Adventure in South Africa

December 12, 2013

Kevin Weslaski - Image ManagementBy Administrator Kevin Weslaski

On Thanksgiving Day, while most were eating turkey and watching our Packers get crushed by the Detroit Lions, I went on the longest airplane ride in the world – Atlanta, Georgia, USA to Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. It always was the longest flight until Singapore started flying direct to New York. That flight route was short-lived, however. Now again, the Atlanta to Johannesburg is the longest. The most prestigious of pilots fly this route. Three pilots operate the plane while a fourth rests in a special cab in front of the first class seats. Fifteen hours and forty-two minutes later, I landed in a country that speaks nine main languages, divided by race, yet living somewhat cohesively together.

When you hear of U.S. citizens going to Africa most think of safari adventures. But I must tell you, I did not go to South Africa to see the animals; I went to see the people. The difference in types of people of South Africa is astonishing. It is made up of a 1st world country and a 3rd world country sandwiched together. I witnessed entire families living in a one-room, tin shack and on the same block, families are living in ten-room homes that would value as much as $300,000 in the United States. The stark contrast in wealth and ownership dates back to when the white man first started migrating to South Africa in 1652. Since the lifting of apartheid (separation of the races) in 1994, the country is predominately black ruled. This makes sense considering of the 53 million South Africans, only 9% are white.

South Africa Houses

Currently the ruling political party is known as the African National Congress in which Nelson Mandela had become the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Now the president is Jacob Zuma, who currently has numerous fraud and corruption charges pending.

The white people in South Africa are mostly made up of Afrikaners. They are a mixed descent of Dutch, German, and French. The Afrikaners ruled South Africa until the abolishment of apartheid.

My trip consisted of living with an Afrikaner family. The father, Andre, age 50, is a friend through my world of triathlon experiences. He is a great triathlete and husband to Julie. Andre has a son, Anrich, who turned 22 on my departure date of December 10th.

Andre and Julie grew up having black slaves. They are respectful yet distant to the black populous. Andre has an uneasy concern for his white Afrikaner countrymen. Although he is tough as nails and his buddies are one and the same, he worries for his son and the younger generation. His son, Anrich, hopes to make a life for himself but worries about security issues. (Since apartheid has been banned South Africa has had a high crime rate.) At the same time, Anrich went to school with black people, interacts with them everyday, and sees the tremendous work ethic they bring to the country.

Anrich’s grandmother has another view in which she expects eventually all the white people will leave South Africa.

Nelson Mandela passed away while I was there. As I was leaving the country on December 10th, over 20 presidents, including President Obama, were flying in from all over the world to pay their respects. His house, pictured here, is currently a museum.

South Africa Houses

South Africa Mandela's Family Restaurant

As you have read this, you can see how my trip was highly political, social, and emotional. I take no stand on how I feel about South Africa’s world. I can say I am proud to live in America where we may have racial tension from time to time, but we all understand freedom.

Be happy this holiday season, regardless of race, knowing you are an American.