nkandla-richardsbayOver the weekend, we took 19 of the kids from the center out for a little adventure. Saturday morning we rented two 13 seater taxi's, piled the kids inside and took a road trip to Richard's Bay. For most, if not all, it was the first time they had ever seen the ocean. As we waited for all the volunteers to gather so that we could enter the water in a safe manner so we let the children play in the sand. Bless their hearts they were itchin to get in that water they kept saying, "Please, go in?" "Go in Jessica, please?" Finally when we were all together we let the children run towards the water. Each volunteer was assigned 3 children to keep track of. It sounds a lot easier than it was. It was chaos. Thankfully most of the kids stayed knee deep, however some of them were little daredevils and wanted to go deeper so Max (one of the volunteers) took little groups at a time to get pounded by the waves. I decided to stay closer to the shoreline and play lifeguard just in case. It was stressful to say the least... NONE of these kids know how to swim and the waves weren't anything to scoff at. I kept scanning back and forth to make sure any of the kids weren't being taken under. Thankfully no one got hurt.

After the kids were wiped out from playing at the beach we took them to a conveniently located skate park across the street. As you can imagine, some of these kids had ever even HEARD of a skate park, so we thought it might be fun for them just to watch. At first they just laughed at the all the kids that fell, but after we tried explaining how hard it really was, they took real interest in watching some of the skaters. After a little while, some of the skater kids even offered to show our kids how to skate! It was so cool watching these total strangers reach out to our little darlings. And of course our boys loved learning and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

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lionsDay two of our safari was incredible. We didn’t have much time so we up early and headed out by 6 AM to see the animals. In front of our chalet just as the sun was rising with the golden light hitting the landscape just perfectly, we came across TWO lions sitting in the grass LITERALLY no more than ten feet from us. I was FREAKING OUT with joy. These animals were absolutely breathtaking. Both had big full manes and looked so incredibly regal. After a few moments they got up and started walking in the field along the road still no more than 10 feet away the entire time. We drove along side of these two lions for a couple minutes until one of them stopped to give us a little show and scratch his paws on a tree (just like a cat would scratch a post!). Oh wow it was so cool. Eventually our feline friend went to cross the road in front of us so he paused, then we paused, then he looked up at us as if to make sure we were going to let him pass and we crossed in front of us practically touching our car. We drove along side the two lions for a couple more minutes until they disappeared into the bush. Definitely the COOLEST experience of the entire trip.

Being that close to a lion in the wild is a once in a lifetime experience. For anyone. A few minutes later one of the cars that was also enjoying this experience with us came up to us with very worried faces. As you can imagine the whole time I was completely giddy and so of course I would occasionally hang out of the window to get a good shot of the lions. However, what I didn’t know, and what this other car came to tell us, was that there were actually THREE lions (the third we never saw) and that it was very dangerous for me to be hanging out of the window like that. So long story short…I almost died on an African Safari haha. The rest of day was pretty much like the day before; Giraffe, Rhino Zebra etc.

After the game reserve we drove to St. Lucia to check out the beach! Despite being extremely windy it was really nice. The ocean there is BEAUTIFUL. Long/wide sandy beaches. We tried eating lunch on the beach but because of the wind ended up supplementing our meal with a mouthful of sand. No big deal its minerals or something right? We headed back around 3 to try to make it back to Nkandla before it got dark. It was really weird driving through a first world part of South Africa after I’d been in such a rural third world part. I’ve come to really love Nkandla and the rural areas. They just seem more real and
sincere to me.


nkandla-chaletWe got up early early Saturday morning at about 4 AM and met up with some of the other volunteers: Susanna (a medical student from Holland here for an internship), Miriam (a recent university graduate from Germany here to help Sister Ellen with Sizanani and also teach English), and Dominic (A local to South Africa and old friend of Sister Ellen, now helping her with administrative duties). It only took us about and hour and a half to reach the game reserve. Here in Africa there are "the big five" animals that are the most sought after. Dominic explained that each is the most dominant in their "category". The big five are Lions, Leopards, African Buffalo, Rhinos, and Elephant.

The game reserve is enormous. Unfortunately I don't know how many square miles or anything (I will have to find out) but just know that it took pretty much the entire day to drive from one end to the other. Being that the reserve is so large, there were all sorts of different landscapes (hills, valleys, plains etc with one main river (and several branches of riverbeds) running through it. The roads are all dirt but fairly well leveled so that our little Volkswagen made it without much problem. Entering the game reserve I didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't think that I would be seeing animals just chillin on the side of the road. If anything I thought we'd have to be detectives and have eagle eyes to spot anything. Within the first few minutes we saw a HUGE group of impala grazing in the field next to us! The males have long, sharp spiraling horns. They are beautiful animals, and they didn't seem to mind our presence at all. We ended up seeing the impala throughout the entire day. Next we spotted several groups of Wildebeest. They were just like in Lion King when they stampeded after Simba! Before we knew it we started seeing beautiful zebra too! Zebra are such interesting animals. They're so very similar to a horse or donkey but with these incredibly stunning stripes. As we continued driving we kept seeing these sizely animal droppings that could have only been made by a Rhino or Elephant, but we weren't seeing either. Getting impatient we started driving a little more quickly but when we turned a corner and all the sudden there was a MASSIVE Rhino right on the side of the road! Oh man it was jaw-dropping. Unfortunately our abrupt approach scared him and he walked off in a bit of a hurry.

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nkandla-valengay-highschoolAll day today (Wednesday) was spent At Velangaye Highschool.  The school was hosting an "Open Day" where they invited families of future hopeful students from all over the region to come and see the school and to interview with teachers and student government etc. The principal also presented awards to some of the high achievers in each department and grade.

I also met with my group of students for the leadership/service workshop. We finally started to formulate our community service projects. We broke the group of 24 students into three groups. Each was assigned to plan a service project that we would all carry out together. My group and have begun to plan a "field day" with the kids at the Sizanani Outreach. I'm so excited because we're putting together activities like three-legged races, face painting, soccer games etc and I know the kids will love it. The students in my group are all so cute and so excited to reach out to the kids at the Center.

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