|Our original plan didn't include stopping in Johannesburg but because the flights were booked too close together Tracy changed the flights to include a four day layover here. We are glad we made the change as "Joburg" has much to offer a traveller/learner. Upon arrival at the airport we were met by Percy who held up a sign ARMSTRONG. This was our first time we were greeted with signage. We felt immediately welcomed to this city. Prior to the flight we had some trepidation about coming to South Africa. We had met two Afrikaaners at the Nairobi airport. It wasn't a good first impression. The two men ordered beer (it was 9:00 am) and proceeded to tell us how much we would hate Joburg as the people were 100% better in Cape Town. Perhaps it was the beer guts, the chains and skinhead look but we couldn't finish our coffees fast enough to leave ththird their thrid beer. They seemed to be possible White Sumpremicists. Percy drove us to Sunbury Bed and Breakfast a lovely home in the Melville suburbs of the city. As we parked it was clear this area wanted to give the impression it was safe to be here. The home was surrounded with an eight foot fence. Above that rolls of barbed razor wire and above that a metre of electric fence. Overkill ..no? We were told it was safe to walk around...at least until 9pm... Inside (after three sets of security keys) Christina and Agnes greeted us warmly and have been wonderful hosts. Hearty first class breakfasts, clean comfortable rooms. They are warm, capable, caring managers. Many days there was a full house to feed. Thery took care of every need including helping us book tours. It was only after they looked after us that they retired with their suppers to the basement apartment.They are black you see. Our first day here we went to the Apartheid Museum. It explained the early history and conflicts that caused such regressive social and political conditions and then showed the consequences of such repression. From the beginning the Dutch Boers (farmers)who settled in this British colony had their differences with the English government but things came to a head in 1885 when diamonds were discovered in Kimberly and soon afterwards, gold was discovered in Joburg. Like all "rushes" the area quickly filled with foreigners seeking their fortune. By 1895-a mere 10 years, Joburg went from a mining camp to 100 000 people. Tensions grew which resulted in the Boer wars of 1899-1902. The British won but made concessions to the Boers allowing them equal language status. Gold continues to be drawn from the deep mines in the middle of town and more people piled into the city. Blacks worked for one eighth the salary of every white. Other nationalities were prohibitted from working the mines and instead set up merchant class enterprises. Between 1939 and 1948 tensions grew. The population of blacks in Joburg rose to 56% of the total population. The Dutch were a minority and feared losing power and control they felt the British government had promised them by law.In came Apartheid with its incredibly backward laws meant to keep others-especially the black majority from power....and a decent life as a human being as it turned out. During the 1950's and 1960's civil rights movements occured worldwide. At the same time a number of countries in Africa receive their independence from various European empires. Blacks leaders in South Africa heard and saw how things were and how things weren't for them. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, Helen Suzman among others spoke up. The Afrikaan government pushed back. Uprisings occured, arrests were made and townships were created to control the unruly. The blacks were sent to the southwest township..So-we-to for short. Cramped conditions, tin shacks, no water or electricity. Oppression happened and the world knew little about it as there were no TV stations in Jo'burg until the late 70's. The world woke up in 1976 when students as young as 12 joined in a demonstration about a new ruling forcing them to learn in Africaan instead of English. This would further slow down their chances for equal education as it created an addition barrier between them and academic achievement. Even their teachers and principals thought it was stupid and supported the students in theory at least. The peaceful march started after 9:00 am on June 16th. Students walked out in orderly lines and sang "Nkosi Sikelele"...God bless Africa (which now is the national anthem for SA)Police opened fire into the crowd and 13 year old Hector Pieterson was shot dead. By the end of the day 174 were killed and 1000's wounded. As the kids dispersed they headed to the nearest church for safety. Here too the police entered and shot in an attempt to force the students -who the police believed were endangering the public with their demonstrations to flee into the streets only to be confronted with more bullets. From 1976 through to the 1980's more government repression occured, more solidarity amoungst blacks occured too."Stay-aways" were encouraged as blacks refused to go to work and absolute anger erupted in the townships as homes were destroyed and riots occured. The world became aware and were horrified. By the early 1990's almost all of the whites both Dutch and English who held business in the downtown core left the country in what was called the "White Flight" The president met secretly with Mandela to ask him to plead with the blacks to stop their violence. Mandela wanted something more permanent and respectful. The president had a stroke during all of this pressure and was replaced by deKlerk who then procedded to make more permanent change with Mandela. Both received the Nobel peace prize for their efforts. The result by 1994 was a new constitution and a new political leader-Mandela himself as he led the ANC party towards hope and peace for all. How anyone could spend 1/3 or their life in jail and not be bitterly angry is admirable. Things of course did not change over night. Violence continued through the 1990's. Few trusted the new changes or were too impatient to see results. Hillbrow was an inner city with the highest population density in all of Africa complete with drug lords and prostitution. Downtown looked like a war zone with carjacking, shootings, illegal housing. Water and hydro were turned off and waste disposal was non-exisitent. By 1995 Joburg became the most dangerous city in the world. In 1998 a non-profit organization began work to add extra security, CCTV cams, and extra police. Litter patrols, park, pools, fountains and playgrounds were repaired. private industry realised they too had a part to play and pitched in with money and support. Things have turned around. With this helpful background we took a tour of Soweto Township on day two. We were the only people in the tour bus and so we were able to ask numerous questions of our driver. Although he lacked a lot of information, he did drive us to places and we were able to safely see the church, the Hector Museum and Mandela and Tutu's home (lived on the same street - the only such street in the World that has seen two nobel peace prize winners. We saw one of the soccer stadiums for the World Cup which is in Soweto and we saw a number of middle class homes and some decent row houses, something we weren't expecting when we were sure we were on a slum tour. He then stopped at a gas station and told us to go with "B" who would be our tour guide to a squatter's camp....a place where over 200 000 people live with no electricity or hydro. Homes have dirt floors and cramped quarters for large families. After a short introduction by B about the way things in the squatters camp and how the government has offered little more than promises in the last 16 years, we were invited into Clarise's home. B encouraged us to ask whatever questions we wanted. It was awkwards. The place was surely a home as much as a home could be under the circumstances. We asked about her family (four children, no husband) and daily life (getting the kids off to school,having them help get water, do other chores each day, the laundry of school uniforms and homework)We asked if we could take her picture and left her with a hug and $30.00 for letting us into her home. It was a very hard visit. On the way home our driver told us about the time in the early 90's when he was jailed because he was unable to produce an appropriate pass. A farmer came to the jail and for 50 cents each he and four others went to work on his farm for the remaining 28 days of his term. This happened often as the jail generally brought in between 2,000 and 3,000 prisoners a day so those with "light crimes" were sent out often. This was better thatn being crammed in with 80 others in a cell meant for 20. This treatment sounded right out of the Depression era. We were stunned. The next day we went on a town tour with Chris Green. Stop one was the Calton Tower where we viewed the city from above. What an engaging creative guy Chris was -full of stories, information and passion especially for architecture amd history. As a life-long rsisdent, he clearly loves Joburg and continually finds new fascinating stories to add to his tour. He showed us his old home, one of the mining houses allotted to mine families which has since sadly been taken over by squatters. He showed us how and where the gold seams curl through the city. He showed us the continuously changed architecture over time and how no building seemed lost but just adaptated to meet new needs. He told us about the silliness of some of the apartheid thinking. A park in a white section for example was not being used so the blacks came in and played soccer there. The whites complained so the government brought in a heap of dirt so high it made it impossible to play soccer. Unfortunately the mound blocked the view from the street and became a perfect place to mug white people from! The end result blacks couldn't play soccer, whites were afraid to go in and crime increased. Bad bad problem solving as no one won. We went to Constitutional Hill completed in 2003 from sections of the old jail. It is now used as a place for truth and reconcilliation. The arts world did a wonderfully sensitive job of creating a space of peace and forgiveness. It is open and safe. Anyone at anytime can enter and watch trials take place. After a trip up the hills to the most expensive homes in Joburg, Chris dropped us off at the "World of Beer" Here we sampled a vaiety of lovely lagers and then headed home to prepare for our flight next day to Cape Town (which has made the front page because a tourist on her honeymoon was killed when she and her new husband stupidly tried to see the 'real africa' in a cab at night driving through dangerous townships - NO guidebook avoids mentioning that this is NOT a good idea). Still scary though...that is for sure. We are really glad we visited Jo'burg. It is a city that is on the move towards better every day. Our guest house was great - we met others from Brazil, America, Lesotho and Sweden/Tanzania - one woman who unfortunately was in town because her daughter who is living in Zambia and working for the U.N caught sleeping sickness from the tszke fly bite and had to be flown to Jo'burg for treatment (they mistakenly thought it was malaria at first). Off to the Mother City...