Blacks and Coloureds were required to carry passports at all times. This apartheid regulation was an internal passport system that restricted Blacks and Coloureds from leaving the township; whenever they left the township, they had to have this in hand. If asked to show a passport, and one did not have it with them, that individual would be arrested and sometimes never seen again. Our tour guide Melisizwe Lugulwona explained to us that in mornings on the way to work, thousands of people from the townships stood in lines to show their passes before getting on buses and trains to commute to work. Lines could take up to 3 hours or more. This process was repeated on the return home. This phenomenon marked the beginning of the deterioration of the family. Mothers and fathers who were headed to work had to leave home at 3 and 4am to get to work by 7am, and not return home until 8pm or later. Children were therefore at home alone and raising themselves. Parents had no time to prepare breakfast, dinner, help with homework, do housework, or raise a family.
by Thais Moore
This place is absolutely breathtaking and at the same time horridly depressing. The mountains, the coast, the landscape and greenery, including the people all make up some of God’s best creations. Unfortunately, though, apartheid’s mark is still evident. On Tuesday, the students and staff broke up into groups and did volunteer work at day cares, schools, community centers, and churches. Our group visited a township. I’m literally speechless. I seriously can’t describe it. Yes, I’ve seen pictures before, but to step into someone’s home within the township was quite different.
Everywhere we go, officials, store keepers, university staff, guest lecturers, waitresses are telling us to be very aware of your surroundings–that we can get mugged or robbed or stabbed at any point. As beautiful as the neighborhoods are, one cannot see any of the homes. ALL the homes are surrounded by high brick walls or medal bars, and most have either very sharp spikes at the top or electric wires. I have yet to see a front yard!
Tomorrow, the students and staff will travel out to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Here we are below at the train station on our way to Simon’s Town.
by Neil Tanner
As I reflect on my journey in Beijing, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from another culture that is very different from the one I was raised with, but it’s great to see that some things are the same wherever you go in the world. I believe its important to try to understand those who perceptually differ from us so that we can understand the root of our differences while seeing how we see eye to eye. It’s also great to see things done a different way so that we can expand and diversify our thought process for making future decisions. As we learned about the different social problems occurring in China, we could draw similarities to experiences from America and use that knowledge to come up with solutions never thought of before. We also could use the research of what current entrepreneurs are doing to solve problems to give us a different perspective on how to solve problems and hopefully use that influence to solve problems in America.
I appreciated the patience, modesty, and hospitality that I received in China. Too often in America, we become very impatient with those who cannot speak English. This was my first time being in a non-English speaking country so now I have a better idea of what the other side feels like. Chinese citizens were very patient with me and my classmates while trying to order food at restaurants get directions on the subway, or trying to start a conversation with a stranger. This barrier has also made me more confident in my ability to survive in diverse situations with the confidence that I can still communicate enough to survive in another country.
The modesty of Chinese civilians could be seen on a everyday basis. Americans often over indulge in everything, which happened to be the opposite in China. Many of the civilians we met came from humble beginnings and appreciated what they had so much more than the average American. We often take what we want, while they took what they needed. Even the meals were modest in comparison to American meals, smaller in proportion but diverse in selection. I was very shocked with the open arms that I felt from the Chinese, as they were often more willing to get to know us, than we to them! The want to learn from others is a very valuable thing that we take for granted every day. Hopefully I can take what I learned during my tenure in Beijing in apply to my everyday life in America.
by Melguisedec Nuno
This was the first day of true exploration of China. We ate at a Duck Roast restaurant where I tried new foods and I realized that I need to learn the art of using chopsticks. Because of my inability to use chopsticks I ate very little, but I still enjoyed the food.
After our lunch we went to the Beijing Urban Planning Museum where I saw that although Beijing is one of the largest cities in the world, it has plans to keep growing and modernize itself in the process. It was amazing to see such a large city still hunger for growth. I know that within the next 20 years Beijing will change dramatically.
Tiananmen Square kept up with the theme at the airport, I was a little person who was a part of a grand piece of art. The area was wide open and had thousands of people walking past, each with their own concerns, their own life. The world we live in is bigger than we think it is, and each person makes up a part of it.
I had great respect for the dedication it took to build the square, the forbidden temple and the rest of Beijing as well. All created by people, thousands of years ago, just like me.
Later that week I went to one of the Hutongs, Nanluoguxiang and I felt as though I was in feudal china. A land ruled by the mandate of heaven, a place mysterious to the common westerner. I ate on top of a roof top and witnessed the sun set on a temple placed on a hill. Beauty, pure beauty. I felt a tickling comfort and I loved it.
It was only the first week and I had the best time of my life.
by Jordan Metoyer
The Great Wall
Last weekend was by far the highlight of the entire Maymester experience. The Beijing Fellows headed out for the Jinshanling section of one of the world’s seven wonders: The Great Wall of China. Jinshanling is a less tourist-populated area that holds both breathtaking views rugged trails.
When we arrived at Jinshanling after a two-hour bus ride, we were surrounded by sprawling hills, mountains, and greenery. With every stone step I climbed and bridge I crossed, it was easy to see why the wall required 600 years to erect.
After obligatory photoshoot and a filming of the Harlem Shake (coming soon to a YouTube address near you), we headed to a nearby village for our overnight stay.
Seeing the way that other families in our global society live reminded me of Ghana and of privilege. There is so much opportunity for social innovation in the village, from turning waste into reusable energy to creating a running water system. As with the Ghanaian village that I stayed near, the people of Jianshanling are a close knit-community with potential for collective and sustainable development.
The night was spent eating delicious locally grown food, playing a card game called “Killer” (that I am forever addicted to), and having in-depth conversations about life. I had a great fall, in love with the experience.
The morning after staying up all night, we hiked 1500 feet up a 3000 foot mountain in the Jinshanling region. During the hike, I felt completely at peace with nature; so much so, that I had an emotional reaction to the beauty around me. It was life changing.