Johannesburg, South Africa

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South Africa. I’m currently lost for words because I am still in awe from the beauty of this magnificent country. When I received the phone call I was instantly filled with excitement. I was drowning in it. I had never been as far as Europe before so not only was this a new country for me, it was also a new continent. I actually packed my bags the day I was told I could go and that was two weeks before we departed. When the day arrived, I had no sleep because I couldn’t control my excitement. I actually found myself spending hours on the internet looking at the places we visited, the culture and I watched a documentary or two about Nelson Mandela. I didn’t want to enter a new country with no knowledge about it. For some reason I find that extremely ignorant and rude, so I did my research.

When we got to Manchester Airport, I could feel my nerves brewing a little. I’m not afraid of flying, but I find the take off and landing a bit unsettling. We checked in and roughly forty five minutes later, I was in the air on route to London. The flight didn’t really take very long and I managed to get a few pictures of the view of clouds and bright blue sky.

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This is before we took off.

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En route.

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I’m not entirely sure how high we were, but it was still high enough.

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I love the view from above the clouds.

After the first flight I felt much better about flying and I was getting excited about the flight to Johannesburg, even though it was a twelve hour flight. We had a while to wait in Heathrow, so a few of us went to get a bite to eat before being called to the gate. After lunch we were called to the gate and had to wait a while due to a small delay. I thought I would use this time to experiment with the camera I was using. The camera I took with me was a Nikon Coolpix L810. It’s not a great camera, but it has a good zoom and the quality isn’t all that bad. The only flaw is that it’s an automatic camera, which means it has no manual zoom or focus. I didn’t really know how to use this camera, so I played with it and experimented with its features.

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Here I was playing with the auto focus on a black and white setting. I really like the effects I got with these pictures. I took these of people sat waiting to board the plane. The camera was out of focus which distorted the image, however the contrast and lighting from the window gives it a very film noir sort of look.

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Here is another.

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And another.

I spent a bit of time looking at this enormous plane I was anxiously waiting to board. I mean, it was huge. I also managed to take some touristy pictures of the airport and plane, in fact most of my photographs were tourist photo’s. I just didn’t want to have all of my photographs be my attempt at professional/student standard photography work. I wanted to have something to show my friends and family when I returned. I also wanted some pictures to remember my experience.

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Patiently waiting.

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Huge plane.

I didn’t really anticipate how uncomfortable my flight would be. I was hoping to be sat with someone I knew, but when is that ever the case? How naive of me. I was actually sat between a Swedish couple who loved to sleep and snow very loudly and a Doctor Sarah Barber, who is a senior historian at Lancaster University. She was travelling out to Johannesburg to work on burial sights. I thought this was quite interesting. The in-flight meal was just terrible and the breakfast was even worse. I had a sausage and a hockey puck for an egg. I could have broke a window and killed everyone with that thing. I think the best part of that flight though, was the sunrise. It was absolutely beautiful. Everyone had their blinds down except one person who was sat directly across from me. I wish I could kiss that person on the mouth. I would never have seen so many colours in the sky if it wasn’t for that person. So thank you! I attempted to take pictures of it, but my camera decided it didn’t want to work properly.

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Not a very good picture, but you get the idea.

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This one is a bit better.

I had absolutely no sleep on the whole flight, in fact one of my eyes was extremely blood shot and really started to irritate me. When we got off the plane, the first thing I noticed was the climate. It was warm, but not what I expected South African summer to be. i was actually quite relieved because I have really fair skin that burns easily. We got on a coach and off we went! Our tour guide was quite nice and he had a lot of interesting information. We visited quite a lot of places in Johannesburg, the FNB Stadium, the city and finally Soweto. Soweto was this incredible place that really opened your eyes to the oppression and poverty in South Africa. It was an amazing experience to really see how they lived. Soweto was divided into two half’s. The half you lived in depended on your financial state. The ‘rich’ half of Soweto was predominantly made up of small town houses made of what looked like cheap plaster board and cement. I was shocked to hear that this place, this place filled with badly built, small town houses was the rich part. I was actually dreading to see the townships in the area, and I was right to dread. Thousands of shacks made of sheet metal and rotted wood, and more people than you could imagine. It was awful and I can now see why the ‘rich’ part of Soweto id the rich part.

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FNB Stadium. I kind of like this picture, because for some reason the Tickets sign looks as though it has been taken from a cartoon and photoshopped into the picture.

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Johannesburg City.

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This tower was one of the first places we visited. Inside there was a huge wheel on the ground with information about the history of Johannesburg.

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This is the roof of the tower from the inside.

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This is a photo I took of a man playing the recorder for tourists. He was actually quite talented. I gave him some money for the picture.

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Entering Soweto.

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This is the rich part of Soweto.

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Rich part.

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Rich part again. It’s really quite strange to see how these people don’t take money for granted like we do. after seeing this side of Soweto, I really felt quite stupid about the way I treat money. The way we, as a country treat money. It’s amazing how much we, as a westernised culture complain about stupid things like finance, when these people who are supposedly rich, still have nothing.

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Orlando Cooling Towers. These towers are part of the Orlando Power station which as closed down about ten years ago. These towers were built in 1951 to supplement the spray pond cooling system. However, since the plants decommission, these towers are now a popular landmark in Soweto and used as a bungee jump.

It was quite interesting visiting these places, but nothing compared to the next three places we visited. The first of the three is Nelson Mandela’s house. This is where he lived with his first wife in 1946 and his second wife in 1948 before he was captured and imprisoned. Inside the house we saw hundreds of news articles about his rise, fall and eventually his prison sentence and release. He returned to this house when he was released. He lived there for a few years. It was quite an inspirational place. This one man, single handedly changed South Africa’s oppression and went from a terrorist to a hero.

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This is the outside of his house.

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Here I attempted some actual photography, but it didn’t really work.

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These small plaques were all over the inner wall of Mandela’s garden. Each one related to his speeches on the oppression. I may make a small collage of the images I collected.

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This is where Nelson Mandela and both his wife’s slept.

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This is where they cooked and generated heat to warm the house.

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This was quite interesting. This belt was on display inside the house, it actually belonged to Sugar Ray Leonard, world champion boxer. This belt was a gift to Nelson Mandela as he was a huge inspiration to Leonard.

The next place we visited out of the three is a catholic church, however this isn’t just any church. This is the largest Catholic church in all of South Africa. The Regina Mundi means ‘Queen of the World’ in Latin and it was built in 1964. This church is also referred as ‘The Peoples Church’ as it played an important role before and after the anti-aparthied struggle. This catholic church was a place for people to meet and discuss tactics during the struggle against the apartheid. Unfortunately during the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976, when hundreds of students were shot by the police, a lot of the protesters fled to the church. The police entered the church and fired live ammunition inside. Luckily, nobody was killed during this attack, but the church had suffered a lot of damage. Though the church had been restored, there are still signs of the terrible shootings that had occurred there.

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This cross was huge. It was around 12 feet tall.

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This is a close up of the mural of Jesus in the center of the church.

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This is another close up.

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This was a small statue that stood at the far end of the church, opposite the entrance. It depicted Mary Magdalene holding the body of Jesus Christ after he had been executed. I really like this image because the lighting from the church windows gives it a heavenly look. The light is coming from above, which lights the body of Jesus Christ, and the darkness of the earth festers below him.

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This is the face of Mary Magdalene. She is praying for the souls that murdered Jesus. The lighting is as if God is listening to her alone.

The final place we visited was a museum. Unfortunately my camera died at this point as I had taken for too many photographs. The museum was called the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum which opened on June 16 2002 to commemorate the Soweto Uprising and the many children that perished from open gunfire by Police in Orlando West. The Soweto Uprising took place on June 16, 1976, when 20,000 students banded together to protest in response of the introduction of Afrikaans, as a medium of instruction in local schools. In response to these protests, police began to open fire with live ammunition at the students, resulting in almost 700 deaths and even more injuries. A news photographer captured the body of thirteen year old Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, 18 and his sister Antoinette Sithole is running beside them.

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This powerful image was taken by Sam Nzima on June 16, 1976.

After we visited the museum and memorial, it was time to leave Soweto and go to our hotel. I had an incredible time in Johannesburg and a life changing experience. The people of Soweto had suffered so many unnecessary tragedies due to the oppression of Afrikaans. However, one man changed all of that with his persistence. It goes to show that anything is really possible and one person really can change the world if they really try. I believe that persistence is key.

When we got back to the hotel, we all had the chance to sit in an interview with Bernard Spong an Englishman who was directly involved with the anti apartheid movement. He told stories of smuggling people in and out of South Africa, smuggling ammunition for the rebels and being a life long friend to Nelson Mandela. He was an incredible man, and his stories were heartbreaking. Unfortunately, due to my lack of sleep I found it very hard to stay awake. However, next we flew to Cape Town.

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