African Update

So people make fun of Texas for freaking out when we get snow; however the entire city of Cape Town decided yesterday that it was going to shut down for a rain storm…we have been in a drought and I think people forgot what rain was lol.

But actually, the wind has been insane (predicted to get up to 100km/hour) and we have gotten lots of much needed rain. And I can’t say how nice it is to have a day off school (especially since I had a test today lol.) I can finally get caught up on a few things that I have been needing to do but have just been busy with school and everything else I have been involved with that I haven’t had the chance to. Praise Jesus.

So I thought I would take this as a time to post an update since I have been awful at keep up with this blog.

I celebrated 21 a few weeks ago (TURN UP LOL even though no one cares because 18 is legal everywhere except the USA). The weather has been wonderful even though it “winter” here in Africa. I have been able to go to the beach a bunch and have gone surfing one or two times more. (Maybe I’ll come back a pro lol jk.)

I realized that I had been here 3 months and really had not gone to a museum in Cape Town. So two of the girls I live with and I went to the South African Museum and Planetarium. It was a really fun and good day. We ended up walking all the way through downtown to the Waterfront and treating ourselves to a nicer dinner on the Waterfront.

I have been able to continue volunteering with SHAWCO Health and their clinics in the townships. I have really enjoyed the experiences I have had there observing the medical students go through the learning process of diagnosing patients and talking to them about what Medical School is like in South Africa.

I have also been going to UCT’s club gymnastics practices weekly. It has definitely been the highlights of my weeks so I was really sad that it was cancelled yesterday because of the rain and wind coming. I have been able to get quite a few skills back. I also forgot how much I love gymnastics and how much I love doing basic skills and just being able to flip around and stuff. I really want to make it a priority to try to make it to TCU’s gymnastics practices more when I get back next semester.

I also had the opportunity to stay in Gugulethu with a host family for the weekend. Mama Noks hosted me and my friend Shannon. She welcomed us into her house and we got to play with her grandchild (omg kids have so much energy). We helped her prepare a meal and we had to eat the “African way” – NO SILVERWARE. Try eating pop, spinach and onion, and meat without any silverware. Oh and it has sauce. It was so awkward for me because I am already a person that likes to be clean and hates if anything is on my hands. But I tried to embrace it. We went to church with the rest of the IES students doing the homestays in the township at a local church.

It was interesting and wasn’t the stereotypical “black church” that I thought it would be. The demographics were also interesting. (Africa has made me become so aware of the demographics wherever I go.) There were so many women and not many men. That was something that drew my attention but did not get a chance to ask about.

We went to the famous Mizoli’s afterwards. OMG the meat was so good and it was so much fun. They had a DJ and the atmosphere was just really fun. Though it was interesting because it is probably one of the only places where you will find a pretty mix of black and white people – tourists and locals.

But that pretty much sums up life lately. 2.5 weeks of school left. 3 weeks of finals…then home…it is coming way to fast if you ask me. A month ago it felt like it was never going to end. Now I feel like I am going home tomorrow. So bitter sweet.
BUT THE PARENTALS LEAVE FOR CAPE TOWN TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!! (Don’t think I could express how excited I am ­čÖé )

SEE YOU FRIDAY MORNING IN DURBAN MOM AND DAD!!!!

-Kaitlyn

Safaris and Tubing and Waterfalls

Well it is a few weeks late (lol like a month), but I guess late is better than never. (Plus I want to procrastinate writing this paper.)

We had two parts to our spring break (sorry mid-semester break – I get weird looks when I say Spring Break because it is “winter” here) – Kruger and Victoria Falls.

IES planned our first half of the adventure to Kruger and some fun activities afterwards. Day one we flew into an airport with literally one other plane and immediately got in our Safari cars and headed to the park. We drove through the park and saw tons and tons of Impalas.

***FUN FACT: Impalas have an interesting social structure that is similar to many of the other animals in this region. When you see a herd of impalas, there will almost always be one male and lots and lots of females. Then you go a little ways out from the herd you are likely to find a bunch of males chilling probably wishing they were that male with all the females around them. We liked to call these males the bachelor squad.

There were so many impalas we quickly stopped stopping to take pictures of them. We ate lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the park. Apparently, a monkey was quite hungry too and snagged someone’s sandwich from right in front of them. Oh nature…

We spent the rest of the day driving around. Oh and our guide even stopped once inside the park to let us get out and “bush pee”. I don’t know how smart that was considering how hard at times it was to see the animals just a few feet from the dirt roads we were on, but we survived. We saw lots and lots of elephants, Kudu (large antelope), giraffes, other small deer. We headed back to our camp on the edge of Kruger National Park for the night.

The next morning we left at 5:30 to start the game drive. Apparently the most happens at sunrise…so here we go. And who would have guess that they were right!

Within the first hour we pull up to a waterhole and we notice a bunch of waterbuck (medium sized antelope-deer things) running around. Then we see what they are running from – a pack of wild dogs – MAYBE 10-15!!! (Wild dogs are one of the rarest species to see in the park as in the entire park there are only about 300. And during both days we were in the park we say maybe 5% of the park.)

So the wild dogs were hunting the waterbucks and trying to separate the babies from their parents so that they could pounce on it and have a meal. However, the males kept trying to distract the wild dogs and lead them in the opposite direction. We were watching this whole scene take place for about 5 minutes before the waterbuck decided to go for a swim to cross the river and give themselves a small break from the wild dogs. That’s when we noticed a large croc on the opposite side of the pond probably about 200 feet away. He also noticed that they had just swam across the water and decided that he would try to take advantage of the next chance to cash in maybe.

So we continued to watch the wild dogs chase the waterbucks around and almost get one before it jumps into the water and slips the grip of the wild dog. As they swim across again, the hippos start to bump them with their heads. (this is a terrible word to describe it though cause the waterbucks went flying three or so feet up and forward.) Hippos are incredibly territorial and the only reason they kill other animals is if they are in their territory or near their young because they are herbivores.

The croc is slowly coming and closer…

The scene plays out for another 5 or so minutes…that’s when we see it…the waterbucks are a few feet in the water and they don’t see the croc about 30 feet away that just disappeared under the surface…

It is silent as everyone stares intensely in the direction of the three unaware waterbucks in the water. You can feel the excitement/nerviousness/worriedness for what is going to happen next. Then it happens…two little screams, and there are only two waterbucks left running out of the water.

As sad as it was to see an animal get eaten, wow nature! That is what National Geographic goes on assignments to find and waits weeks to see and we saw it within an hour of being in the park that day.

The rest of the day we spend driving around. So Africa has the “Big Five” (the five most dangerous to hunt) that everyone tries to spot on safaris – Lions, Rhinos, Leopards, Elephants, and the Buffalo. We were lucky enough to see all but a lion in Kruger. We saw the leopard literally one minute from the exit to the park (which is super close to where we stayed the night). Though it was amazing, leopards don’t look like they would be hard to spot in the yellow-green grass, but we had two cars of about 20 people watching this leopard as it stepped off the dirt path into the grass and within 3 seconds everyone lost it.

I think what took me by surprise the most was how green and not flat Savannah all of it was. There were so many different types of geographies in this park. All I felt like I have ever seen on TV is the flat, long yellow grass blowing in the wind with a lions creeping through it. But man the safari was awesome and it would be so awesome to be able to come back and do a larger portion of the park since we saw such a small little bit of the park.

 

The next day we headed more toward Joburg. Our adventure for the day was tubing on the river. How relaxing right? We can all just sit there and chill and enjoy each other’s company.

WRONG.

One thing I have learned in Africa is that Africa always undersells its activities – it is just a small walk along the beach means “you will be climbing over boulders and jumping in between rocks”. It is only a two hour hike that isn’t too bad means “prepare for it to take 3-4 hours and for it to be straight uphill”. So why did I think tubing on a river would be so relaxing? I don’t know.

So we get to the river and we are handed helmets and instructed how to “tube” and told that the guides will be positioned in front of us and behind us to help us out and throw us a rope if we need rescuing … Ummm excuse me RESCUING?????

IT WAS FREAKING WHITE WATER RAFTING IN A SMALL INDIVIDUAL TUBE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the end it was fun, but omg I can’t say how scary it was at point when you fell out and went down rapids without your tube. We all came back with bruises from hitting rocks. It was fun in the end but no one was mentally prepared for that.
For the second half of Spring Break we went to Victoria Falls.

THE FALLS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING!!!! The spray off the falls was so much! You could be so far away and it would be lightly drizzling from the falls. And then when we were on the path across from the falls it was a full on rain storm! It was crazy! This time of the year is high water and I would love to have the opportunity to go back during low tide.

While at the falls we did a sunset cruise – which was absolutely amazing! We saw elephants playing in the river and the sunset was breath taking!!!! We did a helicopter ride over the falls which was crazy cool! We did a gorge swing over the river after the falls which was terrifyingly awesome! (Uploaded a video to facebook for anyone who wants to see.) We went to Botswana to do another Safari in Chobe – AND WE SAW OUR LION SO WE SAW ALL OF THE BIG FIVE! We saw an elephant swimming across the river to Namibia. We saw a giraffe licking the ground and then stand awkwardly as it stood up and got dizzy (lol I have a great picture of that- the featured image for this post, though I know it is kind of hard to see). And we walked over the historic bridge to Zambia for another passport stamp.

But spring break was amazing and such a great adventure. I can’t believe it has been a month since then…Time is flying by way too fast.

 

-Kaitlyn