"We Are Not Such Things" is the story of author Justine van der Leun’s quest to get to the bottom of what really happened the day Amy Biehl, an American student in South Africa, was killed by an angry mob in a township near Cape Town in 1993. Amy’s parents later publicly forgave the men convicted of her murder. The details of how it all unfolded are fascinating.
South Africans have seen Trevor Noah rise through the ranks of comedians to become a South African icon. No one does accents as well as Trevor Noah does, and no country like South Africa gives you so much good material for them. But even South Africans may not know much about Noah's past. He was "Born a Crime," which is also the title of his newly-released memoir.
Over three years of living in Johannesburg, the township of Alexandra has changed in my perception. It's amazing how your preconceptions can alter what you think of as reality. What first looked scary became vibrant. What looked disorderly became lovable. What looked shady became interesting. And what looked malevolent became welcoming. And then I learned there was a theater.
Someone once commented that it felt like I was their tour guide through Expat Life in South Africa. Well, today I definitely felt like an Off the Beaten Track kind of tour guide, taking my flock right into the heart of Alexandra, one of South Africa's most notorious neighborhoods, giving them a rare glimpse of this oft-maligned township including some humorous moments.
I happened to drive past Diepsloot, still visions of the hundreds of beanie hats we had finished that morning for Mandela Day dancing through my head. It was the same shortcut I took the day I helped two women transport their firewood to their homes, which later became my first Strong Women of Africa story. Sure enough, I came across another group of women this time.
When you’re moving to South Africa, inevitably you will become involved in charity work. There is almost no way around it. There are myriad opportunities of how you might get involved, but one of the charities especially dear to my heart is Help Portrait, a worldwide organization of amateur photographers whose goal it is to bring the gift of a picture into underprivileged communities.
When you live in Africa, you cannot help but note the women around you, every day, carrying what seem to be impossible loads on their heads. It never looks like it’s something made to be carried on your head. Not that I would know, mind you, which items are or aren't suited to be carried on your head. But still – a water bucket? A suitcase? Or a cage of chickens?
That’s Alexandra. Rules are often flaunted, new paths are made by minibus taxis looking for a shortcut, everyone drives into the intersection at once it seems, and yet a set of unwritten rules seem to be followed that make the whole thing work, like reversing the traffic flow on that one side ...
If you move to South Africa as an expat, it is likely that you will live in the wealthy Northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Adjacent to these privileged neighborhoods lies Diepsloot, one of Johannesburg's townships. You will likely become familiar with it by venturing there as a part of various outreach projects of your school. Here is the chronicle of one such day trip.
I would love to tell a rags-to-riches story here, but sadly it is not quite that. It’s just that I recently spent a day trying to solicit much-needed corporate sponsors for our Alexandra baseball team. I started out on a street corner in Alex where I picked up Tedius and Cedric, the two coaches/managers/owners ...