My second week here in South Africa has just come to an end, and the halfway point of my stay is quickly approaching. Each and every day brings a new and exciting adventure, and just when I think the thrilling experiences have been exhausted, I am faced with yet another incredible moment to top it off.
As mentioned in my previous post, this program has exceeded my expectations in all ways possible. In addition to this, it has surprised me in countless ways. Beginning with the day of arrival, I was immediately met with an overpowering sense of culture shock. I had prepared for the trip in every way imaginable, and in the process of doing this, I now see that I had unintentionally lost sight of the fact that I would be traveling out of the country and into a new continent. While these cultural differences initially astonished and overwhelmed me, they quickly transformed into being one of my favorite aspects of the trip.
Another unexpected feature of this trip is that it emphasizes volunteer-based community work much more heavily than I had initially anticipated. Compared to the US, the country of South Africa has a wildly different understanding of animal care and wellbeing. This is especially true for the many impoverished communities that surround the area in which I am staying, where cows, goats, pigs, dogs, and other animals have free range of the land. Veterinary care is essentially unheard of in these areas, and in an effort to educate and communicate with the people of these communities, the Safari4u Veterinary Program provides free care to as many of these animals as possible. This sort of work consumes at least two thirds of my week, and while it was unexpected, I truly enjoy the time that I am able to spend at these locations. If it weren’t for my connection with this program, I would not have the chance to experience this vital aspect of South African life and culture, and there are no words to describe how valuable and wonderful these experiences have been.
To say that my time here has been eye-opening is an understatement. Each day brings a new surprise, and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store.
Till next time, hamba kakuhle!
—all photos taken by myself—