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Thanda 6.4

This is the title because originally we were planned to go to a reserve called Thanda, but they were all booked, so Rhino River Lodge was the second option, but for the longest time we weren't sure if we were going to be able to go on the safari.

sunny 78 °F

It’s Sunday night, and I’m back at the Lodge after going on a weekend Safari at Rhino River Lodge. It was…one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. It’s impossible to capture the experience, but I’ll try to give a description of our schedule to try and give a picture of it. All in all, it was about a 24-hour experience; we left the Lodge at 11AM, arrived by 1PM, then left the next day (today) at 11. We got there and immediately were greeted with lemonade refreshments and cool towels to wipe our faces with. That’s when I first sensed this safari experience was going to be better than I imagined. The property was gorgeous. I roomed with three other people and our “Chalet”, as it was called, had two floors, bath and shower, coffee/tea/biscuits, and a huge living room with plush couches. We did have a couple of visitors being many crickets and a gecko in the bath tub – the real wildlife experience. Now, the rooms we stayed in were on the game reserve, so when night came, we had to be escorted by guards because there was a risk of wild game (which we saw impala and many warthogs). At 1:30PM we were served an amazing lunch of cheeseburgers/cheesecake and then went on our first safari at 3PM. We were on the drive for about 4 hours. I have never been so content and calm in a car for that long. When we finished I thought it had only been 30 minutes. It was nice because we stopped halfway on this grassy plain by this rock that looked like Pride Rock from The Lion King. We were given free drinks (I had a tequila mixed with Passion Fruit granita) and snacks. Our guide’s name was Stuart. We are now following each other on Instagram. He was amazing. His specialty is the Big 5, so we ended up seeing every animal from the Big 5 except a panther. My favorite favorite favorite animal we saw was a momma cheetah. She was a queen. So gorgeous. I made sure to take notes on every animal we saw as Stuart explained facts about them. When we got back, dinner was chicken or lamb and then a dessert.

This morning, we were served muffins and coffee/tea at 6AM before leaving for our morning game drive at 6:30. It was insanely cold! Right off the bat we saw a hyena, which was a big surprise because they are nocturnal. It looked mean, but it was pretty stocky, which is different than how The Lion King portrays them. We were out another four hours and our goal today was to spot a rhino. We saw momma cheetah again which was cool, but I was worried we wouldn’t see a rhino because we were heading back to the lodge and had only seen outline of two from a long distance. Suddenly, over the radio our guide got word of a White Rhino. We were lucky enough to see it! It had its horns cut to help prevent poaching. Our guide was such a daredevil. He went off the path and got way closer than they are supposed to get. Our car was full of girls and we all trusted him at that point and were like “get closer! Go Stuart!”. When we got back, we were served another huge breakfast. I swear, I could never in my wildest dreams imagine how amazing that safari was going to be. And to think, I wasn’t going to sign up to go because of the price, but all of my friends told me that if I never had the opportunity to return to South Africa, I would regret not going on one. Really, this safari was super cheap for everything that was included. I swear, if the doctor thing doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to find me on the safari being a ranger. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, beyond expectations experience that no one should miss out on.

Posted by kfkeane 09:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset queen breakfast dinner safari lodge chicken drive cheetah game coffee rhino tequila volunteer cold cricket hyena golden_hour big_5 muffin Comments (2)

Week 3 - Check!

sunny 80 °F

Today I decided to take a morning off running and stationary bike instead. My legs were feeling a bit sore and banged up, so I thought ‘why not?’. At the morning meeting during breakfast, I learned my roommates and I would be having another visitor in our room for our last week…none of us were too happy – quite the opposite. It just seems weird to have a 47-year-old woman move in with a group of college students. Now we have 7 girls sharing one shower, so fingers crossed everything works out.

My first project today was my favorite: gardening! Yay! We built an entire garden, and then started raking dirt and picking up stones :D It sounds silly and looked silly, but the yard actually looked better when we had finished. Something funny was that we found like 10 marijuana plants on the property. I'd never seen one before. When we had finished, we took our gardening tools and a sugar cane (they grow everywhere so people are always eating them) and walked about 30 minutes to the highway to wait for the bus. It was really cool to walk through the villages because normally we are in the bus and only get out once we are at our project location. Across the street from where we were waiting for the bus was someone selling hand carved wooden bowls. They were gorgeous and I decided to buy one as a souvenir – of course I bartered for it! Ironically, the man I bought it from said he had remembered our project group from a clinic session we had previously given on vaginal thrush. I’m sure the topic is burned in his memory, as there were some graphic images included.

At lunch, I picked up what I hope was my last load of laundry while here. I think if worse comes to worst I will just hand wash anything else I may need. Afternoon project was Reading Club, which I honestly wasn’t too thrilled about because the projects that include children really drain me. Honestly, it was really fun, though – maybe that’s because only three girls came who were middle schoolers. When they came, they picked out some books and read out loud to us. Then they had some cookies and juice and left. It’s their holiday right now, so I feel like Reading Club is busier when school is in session. At this location, there is this HUGE storage tank just full of books. Unfortunately, the roof had rusted through and all of the books had been damaged by the rain. It was traumatizing to see such good books damp and mildewey. It reminded me of something that had happened to my family’s children’s books back home. Opening the trailer, a stench just hit us. We spent a lot of Reading Club taking out books and leaving them in the sun to dry.

Honestly, that was about all to my day. I got home and decided to run to the beach and back right before sunset (which was at 5:00PM since it’s the shortest day of the year today), ate dinner, and now am doing sudoku while Selma plays in the background. Tomorrow we go to our overnight safari and then only one week left!!

Posted by kfkeane 11:57 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset home beach walk garden books safari run bike read volunteer movie souvenir sudoku Comments (0)

Not Sure How To Feel About It

sunny 80 °F

WIFI IS BACK ON!!!! It came on right before dinner.

So my alarm went off this morning and every being in my body wanted to go back to bed. I didn't, though, because I was supposed to meet three other people to run. The sun began to rise, though, and no one had shown up, so I went off on my own. I ended up seeing one of them along the way. I'm glad I got out running, but I think I'm going to take the day off tomorrow and sleep in.

Running has been nice on this trip because it has kept me relaxed. We sit a lot and I would be so antsy if I didn't exercise. After running, I took my laundry in for the first time. It was washed, folded, and ready by 1PM. For morning project, I was on wound care. I thought it was going to be very gruesome, like an episode of Grey's Anatomy, but it was much more doable than I had expected. This project really made me question volunteering abroad though. There were four of us students with a caregiver. It felt like we were extra, in the way. It was also weird because they had so few supplies. Like latex gloves, for example. I really didn't feel comfortable working around the bloody/open wounds without using gloves. This made me question the work we were doing. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what bothered me about this experience in general. We spent an entire semester before leaving for the Africa learning about responsible volunteering, and it feels like we are breaking all of those rules. We never communicate with the locals. Of course, this is hard because of the language barrier, but we never listen to what the people actually want. For example, when we were giving a lesson on healthy eating at the clinic the other day, a woman said, "next time you come, bring healthy food for us". They don't want to be lectured about how to eat healthy; they want access to healthy foods. Obviously, the biggest problems require changes at a government level, but I feel like we would be doing more good if we built community gardens and taught yoga classes. Show them how to live healthy lives rather than just reading facts about it. Rant on that over.

New rant. The food situation. I feel like an animal because I'm always worried if there is going to be enough food. All of us feel that way, especially now that a new family just came to the Lodge. Also, there is never meat in the meals!!!! It's driving me crazy! I can't live off of meals of potatoes and rice! It's okay. Things are pretty good here. Before dinner, we took a walk to the beach and just sat there soaking in the last rays of daylight. That always makes for a good end to the day. We are currently watching Moana and I found some pretty good microwave popcorn to eat while I listen to the movie and play Sudoku. Feeling content, and having wifi definitely helps!

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Posted by kfkeane 11:50 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset beach friends sun run hot relax experience volunteer movie exercise early Comments (6)

A Mix of Work and Fun

semi-overcast 66 °F

So it has been a busy last couple of days. On Friday, I spent some time at a preschool teaching shapes and the alphabet and playing games and singing songs with the local children. In the afternoon, I helped lead an information session on HIV/AIDS at the local clinic to the village caregivers. I learned SO much about it. Like I didn’t know that you can live with HIV if you get treatment but once it progresses to AIDS, which is the 3rd stage of the disease, it is completely fatal.

Saturday started off as a really great day. I FINALLY SLEPT IN!!!!! Went for a run and met the rest of my cohort at the beach. A couple waves demolished me, but still had the time of my life! The beach is my happy place here. Went for a nice, long walk along the beach and saw a family slaughtering chickens on the shore. Supposedly it’s cleaner, so that’s why they do it. We then walked back to the lodge, about 30 minutes, and I was able to FaceTime audio my parents!! Hearing their voices made me start to tear up; it has been so long. I was so happy! I rode that mood to Zulu Cultural Night…where it quickly faded. It started to rain as soon as we arrived. The beginning of the night was kind of interesting because we got to learn about the traditional Zulu culture; we wore some of the traditional dress, partook in dancing, and at dinner, but it felt like they were selling their culture, which was a bit of a turnoff. The activities ended at 7:30 but we were there until 9AM the next morning. We sat around a bonfire and played Mafia and most of us didn’t sleep at all. It was a bit uncomfortable because we were in a really unsafe area. I could hear EDM music all night, animals howling and cooing, and then when I was lying in bed, one of the male employees walked into our hut on accident (yes, we stayed in the traditional huts), and it was very awkward. None of us felt comfortable the entire night and barely slept. I did make me grateful for the lodge though :D

Today was pretty good as well. Took a relaxing morning. Ran and saw some monkeys having sex and a snake. Tried to do laundry but the not so “7 days/week” laundromat was closed…guess I’ll do it tomorrow? Made avocado toast and eggs for lunch then got to not only talk to my parents but see them as well today because I found strong enough wifi to FaceTime. Tried to see the sunset at the jetty but just missed it. Whatever. I have many more days to make it happen. I’m so sad that I have to wake up early again tomorrow, but then it’ll make me more grateful for sleeping in on the weekends. Hopefully everyone back home is doing well. I think of you all often. XOXO

Posted by kfkeane 11:48 Archived in South Africa Tagged monkeys sunset traditional hut south_africa zulu eggs preschool early avocado Comments (3)

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