Field Notes

South Africa : 1 • June 14-June 30, 2016

Mozambique!

June 28, 2016

Greetings from Ukutula!

It’s hard to believe that our adventure through Africa is coming to a close but boy, do we have some stories to share! Since last week, we have been exploring the beautiful coastline of Northern Mozambique, a country bursting with culture and history. Though activities like surfing, SCUBA diving and ocean safari filled our days, our fondest memories were made together over late night milkshakes at Dino’s, afternoon walks to the market or uncontrollable laughter at Moonup. Upon our arrival at Tofo Scuba, our private house just a quick walk up the beach, we were confronted with a bought of bad weather. Cloudy skies, pockets of rain and rough currents inhibited our diving and ocean safari on day one in Mozambique. The kids took this hiccup in great stride and opted to make the most of our day by rocking their pool dives that morning  and electing to take on a beach hike to the town’s Monument, a famous attraction for all in Tofo. Our beautiful walk up the beach culminated with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. As we sat on high cliffs, weathered by the salt of the sea, we listened to the story of the Monument with the ocean pounding against rocks meters below. Getting sprayed by the splash of high waves, we learned about Tofo’s colonial history and the bravery of its people. Moments like this gave us a better understanding of this place and our relationship to it as guests. After the walk, our group ventured into the local marketplace, a stretch of vendors with brightly colored jewelry, wood carvings, paintings, instruments, tapestries, pottery and more. The kids practiced their Portuguese and currency conversions as they labored to bring home the best gifts for you all – tokens of their adventure abroad. Everyone was impressed by Julia’s purchases. As an aspiring designer, her eye for beautiful shells and unique jewelry was admired and copied by more than a few students. With shopping at the market and a gorgeous hike behind us, we were ready for a good night’s sleep and the full day of beach activities to come!
The next morning we woke early with the sun light flooding our netted beds. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of egg sandwiches and fruit at Tofo Scuba before splitting into our dive groups. It was a joy to watch veteran divers teach the first time students about life underwater. Paige helped our students to master their scuba hand signs while Henry regaled us with stories from his past dives, sharing some tips and tricks. Games of beach volleyball and Spoons filled our morning in between the dive sessions with Mary Clarke and Suzanne as champions on the court. Our teams came together for an afternoon of ocean safari and though Lilia suffered a touch of sea sickness, she took it in stride. Friends Walker and Martha Wright were quick to lend a helping hand and a joke to lighten her mood. On the open water, our snorkel equipment in hand, we saw pods of dolphins splashing though waves nearby and explored the wonders of the reefs beneath us. Delaney was a natural in the water, always itching to dive down a little deeper, and veteran snorkeler, Rainey, even brought her own mask and wet suit. Excitement and wonder drove our small group as we floated atop the deep blue waters. Once back on dry land for the afternoon, Luke impressed us all with his incredible surfing abilities. It was awesome to watch his energy and perseverance as he mounted his board time and time again. With salty hair and sun kissed cheeks, we were off to Dino’s to celebrate Mozambique’s Independence Day. It’s no Fourth of July, but our group loved dancing it out and being a part of the festivities on the beach.
For our last night in Mozambique, we opted to cook our own dinner at our house, an exercise in group bonding and an educational experience for all! We made fajitas with cookie/brownies for desert. Suzanne and Mary Clarke headed up the desert team, while Rainey, Henry and Walker helped to season and sear our spicy chicken. Delaney and Martha Wright took charge of making some delicious grilled pineapple, while Luke and Julia were masters of dicing – chopping eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes for our vegetable fry. Paige and Lilia tried their hand at making guacamole with gigantic avocados and cloves of garlic, a treat for us all to enjoy! After a few hours in the kitchen, our labors paid off and we enjoyed a beautiful, home cooked meal together on our porch under the stars with the sounds of the ocean muffled by our laughter at another one of Luke’s stories. With a travel day ahead of us, our group eagerly anticipated our return to South Africa as our last activity of the trip has been widely anticipated! Today we will interact with baby lions at Ukutula and could not be more excited. We can’t wait to share more about this experience as we reach the close of our amazing adventure. More stories to come soon!
Baie Dankie!
Claire and Tyler

Service in Makuleke

June 26, 2016

Howdy, from half way around the world!

It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the last leg of our incredible adventure through Africa but are thrilled that we have some unforgettable stories to share. Since our time at Karongwe tracking the Big 5 and sleeping out in the Bush, our group has undertaken an amazing community service project in the remote Makuleke village, been exposed to the sport of Kloofing, and hopped the border into beautiful Mozambique!

With community engagement being widely anticipated by the students, and even a driving factor in their choosing to travel to South Africa, we could not wait to explore Makuleke and immerse ourselves in the culture of this village. We learned from our community partners that our project would be to organize and decorate the Drop-In Center, a non-profit day care for young children without stable family lives. Some of the dozens children we would meet, play with and come to love were without cozy beds, hot meals and basic care at the end of each day, outside of the love and support provided at the center. Moondance was able to contribute a number of gifts to make the center brighter, fuller and more accessible to children in the community. As our group arrived in the village, we understood our gifts to Makuleke but were shocked and moved by the gifts that these humble families, who are rich in love, tradition and gratitude, were able to give to us. We drove on the dusty dirt road, lined with drooping palms and pops of brightly colored flowers, to be greeted by a performance: a group of elders in the village composed a song and dance to depict the history of their community.

Our group enjoyed some local refreshments while watching the performance and at its conclusion, were invited to join in the fun. Lilia was the first to jump into the circle for a traditional African dance and Walker was soon to follow. The local kids relished in our clumsy rendition of their traditional dances and neither group was short of smiles. Our laughter blended in with the pulsing beat of African drums as each student got their turn in the circle. It was the perfect way to start out our day in Makuleke. After getting settled in our huts, we were off to the Drop-In Center. As our bus approached the center, Shakira’s Waka Waka on the radio, the music was substituted with another kind of sound, the laughter and chiding of the children. Yelling words of welcome, the children began to circle our bus, excitedly waiting for our exit. As the doors of the van slid open, so in poured the joy and enthusiasm of hundreds of children. Our hearts were full at the sight and sound of the reception.

Exiting the bus and heading towards the center, children jumped forward hoping for hugs and high fives. They were mesmerized by Martha Wright’s blonde hair and Suzanne’s bright smile. In the center, Delaney and Julia took the lead on crafting a Moondance painting that included all our hand prints while Mary Clarke and Rainey worked hard to assemble toys for the children. Paige and Henry played soccer with the kids outside and Luke lead the group in laughter, always impressing us with his subtle wit and killer dance moves. Mixing our time between working in the center and playing with the kids, we grew closer as a group and the students immersed themselves in the beauty of Makuleke. Delaney was always quick to volunteer, blowing up soccer balls and putting together toys, while Suzanne’s positive attitude helped us work happily and productively. Julia, strong and steady, was a huge asset in decorating and Lilia formed true bonds with the kinds over the course of our short visit. She gathered groups of children, teaching them songs and games, with Paige and Rainey’s help. Once back at our lodging for the night, we enjoyed a home cooked meal of sweet potatoes, beets, rice and chicken before having our Moonup in the village under the stars. As LODS (Leaders of the Day) Luke and Mary Clarke helped us to debrief the day and share a moment of peace and gratitude for the experience. The next morning, we wrapped up our time in the village with an irrigation tour of the village’s farms (where all the potatoes for SIMBA chips are grown!) and a visit to a local Crèche, or day care for young kids.

Our experience at Makuleke was unforgettable and deeply impactful for each member of our group. Everyone cited the visit as their favorite part of the trip thus far and it left everyone with a heart for serving others. In giving of our time and energy, we learned just how much we could receive from this community. They taught us to work together, to appreciate the little things, and to grow in the beauty of nature. The community’s passion for their culture and history was inspiring, allowing us to reflect on our role as global citizens, ambassadors of our own home towns and guests in a new land.

Leaving Makuleke was bitter sweet, but we were thrilled by exciting new adventures that lay ahead. Over the next few days, we went Kloofing (a happy mix of cliff jumping, river walking, and caving) in the beautiful Blyde River Canyon and crossed the border into Mozambique. As you all read this, our group will be diving into the Indian Ocean with goggles and fins, on the lookout for whale sharks! Keep your fingers crossed that we sight some! As always, thank you for letting us undertake this adventure with your amazing kids! Any activity we do is a blast with this group because of their enthusiasm and positivity. We will write back soon with more notes from the field. Cheers!

Hamba Kahle,

Claire and Tyler


Elephant Sanctuary, 'Animal Game' & Much Much More!

June 21, 2016

Howzit and Cheers from the bush!

Families, we are so sorry for the delay in producing our first update! We have been going what feels like a mile a minute over here and with a few new and exciting destinations on our itinerary, we have been living the Moondance motto, being truly unplugged! The first week of our trip has been filled with adventure – from the impressively long flight to Johannesburg (worthy of boasting as it’s the third longest in the world!), which Mary Clarke bravely undertook by herself, to safari and Eco-Training in the African bush, we are short of neither smiles nor new experiences to share.

Tyler and I are truly grateful to be here in South Africa with your kids. They may not know it yet, but ours is a very special group in the Moondance family and it makes our trip together just that much more life changing. Each student is energetic, curious, spontaneous and happy to be here – it is a gift to get to know them!

We began our journey with a quick visit to the elephant Sanctuary in Bela Bela after our welcoming stay at a traditional South African guest house. The group was introduced to these beautiful creatures and treated to a traditional shower – water sprayed straight from the elephants’ trunk! The true fun in this day was our introduction to the “Animal Game” which has since proven to be a favorite among the kids. Lilia and Henry are masters of stealth and agility in the sport. Though Paige and Suzanne often find themselves in the middle of the Animal circle, they are always “it” with a smile. With an early morning ahead of us, our group departed from Bela Bela en route to  Karongwe, the remote and rural site of our Eco-Training camp. We played word games and “Three Heads” on the 4 hour bus ride while admiring scenes of beautiful villages and distant mountains in our windows. Women in colorful scarves carrying pottery jugs atop their heads passed gaggles of uniformed school children, who excitedly ran after our bus on their way home from class. Snapshots of open markets and never ending plains flew past us as we grew closer to our destination, the thriving Karongwe Reserve. Once at camp, we were greeted by our trackers and guides, then seated for high tea, a colonial tradition in the bush! After some delicious muffins, fruit and tea, we got settled in our open aired tents, excited for the activities to come though wary that a lion or elephant may wall through camp at any time! Nervous energy and curiosity pulsed through our group as the guides gave us a quick safety briefing before building us a beautiful fire for the night. Julia was a tremendous help at camp, always eager to lend a hand and consistently staying after meals to make sure that we had cleaned everything up!  Her bright smile and will to serve is a gift to us all. Meanwhile, whatever activity has come our way, Rainey has taken the lead, never failing to volunteer. In doing so, she has set the tone for the group and lead by example, encouraging others to get involved! Walker is never far behind as a humor filled leader among the group, as a natural champion in the “Animal Game”, his skill has impressed us all.

In the spirit of trying new things, Martha Wright, Delaney and Luke have taken this, their first Moondance trip, in great stride. Luke never fails to get a laugh with his many questions and inspiring rapping abilities while Martha Wright’s positive attitude and calming energy is a blessing to us all. At Karongwe, our group learned to track animals on game walks and drives. Splitting into two teams,  we were able to get a more personalized experience with the guides and everyone learned even more. When it comes to medical advice, however, Henry is always able to interject his well-informed perspective as a self-designated pre-pre-med student. His wit and sense of humor have allowed him to bond quickly with everyone in the group. After a fantastic few days at Karongwe, we were able to sleep out on Pride Rock in the bush – a scene straight out of the Lion King and a once in a lifetime experience for us all. With a full moon rising overhead, we had the opportunity to look back on our first few days and eagerly anticipate our visit to the Makeleke village to engage in our service project. We laughed about our fire building competitions (Team Lit, comprised of Suzanne, Henry, Lilia and Dubs ie. Martha Wright, the obvious winners) and reveled in the beauty of an African sunset. With our community service projects just ahead,  we can’t wait to see what Makuleke has in store for us! More notes from the field to come soon, thank you again for your patience!

Til’ Next Time!
Claire and Tyler

Father’s Day Messages:

Happy fathers Day dad! Love ya.
– Suzanne

Dad! Love you and I miss you. Happy fathers Day.  See you when I get home. Have a good one.
– Paige G

Happy fathers Day dad! Hope you have a great day! Love you so much.
– Lilia

Happy fathers Day dad! I love you so much and I can’t wait to see you!
– Martha Wright

Happy father’s day dad! Can’t wait to see you.
– Luke Sherrill

Happy fathers Day dad! Love you.
– Walker

Happy fathers Day dad! Miss you!  Love you!
– Henry

Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I love you so so much!! Happy fathers Day!!
– Rainey

Happy fathers Day from Africa! I can’t wait to see you when I get home!
– Love,  Julia

Happy fathers Day Jere! I love you and miss you so much! I wish I could spend the day with you but we’ll celebrate when I get home!
– Delaney

Happy fathers Day dad! Love and miss you! See you soon.
– Love, Mary Clarke