Sorry for the long wait for this e-mail. I haven’t had power (let alone internet) for the last 10 days or so. But here I am, back in Cape Town, and anxious to fill you in on all of the happenings.
Two weeks ago we were in Johannesburg for some cultural experience. We visited Soweto, a poor township suburb where there was a student protest and then a massacre by the Apartheid government. We visited Nelson Mandela’s house and saw the church were Desmond Tutu began his ministry and we visited the Hector Peterson museum (Hector Peterson was the first child to be killed in the massacre and sparked an international wave of pressure against apartheid). We also visited the Origins Center at Wits University. It turns out that South Africa was home to the first modern human beings! All in all these museums and cultural sites were very powerful.
After Johannesburg we had a quick stop in Cape Town where we explored the city a bit. We went on a beautiful drive along the coast to Cape Point, the southeastern most point of South Africa and had an excellent afternoon on the beach. We were beset by a pack of crazy baboons that have begun to stalk tourists for food. They were really scary and would run at us if we had any food. It was really hard to scare them off, and with just a quick look at their fangs it was usually us who were running away. They are quite a problem in this area, but because they live in Cape Point National Park they are protected by law so there has been a lot of trouble controlling them.
After a very brief stay in Cape Town we then moved to De Hoop Nature Reserve about 3 hours drive directly east of Cape Town. It was so picturesque. It is a relatively remote nature reserve and so receives very few tourists. On any given day there were many more Southern Right Whales in the bay than there were visitors on the beach. It was pretty phenomenal to see them breaching in the sunset (the whales not the tourists). While a considerable amount of time was spent on the beach playing volleyball, rugby or frisbee or in the water surfing and kayaking we did have some work to do. We had two faculty led field projects in De Hoop one on Dung beetles and the other on freshwater Invertebrates. They were pretty excellent but unfortunately I did not end up participating in them to a great deal. A couple days into De Hoop I managed to catch a fancy tropical virus. I had such a high fever that I strained my back and got back spasms from shivering so hard all night. The next morning the professors drove me to a hospital in Hermanas where I stayed for three days and two nights while they tried to figure out what I had.
Eventually they released me without diagnosing it but giving me lots and lots of medication and their best wishes. I am feeling much better, but I was a little concerned that their best diagnosis was ‘an upper respiratory virus’. Soon after I got out of the hospital it was time to leave De Hoop again. We drove back to Cape Town where we are now. We spent our first day back in Cape Town going to visit Roben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner. We were actually given a tour of the island by a former political prisoner, which was quite an eye-opener.
Yesterday, I played a Frisbee game with the Cape Town University team on their field just under Table Mountain and overlooking the city and the ocean. It was absolutely picturesque. Mostly I’ve been getting my fill of city life and Cape Town but now I am anxious to head back into the field. Tomorrow we leave for Mapungubwe another national park in northern South Africa where it is expected to reach 45 C and then we will spend another 3 weeks in Skukuza to wrap up the course. I cannot believe that this semester has gone by so quickly. I have seen so much and been to so many interesting places it is going to take me twice as long to process it all. I have completely fallen in love with South Africa though and am already trying to plan my next trip back.
I hope you are all well back in the states and that the onset of winter is catching you none too reluctantly. I have been thinking of you all and cannot wait to share all of my stories and pictures. I have been having a lot of trouble putting pictures on the internet as the connections have been so slow but there should be more on the internet within the next two weeks.