We've been in South Africa for a full two days now and I am 100% smitten by her! I personify the country as a female because she has all the qualities of a royal Queen.
We had the pleasure of being guided around Johannesburg by a set of locals -- two women around our age who were born and raised in Jo'burg. One of our first stops was Soweto, a neighboring jurisdiction of Johannesburg in the Gauteng province of South Africa. It's pronounced So-way-toe (you like my phonetic interpretation?! Lol) and it's name is derived from an English abbreviation for "South Western Townships".
We were first introduced to Vilakazi Street. According to our tour guides, it's considered the "Hollywood" of Soweto and one of the safest parts of the township. Nelson Mandela once lived on Vilakazi Street. In fact, his home has been turned into a museum and monument. The street is lined with local vendors, fine restaurants and swarming with upper middle-class locals on any given Saturday afternoon.
When we first arrived we were greeted by young boys singing "Welcome to Soweto" and a group of other young adult men dancing and singing accompanied by an African guitar.
We were shocked, yet delighted by this greeting. Soon, we learned the reason for such free flowing hospitality. These people were extremely poor. They performed various street talents in hopes of getting a small tip --- food, coins, anything to help them survive.
Next, we visited the Orlando Towers also known as the Soweto Towers. It's an artsy nook that offers a humble souvenir shop, local restaurant where fresh meat can be handpicked by the customer and thrown on a grill, plus activities like bungee jumping, paintball and wall-climbing. The vibe here is aahhhhmazing!!
The shop owner even invited us to use his couch for a sip of South African cider and a selfie. Seriously the kindest people you'll ever meet!
The next day we were shown a different side of Soweto. A township tour gave us a raw depiction of lower-class Soweto living. Some of the homes we visited were considered government housing. Children played openly outside -- some clothed well, others not. Makeshift hair salons and barbershops lined the streets where men would sit under cloth tents in their neighbor's front yard to get their hair cut. Salons with actual roofs are considered a luxury.
Here's the thing: the people in this impoverished section of Soweto were just as warm and friendly as those living liberally on Vilakazi Street. So much so -- a group of high school girls waved at me with the biggest smiles while heading home from school.
There was no apparent persuasion of classism or judgement here. Everyone seemed to live in harmony and acceptance of one another.
Imagine what our world would be if we took on the demeanor of sweet Soweto. Would it be erratic to offer a seat and a smile to a group of strangers just looking for an ice cold drink? Or could we learn to overlook peoples' circumstances and appreciate the gifts of their talents instead?
A simple gesture can make a monumental impact.....It certainly did for me.
Until next time,
P.S. Check out our Instagram page @amongsisters to see those dancers!