hitting the ground running
[i fully admit this blog is way too long, but the programs are too amazing to not mention in their entirity. if you do not like reading all these words (decampo), just enjoy the pretty pictures]
after a day of settling in at scarborough, i was off again, heading to grootbos nature reserve. we were traveling to this five-star lodge to make a sample promotional video of the lodge, a dvd/online video series about the lodge’s social upliftment and conservation projects, and a video and audio recording of our first “great guide.” this was to be a test-run of what is to come for the next year; staying at a lodge for four or five nights in exchange for video and photos, and getting to record a great guide for our website too. not bad, right?
well… this lodge has four programs, amazing programs, and we originally had three nights to cover them and our guide and the lodge. this made for a very very busy visit, where i never was able to do anything that the typical tourist that visit are able to do. like shark-cage diving, whale watching, penguin and sea lion colony visits, guided tours through the nature reserve, horseback riding, or flying over the local region. i was left running around interviewing almost every staff member, students of the educational programs, and getting photos and video of the lodge. and then every night i downloaded the video so i can record more the next day, which tended to keep me up past one am. the work level turned out to be too much for three days, and we had to stay an extra day to cover everything.
following is a shot of me working and then some stills from a handful of interviews i did.
at the end of the day, my stay at grootbos was still absolutely worth it for three reasons: the programs (and participants) are amazing, i ate and slept wonderfully, and i enjoyed my mini adventures.
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the four programs broke down to: green futures, growing futures, spaces for sport, and future trees.
green futures is an work and life skills education program that takes twelve unemployed local residents and pays them to go through their one-year institution, teaching them horticulture, landscaping, english, computer skills, and other life skills. half of every day is hands-on working, teaching practical skills and also using the work as a way to pay for the tuition of the school. for the six years it has been running, all seventy two graduates have found employment at the end of the program. many of the students go on to work or guide at grootbos, teaching and inspiring future students.
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growing futures is in its first year, and is based on the green futures model. it takes eight unemployed women from the local community and teaches them vegetables gardening, chicken and pig farming, and english, while also working on computer, life, and small business skills. while only in it’s first couple months, the women have learned a lot, and their vegetables are sold to the grootbos lodge and served to guests. any left-over organic food from the lodge also comes back to growing futures to be used as food for the pigs and compost materials for the plants. since the program is new, they have not hatched their own chicks, and only have chickens with their beaks half cut-off. soon, they hope to hatch their own chickens and have true free-range and fairly treated animals.
we were lucky enough to get the women to get together and sing some songs for us, and i will work on posting some of their music here soon.
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spaces for sport is an after-school program for youth of the local town, gansbaai. it takes children from all different racial groups within the town, breaking down racial stereotypes and giving children a way to interact not typically available before, and through soccer and other sports, teaches them about sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, and english. before this program was started, the town’s soccer ‘pitch’ was basically a sand pit, and now they have the only fifa certified artificial pitch in southern africa and other practice fields. this is also the only opportunity that the children have access to professional coaches. many of the other coaches are volunteer students from around the world. it is an amazing youth program, not only by keeping the children off the streets in the afternoon and teaching them sport, but by teaching them other skills like english and about cultures.
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future trees was a program started after a devastating 2006 forest fire that burned much of the milkwood forest of the reserve, an entire one-year-old lodge of grootbos, as well as many other local flower farms. it left many people of the town jobless, caused eight months of guest-disturbance to grootbos, and destroyed large portions a a very fire-retardant forest. the milkwood plants are naturally strong against fire, but the sheer size of this fire killed many trees, some as old as 800 years or more. this program invites guest to buy a milkwood tree, plant it themselves, and gives them the gps coordinates to they will forever be able to locate it. it also employed many local residents in the early recovery effort.
all of these programs are on their way to being completely self-sufficient from the lodge, whether from donor contributions or money raised through the program itself (by selling the vegetables or labor to the lodge). it would be very hard to say whether the lodge is the focus of grootbos, or if it was purely the engine needed to fund the social and conservation work needed to be done for the community. either way, they have a great lodge and even better people to run it and their programs.
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as for my stay, i was stuck in this little shabby room all by myself. it was only good for the fact i could hide away by myself after a hard days work, make tea or coffee, and enjoy the view from my deck. i thought the heated towel-rack and bedroom carpeting was a little much, but it did keep my towels and toes warm. the bed was a little bit nicer than the one back a scarborough, and it felt good enough to get the couple of hours of sleep that i managed to get.
the meals were a world all themselves. not only did i have baked alaska for the first time in my life, i also had my first ten course meal and mini wine tasting at the same time. the food was all very good, but because of the serving style, everything was in little portions on big plates, and it took at least three hours to eat supper. we would show up for dinner at eight, and not finish until eleven or later. by the end of the trip, i was ready for a home-cooked meal, as well as doing some cooking myself. i haven’t cooked since i left the states, and i miss it.
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this was my faithful companion for my mini adventure the first night i was at grootbos. i left my cottage to wonder around the property to get familiar with the lodge, to find good places for photos of everything, and this cat started to stalk me. when he came close enough, i held him for a bit, missing girl back home in baltimore. he then led me around the trails of the property, always keeping a couple paces in front of me, and only parted from me when i went inside to eat.
my other adventures typically took place at night, wandering without my camera, just enjoying the night sky and being surrounded by nature. more adventures took place as i sat in bed with a cup of rooibos tea reading the alchemist, a gift from a good friend before i left.
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i am now back in scarborough, sorting out all the materials we collected at the lodge, preparing for more recording trips to great guides, and trying to get to know the local area better. the town is extremely small, so meeting people my age is tricky. there isn’t even a corner shop or cafe. the only real spot i can hang out at outside the house is the beach, full of surfers, dog owners, and families. as i get more grounded here, i hope to travel out to some bouldering spots nearby, visit a kite shop the next town over, and do some hiking and cycling around the cape of good hope.
cheers too having internet again.
hope all is well,