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Entry 32A-1- Romania - Orphans - first week

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Entry # 32 A –First Week in Romania

Saturday, December 2

Up at 5:30, with crowds of people still moving about the streets having not gotten home from last evenings parties. The taxis were all taken, so I asked the angels and within 10 seconds, my cab arrived. I did not know my terminal so the driver called on his cell phone and confirmed I was to go to terminal #2. I was at the airport in 20 minutes.

I found after I arrived that I was in the wrong terminal but as my flight wasn’t for 3 hours, not that big of a problem. (Just a well I got there early, as you will see). I walked to Terminal 1 with the twins (my luggage) and found a line for Air Madrid. After one hour in line, I noticed that all the people were really short and Spanish looking. After another hour in this line, I determined that I was in the line for Ecuador instead of Bucharest.

Made it into the correct line where a huge crowd had gathered in a disorderly mess. Luckily, I did not loose my place in line as they asked everyone to back up and form one line. Made it to the front. My baggage was 5 kilos over so I had to go pay an excess baggage fine. ($45 dollars, which was cheaper than if I had mailed it home). I think I will carry the stuff from now on and risk the fine, instead of running around trying to mail stuff home. Also if I load my other backpack with the heavy stuff, I may still be okay.

When I was going back to pick up my boarding pass, after paying my fine, I saw a sign for a US Air flight to the US for Filadelfia. I wanted to take a picture of it, but they wouldn’t let me. The closer to the US I get, the more rules there are for air travel.

I had the row to my self until Barcelona, and then two Romanian men next to me for the 3-hour flight to Bucharest. Crowded but okay.

Looked out at one point and I could see snow on the mountains. As we landed, there was quite a haze, partially because it is cold and the weather has settled and partially because there is quite a bit of pollution in Romania.

Before landing, I noticed lots of farming communities with houses only along the roads. It appeared that the farms were in very narrow strips with no outbuilding other than those that were clustered at the roads that border the farm plots. I will see if I see the same pattern when I am on the ground.

Landed at 4:20, which was just about dusk and 1 hour late due to air traffic hold ups in Madrid. No issues with exchanging money or immigration. Found the Global Volunteers who had been waiting 4 hours in the airport. They some how had my arrival time wrong, but luckily my team leader was coming in close to my delayed arrival time. One volunteer, Lauren, was arriving outside the pick up window and would need to make her own way to the hotel.

We will be a small team of only 5 for this week, 3 the 2nd week and only 2 the final week.

Hotel Caro is very nice, very modern and lovely.

Dinner at 6:30 with Bernice (team leader from SF), Manuela (Country assistant for Romania), John and Sandy from Boulder, and finally Lauren from NJ, but currently residing in Tuscany, Italy who arrived late and had an adventure finding us.

Saw pictures of the children and have already spotted a real cutie. Tomorrow, an early breakfast, meeting and then a 5-hour bus ride to our town, Banca near Barlad our major city and on the far side of Barlad is Tutova, where the hospital and clinic are located. We will be working in a failure to thrive clinic. The children are not technically orphans but have been removed from their families or released by the families, as they cannot care for them. The children tend to come in underweight and malnourished. They are then placed in foster care (one of the EU requirements before Romania joins the EU on Jan 1, 2007) as soon as they are healthy enough and a suitable home is found. Several of these clinics have closed around Romania, preparing for the EU transition.

Sunday, December 3

The alarm rang way to early this am (7:10 am), but as I had already packed, I was at breakfast at 8 for a 9 am departure. The first one in the restaurant, it had an amazing spread of yoghurt, cereals, eggs plus all the trimmings and wonderful pastries. In the middle island were cold cuts and a wonderful selection of cheeses. I restrained myself based on the weight I put on in Spain.

Long story short, we all had a hard time getting up and by the time Lauren made it to the lobby, it was 9:20. We left close to 10 in very foggy, damp cold conditions and headed northeast out of Bucharest.

We chatted for the first hour of the trip. Lauren is writing a book about her former career in the NJ State Police for 15 years and her decision to quit and subsequent move to Italy. This is her second GV placement.

John and Sandy own several small resorts in Estes Park and live in Boulder. They have done many GV trips in Eastern Europe and China.

Bernice our team leader is from San Francisco and has taught college and is currently leading up to 3 trips a year and taking care of her 96-year-old mother in between.

Manuela is our local coordinator while Mihalla is in Minnesota for country manager training. She lives in Barlad the closest major city to Tutuva that has our clinic. 27 children between birth and 5 are resident in the clinic.

We stopped at a McDonalds for lunch mainly because it had western toilets. I managed to get locked in the toilet because I was unaware of the system. In order that only paying clients have access, you have to buy something and at the bottom of your ticket is the access code. You punch it in as you enter the stall and then when you use the button to exit. I had just entered the stall when the last women exited. I found out later the code was 1001.

I had ordered my standard McD meal of double cheeseburger, small fry and orange drink. I added a coffee latte that was okay, but pretty tepid. We all went to the ATM to withdraw some money.

After we left lunch, the sky cleared slightly and we could see the fields we had been passing. Mainly grapes in this region, we began to see little stands on the roadside with plastic jugs full of juice. It was local wine and we asked to stop so that we could buy some. The driver knew of a good place so we ended up stopping and pulling into a compound. A rag tag assortment of dogs met us including a husky, two young puppies and a poor mother dog that looked the worse for wear. The tasting room had large plastic containers for white or red wine and some bottled cabernet, merlot and pinot noir. We were given completely full glasses of wine as our samples. The group ended up buying a 5 Liter jug of both white and red for a whopping 30 new Lei (about $10).

Along the side of the roads, it was not uncommon to see horse drawn carts and we passed a farmers market with local grain grower displaying their grains in piles on burlap sacks on the ground.

The buildings I have seen so far are a varied assortment of very old, some built around 1940-50’s and some very modern. The small villages remind me on Anatevka from Fiddler with little yards behind low fences.

I have seen a number of cats and dogs all outside and looking cold and hungry by US standards.

The people that I have seen are well protected from the cold, usually with hats or bandanas. After months in the tropics/temperate areas, the moist cold is as expected. I definitely did not bring enough warm clothes. We will definitely do a little shopping on the way back to the hotel tomorrow. Lauren did what I did at the start of my year and left her shampoo and toothpaste at home, John and Sandy need an alarm clock and I need the standard Kleenex, washing powder and now for Romania, sweat pants and shirt and possibly another shirt or two

The clinic is in Tutova that is farther South than Barlad, the major city, and our hotel is on the other side of Barlad. We will have about a 15 minute ride each way to get to the clinic where we will work from 9-4, with 2 hours for lunch.

Our Motel Gianni appears pretty new and we each have private rooms. In addition to the GV supply room with two computers and a separate meeting room, they have a sauna and Jacuzzi ($5 for 15 minutes) and they also offer a massage service. They also have laundry services that are economical and a full service restaurant and bar. We are rather isolated at the hotel, but I think we will be able to get cabs into Barlad if we want some evening entertainment.

Tomorrow, we will get a list of excursions offered by the local travel agency for weekend trips. John and Sandy leave next weekend, so it will only be Lauren, Bernice and I. After the first weekend, it will only be Bernice and I.

When we finish up our time at the clinic, we will take the train back to Bucharest. That will be a fun bonus, as I love short train travel.

We had an early dinner with the tv in the restaurant blaring above our heads. I asked Bernice if it would be possible to have our table moved to the opposite part of the room for all of our future meals. It will be done as of breakfast tomorrow.

Off to an early bed time for blogging and very welcome sleep.

Monday, December 4 – Angels all around me!

I had spent a little too much time with my new book last night, the Historian (about the Dracula legend) so 8:00 am came a little early for me.

Did I mention that my bed has pastel, plaid seersucker sheets? The texture is very strange to sleep on and under.


I sent 5 pairs of socks, nightclothes, 2 tops and 2 pants to the laundry, asked the housekeeper for a new bulb for my bedside lamp, and to see if they could fix the strobe light in my bathroom.

What a busy day we had! Breakfast at 9:00 and then we went up stairs for the traditional GV exercises of what are our team goals and what makes a good team. Mine were to spend time with the children, to make a difference and to learn more about myself. (COTU strikes again!)

Then we had a Romanian language lesson with Manuela. As we started, we needed some supplies from the resource room and as I was searching for white board markers and large paper, came across a dead mouse where the oatmeal was stored. The motel was very apologetic. Later discussion resulted in us tossing out any of the zip locks that had any mouse teeth marks at all. We can’t have the babies eating tainted oatmeal! We made a list of the office supplies we still needed and the recommendations from the previous team was to bring juice, yoghurt or boneless chicken breasts to the clinic as the children don’t normally get these treats. (The note said it made a change from boiled chicken livers! As most of them are anemic and malnourished, I guess liver is good for them, but YUK!)

Before we left the motel, we prepaid for our massages for tonight. Only 28 RON (new lei), we were looking forward to our hour on the table. We were told that the masseuse was able to speak English.

After our lesson, we loaded into the bus for lunch downtown at the Alona Cafe. The menus were in Romanian, and as we had not discussed any food words, we had Manuela order for us. I ended up with a great veggie soup and a ham and cheese salad. (Salad in Romania does not include lettuce, simply the other ingredients listed.) It really was very tasty. We ordered fresh fruit salad for dessert. YUMMY!

We were finally going to go to the clinic that we had heard so much about. Similar to Peru, these children are not orphans as most of them do have parents. The parents simply cannot take care of them. The clinic is associated with a small hospital with 70 beds, 30 for the failure to thrive children, 20 for pediatrics and 20 for adults.

We met the director, Dr. Delia, who was a lovely woman and who had good English, but felt more comfortable with the translator, Manuela. We saw the emergency room, about 10X10 with three beds including a delivery table that the Dr. admitted should be in a museum. They see anywhere from 5-10 births a month, and the mother and child are moved via ambulance to the 900 bed hospital in Barlad (about 5 minutes away) within an hour of the birth.

Then we saw the lab and while they have some of the machines, they do not have the necessary supplies to complete all the tests. (i.e., they have three one-step blood machines for monitoring blood sugar, but they cannot afford the strips at $1.50 each.) There blood work machine has the capacity to run up to 100 tests, but they only have the ability to run 16 different tests.

Next we saw the men’s ward, with three patients, 12X12 room with 6 beds. The woman’s ward had 12 beds and 20 patients. Doing the math you will find that this means that 8 of the bed has two occupants sleeping head to foot. They were in for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, pulmonary issues, etc. I asked her to tell them for us that we hoped that they would get better soon, and she said that they would as they would all want to be home for Christmas. The ladies were sad to see us go and asked us to come back.

Next, the land of the children. We walked out of the adult wing across a yard and past a nice fenced playground with swings and outside toys that had been funded by GV money. We could hear them before we saw them. Through the door we could see a very small room with about 12 toddlers and one nurse. Sweet faces through the door and at the first sight of opening, Florin was out into the hall way like a rocket. I can tell he is a little monkey and was very happy to see us and anxious to touch hands and play.

Next we met a pair of twin boys who had TB and toxic hepatitis. I am assuming Hep C that has no inoculation. I am not sure if we will get to play with them.

Next we saw the newest babies, twin girls who were less than 2 months old. Very sweet.

We visited several rooms, each with about 5 wooden cribs approximately 2X3, with one child each. The children are separated into several groups including mobile (they can crawl or walk but are smaller than the toddlers), the non-mobiles (self explanatory) and the special needs children.

There are 6 special needs cases. Alessandra has brittle bone disease and although she is 3 years old, is no bigger than a non-mobile. Ramona is a pale 2 year old that needs a kidney transplant. The clinic can only afford one dose a month and she needs a dose twice a week. Samuel is a lovely downs syndrome baby of about 2 years. Zorin is a toddler, has crossed eyes and probably some other brain injury or learning disability. Andrei, a 4 year old, has some brain disorder and while not intentionally mean, due to his size and weight causes considerable damage to the littler guys. Abel, under two years old with crossed eyes, otherwise appears fairly normal. Matiste (not sure of this spelling) is a toddler-sized girl who cries a lot. She is often by herself.

Most of our hearts melted with at least one of the children and my current favorite is Samuel, a downs syndrome baby with a delightful smile. A little shy are first, but as soon as you touch him, he beams and giggles.

We finished our tour and walked past the largest toddlers including another Andrei who is 4 and potentially quite a handful. The hospital had recently received money and they totally redid the kitchen that is wonderful to behold. With the next grant, they will most likely destroy the two sections of the hospital that was hit the hardest during the last earthquake. (Romania seems to suffer every other year with earthquakes of varying severity.)

Our time was limited today so we had only a few minutes to go back to any of the rooms. Both Lauren and I went in with the babies for a few minutes of cuddles. We had to leave too soon and there were some tears as we left. I promised Samuel that I would see him tomorrow.

Most of us had a little something that we needed at the store so we stopped at the Penny Market. This seems to be a chain in Europe and is similar to our Target. We had noticed that the clinic did not have toilet paper or hand towels at the sinks. We bought juice, but held off on the yoghurt and chicken until we can clarify with the clinic. We had to get back as Bernice had a massage scheduled at 5pm. Lauren and I are scheduled for after dinner.

Lauren and I went to the restaurant for coffees. Most of the group has found the coffee to be uniformly weak and usually tepid. We found out that even when you ask for cappuccino, you get a powdered coffee packet and possible hot water from the espresso machine. I opted for hot chocolate, but they only had white chocolate.

We then went up to the GV resource room to read the journals left by the previous teams. Each child has a folder with their diagnosis and progress reports, but a separate book with entries from the last teams telling us where they left off with each child. Most books have a picture of the child as well so that we don’t arrive totally ignorant about the children. Most of the volunteers have left their email addresses in the books asking future teams for updates.

Samuel has not only downs, but also anemia and rickets. He is not sitting up very well yet, but continues to make progress. The little face that won my heart last night we thought was Dimitri, but it turns out that his real name is Marian. I can’t remember all of his specifics, but will make sure to meet him tomorrow.

Finally dinnertime, we met John and Sandy in the restaurant. Bernice was late, due to the massage, and the waiters brought out our salads (tomatoes and cukes) and a wonderful procuitto pasta dish. By the time we were finished, still no Bernice.

Just as dessert arrived (chocolate and mint ice cream), here came Bernice. She had had a lovely massage, but was a little confused as the masseuse did not speak much English and she had asked Bernice to pay an additional $30 in US currency. The hotel owner had been adamant that we prepay for the massage and that she would pay the masseuse. It was up to us if we wanted to tip any extra. Considering we paid $15 for the massage, a $30 tip was a bit high. Bernice was not bothered about it. Lauren and I requested further clarification from the owner who returned to help us from her house behind the property to investigate.

20 minutes later, she came back to say that the masseuse had said that Bernice offered the money as she was so pleased with the service. At this point, my heart was not feeling good about this situation. The owner was in a bit of a delicate situation and did not press the issue. She did confirm that no more money was to be given to the woman and Lauren told Bernice that we would split the tip with her. The owner left and we discussed the matter between us.

Lauren was still game and knowing what to expect, she indicated that she would most likely give her a good tip. I told the ladies that my heart was not feeling good about this situation and said that at this point, that I would happily forfeit my money but that I no longer wanted a massage. I asked Lauren to let the masseuse know when she saw here. Lauren went to tell her she would be a minute or two, and I went back to my room. I was feeling a bit like a coward, as I did not plan to go to the woman myself and tell her that I would not take the massage. I checked my vibes to see if I was to go out and approach her myself and was told no. I checked to see if I was being a coward and was told yes.

Lauren knocked at my door within 3 minutes and told me that she had also decided not to go on the massage. As she entered the room, the woman, in perfect English said that the price was 28 lei for 15 minutes and that the hour price was higher as she would be doing 15 minutes of energy work and 15 minutes of other things. The long and the short of it was that neither of us felt that the woman was being honest with the owner or us. It seemed to me that the woman had taken advantage of Bernice’s kind heart and innocence. Lauren said during the exchange, she felt that the woman was shaking her down. As I look back on it, I can tell that my angels were helping me in this. Had I been the one to go into the room (which was the original plan), I probably would have ended up feeling bullied and might have ended up giving in to a massage that I did not want with a person that I did not trust. THANK YOU ANGELS! I am complete with this.

Lauren and I decided to take a sauna instead and we spent a hot and steamy 15 minutes in the box that helped me get over the last of the cold that I developed in Spain. During this time, Lauren regaled me with tales of her experiences in a Turkish bath in Istanbul where a woman with naked, pendulous breasts and a towel around her waist, exfoliated her with a rough cloth and basically stripped off her bra and undies. (It is so hard to know what is the appropriate attire in these cases!!). Considering that Lauren had been unaware of the exfoliation process, and had assumed that she was only going in for a steam, you can imagine her surprise. Apparently, the woman’s breasts swung around a lot as she worked and at one point caught Lauren in the face. I am amazed she did not leave with bruises.

I ended the day with a lovely shower in my bathroom where I no longer have the strobe effect, and then typed my blog in bed with my new bedside lamp illuminating the scene. It was a good day and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 5 – First day on the job

Up at 7:00 for breakfast at 8:00 for departure at 8:45. We had to pick up Manuela at 9:00 after her two classes in the morning. School in Romania is from 7am until 8 pm with two rotations,
7–1 and 1-8. A very long day for teachers who may teach early and then late in one day.

Orneta the hotel owner had heard about our massages and wants to arrange for a different masseuse to come later this week for free massages for us. We appreciated her going this extra distance for us.

We arrived at 9:30, just as everyone was getting the second bottle for the day. Apparently the daily schedule at the clinic is:

7am first bottle
9:30 second bottle
11:30 – oatmeal
diaper change
nap 12-2
2 third bottle or cream of wheat
4pm we leave
4:30 second meal
6pm fourth bottle
8 pm fifth bottle

John and Sandy with limited time are trying to get to every group as much as possible. They took the first shift with the toddlers and had them until 11:30. We heard that they are very exhausting and should only be done in 1-hour shifts. I started with the mobiles, Bernice went with the new 2-month old twin girls and Lauren was with the non-mobiles.

My group began with Mihaela – quiet dark eyed little girl who enjoyed walking around with a plastic ball in each hand. She liked it when I picked up a third ball and touched mine to hers. Not wanting cuddling and content on her own, she only had one major meltdown in my first 30 minutes.

Next was Slyvia – a large eyed, light brown hair, square headed pudge who was dressed in a blue suit that had huge pantaloons that made her look like a blue pear. While she stands well in her crib, she seems to have a weight in her butt and shoots and crawls a little bit, but make no effort to walk or even pull up on your fingers. She also is very vocal, will make a fine addition to any opera chorus she goes for and most of her vocalizations are happy and shrill. Only one melt down with Slyvia, but it brought the stork like bespectacled nurse to my room to see if I was abusing the children.

Next came Mirella – a petite, sylph-like dark eyed charmer who will be a great actress. She has the pouting lower lip look down, but had a good day with me in the corner in a bouncy swing with music and light when the right button is pushed. Very sweet and a very good walker when she is not in the chair.

Finally – little man Marian who has a smile that will melt any heart. Crawls like a fiend and zeros in on any interesting toy currently in the hands of any other occupant in the room. Very happy and lovely smile. This was the face that I saw in the camera that won my heart. What a cutie!

At 11:30 I exited the room and assisted briefly with toddlers before we went to lunch.

This morning the therapists were working with most of the special needs babies so we did not have the full range today. There are several children who appear to have some autism, one with some cognitive delays and possible brain damage in addition to the others that we saw yesterday.

The nurses and aids that work with the children all day are also the ones that warm up our lunch and cart it over the hospital where there is a lunchroom. Lunch today was huge sandwiches, a very tasty veggie soup with carrots, bread and fruit. We had also bought coffee and asked them to make it strong, as most of the coffee we have had has been pretty weak. I augmented with biscuits and more fruit. Traditionally, any part of lunch that is left over is taken back to the clinic if it would be appropriate for the children or staff. Any other left over go to the 5-6 dogs that live in the compound. Both John and Lauren did a little feeding and when they were too slow, the black and white dog helped himself to the food and little bit of their hands.

We had some time, so Lauren, Bernice and I struck off down the road for a short walk. The sun had finally come out and we decided to take advantage of it, as it may not come up again. I realize that we are in a valley with rivers so the amount of fog we have been experiencing is not unexpected.

The afternoon, the toddlers have a teacher most days, so the volunteers can focus on the other kids. Both John and Sandy and Bernice each try to spend some time with the TB twins with hepatitis and the tiny girl twins that were born about two months ago. Lauren spent time with 4-year-old Andrei, who is probably autistic and usually sequestered from the other children due to his erratic behavior. Several of the kids have scrapes or bites from Andrei. While large and a little hard to follow, he is not mean and really responded well to the individual attention from Lauren. She even got a hug and kiss last thing today. She will repeat the time with him tomorrow.

It is hard for us to understand at some level why many of the things are done at the clinic. Our American can do attitude and let’s fix it becomes frustrated when things don’t flow, as we would like to see them. We try to ask questions, but our Romanian is far from adequate. While we understand that the staff is limited in their time and ability to make real changes, the group had lots of suggestions on how things could be done. There are 6 rooms with cribs with high bolt locks on both sides of the door. The doors are glass fronted (not plexi-glass) so that you can see in and see 95 % of the room. At times, a child may be locked in the room by themselves, especially in the case of Andrei. As babies are being brought into the mobile ward, they may be alone for a while as another child is being collected. Twins are housed in separate cribs from each other and cannot even look through the bars at each other. Babies are not held when they are bottled, bottles are propped on towels or blankets next to the baby. Babies aren’t changed when the diaper is wet, only when it is poopy. We brought disposable diapers that will allow the urine into the next layer and help relieve the diaper rash, but the aids still diaper with two cloth diapers, rubber pants and two pairs of pants. The longer we stay the more we may learn, but I think when all is said and done, the staff is doing a marvelous job with these kids under difficult circumstances and inadequate money and assistance.

Diapering is done on a table in the hallway in a production line. First, unwrap the kid from the onezie, unsnap the top and remove the plastic pants. Take out the two diaper pins that hold the double folded diaper onto the kid. Drop the soiled diapers into a large bin. Clean the bottom. Many have diaper rash and we have A&D Vitamin cream and also some Desitin lotion. Lay out one diaper open once and put the still folded second diaper in the middle of the first diaper. Put the two diapers under the back of the kid and fold the tails of the diapers into a point. Bring them up through the kids’ legs and fold the tail over to form the waist. Pick up the open diaper pin and run in through the splotch of AD ointment on the wall to ease the pin through the 6 layers of diaper. Repeat on the other side. Put on the plastic pants and tuck them into the diaper on the back and around the legs. Redress the baby, kiss it on the head and send it on its way to either its crib or into the play room.

My afternoon was spent mainly with the non-mobiles including little Samuel the downs baby. He is so placid and sweet and watches you with light brown eyes. He has the cutest smile and loves to blow raspberries.

At the end of the day we tried to help with our last set of diapers and delivering the babies back to their rooms. There is no way around it, we are not as good at cloth diapers and I believe, one of the little escape artists had managed to loose one of the cloth diaper that one of us had just put on before we had even left the building.

Tonight we stopped for Lauren and I to make our deposit for our trip this weekend to
Transylvania. The price is high as it is only two of us and we will require a car, driver and guide for three days and 2 nights of lodgings for the 4 people. But after all, how often am I in Romania? I was also interested in buying some inexpensive sweat clothes to wear to the clinic. Most of the people today were urine soaked within the first hour. Somehow, I managed to stay clean and I intend to stay that way if at all possible.

Manual took Lauren and I to a shop next to the travel agency and I bought the find of the century - hooded sweat shirt and pants sets that were long enough for me for a mere $9 each. Olive green, but cheap! I bought 2 sets.

Dinner was chicken and for dessert, they only delivered three chocolate pancakes. We asked them to cut in half the number of desserts so instead of smaller portions, we only had 3 pancakes for 5 people. Not a problem, we cut them in half. (An example of our words not quite conveying our meaning in Romanian. More to come on this lesson, I am sure).

I was in my room early and found that my laundry was not back (HMMMMM?) and that my wonderfully constructed warm nest in bed had been dismantled, folded and the two top layers (the bedspreads) had been removed. I had asked for a second blanket, but it had not appeared before I went to bed. I donned by fleece and left my socks on, (I know, the fashion statement of the year) and went to bed.

I SLEPT WELL and did not rise until the alarm went at 7:20!

Posted by ladyjanes 00:52 Archived in Romania Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 31A - Pueblo Ingles - La Aberca, Spain

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Entry # 31A – Arriving in Spain and Pueblo Ingles

31A – Arriving in Spain and Pueblo Ingles

Wednesday, November 22

I did my typical procedure when I arrive in a new country early in the morning - customs, immigration completed, I found a free map from the tourist information desk, exchanged money and went off to find breakfast.

I decided that I would most likely get a better deal exchanging my money in Spain as they would need Rand, so I waited until I got to Madrid. During breakfast of yoghurt and coffee, I consulted my map and found the three locations I would need in the next two days; my lodging, the welcome lunch and the bus pick up location. Luckily, I was within walking distance for my lunch and a quick taxi ride for the bus pick up.

I don’t remember the Madrid airport from the last time, but it appears very new, very clean and full of the color green. We walked for miles as we exited the plane through vast walls of pale green glass.

As I exited to find my taxi, I was met with a line of at least 200 people all queuing for a cab. I timed myself and within 10 minutes, I was in my cab a heading into Madrid

PHOTO – taxi queue

Madrid is very clean, spread out and has lovely balconies on most of the buildings. It really reminds me of Paris, except it is missing the tower and the river through the middle of it.

My lodging at the Hostal Lido is basic and clean and on a side street. As I got out of the cab and into the lobby, after I confirmed that this was the correct location, I approached the elevator. It was tiny and would not fit my bags and me at the same time. I proceeded up the stairs, when I nice Spanish Man stopped me and helped me with my bags. My Spanish is coming back quickly and I feel much more confidant about speaking it now.

I took a wee nap as I was bushed after two days of late nights and not much sleep and went out at 3pm to see what I could. I opted for the double-decker bus and took both routes to get the lay of the city. The city is currently getting ready for Christmas and every plaza (and there are lots of them) and main street has people hanging lights or decorations. I decided after my bus ride to see the Palace Real (Royal) tomorrow and go back to the Plaza Mayor where I had visited last time.

I was cold after the ride on the top of the bus and found a Starbucks. I mainly went in to see if they had WiFI, which they have had in other counties. No Wifi, but I did get a latte. On the way back home, I located an internet café just around the corner from my place and went in to check in with my mailbox. The café also has business supplies and DHL, so I will use them when I return for one night to clean out my luggage before I move on to Romania. I also bought a pencil as I have had difficulties with my suduku when using a pen. After the fact, I realized that I had bought a pencil and a sharper, but my pencil has no eraser. ????

Thursday, November 23 – Happy Thanksgiving

As I began walking to the Palace and the Plaza, I was keeping a lookout for a store that I spotted from the bus yesterday. It had lots of purses and luggage and I was hoping that it would have a little leather wallet similar to the one that I am carrying that is falling apart. The Plaza Major is not as large as I remember it, (Ah, youth and your eyes) and the center was loaded with trucks unloading decorations. Not the picture I remembered. I walked the perimeter and found an incongruous Ben and Jerry’s store at one of the corners. I also found breakfast of coffee, juice and the mandatory churros. Fried bread in little sticks that had my stomach rolling within 3 hours. Oh, well, it is tradition, so I had to try them.

I found a wonderful music store on the way to the Palace that had a marvelous display of all types of instruments in their windows. Did you know that a form of the bagpipe is traditional in some Spanish music? Neither did I.

The Palace Real is large, white and the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain, but they don’t live there. They only use it for state functions. I rented the audio phone and wandered through the rooms. Beautiful and brightly decorated, I bought post cards instead of trying to capture them on my camera. In addition to the official apartments, there was a temporary art display (not that interesting) and a wonderful display of old jousting equipment and suits of armor. I left the Palace in drizzle and began walking to lunch.

Casa Patas is where we would meet for lunch and a flamenco show. The group is made up of Canadians (8 from the same book club), Brits, Aussies, Welsh, and the US. There will be 25 Anglos and 24 Spaniards. The staff is Scottish, British, and Canadian and they are all former volunteers that so loved the project after their week, they decided to stay and work in Spain. Lunch was Paella, the national dish, and it was wonderful. I told someone that the last time I was in Spain, all I ate was arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) because that is all I knew how to order. I was determined to eat more widely this time. Our Flamenco show turned out to be a guitarist who was amazing. I sat close enough so that I could watch his hands as he played. It was lovely. I will definitely try to find a CD with flamenco music before I go.

After lunch and the show, a group of us went out to a bar and I got a chance to spend more time with some of the participants and staff. Trudi, her brother Phil and Phil’s son, Shannon are originally from Texas. Trudi and I found out that we have the 1300’s of Logan Street in Denver in common in that she is a consultant for Starkey International, the butler school right next to PERA. Small world. She is lovely, vivacious and will be good fun. Phil is a card and has done Pueblo Ingles (PI) 5 times before. I think he likes it. Shannon, who is living in Alaska and was a former rock band artist, fire fighter and currently is a university guitar teacher and works during the summer for Alaska fish and wildlife counting salmon. Others around the table were Luke and Jez (both staff from England), Richard (former volunteer and currently a makeup artist for the Lion King in Germany), Christine (staff from Canada), Enya (staff from Scotland) and two other people that I can’t remember. Very smoky as Spain still had lots of smokers and most of the staff also indulge, but good fun and lots of lively conversations.

I got back to my room by 8 and turned in early, as I need to be up, showered, packed, checked out and breakfasted by 9:00 am tomorrow.

Friday, November 24

Check out and found that my wonderful sister had paid for my hotel room. Do I have the best sister or what? Found a taxi to the Plaza Chamberi where we were to meet the bus and I appeared to be the first one there. Finally located other PI volunteers and left my luggage with them to find coffee for Sally and myself who is from London. Found a local café for coffee and located the rest of the herd swilling coffee. It was overcast and a little drizzly.

We loaded on the bus and found that we had 6 Spaniards who were also coming with us. My seat partner was Jose Santos, a young man with beard and long hair that sort of looked like Christ. His English comprehension was very good, but he was shy about speaking and a little slow to begin. I found out that he is a computer programmer and a Madrid Rat, meaning he likes the city over the country. Our bus stopped at 11:30 in Avilla for our only rest stop and a light lunch. Jose bought me a coffee and I bought him my new favorite candy, Kinderjoy (the chocolate egg with a toy surprise). From our stop, you could see a small monument with 4 columns, which is where St. Teresa of Avilla had her visions. The wind was fierce so most of us huddled inside until it was time to get back on the bus.

After our break, the Spaniards were encouraged to talk to someone new, so I was by myself for the rest of the trip. LOTS OF RAIN as we approached Salamanca and lots of standing water in the low-lying areas. The countryside was lovely and rolling with lots of trees and farms that mainly seem to be free-range pigs and bulls. I learned later that they are called Iberica Pigs, they are predominantly black and are fed on acorns. The pork from these pigs is considered a delicacy and is more expensive that the Serrano pork, which is usually commercially fed.

2pm we arrived in La Aberca to lots of RAIN RAIN RAIN. We all took our luggage and waited outside on the porch trying not to get wet until they called us to go to our rooms. As I watched the pairs of people going off to the different cottages, I asked the universe for a room next to the main meeting area and a room to myself, as I could tell that my cold was progressing. I was the last one to be given my key and I was placed in cottage number 24, right across from the meeting room with my housemate, Fermin (50’s business man), who had been on the bus with us and who would be living upstairs from me. I did not know until I got into our house that everyone has his or her own room. Thank you universe!

There are 25 cottages in the hotel complex. Each little house has two floors. The Spaniards are upstairs and the Anglos are down stairs. Each of the bedrooms has its own bathroom with showers and lovely hand made bedspreads on the beds. There is a common living room and little kitchenette, tv and phone. We will be called at 8:15 on the phone every morning for a wake up call and again at 4:30 in the afternoon to bring us back after our siesta.

Next came lunch and based on the room arrangements and the quality of our food, I could tell that this will be my most luxurious of all my placements. We had a welcome siesta session until 6pm. When the phone rang to call us to dinner, I was a little disoriented. We found that the phone rings about 6 times, not quite enough time for either Fermin or I to get to the phone to listen to the automated recording. If you don’t answer in time, the phone system waits about 2 minutes and tries again. If you don’t catch it, it rings louder the next time it calls. We plan to try and get to it at the first ring from now on.

We met back at 6pm and had a session of human bingo, where we had to find someone in the room who fulfilled the question in each of the squares. Some of the people we had to find included someone with a tattoo, had bungee jumped, was a Libra, did not own a cell phone, played a musical instrument, or spoke more than two languages. It was a fun 30 minutes getting to talk to most of the people in the room. We had several people with the same first name (i.e. we have 3 Jesus, so they are labeled Jesus F., Jesus L., and Jesus S. We also have a Susan, Sue and a Susie. During this time, we were all given a Pueblo Ingles fleece jacket which most of us donned immediately as it was still raining and cold. We also received the blue Pueblo Ingles exploding pen. When you go to write with it, the spring is so strong it rockets the top off the pen and all the contents fly through the air. If you are lucky, you can find all the little pieces that are required to make the pen work.

The one challenge to some of us will be our meal timings - Breakfast 9am, not bad, lunch 2pm, okay and dinner at 9pm. They claim we will be so busy that the time will just fly by. We will see.

My stomach was rumbling most of the day and I had my second-for-the-year case of diarrhea. Not as catastrophic as the one in Peru, I had several trips during the night to the little room, but managed to sleep in between. I was also on the way to developing my first real cold for the year. Probably a combination of exhaustion, 4 nights with poor sleep and the change of temperature and from summer to winter within 2 days.

Saturday, November 25 – Rice, I will have Rice, Thank you.

Runny stomach and cold in full glory today. Carried Kleenex wherever I went and felt ookey. We received our general normal schedule for the next few days.

9 – Breakfast – first conversation of the day – tables of 4 with two Anglos and 2 Spaniards
10, 11, 12, 1 – One-on-one with a Spaniard, with some hours of free time depending on the day. Some of the sessions might be a telephone conversation or a conference call with three Spaniards and one Anglo.
2 - 3:30 - Lunch – more conversation – tables for 4
3:30-5 – Siesta – YAAH!!!!!!
5 - Group activity
6,7 – One-on-one sessions
8 – Group activity or evening presentations
9 -10:30- Dinner – more conversation – table of 4
10:30-1:30 - Liquid English – social time, party or off to bed

During each of the one-on-one sessions, we were asked to explain and use in a sentence an assigned phrasal verb and idiom. Formal English lessons were a very distant memory for me, and I honestly did not remember ever being taught phrasal verbs. In the blog to come, after the Spaniards name, there will be the phrasal verb and idiom that we worked one.

My specific schedule for today was -

10 – Jesus S. – Read between the lines and Ask for - Very vivacious and funny guy.
11 – Free time - rested
12 – Maite – Blow Out and On Edge – Worked for the truck division of Volvo now owned by Ford – discussed the loss of her husband and her child.
1 – Gerardo – (sorry can’t remember the phrasal verb or idiom) - Auditor for Deloitte – discussed our mutual admiration for the LOTR Movies

5 - Group activity – 2 truths and a lie – 4 Anglos, 3 Spaniards – we had to come up with 2 statements about ourselves that were true and one that was a lie. My three statements were I had one brother and one sister, I had lived in Thailand and that my father was in the Navy. The others in our group would ask us questions to see if they could tell which one was not true. When the other Anglos were talking, I totally missed guessing on all the other Anglos and every one missed my lie. We never even got to the three Spaniards.
6 – Fermin (my roommate)– Think Ahead and Think on your Feet – We discussed the history of Salamanca
7 – FerNANDO - Blow up and Crack a Joke – Guardia Civil, Environmental issues

8 – Entertainment - Car problems in Spain, Shared Birthdays, Rain Storm

The entertainment was a humorous play acted out by several of the participants about the dangers of pickpockets in Spain. As they moved so quickly, we could not see the true action, so they kept rewinding and redoing it in slow motion. The actors were fabulous. (We would see a lot of the actions, costumes used, and key phrases and words over the next week).

The rainstorm was another group activity and was amazing. Jez lead us through four different movements done in unison and if you could close your eyes and listen, it very much sounded like a rainstorm approaching, in full bloom, and then moving away.

Due to my head cold, I have been asking that the one-on-one sessions be at my house in the living room. It is much quieter and I don’t have to shout to be heard. The group rooms can become very noisy with 24 couples trying to talk. Many groups opt to take walks in the neighboring countryside. Until I feel better, I will remain inside.

I ate rice all day and tea, which was fine and all I wanted.

Sunday, November 26

Stomach settled and I decided to eat the meals today. During the breakfast hour, the menus for lunch and dinner are posted. There are two options for both starters and mains and you indicated the letter of your selections next to your name. Then, at the meal, you pick up the colored tags for your selections and put them at your place setting.

10 – Telephone Session – Cuti – Guardia Civil – Put Away and Raining Cats and Dogs – We each had a little script and he phoned me from his house. Our topic that we selected was that I was calling about finding a place for my daughter, Felicity in the summer Spanish language course. He was excellent and would volunteer information and expand on the topic without nudging. Very fun.

11 – Jose Santos – we walked and talked – Put off and In the Dog House – A self proclaimed computer nerd, we discussed his culinary abilities, dating and family logistics. It is fall in Spain and when the sun comes out, it is beautiful with lots of orange and brown hues. We walked down a back lane along stonewalls that separated the pastures to a small waterfall. The water was not too cold.
12 – FREE time - took some medication and rested. Felt much better
1 – Lourdes – Put on and Shake a Leg – Fire Station Administrator – Evolution of Spanish Language and English slang for going to the bathroom. I.e., when is it appropriate to use the word pee?

5 - Group activity – Book Club – The Hockey Sweater – Lead by Sandy, we went through questions about the Hockey Sweater Book, and then the group moved into a political discussion about Quebec in Canada (and its hopes for independence) and the similarities to the Basque region of Spain in relationship to the rest of Spain.
6 – Dani – Call on/off and Down the Drain – Accountant – Continuation of the political discussion, he recommended the book, Cathedral of the Sea, a novel about Barcelona
7 – Rafael – Call up/back and Jump the Gun – Security Royal Family and Bomb Squad – This man had not spoken English in over 3 years and was amazing. He has had the most incredible serious of jobs as the chief of security for the Spanish Royal Family, international business man in South America for multiple years and chief of the bomb squad in Madrid. Rafa, as we all began to call him, is a HOOT, very lively, always ready with a smile and a joke and an absolute pleasure.
8 – Entertainment

Group 1’s presentation was a news program about Pueblo Ingles, very good. Thinking back, I wished I had been in group one, if only to get the presentation over with early.

Bob, a returning PI Anglo lives in London and is a balloon artist and talked about his work and passed around photos of his more elaborate works of art.

I had told Christine, our Master of Ceremonies, that if she was stuck for entertainment, I would be happy to do a monologue. I did Annie from Quilter’s, and I am sure most of the Spaniards found it very difficult to follow, but the Anglos enjoyed it.

Jez lead us in another group activity that had us on our feet doing weird movements and chanting a rhythmic nonsense verse - A Tea Ta Too

After dinner – the Quemada Ceremony – Grain alcohol, sugar, coffee beans, lemon rind and incantations from two Spaniards and one Canadian (dressed up and reciting poetry) to drive off the witches. The lights were turned off as the stuff boiled in an open skillet with a blue flame. Very strong stuff, I took 3 sips and went to bed. Apparently I missed the dancing that happened before they closed the bar at 1:30 am.

Monday, November 27

Stomach fine – cold has progressed and is now a dry cough

10 – David – Boil it down to and Hard Pressed - Guardia Civil
11 – Enrique – Break Down, Come in Handy - Banker
12 – Free Time !!! – catch up on the blog and tea
1 – Free Time but I went to the presentation of some of the Spaniards. Jose Santos (Mafia Game), Jose (Shopping Center development), Fermin (Toledo) and Jesus S. Jesus did a fabulous PowerPoint that incorporated the book, the Hockey Sweater and one of our idioms Read Between the Lines. Brilliant. I hope to get a copy of it.

3:30 – Short meeting during our siesta time for Group 4 to discuss our presentation for Wednesday night – rough start but we ended up with the plan to develop a jeopardy game parody using idioms and phrasal verbs.

5 – Group Project – Each group had to Invent a new product and then present it to the group complete with product, slogan, jingle, poster, and 30 second advertisement. Our group developed the magical PIG Hat – Pueblo Ingles Gorro – Gorro is another name for pig that is the emblem for the region. A fun project
7 – Luis – Take Care of, Spread Like Wildfire - Chemical Engineer – Formerly from the Basque region, he is very hard on himself and is rather a perfectionist and kept consulting his Spanish/English dictionary. He has a heart of gold and once he lightened up, his conversation really flowed.
8 – Free time to get ready for Miguels Birthday party

Dinner – sat in our group and Tracy and I roughed out our sketch for Wednesday night - Idiomepardy

Miguel’s birthday celebration – Miguel from the Guardian Civil turned 29 today and we had a small party for him. He received some presents, including a dancing partner made totally of balloons from Bob. I danced until 12:30 including line dancing, pasa double, disco and group boogey. Fun, loud and highly entertaining. Some of the group did not make it to bed until very early!

Posted by ladyjanes 00:51 Archived in Spain Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 30C - leaving Africa

What a ride it has been!

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alskdfljasdl;jEntry # 30C – The Last Days in South Africa

Monday, November 20 – Last day in Joburg, maybe! Strange energy in me today and lots of little obstacles that showed me that I was to slow down and chill out!

I woke early in order to get my laundry dry and found that even at 7am, the dryer was in use. I have been frustrated by the automatic key gremlin both last night and today and every time I left my room, my key no longer worked. This meant lots of trips up and back to the office (usually in the rain) to have the key remagnetized or replaced. Finally the manager came with me and the key would behave itself. (Little Creep!)

At this point, I decided to take myself to breakfast (yes the potatoes had the little faces again, and no I did not get a picture) and then sit with my laptop in the laundry room in order to be there when the dryer stopped.

After an hour of proofing my blog entries and still no stopping of the dryer, I asked the housekeeping staff member who was ironing in the room how long the dryers took. She said that the towels were most likely dry and unloaded the machine. I loaded my little bit in and she said come back in 30 minute. I took my shower and was a few minutes late getting to the laundry and found her folding my dry laundry. What a nice lady.

I packed up and was ready to check out and leave my bags at the desk until my shuttle at 3pm to the airport. Just as I was checking out, the power failed, so they were not able to process me out. I sat on the couch and read my LPSpain book and drank tea. After an hour, still no power. I decided to walk across the street in hopes of power and lunch and to do a little last minute shopping. Power was on, shops had what I needed and I had a fabulous last lunch at Kauai, the wonderful health food chain that I first found in Cape Town. YUMMY. I hope we get them in the US soon.

Back to the hotel to find the power restored and my bill waiting. I blogged a little more and then it was time for Nigel, in his wonderful silver Camray, to whisk me off to the airport.

I arrived by 4pm and immediately went to the VAT inspection area. I handed him a huge pile of receipts that I had organized the night before and figured out all the VAT. He asked me to show him several of the things in my luggage, all of which I found with no problem. He kept finding all the candy and ice creams that I had on the bills and asking if I still had them. I said, no not even the sticks.

Then I went off to find the post office that was in the basement of the international terminal. I bought 5 of their mailing boxes and proceeded to unload my second daypack and my smallest rolling suitcase into the boxes. Within two hours, I had all the boxes mailed and they began moving slowly across the globe to the US. I find I am still running around madly my last day doing posting things, but with the tax refunds needing to see the items before you leave the country, there is no way around it.

I could not check in my bags until 6:45, so I had some time to kill so I ate a late lunch and then got in line. This will be my first time on Iberia Airlines, the official airlines of Spain. My two bags were 27kilos, which was over, and there was some hushed discussion about me needing to pay extra, but as the trainee did not bring it up immediately, they did not charge me. I left with my stuff and then found I could not find the gates. I had to go back and found that the hallway to the passport control was directly behind the ticketing desks. Using your eyes can be a good thing.

Passport control, no problem, security, no problem, passport stamping, no problem and I had 2.5 hours until I had to be at my gate. In the JoBurg airport, you don’t go to the gates until you are ready to board. At least that is what the sign said, but when I followed the sign, I found that everyone else was already at the gate. One busload had already gone to the aircraft so I stood with my Suduku book and waited. We were told that there would be a 15-minute delay. After a short time, people began filing back into the waiting area from the debarkation doors. They had unloaded the plane because there were mechanical difficulties and because I was close to the door, I heard that we would not be flying tonight.

The time was now 11pm. We followed the staff person back through the convoluted terminal and had to go back through passport control. There was one lone person at the booths. I was number 2 through the line. The first woman was an American, Marla aged 41, who was making a connection. There was some confusion at the passport desk and they asked us all to come back. At one point, the man said that even though we had been stamped back in, because the immigration man had not received written notification from Iberia about the problem, we would have to be unstamped and them stamped again. A woman went off like a siren and the arguments and angry voices began. Marla and I pulled away from the group and continued to discuss her mother’s cancer and her years as a Big A women’s basketball coach.

Finally, our luggage arrived and we took our trolleys with luggage back into the ticketing hall to wait for hotel vouchers. The time as 12:15 am.

As the delays continued and no formal announcements were made to the group as a whole, tempers were short and patience was stretched. At one point, they had not found any hotels that were willing to take any of us. I asked if there was anyplace in the terminal where we could at least curl up or spread out over seats. None available.

Marla had an in at the Intercontinental at the airport that she was going to try and I stayed in line.
At 1:30 am, I was given a voucher for the Durial Grand hotel – which sounded like it would be a very nice hotel. A group of us that had just received our vouchers were lead by a staff member on a convoluted walk to where the shuttle vans would pick us up. Thank heavens a staff members escorted us because in our blurry state, we would have not found it.

At 2am, I arrived at the D’Oreale Grand at the Emperor’s Palace Casino and hotel complex near the airport. It looked wonderful and we would also be given dinner, breakfast and lunch and soft drinks.

My room had a king size bed and all the niceties, plus WIFI in the room. I logged on and contacted my hostal in Madrid and told them that I would be late. I went to bed, exhausted.

Tuesday, November 21

I woke at 6:30 and got back to sleep until 8:30. When I called the desk, they had no news from Iberia so I took a shower and went off to breakfast. WHAT A FEAST! A luscious buffet with fresh fruit (including guava), breads, juices, eggs and all the fixings, cheese and deli meats, cereal and even a sushi option. I sat outside and indulged. YUMMY!

I went back to my room to read and fell asleep until the phone rang at 1:30. They said that we could get back to the airport and Iberia would try and reticket us. If we choose to stay, as we had missed the check out time, we would have to pay 100 rand an hour to use the room until this evening. I was packed so I went back to the airport.

I was reticketed for this evening, but still no guarantee that we would fly. I found a café and drank two iced coffee/chocolate shakes and internetted. I finally got my hotels straight for England.

I saw a line forming near where I was to check in at 6:45 so I joined it. I was behind a wonderful Spanish woman, Alice, who is a PhD, who had a hard night and was being given special consideration. She and I got an early check in which was lovely and we didn’t have to even stand in the line that was forming. She left to go back to the hotel and collect her hand luggage and have a nice dinner. I found that we will be sitting in the same row and as she wanted a window and I had it, I agreed to change with her. If possible, I may also ask for a window but I didn’t want to approach the line that was ever growing. If not, I will be happy with the aisle and my sleeping pill.

New EU rules for flying include putting everything from your carry one luggage that has any liquid in it in a large zip lock bag so that they can inspect it. The bottle of water that I had before I went through security was taken, but I can buy another one on the other side.

Alice had already rearranged so that she had a window by the time I met up with her at the gate. As we boarded I saw that we were in a 2 seats, 4 seats, and 2-seat configuration. I still had my window seat but with the plane absolutely full due to two days of flights in one airplane, there was no hope for more room to spread out. I got to my seat and found that the fabric panel that holds up the magazines was broken so that kept hitting my knees. The movies were the second pirate movie, 65 Minutes and something else that I missed. Dinner was fine, I took my sleeping pill and tried to get comfortable. It didn’t work, so I watched most of the pirate movie and then must have dozed off. We landed after our 10 hours flight and I was back in Spain, having not been there since 1977.

Thoughts as I leave South Africa

I am really glad I came. The information on South Africa had made me rather wary of what I would find. Generally, the literature is correct that you can go through South Africa with no problems. One of the reasons that I feel that I was successful is that I was ultra vigilant with my property and that I have the most amazing contingent of angels guiding and protecting me. As you read in some of my blog entries, not everyone that I met or lived with had the same experience that I did.

South Africa is probably one of the wealthiest and most western of all the African countries. That being said, there is still a lot of poverty, not nothing when compared with other African countries so I have been told.

I found the people to be a little standoffish at first, but friendly if you make the first move. I don’t feel that I really had a chance to get to know many South Africans, as almost all of the people that I stayed with were expats from other countries. Most of the staff at CARE was foreign, the staff at SANCCOB was Afrikaans, and the people at the lion park a mix of both.

The thing that I have mentioned before and what impresses me tremendously is that South Africa is growing and changing now that Apartheid is gone. Still young in their development, they are working very hard to do what is best of the country, with the understandable stumbles and lurches as they move ahead. The new government is doing its best and working to build houses for the poor and to bring some basics like water and electricity to all.

With unemployment over 40% within the black communities in the urban areas, there is still a need to help the people find work that will allow them to make their own way. Numerous college graduates aren’t able to find jobs within the country and there is large emigration from South Africa to places like Australia. I have seen people doing very small jobs like sweeping the street, selling things on the corners just to have some income. I heard stories of people being able to make more begging and panhandling than with a real job. We had been told to not give money to the kids on the street or in the townships as that encourages them to skip school (which is mandatory up until you are 18) to try and earn money.

The landscape is amazing and from the areas that are remaining of the bush that I saw, wonderful and exciting. The animals, of course, were the main reason for my coming, and they are as magnificent as you have heard. Many of them are making a comeback, but more still needs to be done to preserve their habitat and at the same time giving the people living off the land a chance to make a living. Not an easy situation to comprehend or solve, but necessary nonetheless.

I learned that the true natives in South Africa were the San and that all other tribes moved into the area within the last couple hundred years. The Bushman (formerly the San, I believe) are being shuttled between South Africa and Namibia. They are being paid to do nothing and live in little villages for tourists to see how they live. As most of the land is now “owned” by some concern or another, so that the Bushman can no longer be nomadic, therefore their livelihood is dependent on government handouts. The governments find them a financial burden and restrict their movements. One South African woman, of Afrikaans descent, said that they go every year out in the bush and try and meet with them. They are told by officials that they cannot see them without an appointment and some of the Bushman individuals will be brought in closer for the tourists to see. Going to the actual village is not allowed.

As I mentioned before, it is a country that is young and changing. There is so much to see and do here and the exchange rate is VERY favorable to us in the US. I know that I would like to rent a car when I return, but I also know that I will not drive in the cities.

Recommendations if you are planning to come to South Africa.

• Read as much as possible about South Africa and the Apartheid era that you can.

• Go on a township tour with a private guide if possible in order to spend more time there. The package tours tend to limit the amount of time you can spend at any one location.

• Go to any site that has history about the Apartheid time, Apartheid Museum, Hector Pierterson Museum, District 6 and Robben Island.

• If you want to see animals in the wild, go to one of the big national parks (Kruger or Addo). You may not see as much, but the animals will be native to that area and not brought in from other areas to lure tourists.

• If you go on a wildlife drive within the National Parks, make sure that you will have unlimited time at waterholes or at lookouts. If possible, stay overnight near one of those areas, which is where you will see the most animals at dawn and dusk.

• Try the African cuisine when you can. It is fabulous and varied and not as hot or spicy and you would think. There are plenty of options for western food as well, but treat yourself.

• GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME TO ENJOY ONE SITE AT A TIME. I don’t recommend the Jane way where I had booked myself so tight, I had no opportunity to linger or retrace my steps. I WILL NOT BOOK MYSELF SO TIGHT AGAIN.

• I came in the late winter going into spring and summer. The summers are hot and rainy. The winters are cooler, windy and dryer. CAPE TOWN IS A WIND TUNNEL. Bring layers and dress appropriately.

• You will need malaria medication in Kruger.

• You should be able to drink the tap water all over. That being said, bottled water is available everywhere.

• Come and enjoy the best of South Africa and learn about these amazing people with their incredible capacity to forgive and move on.

Thank you South Africa, especially Nelson Mandela, Rev. Tutu, and all those that made the difference, sometimes at great personal sacrifice to move the country forward. I will return with more time to spend and lots more film in my camera. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading of your advances and successes in the future. Best of luck on the UN Security Council and please help all of us understand and remember what it took for South Africa to change from a nation of oppression to one of freedom.

Posted by ladyjanes 00:50 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 30B - Second week with the Lions

I adore Giraffe's!!!

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Entry # 30B –Second Week at the Lion Park

Sunday, November 12

Overcast all day –

Our team began in the cub world and cleaning out the pen of 6. They were all wound up and we had not even half way finished cleaning when the lines began to queue for the lions. Given, said we were to open the door to them. I said I was surprised that they were let in before they were fed and settled. He said people came first. The other two volunteers escorted the first group in and I went next door to begin the pool for Kumara and Kiango who would be coming down soon. I did not see it, but apparently, a little boy was scratched by a tooth during the first set of visitors. After they left, no additional groups were able to go in until they had eaten. Hmmmmm?

Luckily the food arrived soon after that and the people got to watch them eat. Immediately following the food leaving, the guests went back in. I would have given them at least 15 to settle, but no incidents happened. The group may start 30 minutes earlier next weekend in order that they can be finished cleaning and feeding before the guests arrive at 8:00 am.

We got to bottle feed the babies again. I got Nia and she polished off her bottle with pellets in record time. Some of them still have a runny tummy, mainly due to change in diet, teething and not quite enough exercise.

HUGE THUNDERSTORM EARLY EVENING AND ALL NIGHT. We had no power for most of the dinner preparation and luckily, the meat was being done on the bbq. We ate dinner by tabard insect candles and head torches in a tent with a dry table and chairs. The wind was howling and we were freezing, but it was fun all the same. We were happy to get into our tents.

I am reading The Jane Austin Book Club – okay.

Monday, November 13 – DAY OFF YAAAH!

Funny, on my day off, getting up early and out of bed by 6am was not a chore. I was also rewarded because when you get up that early, you get to see the zebras and impala on our side of the fence so that you can get really good photos.

Zebra Photos

I spent the morning getting organized for my day off including what I needed to accomplish at the internet. Erin and I had a 10 am pick up for our trip to the mall.

Lots of internetting and logistics to complete. I bought a BritRail Pass and got reservations for my last two days in JoBurg at a nice hotel. After 3 months of roommates or having to cater my own meals, I feel I deserve a little luxury and fun things like sample shampoos and lotions in the bathrooms.

Zahra and Karen joined us at the mall as they were on the shopping crew. I was still getting my logistics set, so I had to pass on lunch with the group. Just a well as I needed some alone time to clear my head. My vibes card today was Clear A Path – let go of all the redundant stuff I am still hanging on to.

We got home to find yet another flood in our tent and temp very cold. It had bombed rain literally all day and as we were waiting to be picked up, the rain fell in sheets.

Dinner was late as the ingredients had come from today’s shopping and I went to bed with my new book.

During the night, both Karen and I made a pilgrimage to the bathroom. Unbeknownst to me, she slipped and fell and scrapped her right side. This brings injury to all my tent mates so far – Amanda and her ingrown toenail, Karen her slip and bruise, and Zahra her tumble over a log in the cub pen. They invited me to join the injury club and complete the tent and I told them that I had a wonderful team of angels watching over me and that I as happy not to play that game.

We did manage to find two space heaters that we used to heat up the tent which help immensely. I still went to bed in my long sleeve shirt, my Robben Island fleece, my fleece hat and socks. Very sexy I know

Tuesday, November 14

I began the day by moving all the still damp laundry out to the line where the sun could make a difference.

Started the day a little grouchy, the day-after-the-day-off syndrome again. Everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion with no map or compass of where they were headed. I asked for and received a different view and things improved immediately.

Most of the occupants in the pens had shifted so now we have Kumara and Kiango in touch-a-cub, the cheetahs next door, the six including the hyena immediately behind touch-a-cub and the old cheetah pen empty. The larger lions that had been behind touch-a-cub are now in the pen that we cleaned last week to be ready for mowing and they have moved the wild three out there as well. Apparently, the transfer and introduction of the wild cubs into the other group went without a hitch and they acclimated into the clan with no problem. Ian knows his lions that is for sure.

We had lots of giraffe activity today with both of them coming up for pellets and lots of kids got to feed them. We only made 210 rand, which is lower than the all time high of 480, but still respectable for a Tuesday. Obviously with the torrents of rain yesterday, there were no giraffes to feed.

I happened across Ian today and every time I do, he calls me Denver and asks how I am doing. I said fine. He asked if I liked the lions and I said yes, but that I preferred the giraffes. I do, they have lovely eyes and eye lashes and you don’t have to worry about their teeth and claws.

We did a little weeding, helped in touch-a-cub, giraffe duty, moving the cubs around and some feeding. The three littlies are now on bowls of kibble drenched in milk and everyone is doing pretty well with it. Even little Swazi is eating although he is so ADD, that he keeps being distracted and walks off. As long as you keep moving his bowl, he thinks he is getting something new. It was a good thing that we got to bottle feed the cubs over the weekend, as Princess has moved them on to pellets. They really are ready for them.

During lunch, I organized my dinner plans as I was cooking baked potatoes for a baked potato bar. Considering that we don’t have a functioning oven, I planned to use the microwave. The toppings would include chili, frozen veggies, baked beans, cheese and salad. The shopping crew has misinterpreted that I asked for sour cream and chives, not sour cream and chives dip.

Amanda went back to the Dr. about her toe and he gave her more pills. Cutting it out is the last option. They were supposed to go to the store to pick up the few things that had been left out yesterday, but forgot. Therefore, no sour cream and we still only have one bag of cereal. Oh well, I leave on Saturday night, so only 4 more days of breakfast to contend with.

During dinner preparation happened when everyone else was on a walk and I was listening to Secret Garden. I found that we were loosing water pressure. Sure enough, when they all returned we found that indeed, no hot water. Investigation found that the tank was dry and we were told it would refill in about 2 hours. No shower tonight for most of us.

After our days and nights of rain, we are happy for the dryness, but it has also caused an absolute explosion of flying ants. Most people were complimentary about dinner that was nice and most of us ate as fast as possible, because the ants descended on our dinner. My plate was blissfully devoid of bugs. DON'T I HAVE GREAT ANGELS? I went to bed to blog and finish the Jane Austen Book Club. It has turned out to be a pretty good book.

Wednesday, November 15

Incredibly slow day, so much so that I took a two-hour lunch and sorted through my luggage of things that I will leave behind in Africa. As I had every piece of luggage open and strewn, the gang came by in a car on their way for trash picking in the lower pasture. I decided not to go, and finished my sorting. I came up with bag of stuff that I will leave with Ornica to distribute as she sees fit.

As the group was delayed in getting back, I got to feed the three cubs their lunch with Kara. They are doing very well and eating like champs. Grandma would be so proud of them.

It was very hot and we all sort of drifted through the day. I am now reading Eragon (book about a dragon rider) and am having a hard time putting it down.

Water is still limited but I did get a shower tonight that was lovely. Bore water so we are not drinking it.

Most of the group is going on an excursion tomorrow so we will be only three. If there are as few people as yesterday, it will be no problem. Alex said that we would be getting the cubs and giraffe’s ready for a photo shoot with model tomorrow. If the giraffes aren’t up at the fence, we have to go lure them up. SURELY YOU JEST? Just what do they think we will be able to do if they decide to not follow us?

Just as we were about to leave work for the tents, I heard my name and it was the lady from the travel agency with my hotel reservation and Brit Rail Pass. Yah, I don’t have to remember to go the gate at 6pm on Thursday.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a start thinking that we had forgotten to bring in the giraffe money.

I also had a great dream where I was at a wedding rehearsal as a bridesmaid and went down the aisle with a pink and orange bouquet. Then I was in a marvelous house/museum with a staircase that would do justice to my Victorian dress. The next thing I was at my wedding with my original bouquet and as I was ready to go down the aisle, I came across other bouquets in purple and white with tags indicating it was for the Stanfield wedding. I took the brides’ bouquet and went down the aisle. On the brides’ side of the aisle, I saw friends that I recognized with wrapping paper around them. The funniest ones were Hal and Ron from Denver who were frantically wrapping individual presents. From the number I saw, when I said hello to them, I indicated that I thought they would be a salad set. Hal’s face just fell because I had guessed correctly. It was a lovely dream and I felt happy all day.

Thursday, November 16

The morning duties were combined as we tried to prepare for the models. Sure enough, we had forgotten the giraffe money, and it was all of 20 rand. I turned it in and got my drawer for today. We cleaned the pens and by the time we were done, the models arrived. Casey and Erin went with the cubs to the bottom of the pasture for the shoot. I stayed behind, not unhappily, and did giraffe duty and earned the park 130 rand. Both giraffe’s were up at the fence today and happily eating pellets. Gambit ate 8 bags before he stood back and allowed Purdy her turn.

When the models were done with the cubs, the staff drove up in a truck to lure the giraffe’s back down the hill. I loaded into the truck and with 6 bags of white bread, we went down the hill with Purdy in hot pursuit. Anytime we had to slow down for an obstacle and she would get close to the drivers side, he would hand a slice of bread out to her. It was a stitch and we finally got to see them run in all their glory. My biggest piece of gold from his placement is my new adoration and affection for everything giraffe. Gambit followed as well and ended up being the giraffe in the shots. The photographer was using three models to represent a family in an advertisement for a local shopping mall. Alex, the staff member, kept putting slices of bread into their hands or in the crooks of their arms to get the giraffe’s head in the shot.

Kara, Erin and I had two bags of white bread to keep Purdy occupied higher up the hill. We ended up taking out one slice at a time, holding most of it in our hand and gradually allowing her to have more of the slice. Between the two of them, the giraffes had 6 bags of bread gone within 10 minutes. We had a few slices left, so Alex put some on our head for the giraffes to eat off our hats. Silly but fun.

Photo – Purdy and hat

The afternoon was very slow so I did some litter picking and went into the pen with the 6 with Kara. She adores the hyaena, Keto, and it is reciprocated. When it came time for us to feed in the afternoon, we ended up with all six of the animals in the air lock and us in the pen. Finally, Angie lured them away from the air lock with an additional bowl of food along the side of the fence.

Zahra made an authentic curry for dinner and it was pretty hot. I fished all the chilis out so that it won’t be absolutely blistering tomorrow.

We had a bit of an incident at the camp today. Ornica, the staff member in charge of the tents, has been off for the last two days. The last time she was off, the phones went missing. Even when she was around, there has been some food disappearing from the kitchen when no one is there. We have had workman in camp for the last two days and we would try and appear at unexpected times just in case. Today, the workman ended up waking Erin and Casey from naps to ask for access to the kitchen that appears to have the only power point in the area that they can access. They finally agreed to open the kitchen but would not leave it open, as they had to go back to work. They finally locked up and left with the men shouting insults and trying to pull the cord from under the door.

There have been several instances of misunderstandings and hard feelings between the volunteers and some of the workers. There are plans a foot to speak to Ian before we go with some ideas of how to ease the conflict.

Based on the lack of guest volume over the last two days, I feel that the volunteers are truly redundant at this volunteer placement. We walked past 5 staff people today who were standing and chatting while we were being called to clean a pen that could easily have been done by the staff. It is our understanding that after the current set of volunteers leave, that no new ones will come through the end of the year to make room for paying guests in all the tents.

Friday, November 17

Spent most of the day revising the documents that Given uses to train the volunteers. I was pleased I could help and Given printed off the documents so that the entire volunteer team could proof them.

Went out of pizza at 4Ways Mall with Given and had a really good time. I think Given heard lots of things that he did not need to know about women during some of the side conversations.

Got back to find the neighbors, 3 couples in the tents next to us. Whooping and drinking, they finally button holed Erin to ask for the key to the kitchen. When it was denied (the guests are only to use the bbq area and the outside sink) they became abusive.

Later in the night, I heard Casey speaking to them about not going under the fence into the park for their own safety. Again, more abuse and rocks thrown at the tent. At one point, I thought I heard Given’s voice and the next day found out that he had been summoned. Poor Given. One of the problems with living on site, you get called at all hours to handle things. This is a difficult situation as you have two groups of people with totally different orientations sharing the same living space, but not all the same amenities. The guests are there for a good time and to party and the volunteers are there to work and get enough sleep for the next day.

Saturday, November 18 – Last day of work for me


As this was my last day, I was trying to do a little of everything and to say good-bye. My main goodbyes were to be with Purdy and Gambit, my new loves in Africa. I fed them each a bag of pellets and every time I left the platform, Purdy would follow me down the fence looking for more pellets. She was finally distracted by several groups of people with bags of pellets.

I was asked to help rearrange Ohno’s cage to give him leopard enrichment. This meant untying all the ropes and repositioning his tire swing, suspended barrel and ramp log. Luckily, Kara is very good at knots so we had it done in no time. Ohno seemed to like it and spent some time investigating his new space.

Next, I took my computer into the back office and used the desk to type in the revisions from last night. During my typing the rain descended in sheets and pretty much continued the rest of the day.

As I exited the office, Angie said we were all going on a game drive. It was continuing to bomb rain with 5-minute gaps, but the new tour guide needed to practice so we all went. Same route and species as before but we got to see several new things. First, we finally got to get close to the Black Wildebeest that we had not seen up close before. Not the one’s that you normally think of when you hear wildebeest, but wonderful just the same.

We also saw a new little Springbok, probably only 5 days old. A one horned Oryx who, for whatever reason, did not want them on his piece of land was herding the baby and the mom. The other thing we saw was two-day-old Blasbok, very cute and tiny. We also got to see the 4 lion camps again and due to the rain and chilly weather, all the cats were active and up. We saw two lovely male lions and roaring and proclaiming their territory. The young male that had been sequestered in camp 3, is now within the pride. Time will tell if the big girls in the Chinese take-away will accept him. The lionesses were just a big as I remembered and as we lined up to exit the camp, one of the lioness was chewing on the rear bumper of the car ahead of us. I wonder if they will be able to claim lion chew marks from their auto insurance?

NOTE TO SELF – when offered a chance to go on a drive that you have already done, DO IT as there is always something new to see

Over the last two days, we have had the trio of smallest cubs in an outside pen and in view of the public. They are doing really well with their bowls of pellets in milk and little Swazi, who had been such a poor eater with the bottle, is going great guns. He is still ADD and needs help remembering where the bowl is. I have fed him the last two days and as long as you keep a vigil for him and keep bringing him back, he feeds fine. I even scrapped the last little bits of kibble up for him and let him eat out my hand. Very nice. During the last feed, Nia and Zam, while I was feeding Swazi, kept upsetting their bowls and it spread all over the floor. Not a problem for the cubs, they just ate it off the floor and as soon as Swazi had guzzled his down, he went over to help them. There are angry little faces and little paws that strike out if any cub comes too close to someone else’s feed bowl.

I went by all the animals’ pens one last time and asked Francis to take special care of all these special animals. I know that they are in good hands with him. Little Jake the Jackal has grown over the past week and really has a personality and looks more like a little fox, than a kitten. We keep telling him to drink his milk so that he can become big and strong.

After the game drive, the sky really opened and it poured. This gave me the opportunity to finish reading my book Eragon (about a dragon) so that I could leave it for the others.

Princess gave me a certificate to show that I had worked at the park and a color photo book of the animals at the park. I said goodbye to Ornica and thanked her for her assistance with our tents.

As I got ready to leave, I was a little sad, but was also looking forward to two days in a nice hotel with a double bed, wireless connection and little bottles of things in the bathrooms. It makes a change from tents and little frogs sharing my shower.

Ginnie was right on time and I was at the Courtyard by 7pm. Right across from a mall that has a huge African market every Sunday, it is a good location for my last two nights in Africa. Well, for this trip anyway.


Giraffe’s, as a ruminant, have the four chambered stomach, are called bulls, cows and calves as appropriate and have no vocal cords and make no sounds. Sexually mature at 7, they can live to 30 years. Gestation is 14-15 months and it usually only 1 young. The baby can be 6 feet at birth.

Cheetah’s – while they look like cats, they do not have retractable claws making them closer to dogs. They are probably a distinct group to themselves with characteristic of both. The two distinguishing characteristics include the black lines from their eyes that look like tear lines and their sleek body and tucked up waist. They are also the only large cat that purrs. Litters from 3-7 are common.

Hyena – while they look like dogs, their closets relative is the mongoose, which is a member of the cat family. They are not hermaphrodites and both sexes carry a penis and scrotum. The females’ phallus is more of an external birth canal and there is nothing in their scrotum. Apparently, female hyenas have a high level of testosterone causing the dimorphism. They are very loyal and remember their special trainers and friends, better than the lions. Usually a pair is born and if they are the same sex, the stronger one kills the other. The pups are sighted and with teeth and can be left in the den immediately after birth.

The term black panther is really a black leopard. When you look at them in the light, you can see the faint rosettes of pattern under their black. The other big black cat is the black jaguar, and again, you can see the jaguar pattern under their black.

Lions – the females hunt and a pride can have more than one breeding male. The females are amazingly large, almost the size of a couch in length. Their nails are retractable.

Deer in general – if their habitat is in the trees or forest, only the males will have antlers, if they are plains animals, both male and female will carry horns. While this was told to be about Africa, I can almost guess this is the same for deer on all continents

Sunday, November 19 –

Lovely breakfast including eggs, bacon, croissant, juice and potato cakes that had a little mouth and two eyes. If no one is at breakfast tomorrow, I may take a picture.

Spent the time after breakfast finishing up the last post cards. It suddenly hit me the size and scope of this trip. It made me feel humble and proud that I had been given this opportunity and I took it. Some tears that I think surprised my nearest neighbors.

Today was spent at the market looking for those last minute things and trying to get my tax receipts in order to tomorrow at the airport. I will also ship most of it home, probably at quite a cost, but at least I won’t be carrying it.

I did a little laundry but am still waiting for the drying to free up. Two washers and only one dryer. Every time I left the room, the key would not work again, so it was another trip to the office. Hopefully, that will end soon as I want to go to sleep soon.

I should be loading my blog but all I want to do is watch tv and sleep. Tomorrow morning will be blog time and I will go to the airport extra early in order to get more blogging done.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:49 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 30A - First week with the Lions

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty!

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Entry # 30A –First Week at the Lion Park

Monday, November 6 – 10 months on the road today!

We had a 10:00 pick up and we arrived at noon. I won the award at the park of having the second most luggage from any one volunteer. I can’t wait to be able to mail most of my stuff home!

Given – the Staff member who will be our main supervisor, tour guide and orientation host sent us through our paperwork and facts about the park and the different animals we will handle.

Animals at the park – lion, white lion, leopard, cheetah, wart hog, black-sided jackal, side stripe jackal, ostrich, giraffe, brown hyena (very rare) and spotted hyenas.

Our Group – Casey – Magnetic Island, Aust, Erin – NSW, Aust, Zara – Nottingham, UK, Karen – Nottingham, UK, Angie – Birmingham, UK, Nick –???, UK, Amanda – Birmingham, UK, Goeff – Melbourne, Aust – Most of them are first time ItoI’ers, although Casey and Erin have done three. I am staying for 2 weeks, and most of the others are staying at least 3 and two will be staying for 4 weeks. We just have to tell them the day before you want off. We can take off days between Mondays through Friday, but Saturday and Sunday’s are the biggest days at the park so everyone is on duty.

The Lion Park was established in 1966 as a retirement community for former circus animals. Now they are an education center (not zoo or private game reserve) for native wildlife. They have changed management as of 1998 and have just established a second company for filming with lions and carnivores. It is a 208 hectares enclosure, separated into 5 different camps within a residential area on the northern suburbs. You can hear not only the lions but also the highway not that far away.

We are housed in tents that sleep 4 with proper beds. I am with Amanda, Karen and Zara.

Our days will be split with ½ in the nursery and ½ in the touch-a-cub enclosure in Cub World. In the nursery there are four pens. Currently they house three wild white lion cubs that are going to a zoo in Mexico, 3 three-week-old cubs (Swazi, Nia and Zam – named for African countries), 2 four-month old cubs (Kiango and Kumara) and the young leopard – Ohno. Ohno is an 8-month-old leopard and he is very handsome. He came up to us in his cage enclosure and seemed very social.

Apparently, all the lion cubs answer to kip kip kip and the hyenas answer to woozie, woozie woozie.

I spent the early evening unpacking and blogging. We had a braii for dinner and were in bed by 9:00 pm. Up by 7:00 to be at work at 8:00.

Tuesday, November 7

First day on the job. My group of Zara, Angie and Amanda began in the nursery.

Inside the nursery there are 4 cages that house animals overnight. There is quite a smell, probably a combination of the lions, leopard and the horsemeat bones that had been fed to the trio of wild lion cubs.

Our first job was to clean out the outside enclosure for the 4-month-old pair, Kumara (female) and Kianga (male). They spend the night inside and the days outside. Their enclosure has lots of trees and rocks and is surrounded by a fence with the top layer is electrified. We were warned to be aware of the fence as it is constantly electrified and people had stood up unexpectedly and got a bit of a shock. I was on the rake, Zara was on clearing the pool and Angie was on collecting up the piles of leaves that I raked up. During our cleaning, we heard a screech from the cub world pen where the other team where cleaning. Erin was hugged and bitten from behind by Miasha.

Then we went back to the nursery and prepared bottles for the three tiniest cubs. The milk is Esbilac (puppy formula similar to Similac that we used on the kittens). They are only 9 weeks old and very cute. Zam and Swazi are the males and Nia is the female. Very cute and yet their little teeth are quite sharp and their claws prominent. We were not able to bottle feed, Princess, who is now in charge of the nursery said that we would not be able to bottle feed until we had been here for two weeks. I guess I may not be able to feed as I only am here for two weeks. I will ask Princess closer to the time I am leaving if she would please allow me to bottle-feed someone once.

Next we got the bowls of food ready for the two little cubs and the 6 guys in the outside pen, the pen in cub world where you get to touch the cubs. The bowls included a cup of cat kibble and a layer of horsemeat.

The horsemeat is always donated from local people. There was a problem as we arrived, because the pen in cub world that houses the 10-11 months old cubs had been given meat from a horse that had been euthanized. Apparently the horse had been sedated and the people who picked up the meat did not know to ask how the horse had died. Yesterday, two pens of cubs were very lethargic and had been administered charcoal and liver injections to counter act the sedation. Today, one of the 11 months old females was still in a bad way and was sent to the vet for additional treatment. All the other cats were but still got more liver injections and charcoal today. A lot of the staff were used during the treatments and were pretty exhausted from the ordeal. Luckily, the female that had been to the vet is doing well and has returned to the park.

We got to take the dishes to the two cubs and I had one of the bowls. They were waiting for us, were very excited to see the food and sort of jumped at me. I ended up drop/throwing the bowl in their general direction. I was told that I could place them on the ground the next time. It was an adrenaline rush to have that little cub approach and it was a bit scary.

Next we got to the take the 6 bowls to the pen with the 6 months old touch-a-cub guys. Maisha, Thando, Kookai the girls and the boys, Cochise and Duciele and the hyaena Keto.

Cohise and Maisha are siblings, Kookai and Duciele are siblings and Thando half sibling to Maisha and Cochise.

These guys up to your knee and VERY PLAYFUL!!!!. I told Amanda that I was not up for taking in the bowls to the bigger cubs, so she did it with the others. We ended up waiting for them and Amanda collected all the bowls with one of them continuing to try and get into the bowls. Left feeling a little shaken and unhappy with my first interactions with them.

Next we had a meeting with Ian, the owner/manager of the Lion Park. He told us all about the history of the Park. He shared with us about their experience with breeding the lions including that has never been a successful artificial insemination in lions. Lions are induced breeders and when the female is in heat for 5 days, the male breeds her every 7-15 minutes for the entire time. It is the frequency that causes the female to ovulate. The Lion Park is a member of the PAZ???? and the World ????? They do relocate or sell to other members of these groups and also receive other breeding animals in order to make sure there is genetic diversity.

The cubs are removed from their mothers for various reasons including first time mothers, to reduce crowding in the pride, if the cub is weak or the same sex as the twin, or for educational purposes. The mother tends to have a pair of cubs at a time. If there aren’t enough resources and one of the cubs is weak, it is not uncommon for them to kill weaker one.

After the meeting, we went to help clean out a vacant enclosure of rocks and sticks as one of the staff members was mowing all the pens.

Then we went out to cover the giraffe feeding area. There are two giraffe’s Gambit the male and Purdy, the female. There is a platform so that you are up at their head height so that you can feed them. We try to feed them on the platform instead of on the ground, as they tend to challenge the fence with their chests. We make up bags of giraffe nuggets that are basically alfalfa pellets for 10rand (around $1.30). It is lovely to feed. They have a 45 cm tongue that are blue black and they extend their tongue and you pour a few pellets on to it. I went up to help a family who was a little tentative about the feeding and getting giraffe slobber on their hands. The kids were lovely.

I then went to lunch and did a little hand laundry and then went back to help in the cub world area. The volunteers switch half way through the day so we went to the other area. In this area, we were back at the giraffes. There wasn’t much going on, so we packed the giraffe nuggets up and went to take the three cubs for a walk. We had three cubs and 9 staff and volunteers across the field to the airstrip for a ramble. Erin ran ahead of them and the three cubs gambled after her. They were pooped and we had to keep collecting them out of the grass and keeping them on the airstrip. They were wonderful.

Our final task of the day was to cut up the horsemeat for tomorrow. It was huge hunks of meat with lots of bright yellow fat. Angie and I cut up the meat.

We also got to meet Jake, the Side Striped Jackal is in the nursery and about as large as a large rat. One week old, he is cute as a bug’s ear, this little guy had a bottle with a tiny little nipple

Wednesday, November 8 – Big Feed Day

Today we started in the cub world area that meant our first duty was to go into the touch-a-cub cage with the 6 within. I was a little apprehensive, but we had a plan of how to approach the task including working in pairs, watching each other’s back and when all else fails, distract them by letting them play with a rake or the broom. Amanda tackled the pool and had 5 of the 6 of them amused for quite a while. I had the rake and my back to the fence. After the pool was emptied and the rakings gathered up, we assisted Amanda with the pool while Zara held off two different sub-groups with two rakes.

PHOTO – ZARA and the rakes

We ended up without any mishaps and I think all of us felt better about working in this pen.

Next, we raked around the perimeter of the cub world pens and finally opened up the giraffe food stall. I was not there at the time, but the actress Jane Seymour and entourage including bodyguard fed the giraffes and then spent a lot of time in the pen with the 6 cubs. No photo, but I could see she was petite, slight, with lovely reddish hair. Just as I had imagined her. After Jane had gone, I was on duty at the giraffes and could not resist buying a sack of pellets and feeding them. First I fed Purdy, the female and she is lovely. (I am having an attack of the lovelies again!) Angie got a video of Purdy and I. After that group had left, I bough another bag and fed Gambit. He is also lovely, but only hangs around as long as you have food. No food, and he is off. The staff was fixing the fence immediately underneath the feeding platform, so the giraffes went away and did not return for the day. Only 50 rand today, 20 of it from me, compared to 300 rand yesterday. Maybe more tomorrow.

At 11, we all loaded into the truck and did a drive around the park including the lion camps. Along the way we saw Springbok, Blasbok, Burchells Zebra, Black Wildebeest for a great distance, our giraffes, Impala, Gebok, Spotted hyena, Brown Hyena, Cheetah’s. There are 4 lion camps where there an existing prides with different societies.
Camp 1 has a single male and only two females. I didn’t get a very good look at these.

Camp 2 had about 8 females, two cubs and a lovely male lion named Sly. He posed very nicely for our cameras. This camp is full of split lions, they appear tawny, but all carry the white recessive gene. One of the cubs was definitely white. When the offspring of the male are about ready to breed, they are removed from the pride.

Camp 3 is called the Chinese Takeaway camp. They are currently without a male, but they have a small enclosure set aside for a younger male with 3 of the prides’ females. The main pride females were HUGE and very well fed. When they introduce the male to the rest of the pride, the three females will protect him from the other females until he has assimilated. They are called the takeaway because in 1998, two Taiwanese tourists ignored the signs about staying in their car and got out in order to take pictures of the sleeping pride. They must have gotten great pictures, but they also lost their lives. Just as we were leaving, the young male lion was showing that he was indeed trying to increase the population.

Camp 4 we found the gate wide open and the pride well within the cage. This camp has two male lions that are brothers. When a conglomerate of males enter and take over a pride, all the males share both the females and the food. We now know that not all prides have a single male.

All in all, we probably saw about 70 lions all together

We were pretty pooped after our ride so most of us went directly to lunch. After lunch, we had been told to clean up the playground area, but as it was currently being mowed, that was not an option. I ended up going on cigarette patrol around the cub world area. While there were things to pick up like cig butts, ice cream sticks, lolly pop sticks and bits of plastic candy wrappers, it really was pretty clean. At one point, I looked over and saw one of the white cubs that had the bad meat stalking me. I approached her closer and looked her in the eye and she stopped. I went back to my picking and as I was finishing, she was doing it again. So I approached her like I was stalking her and told her that I knew what she was doing and she went all cute on my and rubbed up against the fence and wanted to be rubbed. It is a pity that we can’t interact with them, but if I am afraid of the littlies and middles, I can’t imagine going in with the teenagers.

As I went to Amanda asking for my next task, she told me to hurry and catch up with the group as they were going to the wild side and were hanging up fly traps. These cages are the animals over 2 years of age who are being trained for the film unit or are not ready for viewing by the main public.

First and the most spectacular were two black leopards. They are brother and sister and are absolutely magnificent. These are what most people call black panthers. They may try a breeding program with them and Onho, who appears as a normal colored leopard, also carries the black gene and he may be able to be used. These animals most probably came from India, as they are not native to Africa.

I also know now that the other black cat, that people sometimes call panther is the black jaguar. They are from South America. None here at this time.

We made up flytraps that are a cone of plastic filled with powder that smells like rotting fish, mixed with hot water and then hung on the fences. They last 2-3 months and are only needed during the summer months.


Along our trek we also got to see lots of male and female lions, several brown hyena’s that look like the werewolf in London monster, and the most beautiful white male lion named Mr. Whitey. Next to him was a perfectly marvelous jaguar named Jade who is trained, comes to her name and loves women. We have lots of pictures of Jade.

It was time to get back to the nursery, but ended up with not a lot to do. At one point, we had to corral the two younger cubes back into their outside pen as one of them escaped when two volunteers went in to visit them. We also brought in the laundry and got the pens ready for the night quarters, just in time for Ohno to be brought in. He is becoming used to Princess and was a stitch this morning as he was being moved. He did a lot of lying down and having to be physically moved or lured with toys.

We let the littlies in for their bottles and we watched as Princess pottied them with cotton wool and warm water. They are beginning to learn to do it by themselves, but not 100% of the time.

I am blogging at the pasture fence behind my tent as the sun fades and the crickets begin to sing. It is cool, but not too bad. I was hoping that my friends the giraffes would come by, but no such luck.

Day two completed on this placement. There is a definite feel of Africa time here where there are long breaks between duties. Nothing is written down as to work roster and people just sort of float through the day. As I look at it now, this is the one placement where they have the least need for volunteers from what I can see. There seem to be enough staff to get things done, and at times, they stand by and watch us work. It could just be that there are 8 of us currently and 6 of us aren’t up to speed yet.

I was told by Princess that tomorrow we spring clean the nursery, which should be good and will most likely use all of us for the entire morning. I am looking forward to that.

Thursday, November 9

I had some thoughts last night during the night about cutting this placement short and what I would do with the time. My main thought is that with 8 and soon to be only 7 volunteers, we are falling over each other to do our work and spending vast amounts of time together watching as someone else works. This is the first time that I have volunteers for a for-profit concern and they seem to have enough staff to do just fine without us. I will wait and see what unfolds.

Today we started back in the nursery and we knew that today we would be doing spring-cleaning. Princess is newly appointed as the supervisor over the nursery and is still feeling her way with the new responsibilities.

We saw little Jake the Jackal and found out a little more about him. The parents had a litter of three but they killed the other two. Apparently this has happened before. He is growing and doing okay. When I consider that the pen where the Side Stripe Jackals are housed is right up next to the car park, is the first pen to receive the public and all the large buses, I don’t find it hard to believe that the parents are hugely stressed and did not feel that their cubs were safe. Poor babies.

After we cleaned the two cub external pen, I spent some quality time searching for Easter eggs (litter) again in the area between the nursery and their pen. Remember in Australia where I turned poo picking into an Easter egg hunt, well I am doing it again in South Africa but this time it is litter. Cig butts, lolly sticks, flip tops, bits of paper and candy stuff and the odd chicken bone were all going into my bucket.

At one point, Angie came out and said that the terrible two were coming out. Sure enough, in fits and starts, two cubs and three volunteers rounded the corner. Mostly the cubs went in the wrong direction and kept getting side tracked at trees and under benches. After about 5 minutes, they were safely ensconced in their outside playground. While Zara and Angie spent time with them and gave them cub enrichment time (soccer ball), Amanda and I tackled the Easter egg hunt in the picnic/playground area just behind our tend enclosure. There had been two busloads of school kids there the day before, we did not really find that much trash. Just as we were heading back to the nursery for spring-cleaning, two more busloads arrived.

Spring cleaning consisted of power washing the four pens, even with the three wild cubs, defrosting and deblooding the meat freezer, pulling out most of the counters and appliances and cleaning behind them, removing and replacing the spiral sticky fly traps and organizing the shelves. There was insufficient equipment for all of us to do the tasks and the supervisor did not communicate the entirety of the project so that we could be effective in different areas. We finally hit our groove with the freezer, but unfortunately, got a little carried away with the power washer and ended up chipping up the paint from the floor and splattering it on the walls. It took us 2.5 hours, and I must say, it was probably the most work I have done since I have been here. Princess was very pleased when it was done, and I think she feels more at home in her new location and has a handle on where everything is. As we began the work, I noticed that she had a large tear in her shirt on the back and I asked if it was new or old. She said that Ohno had tried to bite her right breast during the am transfer, so she was wearing her shirt back to front.

We decided to buy lunch instead of making our own as a treat, so I ordered savory mince sandwiches, chips and salad and mango juice. After I had ordered, I went back to the tent for more money and to hang out the laundry that Amanda and I had done this am.

Our afternoon was spent in the cub world area where there was not a lot to do as the men were still working at the fence near the giraffe feeding station. I began to rake all the recently mowed grass in the alleyway surrounding the cub enclosures, Zara and Angie went in to help tourists touch the cubs. Soon, the giraffe’s appeared so Angie went to the feeding station. No celebrities today. When I finished my cleaning, I joined Amanda and Angie at giraffes and found that today only Gambit was at the platform. I could see Purdy but even when I went to see her with pellets, she preferred to prickly acacia trees. On the way back to the enclosure, I went past a clutch of ostrich eggs. Amanda said that they were aware of them and that the female abandoned them a while back. They staff just hasn’t been by to pick them up.

During our giraffe afternoon, we helped a couple of Japanese tourists, the lady who was fainting and a group of Chinese tourists who were a stitch when it came to feeding the giraffes. Poor Amanda has been suffering with what she thinks in an ingrown toenail. I told her I would look at it tonight and suggested Epson salts baths.

We ended up in the cub enclosure and assisted people with photographs. One man with lots of things hanging around his neck turns out to the face on Animal Planet who does all the wildlife segments. He is coming back tomorrow to get some photos.

While we were in with the bunch of 6, Princess, Ohno and another staff member where having their twice-daily procedure to get Ohno from one cage to the other. At least they had the purple harness on him this time, which is tighter and allows for better control. There were lots of people around who so much wanted to get close, but Zara kept telling them that they had to stay back for everyone’s safety.

We had done a little list of what we would eat until the next shopping day on Monday and tonight would be tuna pasta stuff. As we arrived back at our tents to begin dinner, it was found that in the other tent, two cell phones that had been buried in luggage had been lifted. In that tent, the cell phone that had been on the bed in the open was not taken. They tent was padlocked, but we found out that each of our tents also has a back zipper entrance which had not been locked. Add on top of that, the entire zipper mechanism for both the inner bug netting and the external canvas are only attached to the tent by Velcro. One hard pull and the entire panel comes away rendering the padlock useless. The entrance to this tent faces the pasture and is therefore is less obvious if there is someone lurking. My tent backs up to this tent and an alleyway in between. Our tent faces the kitchen. In the next tent are some contract workers who have been tiling the bbq area and the new handicapped bathroom up near the nursery. Amanda had her cell phone taken from that tent earlier in her stay when the tent was not locked and the phone was in plain sight.

During our discussion with Ian, he had said that we should use their safe for our valuables. When we finally met the woman who could help us with that, she indicated that her safe was not accessible during the weekends and she sent us to the lady who runs the curio shop. Angie had hoped to store her extra money and documents. The lady said she would only take passports and paperwork. At this point, there was no location for most of us to store anything. I have been locking my computer, passport, money, wallet, plane tickets and ipod up daily in my luggage, as well as the front part of our tent being locked up with one of my padlocks.

NOTE TO TRAVELERS – Suggestion to carry at least one additional padlock when you travel. You never know when you might buy an additional piece of luggage that needs to be secured.

As I exited the shower tonight, the group was heading up to see Given, to alert him to the problem and to see about going to the police tomorrow. Amanda’s toe does not look good, so she will approach Ian tomorrow about seeing the local doctor. Hopefully, it will respond to medication and possibly a procedure that won’t lay her too low.

Friday, November 10

Small contingents of us was going to the police department and then taking Amanda to the Dr. (I nearly said Vet), therefore, we were with reduced resources this am.

Zara and I began to clean the touch-a-cub pen and we knew to expect that the cubs would be interested in our tools. Luckily, Angie joined us for a time that helped and we had managed to poop scoop and rake and get the pool drained before things disintegrated.

Princess brought Ohno by and he promptly leapt into the alleyway between the tourist walkway and the pen. This got our pen going. Princess got him out and he did it again, further down the line. By this time, our guys we shooting past us and running back and forth. At one point, I was being circled and pursued, so I gave the cub two sharp raps on the nose. At this point, the vibes said get out of the pen before I get more frightened. I told my team that I was leaving and they also came out with me. At this point, there was no reason to stay in the pen. We knew that they would settle when their breakfast arrived and at this point, Angie had to join the group going to the police so Zara and I did the outside raking. They had settled, but we waited until the food arrived to finish the pool and do the final perimeter check.

Once that was finished, we opened the giraffe feeding. Today we were hosting a corporation sponsoring teams in a “great race” competition, so we had about 7 teams of people doing several events at the Lion Park. As they approached the giraffe’s, they wanted a group photo and several teams also wanted individual shots with the giraffe. Gambit was the celebrity of the day. Some of the teams had money with them and bought a bag of pellets. Other teams just had their photo and quickly moved to the next station.

Nick approached Ian about the thefts yesterday and he was a little stroppy about having told us not the have any valuables in the tents. We explained that when we had inquired about the safe options, they did appear viable as one would not accept our money and the other option was not available to us over the weekend. What the other tent has opted to do is to carry small backpacks with them all day, which is a bother because you cannot safely leave them unattended and are constantly worried about where they are.

Today was also the day that the Wart Hogs were going to be film stars. We did not feed them in the am as they were supposed to be moved. We switched to the nursery at 1pm. In the pm, the crew arrived to pick up the hogs. It was determined that their pen did not have a proper gate and therefore, they had to destroy part of the fence. Next, they had to construct an alley for the hogs to move from the pen. At one point, I looked over and there were at least 10 people around the pen. We kept hearing things dropping and the saw people running. At one point, there were several pig squeals. After 2.5 hours, the pigs were finally loaded.

I did a few hours in the touch-a-cub when they were rather sedate and sleepy. Another hot day with clouds gathering for an afternoon storm.

After lunch, we had nursery duty, but there was nothing to be done until 4pm. For short time, Zara and I and finally Angie played the three tinies in their inside pen. It had begun to rain and Princess moved them indoors. Immediately, Nia showed us that she had a runny tummy and Princess said that the vet was already on the way. After about an hour, we were a little tired of deflecting little claws and mouths and the vet arrived so we left.

In the afternoon, Angie and Casey had a meeting with Ian about their missing items. It sounded like they felt the contract laborers were to blame and when the staff approached their foreman to discuss it with them, he said he would not as it would cause too much trouble. They had cleared off by 2pm, with most but not all the work done and we are not sure if they will come back. Interesting fact is that the theft also occurred on the day that Ornica, the staff member who supervised the tent village, was off. Hummmmm?

Kiango and Kumara had been moved into the outside pen next to touch-a-cub, where they will be this weekend. Next week, the wild guys move to the pen we cleaned the other day, the big 6 move into a different pen and Kiango and Kumara become the touch-a-cub stars. That should be easier for all of us, with fewer animals and smaller ones as well.

I took an hour off and went to tent and then we joined up in the nursery. We made bottles for the little guys, got the pens ready for the outside cubs to come back and then went and got K and K back into the nursery. They were tired from their afternoon in the sun and were stars and made a beeline for the inside pen.

We had several rain showers today and by the end of the workday, the clouds were rolling and lots of thunder could be heard. Most of the crew went off for walks and the sat on the back porch and watched the herd’s move, the wild dogs play and the rainbow form. It was lovely

Nick made a fabulous dinner of a wraps with curried chicken, honey mustard chicken, grilled veggies, salad and tortillas. The best meal we have had so far.

Saturday, November 1


Our first weekend and we had been warned that there would be bigger crowds. Touch-a-cub was the main draw and the giraffe’s accepted some of our pellets, but many of the kids did not get to see them up close.

Bottle-fed the babies briefly – Quite a thrill. Hopefully the other team will also be able to bottle-feed later today.

Montecasino for dinner – Think of a film set with fake facades and when you look past the upper story you see the lights and the black ceiling. Dinner was good and we were hungry. The table separated into three different discussions. We did a little wander through the shops and Angie found a wonderful story called RailWoods, where all the items were made out of recycled railway wood. Lovely. I would have indulged but I wanted things that were huge and very heavy. Maybe next trip. I did find a great baboon book at the bookstore, which is now in my possession. We separated and a few of us came home at 11. The rest arrived back at 4am.


Posted by ladyjanes 04:41 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (3)

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