Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Swimming

After a long night of driving, it was great waking up in our Baboon proof, 5 star room, complete with trap doors. Everyone was able to get a warm shower and a relaxing breakfast, before heading out on a safari.
The safari was the highlight of the day. We saw tons of animals ranging from zebras to lions and hippos to warthogs. And to complete the safari, we got to visit the movie set of The Lion King. We saw Pride Rock, the great stampede, and Timon and Pumba’s watering hole.

We arrived back at camp after this amazing safari, to a warm and fresh lunch. We ate quick, gathered our gear and still had enough time for a hike. My hiking group consisted of Charlie, Farrad, Mitch, Dawn, Doctor and myself.

Our goal was to walk an hour to the information building and back. Although reality hit in, and it only took us 15 minutes to walk there. The information building was a disappointment, so we left quickly and headed to the rendezvous location. On the way there, we came across an aviary and swimming pool. Being ahead of schedule as we were, we took a break. Dawn wrote in her journal and Mitch went and watched the birds. For the four remaining guys, we decided to strip to our boxers and go for a swim.

The water was freezing cold, but our bodies quickly numbed the feelings. We swam for what felt like two hours, but was only really a half hour because of the icy water.

We met up with the rest of the group, soaking wet. We grabbed our towels, dried off and piled into the vans. We headed off in the sun set to Johannesburg.

By Andrew Hart

A Different Kind of Homecoming

Today, for most, started with waking up to the beautiful African sunrise as they still lay in the field where they slept. For the rest, it was the wake up call by Bernie that started their day. Either way, it was the first time all of us were able to view the SCENE Centre in Mafikeng in the day light. The centre has so much to offer the scouts of South Africa, it is too bad that we will be here for such a short time.

After breakfast and a brief tour of the centre, we set off into Mafikeng, to the local museum. This adventure to Mafikeng is ultimately like a homecoming for any Scout. This is where BP started Scouting and something that all of us are incredible thankful for. The museum was full of the interesting history of the town, the start of Scouting and even included some writings by BP himself.

After the museum we headed to the Mafikeng Game Reserve. Here we saw many different animals including wild boars, giraffe and rhinos. The difference between this reserve and the last was definitely how close we were able to be to the rhino, which made for some perfect photo opportunities. After the safari we hit the road for Pilanesburg, which proved to be quite the drive, and then went straight to bed to be well rested for our day tomorrow.

Yours in Scouting,
Bruce Hunter

Goodbye to Welkom, and the best birthday ever.

August 22 was a significant day in our trip for several reasons. It was our last day with our friends in Welkom, it was the day we went to Mafikeng, and it was my birthday!

The first order of business of the day was packing – time to gather up the souvenirs and possessions scattered to the far corners of our new home. And figure out how exactly to pack a vuvuzelah. Good thing we planned to leave construction clothes and other items behind for donation where needed in the community! After sorting, stuffing, and figuring out who owned that extra sock, everything was packed in the vans and we were ready for closing. Gathering in the front yard with our local Scout friends and our camper guests, we knew it would be an emotional goodbye. To thank our hosts and as symbols of our friendship, we were ready with contingent and national neckers for our friends. We presented our friends with their neckers, a Scouts Canada flag, and signed pictures of our contingent in front of our home away from home. We were all honoured to be invested as members of the 1st Gilgold troop – and agreed we would be happy to help with any projects around the Scout hall and the community. Responsibility for travel costs to be determined. We were presented with a beautiful carving showing the flags of our two countries on opposite sides of a Scout fleur-de-lis. It was absolutely gorgeous and so touching, there were many wet eyes around the horseshoe. Although everyone had a lot to say, speeches were kept short to avoid breakdowns in the middle of the horseshoe. Hearing such heartfelt thanks reconfirmed why we came here that we had made a difference.
Once the gifts and thank yous had been exchanged, there was just one more surprise before we could close the camp. Singing Happy Birthday to me! It was awesome celebrating my birthday with Scout friends from around the world, and a perfect card and cake were the finishing touches on an awesome birthday surprise.
After all our goodbyes were said we headed to our first destination for our tourist portion of our trip – Mafikeng, the birthplace of Scouting.
It was a long, and often thoughtful drive as we contemplated the things we had seen and done in the last 3 weeks, and we were glad to reach our destination in the evening. After looking around we were all excited to see the museum, game reserve, and other amenities in the morning daylight. Although there were bunks for everyone inside, the open field, night sky, and beautiful were too tempting and almost everyone slept under the stars. The perfect end to a day! (and the best birthday I've ever had.)

Dawn Garden

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Scout and Cub Day in Welkom

On our second last day in Welkom, we were all up early to prepare to host up to 400 cubs and scouts (in the end we had about 100 there) for a day of various activities ranging from compass work to carnival games. The day was divided into two sections. Before lunch, the activities were more fun and games whereas after lunch they were more skill building.

Along with Gillian, we were in charge of face painting. Popular designs were butterflies, hearts, bees, cats, dogs, beavers, rainbows and maple leaves. For most of the kids, face painting was a completely new experience. It is rare for them to have this opportunity. Growing up in Canada, face painting is very common at fairs and festivals. We can hardly keep track of how many times we have had our faces painted, but here seldom have ever had the chance.

Surprisingly, many of the kids wanted a beaver drawn on their face, which we found difficult. Almost all the kids had animals and shapes all over their faces when they left our station, and we even had time to draw on the other contingent members and ourselves before lunch.

After lunch, the kids lined up again at the flag poles. Since we were done working at the face painting station, we had the opportunity to join a patrol for the second half of the day. The activities, as mentioned, were more skill building during this half of the day, so the stations run were things like "How To Use A Drill" and "Turning On A Computer." They were skills that we normally wouldn't think to put into a program for days like this, but the kids learned a lot of interesting and useful things.

After everyone had gone through each activity, there was a short closing ceremony and those who were staying overnight went out to the tents in the back.

All in all, it was a very interesting day. Face painting was definitely a highlight. All the kids were so excited to look in the mirror at their face paintings, and it was very rewarding to think that we provided them with an opportunity that they normally wouldn't have.

Bye for now,

Brenna and Ivy
The Country Bookends

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And they're off!!

Just a quick, and we mean quick update!!

We are boarding in 20 minutes, and just wanted to let you know that we are safe!!

Caroline made it on her flight to Capetown and the rest of us are ready to start the long journey home.

Hopefully we can update once in Heathrow, but if not, we look forward to telling you all our stories in person tomorrow.

The Dream Team,

Creighton and Gillian

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greetings from Jo'burg

Greetings from Jo'burg,

This is just a quick blog to let everyone know that we are all safe and sound in Jo'burg. Leaving Welkom Sunday morning, we travelled to Mafikeng- the birthplace of Scouting. Here, we stayed at the SCENE (Scout Centre for Excellence in Nature and the Enviornment) Centre and toured Mafikeng, including the Old Main Hall (now a museum) and Baden-Powell Hall. We also visited a game reserve before heading out to Pilanesburg National Park. Here we went on a safari ride where we saw all types of animals! Last night, we drove to Jo'burg and are now staying at the Gilwell Centre. Today we went to the Cradle of Humankind and tomorrow we plan on visiting the Scout Shop, along with some other places. I'd go into more detail, but we have people who are writing blogs about our time here, and I don't want to steal their thunder.

Like we expected, internet access here is limited and hard to find. Currently, I'm sitting in an internet cafe while others do the grocery shopping for dinner. That means, if you don't hear from your kid, or have a daily update to this blog, we apologize, but are trying to be flexible. We expect that tomorrow evening (at the airport) we'll be able to access the internet and will update you, in detail, about all the wonderful things we've been doing.

The point of this blog, you ask? To let you know: we are safe, and having one incredible time.

Your fearless Patrol Leaders,
Gillian and Creighton

Friday, August 20, 2010

House of Hope

Today started out disappointing, but it quickly got better. First, we were informed by Lawrence that we wouldn’t be able to go to the last school, as the strike made it too dangerous. Instead, we worked around the Scout Centre here in Welkom. We made signs, painted windows and doors and picked up garbage around the compound. Many hands made light work, and soon we were finished.

After having a quick lunch, we were then given a choice – we could either stay at the compound, go to the mall, or visit a place called ‘House of Hope’. We (Alanna and Kristin) chose to go to House of Hope, which is a house for babies with HIV/AIDS that were abandoned by their parents. There were 5 kids there, from 5 months to a year and 3 months. They were all bursting with energy and curiosity, but didn’t like their baths very much! With 12 of us visiting, babies were in short supply- but as we were taught in Beavers: “Sharing, sharing, sharing!” We helped bathe, feed, and generally love them. That’s all they wanted: to be loved, and that we could do.

While it’s sad that these babies were abandoned in the first place, it is good to know that there is a place they can be taken care of, where they can get the care and love they deserve. Each baby had their own personality, whether squawky and attention-grabbing, or quiet and reserved, they were all different.

We were fortunate that Val told us about this place and took us there with her. Val is a local reporter who stopped by the other day to ask us a few questions about what we’re doing. So impressed with our work, she brought her children by today to visit us and learn from us. Val visits House of Hope every Friday (particularly for one girl, but plays with them all) and invited us along with her today.

We arrived back at the compound to the smell of pancakes – tonight was Canada Night! We ate pancakes and maple syrup with some of our South African friends who’ve been with us since the beginning of our stay here in Welkom. We also played Frisbee and keep-it-up in the dark, and danced to Canadian artists for hours on end.

Tomorrow we play host to many South African Cubs and Scouts. We’ll be organizing many different activities and have to get up early – horror!

Your wonder twins: Kiki and Alanna