South Africa Educational Study Program
We arrived at Kruger National Park on Saturday morning and were greeted by herds of impala and kudu. As we made our way to Lower Sabie Camp we saw giraffes eating leaves from the tops of acacia trees, small herds of zebras grazing, and elephants going to the river for a midday drink. It's all about eating, drinking and sleeping! Just before we arrived at Lower Sabie we spotted a lioness eating her kill by the side of the road! We turned off the engine and just watched. The lioness was quite agitated and paced back and forth across the road. We spotted six cubs through the bush coming toward the road while two lions watched intently in the background. We finally realized that the lioness wanted to get her cubs across the road to feed. Can you imagine our excitement? This was a fine spotting. We ended our first day with only two minutes before the Lower Sabie gate closed. Guards lock in the tourists at night. Any vehicles coming in late are heavily fined. The size of Kruger Park is enormous--4 million hectares with only 7% accessible by developed roads.
Once settled in to our luxury platform tents we ate outside under the Southern Cross and Milky Way, which is awesome without any competing city lights! Llewellyn and Norm were our chefs and cooked amazing gourmet meals on outdoor wood burning grills. We had Braai every night, which is a South African specialty. Kudu sausage is the best! As dark as it was, several students were a bit skittish about going into their two person tents. Hans went in with them to turn on lights and reassure them that they were safe! On the other side of the electrified fence we could see and hear crocodiles and hippos in the river. Karen and Mary were camped in a tent directly on the fence and were awakened at 2:30 a.m. by two scrappy male baboons! Earlier in the evening a hyena had been eyeing their crackers and peanuts. It is illegal to feed the animals but clearly they are well fed and therefore more dangerous to humans. As we slept we listened all night as the hippos snorted, grunted and wandered in and out of the river--actually quite soothing after a long day!
Some Kruger highlights include....a herd of 30 elephants crossing in front of and behind our bus, three white rhinos and two black rhinos on an early morning drive, two very large herds of water buffalo (one group grazing next to the bus), a mother giraffe walking around us to find her youngster hiding in the grass, crocodiles sunning on the sand at a water hole, hippos snorting water into the air, Marabou Storks roosting on poles and trees, bush babies leaping from tree to tree, Lilac-breasted Rollers sunning at the tops of trees, and Vervet Monkeys preening each other in the middle of the road. We observed thousands of animals. The sunset safari ride had some unexpected surprises. We were able to observe two lions for about twenty minutes. We learned that lions sleep up to 20 hours a day. This particular couple was in the middle of their mating ritual, which occurs once every twenty minutes over the course of 4-5 days. A splendid two days in Kruger! Our bus driver Brett got us there and back again.
Now we are back at Edendale and students are continuing their teaching and literature projects. Susan and Karen are conducting individual interviews with the elementary teachers, asking them questions about their literacy practices. We celebrated Jan Porter's birthday during the teachers' tea break and she received a special card from the second grade children. The teleconference between Edendale children and children from Caroline Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, NY, was a huge success. Jan's second-grade students and her daughter Denise's third-grade students at Geyser Elementary School had a marvelous face-to-face conversation, asking a range of questions about customs, family, foods, religion, chores, allowances, walking to school, favorite subjects, and toys. The high point was when the Edendale children sang their South African national anthem and the US children responded by standing up and singing our own national anthem.
Tuesday afternoon we boarded the bus and drove to Soweto, the Southwest Township. Our guide Nel Redelinghuys is an historian and tour guide who is well-known in Soweto. She took us to an informal settlement called Kliptown, where we were able to get out and walk through the narrow streets, guided by two local teen-age boys.
Busang, one of our guides, told us that "We may be poor on the outside, but on the inside we're rich people." "Hardness is hard, but it's all in your head, so we dance." "We do art. It's something we all can understand, so we do art." Busang was articulate and passionate about effecting change in Kliptown, his home.
The poverty that we saw was overwhelming. All of us had a very strong emotional reaction to what we saw. What we will never forget are the children. They talked to us, wanted us to take their pictures, played with us. We watched them play with their homemade wire toys, called galimotos or scooters. At the end of our visit we went into a small hall and watched the male children perform a gumboot dance and the girls perform a modern African dance. The finale was a drumming presentation that really knocked our socks off! The children were magnificent!
We saw the home in which Nelson Mandela raised his family before he was arrested and a few blocks down the street we saw Desmond Tutu's home. Both men are national heroes to the children with whom we have worked.
We finished the evening eating a traditional meal at the B & M Palace Restaurant, a new enterprise by a woman who has turned her home into a restaurant. We are all getting hooked on pap and chakalaka!
This morning we went to the Edendale High School assembly and spent time mingling with the juniors and seniors. Tonight it's on to Lesedi to see the cultural heritage of many tribes. We will be chaperoned by our never tiring Deputy Assistant Principal of the Primary School Nicky Bodley. Nicky and Gustav are always in good spirits despite the fact that 21 Americans have overrun their school.
And that is the end of the second journal entry. We are all tired, excited, and ready to hit the road on Friday when we will end up on the beach in Durban! Then it's on to visit schools in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Lesotho!