On Saturday, I went to our village hub at 6:45AM to catch Peace Corps transport. We stopped at a gas station on our way to Johannesburg and I met a very nice lady with an adorable Jack Russell Terrier. We got to Johannesburg and our first stop was the apartheid museum. Interestingly, it was inside the gates of an amusement park and casino, but there was nothing amusing about the apartheid museum. It was an incredible experience. We were immediately segregated between “white” and “non white” based on what was on the back of our tickets. -It was similar to what happens at the Holocaust museum. I walked in the “non white” entrance and their were signs from apartheid everywhere and sample passbooks, a kind of SA internal passport that non-whites aged 16 or older had to carry at all times during apartheid rule. There was an art exhibit, an exhibit of artifacts, and an entire section about Nelson Mandela. They had a video playing of Nelson Mandela speaking and it was beautiful but difficult to watch. On the second half of the tour, there was a room full of hanging nooses that also contained a long list of individuals murdered by police/prison guards during apartheid whose deaths were listed as things like suicide by hanging, suicide by jumping, natural causes, death by complications from a fall in the shower, etc. It was the most difficult part of the museum for me to witness, and I immediately felt emotionally drained. There was still quite a bit of the museum after that, but the parts that stood out were the exhibit on non whites fighting for equality for the LGBTQIA community and the exhibit showing decommissioned weapons from after Nelson Mandela became President and told everyone to throw their weapons into the sea. The gift shop was amazing and with the help of a friend (since I was a dummy and didn’t take my debit card), I bought the children’s version of Long Walk to Freedom for use in my classroom and a book of Nelson Mandela quotes.
For more information about the apartheid museum, please see http://www.apartheidmuseum.org
We left the apartheid museum to eat and I got to have McDonald’s!!!!! I have never been so excited over chicken nuggets and french fries. We ate quickly and arrived at our next destination quite later than we were supposed to. Our next destination was Constitution Hill, the site of the high court of South Africa, the constitutional court, and the historic site of the Old Fort Prison Complex, where Gandhi spent some time imprisoned and where Nelson Mandela and the other Treason Trial accused were imprisoned during their trial. Touring the prison was cut short by time restraints, but it was fascinating. After we toured the prison we got to go into the actual constitutional court. The architecture in the whole building is amazing. The whole theme of the court is African Justice under a tree. My very favorite feature of the court was a wall on the right hand side of the mostly round room. The wall was built out of bricks from the demolished block where Nelson Mandela was kept and they were placed there as a reminder that there can be no future without a past. I also sat in the chief justice’s chair, which was awesome. We got home pretty late and I went to sleep early so I could wake up and get stuff done.
For more information on constitution hill, please visit