Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa





Jeff Spahr-Summers



Leaving the airport and heading towards Pretoria, we drove past the infamous Soweto (South Western Township). At the time I was unaware of the significance of this city. Having already seen turmoil in the 1950’s, as well as the 1960’s, Soweto would be the battlefield of the student uprising to come in 1976. The students would organize a peaceful demonstration against the Afrikaans Medium Decree, which made it mandatory for black schools to use the Afrikaans language as the medium of instruction at secondary school levels. Afrikaans was considered by many to be the language of the oppressors, and so the policy was extremely unpopular among the students. All I could see where slums far off into the distance, later I would learn the truth.

On the outskirts of Pretoria, we arrived at the motel where my father booked rooms for us. It was called The Oklahoman. Dad was beaming, he was so proud of the irony. Until my mother gave her seal of approval on the house that was chosen, we would live in The Oklahoman, which was owned and operated by (of course) a man from Oklahoma. I spent my days snooping around the motel and the surrounding areas. The weather was generally dry and very hot with few clouds. Pretoria and Johannesburg, which were (at that time) part of the province called the Transvaal, now known as Gauteng, were inland, upon a plateau of grasslands seemingly in desperate need of water. The foliage and grass around the motel was manicured and watered to a lush green.

Finally, my father took us to see what would become our new home. At the base of a ridge, outside the city, were 2 plots of land in the country. Our landlord and his family lived on one plot while we were to take the other. The house was a single level home, brick with polished slate floors and a corrugated iron roof. All the doors and windows were open, no screens (these were considered something that only the wealthy could afford). The front grounds were terraced. There were four levels, our house on the second from the top. On the third terrace down were rows of Avocado and Mango trees, while on the terrace below them all the way to the property line and dirt road were orchards of Peach, Apricot and Lemon trees. The top terrace behind a wall was basically a junkyard and a huge storage garage owned and used by our landlord who was an architect. Behind the junkyard all the way to the top of the ridge was raw land, unused land, which would become my playground for the next four years. If I remember correctly, it began raining the day we moved in, and it rained, and it rained. We waited. We played Yahtzee, and Charades, read books by candle light. We waited for the rain to stop and for our electric power to be restored. We waited forever it seemed, in our new house, in the suburb called Montana.



1: On the Move—December 2007

2: Rain—January 2008 (top of this page)




Read the Africa Poems of Jeff-Spahr-Summers

Free Verse—December 2007

Free Verse—January 2008






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