Jalina, Imogene and I have had a very busy few days. It is hard to believe that we have been here exactly one week today. Saturday night was the last of the four cultural presentations, showcasing the different regions of Africa. Saturday’s focus: the countries of southern Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi and, of course, South Africa. The students from these countries performed songs (contemporary AND traditional), dances (the same), slide shows, and skits, many dressed in some version of their traditional clothing. The “frame story” was a play about a young man named “Speedy”, portrayed by a South African young man, KB, who is an American who has returned to southern Africa in search of his “roots” and to acquire a bride. The whole thing ended in a huge hip hop dance extravaganza. The general consensus at ALA is that the southern Africans are the best dancers, but the north Africans are the best drummers. The east and west Africans both think they’re the best at everything! I’m not sure where that leaves the students from central Africa. The show went on for almost two hours, and the degree of involvement and seriousness of purpose (despite the many, many laughs) were impressive!
On Sunday we went to the Rosebank Market, where you can buy anything from gourmet cheesecake, plastic washtubs, herbal rememdies, and traditional African crafts. The market is held on Sundays in a parking garage next to the Rosebank Mall in downtown Johannesburg. It is a great place to do some serious shopping, which is what we did. Imogene was, by far, the winner! She and I both ended the day by buying simple beaded bracelets from a very nice man. We also spent a lot of time talking with a woman who sews beautiful clothes from traditional fabrics. And we also sampled all kinds of delicious treats: fresh fruit smoothies; samosas; chicken shwarma in pita–very exotic after ALA fare.
Monday morning we left ALA at 7 a.m. to make the two and a half hour drive out to Pilanesberg, northeast of Joburg, to the game park there. We did two trips into the park: one at sunset; one just before sunrise. Here is a shortlist of the animals we saw: white rhinos; hippos (on land and submerged in the water); springbok (the national symbol of South Africa); haartebeest; impala (thousands!); kudu; waterbuck; one faraway giraffe (and another dead one–it had been killed by a lightning strike and we saw it being scavenged by a black backed jackal); a scrub hare; warthogs–grown and babies; wildebeest; vervet monkeys; a baby crocodile (about a foot long) and a REALLY, REALLY big one swimming; Tsetsebe antelope; a small chameleon; zebras (lots); bats; guinea fowl; night jars; spotted eagle owls; a rare Southern White-faced owl (with big orange eyes); kingfishers with their prey (fish) hanging out of their mouths–they actually slam the fish on a branch to knock it out before they eat it; and honey badger tracks! We did not see any lions, which sometimes happens, and surprisingly, we did not spot a single elephant.