South Africa

South Africa
The Rainbow Nation

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Victory at last! We successfully caught the flight out of Johannesburg on Sunday and arrived at the Atlanta Airport on time Monday, October 8th. Who would have ever guessed that we would have a 3 ½ hour delay in Atlanta prior to departing for Columbia. At least we were on American soil and almost home. We kept communicating with Ellison and he conveyed our delays to our families. Victory was so close that we could taste it.

At between 2-3 p.m. our plane touched down in Columbia. There were hugs and kisses and more hugs and kisses from our families. Ellison greeted us with t-shirts that had our team picture and other information on them. What a pleasant surprise!

So now, it is two weeks since our arrival back home; we all have gotten over jet lag and our body clocks have adjusted to this time zone. Each team member is busy with his or her own business of carrying on with life. I have had major surgery and am now recuperating nicely. (God has been faithful to His promises to be with me!) So please accept my apology for not getting the final blog on prior to now.

In retrospect of our Group Study Exchange, we are grateful to all of you who helped make this experience so special; you are too numerous to even begin to thank you individually. Thank you for your prayers and support of the team prior to, during and after the Exchange. God began a good work in the team in the beginning and will complete that work according to His plan. He placed before us numerous opportunities to serve our fellowman in S. Africa – so many aids orphans who have such little hope without someone else getting involved.

District Governor Mary Martin has disseminated to all Rotary Club Presidents a summary of a few of the needs presented to us, and I pray that some of you will respond and let us know that you want to work with us. Rotary International’s motto – “Service Above Self” becomes reality when we get involved with those less fortunate than we are. That’s what Rotary International is all about.

Team members are very willing to give presentations to Rotary Clubs; so please invite one of us to share one of the greatest experiences of our lives. You will laugh and some of you might even cry over the devastation that HIV/AIDS has created on precious children in S. Africa. Whatever your reaction is, you will not be able to forget the faces of those suffering from this horrible disease.

We left as ambassadors for America; we returned as ambassadors for S. Africa!

Elizabeth Smith
Team Leader
Group Study Exchange to S. Africa

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stuck in Johannesburg!

Would you believe we are having MORE trouble with flights? After saying goodbye to our host families at the Kimberley Airport, we suffered through a bumpy, turbulent flight to Johannesburg. After waiting in line at the Delta International Counter (ahead of time), we were informed that we should have been there one hour before our departing flight and that Delta had given our seats away!! We were only FIVE MINUTES late!!

Annie and Andrea stood at the Delta counter to rebook our flight for the following evening while Elizabeth, Loretta and Will RAN down to the South African Airways desk to find out about accommodations for the evening. LUCKILY, South African Airways was able to book us into 5 villas at the Kopanong Hotel in Johannesburg (along with dinner that evening and two meals the following day). We had a nice dinner and then jumped in bed for a well-deserved night's rest.

The following morning we convened for breakfast (minus Annie, of course) and discussed the plan for the day. Checkout time was supposed to be 11:00 a.m. but when the hotel heard our predicament they agreed to extend our checkout time to 2:00 p.m.

Loretta and I are sitting in the hotel lobby now; Elizabeth and Andrea are enjoying a walk around the hotel grounds; and Annie has yet to be seen this morning.

Pray for us - we hope to be home safely by 11:15 on Monday morning.

Will Moody
GSE Team Member

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Special Blog Alert.

Dear Friends and Family Members,

Our blog is now updated through our 11th and final stop - Kimberley. We regret that we have been unable to include pictures. We have asked a number of Internet and I.T. professionals to assist us and they have also failed to upload our pictures. Broadband Internet speeds are much different here than in the United States (the U.S. is much, much faster). Pictures taken by digital cameras are often between 1.5 and 2.5 megabytes and a fast connection is needed to upload image files of that size to an Internet site (in a reasonable amount of time). A number of factors are working against us, so please be patient and we will share our pictures when we return.

Will Moody
GSE Team Member


September 29– October 2 Vryburg (Stop 10 out of 11)

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 29th, after our longest commute since arriving in South Africa, we reached our 10th destination: Vryburg, aka “The Texas of South Africa”.

We began our adventure in Vryburg by jumping into the bed of a “bakki” and heading to a game farm. We saw many different species of game, including kudu, ostrich, and rhino. After Loretta suffered an abrasion on her right elbow (she just wanted to say she had a scar from South Africa!), we rounded a turn to find “6” rhino (4 white rhino and 2 black rhino, including 2 babies) standing in the middle of the road. The rhino were quite agitated when we began to follow them down the dirt road! At one point, the rhino turned toward us with their heads dropped, and we were certain we would be charged and toppled. Thankfully, all ended well and Loretta’s abrasion was the only pain and suffering endured.

On Saturday evening, we ate dinner at “Ramblers”, a private, local tennis club. Many Rotarians joined us for dinner as well as many locals who just wanted to meet the “Americans”. As usual, we had a wonderful time getting to know our new hosts and their friends, and we truly received a taste of Texas (in South Africa, that is)!!

SUNDAY=Rest Day!! Praise the Lord, we had the day off. After attending Rotarian Rev. Eric’s Mahlazi’s Methodist church in the local township, we headed to Wally and Jeanette Brink’s for an afternoon of food and fellowship. On Sunday evening, we sat through the torture of the South African vs. American World Cup Rugby game. Go Springboks!

Monday in Vryburg was full of interesting events, people and places. We began the morning by touring local Rotary projects, including Tiger Kloof, a publicly funded school, operated on private property, where we were served and hosted lunch by the 10th graders. The afternoon continued by each team member spending some time in their respective vocations. On Monday evening, we returned to Tiger Kloof for dinner and our presentation. Many of the Tiger Kloof Interact students were able to attend our presentation as well as “Mamma Ruth”; the current Mayor of Vryburg, previous Secretary to Nelson Mandela, and 33rd ranked political official in all of South Africa. What an AWESOME experience!!

Tuesday morning, we were all packed up and ready to travel to Kimberley. After stopping by “Mamma Ruth’s” office to present her with a SC State Flag, we began our last road trip. We were joined by several Rotarians from Vryburg who ended our adventure by taking us to the Olive Farm and Wine Vineyard in Hartswater before handing us over to the Kimberley Rotarians.

Annie Geddings, GSE Team Member

Welcome to Welkom.

Thursday, September 27 – Saturday, September 29

Eight down and three more to go! Our path has taken us all over S. Africa from Port Elizabeth to Welkom and given us the opportunity to meet some really special Rotarians and families. There have been no dull moments in our adventures.

We were taken by Richard and Allen (hosts) from Bloemfontein Thursday morning (Sept. 25th) half way to Welkom. Oh dear, here we go again with all that luggage! Angel and Johnny stuffed and stuffed until they finally were able to get all the luggage in 2 cars. What a feat! I actually had to carry one of Andrea’s pieces on my lap; so Andrea, you owe me one! Oh, what relief when we arrived in Welkom!

Anybody for lunch?? Yes, the Team was glad to eat again. I think this has become a habit with us. So after we fed our faces, we headed off for another visit.

There are many gold mines in the area providing a stable economy for the town. Unfortunately, however, mining is dangerous and often results in physical injuries. Oppenheimer Hospital, our next place to visit, is a hospital which was established for injured miners. According to our expert physical therapist, Andrea, hospital employees were doing a good job providing occupational and physical therapy for miners. The activities were very specific to the injuries and the skills needed by the miners. For the development of fine motor skills, the patients were actually making items (ex. basket weaving) rather than just exercising. Of course, you know who had to see if she could climb the ladder (me).

Loretta and I were taken to our host family, Bill and Gerda, where we were able to take a nice shower and have a cup of Roibus tea. Four Rotary Clubs (52 including children) met together for dinner and for our presentation. It went well and we received compliments from the group.

We had to rise quite early so we could head off to the gold mine at 6:30 a.m. Does anyone out there have some toothpicks I can use to hold my eyes open???? We were given an orientation regarding the history of the mine and safety precautions. Our garb (overalls, big boots, gloves and hard hats) made us look like we were from outer space. Workers thought we were quite funny. Next came the elevator to take us down 5200 feet; we were knocking on the Devil’s door! After exiting the elevator, we walked for almost a mile through mud, water and broken rocks before reaching the location of real adventure – the rock face. We entered almost pure darkness except for the lights on our hard hats and began descending to where the worker was drilling in preparation for blasting. I slipped and slid, trying to hold onto the cables overhead but my short body had difficulty reaching them. Finally at the end, the manager pointed out how the gold looked. It was amazing how much rock had to be removed to get only a small amount of gold. What an experience and what new appreciation we gained for the workers who must stay in small, dark spaces day in and day out. Light, wonderful light!!! The Team was so happy to walk out of the darkness and enter the elevator to return to the light of day.

During our next tour, “Morning Star Center” for HIV Positive children is a mission that brings light and hope to its otherwise hopeless.. Children are picked up each morning by buses and taken to the Center where they are fed and given medical care. The Center serves almost 60 children ranging in age from infants to 16 year olds. They sang and danced for us.

Off to lunch again. After lunch, we were taken to another Township where 450,000 people live. Homes ranged from extremely poor shacks to really nice homes. Every township has several “shebeens” (pubs) even though the people are the poorest in S.Africa. We had been told horror stories about their having put battery acid in the wine/liquor; however, the one they took us to was a decent place with regular cokes, beer, etc.

Hurry up, get showered and dressed for another Club social – that was the command. We enjoyed another braai and fellowship with Rotarians and their families.

The next morning I chose to spend some last minutes with my host family, Bill and Gerda. What an inspiration they were to me! The couple is going through many challenges. Gerda has a health problem but displays such faith in God and His will being done in her life. She radiated with God’s peace.

Breakfast was enjoyed by everyone and Fred with the Vryburg Rotary Club loaded us and our luggage in a combi – “on the road again!”

Elizabeth Smith
Team Leader


After the conference in Lesotho, we were on our way to Bloemfontein. A few of the Rotarians who attended to conference were nice enough to give us a ride to their city. The first thing we did was to take a tour of Bloemfontein with Richard, the president of the club. Bloemfontein is a wonderful city with an opera house, a game reserve in the city limits, lots of shopping, etc. After the tour, we had dinner at Catherine’s home with salmon, pasta, cheesecake – really good food.
The next day, we woke up to a vocational day. Elizabeth, Will, Annie, and Andrea went to the Sunflower House; a place that children with incurable disease could go to spend quality time , and be looked after. Joan, a very knowledgable nurse, had a dream to provide this service, and she made it come true. We also went to the local hospital for a look at the pediatric areas, and the “kangaroo program” which enables new mothers to spend time with their infants rather than the infants going to an isolette without bonding time. Loretta went to the criminal sexual magistrate court that issues protection orders against criminal domestic violence. We came home for lunch, and then did some shopping for souvenirs in the city. That night , the Rotarians took us out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant; the only Mexican restaurant we have ever been to that didn’t serve chips and salsa at the beginning of the meal.
The next morning, we actually woke up to a thunderstorm. The area hasn’t had rain for months and months. We went to a game reserve, Emoya, despite the rain, and took a walking tour of the reserve with a guide named Jacques from Botswana. The tour was fantastic – we had a great time. We saw lots of wildlife, including zebra, eland , springbok, duiker, a cat named a caricol, snakes, cheetah, including 2 little playful baby cheetah, and giraffes. We even got to play with the baby cheetahs and pet them, as well as the snakes ( whoever wanted to, that is ). We went home to rest for a while, and then that night, we gave our presentation to the 2 rotary clubs in the area. We gave our usual presentation, followed by our picture program that was seen at the conference with a few new pictures thrown in from Bloemfontein. Another day; next we are headed to Welkom.

Aliwal North

Aliwal North
September 19, 2007
We are well rested, luggage packed and ready to take on the next 2 ½ weeks.
As we leave Colesberg for Aliwal North. We’re checked out of Gallop Inn and standing on the sidewalk with our bags. Someone came along and unlocks the trailer that was parked near the sidewalk. We packed the trailer with our luggage, but we need more space. The waiting game starts again. We’re waiting for the trailer to be hooked up to a vehicle and a vehicle to carry the rest of our luggage and us of course.
Just now, two cars arrive within minutes of each other. What do you know; the last vehicle, the driver is a banker, working on banker’s hours? Off we go to meet out next host family. We met in a small town name Venterstad. We said our good byes and thank you to Jack and Dave.

As we traveled another 1 ½ hour, Elizabeth of course needed a pit stop .We stopped in small town named Bugerdorp. Andrea is checking on the plans and yes they have changed. We arrived safely at the homes of our host families. Andrea and Loretta are staying together again at the Conville Bed and Breakfast. The Conville Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful mini castle with wonderful landscape and a dairy farm. Andrea and I are received a quick farming lesson on Lucerne, as Rex try to cool off in the pond. The team reassembled at Khapa Public Fet College to get a first hand experience of the literacy program sponsored by Rotary of Aliwal North. The program is designed to provide Basic English lessons and skills. The students are taught using computers software that guide them through each lesson plans such as letter writing, grammar, vocabulary, curriculum vitas, creating invitations and programs. The student’s age ranges from 14-54 years of age. The class is held once a week for an hour. The evening concluded with a social gathering and the team giving our presentation at Linda and Antony (Conville BB).

The next day was vocational day for each of us. Will, Elizabeth and I went to the Holy Cross Catholic School where Annette (?) teaches grade 2. Dr. Smith gave the class a lesson, while Will and I gave out juicy fruit chewing gum.

We were than taken to the Aliwal North Masango Career School. Most of the students are classified as street children. The children were happy to greet American. They sang and danced for us. The staff prepared coffee and tea as we sit with them to learn more about the school. The local Newspaper came out to capture some pictures to do a story on our visit. Annie and Andrea visited a hospital in Lady Gray. The evening concluded with a social gathering the Conville Bed and Breakfast. The next morning we were off to Lesotho. So we think!!!!

Loretta Davis, GSE Team Member