Monday, 01 December 2008

Friday at Soweto, weekend at leisure

We set on the road from the SAP Woodmead office park at 10am, with Max, Sheena and Lerato, our knowledgeable tourguide. Our first destination was Siyafunda community centre, at Tokoza township, south of Joburg. The centre gives the local people opportunity to access internet and e-mail, and the possibility to learn basic IT-skills. All the people, like everyone we have met on this trip, were extremely nice and welcoming! We met students from the program, and a gentleman called Smiley, who was in charge of the centre’s functionality. A really nice man, whose family offered us some delicious, traditional Indian food. We even got to hear the National anthem of South Africa, and we also sang the first verse of Finland's national anthem.

Our next destination was Batho Pele social centre, located also in Tokoza, where people were given food, education about HIV and help coping with the disease. They also had a computer class, which held approximately ten working computers, and they co-operated with Siyafunda, which provided them internet access in Siyafunda. Batho Pele had realized, that just giving food to people isn’t enough. They need to get regular income, in order to generate well being in the community. That’s why they have founded a small restaurant and trained some cooks to provide jobs and food to the community. Really some fantastic work in a place where it is truly needed.

After that, our trip continued towards Soweto, a township that accommodates approximately 1.6 million people. From the popularity in Soweto, 70 % are unemployed, and about third are infected with HIV.We visited the Church of Regina Mund, where Nelson Mandela, and other apartheid opposition held their secret meetings. Then we drove to the Hector Pieterson museum, which is named after a 13-year old boy, who got killed during the riots which were caused by police, when they tried to break up apartheid resistors. We saw really impressive pictures, which truly made us think about the hectic times all the people there went through.

After these wistful images, we continued the tour to the famous Vilakazi street. It’s the only street in the world, that accommodates two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. We had traditional African lunch and some drinks, and headed back to Woodmead. After we left Max, Sheena and Lerato there, we had yet another glimpse of the traffic in rush hours. We think it’s not that bad, only two hours to get back to Colbyn, but we couldn’t help feeling a little bit sorry for the driver, who still had to drive back to Joburg. After the long, but interesting day, we all got quick showers and headed to Brummeria. The SAFIPA project group had organized a Christmas party where all of the Finnish project teams in South Africa were invited. All found their way, and for the first time since the arrival to RSA the whole group was in one place. The evening was successful in all ways, and everybody had lots of fun!

Rest of the weekend passed off with a relaxed atmosphere, we just laid low until Sunday morning, when we finally got our rental-car, which revealed to be not too beautiful, and powerless. Still, it gets us all from point A to point B, without any problems and the GPS isn’t really doing any harm. Today we orientated ourselves for tomorrow, when we are going to meet people at Woodmead, and discuss about the University Alliances program.

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