June 30, 2018
It’s the final countdownnnn!
After our days in the orphanage we made our way south to the one and only, CAPE TOWN, where we found the beach, city, and mountains all in one view from our house. No complaints here! The students loved this beautiful and different portion of South Africa. They went out of their comfort zone both physically and mentally, while growing immensely as young leaders.
On our first day in Cape Town we were assisted by Katherine, Campbell, Brian, and Clark in the local grocery store for a Cheaper by the Dozen style shopping trip to find all we needed for home cooked meals! They learned how to meal prep for a large group by being organized and efficient. We all shared a meal at South Africa’s version of Chick-Fil-A called Nandos.
After settling into our new home, we started off our adventures by hiking “all the way UP!” the infamous Table Mountain (one of the new 7 wonders in the world). We climbed for hours to reach the peak and sip hot cocoa in the clouds to celebrate our summit. Table Mountain, one of the oldest mountains in South Africa, provided a beautiful and humbling climb. Clark epitomized leadership by encouraging his friends to continue heading up the steep mountain. Ann Harper did a fantastic job by facing her fear of heights and climbing with confidence and keeping a positive attitude along the way. We were so proud of them all! When we got home we had “Chipotle night.” Katherine whipped us up some especially tasty guacamole with her own personal recipe- it was fantastic.
Next, sand boarding in the dunes! Every single person gave it their all and despite windy conditions everyone flew down the dunes with smiles from ear to ear. We felt like kids in a giant sand box.
Later that day we drove to go surfing in the chilly waves. To their relief we didn’t see any great whites, but we did see our students give it their all and dive in head first.After a satisfyingly exhausting day of activities we shared a yummy pasta dinner, family style.
On Sunday, we stretched our sore legs and went out for a walk to Cape Point. On our way we drove along the famous Chapman’s drive (right up Gresh Chapman’s alley) and saw the most scenic cliffside view of the town and sea. We stopped along the way to watch massive waves roll in along the coast and also visited an ostrich farm. We were really proud of Avery for facing her hilarious fear of birds today!
As one of our leaders of the day, Sallie helped lead our hike to Cape Point where students viewed the Indian and Atlantic Ocean at the same time from the Cape Point lighthouse. Here William was excited to find a fellow Georgia fan had written “Go dawgs!” at the lighthouse (we got a picture for you, dad). William always makes us laugh and we discovered he can do a really good cover of the Mario Cart song…so definitely ask him to sing that when he gets home.We took a lunch break for fresh fish and chips and explored along Simon’s town waterfront before embarking to see the adorably charming South African penguins of Boulders Beach. Nathalie entertained the group with her new “Africa pants” she was wearing. We had a fun time cracking jokes with the rest of the students about the penguins waddling, and comparing them to ourselves. The students never cease to make us laugh every day, which is so important when you’re traveling with a group.
Lastly, we took a bumpy ride up into the Grabouw Mountains where we hiked to a giant ziplining course. This experience tested anyone with a fear of heights and challenged the students to try something new. The views were straight out of a magazine.“It was really beautiful, so cool to do, and a little scary too.“ -Lucy
We ate fresh, warm chicken pot pies afterwards and surprised the students with a trip to a local bakery where we got fudge, cookies, apple pie for later, and special African pastries. Needless to say the sugar kick was a great way to celebrate our zip-lining and last day in Cape Town. We ended with a walk in Kristenboasch garden, one of the world’s best botanical gardens.
We wrapped things up and spent our final hours together at the Ukutula Lion Reserve, all tired but with full hearts. Here we learned about and walked alongside African lions and other cats. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Alec was brave enough to pet the cheetahs named Fast and Furious. We had a play date with some 3 month old lion cubs and went for a morning walk in the bush with 3 lions. The students are leaving with a completely newfound passion for wildlife and animal conservation. We know they will apply what they’ve seen and experienced in their everyday lives through conversations with friends and through their actions.
These students have formed special bonds that are unique and can last a lifetime.On our bittersweet last day we sang and danced our way to the airport in our final 2 hour bus ride. It’s safe to say this trip has changed us all for the better, and we have a deeper compassion for the world around us. As co-leaders, we are forever grateful for this group. We will keep the memories we created in a special place in our hearts. Looking back on our experiences, we are incredibly proud of each of our students this summer for bringing a unique energy to the group and growing together. We had an amazing, life-changing experience together and formed relationships with every student in the group. Joseph and I feel every student will take away something different from this trip and continue on as servant leaders in the world. We hope you have a wonderful rest of your summer!
Signing off for the last time,
Bella and Joseph
June 22, 2018
Dumelan (hello) from your fellow South African travelers! We are still rocking and rolling here on the other side of the pond, and life is better than ever. Within the past few days we’ve had the privilege of serving, playing with, and learning from Bushveld Mission’s home outside of Vaalwater. This organization provides food, shelter and family to children and teens who need it. They taught us how they strive to “Love them back to life” by sharing so much love with us. Lucy and the girls got their hair braided like the locals. Nathalie played games with the children including a game that they invented called “Chicago.” We played soccer and gave them new balls which lit up their faces. Soccer is a huge hit here and the kids play all day every day- Can’t write this update without including the fact that William is the next David Beckham and showed his skills playing soccer with the locals. Sallie, Avery, Campbell and the rest of the girls gifted one of their new friends a birthday present and we had a dance party to celebrate. Clark, Alec, Brian, Gresh, and the rest of the boys helped dismantle and rebuild their playground and kitchen cabinets. Ann Harper and Lucy immediately befriended a sweet little boy named Amos and despite the language barrier managed to be BFF’s by day 2.
All of the students helped fold the children’s laundry before they got home from school (shocking I know, they’re great at doing laundry!). We conversed with the leaders April, Michelle, and Owen who all shared their stories with deep passion and contagious energy. Among other things we helped prepare lunch and spent the days learning more about these kind students.
Saying goodbye was truly a struggle and the Moondance students made lasting impressions on Bushveld, while realizing that Bushveld was really the one who helped us. They wrote letters, hugged, cried, exchanged numbers and said goodbye. We hope the feelings they felt encourage our students to keep in touch with their international friends, and will also allow them to go out in their own American communities and lead service work of their own! We are confident they are here for a reason and they have the ability to leave a lasting impact on the world as global citizens and servant leaders and learners.
After Bushveld we traveled to Ant’s Nest. This is a lodge owned by the relative of a local historic settler and it exists to support Save the Waterberg Rhino. After a fantastic presentation of African snakes, our fearless leader, Joseph, overcame his fears with the help of Katherine, who led the group. We had a fantastic lesson from a representative of the STWR who taught us so much about the different species of rhinos all over the world. Most importantly, the speaker taught them how to explain to their friends the impact poaching and conservation has on their lives in the US. Lastly, we met the local rhino family and the incredibly respectable rhino guards who designate their life to living in the bush alongside the wild rhinos to protect them from poachers. The students left feeling empowered and touched knowing they got the opportunity to be so close to a rare species, which they are now more personally encouraged to help protect.
Now, we are off to Cape Town, and excited to get active and explore a new coast! The group is so close you’d think they’ve known each other their whole lives. They are learning so much and truly engaging with each other and the locals. We are proud of them and can’t wait to see what they accomplish in Cape Town!
Signing off and heading to the Southernmost!
Lots of love,
Group A + your leaders Joseph and Bella
June 18, 2018
Wow. What an incredible three days we’ve had at Monkey Camp. We had no idea what to expect when entering the bush, but from the moment we arrived we knew we had found something special. Our adventure in the local game reserve began when William and Nathalie, our LOD’s, led us on a safari drive through the African plains. They worked with our guides to determine the best route in order to see some of the Big 5. We then met up with one of the best veterinarians in Africa and watched as he and two other conservationists proceeded to takeoff in a helicopter to dart and sedate several wild rhinos. We aided and watched the veterinarian and his crew of researchers, tag and withdraw DNA samples from the animal. After the samples were collected and the ears were marked, we watched as the baby rhino slowly woke up and walked off peacefully into the African wilderness. It was awesome watching Gresh and Campbell step in to help the vet collect samples from the rhino’s horn. The experience was truly life changing and it was an honor to be there working side-by-side with the conservationists. Everyone was emotionally moved by this activity and gained valuable insight about animal conservation and the rhino species. We debriefed and most students said it was the coolest thing they’ve ever done.
We enjoyed a bountiful dinner that night and debriefed about our amazing day and what we saw together.
As if this wasn’t fantastic enough, we followed these activities with a sleep out under the stars the following night. From monkey camp, we took a safari ride out into the bush. Lucy and Katherine acted as our spotters for the trip, finding zebras, elephants, baby giraffes, lots of impala and wildebeest, and two male lions. We then arrived in the plains, and right after setting up camp two wild rhinos stopped by to welcome us – they were great hosts – by strolling right next to our cots. Once our visitors left, we had dinner, which was a delicious traditional African Braai meal under a tangerine orange sunset. Alec’s hard work and selflessness has not gone unnoticed, as everyone has been incredibly grateful to him for constantly helping clean up, regardless as to what it’s for. Dinner was followed with popcorn, s’mores, constellations, and good conversation around the fire to keep us warm until bed. This night made students nervous at first, but ended up being a life-changing, empowering, and bonding experience. Avery did a fantastic job of making us much more relaxed by referring to herself as Michael Jackson since she lost one glove earlier in the night. As leaders, we couldn’t be more proud of our students for facing their fears and stepping out of their comfort zone. It also helped having Clark volunteer to stay up all night to pull watch for us, as others caught some z’s. Due to everyone’s compassion and selflessness, we have all strengthened our relationships with one another, as well as with nature and the environment around us.
The next morning we shared stories over tea and biscuits that Sallie so kindly made for us. Once finished, our guides took us for a bush walk, which was led by Brian with Ann Harper as security in the back of the line (our 2 LODs). The walk and scenery felt as if we were placed directly into a National Geographic TV special.
There’s really no perfect way to explain what we experienced in the bush these past couple of days. However, all we can say is that our hearts are filled with joy and satisfaction. We will talk to you guys soon, as we complete our service portion of the trip with the children of the Bushveld Mission. Thanks again, and catch y’all on the flip side!
P.S. We want to wish a very happy belated Father’s Day to all of our Dad’s. Even though we couldn’t talk to you from the bush, we were sure thinking about you all!
Bella and Joseph
June 15, 2018
After airport hellos and goodbyes in Atlanta, we lifted off for a quick 15 hour trip to the other side of the world. Since then life has been full of new sights and amazing experiences, which are difficult to put into words. We do realize that none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for you, the parents, so we’d like to give a special shout-out to y’all for being so organized and prepared. Having all documents ready to go upon arrival made traveling a breeze!
Yesterday, we shared our spirit animals while waiting to board and among those, one of our favorite answers was from Alec, who claimed to be a Pegasus. As the students are starting to learn more about new friends, they’ve already grown comfortable with each other and are truly a great group. Many movies and naps later, we landed on time.
When we touched down in Johannesburg our spirits were high, and the students worked well staying together and traveling safely as a unit. Sallie was especially warm and welcoming to new Moondance students and provided as a helpful leader to introduce everyone.
Angela, our main partner in South Africa, met us with hugs, African pizza, and bottled waters at our hotel which was clean and perfect for settling in on our first night. Next, we started our first full day with a yummy breakfast at the hotel and took off toward Pretoria to our first activity. Katherine and Clark were our leaders of the day. Katherine was great with helping wake all students up to a (very) early start. Clark did a great job leading his peers with patience and stepping up to be responsible while we entered completely new territory in the bush at our first stop, an elephant sanctuary.
At the elephant sanctuary we met 7 African elephants who were rescued from more dangerous lands, so they may live in a rehabilitation zone. The students learned about elephant’s memory by playing games where the elephants correctly remembered them by their names and smells. They also learned how wise and loyal the giants truly are, so they may draw a personal connection to how important they are in our wild world. Students learned about cultural sensitivity and good expedition behavior as well while we worked with our guides and met two elephant researchers from Italy!
Last but not least-the best surprise of all- we got to ride the elephants through the bush. Nathalie got a nice picture taken with her new pal, the local warthog. Avery, Ann Harper, and Lucy had radiant positive energy throughout the day with smiles from ear to ear.
On our way to our final destination of the day, we stopped at an African diner for burgers. Gresh, Brian, and William helped solved our mystery game in the car ride spelling “Just-one-word” claiming themselves as intellectual champions. Campbell genuinely shared how thankful she is to be with the group and noticeably reached out to be a friend to others. Brian provides comic relief with his witty sense of humor. All students together truly started to form a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. We drove through the sunset and arrived at Monkey Camp.
After camp dinner we were hanging out under the AMAZING Milky Way when to our surprise three elephants showed up to have refreshments. They stuck around for a while and we got a lesson on the stars, Jupiter, mars, and constellations. Before bed, an elephant also joined us during Moonup!
I’m typing this now with cold fingers but a warm heart because Joseph and I are overjoyed with the passion and fun this group brings. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Life is good!
Bella & Joseph
June 13, 2018
Hello South Africa Families,
All students have arrived safely in Johannesburg and the trip is on it’s way. More to come later on!