Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Lion Park

This last Thursday we finally made it out to the Lion Park. I’ve wanted to go there forever! We went out with Julie, a past field studier who has returned to scout out PhD possibilities. She came with her two little girls, Joyce and Grace, some of the cutest kids on the planet. Dylan came along too, our fellow adventurer. The Lion Park was very cool. It is just a little place, privately run. They had two brown lionesses,  three white lionesses, a white male, a cheetah, a white tiger, a normal Bengal tiger, a giraffe, a crocodile, some boks, lots of peacocks, some meerkats, rabbits, tortoises, and the high light of the journey – three nine week old lion cubs. The whole allure of the Lion Park is that you can pet lion cubs…and we got there and wandered around and weren’t seeing any lion cubs and it was kind of a bummer. I did commune with the tigers for a while and Dyl made friends with the meerkats. And then we wandered into a little café and there was a crib with what I thought were three little lambs – jokes, they were lion cubs! The sign said to stay away and not touch, but then a lady came out and told us we could sit in the crib one at a time and hold them, we had to sanitize our hands first. So I climbed right in and they kind of woke up and crawled on my lap. It was awesome! Emily and Joyce wandered over and found us and Holly, Julie, and Grace followed. We all took turns in the crib. The lion cubs were so adorable! They were all white lions with super blue eyes and curly fur. Two boys – Sampson and Gimpy and a girl, Bella.

We pumped the lady about them. She came out with three bottles of milk and took them one by one to feed them. So cute! She is the mother of the guy who owns the park. Him and his wife bought it nine years ago. They bred lions before that…it took them several years to breed white lions, but they have it down now, I think. The white lionesses can do two litters a year – even three, but they don’t want her to. They have to take the cubs away right away because the male will kill and eat the cubs, he is super jealous of the females. So they have to take them away and hand-rear them. That means feeding them five times a day – a special formula and also raw chicken and beef. For the first several weeks they also have to toilet them. Baby lions don’t know how to go to the bathroom! Their mother licks their bellies and this helps stimulate something, teaches them how to go to the bathroom…so when they are hand-reared, you have to rub their bellies until they learn how to go on their own! She seemed very fond of the cubs and said it was hard to see them go – they usually raise them until they are two or so and then sell them to other parks. People don’t want to buy them earlier because they are extremely susceptible to human germs and the mortality rate is higher…so people might speak for them, but not actually buy them until they are older. She said they are such smart animals and each cub has its own personality. She told us a story about a lion they sold to some place that breeds lions – her daughter in law went out to the farm once to do something and this lion saw her and totally remembered and recognized her and came running to say hello.

The lions are teething or something – the female in particular just wanted to chew on our shoes and jeans. After they were all fed they went back to napping. SO CUTE! Joyce and Grace each took a turn sitting on someone’s lap. Joyce was pretty nervous of them, didn’t want to touch or be touched by them. Grace totally went for it, petting their heads. Funny girls! We spent quite a while with the cubs…it would have been cool to interview the lady about relationships…but I didn’t bring any forms. I had originally planned to use the lion park in my study – but there is only her, her son and daughter in law and a couple other people who come on weekends. She had no experience/formal training with lions or raising lions, she said you just learned as you went. But her son had been into lion breeding – how does one get into that, I wonder!? Anyway, it would have been interesting, but I think I am good with what I have.

I wound up buying a purple apron that says EL Lion Park and has a lion on it. And then I also got this really cool peacock skirt – it was made by the wife of one of the neighboring farmers. It is a traditional wrap around skirt like lots of ladies here wear, it is really cool! I’ve wanted to find a cool, more traditional skirt, hurrah!

Hogsback Adventures

So we’ve gone to Hogsback twice now. Hogsback is this little town up in the mountains; it is beautiful! We went once with all our YSA friends, chasing snow. It had snowed the night before, but then it turned to rain and all melted. It was actually a beautiful sunny day, very autumnal feeling. I loved it! We hiked around a bunch, down to different waterfalls and to this 800 year old tree. The second time we went with Cornelius and Kathy and I’m just going to use my journal entry for that : )

            Saturday morning we woke up and got ready for Hogsback. We left about 8:30 with Kathy and Cornelius. It was great! We got to ask them a bunch of field study questions. That was the first half of the drive, I fell asleep past King William’s Town. Cornelius knows everything, I swear. He has so many interesting tidbits to share! East London has the most millionaires out of all the cities in SA. The largest informal settlement is just outside of EL. And the largest township too? Or second largest? That is Mdatsane. The freeway between EL and King Will’s is really nice, because back during apartheid EL and King Will were white cities and they built the road to connect them because they were surrounded by all these black areas. EL got its name because it was a shipping port and a bunch of the workers were from the slums of East London, England. There were several German settlements and a whole boatload of Irish ladies came down to be married off, but they didn’t like the rough Germans so they married other people…all these stories! It was a gorgeous morning, clear blue skies. Hogsback is having its annual Christmas in July Festival right now, so when we got there people were wearing red and white elf hats and there were booths and stuff all over. We went and used the toilets and then drove to Swallowtail fall. It was a short hike/walk to get there, very beautiful. Then we drove up to Kettlespout – a thin stream that shoots out over the edge of a cliff. Kathy stayed in the car for that one, it was a lot steeper of a hike. Cornelius lived in Hogsback for nine months once, in a little cottage. He did all the walks and wandered through the woods…it sounded like a really cool time.

            Walking up to Kettlespout part of the trail was completely surrounded by tall trees, like walking through a narrow tunnel. It was cool, especially with the sun shining down through the leaves. I really liked Kettlespout. It opened up there and you had a great view – again, I was reminded strongly of Moscow! We jumped the little stream to look at a place that Kathy and Cornelius came to once for a champagne breakfast? For their anniversary I think. Poor Emily slipped and took a little dip. Oh! I forgot – when we were sand boarding Emily had a good run and then fell off right at the end, when it was already flat. Her foot got stuck or something. Anyway she landed right on her tail bone and the poor girl has been limping around since then. She can walk fine, but bending or sitting down or getting up cause her pain. No fun! But she didn’t land on it again in the stream, she caught herself…earlier Cornelius said something about how we couldn’t say we’d really walked a trail unless we crossed the stream via log. So I immediately found a good log to clamber over. He said he was just kidding! But I got extra credit. Cornelius is funny…he just kept saying our names. “Quincey Belle Cole – you sound like a film star” and “Emily Mae” and “Holly, Holly, Holly” – some movie quote? We went back down to Kathy and then we drove around Hogsback and wound up at a big field where they had a big tent and booths and some groups performing. The booths were all the stuff we’d seen before, nothing too exciting. The performing people were cool – younger guys and girls and singing and dancing and drums. We sat and watched for a bit and Cornelius ate some spring rolls. Then we got back in the car and drove over to the Edge. There is a little café there and one of the world’s largest labyrinths. It was cool, but not as cool as I thought – I was envisioning shrubbery and a maze and spending hours lost …it was actually just stone paths with little flowers and no maze, you could only go way. It was cool though, we walked the whole thing, curving around and around. 1.6 km to the middle, I think? We walked down to the Edge – a cool stone cliff. Think the scene in Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth and dramatic music “Liz on Top of the World” I think? Took some pictures.

            Pile back in the car. The weather had shifted by then – clouds and wind. It was definitely a bit colder. OH well. Cornelius drove us past where he used to live, I would love to live in Hogsback. There are lots of fun little properties and cabins. Next we drove to this little chapel, St. James? St. Patricks? It was cool – stone with thatched roof. Originally built in 1913 and then expanded…it burned down though in 2010 and was rebuilt. We were all pretty tired at this point – climbing in and out of cars and driving around is seriously exhausting! What the heck! We drove down to the Butterfly Bistro a super fun little café type place…there were a bunch of hippies camped outside. I mean hippies! Dreadlocks, bare feet, clothes. One guy had a sweet leather hat and goggles – aviator style. But the hat was covered in beads and pins. They were selling some crafts and some food – toasties.  The Bistro was a cool cabin type building. They had a Christmas Tree up. The ladies at the counter were all wearing crazy clothes and sparkly make up and glitter and had designs on their faces…haha, it actually reminded me a lot of Harry Potter really. Think of some witches in Diagon Alley. I got some soup and bread…it took a long time! They were quite busy. Emily and I made ourselves comfortable at the counter, they had stools. They were selling candies and butterfly mallows and beaded butterflies…stuff like that. Kind of ketchy, but cute too. My soup finally arrived and we went out to the car where everyone else was waiting and we left Hogsback. Farewell!

            On the drive home we pumped Cornelius some more. Asked about education and other stuff – I’ll write it up for my field study assignment. He told us about moving to the USA. He and his family lived there for six years while he studied at Notre Dame. I didn’t realize they were there for that long! They came back after apartheid had ended.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Temple Trip to Joburg and Art Fest in Grahamstown

Excerpts from the latest adventures!

We had the opportunity to go with the ward on their annual temple trip. It was a quick three day adventure involving a lot of driving and a lot of baptisms. We left on a Wednesday night at midnight and drove and drove and drove…
We reached the temple about noon. The temple is built on a hill, at the top. The temple grounds are not super huge, but the temple complex includes the hill and several more buildings, including patron housing and offices and a house for visiting general authorities. The hill has several little stone trails and trees and a little stream with several waterfalls. This little wilderness area was so cool – I mean it was tiny, but green and the water running sounded beautiful. You could either walk around on the road, or you could cut through this little nature area that had flat round stones for a path and a section where you cross the stream using two big rocks. There were several benches scattered around. There was a distribution center too. Our rooms were not ready when we first arrived, so we went into the lounge/dining area and piled all our luggage around and relished being out of the car. . .Then we went to wait for our rooms…which took a long time! But it was okay. There were some couches, so I got out my bracelet making equipment and set up shop. Other people were sitting around and Emily, Holly and Yondela got down to talking about dominion and race and gender…ha so interesting to listen to. Holly and Emily are both really passionate about that kind of thing and Yondela is a very outspoken guy. He brings race into everything, half joking, but half serious. And they had some issues about cultural differences. For the black guys in South Africa there is a strong culture of being dominant and always being right etc., so of course that leads to some clashing with the gals. I enjoyed listening and occasionally piping in and I worked away at making friendship bracelets. I got sweet colors – purples, blues, a turquoise. Everyone really liked them – by the end of the trip half of the YSAs were wearing a bracelet : )

We did one round of baptisms Thursday evening after which everyone just relaxed, ate dinner, and played games in the patron housing.
The next morning we went up to the temple for another round of baptisms.
It was just our group this time and I really liked it – it was nice having a smaller group and it was nice knowing what the routine was going to be. We all sat in the waiting room and watched some old LDS movie for a while and then Brother Jubber came and got everyone sorted and we got our clothes. There was a couple from Mdatsane that joined us and a couple of men, which was good because they helped do confirmations. They were short a recorder, so when you were confirmed you just held the words and the name for them, worked perfectly. When it was my turn the guys asked if I was from America, I said yes, from Utah. Oh Utah! They said – but they pronounced it Oohtah, it was great. Gerhard did all the baptisms. The black sister helped with towels and hair elastics (they were really strict about not wearing any color hair tie expect for white). She called me sissie, which I thought was cool. She was just a cool lady! The lady who helped us on Thursday was a Sister Bird, definitely from Utah, we could tell from her accent. But we didn’t get a chance to visit with her.
After baptisms all the YSAs went ice skating at this mall. The Quantum and its driver showed up to transport us there, so we got to see some of Joburg – it is a big, sprawled out city. Ice skating was pretty fun. The ice was awful! Super cut up and it was rather wet – there were puddles of water. And the skates were not super sharp. And there were a lot of people there – there was a birthday party, so lots of little kids and high schoolers. They liked to stand right in the middle – who goes to an ice rink to stand!? They were playing music really loud and they would turn the lights off sometimes and use colored spot lights. It was a regular sized rink, at least not three quarters. We had a good time – Hyrum and Yondela and Emily worked on going backwards, Dylan picked it all up pretty quickly and was speeding all over. Most of the YSAs had never skated before or had gone only once or twice. There aren’t many ice rinks in South Africa.
We had one major mishap when Shantal wiped out and split open her chin. People were pretty calm and we got her bundled off to the hospital. That kind of put a damper on the rest of the day. We all went back to patron housing and had dinner and wound up playing games again – 30 Seconds and Settlers of Katan. It was a nice relaxing evening, everyone was worn out. The next morning we had a brief Testimony Meeting with everyone up on the temple grounds. That was very sweet. We took a bunch of group pictures after and then everyone rounded up their luggage and we set off on another long drive.
 The other recent adventure was a trip to Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival.  We convinced Dylan to drive us and spent a lovely Saturday in rainy Grahamstown. We watched a film called The Last Lions. It was a documentary, sort of…it was all about some of the last wild lions, a pride in Botswana, in the Okovango Delta. This place keeps showing up on my radar, I think I just need to go and work there. The film was all about this one female and her three cubs. Her mate is killed by a pride that is pushed south by humans and takes over their territory. It was Lion King on steroids. Amazing animal shots and a really amazing story. It was filmed by a married couple – they’ve been working for National Geographic for ages. Incredible! And it was narrated by the guy who does Scar’s voice from the Lion King – so it was even narrated by a lion.
              Our next destination was the Village Green, where all the crafts and souvenirs live. It took a little while to find parking, we had to make loops around the green. Grahamstown is a really cool place, I wish we had more time to explore it. It reminded me a lot of New England or Ireland – old stone buildings, thatched roofs, the rain. Luckily all the crafts and stuff were under these huge white tents. There were several craft tents and a couple food tents and a big information tents with tables and chairs. We all kind of split up – Emily and I stuck together. We were going to try and watch this free show of dancers, but couldn’t find the venue…instead of wandering around in the rain, we just went back to the Green and really scoped out the possibilities. We walked through each tent and asked about different prices. I kept notes in my notebook about where things were and how much they cost. I got all of my gift shopping done! There were tons of African crafts – jewelry, bead work, wood carvings, wall hangings, drums, traditional clothing, animals galore. And then there were all the indie hipster booths with their vintage clothing and scarves and adorable prints. And leather booths with belts and wallets and jackets. And the hippie booths with those simple baggy cloth pants and shirts and wool ponchos in earthy colors. And soap and paintings and herbal remedies and olives. I mean it was all the fair stuff, but on steroids, so much cool stuff!
After we were shopped out we went in search of this little theater where different groups were dancing and singing. We wandered through a few buildings and asked directions and finally found it! It was a group of guys dancing and singing in a little outdoor amphitheater, covered from the rain, thankfully. They were really fun! There were four dancer/backup singers and the lead guy was a hoot. And there was a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboard fellow. I filmed a bunch, it was great! They are super into rhythms and it was fun to hear this traditional kind of music played on electric bass and guitar and keyboard. Next we went and watched this Chinese Acrobat and Dance group.
They did fun things with spinning plates and juggling and jumping through ropes and some crazy acrobatic stuff and dancing and magic tricks. Garron and Dylan were both used in the magic trick portion, those dorks. Dylan helped with this sweet trick. He tied up this little Chinese lady – her hands were behind her back and then her arms were tied to her body and the rope was tied around her legs. Dylan had his jacket on and sat down next to her. They covered them both with a big cloth and then the magic trick lady, who was dressed in this spectacular sparkly pant suit, counted down from five, and they flicked off the cloth and the tied up lady had Dylan’s coat on, underneath the ropes! It was pretty crazy, even just getting Dylan’s jacket off him and then on, without being tied up, would have taken a couple seconds. Magic : )
So that was Grahamstown! Whoo, I wrote a lot, but there has been so much cool stuff going on! We have only four weeks left, which I can’t believe. It has gone by super quickly! I am determined to make the most of our remaining time. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Still luvn' SA!

Today I finished up with interviews at the zoo! I have ten interviews from there and one from a lady at the SPCA. I am not sure what to do next with my project…I might volunteer at the Aquarium, if I can figure out a way to get there safely. And I still want to check out the Lion Park! So I don’t know if I will do more interviews or observation. It has been really interesting and great. I still have another project to do at the zoo for my wildlife behavioral ecology class, so I have not seen the last of the zoo. I guess I’ll just do some more journal excerpts of fun/interesting things we’ve been doing!

We went and watched Mechaelar perform in Evita!  
“Evita was pretty cool….I was quite impressed. The Guild Theater was a pretty nice place too. We caught a taxi there, it was a bit late perhaps but we had no other way. There were a couple girls in the back who we sat next to, they seemed pretty excited to see us on the taxi and said everyone else was excited…it was funny.  They asked “Aren’t you scared?” Which is the response we get regularly – Holly asked “Should we be?” But I don’t think they heard, so we got no response. They were very helpful in sorting out money and getting us dropped where we needed to be. At the Theater we found Nokuthula and Nomfundo and we hung out with them a bit while we waited for the doors to open. There was a bar in the front and everyone was getting wine – they’d get the wine glasses and then a little bottle of it, everyone brought their drinks into the theater. It was just weird – I mean people drink and smoke here a lot and I don’t know if I am just not used to it because of living in Provo and in North Idaho or if it is just more culturally acceptable…I mean I have been to concerts and shows in big cities and I’ve never seen people bring drinks and wine and stuff into the actual theater.
 It was a different crowd then we usually see, like at the rugby match.  A lot more white people and posh clothes – we really aren’t around white people that much, except for Hyrum and Dylan and Dylan’s family. It was very entertaining to see how people were dressed and hair styles. There were a lot of older couples. The show was pretty good, again, I was impressed at the singing and costumes and dancing. The lady playing Evita had a really superb voice and the narrator guy Che was good, those are the two that really count. Mechaelar was one of the cast, she did a great job singing and dancing. We found her after the show and said bravo and took some pictures. Nokuthula gave us the number for a good private taxi and Emily called and sent for one. It was a white guy, but he was like the hardest person to understand ever. Very friendly though. It was a fun evening!”

Here’s an excerpt about a zoo interview and a morning at the zoo.
“Makaula was awesome, he put me right to work. I helped carry food buckets, gathered dishes, washed dishes, helped spray down enclosures (which got me soaking wet)…he had me go into the kitchen and ask the kitchen ladies for food for certain animals. They seemed pleased I was getting involved –“oh, she’s not lazy, she’s not lazy.” I got to go in some monkey enclosures and throw food out to Katie and Lisa (baboons) and I got to throw raw chicken to the vultures and the owls. I carried food into the duikers. We went and got some new bedding for the owls, so I got to help carry a step ladder and fill a bag with straw and then climb said ladder to reach the owl huts and put straw in them. I tried to ask interview questions, but Makaula’s English didn’t really allow me to delve into much, which was a bummer because I had tons of things I wanted to ask about the zoo historically – how has it changed, different management, etc. Makaula said he is going to work for five more years and retire at age 56.
We were just about to feed the pigs when Karotse came to get a bunch of guys – they were going to go get a horse. When farmers don’t want them anymore, they call the zoo, and Karotse goes out and puts the horse down and they feed it to the animals. They have to bring several guys because their truck (or buggy) doesn’t have a winch so they need people to help lift the carcass onto the truck. They are trying to get a new truck, but something about the budget….anyway they were all talking in Xhosa and apparently were arguing about whether or not I could just go and feed the pigs myself…I had already got the wheelbarrow for the pig bucket. Stoffel was getting his food sorted and he said something about how I was doing Makaula’s work, “Makaula should do his own work.” He was the only one who seemed put out about it, everyone else was like great, she’s working! Anyway, they wound up having the assistant handy man help me with the pigs and we fed the gibbons too. He often helps feed animals when they are short staffed – there were already a couple people not at work that day, and then they had to take like four of them to get the horse. As we were feeding the gibbons an orange jump suit guy came up to ask the handy man a question. Most of the orange jump suit people ignore me (this is the group doing environmental cleanup stuff, they ran out of other projects and got sent to the zoo to help out), but this guy came right up and introduced himself and said what group he was from and that it was his job to make sure the zoo was looking sharp. It was funny….anyway after that, I took off.”

We went to a concert at Zamani….things did not go quite as planned. We brought Dylan, Michael, and Hyrum along, which was really fun.
“The concert didn’t start at12…it might have, but the power went off, no music. We were soon swamped with kids playing clapping games. It turns out one of the popular ones is actually in English! We learned the words: Mother’s in the kitchen making the rice, Father’s in the bathroom washing his face, Boys and girls are playing soccer, Boys and girls are playing netball, Change your stars, Another star, Don’t move, Don’t move, Stop – ha there is clapping and gestures for all of this. There was a Zamani graduate there who spoke English really well, she became our spokeswoman. Her name is Lisa. So we played clapping games, gave hugs, held hands, bounced, counted to 20, took pictures, were swamped by children wanting to look at the pictures….the guys really got into it, they were human jungle gyms. Ha, it was great! The power finally came back on and the music was blasting. All the kids started just dancing, so we joined in. Then they were ushered out to get ready, whoo, here comes the concert!

False alarm.

The power went out again!

Dylan and Michael left to give someone a lift. When they returned the power was still out. More pictures, more clapping games and showing off of hand flexibility. Lisa is double jointed and could do crazy stuff. Michael and Hyrum are also double jointed, it’s creepy.  HA, as Emily said, we were the show. There were some adults there and older kids, they mostly just sat down in the lower classroom and we ran amuck in the upper classroom. Michael wandered out and struck up conversation with some guys next door. One of them was definitely drunk. The other guy said a bunch of stuff about how apartheid is over and white people and black people need to mix and get along. He started rapping. I think the guys really did have a good, interesting time – I don’t think they go to Duncan Village type places, what would they do there? So it was as new for them as for us.
            Finally, we were sent to the kitchen for some tea. The concert was cancelled. But just as we finished, the power came back on! There were some people still hanging around, so they did their dances anyway. It was really fun to watch, I took a lot of video. So much rhythm, even with the little little kids, it is awesome! So they did a little dress rehearsal for us – if they even plan on rescheduling, I don’t know. Ha, we got there at 11 and we left just after 3.”

Still in love with South Africa!!! I can’t believe we are half way already, where did the time go??? 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Zamani and the Zoo

I love South Africa! For this blog post I figured I would just take some excerpts from my daily journal…I am already writing all of this stuff, why redo it, right?

This first bit is from the day that we went and helped at Zamani with the tour. A tour here is a fieldtrip. We took the four and five year old classes and it was crazy! We went to the East London Museum, which was actually really cool. I want to go and spend more time there. Anyway after the museum we headed to Mdantsne.

“This is a suburb of East London, it was like 15 minutes driving out of town. We were supposed to go to Mdatsane FM, a radio station place. But we were a bit late and then there was some confusion about…I am not really sure. They wouldn’t let the kids go in and check out the studio. We were supposed to go see/watch/participate in a show? Mama Yoyo took us BYUs in – there was what looked like a dance hall/roller blade rink and some offices. One of the offices had a radio set up, mikes and stuff. We looked in a window – I think a show was happening? There were two people inside. So we peeked inside and waved and then went back outside. Mama Yoyo was pretty upset that whatever we were supposed to do had fallen through. We spent like an hour sitting outside with all the kids on the curb in the parking lot. Mama Yoyo gave us some chips and biscuits (cookies) which we positively gobbled.

There were a lot of hip people hanging around the station. Guys in skinny jeans, sweet shoes, blazers, scarves, hats…it was funny. One of them (in combat boots, with diamond earrings in each ear) came and started talking to us about the ANC and how corrupt it is. It is the only party here in South Africa and has all the power. The guy compared it to a regime, a monarchy, the next Hitler. He said that no other party had a chance, because everyone was bribed or bullied into being ANC supporters. There is another party that has tried to win elections, the Democratic Alliance, but with no success. He said he wished Mandela would just make a statement, a death wish, that would save the country from corruption. But Mandela is like 94 years old and pretty reclusive. Holly mentioned he might have Alzheimer’s or something? When the guy stopped talking to us we talked about what he said – we have heard the Mandela sentiment several times, people really think that he could help the country out by saying something. And everyone we’ve talked to has said the ANC is corrupt, that the government is super corrupt. The guy said it was just a bully, that it censored people who disagreed with it. So that’s not a democracy, now is it. So we were wondering why, if so many people disliked the ANC, was it still in power? And we figure that many people still remember it as bringing down apartheid and have great loyalty towards it because of that. We’ve also heard many people say that when Mandela dies things are going to go south – civil war, bad stuff like that. Whooo.”

The whole day was really interesting and exhausting. The taxis that shuttled all the kids around blasted music super loud – I couldn’t believe they’d play it that loud with all those little sensitive ears. But the kids loved it – sang along to all the songs and danced. So I have been going to the zoo twice a week and doing interviews. It has been very interesting. I think my project has definitely morphed a bit from what I originally planned, but that is okay. This week I spent a couple hours talking to the supervisor of the zoo – his name is Karote. He is one of two people working there who is actually trained in wildlife. He told me all about his career and it was fascinating! And we did talk about building relationships with the animals and how that would change things.

“So I next asked about relationships. He said relationships with the animals were definitely important. They are vital for animal welfare. And if the guys really worked on relating to the animals they took care of, things would probably improve a lot. He talked about wanting the animals to be comfortable and not run away. This makes it easier for workers to monitor their conditions. He talked a lot about the benefits of relationships when it comes to conditioning or training the animals. In order to train there must be trust. The zoo is stressful enough for the animals, having connections with the keepers would help make it a more positive experience. If the animal is relaxed then it will make full use of its enclosure. He said the first step to training workers to build relationships is an understanding of why they are here, then treatment will improve…it is all connected. Increased sense of identity and purpose leads to better relationships which increases sense of responsibility and identity and around it goes again! The staff needs to see it as more than just a way to make money.

Conditioning takes a lot of patience. He talked about conditioning with the baboons. If they could be trained to go into their night room then maybe they could prevent the smallest baboon from getting picked on so much. But if the workers slam the door or scare them or don’t talk then they won’t build relationships and the animals will just be suspicious if you try to get them into the night room. He said there is definitely an ease of management that comes with good relationships. Now they have to get a vet to dart gun the baboons if they want to be checked. This freaks them out, riles them up. If they could train them, it would be much calmer. But Karote is still trying to instill basic ideas…like keeping the kitchen clean and not cross contaminating with knives and cutting boards. Karote has experience with training hippos to present themselves for checks and he has worked with lions to get them into the night room. He did this just by talking to the lions calmly and getting them used to him. Eventually they would respond to him and he could call them into the night room. He talked about positive reinforcement, yeah, someone speaking my language! He talked about how at the Pretoria Zoo they have teams of scientists working on this stuff. At the ELZ it is entrapment, not conditioning. Use food to bait animals into cages and if there was an emergency or a problem, they would have to get food.”

So, that is what I have been up to – interviews at the zoo, helping at Zamani, working on my wildlife behavior course, and just enjoying being with the people here.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

In the Field!

So far South Africa has been pretty amazing. I really loved Cape Town, it was such a gorgeous place. I am glad we could spend a few days there seeing the sights, before we headed down to East London. Anyone going there with a limited budget (both money and time) should check out the City Sightseeing Bus. You buy a ticket for the day and can ride it all over, getting off and on. It took us to some great places, like the Botanical Gardens right on the side of Table Mountain. So gorgeous and peaceful. And it goes to World of Birds, a park with hundreds of birds and some other animals too. They had one enclosure with several little monkeys running around and you could go inside and they would jump on your shoulder and try to steal things from your pockets! And of course driving along Chapman’s Drive and down to the Cape of Good Hope was incredible. I could go on and on.
We did have to leave Cape Town though and get on to the next adventure. And to do that we had to ride a Greyhound Bus for 16 hours! We drove all night, so we unfortunately did not get to see as much of the South African country side as we hoped to. But we did have several hours of light in the morning with which to admire the hills and vegetation and towns. East London is quite green and there are lots of plants and trees, thick vegetation. But it is harder to see that where we are staying, surrounded by neighborhoods, malls, etc. Our host family has been absolutely spectacular. The Thomases are great and we love them already! Our little flat is very nice, with lots of sunlight and white curtains. We are all starting to get used to life here, but at first it was a little daunting. Venturing out onto the street or into the mall was nerve wracking. It still is, a little, but we are finding our way around and meeting new people, so things are slowly becoming less alien. I spent the day at the Zimani Daycare. I was stuck into a classroom of 30ish four to five year olds. It was a blast! The daycare is in Duncan Village, one of the townships of East London. The classroom is an old shipping crate or train box car, I am not sure which. The kids were super funny and quick to grin. They taught me clapping games and had a great time playing with my hair and generally using me as a jungle gym.
One of my favorite things so far has been getting used to the taxis. That is our main mode of transportation – taxis are crazy!!! I wish I could do a field study just on them and the drivers. There is a whole system, that we have not quite figured out yet, but I find it fascinating. Yesterday I was in a taxi van with 16 other people! The person sitting next to the driver gets to sort out the money, although the passengers are pretty good at sorting it out themselves. I had a R10 bill and went to pass that forward with the rest of my row – they made sure that I got the correct change out of our collective money pile before passing it all forward.
We have noticed that people who work in the shops and grocery stores are not overly friendly – I feel like it is not unusual in an American store for the cashier to make small talk with you. I do not know if people just don’t do that here, or if because we are white they figure we won’t speak the language…but cashiers here do not do that kind of thing. But that is not to say that people are not kind or friendly. Some of the taxi guys are super friendly, but then they have to be outgoing to track down prospective passengers. People at church have been very friendly, the YSA group is awesome. We have already done one activity with them and institute and a fireside. Tonight we are going to play miniature golf, or put-put with them. I am hoping to get a game of ultimate Frisbee going one of these days – that would be a blast!
As for my project…well I went to the zoo and spoke with the curator. I am still waiting to hear back from her a positive “Yes, you can come do your project.” It sounded promising though. There was the minor setback that the zoo does not actually have zookeepers, it has general workers who have not been trained in animal care or biology or zoology. But it sounds like some of them have been there for years, so I am sure they have developed relationships with the animals in their care. Alison told me of several other animal places. So far I have visited the SPCA, an animal shelter. I got one interview there, but was not allowed to get more. That is fine, because in the SPCA creating bonds with the animals can actually be detrimental to both parties. I really want to check out the Lion Park. It sounds like the Promised Land for my project. Unfortunately it is a bit out of town, so I have to wait until the Thomases or someone could give me a lift there. I am still trying to track down other places that I can volunteer. One group sounds promising, but they do not have anything for me to do right now.
To conclude this blog post – South Africa has really been amazing so far. It is different and eye-opening. Things have been at times uncomfortable but I think that is the point. We are meant to grow and be stretched and that is going to hurt a bit. But it will be worth it in the end, I hope. I have discovered the joys of rooibos tea and rusks and I can never go back!  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Final Learning Journal!!!!

      Except it won't really be my last one, since we have to keep blogging about things in the field...but it is my last one in Provo, Utah, and that is exciting! So today in class we did a little exam review and went over all the different concepts we have learned this semester. There really has been a lot of good information! I hope I can remember all of it and really put it to use in the field. Some thoughts I had during our review:

Being a participant observer - I have to try to not only participant in the activities - be it church, working at the zoo, doing stuff with the Thomases - I also have to remember to be an observer in those activities. It is more than just getting involved: it is paying attention to how people act, what is culturally acceptable, how do I react to things that are different from my culture, what is different and why is it different, how do people treat each other, the list goes on. There are so many things to be aware of, that if I can observe, will really help me gain a better understanding of the culture and be better prepared to enter other cultures in the future.

Conducting successful interviews - we went over all the different ways to interview, the different structures, probes, etc. I can do so much more than just ask my simple questions and I need to remember to tie some of those descriptive questions or probes into my interviews. For example, I didn't list any grand tour questions on my list of possible questions. But I do really want to know what a typical day at the zoo is like. Grand tour question! I'd forgotten some of the language stuff, like asking people to define words, even if they are in English. That could definitely be important. And maybe the word has a similar surface meaning in both cultures, but a different meaning deeper Jackie asking about relationships and what a relationship is in South Africa - I'm sure the surface meanings are the same in both cultures, but do people act differently in relationships in South Africa - is love or caring portrayed a different way? This also reminds me of the Christmas in the Kalahari reading. The researcher thought he was doing this great thing but he didn't get the reaction he expected at all, even though I'm sure the people in the community still appreciated his large Christmas bull, even if they didn't show it like he was used to.

Something else I thought about was entering the community. So far the zoo has not contacted us back...what do I do if I don't reach them before I get to East London? My plan is to just go to the zoo and try to find someone in charge or an administrator type and discuss my project with them. Will this be sufficient? And from there how do I meet the zoo keepers and really build rapport with them? Will it be possible to "hang out" with them while they are working? Is there a break room where I can go and talk to people during lunch breaks? I guess I was counting a lot on the administrators or bosses of the zoo to introduce me to keepers. Who is in charge of the zoo? Is there a main boss or a group of people that decide things? I need to figure that out so I know who to approach.

So yeah, some good thoughts provoked by today's review, I still have some things I need to work on!