. Pools of stereotypes flooded onto our lists. Americans like Mcdonald's and Trump. South Africans love Mandela and surfing. We then came back as a whole group, discussing what each group had come up with. One of the groups identified the point of the exercise, and decided not to stereotype the other country’s student, and roughly said that we are all the same, just experiencing the world from another angle (literally). Another group said that many of us [the different students] could actually be quite similar and enjoy the same things. We then went on to discuss how although many people might think that because South Africa is a melting pot of cultures, that all citizens get to experience people of all races. And Americans don’t experience much diversity at all, staying in their cozy corners of each state. Contradictory to common belief, that was not the case: the students of the Herzlia School expressed their dejection at their lack of interaction with the other types of people in Cape Town. They expressed that Jewish people tend to stick with other Jewish people, Muslims stick to the the Malay Quarter and black people stick to the townships. The lack of interaction showed the long term consequences of apartheid, and that although the separation rules were outlawed in 1994, it is still very hard for people to expand out of their groups and further, to escape vicious cycles of discrimination and poverty.
After our flight to Johannesburg, in addition to a radical shift in scenery, we also experienced a radical shift in temperature - 60 degrees with a chilly sea breeze to 90 degrees and change! On the way to our hotel, we treated our bus driver to a beautiful Zulu song, “Kwangena Thina Bo,” that our choral director at NMH, Sheila Heffernon, had taught students before we left for the trip. We are currently staying at the beautiful HeronBridge Retreat on the outskirts of the city, complete with a pool, soccer fields, and a river bordering our cabins. We even have some friendly mascots to keep us company!
Day 8 began with a presentation from Zoe Jacobs on the Hamid Mosque and Islamic architecture, and Mira followed up with an introduction to Ghandi’s principles of Satyagraha and his history in South Africa. For our morning activity, we visited the house he stayed in for two years after moving to Johannesburg.
Here is a reflection from Chianna on the visit:
The first site we visited today was the Satyagraha house. It is known to be one of Gandhi's residences in South Africa. One of Gandhi's friends and followers, a Jew named Hermann Kallenbach, built and originally owned the house. While there, we walked around the house and explored the beautiful garden, which was filled with indigenous plants. One focus of the house was how Gandhi's experience in South Africa influenced his views. It was in this house that he developed his philosophy of Satyagraha, which we learned means "the force of truth," basically his nonviolent activism (NOT passive resistance). Gandhi first experienced racial discrimination in South Africa, prompting him to take action both in South Africa and then in India. The house was an amazing enriching experience. Standing where Gandhi was a century ago gave us a more personal understanding of Gandhi's life. Everything we've read about Gandhi in our humanities classes became real. It all had happened right where we stood. Gandhi once said, "My life is my message," meaning that we should look at his entire life, rather than small sections, to understand the meaning of his work. Our visit to the Satyagraha house gave us a fuller picture of his life and thus his work.
We also swung by Nelson Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, which is where he passed in 2013. On the street outside of the gates, visitors from all around the world came to offer messages of hope for the future, flowers, and other gifts. There are still painted rocks bordering the sidewalk with inspiring messages.
In the afternoon, we made our way into central Johannesburg to visit the Museum Africa.
Lila presented on this building, and Alex offered the following reflection on the visit:
One of our many stops today landed us in front of the Museum Africa. The museum was once an old vegetable and fruit market in central Johannesburg. Our class scattered among the many exhibits and South African residents. We wandered through the the evolution of the camera, all the way through fish lens and large camera stands to something that somewhat resembled our cameras today. We ran our fingers over different rock types and stared fascinated at sparkling crystals and diamonds. One exhibit that caught our attention was a collection of photographs representing the close relationship between China and South Africa. Throughout the trip our class has talked about finding similarities with countries in order to build connections. A classmate of mine was quick to snap a photo immediately thinking of her brother in China and their close sibling ties. Apparently, the relationship still stands strong.
Additionally, Thomas has proven to be our photographer extraordinaire for the trip, and he offers the following selection of photographs for your viewing pleasure.
After returning back to the HeronBridge Retreat, we were exhausted from two full days of travel. The next blog post will detail a visit to Grassroots Soccer and the world famous Apartheid Museum in Pretoria. Posts from Zoe Obourn, Arthur and Nishan are in the works!
See you soon!