September 20, 2002 - Savannah Morning News: Carter's grandson recalls lessons of South Africa

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Carter's grandson recalls lessons of South Africa

Read and comment on this story from the Savannah Morning News on Jason Carter who served as a volunteer in South Africa and wrote the book "Power Lines" at:

Carter's grandson recalls lessons of South Africa*

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Carter's grandson recalls lessons of South Africa

The second-year UGA law student talked to the Savannah Bar Association about his two years in the Peace Corps in South Africa.

By Paula Reed Ward
Savannah Morning News

Gogo, a 70-year-old woman living in the town of Lochiel, in South Africa, was Jason Carter's inspiration.

A victim of apartheid, Gogo rented a room to Carter during his two-year stint in the Peace Corps. Besides being his landlord, Gogo, which means "grandmother" held many important positions in her community.

She was the principal of a pre-school that had 26 children who ate four times a day. She was the head of her Methodist church. She was in charge of a gas station, stables, a fix-it store and a liquor store. She ran a women's gardening project. And she was the town postmaster.

Instead of associating Africa with war or famine, or high unemployment and HIV infection rates, Carter wants people to think about people like Gogo

"Those are the stories out of Africa we never hear," he said. "They get up every day, and in the face of those odds, they triumph."

Carter, grandson to former President Jimmy Carter, spoke to the Savannah Bar Association's monthly meeting Thursday about his time in South Africa.

He also has written a book about his experiences in Lochiel, called "Power Lines."

"It had power lines that ran over the top of the town, but had no electricity," Carter said.

Carl Pedigo, president-elect of the bar association, which includes 400 attorneys, called Carter his first choice to speak at the monthly meeting.

He had heard Carter in a National Public Radio interview about his book and thought he sounded interesting. It also helped that Pedigo's son is in the same class as Carter at the University of Georgia.

Although he appreciated the introduction, Carter was modest as he spoke to the bar.

His assignment in South Africa, he said, was to help teachers phase in a new, more difficult, curriculum.

"I definitely learned a lot more than I taught," he said.

Carter quickly came to miss and appreciate the comforts of home. He bathed from a bucket and lived in sparse conditions.

Although there were cities just two hours away with advanced, American-style technology, people in Lochiel had to walk to get water, had no electricity and had no phone lines, Carter said.

They did, however, have mobile phones.

"They live in mud houses, and they all have cell phones," he said. "Because of these two South Africas, the first world and the third world collide more intimately than anywhere else in the world."

He added that the gross domestic product of the whole of South Africa is about the same as Wal-Mart's annual sales.

While he was there, Carter said, South Africans gained a new constitution, and many of them sat at home reading about the new rights they had gained.

"Politically, there was this sense of purpose," he said. "I'm hopeful for South Africa."

Carter was the first white person to make friends with the people in Lochiel, he said, primarily because he made efforts to learn the language. He demonstrated to the bar association a variety of its clicking sounds.

At one point during his stay, Carter was able to meet Nelson Mandela at his home because his grandparents were visiting.

He hopes that through the example set in dealing with differences in race and culture in South Africa, Americans can learn a lesson.

"South Africa is something we can learn from," Carter said.

The Peace Corps was the best way to understand and experience the development of the third world, Carter said.

"I sort of went to convince myself not to go to law school," he said.

But it didn't work, and the 27-year-old is now in his second year at UGA.

He is also married to Kate Carter, a reporter at the Athens Banner-Herald.

Joking with the audience, Carter outlined his family. He has a politician grandfather, a journalist wife, and he will soon be a lawyer. "Between those three, we figured we could alienate virtually every group in the world."

Courts reporter Paula Reed Ward can be reached at or 652-0360.

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