So much has transpired in the last few days. Apart from searching for the right words and forming them into paragraphs, I have decided to give a short play-by-play of the events. However, I may come back to this important time in future blog posts. As of right now, it is simply too much to process. I hope this gives you all some idea of what Soweto and South Africa have been like in the aftermath of losing an extremely influential leader and loving person. Hamba kahle, Madiba. (Go well, Madiba - "Madiba" is Mandela's clan name)
Friday, December 6th, 2013
6:30 am – Wake up like normal. Turn on the tv to SABC 2 to watch the news as I eat breakfast. Found out that Nelson Mandela passed away the night before.
7:00 am – Go to the crèche. Was asked if I had heard the news.
11:00 am – Have a staff meeting at DAM. Begin the meeting with a prayer thanking God for Madiba’s life and legacy and asking for support during this time.
1:00 pm – Go on a short walk to buy kota for lunch. Hear a 4 year-old girl singing a song in Zulu on the street. The only words I could understand were “Nelson Mandela.”
5:00 pm – Decide to head to Vilakazi Street, where Mandela lived before being imprisoned.
5:20 pm – Reach Mandela’s house. Surrounded by singing, dancing, and celebration.
10:00 pm – Check the tv to see if The Vampire Diaries is on. No regular programming. Still constant coverage on Mandela.
Saturday, December 7th, 2013
11:00 am – Go to Vilakazi Street again. Different atmosphere from the night before. Still celebrations, but more tourists and vendors.
Sunday, December 8th, 2013
9:30 am – Walk across the yard to church. Presiding Bishop of ELCSA is present. His sermon is full of praise and admiration for Mandela, but reminds us that even Mandela needed help from God.
3:00 pm – Attend a Freshlyground concert. Opening song’s first line: “Daddy, please don’t go - I couldn’t face this lonely world without you.”
Monday, December 9th, 2013
2:00 pm – Asked by coworkers if I was planning to attend the memorial service the next day. Hadn’t considered the possibility yet.
9:00 pm – Look up information about the service for the next day. Decide to leave the flat at 5:30 am.
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
5:45 am – Walk out of the flat and head out to find a taxi.
6:15 am – Finally find a taxi. Lady sitting next to me asked if I had packed snacks because it was going to be a long day.
6:30 am – Taxi driver pulls over and tells us to get out, run, and catch the Rea Vaya bus that would take us to the stadium. Before we leave the taxi, he hands back our fares and says “Good luck.”
6:45 am – Arrive at FNB Stadium. Approach the gate among a group of people singing and dancing together.
7:00 am – Decide to sit in the upper level to avoid the rain.
7:30 am – Dread having to wait for the next 3 ½ hours for the service to start.
7:45 am – Upper level seats begin to fill. Singing and dancing commence. There is one song in English: “Mandela you’re my president. Mandela you’re my president. My president. My president.” The time begins to fly by.
11:00 am – Family members and dignitaries begin to arrive. Each is announced and shown on the big screen, followed by cheers from the crowd.
11:30 am – Service begins with remarks from Mandela’s family and friends. Crowd cheers especially loud when Mama Winnie Mandela is shown on screen.
2:00 pm – US President Barack Obama is announced. Some of the loudest cheers yet erupt as the crowd comes to its feet.
3:15 pm – Event director has to interrupt President of India Pranab Mukherjee’s speech to scold a band for playing too loudly in the crowd.
5:00 pm – Desmond Tutu gives the benediction. Before he begins, he says, “Everyone must be standing before I will give the blessing!”
5:45 pm – Begin to find the correct bus to take us home. End up waiting among hundreds of others in an overcrowded bus station. Instead of speaking complaints, more songs are sung.
8:00 pm – Arrive back at the flat. Get ready for a normal day of work in the morning.
A fellow attendee proudly waves the South African flag.
The crowd in the bus station, waving signs and singing songs.