Sunday, 29 July 2012

This is Africa: Soweto

Wow, how time flies! I can't believe I've been in South Africa for almost two weeks. It feels like yesterday that I was saying goodbye to family and friends and jumping on the plane to come here. But alas, that was 14 days ago.

The last two weeks have been very exciting, interesting and fun! It has been awesome to meet new people, experience Uni life and see the sights of Joburg.

Two days after I arrived, we exchange kids (8 Aussies, 2 French, 1 American and 1 Malaysian) became tourists and went on a 5-hour bike ride through the township of Soweto. Soweto is where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have lived and continue to live. It is a black township about 20 minutes from Monash Uni, which is believed to be home to about 4.5million people, according to our guide. Soweto is sometimes referred to an 'informal settlement' which means that it is illegal, but I'm not sure if all of the settlement is illegal or only parts of it.

We headed off on our bike ride from a backpackers within Soweto, along with about 20 other tourists from all of the world. There were people from the Netherlands, America, France and another bunch of Australians.
Emma and Sophie all set to go! 

Throughout the ride our guides taught us some interesting things about Soweto, as well as a bit of Zulu. We learnt how to say hello to one person, sawubona, pronounced, sow-bona, and to more than one person, sanibonani, pronounced how it is spelt, sa-ne-bow-na-ni. So as we all rode along the streets of Soweto we tried to say hello to the locals in Zulu, sometimes confusing the single version of hello with the plural, but I think we got away with it. We also learnt how to say hello in Soweto slang. It was similar to Hola, but was more like Wola Wola, and had to be said with some 'fresh' moves. These moves can include crossing your arms in a 'cool' fashion, or simply being swagger which is probably the best way I can describe it. Our guide was definitely swagger and pulled off the wola wola very well. We, on the other hand were not so swagger and stuck to the traditional way of saying hello.

Our guide NK, (with his hand up) which is short for 'freedom' in Zulu

The ride was very interesting and led us through the very different areas of Soweto. Some areas were very nice, with high fences, barbed wire and electric fences. Others were not so nice, where rubbish lined the road, but the people were just as friendly, or even more friendly and said hello to us when we attempted to say hello in Zulu. 

One of our stops was in the not-so-nice looking part of Soweto where we tasted 3 different types of beers that had been brewed there. Some locals came to join us in this beer tasting experience which included the men going first to try the beer and to let out an 'AHH' or a 'UGH' if they liked or didn't like the beer. The men had to kneel down on a straw mat whilst tasting the beer. Then it was the women's turn, but we didn't have to kneel down or exclaim whether we liked the beer or not. The beers tasted very different. One was a very milky one, another one was a sweet beer and another was quite thick. The sweet was tasted the nicest and went down the smoothest. 
The three beers we tasted

Matt (the American) keeling down to taste the beer

As part of the beer tasting, dancing and singing was required to celebrate our visit to this part of Soweto. The locals came and showed us how to do a dance where you lift up one leg, jump and then slam it on the ground again. I think it's known as the gumboot dance. We also sung some South African songs which were very beautiful. 
Susant trying out the gumboot dance, getting owned by a local

Our next stop was a memorial known as the Hector Pieterson memorial which was dedicated to the students who died after the government cracked down on protests that were occurring in Soweto. In 1976 approximately 15,000 students gathered in a part of Soweto to protest the apartheid measures within the education system in South Africa. Within these protests, 600 people were killed when the government troops opened fire on the protesters. Hector Pieterson, a 13-year old boy partaking in the protest was one of the first and youngest people killed within these protests. It was a moving memorial, with many symbolist things within the memorial including a water feature to represent the blood of those students who had died.  
The Hector Pieterson Memorial 

Following the memorial we stopped off at a restaurant for lunch to have a famous Soweto Burger. It was a delicious burger made up of bread, hot chips, cheese, an egg, tomato, some funky looking salami and ham, topped off with tomato sauce. But we all needed such a big burger after a few hours of cycling around Soweto.

After lunch we headed back to the backpackers via the road that is home to two Noble Laureates, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. We rode past Mandela's home which he grew up in but doesn't live in anymore, and Tutu's home that is still owned and lived in by his family. It was amazing to see where these two great men of South Africa had grown up and lived and to see where their great ideas and actions had come from.

Riding around Soweto was a great way to see everything, smell everything, hear everything and just take in the surrounds of the township. It was great to be able to say hi to the locals in their language and not feel so much like a tourist. (Although for the large part I did, but sometimes you can't help that)

And for those who hear the name Soweto and think danger, fear not, there was not one moment during this bike ride where I felt I was in danger. Not even when we were riding on the road with taxi hurling past us. It was a great experience where we got to say hi to the beautiful little kids that live there, highfive-ing them as we rode past, and to see the kids running to the school fence to catch a glimpse of the tourists riding past their school.

So if you're ever in Soweto, give the Soweto Bike Tour a go, it's really fun and your bum isn't that sore by the end of it :)


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Joburg and its many many compounds!
In one word.


The last week and half of my life has been incredible, crazy, hectic, exhausting, exciting, sad, exhilarating, full of dancing, smiling, crying and wonder.

After spending a week with 60 of the most amazing people I've ever met, I had just over 24 hours to pack my life away into one backpack weighing approximately 19kg. I had to decide what clothes I wanted to wear for the next 6 months of my life, what were my favourite t-shirts, jumpers that must come with me and shoes that I couldn't live without. If you're wondering, all my Parks and Recreation t-shirts made the cut of course, I certainly can't live without them! My (actually my sister's, but shh) giraffe jumper made the cut as well as my favourite woollen spotty jumper.

As I dedicated very little time to packing and more time to sleeping, I was all packed with a little over 6 hours until departure time...plenty of time, and spent about 2 hours actually deciding what it was I should pack. Looking back now I could have brought more things and have probably forgotten many more things, but hey, living simply is the best way!

Saturday afternoon and Sunday before departure were filled with sleep, tears, goodbyes, food, massages, family fun, more tears, more goodbyes, checking my plane ticket about 30 times to make sure I hadn't missed it, more sleep and me just being downright exhausted. But as the day wore on, it dawned on me that I was in fact leaving extremely soon, leaving my life for 6 months to experience and new and different one half way across the world. Woah Nelly!

Being a studious traveller, I had checked in online, meaning that all I had to do was drop my bag par se with the lovely lady at the counter of Qatar Airways and then make my way to the departure gate, very slowly..stopping off for a hot chocolate with the family to pass the time and to spend some quality time with them for the last time for a little while. It was a pretty good hot chocolate for an airport cafe and being at about 9.30pm.

Slowly, I walked to the departure gate with Mum, Dad, Sarah and Rachel. It was time for me to pass through the gates, get on a plane, sleep, and get to South Africa. But this didn't happen without more tears, mostly from me, and lots of hugs, about 30 all up, and then with a final look behind, and a final wave, I was through the gates, on my way to the Rainbow Country.

Luckily on the plane no one was sitting right next to me so I could put my legs up on the seat and sleep. Score! Normally I don't sleep that well on planes but I was oh so exhausted that I think I fell asleep within 10 minutes of take off, hmm sleep is soo good! Unfortunately after a few hours of sleep, I woke up with quite a stiff neck. They really should attempt to make plane seats more adaptable for sleep, no one really sleeps upright do they now? And I also have to agree with my sister, plane food is really's like a miniature meal, a bit cute! The plane trip from Melbourne to Doha was pretty uneventful and I think I watched one or two movies and tried to sleep for most of the 14 hour journey.

After that plane ride I hopped on another plane from Doha for the approximately 8 hour journey to Johannesburg. This flight was quite uneventful too, I slept a bit, watched a few movies, watched some Community (woo!) and fretted a bit that maybe no one would be there to pick me up at the airport!

At 2.15pm Johannesburg time (10.15pm Melbourne time) I arrived in the great city of Johannesburg and breezed through customs in about 10 minutes, they didn't even look at my visa! However, following that easy process, I had to wait anxiously for about an hour and a half for my ride to come and take me to Monash Uni South Africa. It was a very anxious wait as I was not entirely sure if anyone was there or was going to pick me up. After a few texts to Mum and Dad back at home they informed me that indeed some one was coming to get me. Phew! At 4.30pm, Laurence arrived with a placard saying 'Monash University- Libby Toovey'. A great sigh of relief passed through me.

We jumped into Laurence's Toyota hatchback and made the journey through peak-hour traffic to Monash Uni, normally about 30 mins from the city but took us just over an hour. I've never seen so much traffic lined up and for so long. And I thought Melbourne traffic was bad. One funny observation is that people do not stick to the speed limits, not that my driver would know as the speedo didn't work but was stuck on zero the whole time. At least we had a full tank of petrol!

After more than 24 hours of travelling from one side of the earth to the other, I arrived at Monash University at about 5.30pm, where I was greeted by a beautiful sunset and hugs from my fellow aussie room mates.

Ah I made it, bitchez be crazy!

Day 1 complete.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Internet.

What an incredible invention! Does anyone really know how it works? I don't.

I always thought it had something to do with satellites, but apparently not.

Anywho, I am going to use the incredible tool that is the Internet to document the next 6 months of my life.

In approximately 8 days I will get on a plane, stop off in Qatar and arrive in Johannesburg where I'm going to attempt to study, live, explore, eat, play, sleep, walk, talk, discover, learn and just do stuff all for the fun of it!

Sounds like a bucket of fun? I hope so! And don't worry, I have been told by many a people that I have to be very careful! "Make sure you carry a knife!", said one of my friends. Sorry, I'm not going to do that. That might even be illegal, I should probably suss that out before I go..or I may possibly get arrested if for some reason I chose to carry a knife. Nonetheless, I will be careful but also have a rocking, radical time over there!

So this is my attempt at keeping a blog, What Libby Says. For all those Somers gals out there it does relate to the nickname of Libby Say. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm pretty much just saying cool, interesting things that you should read and laugh at, please...otherwise you won't get a postcard!

Please enjoy the next 6 months of my life with me and all the incredible, hair-raising, nerve-racking, daunting, exciting, crazy things that I'm going to experience in what I'm sure is going to be one extraordinary country!

I'll try to update and post as much as I can and hopefully I have some funny stories to share and interesting facts to note. So get ready for what I have to say! I hope you enjoy it!