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January 29, 2015

03 Feb

So, I am back to tell you about my week in Pretoria, which was very long but also very awesome.
Monday, we attended a fantastic lecture at UNISA, which is the University of South Africa, in Pretoria. UNISA is primarily a correspondance school, actually, so most of the space there is for professors to work and do their research; there aren’t many lecture halls. But the place is huge anyways. Our lecture was on the history of white people, mostly Afrikaners, in South Africa. It was super extensive and intense, and the professor was really knowledgable. I loved it. After the lecture we went to the Voortrekker monument. Inside this monument, on the walls on the main floor, there’s a mural thing that stretches around the whole thing and tells the story of the voortrekkers. If you look through a hole in the centre you can see a sarcophagus on the level below, and if you look up you can see a hole in the roof. On December 16th every year the sun shines through that hole and illuminates the sarcophagus perfectly. That’s some science right there. December 16th is a national holiday called Day of the Covenant or Day of the Vow or something. Basically, a group of voortrekkers were having some trouble with a tribe in the area near Pretoria (I think – no, it’s not quite near Pretoria. It’s called the battle of Blood River, I believe). They were vastly outnumbered, so their priest made a vow before God that if God would give them victory they would keep that day as holy as the Sabbath for as long as their people lived. Or something. Then, they made a circle with their wagons, put the women, children and animals inside the circle, and shot at the oncoming enemy. So many died that the river ran red. And to this day they keep December 16th holy. I don’t have my notes next to me, and no internet currently, but that’s the gist of it. You can climb a bunch of stairs to the top of this dome and be really close to the hole in the roof. This was horrifying, actually, because you could look down and see all the way to the main floor and then through the hole to the floor below with the sarcophagus. I was fine up there until I looked over, but there’s a weird pattern on the floor, and it makes you dizzy and sick to look down on it. I couldn’t even hold my camera over to get a picture because I was shaking and worried I would drop it. Everyone who went up said they felt gross after. On the floor with the sarcophagus and the floor beneath there is a museum, which was pretty good. It was at that point that I realised that only one person in our group goes through museums as slowly as me.
That was Monday.
Tuesday we heard from Piet Meiring, who sat on the Truth and Reconciliation commission. He told us lots of stories about his work and also a bit about Nelson Mandela. The latter was certainly more cheerful than the former, but he had our full attention for hours with everything he could tell us. He also taught us about the ideas and principles behind the TRC. He was very open and I enjoyed hearing from him even though many of the stories were terribly sad.
Wednesday was our service day – we donated our time in a poor white community. I spent the day sorting fabrics for a group that makes and sells prayer pillows. Other groups cut vegetables for preserving, and the group washing the car had a massive water fight. We had a good time though it was a long, hot day.
Thursday morning we had a drumming workship at the University of Pretoria. Our instructor was amazing; it’s certainly one of my favourite activities so far. He started by leading us, but by the end he had us singing and leading each other in creating rhythms and even dancing. In the afternoon we had a picnic on the grounds of the Union building, and had our Small Groups meetings there.
Friday we had a talk in the morning with Paul Peters, a coordinator for outtatown, who told us a lot about his own story and also gave us some insights into the rest of our semester. That afternoon we went to a lion park! We saw lots of animals, including giraffes, ostriches, zebras and, yes, lions. We even got to pet lion cubs! It was pretty neat.
Saturday, our host family took us out to a game reserve where we saw even more animals. We had a relaxing afternoon with them, and a little braai where I tried ostrich meat. We played Trivial Pursuit in the evening. Sunday morning very early we left for Soweto.
I really enjoyed staying with my host family as well. They were lots of fun and we often met up with another of the host families with whom they were good friends. We made them a Canadian meal on Thursday: pancakes with maple syrup and bacon!
Altogether, the semester is off to a pretty good start!

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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Around the World

 

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