Fragile Lives

katie-peige

Fragile Lives

By Katie Peige

I spent my first few days back in the United States sick. After 24 hours or so of flying, I guess that was to be expected. A bunch of the other students that I spoke to were also sick post South Africa. The last days spent in South Africa were at an upscale resort which made me feel especially spoiled having just come from living in a village without running water and sleeping on an especially hard floor. All the beds I have slept in since the sleeping-bag-on-concrete-nights have felt like heaven and I am vastly more grateful for something that I have taken for granted my entire life.

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Life and Death in HaMakuya

katie-peige

Life and Death in HaMakuya

By Katie Peige

After about ten days experiencing the magnificent wildlife that Kruger had to offer, we left the park bound for our homestays. After leaving the guarded fences of the park, our surroundings changed dramatically as the animal sightings tapered off (we were still seeing some birds) and humans were reintroduced into the environment. The exotic animals were gone and replaced with goats and chickens running around yards fenced in with branches and barbed wire. Colorful mud huts slowly changed the landscape and with them, scattered trash sprinkled the roadsides like petals welcoming the new visitors.
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There’s more to it than meets the eye

randi-bromm

There’s more to it than meets the eye

By Randi Bromm

It has been four days since I have returned from South Africa and I must say that I still do not feel I have been able to wrap my head around everything to its entirety. The return home was a fever induced blur thanks to what can only be described as the worst flu I have ever contracted.

For the record, traveling internationally for over 24 hours while at the height of a foreign flu is easily a new kind of torture and I am simply baffled that I managed to enter and leave that continent sick. However, after four days of being bed ridden, I have begun to seriously examine where I am now. Not strictly geographically speaking that is.

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A Makua in Mbuyuni

danielle-chipman

A Makua in Mbuyuni

By Danielle Chipman

Makua is a word in the Tshivenda language that refers to white people, and I spent three days in a rural South African village called Mbuyuni being primarily identified by this word. It was strange to be in a situation where my race was my defining characteristic. I have been in similar situations during my travels to Ecuador and Guatemala, but I was still struck by a sudden awareness of how being a white person in the United States often lets me ignore my skin color, which is a luxury that many Americans and South Africans don’t have. At no point in Mbuyuni did I feel that I was negatively judged by my race, though; race just seems to be something that South Africans are very accustomed to noticing and discussing. South Africans use race as a descriptor in the same casual way that we would use hair color, height or gender.

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The Circle of Life

katie-peige

The Circle of Life

By Katie Peige

Wow, it’s been an amazing two days in Kruger National Park! We started off early from Wits Rural for an eight hour drive to Olifants Camp. Apparently we had one of the most successful safaris just on the first day! It is amazing to see the animals despite the devastating drought here. Apparently, no one has ever seen the bush as bare as this since this is one of the worst droughts in 100 years. Despite the lack of water there were plenty of animals and many people have said that the lack of water could be good as the lions, leopard and cheetah may have more of a bounce back with the ample supply of weakened prey. Early on in our game drive we saw an injured hippo that was apparently the loser to a fight over a bit of river that was too small for two hippo. He had a bad gash in his cheek and will likely become dinner to some carnivore soon.

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Elephants and Fires

katie-peige

Elephants and Fires

By Katie Peige

We finally made it to South Africa! James and I were able to sit next to each other and share stories about our pre-travels to Europe. We landed at the airport in Johannesburg and it was a weird transition for me to see all the advertisements and signs in English again. This trip is the first time I have been in a foreign country where English is an official language and won’t have to worry about anyone understanding me, or at least not in the city or a touristy place, I am not sure about the upcoming homestays.

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Our Days at the Homestay

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Our Days at the Homestay

By Randi Bromm

We are at the end of our homestay awaiting the arrival of our caravan to pick us up and take us back to camp. It has been a very different experience and my group of four hut mates and I have learned a lot. We have stayed in Tshianzwazie, which is a small district in the village of HaMakuya.

South Africa_Baobab small The village is on the outskirts of Kruger, about 2 hours past the Pafuri gate and through some rather rough roads. As a whole, the village features baobab trees, ironwood groves, mopane woodland and lots of bird species. However wildlife is not exactly the focus of our stay this time. Through the Tshulu Trust Camp, our homestays have been arranged within this community that struggles with water security on a daily basis.

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Our first big game drive!

randi-bromm

Our first big game drive!

By Randi Bromm

South Africa_GDV small 2
Today we embarked on our first game drive! Leaving Wits Rural, we packed everyone up in our Game Drive Vehicles (very similar to large jeeps) and set off to officially enter Kruger National Park. After a short trip, we entered the park through the Orpen gate. Upon approaching we were greeted by a red-billed hornbill who perched in a tree next to the gate as we checked in with the South African guard. He looked over at the bird and then smiled at us as he told us Zazu was here to greet us. We all found it intriguing and entertaining that he knew exactly what American tourists were looking for.

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Wildlife and People in Kruger National Park

danielle-chipman

Wildlife and People in Kruger National Park

By Danielle Chipman

By day three in South Africa, we were all ready to get out of the classroom and see some lions! We had just spent two days in a research camp tantalizingly close to the border of Kruger National Park, but before we could actually go into the park, we had to sit through a number of lectures on park management, South African history and human-environment relations. As it turns out, these lectures would profoundly influence my experiences in the park, but by the time we finally drove up to the entrance gate in our game drive vehicles (GDVs), I was definitely ready to stop talking and start rolling!

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There are animals everywhere!

randi-bromm

There are animals everywhere!

By Randi Bromm

So it is our fourth day along our journey here in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and it feels great to finally be up and running after a rough start. Having landed in Johannesburg, I was struck with what seems to be travel sickness. I wanted to blame the entire incident on the airplane food but according to my professors, this is definitely something that can occur to newbies in international travel. So word to the wise for anyone who has never flown for 25 hours, stay hydrated!

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