We live about 5 minutes north of downtown Johannesburg and are in what is considered one of the safest areas in all of Johannesburg. We are in an affluent, predominately white Jewish area where security is very high and the Tactical Units I have talked about are always patrolling the streets. Zuma, the President of South Africa, lives literally 3 or 4 houses away (we can see it from our window) and Nelson Mandela lives only a few blocks away. So it is very safe, especially during the day. However, it becomes a little sketchy at night, but that's true almost everywhere. So while we live in a very safe area, downtown Johannesburg and some of the immediately surrounding suburbs are the poorer, black areas where the bad crime gets its reputation.
There are many wards around our area (northern Jo’burg) that are mostly white South Africans, but we wanted to go to the Johannesburg 1st ward. We are the only whites! We know it was the right thing for us and couldn't be more happy and grateful for our experiences and friendships in the ward. We've learned and grown more in different ways; ways we'd never have grown in the typical ward. To get to our chapel, we do have to drive through some of the dangerous parts of town, but it's typically fine during the day. All of our ward members live in those areas and have some of the craziest, saddest stories.
In our ward, the Young Women President's husband was murdered last year. His younger brother was involved in a confrontation and one night, called her husband to see if he could pick him up because some guys wanted to fight. When he drove up, the guys thought her husband was there to fight and ended up stabbing him 3 times in the chest. He was able to drive his brother to safety before he died in the car. Extremely sad. Another great friend (one of our YSAs) went on a mission, then got married and had a kid. They were both strong in the church. Then just last year, he walked in on his wife cheating on him with another man. He got angry of course (but he is the most kind and sweet man we know) and the other guy got up and stabbed him in the chest several times and in the leg. He was in the hospital for weeks with a collapsed lung and other serious problems, but ended up recovering and is fine now. His wife left him and doesn't want anything to do with him or their son. Breaks your heart. And that’s just 2 people from our ward. Our friend said that murders and bad things happen almost every single day on the streets we pass.
A Police Report was spread around a couple weeks ago that there is this new gang activity going on in Johannesburg (I've heard about gangs doing the same thing in the States too), where to become a new member of the gang, or "new blood" as they call it, you drive around at night without your lights on and when someone flashes you to tell you to turn your lights on, they become your target and you have to kill everyone in the car to become a member. So they've warned everyone to not drive late and to not flash anyone if their lights are off. Also, to be careful around the speed bump streets because it looks like you are flashing your lights. Pretty freaky.
So Tuesday's story: I've been teaching piano to a friend from the ward every Tuesday night at 6:30pm (past dark in the winter, but still a safe time), and last night when I showed up, there were tons of police cars and lights in front of our church and the parking lot was blocked off. I parked a little ways down the street wondering if I should get out and what was going on. I saw the 1st councilor come out of the gates from the church and motion to me to come so I did. When I passed all of the chaos, I could see an empty car and the cops were cleaning and clearing stuff around it. Olivier said that just 30 minutes ago, a guy knew his girlfriend was cheating on him so he followed her and when she met up with her other guy (in front of our church), he shot them both and ran off. The guy was just shot in the arm, but the shooter's girlfriend was shot through the stomach. Olivier had seen her throwing up and didn't think she was going to make it. They were both taken to the hospital minutes before I arrived. It was so crazy!! I've never been near anything like that and it was so eerie and freaky to be right there. Anyway, it was good that it wasn't some random shooting...but I'm so glad I wasn't there earlier. Glad to be safe and sound.
We love Africa and have never had any problems with safety here. We are always on guard and careful in everything we do. The problem is that there isn't much justice or punishment for the crime. Everyone has guns and knives on them and can just kill, steal, or rape and many get away with it. All those people I talked about earlier are still walking the streets. Nothing has or will happen to them. I've heard people say Johannesburg's crime is so bad and then heard people rebuttal and argue that "it's not that bad," that "the media just makes it sound bad" or "it's just not true," or "it's just as bad anywhere else in the world." But we've decided that the danger and crime (murders, rape, and burglary) really is as bad as the media portrays it. It's just that most of us whites are out of those areas and don't hear much that goes on. As long as you're in a good area and stay careful and cautious, you're fine, but it doesn't mean that this horrible stuff isn't happening every single day. (Note to our moms--DON'T freak out!!!!! We're fine:))
Well there you go! We had a fun bike ride outside for the first time, until it started pouring rain on us and got super windy. We're using a friend's SUPER nice road bike (worth like $5500), he is the best!! I feel like I'm flying!
We saw "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" in 3D last night and loved it. It was really cute and tonight we're going to see Earth. Anyone seen it? I'm not sure what Ben was doing with his face in this picture...I think he was just too focused on getting us on in the picture :)
Tomorrow I give a talk in Sacrament and we're taking a couple from Mozambique to church that aren't members. And that's the weekend! Oh and these Jacaranda trees are in full bloom right now in Johannesburg. They line the streets and are so gorgeous!