Time Capsule Letter
Not much time has passed, and Team Awesome is already missing you dearly. By this point you are likely well into the school year and I am sure some of you are tired from work, school, and other activities. We have been there and know how tough it is but know that you got this! We are sending along this note to spread as much positivity and encouragement as possible during these daring times.
First off, thank you for the memories. I will surely never forget watching each of you struggle up the final part of our 10 km hike to the sand dunes. Then there was fly camp. Good times! On another note, we also want to thank you for making an impact. Keep in mind that the impact we are talking about took on several different forms.
For example, as group number one, you were the very first to attack the prickly pear cacti (as Shaddie highlighted for us: the less prickly pear there is, the better). You also cannot forget bush packing! Yet in addition to the environmental impact you had, you also greatly impacted each other. Think about our final conversation about plastic reduction. I know that I walked away from the conversation truly amazed that young people are as aware plastic use as all of you.
Thinking back to everything, we are sure that each one of you got something different out of your time in South Africa. It is also inevitable that you will process your experiences differently. To further help you reflect on your trip, we wanted to send along a friendly reminder about your OMG goals. Like we said, we are holding you to it.
When reading over your goal, truly think about what you have done to accomplish this goal. Maybe you have completed it and, in that case, good job! Or perhaps you have completely forgot you ever wrote about it. No worries! Great change does not happen overnight. Remember, you have made countless friendships and connections while in South Africa. Feel free to reach out to others if you need ways to bounce ideas or anything else off each other. We are here for each other.
Team Awesome (Courtney and Ash)
Henrique – Being able to turn all of the plastic waste of my school into something
Landon – Reduce the electricity bill by 20%
Gwen – Limit plastic use at school (get rid of everything at school that is possible) – Limit plastic use at restaurants – Limit plastic use at home – Increase campus and harbor cleanups (8 of each by the end of the school year)
Emerson – Attempt to go vegetarian – Become more involved in environmental issues – Educate myself about conservation issues – Limit my plastic use – Become an intern at Pongola with Suzette
Steena – Zero single use plastic in bathroom and kitchen – Come back to South Africa for the internship with Suzette
Katelyn – Cut out single use plastic from the bathroom and kitchen – Have the school stop wrapping fruit in plastic and allow reusable water bottles – Become vegetarian
Milena – Increase the number of club members by 20 – Increase the frequency of trash pickups to at least twice per month – Completely clean up at least 6 areas that are polluted
Grace – Become almost completely plastic free with food and bathroom products – Be an active member of an anti shark finning group
Julia – Limit plastic use/ completely plastic free – Cut out meat entirely – Buy fresh, buy local – Completely cut out non sustainable palm oil – influence family to stop buying commercial meat and dairy
Saturday June 21, 2019
With almost all the students here, with the exception of Katelyn who will be joining us tomorrow, we all climbed into our bus this morning after a nice cooked breakie, to head to the reserve.
With many people still tired from traveling the journey started quiet and relaxed but once we got to the reserve the excitement crept in. We played games and did some team building and bonding.
Now everyone is preparing for our first full day on the reserve and getting some rest.
Peace and chow,
Ash and Courtney – GLA Staff
Saturday June 22, 2019
Today was our first full day on the reserve. We started out with a nature walk through the area surrounding home base, as one of our guides provided insight on the importance of conserving soil. Everyone in the group become far more aware of soil’s importance in any further conservation efforts. After that, we engaged in a talk regarding rhino conservation at Pongola with local expert, Suzette. We then began our service, which consisted of removing prickly pear cacti, as they are an invasive species that threaten the well-being of other animals.
Everyone worked together very well and had a great time participating in the experience. It was very rewarding to witness the amount of change we made to the area! We then took a break by having afternoon tea. The group was able to be both relaxed and thrilled on the Game Drive we took in the afternoon. Many animals were spotted including impalas, warthogs, and wildebeests. We also observed a beautiful environment and a breathtaking sunset. We ended the day in a stimulating and complex debate about culture versus sustainability. Throughout the day, everyone enjoyed our cook, Nokuthula’s, meals!
Henrique and Milena
Sunday June 23, 2019
Today, we started our day off with another nature walk where we talked about the importance of ecology and biodiversity. After that, we sighted and checked two of the camera traps on the reserve with Suzette. When we got back to home base we sat around her computer to look at all of the really cool animals that were caught on cameras, most of which were Impalas and Warthogs.
Luckily, we did get to see several different animals from the big 5! In the early afternoon we followed Shadreck back into the bush to learn about crucial bush survival skills. He taught us what bushes/trees were useful when in the bush and how to recognize and use them. After, we learned how to count game in the bush. We used multiple tools to record the animals and to figure out their direct location. The day was finished off with a night drive where we were able to experience all the live activity of the night. The stars are like no other. (:
Stîna and Julia
Monday June 24, 2019
Sawubona! We started our 5th day off right with vegetable omelettes and porridge for breakfast. Shortly after, we got straight to work on our habitat management project. We continued the day by bonding with fun GLA activities. Our group has gotten stronger and closer as we spend more time with each other. Then, we learned about the fascinating telemetry with Suzette. The group worked together to pick up the signals of four large animals. All of us enjoyed delicious homemade pizza for lunch.
Later, we learned useful bush skills that will help us on our camping excursion later this week. Tea time is everyone’s favorite part of the day, especially when it is accompanied with Nokuthula’s muffins. We prepared for tomorrow’s community visit by learning about the Zulu culture. Before dinner, we bonded more over group activities. We prepared for our late night scorpion hunt with chicken curry and rice for dinner. So far, we are all having a great time! We are creating bonds that will last us a lifetime. Sorry guys! It’s time for us to go join the group by the fire and gaze at the stars!
Written by the BEST leaders of the day,
Katelyn and Gwen
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Today was day 6 of our South Africa trip, and we spent the day out in the local community. After breakfast we loaded into a bus to go to the area where our chef lives. When we arrived at the community, we visited the hut of a traditional healer. The healer’s hut was filled with different jars of powders, tapestries with varying and colourful patterns, and other various things. She taught us about what different powders do and how they can work together to have medicinal uses. The powders weren’t only for healing physical healing, but for finding bravery, hope, and for protection.
After that, the healer lead us to an outside hut where we beaded bracelets with her. Some of her meticulous projects have taken her up to 2 months to work on. After beading, some of us got distracted and headed over to play and dance with some of the local kids. They attempted to teach us how to do a traditional South African dance, but we weren’t nearly as good of dancers as they were. For lunch we headed over to our chef’s house where she prepared us traditional South African food. In South African culture, it is traditional to use only your hands while eating, so we attempted to do so.
Following lunch we all headed over to plaster a hut with mud in order to provide insulation. Plastering with mud was a good experience for everyone, whether or not they usually don’t like to get dirty or they thoroughly enjoyed it. This jam packed day lead to us having a couple hours to reflect on how we felt when we arrived back to hone base. Although this day didn’t have any service for the animals like we’ve usually been doing, it was a valid experience. It taught us the value of tradition and community, and was eye opening experience. Today was overall a good day which we will value and remember forever.
-by Emerson and Grace 🙂
Wednesday June 26, 2019
We started off day 7 with a delicious breakfast of French toast. Then at 8am we started our trek to fly camp where we will be spending the next few days. The 3 hour hike was also full of animal tracking and tree identification. We made our way to camp and spent some time settling in and having lunch. After lunch, we went on a nature walk to collect fire wood and see and learn about more plants and animals. With the fire wood, we built our own fire. When we got coals from that fire, we started to make our own traditional South African dinner with some vegetables and impala meat. Then, we started to wind down and have s’mores for dessert. We went star gazing after dinner to end our calm and peaceful day.
– by Katelyn and Landon
Thursday June 27, 2019
We started our eighth day off with a late breakfast. With no electricity, everyone made their toast over the fire. After that we learned about poaching by engaging in a discussion with Suzette. Shadrick tested our knowledge by setting up a realistic crime scene for the group to solve. Following that activity, we went looking for snares in the bush. Luckily, none were found.
The group then made sandwiches for lunch, which were enjoyed by all. After an action-packed day, everyone benefitted from naptime at 13:00. We then did a GLA activity that tested the groups’ ability to problem solve, innovate and communicate. The activity was called “magnetic feet.” The group had to move over a sizeable distance while having their feet connected at the ankles to the feet of other members.
Tying our shoe laces ultimately helped make the activity very successful. We collected firewood for the night before going on a Game Drive. On the Game Drive we saw many of the same animals, however we also saw new animals in the water this time. During the Game Drive, the sun set and there was a noteable temperature drop. Following the Game Drive, the evening fire was started.
We then had a vegetable pasta dish with salad for dinner. For dessert, we made banana splits in the fire. There was then time for activites around the fire. Members of the group each played a song of their choosing for everyone else. After that everyone was ready to go to bed. Right before bed everyone bundled up for the cold night and brushed their teeth around the outdoor water tap. The night shifts of watching the fire then began at 22:00 and continued through 6:00. Each shift lasts two hours and is done in pairs.
Gwen and Milena:)
Friday June 28, 2019
Today we woke up for breakfast at 8am. After breakfast, we went for a drive and collected rocks in order to help prevent erosion in the bush. To prevent erosion, we used a method called bush packing. We used the rocks that we collected and branches to fill various gullies around the camp in order to help slow the erosion process and encourage the growth of more vegetation. After that, we went back to camp for lunch. After lunch we did a scavenger hunt, where we have to answer various questions and collect things from around our campsite. After the scavenger hunt, we went on a game drive. On this drive, we saw porcupines, wildebeast, crocodiles, and hippos! We then came back to our camp for a late dinner. Tomorrow we end our 3 nights of camping and head back to our original area of stay.
-by Emerson and Henrique
Saturday June 29, 2019
We started the day with another amazing breakfast made by Nokuthla at Fly Camp. After, we took a short drive back to the Loose Mongoose. Before we started our last service, we had a quick tour of the white elephant museum with Suzette. She showed us a really cool movie about the translocation of elephants from Kruger National Park to Pongola Game Reserve and discussed the importance of conservation. We did our last bit of service and knocked out an epic group of prickly pear cacti.
We played a team building game (focused on communication, as ash says) called “eyes body mouth” which was A LOT OF FUN :))!! After the the team building activity we went on a game drive and we saw a crocodile, hippo, and one of the big five. Overall, we had a super fun day
Love peace chicken grease,
Julia and Landon <3 :))
Sunday June 30, 2019
What’s up FAM,
We started our day off with our last meal served by Nokuthula. Then, we said goodbye to the kitchen crew, the staff of African Insight, and beloved Suzette. After that we were on our way to Kosi Bay. Along the way, we stopped at Tembe to go on a big 5 game drive. On the drive we ran into three different herds of elephants playing in the water. After the drive, we enjoyed lunch in their resteraunt. Shortly after we were back on the road and were able to stop by local stands to purchace travel gifts and snacks. After that we arrived in Kosi Bay and settled into out yurts. After settling we enjoyed a delicious meal along with a yummy dessert. Overall it was a great day full of road trip adventifes. (:
Peace out FAM,
Grace and Steena <3
It all comes down to the hike. I mean yes we did have breakfast at 7:30 like everyday but that is not as important as what would come next. After breakfast and the preparation time for the hike we were all ready to start, little we know that we were not ready at all. We all thought it would be a chill walk through the 5 ecosystems that we had sorounding us and we were right about the ecosystems but it was not chill.
As we were advertised we all used open toes shoes and shorts as if we were walking in a park but those were the worse decisions we could possibly make. With the worry for ticks and all the bruses and cuts the nature gave us we would most certainly have loved to not have made those choices. The hike was already challenging and the fact we were not prepared just made it a lot worse. We did get through it though and after that we had nothing more that a relaxing day on the beach and GLA closing activities to properly say goodbye.
-by Gwen and Henrique