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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Thanks Mom and Dad

Well, I’m officially in South Africa and ready begin my study abroad experience. Many who have been through this before describe their time abroad as “life changing”. I can attest to the fact that the first fifteen hours on my study abroad were not life changing. Hey, this is the longest time I’ve ever been on a plane, let alone just sitting in one place (if you know me, you probably just laughed). The time on the plane has only made me more eager for the next fifteen weeks. After an extended period of passing the time by with small talk, reading, and movies, we closed in on Johannesburg. Shoutout to the flight crew of South African Airways and my flight attendant for remembering how I take my coffee, black. This morning, after two cups of coffee, we began our descent.

That last 15 minutes between touchdown and debarking are the longest of the whole flight, aren’t they? After thanking the pilot, I was on South African soil, well really just the tunnel that leads to the gate, but same difference. Following that, I breezed through customs, said nobody, ever. I actually had to argue that my visa was legitimate. Let’s hope I can get back through in May. Anyway, I picked up my luggage and headed for the hotel which I’m spending my first night in. Immediately upon leaving the airport I was hit with a rush of new smells, some of them tropical, and others completely unrecognizable.

I checked into the hotel, dropped my bags in my room, and headed for the gym. Had to work off the last fifteen hours of inactivity. Then, lunch in the restaurant located just off the lobby. Everyone here is so friendly! Tomorrow, I will meet up with the group that I’ll spend the next three and a half months with. Monday, we head off the grid, literally. We will depart for Nylsvley which is a game reservation located ninety minutes North of Pretoria (in case you’re familiar with direction here in S. Africa). My syllabus says that there will not be internet until February 3rd. This is the part I’ve been waiting for (and my parents are dreading).

Speaking of my parents, I need to thank them for the love and support they’ve given me to make it to this moment. I wouldn’t be here without them, in fact, I wouldn’t be anywhere. I suppose being the favorite, I mean, first-born child has it’s perks. Mom, I’ll try to come back with all my limbs. Ciao for now.