Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 11: Lesedi and Maropeng

Last night we had our farewell dinner at Moyo's. It's hard to believe that we are already winding down our 2 week stay in South Africa! We arrived for dinner at 7 and it looked so pretty all lit up. There were little firepits everyone and nice fireplaces inside. We had the entire upstairs area for 70 people- all 27 students, their parents and siblings, plus a few teachers from CHC. Mr. Simpson welcomed everyone, Ted gave a great thank you speech, and one of the teachers from CHC, Mr. Venter, said a prayer. Moyo's set up an outdoor grill area with a buffet and it had ALL the traditional South African food: grilled steak, lamb, and fish; pap with sauce, couscous, pumpkin with brown sugar, roasted vegetables; malva pudding, koeksisters, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. We wrapped up around 9:30 to rest up for our next day- which would start early and be very busy.

We met at school at 7:30 and said our last goodbyes to the other CHC students. We loaded 2 buses- 1 for the girls, 1 for the guys- and packed up a trailer for all our stuff. By 9 we arrived at Lesedi Cultural Village. Lesedi means "place of light." The premise is like that of Burton Century Village- family run with actors for each village wearing the traditional dress. In each tribal village we were greeted in their respective language.

As we walked in, we were welcomed by the music of drums and marimbas made from wood keys and gourds. There were shops in front with all handmade beadwork- we watched them make everything from necklaces to keychains. Our guide brought us into a large hall to watch an introductory video on the history of the tribes in South Africa. Lesedi focuses on the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa, and Pedi tribes. Fun fact: one of our bus drivers is Pedi, so he really enjoyed our morning! After the video, we watched them perform traditional Zulu songs and dances. It was SO COLD and they were all in costume- just animal skins for the most part! They tried to get Tommy Collins' host, Darryl, to dance... once you get to know Darryl, you'll know EXACTLY why that was the wrong person to pick :) They ended up getting Simon's host, Michael, up there and he did so well!

At each village, we learned about the meeting place, traditions of the tribe, what they wore, the typical food, where the cows were kept, how the kitchen/fire was set up, if the tribe was peaceful, etc. I could go on and on about each, but we'll leave it at that. What the kids, nevermind- the boys, found the most interesting was how "expensive" wives were- the Zulus only paid 11 cows for a wife, but the Pedis had to pay 13 cows! Unbelievable :/ Everyone listened intently and learned a lot. Several students even ate DRIED CATERPILLARS at the Pedi village! It really was a fun morning. We ended it with lunch and a chance to look at all the shops.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Maropeng. Maropeng is the location for the museum/exhibitions at the Cradle of Humankind. We had the opportunity to stay at the educational accomodations there- the Hominid House. When we checked in, we had about an hour and a half to relax and explore before our tour. The Hominid House has 2 cabins with bunk beds for boys, 2 cabins for the girls. They are joined together by a covered picnic area with a kitchen and a grassy space complete with a fire pit and volleyball net.

We walked up to the Maropeng visitor's center for food and the shops. They had amazing ice cream there and the kids loved this candy that I can only really compare to stale Froot Loops. Weird, but I guess it grew on them. Once we were all there, we started our tour. Our guide was awesome and had the same name as the museum- Maropeng means "coming home." He was energetic and knew how to relate to our students. Before going inside the museum, we learned about Little Foot and Mrs Ples, the two most famous human fossils in South Africa. We also saw replicas of the common dinosaur fossils found here.

The Maropeng center is an impressive building- 3 story lobby with a large fountain in the middle. We went downstairs for the first part of the visit, a "boat ride" (I use this loosely) through the elements of water(ice), wind, earth, and fire. After that, we walked through the Big Bang, a short, spiraling tunnel that some of us felt the need to go through more than once :) There was a short presentation on the origins of the Earth, from the gases to Pangaea to Laurasia and Gondwana, etc. From there we saw exhibits ranging from mitochondrial DNA to joint structure to teeth (why being an omnivore led to greater brain and muscle development) to extinctions. Then it left us with where we are going. There is a world population counter at the end and Nelson Mandela's handprints" "It is in your hands to make a difference." What are we doing for our future?

There was BEAUTIFUL landscape around us once we left the museum- we all took lots of pictures. Many of us got more ice cream, then walked back to hang out until dinner. There was a volleyball game, some rugby, reading, and several students made bracelets with a kit that Mrs. Klopper brought. I had an awesome talk with Tommy Cardaman and Nathan about anything and everything, including what we thought about the museum, our families, and our future plans. That's one of the things that I love most about these trips- really getting to know your students on a completely different level. I hope it makes me seem a little more human instead of just being their teacher! We watched the sun set over the savanna, some of us from large rocks or tree branches. It was gorgeous and it was incredible how we all just watched without even talking to one another.

We had dinner and made a fire. There were several games of "Mafia." Meaghan played her ukelele and we all sang songs, which was a lot of fun. The students had planned a rave, but it was cut short when the speakers they brought kept cutting in and out. Despite the abrupt end to the party, we all had a very enjoyable and educational day!


  1. Hi everyone! We are having a great time at the Hominid House tonight. There is no internet & cell reception is intermittent at best. It has taken me forever just to type this on Maddie's phone! We are doing well & learned a lot about the tribes of Africa at Lesedi and evolutionary history at Maropeng. We had entertaining guides at both locations, which made for a fun day. I will have to post in more detail at another time- this phone is driving me crazy & the kids just started a rave with the speakers they brought along :) Have a nice afternoon!

  2. this is cool. I'm doing a presentation about South African diamond mines--did you visit any diamond mines? and if so, can you tell me your experience there?