Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

South Africa – The First 24 Hours
November 24, 2008, 8:00 am
Filed under: GOMamelodi08 | Tags:

(written Saturday November 22nd)

I have now been in South Africa for about 24 hours. We arrived in Johannesburg around 4pm local time (time zone is +2), after approximately 26 hours of traveling, to a fantastic welcome from our friends from Mamelodi. We then piled onto our buses and headed off to the first hotel we were to stay at until moving on to Pretoria (tomorrow). However, the trip really began before it even started…

AirBus 340-600Our departure time to head from Cincinnati to Dayton to catch the first leg of our flight was a bright and early 5:15am on Thursday morning. We arrived at the Dayton airport for a 10am departure to head to the Washington Dulles airport (IAD). With a 6-hour layover in Dulles, we meandered around the airport, checking out stores, exchanging our dollars for South African rand, and I personally settled on a nice little sushi place for lunch. We finally boarded our airplane – South African Airways Airbus 340-600 (the big dog) – for a 5:40pm departure. This was one BIG airplane – I’d say we had about 350 seats on the plane, and just about every one of them was full! Keeping in mind that there were only about 1/3 of our entire crew of 200 on this plane, I heard later that one of the groups that flew out of Atlanta actually got to have former President Jimmy Carter on their flight!

We settled into the cattle car (economy) for a short 14-hour hop across the Atlantic, crossing over some of the western African countries before heading over water again to come back on to the continent in sub-Saharan Africa. From the sky, it didn’t look much different from the American West. Once we hit the ground though, I knew we were worlds away.

You can definitely sense the European and Western influence in South Africa. Cars drive on the left like in the UK, and there are plenty of European cars on the roads (Citroën, Mercedes Benz, and Volkswagon to name a few). City and town names, such as Randburg, Gordonweg, and Johannesburg, definitely reflect the presence of European influence. And of course, American companies have a major presence here as well – Lexmark, Nashua, ReMax, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, etc) There are 9 different languages spoken in this country, and most people speak at least 4 of them, putting us Americans to shame!

zebrasThe first place we went to was a hotel called the Kopanong, just outside of Johannesburg. A very nice hotel, and our home for the first night of our visit.  This morning (Saturday) we visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, and then we took a bus out to Pilanesberg Game Reserve to take a safari drive. (Yes, I really took this photo on the drive, and yes, the zebras were that close to our vehicle – many more photos to come!)

You may be thinking at this point, I thought you were going on an aid trip to help others, not to take a vacation! Trust me – this is no vacation; there is a reason for us participating in these activities prior to beginning our work. I’ve always believed that the best education a person can receive is through their own personal experiences. We have all participated in pre-trip educational opportunities to learn about South African history, culture, wildlife, the effect of the apartheid, etc. But without being able to see it, touch it, feel it, experience what this country is all about firsthand, I believe we cannot begin to understand what the people we are here to help could possibly need. It was the request of Titus Sithole, the pastor at the Charity and Faith Mission Church, which we’ve partnered with here, that we receive the beauty and history that South Africa has to offer in addition to the work we will be doing. He believes that by gaining a little bit of understanding of the country, we will gain an understanding of the suffering, the poverty, and in general the need that we are here to help meet.

Apartheid Museum

The visit to the Apartheid Museum rocked a lot of people. In fact, while we were on the plane, there was a white South African man sitting behind me and he told us that mentioning the word apartheid in the country is still a bit of a taboo. It is still an incredibly painful subject for many. To have visited the museum and learned a little bit about the history of the segregation in South Africa makes one really think about how evil people in general can be sometimes.  I’m grateful for the learning experience.

Tomorrow, we will make our way to Pretoria and Mamelodi, and we will all be staying with host families in Mamelodi tomorrow night. Over the course of the week we will begin our various tasks involving construction, gardening, children’s activities, and technology. Thank you for taking an interest in this project, and make sure to check out the video blog from our team on


4 Comments so far
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I’ll share this with my girlfriend, who was born in SA.

Comment by Imran Anwar

Wow! You’re a better woman than me to pull all of this together while you’re there on your trip! Great pictures and summary. I look forward to seeing/reading more while you’re there. I’ll be pulling together my posts/pictures over the next few days. Have fun with your host family!

Comment by Jennifer McClure

Great summary, you blogging goddess you! Not sure how you find time to write all this down, and thanks for doing it. My parents’ own trip to SA in January was all about adventure and vacation, and I am so proud of you that you are going there not only to inject much-needed money into the economy, but also to work and really help. Wow! Looking forward to hearing the rest. I am sure your perspective will be very different from my parents’ — much more of an insiders’ perspective.

Comment by Judy Jenner

Sounds like a truly one of a kind experience. You were very fortunate to visit.

Comment by Jim Stroud

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