Januray 20, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007By Justin Boldt
This morning we said goodbye to the friends we made in Kgautswane. Before we left, the opportunity to visit the chief presented itself. However, once we arrived we learned that the chief was out so his delegate greeted us instead. Each Calvin student presented a gift, we sang two songs, and then said our goodbyes. It was interesting to see the chief’s house because he had leather couches, a relatively large tv that was showing MTV, and nice drapes. His wealth in the rest of the communities’ poverty was striking.
As we packed up the vans, Mama Clara Masinga and all the wonderful women who helped to make our stay comfortable sang two traditional farewell songs. They requested that the professors give speeches, which was then followed by our singing (the 2nd time in about 3 hours), and then hugs all around. It was a very special time because although we were only visitors for two days, the people at Kgautswane truly welcomed us as part of the community.
Once we piled into the vans our group of 22 people, who hadn’t showered in more than 48 hours, set out for Kruger National Park. Psalm 19 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” This verse struck me on the ride to Kruger because we rode through some of the most majestic scenery in South Africa. Although the ride was quite long, we saw towering mountains, miles of tall tress, and colorful new flowers. We stopped for lunch and all had take away pancakes, which we ate on the side of the road. After filling our stomachs, we got back in the vans for our final leg of the journey.
We pulled in to Kruger around 3:30 and were welcomed by lots of monkeys! We checked in and all went into our rondavels, which include air conditioning. Most people then rushed to the pool or to the showers and cooled off. Feeling much cleaner, we all met for dinner at seven. We were going to go to a take away spot, but it closed early, so we went to the nicest restaurant at our campsite. I think that everyone felt much better after being fed and there was lots of laughter around all the tables. We met in the boys rondavel to go over details for the next day and then all headed to bed. It was a great day of traveling and we are very thankful for another day of safe travels.
January 19, 2007By Carlie Post
Today was our first morning in Kgautswane, and we woke up at 7am on time for breakfast at what was set for 7:30am. We learned, however, that people in Kgautswane have two types of now: “now,” which means “somewhere in the fairly near future,” and “now now,” which means “right now.” We ate breakfast about 8:30am, but the guys played catch and the girls braided hair while we waited. Our meal included porridge, fat cakes (sort of like rolled up elephant ears), eggs, and tea. We have found a new passion for tea during our trip, and since it is a hot beverage, we know it is safe to drink.
After the meal, we traveled to two secondary schools. We did a little impromptu motivational “speechifying;” thanks to Jeremy and Stephanie, hundreds of high school kids in Mpumalanga will hopefully be extremely studious and successful! The interaction with the students at the second school was a little awkward and very overwhelming. All around us, kids shouted, “Shoot me! Shoot me!” They wanted their pictures taken. Some of the bolder guys hit on Calvin girls, which became slightly interesting.
Following the schools, we made a stop at the farm of local farmer Aubrey Johnson. He explained that he primarily farms maize and tomatoes, and that maize borers and red spiders are his most common pests. He also told us about how he is trying to grow his own feed. Other people don’t understand why he does this, but he explained that maize sells at about R1.20 per kilo right now, but beef sells for R28 or R30, so he hopes growing his own feed will be much more lucrative. Mr. Johnson and his son Owen looked like Barack Obama, and they were very gracious to us.
After the farm, we traveled to Mfarara Mfarara, a cultural village project of Kgautswane. Its goal is to recreate customs of the local Sotho people for the purpose of tourism. We were welcomed by a group of traditional dancers, young girls all dressed in matching pink outfits, led by older women playing instruments and dancing. Amanda and Emily danced a couple of songs with them. From there, we went on to eat a cultural meal, which consisted of fried chicken, rice, beans, fat cakes, pap, another African grain we were unsure of, a tomato-based sauce, a 1,000 Island-style sauce with beans, and some field corn on the cob, which Kate and a few others were brave enough to conquer. Many of us were happy this meal was accompanied by ice-cold Coca Cola. Our hosts were very kind and hospitable. We are getting used to being offered a basin of water in which to wash our hands, and the towel that follows it.
We continued our tour of the cultural village, where we observed young men playing a traditional game, young boys repeating recitations, and high school-aged kids participating in initiation school, learning what will be expected of them in their adult life, according to gender. Then, we checked out the baobab tree, which is a gigantic tree that is native to South Africa. Ben, Britton, and Jeremy all climbed it, and the local people laughed because they just don’t climb trees. The dancers danced for us again, and then we sang our songs, and headed back to Kgautswane.
Before dinner, Mama Clara, the community leader led us around on a tour of the development centre’s facilities, which include a mail centre, a telecentre, Mama Clara’s office, and a community radio station. Kgautswane serves 550 orphans and 820 vulnerable children, in addition to the rest of the community.
For our last dinner there, we had fried chicken and similar accompanying side dishes. After dinner, the people roasted goat over the fire, so we had a village braai, which is like a barbecue. We all smelled like serious fire smoke after that, but getting to know the people of the community has been a great experience for us, and we will miss it.
January 18, 2007By Christina Overbeck
Hello all you blog readers!
Today is a travel day for us. We are traveling to Kgautswane, a rural village about five hours from Jo-burg. A couple of us woke up at six to start our day with a run. It was our last run in “the mile high city”- and yes we could feel the altitude. Our guesthouse is near an elementary school. I enjoyed watching all the cute little boys and girls walking to school in their uniforms as I ran. We then ate breakfast at the guesthouse, finished packing, and packed sack lunches.
Then a group of us went to the mall to Pick n’ Pay (Africa’s Meijer) to get some granola bars and snacks for our time in Kgautswane. Some people were a bit afraid that we might be fed chicken feet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so we thought we better take some snacks. We had a little drama at the mall. We agreed to meet back in front of the Crazy Store. We waited and waited and Natalie did not come. We started to split up and search the mall. A while later Natalie was found. It ended up that her transaction at the bank just took a long time. We were happy that she was not stolen. We would have missed her.
We headed back to the Emerald Guest House where the rest of the group was enjoying a heated game of Catch Phrase. We then piled into the vans and waved goodbye to Grandma and Catherine. They are staying behind because Catherine is too young for the Malaria meds. We had driven about 5k (note the use of metric?) when Matt realized that he forgot his notebook so we went back to get it. We then started driving again and a light on the dashboard went on in Tracy’s van. We pulled over to figure out what it was. It ended up that the emergency break was down. So..we weren’t off to the best start—but hey we are on African time!
The scenery was very pretty. It was a lot of green rolling hills. I have been surprised at how green Africa is. I had pictured more of a desert. Most people fell asleep in the vans. When we got close to Kgautswane the roads were covered with potholes and big rocks. The roads were narrow and windy. A lot of people were sitting outside their homes and would wave at us as we drove. At one point we had to stop because the road was blocked by a heard of cows.
When we arrived at Kgautswane about thirty people that worked at the center greeted us. We sat down and were given fried balls of bread and tea. Everyone started going around and asking us “How are you?” “What is your name?” and shaking our hands. Then Mama Clara spoke to us. She is in charge of the community center. She is a very strong woman in a male dominated society. Some mentally retarded men recited bible verses to us. A 97-year-old man gave a speech. Then they explained to us that they have this idea of making a cultural stay over to attract tourists. They said they want to have groups out there and teach them cultural dance, feed them cultural food, and give them cultural outfits to put on well they stay at the community center. They also explained their hopes of starting on old person home and a center for orphans. Then all of the women sang to us. They had very powerful voices. They then asked us to sing for them. Matt and Tracy had warned us that this was going to happen so we had prepared a few songs. We sang Amazing Grace (modern version) and Father I adore you (round). It actually was fun and we didn’t sound that bad.
We were then lead to our rondavels. They were really nice! I guess two years ago the students slept on the floor of a tent. We didn’t have electricity in the huts and the toilet would only flush if you poured water into the top of them. It was much nicer than any of us were expecting, though. After settling in and chatting for a while it was time for dinner. At dinner they brought around a bowl of hot water to wash our hands. For dinner there was fried chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, kale, squash, and beets. I have decided that fried chicken and rice are the staples of a South Africans diet. The rice here is not like Asian rice because it doesn’t stick together at all. During dinner there was dancing and singing by people in the community. After dinner we went to our huts and did some journaling by candlelight and then went to bed.
That is all for today. We defiantly had some good experiences to remember. Well, we are getting close to the end of our trip so we will be about to talk or see you guys soon. I hope you are all doing well.
We’re all safe and leaving for home soon!By Jeff Guerrero
Hey everybody. Sorry we have not posted for a while. When we returned to the Emerald Guest house the internet was down, so I am at the airport a little early to post for you all. Here it goes…
Wednesday, January 17, 2007By Jeff Guerrero
We just wanted to let everybody know that we will be heading to the rural village of Kgautswane tomorrow. We will most likely not have an internet connection there, and we may not have one at Kruger Park either. Therefore, we may not be posting until January 22, so please do not be alarmed! We all miss you and love you all and we are all in good health.
Talk to you soon!