Saturday, July 23, 2016

Donkin Reserve

South Africa is home to some very inspirational people. Nelson Mandela by far being one of those most famous people. We visited Donkin Reserve which is home to beautiful metal cut-outs that depict a voting line. Nelson Mandela is leading the line, symbolic of his role in leading South Africa out of apartheid into a democratic government. Our tour guide introduced us to his granddaughter (depicted in one of the pictures) whom was held by Nelson Mandela as a baby.   
The history behind the creation of Donkin Reserve is rooted in a touching love story of a broken heart. Many people believe that Port Elizabeth was named for Queen Elizabeth which is a misconception.  Port Elizabeth was named after Elizabeth Donkin, wife to Sir Rufane Donkin the acting governor of the unnamed town.  Rufane and Elizabeth, following tradition, were joined by an arranged marriage. However, they both feel deeply in love with each other. Usually, the wives of upper class military men stayed behind during their assignments but Elizabeth desired to accompany Rufane. Elizabeth died in India after giving birth to their only son.  Sir Donkin was devastated with grief and took leave from his military position to overcome his broken heart.  He eventually accepted the position of first governor of the town. He requested that his soldiers build a pyramid at the top of the harbor to honor his dead wife and the town was given her name. Elizabeth was buried in India but Sir Donkin had her heart embalmed with him which he was buried with upon his suicide in 1841. 
A message from Sir Donkin was placed on the pyramid to honor his wife, "In the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the name to the town below."
Being a pure romantic at heart, the story of how Port Elizabeth got its name was truly endearing and touching to me.   

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Visit to the Township


Today we visited a township.  The majority of the South African black population live in these areas. Many of these townships came to existence during the apartheid period. The houses are small and very close together. We were told by our taxi driver that most of these houses are government housing. Challenges that face the people living in the townships are lack of working utilities, establishment of effective schools, violence/gangs, spread of HIV/AIDS and access to other public services such as health care, libraries...  Moreover, one obviously disturbing challenge for the people of townships is the remarkably high amount of trash and litter that covers the landscape.  After speaking with the locals, the problem stems from the lack of a reliable waste collection/disposal by the local government. During a drive through the township, our group saw children sifting through the trash. One of our guides, a student from NMMU and former resident of a township, said they were using the trash to make toys. We could see dogs, goats, cows, and donkeys roaming freely  wading through fields of trash eating anything they found.  It was a shocking experience to realize people are living in these conditions.
"As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest." ~ Nelson Mandela

Monday, July 18, 2016

Conservation and the Animals of Africa

Addo National Park was amazing! Nothing was like the experience of witnessing a herd of elephants gather at the watering hole. Addo is home to most of Africa's well known Big Five animals: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and buffalo.  It is the third largest national park in South Africa with its main goal is conservation. When Addo first opened in 1931 it was home to eleven elephants. Now it is home to over 600.
As we loaded the large, open trucks our group was excited to catch a glimpse of these magnificent animals. The truck traveled across South Africa's bushveld in search of these mammals.  Luckily, we encountered a large group of elephants at the watering hole. Our tour guide explained that both the males and females have tusks. Adolescent male elephants leave the herd to live with a other bull elephants only interacting with females to mate.  Our guide also said that elephants eat 300-400 pounds of vegetation a day and can drink about 200 quarts of water during one stop at the watering hole.  The herd we watched had a special surprise, a three day old baby elephant that was surrounded protectively by the mama elephants. This outing was truly spectacular and a dream come true for so many of us.
Unfortunately, challenges to Africa is the steady decline of these animals. Poachers illegally kill them for their tusks, meat or hide. Loss of habitat by people slowly taking over their lands.  China and the US are the top two importers of illegal products of poached animals.
 "Every morning an impala wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion if it wants to stay alive. Every morning a lion wakes up knowing that it must outrun the slowest impala or it will starve. It makes no difference if you are a lion or an impala, when the sun comes up in Africa you must wake up running"
~ anonymous, Zambia

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Show of Hands

The day after we arrived here in South Africa our group had the privilege of partnering with VW to participate in their "Show of Hands" community outreach project. Volunteers worked to improve the condition of  Ntlemeza Primary School in Kwanobuhle, Uitenhage. This was an extremely rewarding day for our group. As teachers we have "service to our community" already in our hearts. It was nice to give our time to make a difference especially in the lives of school children. Their little school lacks so many resources that I take for granted every day in America.

We painted various murals inside classrooms. The children will be coming to school within a few days and the colorful pictures will definitely brighten their learning environment.

The children will be very pleased to return to a classroom this inviting.
Classroom before volunteers cleaned it out!

Volunteers working on the courtyard area. All morning they planted trees and shrubs. Recycled tired were painted which added a playful look to the area.

One project I participated in was placing mosaic tiles around bathroom mirrors.