As I wrap up my last week at The Star, I am already trying to figure out the fastest way to come back to this country. I can’t believe my time here is over, and, as always, it flew by way too fast. As I look back on the past few months it’s not so easy to pick out the top ten highlights of my first trip to South Africa – but here goes…
10. Death street.
A 3-hour police raid in Hillbrow, a densely-populated area of high-rises just outside the Joburg CBD, shocked, amazed and depressed me all at the same time. At first I was petrified, as the police offered us bullet proof vests and surgical masks. Although we didn’t need the vests, the masks proved essential. I will never forget the image of a brown, plastic arm of a child’s doll peeking out of a broken bottle of Russian vodka amidst piles of trash, human feces and old, crusted food. All this competing for attention in the middle of immigrants from Nigeria, asylum seekers from Uganda, wanted men for robbery and prostitutes as young as 12. But the most vivid image in my mind is of 59-year-old Paskalinah Motaung, who sat shoeless on a green crate. She looked up at me and said, “My parents are dead and I’m sick. I’ve been here a long time now and am suffering, can you help me?” My heart broke to pieces and tears came to my eyes.
When my news editor handed me a phone number for a story about a woman who picked up trash in a river, I rolled my eyes and begrudgingly agreed to call. But this turned out to be one of the most interesting stories I wrote. I intended to meet the woman at a school, but as I pulled up with a driver and photographer she was on the side of the road and told me she was meeting someone in Diepsloot township near Fourways Mall. She hopped in the car and the driver took us to the New Creation Ministries church, where we met a man by the name of Percy. Turns out this woman was a Swedish 26 year old who was in South Africa to “fulfill her purpose” which, she had just discovered, was helping poor children. She traveled past Diepsloot every day to get to her school, and was told as a white woman she shouldn’t go in because she’d be killed. Yet, she really wanted to help the children of this township. On Easter Sunday, she ran into the township (literally), stopped the first taxi she saw and confided in the driver that she was scared to death. This guy happened to be Percy Khosa, a man who was destined for crime and starvation but who, four years ago to the day, found a church and pastor and his “life purpose” – to help children like himself. Thus, a bond was formed – they spent the day together and decided to start a community center.
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8. The “point” of no return.
Places like this rarely exist outside of picture books and imagination. My breath literally ran out of me as I was taken aback by what I now consider the absolute, hand-down most beautiful place in the entire world: Cape Point. Driving back to Cape Town from Cape Point as the sun set over the ocean was a movie-like experience I will never forget.
On my first day at The Star I walked into the court and while I was waiting in line, Jacob Zuma, SA’s former deputy president, walked right past. We interviewed and wrote a story on our first day, getting attention because it was Zuma-related. From that day, Zumania grew, yielding t-shirts, hats and even Zuma-dubbed songs. He was the cover of every newspaper for months and it was amazing to be part of SA’s biggest story.
6. Beer golf and music and Afrikaners, oh my!
The Oppikoppi festival, our first adventure into what South Africans call “the Bush” almost ended badly when we drove into a field to “follow the music.” But we eventually found our way, picked up our wood from the gate and pitched two tents. However, the real fun began as we were packing our bags to go and we met our new friend, “Tarzan.” The rest of the day was spent in true Oppikoppi style – a few drinks, good music and mangled Afrikaans. Plus how could I forget? Fokofpolisiekar!
- Visit SA Logue again soon for the Shelly NU top five!