March 10, 2011 – Manzini, Swaziland
Well, there is something to be said about a 15 hour flight. I’ve been on longer ones before, but it didn’t seem to make it 15 hours any shorter. Overall though, it was a nice experience – I even sat with a group from a University out of Detroit that was going to Botswana to study aids for two weeks. It was interesting to hear about what they’ve been studying and the differences they hope to make.
Quick disclaimer: internet isn’t exactly something that this country, well, HAS. Our group leader bought an account with Vodafone for his laptop that we’re allowed to use as necessary (and there are 27 of us on this trip, so yeah…) Just a heads up that I’m typing these posts on my little 7″ laptop and crossing my fingers that at some point, I’ll have the chance to post them.
So we landed in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday night – safe and sound! Although the main group is faculty and students from Andrews University, there were a few, like me, who joined the group in Atlanta. I’m still trying to remember everyone’s name! It’s helpful that a few of my favorite professors are along on the trip; at least in them I have some already established common ground. This is the students spring break, and they’ve all been in great spirits and it’s fun to be around their energy (I know it wasn’t that long ago that I was an undergraduate, but I really don’t think I was quiet as vivacious as some of these. Maybe though :))
(Hanging out with some Hort students from Andrews University – Kory, Malcolm, and Arthur)
First impressions of South Africa – to be completely honest, I’ve felt like I’m in New Zealand. Granted, it’s been 7 years since I visited Australia and NZ, but that’s what it feels like to me. Not just the countryside (and the trees!) either, but the road signs, the products they sell at little corner stores, and the overly friendly and wonderful people. So far I’ve just been loving it. The weather is also spectacular! Not too humid, hot in the sun, but cool (ish) in the shade.
We essentially only stayed the night in South Africa before we headed out to Swaziland. We left around 8 a.m. this morning and are now comfy in our accommodation in Manzini, Swaziland; the largest city in the country. Mind you, Swaziland isn’t very big. At least in comparison to it’s ‘host’ country, South Africa. If I hadn’t had just experienced a few border crossings in the Middle East, crossing into Swaziland from South Africa may have seemed intense. But honestly, it didn’t. It’s easy to go with the flow when you’re used to glaring men in uniform that don’t readily speak your language.
Once through the border controls for both countries, we made a stop in a glass craft facility, which was really neat! (And HOT, as you could imagine). I mostly only got video of the workers in action, so I can’t show any of that yet… Due to technical difficulties (erg), I won’t be able to work out my video stuff until I’m home I’m afraid.
So far, I’ve loved Swaziland. We spent the majority of our driving going down mountains (which is good, because a few times I’ve been seriously concerned that our bus was going to start rolling backwards when going UP hills… :)) We have a lot of extra luggage – which we will be mostly dispersing tomorrow to a local community.
It’s been great to be among my professors, all of who are fun, young at heart, and ready for adventure. It also helps that one of them is a plant connoisseur; we’ve been doing our best to at least identify all the plants we see. For the most part, between those of us in the group, we know the plant’s Genus. Species is a bit trickier, but if anything, we’re having a lot of fun getting exciting about the flora here!
(a sign at the glass production facility we visited – no joke!)
The group of students is a mix between the Animal Science department and the Horticulture department in Andrews Universities Agriculture division; under the College of Technology (from which I received my undergrad degree). Naturally I’ve banded with the hort students, who are lots of fun and just as eager to learn as I am.
(a view from the Glass Production Facility)
There are so many things to say, but I really don’t have time to say them all. The group leaders have been keeping us pretty busy! Hope to have another update here soon!