Garden Route: Addo National Park & Judah Square

October 8, 2008

It’s been a lengthy absence, yes… but I’ve actually had school work. I don’t expect anyone to understand, seeing as my very own mother would rather have me writing a blog than my essays. =)  In the awesome news: I’ve finished my papers!  5/5 finished!  Now I am studying for two exams, one tomorrow and one Thursday.

On Wednesday morning, we drove from Jeffrey’s Bay to Addo National Park.  It’s a 360,000 hectare park and is one of the densest populations of elephants in the world.  It was really nice and we were lucky to see tons of elephants and lots of babies!

That evening we drove to Buffalo Bay where we stayed in a hostel on the Indian Ocean.

That evening, we had a surprise at the backpackers.  A band from the local township, Judah Square, played in the living room.  They actually stayed for about four hours, I heard them repeating some song when I went to bed.

The next day, we went to Judah Square.  It is the largest Rastafarian community in South Africa.  Rastafarianism is a religion based on Christianity, but they believe that Haile Selassie, the emporer of Ethiopia from 1930-1974 is the messiah.  Thought to be a direct decendant of King Solomon, he ruled an independent Ethiopia while the rest of Africa was being colonized.  Interestingly, Rastafarianism was exported to Jamaca, where the largest number of believers live.  Rastafarianism isn’t very popular in Ethiopia or in Africa in general, but there are small pockets of followers.  Judah Square operates within a larger township and has its own culture and community.  They run a community garden and lead tours like ours as a way to spread awareness and earn an income. 

Our guide was actually kind of terrible.  He was difficult to understand and didn’t make a whole ton of sense.  He did have epic dreads, though, or one epic dread.  Pretty crazy.

First we went to their little chaple, then visited their preschool, which seemed of very high quality for a township, kudos.  After, we walked through a little nature reserve the community started and found government grants to help maintain.  They also have a community garden where they grow vegetables.  Believe it or not, I find a problem with that.   When we were walking, I was right behind the guide along with my program director, Mike.  I thought I heard the guide say something like:  “We grow vegetables here to prevent HIV.”  Through my naivete, I understood that as “We’re giving people something else to do, something else to work for, a greater community, ect.”  Nope.  Literally.  African potatoes, beetroots and garlic prevent HIV.  The former minister of health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, made a fool of herself and will be forever remembered as “Dr. Beetroot” because she promoted eating more vegetables to combat HIV.  Now, good nutrition is excellent and helpful when you are taking retro-virals for HIV, and a healthy immune system HAS been shown to prevent HIV infection, however, she did not present the information in a clear and understandable way.  In addition, she really fell short in creating and implementing an HIV/AIDS program in South Africa, and for a few years she was of the same opinion of former President Mbeki, who wasn’t quite convinced that HIV causes AIDS.  Thus, she did an absolutely terrible job of addressing the HIV/AIDS problem in a country with the highest HIV/AIDS density in the world.  Her poor explaination of the vegetable comment led many South Africans to truly believe that eating potatoes and garlic would PREVENT HIV, therefore excusing them from using protection.  It’s a pity, and it has really hurt the effort to prevent the spread of HIV.  It was very interesting to see the consequences of Tshabalala-Msimang’s policies in the real world.  She has since recinded her statements and the Department of Health officially adopted the stance that HIV causes AIDS, but the damage is done.

After the tour, we had a few hours to walk around Knysna.  I actually found my most favorite gifts there, but I can’t describe them here, I don’t want to give anything away.  =)  We went back to Buffalo Bay in the early evening and then out to dinner on the waterfront.  They had a store called Jessica’s but it was closed.  It looked like they sold craft stuff and random clothing.

The next morning we got up early and headed back to Stellenbosch.  It was lovely to be back and have a warm shower (the accomodations all had ice cold showers… not worth it!).

Back to studying!  I have a few more trips to update on and will do so next week when I have written my exams (you write exams here, not take them!):  Hermanus Whale Festival, Desmond Tutu, Parliament, wine tours and Franshoek!


6 Responses to “Garden Route: Addo National Park & Judah Square”

  1. Kathy Says:

    So glad to read this new blog.
    Actually, I was on the phone with your mom- who is counting the days till she sees you in person, and I asked if you had a new one up— and… yup! You do!
    I thought the elephant pix were amazing….. not to see real ones in a zoo- wow.
    And the hiv / veggie info- ya think they would do lots more with that info!!
    Neat pic by your namesake store….. can you get a job there, in your SPARE time??

  2. Mom Says:

    Interesting little tidbit I just found out…I posted a comment under the raging bull pic; oddly, it stays there and doesn’t show up here. So do you have to click on every pic to see if someone posted there?

    WOW, how sad about the misinformation on HIV. When we say “in this day and age how does that happen?…” most of us uninformed are probably thinking to exclude countries like Africa not realizing that they have TV, newspapers, and internet, too. Yet they are still dealing with the immense ongoing nightmare of AIDS. Do you know if they have added HIV prevention in the new (since apartheid) school curriculum?

  3. jessicakania Says:

    Mom: by “raging bull” I actually meant “bull who really wants it”. He was in heat (are males in heat or just females?) and he was angry and irritated and smelly… it was a little scary actually, especially because we were told earlier that the elephants are sort of okay with the vehicles, but only if they see it as one entity, so if you stick your hand out or something, they will see it as a foreign object an attack, and they can knock them over with little effort.

    And I like the “exclude countries like Africa”. It’s funny because one of the main complaints here about the outside world is that Africa is viewed as one entity, as a “country of Africa”… whereas in reality, there are 6,000 (yes, six thousand) different ethnic groups, peoples, cultures and in reality, people from Algeria and people from the Congo literally have about as much in common as an American and a Thai. Different race, different religion, different culture, different language, different climate, different colonial experience, ect. =)

    HIV prevention is THIS era and curriculum. HIV/AIDS was just emerging as a global epidemic during apartheid, the gravity wasn’t known. The terrible decisions and mismanagement have been post-apartheid decisions. As far as I know, the general approach to teaching is ABC- Abstain, Be faithful, Condoms… but the state of the education system in general is quite poor amongst the groups most vulnerable to infection, and though there are nice murals and posters about HIV prevention, I don’t know if it is discussed enough. At present, 27% of those aged 24-60 are infected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa… nightmare indeed.

  4. aunt Mary Anne Says:

    Hey girlie!
    Hoping that all your papers and exams are all A’s! How soon before your find out? What did you have to do for your art class? Will you have more papers at the end of the semester? What does everybody think of the world financial crisis? Quite the mess here. Do people follow our politics? Who do they want for president?

    I still don’t see how you manage to squeeze all this travelling into your schedule. Its really fantastic. I imagine it’ll be quite the culture shock to get back to columbus where they have hardly and elephants or lions at all!

  5. Kathy Says:

    6000 ethnic groups??!! Who counted all this, and what language did they use to get the info!!

  6. Casey Says:

    I love you and I miss you! :)! Im very proud of you lil sista!! xoxo

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