July 17, 2018
Greetings overseas readers..Howzit me bro?
Cape Town treated us well. Our 5 days here in the southernmost part of Africa were full of challenging activities, new sights, people, and many funny memories. When we arrived at our house in Fish Hoek and settled down with homemade quesadillas on the first night, we new we were in store for good times. Shoutout to Madison, Louise, Maddy, Sinclair, Carter for helping out in the kitchen during our first night.
The first day included a steep hike up Table mountain with fantastic views of the city and coastline below us. Every student hiked confidently and at a speedy rate…with no complaining! Alina especially did a good job braving the rocky mountain side. We passed foreign travelers doing the same as us and also saw locals sprinting their way up. At the top we celebrated our climb with lunch and did some browsing at the quaint Shop at the Top. Katherine and Mary were especially helpful with keeping spirits high during our hike. Eventually we trekked back down the mountain with stops to take in the scenery then made our way back along the coast home for Chipotle night prepared by our cook crew.
Next, sand-boarding! Sarah and Sophie really showed to be true pros when we hit the dunes. We had a blast sliding down giant sand hills and even rolled down some too. Covered with sand and feeling ready to “Shaka” we moved onto surfing in Little Bay. It was a gorgeous day for the beach and we could see the outline of Table Mountain in the distance from the water. It feels good to explore ancient peaks, board into valleys, and learn new skills like surfing all in such a beautiful country like South Africa. We truly are lucky and feeling alive every day. The group is continuing to grow closer and students are growing on individual levels as well. Later that night we arrived home tired and happy to enjoy a carbo loaded pasta dinner. We discussed our fears, what makes us laugh, and who we want to meet all at Moonup.
Our third day consisted of breakfast and coffee in Kawk Bay, which was just rated 2nd best town in the world to visit. Shoutout to Douglas for always making us laugh during these days with his hilarious impersonations of people we met and especially on our seal island cruise. We left the docks to explore the sea on a boat to seal island, where famous National Geographic shots often catch local seals and great whites.
After stopping by a local Ostrich farm, helped lead a hike to the lighthouse of Cape Point and students walked down the cliffs toward the ocean. From the lighthouse you can view the Indian and Atlantic Ocean at the same time. We ended the night with a belated 4th of July grill out party, never forgetting our friends and own culture back in the States.
Ziplining in the Grabouw mountains day turned bowling town day when the weather worsened in the mountains. The weather didn’t stop us from having a blast and exploring more of what Cape Town had to offer. Students had a blast shopping for funny banquet outfits and warming up together after zip-lining. The bus ride was full of scenic views as well as we drove along beaches, mountains, and luscious valleys.
Finally, we flew back to Johannesburg and safely arrived at Ukutula Lion Reserve. Here we learned about the program’s mission to fund car research and work to help endangered species such as lions. We had the opportunity to walk with large lions in the bush, play with baby lion cubs, pet a cheetah, and learn about various other animals such as a tiger, hyenas, and more. Tommy, one of our leaders of the day, helped lead these activities by acting calm and respectful around the wild animals. Everyone definitely grew from going out of their comfort zone at Ukutula. We had so much fun wrapping up our journey here with the students and enjoying our last night together over a steak dinner banquet.
Joseph and I are thankful for this group because they have such a mature, yet fun and outgoing energy. Their laughter and positivity is contagious and especially important while traveling with a big group abroad. We believe every single student in this group has grown and changed in a unique way, and learned meaningful lessons from experiences which brought them out of their comfort zone. We all will keep a little piece of Africa in our hearts as we carry on back to the States while also remembering our special friendshipahops formed here (shoutout Hein, Ryan, Phillip, Peter, Patience, Evangelist…).
We challenge every student to continue to participate in service work, go out into nature, and engage in new conversation every day. We will miss 2A dearly and we wish you a happy remainder of the summer.
With love always,
Bella and Joseph
July 9, 2018
Salutations from Cape Town! It’s been a wild couple of days, but we are still charging through our trip. We just completed our service section, and are so excited to have created such amazing friendships with the people at Bushveld Mission. Bushveld Mission is a home that takes kids in and “loves them back to life.” They are an incredible group of individuals and do a beautiful job of living in the moment.
On the first day of our community service we showed up eager to work, and we definitely got what we bargained for. Bushveld eagerly accepted our help and had the kids working all over their property. Sophie and Mary led the group as LOD’s and were invaluable assets to helping Bushveld complete a number of their projects. Sarah and Louise got their daily workouts in by moving rocks to help some workers build a patio, while Madison and Sinclair helped Bella paint one of the bathrooms. It was awesome watching everyone work together with members of the Bushveld organization to finish some of these longstanding tasks, but the best part was definitely playing games with all of the younger kids. The kids immediately gravitated towards Alina and Maddy and their incredibly warm personalities, which helped lighten everyone’s moods and allow us to grow closer with them. Tommy and Carter were animals out on the soccer field, where they represented the US much better than our own National team. In the end, the first day was a total success filled with love and laughter.
The next few days were spent working around the mission home, which helped us become so much closer with all of the mission kids. We loved giving back to their community, but it was the lessons that we learned from the people at Bushveld that made our service days so special. It was truly awesome watching our students build strong relationships with our new friends and Bella and I hope that they continue to stay in touch over the coming years.
After our service days, we boarded a plane and headed to the World renowned Cape Town! Katherine and Douglas were practically superman and superwoman, leading us throughout the two airports on our travel day. The flight from JoBurg was filled with card games and conversations, which carried us over to our next big adventure. Once in Cape Town, we paid a visit to our local Pick n’ Pay grocery store where we loaded up on food for the week ahead. We’re now in our house and incredibly excited to go climb the infamous Table Mountain tomorrow! Hope all is well back in the states and we can’t wait to share the next part of our trip with y’all!!
Until next time,
Bella, Joseph, and Simba
July 5, 2018
Greetings from the African bush,
After their long trip across the sea, 2A safely landed in the beautiful, the great, mother Africa. We were awaiting our students with arms wide open! Despite their jetlag, this group has been upbeat, positive, and full of life since we first met in Johannesburg. So far, our adventure includes experiences and incredible views which are hard to put into words. We are extremely proud of our students because each and every one of them came straight into this new and wild place with confidence and excitement; ready to challenge themselves and meet new people!
We quickly zipped from the airport to our lodging for the night where we met our outfitter Angela for pizza and a briefing for our trip. We could immediately tell this group will enjoy themselves because of their kind nature and ability to get along with one another. Among a group of returning Moondancers, Carter is our only first-time student although you’d never guess since he was chosen as our first Leader of the Day!
After catching up on sleep (or trying to despite our excitement over here), the students started their first official day as we headed to walk with elephants! Every student got the chance to ride, touch, and learn more about this species’ intelligence. Here we observed and interacted with some of the sanctuary’s 7 African elephants who were rescued from more dangerous lands, so they may live in a rehabilitation zone. Katherine stepped up to volunteer in a memory game with the elephants and was very brave while we encountered our first African animal in the bush.
Students learned a lot about the elephants’ keen sense of smell, memory, and loyalty as they may draw a personal connection to how important they are in our lives. We also learned about cultural sensitivity, personal care while traveling outdoors, and good expedition behavior as well.
Next, we stopped at a local burger joint for lunch and continued our trek toward monkey camp, which we will call home for the next few days. Monkey camp is a magical place and hours into our arrival our elephant neighbors visited the watering hole for a drink…they were quite the welcoming committee.
We settled in, but are still getting used to the animal noises we hear throughout the night (calls from wild hippo, leopard, lion, hyena and many others). The next morning, our first of many safari drives took us onto the plains, where we saw a breathtaking African sunrise on a very chilly morning. We spent our second night sleeping out under the stars on cots. Tommy and Louise were our mighty leaders of the day who helped everyone get ready for our long and cold night that lay ahead of us. That night we enjoyed a traditional African braii for dinner, and everyone tasted some of our guide Ryan’s homemade Impala sausage. Ryan gave a lesson on wildlife safety and taught our group all about the constellations. The sky there was so clear that it allowed us to see things we normally can’t see from home. After s’mores and stories, Sarah and Mary took first night watch. The students then switched off throughout the night to keep lookout for dangerous game that may want to come and pay our camp a little visit. Joseph and I were so proud of how confidently the group faced the sleep out by going out of their comfort zone. Every student took something positive away from this experience, and definitely grew during the process.
That following morning, our new LODs Douglas and Katherine led us (alongside trained guides) through a bush walk where we viewed National Geographic-like scenes from only a few feet away. We saw giraffes, zebras, and also had rhinos visit us near camp. We detoured up a mountain for a gorgeous view of the African open terrain where we had just slept the night before.
With Madison and Sinclair keeping us laughing at their Africa’s themed puns, the group is continuing to grow much closer while we spend time out here in the bush. Next, we enjoyed an African brunch looking out over the watering hole with the mountains in the background. We then concluded our day with a sunset safari drive. During our drive we stopped for tea and biscuits at a watering hole where a giraffe joined us. Later, we saw hippos showing off their teeth while snorting, and we finally stumbled upon our first lion which was one of the local dominant males. We got the pleasure of viewing it at night which we can add to our list of the many fantastic once in a lifetime views we’ve had so far.
Today we celebrated 4th of July in a way that 99.99% of the world may never get the chance to celebrate- by tagging a wild white rhino. We met with some of Africa’s best veterinary conservation crew who sedated the rhino by helicopter, then met us on the field where they showed us how to take DNA samples and tag rhinos. The students learned the true threat of rhino poaching and had the chance to touch and admire the rhino from up close. This is something we will never forget, and we want to give a huge thanks to Alina and Maddy for leading the students with respectful and calm behavior during this awesome experience. To finish the day off, Sophie led the charge to find a leopard during our evening game drive. We must have drove around the reserve for hours until Sarah and Sophie finally spotted some leopard eyes staring back at us from a bush. It was only for a brief second, but we were able to see the last of the Big 5 on our final evening here at monkey camp!
Needless to say, there are no complaints as we are loving every day of this trip! Next, we’ll travel to the Bushveld Mission and partake in community service.
Until next time,
Bella & Joseph
June 30, 2018
Hello South Africa Families!
Your students landed safely in Johannesburg this afternoon. We have been in touch with the group leaders, and the trip is off to a great start! We can’t wait to hear more about their adventures.