Viva Mandela! / Motorcycle Diaries South Africa



Hey Mr. Omari... Tell me where you been? I've been around the world but I'll be back again....

It has been a while I must say. Again, forgive me. Internet has been scarce. I am now staying in a guesthouse owned by the University of South Africa near Pretoria and Johannesburg. Let me first say the traveling was brutal. We traveled over 3 days and stayed overnight in two different cities of which I will get into later. This may be a long blog as much as happened since I’ve last updated you all.

Hey Mr. Mandela… Tell me where you been? 27 years incarcerated but now he’s out again…

I’ll start with Robben Island. What an experience. Seeing the very cell that Nelson Rolihlahla ‘Madiba’ Mandela spent 18 years of his incarceration in. It was utterly amazing. Walking the block B where he was kept and then block D where the ‘less dangerous’ political prisoners were housed. Walking through the garden that Mandela requested and took care of. Little did they know this was place that he would bury his book, written on scrap paper and even toilet paper. A brilliant man he is. Looking over the work area where they shoveled and used picks on the walls to break the cement for the roads to be built. Driving past the house of Robert Sobukwe on Robben Island, it was believed that he was the most dangerous of political prisoners so they did not house him at the main prison with the others. It truly was an amazing experience. Feel free to do some research on Robben Island and the prison.

The drive to Sutherland was the easiest. We left early Friday morning and it took us about 4 hours to arrive. It is the coldest place in South Africa and boy was it cold. We saw telescopes and visited the largest telescope in the world (Texas houses one the same size). Then we ventured back out to the observatory late on Friday night and saw more stars than we knew existed. We could see the milky way and Jupiter with our naked eye. It was amazing… and amazingly COLD. But we got through it. And talk about a ghost town… Man, they said it was their busy season and we thought there were no living beings in the town. Ha.

We departed for Kimberley early Saturday morning. What was supposed to be a 7 hour drive lasted 10. Not sure if we were told the wrong number or if our driver took the scenic route. (if he got on the mic to tell us about our surroundings it would have went like this… ‘to your right you’ll see a series of bushels and open fields… and if you look to your left you’ll see a series of bushels and open fields… and every now and then some power lines if we were lucky). We were in the DESERT! Kimberley stirred mixed feelings which much of this journey has. This was one of the most popular diamond mining cities in South Africa. And when we visited Da Beers Diamond Mine we couldn’t help but to be amazed, but perturbed simultaneously. The migrant labour that took place, the families torn apart and the hard work of Africans at the hands of white colonizers stirs many emotions. But of course there is always a way to take our minds off of such things. So, they took us to the vault where we saw huge diamonds, uncut, cut, unpolished, polished. Our eyes widened at the thought of owning such a possession, proposing with a diamond with the clarity of these ones, and giving our mothers such a gift. This mine has the largest manmade whole in the world from which miners used to mine the diamonds. And when I tell you the name ‘big whole’ does not do justice to this GINORMOUS whole.

We went to a restaurant where we experienced more blatant discomfort from whites. Both from the employees and the customers. Customers came to our section in the back and decided to leave rather than stay and eat. The food took 2 HOURS to come without an apology or explanation. Sometimes I make coping excuses and say ‘it’s just the way it is’ or ‘oh well’ when I’m tired and don’t want to wreck my brain with thoughts of space, time, identity, and the intersectionality of race, class, and gender (which we have beat with a bat into the ground).

Finally, to Johannesburg/Pretoria we went… another 4 hour drive… but it turned into 7. This was the most brutal of them all. We all know about how much meat I have on my bones and the van we ride in is by no means first class. My backside still hurts from the ride. And for some reason I could NOT sleep. But as we finally got closer to Joburg, for some reason I told myself I was going to like this city. I have no idea why. It is much more affluent and as I was told by Mrs. Keene before arriving, it seems like any big city in the US. Since our arrival here late Sunday night we have been on the go. Yesterday we visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which I must say was one of our best dialogues. We FINALLY had someone tell us like it is, answer all of our questions, and as we like to say KEEP IT REAL! It was great. However, I couldn’t help but to notice that this was a regular everyday office building. And as we walked through the building people were in meetings and doing work at the desks. I have not formed an opinion about this yet but it was troublesome.

Today we visited a few schools that have implemented a literacy program that is heavily influenced and supported by Neville Alexander. The principal at the first school was great. She made a real attempt to share the problems face in her school and then create dialogue about the problems the school systems in the US face. But when we loaded the van and the door slammed shut, I jumped and my body shivered. I don’t know why I was SO bothered by the door slamming. But the separation between us and the students was summed up by that door. Even as we walked through the courtyard, we were foreigners who students looked at with wide eyes and mystery on their faces.

At the second school the principal brought all of the students into the courtyard to sing us songs and greet us. This was about 200 students. In return I stepped for the students and an Omega who is with us hopped. Or should I say, I attempted to step but forgot all the words and the step so I freestyled the whole time. Interesting that I was more nervous in front of a group of kids than I am at a step show competition. All in all, they couldn’t tell and it went well. But as we left, the students waved and blew kisses with what one professor claimed was hope. And all I could think of was the fact that this principal took an hour of learning away from these students to come sing songs for us. And once I again I ask, as I have done previously, who are we? Why are we THAT important? I have seen this in Mexico, Ecuador, Kenya, and now here in South Africa. I can’t grasp this mindset. Maybe you can help me…

Well, this is getting long. I’ll tell you the weather is much nicer in Joburg and we’re no longer freezing. We leave again Friday morning to head further north. I’ll do my best to blog again before we leave as I have NO clue what the internet situation will be. It’s 1:30am right now and for some reason I have not been sleeping well lately. I’m up every morning at 6:30am no matter when I go to sleep. Is this a sign of age??? Ha, I hope not… Tomorrow we have a 14 hour day so I need some rest. Museums, democracy wall, and a theatre. I hope I can stay awake this time. HA. Until later…

Signing off…


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