Christina goes to college

I am now at the nature college, there are two campuses and I’m at the smaller one. It is two buildings located in the middle of the aardvark nature reserve.  There are 7 other students, all from South Africa and everyone has decided to educate the Canadian girl. We made ‘mealie pap’, an African maize dish, and I had to eat it in the traditional way with my hands. We’ve had a few braais and everyone is attempting to teach me to speak afrikaans. I know how to say ‘thank you’, ‘hangover’, ‘good meal’, ‘slippers’, ‘surfer’, some swear words and a few plants. All of the important things. We also had a dung spitting competition. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like.

We have lecture in the mornings, then a break until 3 when we do our practical field work. So far we’ve learned about ecology, astronomy, botany, insects, tracking, geology, climate and weather annd a bit of marine biology (which I ended up teaching the lecture on because our instructor has “no desire to ever go to the beach”). So basically I can find my way around South Africa, tell you uses for most plants, and track animals….but we haven’t done mammals or birds yet so although I can tell who the tracks belong to I couldn’t tell you what the animal looks like…

On my run the other day i came across a herd of ostriches. They were blocking my path, so I basically just had to wait for them to move. Turns out its a good idea to learn about local wildlife before going out trail running in the middle of a nature reserve…but i just pretended they were deer and it all worked out. We also saw baboons on the drive into town! It’s funny being around people who grew up here because when I get sooo excited about the ostrich outside or the baboon on the road they all laugh at me. I now understand how people feel about deer in Canada.

Basically what ill end up with after my assessment is my nqf2, also called fgasa 1. It gives me the ability to legally work anywhere in South Africa as a field guide. So taking people on walking or driving tours in national parks or private game reserves and telling them about south African plants, wildlife, history etc…
I’m heading back to the garden route game lodge after my assessment and will volunteer there and, as long as I pass everything, start giving driving tours to guests in the “bakkies”, aka trucks. Oh, and I can drive! Apparently epilepsy driving laws are a bit different here. Very excited for more hands on work with animals back at the game lodge, but really having a great time and enjoying the company of 8 wonderful people for these couple of weeks at the college.

Missing everyone, but having an amazing time. Three more weeks in this wonderful place.
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The nature college, surrounded by the succulent karoo of the aardvark reserve

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Learning about plants with Jaques and John. (rose, jaques, Wendy, richard, juanita and john). I really need to lay off the plants and get some better pictures of my class…

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A beautiful sunset as seen from the kitchen stoop

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Out for some field work in the back of the bakkie. Me and landi in front, lorna, then Paul and Richard in the back

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A quartz field, one of the most delicate ecosystems. Some plants only grow here because of the temperature in the white rocks. There is one species of plant that is only found in this specific quartz field.

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I’m really liking this red lichen

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Ostriches are really intimidating, okay?

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The Acacia karoo, my favourite thorny tree. Also called the sweet thorn. You can make excellent rope from its bark.

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Crickey, its an aardvark track!

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Gorgeous drive

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This one time, I put hartebeest poo in my mouth and spat it out. I spat it farther than anyone else. Dung spitting champion right here. I think I’m done with school, I’ve found my calling.

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Babys bottom, a quartz field specific plant.

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This is how cold it is in the morning. In class, with tea and a hot water bottle and a blanket. Buildings are not heated here…to be fair it isn’t this cold all the time. There was a cold front for a day or two.

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Babooooonnn!!!!! It’s so cute, there was a baby too.

But really, if you ever feel like your degree is useless let’s.talk about how I am a South African field guide living in Canada…

I can’t rotate photos on my tablet. Hence all the sideways pictures. Sorry necks.

Au revoir!

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Cape town and the game reserve

I arrived late Tuesday in cape town and had 3 days to explore. Wednesday I woke up and went for a walk, I found the ocean and explored tide pools. Within about 5 minutes I slipped and fell in…it was a wet 20 minute walk back to the hostel. I then went to the nelson mandela museum and went out to robben island. We had a guided tour of the island including the prison. It was quite amazing.

On Thursday me and a friend from the hostel went up table mountain. I was supposed to do an abseil, but the wind was too strong. We had a great hike around the top and a gorgeous view of the city off the back of the mountain. I wandered downtown, went to the market then my roommate izzy and i went out to mama Africa to try some traditional South African food for dinner. I ate a bit of her bobotie, which is a ground beef type thing with egg on it. I ordered a veggie dish though, it was a squash stuffed with a bunch of spinach and things. There was a live band as well which was very cool.

Friday was my wine tour day. We visited 4 different vineyards, all of which were so unique with very interesting histories. South Africans sure know how to make wine! A very hungover christina left he next morning for the bus ride to the garden route game lodge. I pretty much slept all the way there then I got to this beautiful nature reserve, made a sanwhich and had a nap. Sooo hungover. But once i woke up we had a braai, fed the elephants and played with baby cheetahs!!!! There are 3 of us volunteers, a family and a couple employees who live here as well.

I leave for the nature college this afternoon but will be back here at the garden route game lodge in 2 weeks. At the nature college I will do a field guiding course where I learn plants, animals, weapon handling, snake handling, darting, and a ton of other cool stuff. My practicum is then guiding tours here at the garden route game lodge.

This morning we had a tour of the reserve. We saw all kinds of animals; cheetahs, springbok, snakes, antelope, zebras, elephants… It’s been an amazing time so far. Time to do homework, pack, and find out how many bottles of wine I can take back to Canada…

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The ocean

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A little sea star I found in a tide pool

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Anemone!!! I love the ocean.

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The view of table mountain from the boat ride to robben island

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The penguins of robben island

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The prison

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Table mountain. It was a rainy day with most of the view looking like this.

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After 2 hours of hiking we found a clear area where we could see the city

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The first vineyard, fairview. I fell in love with their pinotage.

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Vrede en lust, where the wine is great, the girls are gorgeous and the chocolate is amazing. They co own lindt chocolate.

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Solms delta, my personal favourite. With very unique wines and a tasting in the museum. We also had an amazing lunch here in their glass floored resteraunt.

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Solms delta outside

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Villiera, they have an amazing selection of champagne here.

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The tented camp we stay in at the garden route game lodge. Gorgeous view, we are in the middle of the reserve.

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At a braai with a baby cheetah, I love Africa! These cheetahs will be around humans their whole lives. They plan to use them for commercial purposes including carrying rings down the aisle at weddings.

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A wilder cheetah, he just had surgery after breaking his leg.

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Baby giraffe, he is 1 month old.

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Out on the reserve

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This is the actual lodge, where the tourists stay

Departure

I have arrived safely in South Africa, and am loving it so far!

Mom and I left for Seattle on the 11th. On the way down we stopped in chilliwack for lunch with aunty Lauretta. We also stopped at a mall, where in true Christina fashion, I lost my wallet. Luckily a store found it, but not before I got on my plane and cancelled all my cards. Mom and i figured out a way for me to get by in the meantime, but hopefully my new cards are sent soon. Lucky I prepaid for my hostels and bus tickets!

After losing my wallet 12 hours before my flight I found out great news. My cousin Bob and his wife Jess had their baby! I can’t wait to meet him. And my other cousin Justine got engaged! Everyone is going through big life changes while I am away. So between all the good news and sushi with mom I was in a good mood despite the missing wallet.

My flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was 8.5 hours, my first international flight! I had an hour layover in Amsterdam then a 10.5 hour flight to Jo’berg, where I spent 8 hours. Jo’berg to George was about 1.5 hours so in total, including a delay in Amsterdam, I spent about 22 hours on planes.

I met some interesting people, watched about 7 movies (including the fox and the hound) and discovered the joys of plane food. I really need to explain vegan better. I got through half a yogurt in a box labelled ‘vegetarian-vegan’ before realizing what it was. Then I recieved a cheese and mayo sandwhich with a ‘dairy snack’ and granola for breakfast. I’m also fairly certain I ate warmed dog food at one point.

Anyways, I arrived safely in George and made it to my hostel thanks to a lovely couple, Denny and Stella, who I met on the plane. My hostel forgot to send someone to pick me up. But Denny and Stella have a daughter my age and are used to ‘international orphans’ so they offered me a ride. They gave me their contact info and invited me to stay with them or call if I needed anything.

It was quite rainy in George so i went to the local climbing gym, broke in my new climbing shoes and then went for a swim at the pool down the street. I also had to run out to get a plug adapter, turns out the ones I bought in Canada, which say ‘south africa’ on them, don’t work here.

All is well, and it is absolutely gorgeous here! I am preparing to take a bus to cape town this afternoon, but in the meantime I’m going to go for a jog and grab some breakfast.
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The drive into seattle

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Packed and ready to go!

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A cloudy plane ride

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I thought these giraffe-unicorn-pegasuses in the Amsterdam airport were hilarious

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Yogurt isn’t vegan?

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Sunrock inn, pretty much all i saw of Johannesburg

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Outeniqua lodge in George, where I’m currently staying.

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My new friend, the lodges dog check

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Preparing to go climbing on a rainy day.

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The walk to the pool/grocery/town