Thursday, April 18, 2013


Well, we made it!

After a nasty spout of food poisoning (or some weird virus that a fourth of the group caught), the 7 hour car ride was worth it as we arrived at the Southern African Wildlife College. The college is located INSIDE the Kruger National Park, so upon entering, we saw several herds of impala, zebra, and wildebeest. We received a safety course on all of the poisonous spiders, scorpions, and snakes that might kill us, and they even taught us how to properly check our shoes for these critters in the morning. It’s absolutely gorgeous here and it’s crazy to think that this is where we get to have class for the remainder of the semester.

We stayed one night at the college before we met our new host families, and let me tell you, the dorms at this college are 10x nicer than my dorm at Wooster, PLUS we could hear lions roaring in the night. I might need to rethink my college plans… I am pleased to say that I have yet another amazing host family and have loved every minute with them so far. My homestay partner is Niki, a neuroscience major a Johns Hopkins and she’s great to live with. Living at our house is Grandma (who has 6 children), her daughters Tsakani (36) and Ntombi (32), her sons Goodwill (26) and Laurence (unknown.. maybe 30ish?), Laurence’s girlfriend and their 9 month old daughter who they call Princess, and Ntombi’s 8 year old daughter Khanyi. It’s a full, fun house, and I love having TWO little sisters.

Though Grandma doesn’t speak too much English, all of her children have learned it in school so we’re able to communicate. We also have Tsonga language lessons at school at each day, so I’m hoping to be able to communicate more with Grandma as the weeks go on. So far we know simple greetings and introductions, family terms, Thank you, and some meal terms.

Our first few days were just getting to know the neighborhood/town area and getting used to our new families and houses. Most of us live fairly close to each other, and I’ve got two other homestay families living right across the road from us. Meghan and Hannah are in one house, and Mike, Nick, and Jonathan in the other. Mike and Nick were also my neighbors in Brazil, so it’s really fun being near them again!

As far as food goes, I am SO excited for every meal here. For breakfast, Grandma makes porridge (either with oats or pap), and we have bread, peanut butter (yes, we have peanut butter!) apricot jam, and these fried dough balls called mafeti. Sometimes we’ll have scrambled eggs and fried ham slices, but not everyday. Lunch is packed, so we have sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, apples, bananas, and then I usually add some extra snacks that I’ve picked up throughout my trip (just because I’m always hungry, and lectures can get long..) And dinner is my favorite! We have rice and/or pap (oh yeah! Pap is this potato like substance, that’s made from millie miel, and it’s mashed and put flat in a circular shape…. it’s actually really hard to explain. Google it.) and then this delicious mixture of chopped onions, green peppers, carrots, and brown beans, and then usually either fried fish or fried chicken. The chicken here is so incredibly delicious, I can’t even describe it. I feel bad for the vegetarians on this trip. But sometimes as appetizers we have other random cooked beef that looks like it could be liver (based solely on the way it’s strung together) but it’s pure meat. And however they cook it is the way that all meat should be cooked. I’ll have to find out so that Dad can make it when I get home.

This past Saturday was probably one of my favorite days so far. We were at home most of the day, and we had given our homestay gifts at dinner the night before, so we decided to try out the Snow-To-Go that I brought, since none of them had ever seen snow before. Khanyi and Tsakani got out a bowl and some water and we watched the powder expand and turn into “snow.” The smile on Khanyi’s face was priceless, and she absolutely loved it. I showed them some photos of the snow in Minneosta (thanks for the photos, Mom!) and Khanyi then took the bowl of snow outside and started throwing it at the trees. She was trying to put snow on the trees so that it would look like some of the photos I was showing her. So she went to a few other plants, giggling, and plopping snow on the flowers in this 80-degree weather here in South Africa. Then she started throwing the snow on herself and asked Tsakani to throw it at her like a snowball. She was completely covered in “snow” and could not stop laughing. It made my day.

Schoolwise, we’re finally getting back into our routine of having school Monday through Friday from 9-5. Of course that also includes site visits to hospitals and clinics, case study time, guest lectures, and “community building” to keep us all happy.

This weekend we’re going to an animal rehab center called Moholoholo. Should be exciting!

All for now!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Break Baby!

So We've actually left Vietnam already and have settled in South Africa, but I haven't written about my wonderful last week in Vietnam (which was spring break) so I figured I should do that. But first I want to let you know a little bit about where we are in South Africa.

After one of the students was thought to be on a blacklist and almost not allowed in SA, and another didn't have enough pages in her passport to get past Qatar, we all managed to eventually land in Johannesburg, South Africa. We're staying at a wonderful group hostel about 40 minutes out from the center of the city. I can't get over how fresh the air smells and how peaceful it is out here. Our country coordinator, Jan, takes us running every morning at 6am (yes, I've been getting up that early!) and yoga on the mountain is a fantastic way to start the day. They feed us well and are extremely friendly here. We leave on the 10th for Bushbuckridge, a very rural town about 7 hours north of here where we will be living with host families for the remainder of the program. Our internet there may be limited, but I'll try and do another blog before we leave.

Alright, Spring Break! Basically, we were allowed to go wherever we would like for our spring break week, we just weren't allowed to leave the country. Pretty neat. So we split up into smaller groups (traveling with 30 students isn't always the most fun thing) and planned out our week as we pleased. I traveled with 7 other students (Sam, Genevieve, Nate, Amy, Mike, Nick, and Anna)

A great group of adventurous friends who wanted to see as much as we could while still having time to relax on the beach. And that’s exactly what we did.

We started out by flying from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, which is basically traveling from northern to southern Vietnam. We stayed at this wonderful little hostel right in the city and it turned out that another group of us was also staying at the same hostel! So we got to hang out with them as well as we wandered around Ho Chi Minh City. Our first day there I walked around with Bianca, did some shopping in the markets, had our lunch paid for by a very kind Vietnamese woman, did some sight seeing, found an adorable cupcake shop, and then went to the night market. The following day was our last day in the city, so I went on a tour to the Mekong Delta with Bianca and Nikki. The delta is known for its huge floating market, but there’s a lot more on the river as well. So we drove about 2 hours to our starting point on the river, and took a small boat from there. We visited a coconut candy factory, a bee farm, a small island where you could feed alligators and ride around on bikes, and then we took even smaller boats to go around to different markets. We met some really cool people on the tour (other travelers) and had a fabulous time!

That night, we took an overnight sleeper bus to Hue, our next location. Hue is best known for its sand dunes and wind surfing, but we only did the sand dunes. Our hostel there was right on the beach, too! We only spent one night there before taking another overnight bus to Nha Trang, probably one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen! We got there at 7am, so we literally had the entire day to sit out and swim in the ocean. One of my Danish friends, Cecilie, was also in Nha Trang so we met up at her hotel and then we ended up getting a small room there for the day, to store our bags, to use the bathroom, shower, and nice place to come back for some AC. We ate dinner with Cecilie and her three other Danish friends, and then we took our final bus trip, a 12 hour ride to Hoi An. We arrived in Hoi An around 8 am and got to watch to watch the sunrise over the rice fields on our drive there. Hoi An is an adorable little town (Mom, you would love it!) with lanterns hanging from trees and on the side of the bridge, yellow buildings with coffee and ice cream shops, small streets, beautiful temples and a market right along the river side. We spent the day there shopping and eating some of the most delicious pho’ in all of Vietnam (by our own inference). We rented bikes and took them to the beach before heading out to Da Nang, the town less than 30 minutes away where our hotel was and where we would be for the remainder of break.

Da Nang was also the same beach town that the group we met up with in Ho Chi Minh City was staying at, so we got to hang out with them again. This is definitely a developing town that hasn’t quite turned into the tourist attraction they seem to be hoping for. The beaches were nearly deserted until about 3 o’clock when school got out, then all of the kids and their families would swarm to the beach and stay until the sun went down. It was a nice change not to be surrounded by tourists, though. Most days we just chilled at the beach and ate fresh seafood, but one of the days we rented bikes and biked up to the top of the mountain/hill that had the Lady Buddha at the top of it. Even though it was extremely hot that day and it was a pretty difficult bike ride (especially since some of the bikes were a bit broken…) it was a beautiful view at the top, and the statue is actually huge! It reminded me of the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil.

After a fantastic week’s break, we flew back to Ha Noi for two last nights with our homestay families. After a large farewell dinner and little bit of karaoke, we were back at the airport getting on a plane to South Africa.

It’s crazy how time is flying.

All for now!


P.S. I apologize for the lack of photos, but due to our Internet situation it is nearly impossible to upload anything more than this text. If I get to an Internet cafĂ© any time soon I’ll try and upload a few photos.