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South Africa: Oh, the places you’ll go

Senior Peter Jorgensen and juniors Ali Foreman and Kate O’Brien are still in South Africa on an exchange trip. Below, Foreman blogs about the various places she’s visited in the last few weeks.

It’s been only two and a half weeks since my last post, but in that time, I’ve experienced more than I could have ever imagined through visits to a wildlife park, the prison that held Nelson Mandela and a leadership camp.
Last time, I was packing for Kruger National Park. While stuffing my backpack with sheets, clothing, malaria tablets, and cooking supplies, I received some unexpected news: massive flooding in the south of Kruger closed the park and left many campers stranded. Considering the danger and inconvenience of being trapped in the wild for a few days, we made the natural choice to go anyway. Junior Kate O’Brien and I, along with our host sisters and one host dad, boarded a plane the next morning and arrived in Johannesburg an hour later.

Junior Ali Foreman (left) and Emma, one of her host sisters, enjoy a beautiful day by Hout Bay. Foreman and the other exchange students have also visited a wildlife park and Robben Island, among other excursions. Photo courtesy Ali Foreman.

For the next seven hours, we chatted in the car as we headed toward the center of Kruger. After a leg-cramping ride, we entered the park and drove past wild dogs, warthogs, giraffes and zebra. This would have satisfied me for the day, but to my surprise, that was just the beginning. We settled in that night, taking care to protect against mosquitoes, and enjoyed a well-deserved rest. In the next three days, we met two lionesses sunbathing in the road, an elephant who threatened to charge the car more than once, a very protective rhino with a very cute calf, more zebra than I could count and an exceedingly friendly giraffe. It felt as though I had been transported into “The Lion King.” The majestic Africa I had been imagining since my departure became real.

These two lionesses are just some of the majestic creatures at Kruger National Park the exchange students visited. The park also boasts elephants, zebras and giraffes. Photo courtesy Ali Foreman.

The next weekend was mostly animal free, though I did see one lone seal. I visited the astounding Robben Island Saturday. Robben Island, “home” to Nelson Mandela for twenty-seven years, was a prison used during the times of Apartheid to suppress political activists. After a thirty-minute boat ride out to the island, a large and foreboding maze of cells and work yards greeted me. Our tour guide, an ex-prisoner of Robben Island, described the harsh lifestyle prisoners on the island suffered as a result of their beliefs in equality for South Africa. For much of the visit, I found myself comparing what I knew of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. to the injustices of Apartheid. I was struck by how both countries learned the same lesson in hugely similar manners. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela both held the belief that progress could only happen through peace and forgiveness–history has proven how correct that belief is.

On the Thursday and Friday of the week that followed, Kate and I joined the Grade 11 Wynberg girls at a leadership and bonding camp. We enjoyed obstacle courses and fun activities with the new friends we’ve met in past weeks. The trip was vaguely reminiscent of sixth grade outdoor ed but far more fun. Saturday, we spent the morning at Retanga Junction, the South African equivalent of Six Flags. We rode roller coasters, became victims to the park’s “Human Slingshot” and enjoyed multiple ice creams each. The next morning, a heat wave overcame the Cape and as Sarah, my host sister, would say, Sunday became quite a “lass.” We lazed about and slept for most of the day: a perfect end to a very busy couple of weeks.

I now have less than three weeks left in my visit, and it’s as if the time I’ve spent here as practically vanished. Initially, I was slightly scared off by the idea of being on my own for so long. Now, I’m only scared I will miss Cape Town too much when I get home.

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