Internship – South Africa

Fish Are Friends

After almost 2 months, I feel well integrated into my life here in South Africa. I cheered on the springboks in the rugby world cup, I’ve learned how to use a braii and I have now had the chance to do a number of short trips.

The first of these getaways consisted of me meeting Kate at her internship in Kynsna and heading to Sedgefield for 2 nights spent beachfront.

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Mossel Bay, pre sharks.

Being only an hour from Mossel Bay, we decided that we couldn’t pass up the chance to get in a cage and come face to face with the ocean’s largest predators.

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Ready to look fear in the eye.

I was surprised how excited I actually was to step into the cage. Being in the first group to get in the water, the sharks were curious and lively. We saw numerous great whites graze past us and had a real life jaws moment when one swam straight for us, teeth glaring.

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duh  nuh.. duh nuh.. duh nuh

Disclaimer: we survived with all extremities in tact.

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Tsitsikamma mountains

Other highlights from my time here in Plett include spending my birthday in Tsitikamma; hiking the storms river mouth and joining in an African drumming circle, visiting the Bramon Wine Estate and frolicking around in Natures Valley.

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Nature’s Valley

Stay tuned,

Kirstie

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Welcome to Plett

After 2 layovers, a day spent in London and roughly 23 hours of air travel, I walked off the plane and onto the runway in George. With the distant views of sea and mountains, the fatigue momentarily disappeared as I was overcome with excitement.

13 hr layover? no problem

13 hr layover? no problem

sunrise in the clouds

sunrise in the clouds

I’m doing my internship at the African Array Lodge in Plettenberg Bay. A coastal town with a plethora of activities for adrenaline junkies and nature lovers alike. The lodge itself is perched on a hill, overlooking the ocean to the East and forest and valley to the West. The lodge is beautiful and has a warm, homey feel; attracting travellers from across the globe. I’ve had the pleasure of working with two girls from Belgium and France, and meeting guests from Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, the UK and the USA.

Highlights of my first few weeks include hiking the nearby Robberg Peninsula, visiting Monkeyland (a sanctuary for monkeys) and spotting dolphins on the beach in town.

hiking Robberg

hiking Robberg

Robberg Penninsula

Robberg Penninsula

Stay tuned, more adventures to come.

Kirstie

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My South African Life #CapeTown2014 by Dominique Jacobs

Disclaimer: Hi everyone, it’s your girl Dominique in Cape Town, South Africa! I first of all need to apologise for this huge delay on my blog posts, as it has been very, very challenging getting a WiFi signal, and when I do and start posting my blog …the internet crashes! This has been happening for the past 6 weeks that I have been here, and all anybody ever tells me is: “well, this is Africa” and then they shrug and walk away…lol…I guess that says it all. Thank you for your patience as I endeavor to bring you my story from the southern-most country in Africa.

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Prelude:”Going Home”
It all begins at Toronto Pearson airport on December 27th, 2013…no..no..not true!…It began months, actually, years before. I have been missing…aching to get back to my roots, my family, my ‘Motherland’, it is as if something is missing in my soul and has been missing for far, far too long.
OK, so maybe I should start at the beginning; I was born in Cape Town, South Africa to Neville and Elvira Jacobs. Both of my parents were born and raised in Cape Town, and when I was 3 years old, my little sister Claire was born. We had a wonderful young life, all of our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents surrounding us with love and support during these early years in South Africa. We had a community of people that we could count on and: They are family. We had a beautiful life, I remember gardens with gardeners, and we had a big house with maids and a cook. I would chat with them all as a child; that’s how I became fluent in Afrikaans one of the 9 national languages and spoken (either as the first or second language) by my people the ‘Cape Coloured’, or mixed race people of the Western Cape(who are all bi-lingual –may I add).
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Now to make a long story short, when I was 5 years old, (my sister was 2years) my parents decided that we would leave the country for the US; this decision was made due to two important reasons #1: the fact that at that time my father was a member of the ANC (African National Congress), and in those years of apartheid the ANC was considered to be a terrorist organization. He faced jail time, police brutality and torture, while fighting for democracy in a minority government… yeah, I know guys, it’s kinda heavy… so let’s move on to #2,this reason is right up our alley: Education. My dad wanted to complete his PHD studies, which he had started in the early 70’s in St. Louis, Missouri USA. So we made the move…ended up here in Canada, and years later, in 1995 my mother passed away from cancer, and we came home to bury her…as per her last wishes… and that was the last time I was in Cape Town, South Africa. That was 18 years ago.
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You need to know my back ground to understand the depths to my story…I understand this is not the easiest read, but it is the truth; and also the reason why I so desperately needed to come back to Cape Town, South Africa. So I applied to GEO for the SA internship, specifically for Cape Town, and I am unbelievably grateful to have landed this opportunity, and I cannot wait to reconnect with my family! It’s been 18 years since I’ve seen my family, new members have been born and raised, the babies from last time are all young adults now, and my crew (the cousins closest to me) have all since been married and have kids of their own. It’s been 18 years since I’ve laid eyes on my mother’s grave and spoken to anyone in her family. It’s been 18 years afterall, since I’ve been home.

This picture is of me and my dad in Wynberg Park, before we left Cape Town, South Africa. I was a cute baby, eh?
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This trip is a really big deal for me…I don’t know if this post even expresses the depth of my emotion being able to “go home” after so long. So I must give a HUGE thank you to Pearl, Yana the GEO department; and Centennial College for affording me this
incredible opportunity! Thank you ALL so very much, this means the world to me.

As I am getting ready to depart, I am thinking about my goals (as my motivations are quite clear if you read the above); I would hope to achieve a lasting professional relationship with the organization I will be placed in (as I hope to return to SA in 2-3 years as opposed to the dreadful long years that is has been), a glowing letter of reference due to work well done at my International placement that will propel me into a new level of my career, and perhaps a job offer in the future? My expectations are massive!
But mostly, I just can’t wait to see and embrace all of my family, watch the two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) crash into each other again, and smell that salty, fresh sea air. I can’t wait to feel the sand between my toes and the ocean waves washing away the years of longing. I am not afraid. I am ready.
AND; So here we are now…on Saturday, Dec 27th, my sister and I, at Toronto Pearson International, super excited and on our way to board the plane for the first leg of our long, long journey, we start with an 8 hour flight…#AmsterdamBound!
we out! Pearson

Categories: Internship - South Africa, South Africa | 1 Comment

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela

 

I am doing my internship over here in South Africa and I am deeply sadden by the passing of Nelson Mandela. This is my first post and it is sad that its about the death of my hero. The courage that he possessed to resist the apartheid regime inspires me until this day. Nelson Mandela represents freedom, hope, prosperity, peace, love, and faith. I think we can all learn valuable lessons from Nelson Mandela’s life.

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South African Wildlife Adventure

Hello readers,

This read is a lot longer than I’m supposed to make my blog, but I really can’t leave anything out.. I’m happy to say, the past week of my life has been filled with excitement and adventure.  While getting to learn more about the South African landscape, I experienced the wildlife with my own eyes.. Not only the beauty of it, but also the danger.

Last wednesday, I checked the weather forecast for the weekend and decided that high 20s celsius would be perfect for a 4 day “Garden Route” tour.  I’ve heard from other tourists that the scenery is so beautiful, that I can’t leave SA without seeing it, plus I really wanted to see a game reserve.  So, I left the next morning on a minibus with 5 other people touring SA.  Maudi (tour guide from Durban), Karin and Rolf (Swiss), Elena (Russia), Jonas (Germany) and me!

We made our first stop in the early afternoon at a place called the “Garden Route Game Lodge” (http://www.grgamelodge.co.za/).  I was so excited because we had a safari tour of the reserve planned, so I could see lots of African wildlife from a 4×4. Upon arrival, we all got out of the bus, and walked up to what looked like an outdoor reptile enclosure, but we couldn’t see anything.  The others cracked a couple jokes about a croc jumping out at us… Since my attention span isn’t that long and I couldn’t see anything, I continued to wander towards to lodge, excited to begin the tour.  Rolf and Elena did the same.  We didn’t get too far away when we heard yelling.  Rolf and I figured they were joking, but the yelling “help!” continued, so we hurried back to see what was going on.  I saw Maudi kicking somthing, then Jonas fall onto the ground in the tall grass by the enclosure, with Karin crouching beside him.  Karin and Maudi looked panicked as they helped walk Jonas to the parking area.  When we asked what was going on, they said that a crocodile had bit Jonas’ hand and wouldn’t let go!  First thing I did was look to see that Jonas still had all of his limbs.  It looked like a few teeth holes in his hand.  Everyone was in shock to say the least.. I followed Karin’s lead and helped to wash Jonas’ hand of the mud and blood.  Then reserve workers came and bandaged him up, put him in a car, and rushed him to the hospital.  I took a photo of workers arriving with rocks on a trailer to fill the hole that the croc came out of.  Apparently it had dug its way under the stone fence enclosure.

Once Jonas had left, we got the full story.. Maudi,Karin and Jonas were walking around the outside of the crocdile enclosure, where the grass was high.  Jonas lost his flip flop in a hole around the edge, but it was on the OUTSIDE of the enclosure, so first Karin reached in to try and get it, but couldn’t find it.  Then Jonas reached in, and the croc grabbed onto his hand.  Karin kicked and punched the large head of the croc trying to get it to let go, then Maudi gave it a few kicks with some leverage from the rock wall and it finally let go.  They had to turn the croc and Jonas’ hand right side up, because the croc was trying to twist.  Luckily it didn’t have too much wiggle room, because that’s how they eat their prey.. In pieces.

We were all pretty shaken up, and eating lunch was a task.  I imagine it would have been pretty tasty.  Springbok (game meat) on a greek type salad.  Even though Jonas couldn’t come, we went on our safari around the reserve and saw lots of interesting animals up close.  We didn’t get too close to the lions though.  I wasn’t disappointed at all, because my nerves were shot after the crocodile incident.  We asked the safari tour guide if incidents have ever happened like this before, and they said, “never”.  I attached some photos from the grame drive safari below.

After our safari, we went to the hospital to see Jonas.  The hospital seemed really nice and clean inside.  The crocodile broke his 4th finger, so he needed surgery and to stay in the hospital for the whole weekend.  What an unforunate thing to happen.  He was disappointed, but hopefully he will do the tour another time when his hand heals.  I found it interesting that before administering antibiotics, the hospital needed a credit card.  I have heard from other people, medical care requires a passport and a credit card.  This is a good thing to keep in mind for all of you who plan to visit South Africa.

We spent our first night at a backpacker on a beach in the “Wilderness” area.  It was nice to sit around a camp fire and relax with a couple of beers.

The next morning, we went canoeing in a river surrounded by beautiful mountains.  It was very peaceful listening to the birds, even though in my head they kept saying, “work harder, work harder”..  My flatmate Tom taught me how to identify the Cape Turtle-Dove and the Red-eyed Dove by relating words to their sounds.  The Red-eyed Dove says, “I am the Red-eyed Dove, I am the Red-eyed Dove”.  It’s very annoying, lol.

After canoeing, I walked with the elephants.  Amazing experience.  I got to touch Jabu, and take pictures with him.  Then I walked with Marula.  Elephants are such powerful animals.. As I walked with Marula’s tusk in my hand, she pushed me along while covering my hand in snot. haha! Pretty gross, but it’s worth the experience.

We drove a bit further to a giant bridge.. Most would call it just a large bridge, but when you jump off it, it seems a lot higher than that..  Bloukran’s Bridge is the highest bungy bridge in the world (photo below).  I wasn’t planning on doing it, but for 750 Rand (less than 100 canadian), I couldn’t pass it up.  Karin and I, along with about 5 other people walked along a see-through metal bridge to get to the bungy jump area of Bloukrans.  I watched 3 people jump off before it was my turn.  Heart pounding, silly me, peeked over the edge before I went over.  Luckily the guys who tied my legs up gave me a good push at the count of 3.  Within seconds, it’s over. I don’t even remember falling.  I just remember looking down, and then flipping around a bit, and then just waiting, trying not to panic while I waited for someone to come down and get me.  Because it’s just your ankles tied up, you feel like it might slip over your feet, so I flexed my feet while I waited (not sure if that would have done any good) haha! I am really glad I did it, and am suprised how much scarier it was than my sky dive (I did a tandem dive in NZ a few years ago).  I suggest that everyone tries both 🙂  You can watch my bungy jump video on youtube at:     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-qniQyAj9s&feature=youtu.be

That night, we stayed in a backpacker in the Tsitsikamma area.  Our tour guide did something a little extra for us, because of what happened with Jonas.  He made us an amazing braai (bbq) dinner.  I enjoyed every bite of the pork steaks and sausages, salad and bread.  We talked with a couple who were also staying at the backpacker.  They were from St.Catherine’s Ontario, and were spending 12 days on a bicycle tour trip on the Garden Route.  I spent most of the evening chatting with Karin.  She told me of her experiences volunteering in a Cape Town medical clinic.  She has been a nurse back home in Switzerland for over 9 years, and loves her job.

The next morning, as we drove to Tsitikamma National Park, I saw wild baboons hanging out at the side of the road on our way (photos below).  I freaked out a bit as Maudi slowed down the bus and opened my window, lol! In Cape Town, baboons are known to be quite smart and agressive.  They know how to open doors and are theives with a mean bite. Some of them are very large as well.  Apparently the Tsitsikamma baboons aren’t as bad though.  Sometimes they steal from campers and the rangers will come and chase them away.

While in the park, we watched a whale swimming not too far off the coast, and then walked through the woods.  Along the boardwalk, we saw some indigenous plant life, along with Dassies (photo).  They are very cute, rodent like animals.  They are pretty unexciting though.  They just sit and stare at you.  Once we got across a suspension bridge, I sat with Maudi for a bit, and taught him about some of the rocks (I studied geology at Western).

The weather was cloudy on the park side of the mountains, so we drove around the other side where the sky was cloudless and the sun was hot.  I can’t remember the name of the beautiful beach we went to, but we sunbathed and put our feet in the Indian Ocean for a while.  Some local kids came over to play, bury our feet and laugh while throwing sand at us. haha!

Before I came to South Africa, I didn’t know that people could ride an Ostrich.  What a silly thing to do.. get on, and hang on for dear life! haha. We went to an ostrich farm to learn more about these massive birds, to hand feed and touch them, and to ride them.  I have a couple funny photos below.  I giggled a lot during this tour.  Turns out that a single ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 25 chicken eggs.  You can boil it if you like.. it takes a few hours, and then you can crack it open with a hammer.  Personally, I’d rather just eat the ostrich. Very tasty.

We spent our final night of the tour in a backpacker in Oudtshoorn.  We had delicious Ostrich kabobs and ostrich sausage for dinner with some wine.  It was really enjoyable sitting with my tour group while eating a nice dinner.  That evening, we roasted marshmellows at a camp fire, drank beer, and hung out with some other people at the backpacker.  There were other tour groups who had heard about the crocodile attack, so Karin and I ended up telling the story a few times.  What a story it is to tell.  Jonas will have croc bite scars on his hand for the rest of his life.

On my last day of the tour, we stopped at the “Cango Caves” for a cave adventure.  I was the only one who wanted to do the “adventure tour” so I went solo on that one.  I have gone spelunking in Ontario before, in caves with a head lamp, so it wasn’t as scary for me.  I really enjoyed looking at the rock formations.  It is the largest and oldest cave I’ve ever been in.  FYI,  The cave is made of limestone (calcite).  The hanging formations are called stalactites, and the formations growing upwards from the ground are called stalagmites.  These formations continue to grow until the reach each other to form a column.. then the colum continues to grow wider and wider.  Amazing.. Growing rocks 🙂

It was a 6 hour drive back to Somerset West.  We stopped half way to pick up Jonas and take him the rest of the way back with us.  There is a photo of him and I at “Ronnie’s Sex Shop”.  His hand should make a full recovery 🙂  And the story about Ronnie’s is that it was just a pub and shop called “Ronnie’s Shop”, until someone got drunk one night and changed the name.  Apparently the new name brought in more customers,  and it’s not a popular tourist stop along Route 62.

I must say, in my whole life, this is the most excitement I have ever experienced in such a short span of time…

I now have Switzerland on my travel bucket list 🙂

To all of my old friends and new, I hope you enjoyed reading!  See you all, hopefully before too long!

– Stef, South Africa

Categories: Internship - South Africa | 1 Comment

A tiger trapped in a wire snare…

Today, I’ve been researching wire snares and poaching.  I’ve been looking for materials to help teach children in a community next to a reserve why  poaching is a problem.   A common method used to catch animals is wire snares.  The main problem with these is, they trap and often kill which ever animal gets caught in it.  It’s a wire loop that tightens as the animal pulls on it.  I’ve not enjoyed looking at the photos…
But, here I found a really cool video showing a man who was able to get a tiger cub out of a wire snare.

 

Enjoy!

-Stef, SA

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My Life in Cape Town

Some things are learned the fun way; others are learned the hard way.  In either case, we come out the wiser for it, right?  Every time I leave Canada, I feel like I discover as much about myself as I do about the country I’m visiting.  These past couple of weeks have been very eventful, filled with lots of great stuff, but also some bad.  I guess that’s fairly typical when we travel though.

Two weeks ago I went to a market in Stellenbosch (A University town close to Somerset West) with some friends.  The market reminded me of Toronto actually.  Lots of interesting foods, and clothing I couldn’t afford.  I enjoyed browsing.  Afterwards, I went shopping in Stellenbosch with my flatmate.  It wasn’t soon after; that I found myself standing at the bank money machine, completely baffled by the thief who had just drove away with my debit card and pin.  You are probably wondering how the heck I managed that one.  I wasn’t careful enough and let my guard down.  I feel pretty embarrassed about letting someone “help” me at a money machine actually. Who does that?  Thank goodness there was a daily max. on my account, and  the bank is going to refund me the money that was stolen.  What a stressful lesson learned.  It’s very scary being in another country and having your source of money taken from you.  I’m glad I brought a MasterCard with me.  Maybe this will be a lesson for whoever is reading this too.  Don’t let anyone near you at an ATM. Take 2 ways to access money. Don’t carry them at the same time.  That evening, my flatmate took me out for drinks though, and it was a nice gesture to cheer me up.

The following weekend, I went to the Cape Town city centre with a friend who met me at the Long Street Backpacker.  It was a relaxing weekend, walking around the botanical gardens in Kirstenbosch, eating out on patios, touring the city on the double decker red bus (getting sun burnt), visiting the Aquarium at the waterfront, shopping, shopping and more shopping.  I am just about ready for Christmas now.

The Long Street Backpacker is a great place to hang out on the balcony and people watch.  It’s sort of like a movie.  On Saturday nights, it’s packed with people, going to the bars and restaurants.  If you sit there for long enough, you will see a fight break out. We went for a walk to the MacDonald’s about 3 blocks away, and 3 guys asked us if we wanted weed.  A lady asking for money followed us for 2 blocks until I asked a “public safety” worker to get rid of her, and on other occasions, a beggar threatened to steal from us because we wouldn’t give him anything.  It’s something that’s so “normal” for this area of the city, but I wouldn’t go anywhere alone.  All of these things happen in Toronto as well, but it’s scarier here for some reason.

I’m going to tell the rest of my stories and what I’ve learned with photos below.

Hope you enjoy!

Categories: Internship - South Africa | 2 Comments

An Adventure in the Cape Town City Bowl

Hello Readers,

This week was filled with excitement, so I have lots of photos to share with you!  It was one of those weeks where I felt like I experienced so much, that it could have been an entire month.

One day, it rained so hard I thought we were going to get some serious flooding. My flatmate sent me some photos to share with you.  Somerset West is an interesting place, I don’t think you would get this type of “ferry” service back home.  Check out the photos, and you will see what I mean..

There was a whale festival last weekend in a town called Hermanus, maybe about an hour from Somerset West.  “..the only Enviro-Arts festival in South Africa, held annually to celebrate the return of the Southern Right whales to the waters of Walker Bay..”.  According to the world wide web, Hermanus has one of the best land based whale watching in the world (http://www.sa-venues.com/events/westerncape/hermanus-whale-festival/). My original plan was the go to this festival but, there were no automatic transmission cars left at the car rental place that I called, so I didn’t go.  I’m not too keen to drive on the “wrong” side of the road anyways.  I will go whale watching another time.

I may not have seen any whales this past weekend, but I definitely didn’t miss out on an amazing weekend.  On saturday I went to Muizenberg with my flatmate because he was meeting a friend to go surfing with.  It was a surf festival, where the following day, surfers tried to break the Guiness World Record of having the most people riding the same wave.  Apparently they were very close but didn’t quite get it.  I don’t know how to surf, and didn’t care to try in waters known to be the home of so many great whites, so I went for a nice long walk along the water instead.  At first I was a little unsure about walking on my own because, muggings do happen sometimes.  It turned out to be fine, and while I walked, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and a bag of Biltong (African dried meat).

After another half hour of driving, my flatmate dropped me off at the Long Street Backpacker in Cape Town.  It’s on the most “happening” street in the city.  Many tourists and locals come to this street for the restaurants, bars and shops.  Not far from the backpacker is the Slave Lodge Museum (http://www.iziko.org.za/museums/slave-lodge) so I wandered through it to learn a bit of history.

The Long Street Backpacker is set up like a green house, with lots of plants, a clear roof and, cats and dogs to hang out with.  Naturally, I liked this about the place.  The rooms were pretty clean and the people were really nice.  It wasn’t long before I met some nice girls to have dinner with (2 from France, 1 from the Netherlands).  We went across the street together to “Mama Africa” for some more traditional African food and wine.  I wondered what Warthog tastes like, but chose a nice lean ostrich steak instead.  We shared a dessert platter that had flaming bananas. SO good.

After dinner, we went back to the backpacker for some drinks (price: R12. or $1.40/beer) before heading out to a bar called the Dubliner (A bit funny eh? Going to an Irish Pub in South Africa).  I met some more people, including a couple guys from Austria, and we all went to the bar, which had a live band playing familiar rock music.  We had a great time, and because the bars don’t close until after 4am, we stayed out very late.  Even at 5am, we hung out on the balcony of the backpacker watching the complete and utter choas happening along Long Street.  I wish I had a photo of that for you.. The street was jammed with cars and people, loud music coming from everywhere, shouting, laughing, people hanging out of their cars, dancing ON-TOP of their cars.  I even saw a guy get hit by a car, which then drove away.  He was alright, but a bit ticked off.  I think I made it to bed just before the sun came up.

The next morning I went for brunch with my friend from the Netherlands.  We also went to a market that reminded me of the jewelery booths you’d shop at in the Caribbean.  I spent more time talking to the booth owners than I did shopping, and my friend spent her time bargaining.  We had lunch at a patio restaurant in the sun, during which time a man playing the recorder, a man trying to sell a puppet, and a begger asked for money.  We then took a cab to Table Mountain, so we could take the cable car up to the top and watch the sunset.  Once at the top, it felt like I was standing on the top of the world or, at the door to heaven.  Table Mountain is one of the 7 wonders of the world, and in about a week, I’m going to go back to climb it.  So, be prepared for even more photos 🙂

As much as I am loving my awesome adventures, I still miss all of my lovely friends and family from home. I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I will see you again before too long.

– Stef, Cape Town, S.A.

Categories: Internship - South Africa | 4 Comments

Western Cape Update

Dear Readers,

I’m writing to you during my first South African thunderstorm.  I think it’s safe to say that thunder sounds the same, no matter where you are on earth.  The tin roof tops here do however make the rain sound like angry hail.  I wonder what it sounds like when it actually does hail.

Where to begin…  I suppose I should start with this past weekend.  My housemate returned from his conferences on Saturday, saying that the trip was a huge success for the company.  I went to the mall on Sunday, andwe went for a drive through the wine farms region, followed by a Braai (I will explain what this is…) on Monday.  It’s nice to have company around the apartment again, and it was fun tasting wine and snapping photos of the statues and scenery only about 20 minutes from home.  We meant to go out for breakfast and then wine tasting, but since it was a public holiday here, the chosen restaurant was closed, so we skipped to the wine tasting instead.  I was surprised at how low cost it was. We each tried 5 types of wines, and the total cost for us both was 80 RAND. Converted to CAN dollars, that is $9.60.  A fine breakfast for a fine price 🙂

A Braai is a South African BBQ.  If you refer to it as a bbq, you will be corrected (every time).  A South African will argue that the difference is that a Braai is far better.  The meal is cooked over wood burning, instead of a gas flame.  I had my first Braai on “National Braai Day” or “South African Heritage Day” with my housemate, my coworker, his wife, and their new born baby boy.  He’s adorable.

It’s been another productive week in the office.  I finished going through some Bird data, and went through tree data for a conservation program at a nature reserve, converting all of the common names to scientific names, and creating a nice long species list for reference.  I spent a lot of time with my nose stuck in a trees book, and making sure I had the spelling right for trees like, the Stink shepherd’s tree, which is Boscia foetida subsp. rehmanniana, and Black monkey thorn, which is Acacia burkei.

My housemate points out birds while we are out and about, and so I’ve been able to learn some of them.  although, with all of the bird data names on my brain, I haven’t done very well at his quizzing.  There is a common one that I think I can recognize now, mainly because I hear it’s annoying call every day from my apartment.  It’s called the Hadeda Ibis, similar to the Sacred Ibis.  Here is a youtube video of one,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rr2mrfYJAk     .. I’m rooting for the Croc.

Today I was given a fairly large research project on conservation education programs.  I wish I had some background in teaching conservation.  I’m feeling a little bit like a fish out of water with this one, but perhaps the more I learn from my research, the more I will be able to contribute in terms of creative thinking and ideas.  This is a great opportunity for me to help with the education of local communities living near a nature reserve.

I’d encourage you all you read this article, written by my housemate/boss.   It’s about land claims in South Africa.  It definitely got my brain wheels turning.  After I read it, he asked me my thoughts.  I wish I had the chance to have discussions about articles I’ve read with their authors more often.  In addition, he took that photo of the lion!

http://www.biodiversityscience.com/2012/09/26/land-claims-conservation-south-africa

 

Through the past few weeks, I’ve come to learn that I have quite a few followers. This makes me happy, so I will continue to make an effort to keep you guys up to date with what’s going on here on the other side of the planet.  Thanks for reading!

-Stef, S.A.

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Working in Somerset West – S.A.

Well, the week is almost over.  It’s been quiet, but not boring, and quite productive.  Most of my coworkers are away at conferences.  I’ve been able to get to know the president and the accountant of the company.  Both are very interesting and friendly.

I work under the direction of the Operations Manager, who has asked me to clean up excel sheets and build shapefiles (used to create layers in GIS mapping) to express the findings from National Park survey programs.  The work load is enough to keep me busy, and I’m allowed the freedom to work on whichever project I choose at the time (so far).  I got stumped pretty quickly when presented with a variety of different types of coordinates and was asked to map them.  There are many types of coordinate systems, and if the wrong info. is used in arcGIS, the maps will be inaccurate.. SO, I researched a lot, to wrap my head around it.  I spent the week on this, and building a spreadsheet to use as a conversion tool for my coordinates.  I’ve tried to make it as comprehensive as possible, so it can still be used once I am back in Canada.
I have also learned that South Africa is home to Boubous, Barbets, and Drongos… Along with dozens of other bird species, I now know the proper spelling for.  Next I will conquer trees, and their latin names. Oye.

So, I was wondering, do we have “full cream milk” in Canada?  I drink 2%.. but here, the best tasting milk is called full cream.  They don’t have coffee cream, they just put this milk and they put it in the coffee and the tea.  It’s very good.

Oh, and there was a photo in my previous blog, where I asked you to take a guess at what it was.  I gave the hint that it’s found in S.A. homes, but not in Canadian homes.  Jamie was asking about it, so here is the answer.  It’s actually the electricity unit, on the wall in my kitchen:)  The buttons are to enter the code that you purchase at the corner store/gas station.  You buy your electricity there.  Completely foreign concept to me.  It costs around $10 CAN for 2 weeks, unless you have the heaters running, then you get about a week and a half.  Just an addition piece of info. – people living in townships are provided free electricity by the government here.  Sometimes you see T.V. satellite dishes outside shacks. Interesting sight.

I went to a pub last night.  It was grungy, and smelly, and filled with a very diverse crowd.  There was a live band, that played the same classic rock music I hear on Q107 back in Toronto.  The main singer was wearing orange spandex pants, and had a very nice skullet.  They were good. I was there with about 8 German people, mostly girls who volunteer through WorkTravelSA.  This company brings in the volunteers that do various programs, including social work, conservation, and the field surveying to collect the data I am managing right now.  One girl has asked me to go paragliding with her.  Perhaps I will.

There are pros and cons about everything in life, but I must say, I’m not impressed with the “Tomato Sauce”.. Where is the Ketchup?! and where are the Ketchup chips?!

If the weather is nice on Monday, I am going to hike up the Helderberg Mountain.  This is the mountain I live next to.

I will leave it at that for now.  I hope everyone back home is doing great!  Miss you!

-Stef, Somerset West, S.A.

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