From Johannesburg to Nylsvley (home) February 1, 2017

If you could not pronounce the second city in my blog title, have no fear. I’ve now resided here in Nylsvley for almost ten days and I’m still trying to figure it out. Each local who I have asked has offered me a different pronunciation. Not wanting to risk sounding like a foreigner, I’ve resorted to calling it home. So far, no one is suspicious.

After meeting our class of seventeen students, we began our journey out of Johannesburg. The travel route we took across South Africa consisted of mostly dirt roads. To those city dwellers that may be curious, the novelty of a dirt road disappears after about hour three hours. Finally arriving in Nylsvley after almost twelve hours on the (dirt) roads was a great feeling. I’ll be honest in saying that the view from our camp was not anything special, but the place just radiated a cozy feeling. Upon unloading my bags I moved into my new temporary bedroom and went off for dinner in the dining hall. Mary, our chef, had prepared a DELICIOUS meal including “pap” which is ground maize, spicy sautéed chicken, grilled corn, and a salad. We were encouraged to stuff ourselves, and I obliged. Following dinner, the entire group stayed up talking late into the night. Being off the grid is a good thing.

Rising at 6:30 AM, breakfast at 7, and then it was off to class. Our first class was an introduction to savanna ecology. Immediately following, we loaded into game drive vehicles (GDVs) and went out to the field for the first time. It turns out that our destination, the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, was only steps away from “home”. We entered the reserve and I was instantly reminded of why I had decided to travel to South Africa. Tall grasses and an abundance of Acacia Tortelis trees (identified thanks to my introduction lecture) greeted, and reassured me, of my arrival to the savanna. Wildebeest ran across the road in front of our GDV and within twenty minutes, we had our first giraffe spotting. The giraffe, who was much less excited to see us than we were to see him, continued eating his lunch as we snapped pictures. It was the highlight of my day, so I thought…

Following the game drive, we returned for lunch and an afternoon lecture. When class dismissed, I went out for a run on the reservation with one of my new friends. Caught up in the gorgeous trees and grassland I almost tripped over a midsized tortoise crossing the road (dirt, of course). #southafricaproblems Then, still thrilled to have seen the tortoise and partially out of breath, we made a right turn and there, less than twenty feet away, stood a full grown female giraffe. Taller than the one I’d seen earlier, this magnificent animal was RIGHT NEXT TO US! Not wanting to disturb our new friend, we passed by her without breaking stride. The giraffe turned, followed us with her head for a moment, and then resumed eating. THAT was the highlight of my day. I wonder what’s next.

For those reading this whose minds may be wandering, I am not moving to Nylsvley. T.S. Eliot once stated, “Home is where one starts from”. Nylsvley is where I was first introduced to the beautiful landscape of South Africa and it is from here that I officially begin my adventure.

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