The first two weeks of our program were incredible, but also, at times, emotionally heavy.
Even in the first couple of days we jumped right in, as we quickly began to get exposure to the history of South Africa more in depth. We visited the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg, which gave us amazing insight into the “old” South Africa and how it continues to impact the current South Africa. It opened my eyes to the racial dynamics that have been at play in this country over the past century, and made me think critically about race in a new way, both here in South Africa and in the context of my experiences in the United States.
We visited the mining museum located within Gold Reef City, our home base for the initial part of our trip. We got a chance to learn about how the mining industry in South Africa impacted and interacted with the racial dynamics reinforced by Apartheid.
From here we visited Kruger for an unforgettable five days. I caught myself forgetting that we were in the real savannah, rather than a landscape that had been cultivated by people to just mimic what a savannah was “supposed” to look like; or that when we saw hyenas, bushbabies, and giraffes on game drives, they weren’t brought here from somewhere else, this was actually where they are meant to be. Our guides were warm and welcoming, and so excited to share Kruger with us. The lectures gave me a much better understanding of the environmental factors at play in the park, as well as controversial issues like elephant culling and rhino poaching. We had our first braai under the stars in the park, and got to try some South African specialties like biltong, malva pudding, and pap. Even though there were many early mornings (sometimes as early as 4am), Kruger was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.