South Africa

South Africa
The Rainbow Nation

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Welcome to the Mountain Kingdom - Maseru, Lesotho!

First, we need to let you know that we are having a terrible time uploading images to the blog. We have tried repeatedly and have failed each time. Please know we ARE taking many pictures and will share those when we return.

We departed from Aliwal North on Friday, September 21 and drove to a halfway point between Aliwal North and Maseru. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the halfway point and did not see any Rotarians to take us the rest of the way! We waited for about 20 minutes and finally called our contact in Maseru. Oh no...he had not left Maseru nor had he arranged for transportation! We had to think fast, but luckily our wonderful Aliwal North hosts agreed to drive us the rest of the way to Maseru.

Crossing the border into Lesotho was scary. We ALL felt extremely unsafe as we made our way through the dense crowd to the Customs Office. We waited and waited but nobody arrived to take us to our host families! After several tense phone calls, two vehicles arrived and we were on our way.

We arrived at the Lesotho Convention Center and were greeted by many friendly Rotarians at the District 9320 Conference. We went home with our host families to shower and change clothes.

That afternoon and evening, we enjoyed the opening ceremonies for the district conference. I was asked to carry the Canadian flag in the procession of flags! We met the GSE Team from Colorado and also some Ambassadorial Scholars from the U.S. That evening, we had a nice meal and retired for some much needed rest.

The following morning (Saturday), we woke early and joined the GSE team from Colorado for a 2-hour drive into the HIGH Lesotho Mountains (over 6,000 feet) to tour the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. This is a joint project between Lesotho and South Africa that was begun in 1986. The project will span 50 years and involves the construction of 5 major dams as well as a sophisticated hydroelectric power system. Lesotho is a water-rich nation while South African provinces such as Gauteng are water-poor. Water is diverted from the mountains to South Africa. Lesotho also exports electricity to South Africa. Two hours up the mountain road meant two hours DOWN the mountain road. It was a long morning...

That afternoon we enjoyed seeing the Colorado GSE team's presentation after a nice lunch. That evening, we had a "cultural night" during which we saw traditional South African and Zulu dances. Another great meal finished off this busy day.

Sunday morning found us anxious because it was now OUR turn to give our presentation to the district! After a quick lunch, we did our presentation flawlessly and even received a standing ovation. We finished the day with the concluding banquet during which Elizabeth presented a South Carolina flag to King Letsie III. The South Carolina flag we presented has flown over the State House in Columbia. Tomorow morning -- on to Bloemfontein.

Will Moody, Team Member

P.S. The blog from Aliwal North will be posted soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mid-Tour Break -- Colesberg!

Well, well, believe it or not, we’ve made it to our Mid-Tour Break!! We arrived in the “Metropolis” of Colesberg on Sunday, September 16th and checked-in to the Gallop Inn around lunch time; home of the infamous “Horse and Mill” pub/restaurant. Centrally located between Johannesburg and Cape Town in the Karoo of the Northern Cape of South Africa, Colesberg has become known as “the place” to refuel, eat a nice local dinner and get a great night’s sleep. Unfortunately, because of such facts, Colesberg has also become famous for very high rates of HIV/AIDS due to the numerous truck drivers passing through the area who often pay for prostitutes during their stay-over.

For the first time since the trip began, the team shared joint accommodations in a guest house; however, much to our dismay, our team leader had purposely been placed apart from us as our hosts inferred that she may need some peace and quiet. Can you imagine needing a break from the four of us? Thankfully, her single accommodation was directly behind us; right out of our back door.

Early Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed lunch at the Horse and Mill and later that evening, we returned once again to the Horse and Mill for dinner; can you say “Babotie and yellow rice”? Rotarian Jackie Ramsey, owner of the Gallop Inn/Horse and Mill has been a wonderful hostess as she’s allowed us to rest (at the strong direction of District 9320 GSE Inbound Coordinator, Gay Best) and has taken care of our every need, including the piles of laundry we brought with us from Graaff Reinet!!

Upon request, we met with the Rotary Club of Colesberg on Monday evening and shared our group presentation prior to dinner with club members. Good food, good fun, and great fellowship! BIG THANKS to the Colesberg Rotary Club!!

We’ve all enjoyed a couple days of “R & R” and we’re now all adept at the card game “I Doubt It”. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve eaten, and we’ve slept. It’s been a wonderful break, a time of healing, and quite frankly, it’s time to get this show on the road!!

Tomorrow morning we depart for Aliwal North at 0830am (YUCK, that’s early!) and then we’re headed to Maseru, Lesotho for the annual District 9320 Conference. More details to follow...stay tuned!

Annie Geddings, Team Member
GSE South Africa

Monday, September 17, 2007

Graaff Reinet - In the Great Karoo!

On Thursday, September 13 we departed from Port Alfred and began the long drive to Graaff Reinet. Graaff Reinet is the fourth oldest town in South Africa and it is nestled next to the brooding Camdeboor Mountains. Located in the Great Karoo, Graaff Reinet is in a semi-arid region of South Africa where cacti and agave plants dot the dry, cracked landscape.

Andrea and Loretta were excited to stay together with Joye and Peter who run a plant nursery behind their home. Will and Annie were also glad to stay together with Trevor and Mirinda who operate a meat processing business from their home. During their stay with Trevor and Mirinda Will and Annie found themselves snacking on delicious smoked biltong and kudu salami. Elizabeth stayed with President Lutz Nick, his wife Karen and their daughter Vanessa.

During our first evening in Graaff Reinet, we socialized with our host families until after dinner. We then convened at a local club to enjoy each other’s company. The wonderful Rotarians of Graaff Reinet presented Will with a small birthday present and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.”

The following day (Friday, September 14), was our vocational day in Graaff Reinet. Will and Elizabeth visited Union Preparatory School where they both had the opportunity to teach a mini-lesson to students. Loretta visited local law enforcement agencies and the police academy, where she was very impressed with the training and the firing range. Annie visited the local hospital and Andrea spent the afternoon with a physical therapist.

That evening, we all convened at The Lemon Tree, a local restaurant, where we enjoyed a nice finger supper after our GSE presentation to the Rotary Club of Graaff Reinet. After the meal and presentation, everyone rushed home to watch the rugby game except Elizabeth. She can’t keep up with the youngsters; she went to bed.

On Saturday, September 15 we began our day with a wonderful walking tour of Graaff Reinet, led by President Lutz. We saw the beautiful Cape Dutch Colonial-style houses and toured the Graaff Reinet museum. Behind the museum, a water fountain with a reverse-osmosis filtration system offers visitors a cool drink. This water fountain was a project of the Rotary Club of Graaff Reinet in honor of Rotary International’s 100th year anniversary.

After having lunch with our host families, we joined together again for an evening trip to the Valley of Desolation. The Valley of Desolation is a spectacular geological formation located high in the mountains. We all looked into “the Devil’s Chimney” which is a 120-meter chimney-like tunnel leading straight down through the rocks. Local legend says the wind and the noise of the rock rabbits make an eerie noise that mimics the sounds of devils at play. We didn’t stay long enough to experience the sound!

Trevor and Mirinda hosted a lovely braai at their home for all the team members and local Rotarians. We enjoyed kudu steak and other delicious dishes as we enjoyed each other’s company.

On Sunday, September 16, we all said goodbye to our host families and we departed for our next stop – Colesberg!

Will Moody, Team Member

Port Alfred - A Seaside City.

September 10 – 13 Port Alfred (Stop 3 out of 11)

Arrived in Port Alfred on Sept. 10 just before noon and time to eat again! Oh, too much food; we won’t be able to fit into our clothes by the time we return on Oct. 7. For lunch, we were served fish and salad thinking this was our meal. Suddenly, they brought another lunch of chicken and veggies. So you can see what I mean about not being able to fit into our clothes. After depositing our luggage and lunch, Larry and Elene took us on a speed boat ride down the Kowie River. Oops no toilet available so Elene and I took off to the woods. Later we discovered that there had been leopards roaming in that area. Wow! How thankful we had not been visited by a leopard.

The Team split up and had dinner with host families. Again we indulged. Our host families are some of the most considerate people in the world. Actually, we have received wonderful treatment during our first 1 ½ weeks.

Another late night and early up! The Port Alfred Rotary Club Meeting began at 6:45 A.M. President Lorraine Samuel (my host) did a great job directing the meeting. Their guest speaker was the Headmaster of Port Alfred High School and spoke concerning changes that had been made. The Club had received a Matching Grant for many computers for which he expressed his appreciation.

Each team member was taken to his/her vocational day. Will and I visited Port Alfred High School (K-12); Will visited with a Guidance Counselor while I went to classrooms with the Headmaster. The counselor with whom Will met served as a volunteer because the government provided only a limited number of teachers. I had the exciting privilege of teaching a mini lesson to a class full of third graders. What fun integrating geography, math and life skills! I got hugs from all the children.

Andrea and Annie visited the local hospital and went with the Rotarian Dr. Dietre for home visits in the Townships. What poverty! “Service Above Self” was important to Andrea and Annie in this situation. Loretta visited the local fire department and police station. As people have watched our presentation, they have been enthralled with the pictures of Loretta with her gun. Loretta helps to keep us safe with her knowledge of safety and security.

Time to eat again!! We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant on a boat and then visited the Jehovah Jireh Aids Haven. Even before I was selected as the GSE Team Leader, God had given me a passion to develop a Matching Grant for aids orphans. During our short stay in S. Africa, we have seen many HIV/Aids orphans but I knew when we found the right one, we would know and this is it. As we approached the house, we could tell that it was a place very limited in resources but filled with love. The house is run by Molly Band, a true servant of God. Her doors are never closed to any child. One can not believe the crowdedness of that little house that is a refuge to approximately 55 children. She and the volunteers pray each day for food for that day.

As we distributed one piece of Juicy Fruit, the children expressed great joy over such a little thing. We played and had fun with them on the dirt yard, and then they sang Christian songs with such beautiful voices. You can tell by the pictures of Andrea and Will swinging little ones, Annie having fun with her “wild hair” (to get the children to pick up the gum wrappers) and Loretta taking and showing pictures to the children. They get so excited when they see themselves on the digital camera.

Molly told us many stories of the tragedies the children have experienced. One such story was about a 2 year old who had just died a few days prior to our being there. She sat by the crib of the little boy as he passed from this life to his eternal home in Heaven. We saw several children who have full blown aids. How I thank God for calling Molly to this ministry and for giving her grace to do the job. The entire team left with an overwhelming sadness and determination to do something to help.

Tuesday evening offered another great meal! All the host families and Team members enjoyed a time of fellowship and sharing of the day’s activities. At approximately 9 P.M. we sat down to another delicious S. African meal-another late night.

Wednesday morning, Larry and Elene took us to the Soup Kitchen Ministry where they prepare bread, soup and maybe some chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken. This food is given to numerous organizations (including Molly’s) as well as feeding those who come to the Kitchen. After helping bag the food, the Team members helped distribute food bags to local people and then headed off to the “Dump” where many people live in shacks or in the fields on the dump. They forage through the dump that is brought out by the city, using everything they can find. Empty plastic bottles are gathered from the dump so they can put the soup in. One can not realize the impact of seeing and serving these people, including many children, unless you actually experience it.

The people lined up in rows beginning with the youngest children; men and women were in separate lines and finally women with small babies. The Leader sang Christian songs with them and then delivered a brief sermon. Finally, it was time to distribute the food. What a privilege the Team had in helping distribute the soup and bread. Loretta and I dished up the soup into the soiled plastic bottles. We could fill only half of the containers so there would be enough to serve all. At the end when there was a little bread left, all of the people scrambled for the last slices of bread; some even got into a ruckus.

On that particular day the ministry did not have enough bread given to them, so they had to purchase more. The entire ministry is run by volunteers like Debbie and Charlie who are willing to “Serve Others Above Themselves.” The Kitchen is in need of either a stove and big pots or a bigger electric container in which to cook the soup. As one can surmise from these stories, there are many, many needs in S. Africa.

We went from this experience to an experience totally opposite from the Dump and Soup Kitchen. The Kuyasa School held hope for children. Port Alfred Rotarians had gotten a Matching Grant to purchase computers for the school thanks to Hans, their Matching Grants Director. The children met us with colorful uniforms and big smiles. They sang and danced for us. Even the teachers sang for us during a planned ceremony. We met Mayor Balura and I presented him with our District banner. The morning was filled with good things and sad situations.

The evening brought another delicious S. African meal and the Team giving their presentation. We were asked many questions and had a great time with the Port Alfred Rotarians. They recognized Will’s birthday, which was the next day, with a beautiful cake and the “Happy Birthday” song. It was sad to leave these wonderful and warm Rotarians, Rotary Anns and their families. Our hats are off to PP Colin Wiggett for the marvelous job he did. Everything was so well organized, even to smallest details. Thursday morning we were taken half way to our next destination and were met by President Lutz Nick. He had a challenge getting us and our luggage into the van. One is supposed to reduce the size of his/her luggage as he/she gives out their gifts; however, that has not been the case with us. Annie even had to buy another suitcase in which to put all her newfound treasures. “Okay Annie, no more purchases.”
Elizabeth Smith, Team Leader

Beautiful Grahamstown!

Our time in Grahamstown started well. Shortly after our arrival, we gave our presentation to the combined Grahamstown Rotary clubs. The next morning we had our vocational day, which meant that Elizabeth and Will headed back to school; Annie and I traveled to the hospitals; and Loretta went to the police and fire stations. After vocations and lunch, we headed to the Makana Meadery where mead, a kind of wine made with honey, is being made. Needless to say, the samples were good. That evening, we headed to the home of Isak and Debbie Smuts for a delicious bring-and-share dinner with other Rotarians.
Saturday was a busy day. We went to the Observatory Museum for an optical view of the town through a telescopic lens from high above the city. This device is called a camera obscura and there are only 6 that exist in the world. Next, to the Albany Museum with a fairly well – known paleontologist, Billy de Klerk, described evolution with multiple dinosaur bones and full – size models. We also visited Siya Zama School on this day. After an indoor picnic, we listened to an outdoor lecture on Signal Hill overlooking the city. Our tour guide spoke regarding the historical aspect of Grahamstown. We had chairs and blankets; all we needed was a fire, since it was quite chilly (and difficult to stay awake).
Saturday night brought separation to the group, as we went our separate ways with our individual host families. Most of us went to a dinner party and then to sleep. The next day was our first official rest day. Everyone except me went to a “bring and braai” at the Greens’ home; however, my family wanted to take me to Addo Elephant Park for the day. There were plenty of elephants around the park, mostly in groups of about 15 or so, as well as lots of warthogs and a few meerkats thrown in . We also saw a giraffe high up on a hill on the way to the park along the highway. It turned out to be a great day – on to Port Alfred the next morning.
Andrea D’Arienzo, Team Member

Lalibela Game Park!

Tuesday, September 5, 2007

After what was supposed to be a morning of rest and relaxation for the team, nobody took advantage of the R&R! We all started the day early and with great anticipation of our afternoon activities. We knew that later in the day, we would be in search of the BIG FIVE, the most dangerous animals in South Africa.

Will and Elizabeth started their morning at the House of Resurrection AIDS Haven for children. I returned to the Narina One Stop Child Justice Centre for about an hour and was then taken from there to visit the Khayaletha Home for Street Boys. Andrea enjoyed yoga and Annie spent time with the wife of her host family.

Around noon we convened to take our journey out to the Lalibela Game Reserve. After a 45 minute drive, we reached our destination and were greeted by some of the friendliest people! They greeted us with water and blankets. They took us to a nice restaurant which is a part of the park. We enjoyed a tasty African dish of creamy potatoes and delicious seasoned, spiced grilled chicken. After our luscious lunch at the Lentaba Lodge, we embarked on our journey. Look out Big Five of South Africa here come - the big five of South Carolina!

As we journeyed through the park, we were spellbound by the great numbers of animals we saw. A multitude of zebra, rhino, warthog, bushbuck, kudu, blespok, and antelope. The highlight of our game drive came when we spotted not one but TWO male lions sunning themselves on a hill. They were both focused on a new cheetah that was recently introduced to the game reserve. By this time the chill of night had set in and our game drive was over. We all agreed that we would never forget our exciting adventure.
Loretta Davis-Team Member

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Our beautiful house in Jeffrey's Bay.

Annie wakes up from a nap on the plane.

Our going away party in Columbia.

Loretta struggles with her bags.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Our Adventure Continues!

Monday, September, 3rd, 2007

Day #3 in South Africa and still NO LUGGAGE, but Praise the Lord, we awoke in St. Francis Bay to CLEAN, but “wet” clothes (our only set)!! The team’s excitement to find a washing machine the night before was quickly diminished upon recognizing that “uh-oh”; we still don’t have anything to wear. Thankfully, our hostess for the day, Pauline Scheepers, President of the Jeffreys Bay Rotary Club, came quickly to our rescue and informed us that tumble dryers were available in Jeffreys Bay at Mouses Laundromat. Just one catch; we were one hour away from Jeffreys Bay with lots of scenes/attractions to view along our route!!

So, all packed up and clothed in our “Mr. Price” attire that was purchased upon arrival to Port Elizabeth, we completed our Sunday morning prayer time and loaded up for our daily adventure. The weather was cool, the skies cloudy, and the combi was packed with excitement. We toured the beautiful and quaint area of St. Francis Bay, Cape St. Francis &, Port St. Francis. We visited the “Wild Side” of Jeffreys Bay and took some wonderful photos before proceeding to the St. Francis Bay Light House (the 2nd most Southern point in South Africa) and visited the Penguin rescue facility.

Upon arriving into the town of Jeffreys Bay, we quickly learned that Mouses Laundromat had closed at 12:30pm. You guessed it; we didn’t arrive until a quarter past 1:0pm! Here we go again…

Hope returned upon arriving at LeannĂ©’s as we discovered that she had a tumble dryer in her home!! YIPPEE, HOORAY!! We enjoyed fellowship and an informal lunch with several members of the Jeffreys Bay Rotary Club, and although hesitant upon my prompting, the team finally agreed to an informal practice of our presentation.

The presentation was well received and the Jeffreys Bay Rotarians asked many questions. After the presentation, we headed off to walk and collect shells on the beach of beautiful Jeffreys Bay, home of the international Billabong surf competitions. All in all, our first Rotarian meeting experience, although informal, was considered a huge success by all. The South African cuisine was delicious, the fellowship was entertaining and educational, and the thought of clean dry clothes was exhilarating!!

After our walk on the beach, we headed back to Leanne’s to find Andy Crowe, District 9320 Outgoing GSE Team Leader to Colorado (March 2008) and Bob Derbyshire, Rotary President, Port Elizabeth East anxiously awaiting us. We loaded up our carry-on luggage (ha, ha) and headed to Port Elizabeth to meet our first host families. For the first time in four days, we all headed our separate ways and put our training to the test!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The application of everything learned…VOCATIONAL DAY #1. Dr. Smith headed off to the African township to teach lessons to 3rd graders and then visited the Missionvalle AIDS Haven; Will to The Collegiate High School for Girls and the Herbert Hurd Primary School; Loretta to Stepping Stones (American Juvenile Court); Andrea to the school for autistic children; and I headed off to the “House of Resurrection”, an AIDS Haven for infants, children, and adults.
The House of Resurrection, operated by Matron Agnes, better known as “Aggi” to the children, gave me a wonderful tour of the facility, introduced me to all of the staff, and allowed me to interact and play with the infants, toddlers, and children. The facility was immaculately clean and the staff was delightful. I had a wonderful time loving on all of the infants and they were absolutely amazed by my ability to take their digital picture and immediately show it to them. So of course, I had to take an individual picture of every baby in the nursery because they were not only amazed, they were all reaching out for me to hold them!! The House of Resurrection has a beautiful chapel and a lovely “Memory Garden” where several of their previous patients’ ashes have been buried.

Annie Geddings, Team Member (GSE South Africa)

Our Adventure Begins!

After several months of planning, training and preparing for our GSE, the day had finally arrived. Our bags were packed (so we thought), our passports and other documentation were in order and we were checking in at the Delta Station. Oops! too much weight in Loretta’s bags. So here is Loretta with items spread all over the floor in the front of the Station with her daughter and team members helping her decide how to redistribute items. For some reason, we can’t seem to get the zipper to close. But, David Wright, my Alternate, came to our rescue and with his strong hand, he succeeded in closing the bag.

Once we got Loretta through, we made our way to the Carolina Room where Heather Hornsby and Bob Montgomery had prepared a Bon Voyage party for us. What a great and marvelous send off!!! More than 25 family members and friends joined us in the Carolina Room to give us a proper send-off in South Carolina fashion. We were excited to have with us District Governor Mary Martin, Assistant Governor Julia Boyd, Assistant Governor Mary Scarborough, past GSE Team Leaders Bob Montgomery, Rick Melton, and Richard Hucks. Numerous family members and other well-wishers were present as well. As you can see, we felt like celebrities with all of the cameras and attention! Before going our separate ways, we all joined hands and offered a final prayer in thanksgiving for this wonderful opportunity.

As we made our way through the security checkpoint, several of Andrea’s items were confiscated! Sorry, Andrea. We hurried to the gate, thinking we were just in time for our departing flight to Atlanta. Oh no! We were delayed once…twice! Oh, but maybe there was a reason for our delay. We had a special opportunity to meet a family who was being reunited with their husband/father on his return from a year of duty in Kuwait. We recruited others seated in the gate area to applaud the brave soldier as he made his way into the airport. It was heartwarming to see him embrace his three young children and then his wife.

Two hours later, we boarded the plane for Atlanta. The flight was uneventful but we knew we had to hurry if we wanted to make our connecting flight to Dakar, Senegal. Boarding the plane was smooth but the weather had other plans. The plane taxied to the runway but was delayed for over two hours due to weather conditions. Finally, when the pilot announced we were next for take-off, we knew our adventure was truly underway.

A little over eight hours later, we landed in Dakar, Senegal where the plane was boarded and thoroughly searched by airport security officers. Oh dear, Loretta had luggage problems again! She couldn’t remember where she had stowed her bag. Luckily, she was able to find it before the security officers got to her. Finally, the plane took off and we were on our way to Johannesburg. That’s where the adventure really got interesting!

We landed in Johannesburg around 6:20 p.m. and hurried to the baggage claim area so we could go through customs. Imagine our surprise when, thirty minutes later, we were the only five people still standing at the baggage carousel. None of our luggage had appeared. As Dr. Smith, Annie and Andrea began to fill out the “missing baggage forms,” Loretta and Will set off to find hotel accommodations for the night, as we had missed our connecting flight to Port Elizabeth. Loretta and Will had to fend off some suspicious characters as they obtained questionable information about hotels. Loretta and Will decided to return to the rest of the team who was still in the baggage claim area. We finished filling out the necessary paperwork, we decided to go back to the Delta counter to ask about hotel vouchers. The Delta staff was helpful and reserved us five rooms at the Southern Sun Hotel. We were a little frustrated when different airport personnel gave us conflicting answers about what to do about our missed flight. We ran from counter to counter, were given conflicting information, and finally decided to call it a night.

We caught the shuttle to the Southern Sun and were happily surprised to see that it was a very nice hotel! We met briefly in Dr. Smith’s room and then adjourned to the hotel’s lovely dining room where we enjoyed South African cuisine. After a long day, we all retired to our rooms for a well-deserved night of rest and a hot shower.

The next morning (Saturday, September 1), we enjoyed a nice breakfast of granola, fruit, omelets, paw paw, and other delicious items. After checking out, we returned to the airport where we questioned numerous airport personnel (again) about how to get tickets to Port Elizabeth. Finally, we purchased new tickets through Nationwide and got on a 1:00 p.m. flight to Port Elizabeth. Still no luggage.

The flight to Port Elizabeth was pleasant and heaved a sigh of relief to see the happy faces of District Governor Lionel Heath and his wife Maureen, Andy, Gay, Garreth, and Bob. Andy and Bob were very helpful and quickly inquired about our missing luggage. Much to our chagrin, the luggage had not made it to P.E.

It was an honor to have Andy and District Governor Lionel drive us to a shopping mall so we could purchase some clothes and other necessary items. After the shopping excursion, we drove to the nearby town of St. Francis Bay. District Governor Lionel had arranged for us to stay at a lovely vacation home belonging to a member of the Rotary Club of Port Elizabeth East. Annie and Dr. Smith cooked a quick but delicious meal of grilled cheese and soup.

Dr. Smith and Will Moody