Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's Official

It seems that my obsession with blogging is under threat. We have decided to go to South Africa in January to visit Sugar Daddy's family and introduce them to Swee'pea. So this means a new online obsession: searching for accommodation (although Sugar Daddy's dad has very kindly invited us to stay with them, we may feel more comfortable stretching our baby clutter out in a space of our own), figuring out when and what we want to do, how to travel from Cape Town to Joburg and back again to visit the aunts and uncles in that thriving metropolis, and more. Oh yeah - and I still need to figure out daycare; I'm due to return to work in February.

Yesterday, I started searching for advice on how to survive a crazy long flight (20 hours of flying plus at least a few hours' stopover in Europe) with a baby. This search led me to a forum at bootsnall, specifically for travellers with children. And sure enough someone was even posting for advice about a trip to South Africa. But the resulting posts were disappointing. People said it was a bad idea to go to Johannesburg with children. Now, I know that Sugar Daddy and I are rather sheltered travellers in SA because we have so much family to provide a roof, rides and information about things to see and do. But I don't believe a trip to South Africa would be complete without a visit to Johannesburg. For one thing, much of the struggle for freedom from apartheid was fought in and around Johannesburg. And the history lessons available there are essential. The Apartheid Museum is a must-see, as is a tour of Soweto with a stop at the Hector Pieterson Memorial. We also had the good fortune to see an exhibit of Dumile Feni's haunting artwork at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

These images are pen and ink drawings on different sides of the same paper, which are exhibited permanently at the Constitutional Court.

Thinking about this has reminded me that I never wrote about our last day in South Africa. On our last day, Sugar Daddy's cousin, the Rhodes Scholar, took us to the Johannesburg Art Gallery to see a fabulous exhibition of Dumile Feni. Dumile's life is pretty tragic: he lived in exile until he died, impoverished in New York, in 1991, and never got to return to the new South Africa. The Dumile Feni Foundation has a beautiful website and great information about the artist. I can't link to specific pages, like Dumile's bio, because the site uses frames and doesn't have discreet url's. I definitely want to try to get some prints of his work. The gallery is in a pretty dangerous part of the city; I think it's next to Hillbrow, but totally worth going to. The parking lot and gallery itself were totally safe.

This is the other side of the paper, from the same website.

Dumile's artwork is arresting and disturbing. I'm no art critic, but I love the way he uses lines. So back to our last day in Jozi.

After the art gallery, we went to the Apartheid Museum, which I seem to remember is bizarrely juxtaposed next to an amusement park. The museum itself is a sombre, grey building, which has pretty much no facade, if that makes any sense. I don't remember seeing any windows or architectural details, just grey concrete. If you aren't planning a trip to SA any time soon, the museum's website provides a great virtual experience. We were given a token or something, which represented the old apartheid passbooks and dictated through which door we were to enter the musuem. Once inside, thousands of passbooks filled the walls. Apparently there were thousands of racial designations under apartheid, and one person's race could change from year to year depending on who was filling out the paperwork. Obviously, one's race is a tricky thing to identify and define. The rest of the museum is filled with photos and video footage of the struggle for freedom and all things apartheid.

I find I get information overloaded at museums and galleries; I can only take in so much. At the Apartheid Museum, my threshold was even lower because of the horrible emotional content. But it is a necessary visit. Learning about apartheid enhanced my trip immensely.

I fell in love with South Africa for many reasons: because Sugar Daddy's family was so warm and intelligent, after my worries that I wouldn't like them; because the landscapes, the few that I saw anyways, are absolutely, take your breath away, stunning; but mostly because I never once experienced any kind of bitterness from the people. Being a white traveller, I expected to be received rudely at least once. But it never happened. It is truly amazing that people can survive such tremendous oppression and poverty and come through with their capacity for joy intact.


mad_hatter said...

How wonderful that you will get to go back as a family. I hope the trip is fabulous.

Our family is out west which means we have travelled long(ish) distances on a plane with Miss M here and there. I don't know if I can offer advice per se but I will say that when Miss M got tired or cranky or freaked out on the trip (which I am sorry to report was for the entire trip when she was 6 months old) she refused to let anyone but me hold her. It was gruelling to hold on to her for so very long in such a cramped space. I would advise making Sugar Daddy be Swee'pea's primary comforter in the weeks leading up to the trip in an attempt to ameliorate the nurturing vampire effect. I would also suggest having your sling on the plane with you even if you think Swee'pea has outgrown it by then.

jen said...

I am SO glad you decided to go. And i agree w/ Mad's thoughts - it'll be a long flight, but SO worth it when you get there.

penelopeto said...

wow, i have a ton to catch up on - i'll start with this one.
good for you for travelling with your babe; we have not embarked on a flight longer than 3 hours, as my dad is in florida and not sa, but still, we didn't find being away from home any more challenging than being at home. and what a trip!
i just finished writing the liner notes for an album featuring a gospel choir from Soweto, and when i was done i told chris that we had one more place to add to our list of must sees! can't wait to hear all about it.

banana said...

good for you for going - you will have a great time I am sure!
we tend to ignore a lot of 'travelling with children' advice and stick with the lonely planet recommendations (though we always go two up from their cheapest accommodation suggestion)

Em said...

I've flown long distances (eg, 24+ hour flights) many times with children (at ages 3 months, 15 months, 22 months....) so if you want any tips or advice feel free to ask! I bet you'll have a wonderful trip.

cinnamon gurl said...

ooh, yes please, Em! I would even be happy to make your tips their own special guest post or if you want to post them on your blog, I'd link to it.

I am also wondering about what to bring vs what to buy/rent there; esp, car seats, strollers, diapers, etc.

Email me at juju01 at sentex dot net if you like. Thanks!

cinnamon gurl said...

we are also wondering if we should get him a separate seat on the plane. We just don't want to fork out for it and have him sleep on our laps or walk/crawl the aisles the whole time. Which is at least somewhat probable because he always sleeps with or on us.

krista said...

Wow, did you already go to south africa? How did that go? Did you post about it?

Send me the links to those posts if you did. (I'd fish around but I'm on my way out the door)

That's amazing.