Thursday, May 31, 2007
Hello family! We left for South Africa on May 7th and basically travelled for about 24 hours before we finally arrived in Johannesburg, the biggest city in the country. It didn't feel like a new, scary place when we landed because the city is so large. But as soon as we jumped on the bus and started driving on the left side of the road, I knew I wasn't home anymore. The city of Joburg (short for Johannesburg) is busy, crazy, and exciting. There are thousands of taxis and buses running around for business. We quickly found our hotel and walked a short distance to a restaurant. Our leaders constantly reminded us to walk in groups since crime is rampant in South Africa. I found myself extremely excited to be in South Africa with such good friends. I love the people I sing with. I'm not sure if I'll ever be with such a group of motivated, talented people.
We quickly got to work in Joburg. We visited a museum that teaches the rise and fall of apartheid (the system of segregation used by the government) in South Africa. I learned that the main reason there was so much discrimination is because of fear. It was difficult for peace and harmony to dwell here because the white government leaders were afraid of the black people taking over. It's almost similar to our own country's history of segregation. But now both of our countries are on the road towards healing and understanding.
Soon afterwards we attended a workshop with the Joburg University choir. They're all black and can really sing and dance. Their conductor taught us two native songs that we really came to love. Basically, the blacks always dance with every song they sing. So, these two songs came with two dances.
The next couple of days were spent singing concerts and visiting schools. We visited two schools in a local township. Townships are settlements for blacks that are quite poor. The school children loved having us. In fact, when we arrived they were all waiting for us with dancing and music. They heard us sing for them and then returned the favor with their own music. When we would leave, they would all walk with us to the bus, hold our hands, and smile! The children here are beautiful. I think they were the ones who loved hearing us the most here in South Africa. I'm going to miss them a lot.
The first week was insane. I quickly overcame my jet lag thanks to some pills and jumped right into the tour. But, honestly, we did so much in these first few cities that I don't think it's going to completely settle in me until I look back and read my journal. Most nights we stayed with host families. We only stayed in about 4 hotels. Members of the church hosted us and showed us a very personal part of their country. I loved being host families. They loved having us and showed incredible hospitality and kindness.