Notes from a Wildlife Trip

Three high school students from Ho Chi Minh City joined international students on a trip to South Africa from August 22 to 30 to learn about wildlife. Here is something of what the three – Pham Anh Thu, Nguyen Hai Nhu and Ho Nguyen Bao – noted down as they went.

The Botshabelo guesthouse

“We got out of the plane into the cold of a South African winter. We took a bus to Botshabelo Reserve in Middleburg, Pmumalanga, where 42 students from 12 countries will be spending most of their time. We are not allowed to feed the monkeys around the guesthouse because it will inhibit their natural instincts. This also aims to prevent them from falling into the hands of hunters.”

“We woke up at 5 AM the next day, jogged along a path to the top of a hill, and returned at 6:30. We thought breakfast would be ready for us but the manager said we had to cook it ourselves, and not to talk when cooking.”

“We walked barefoot through the forest along the Nature Appreciation Walk, exploring the wild and great nature’s secrets. We had to get around rocky tors to see the hesitating wild animals here and there, and we could hear birds singing. Ms. Selego told us a lot about the forest, home to numerous kinds of flora and fauna. It is hard to believe that after we came back to our room, Thu could remember the names of plants, birds, their habitats, how to protect them, etc without having written anything down.”

“In the afternoon, we learned first aid for a person with a broken back. Each group learned a different way but all were successful. A very interesting activity was finding directions inside the forest. Each group had a compass and had to find their way to the destination on a rainy night full of thunder and lighting. The game was adventurous with many checkpoints where scary orders had to be obeyed such as waiting for a ghost or finding the way to an abandoned church.”

“Each country’s representatives had to cook something and introduce it to the others. For our part, we made spring rolls, in which Viet Nam takes pride. Everyone who ate our 300 rolls, and there were more than 65 including the reporters, praised our cooking. Then Hai Nhu served everybody with her fruit agar and they were full of admiration.”

“On Sunday August 27, we all visited a school for underprivileged children. Nguyen Bao, for the first time in his life, handled really primitive farming tools. And we had a chance to see three South Africa birds with lightning eyes flying over us. The bird trainer told us about the owls and eagles in a humorous way that made it all sink in.”

“We learned a lot over the seven days. The others showed us their self confidence and attitude toward teamwork. A Japanese friend said, “One Vietnamese engineer can beat one Japanese engineer, two Vietnamese engineers are equal to two Japanese engineers, but three Vietnamese engineers will certainly lose to three Japanese engineers.”

“Our foreign friends liked the white ao dai Thu wore a lot of the time. They said the traditional Vietnamese dress looked modest but suggested an outgoing personality. On the last day of the trip, Thu exchanged her ao dai and conical hat for the nylon skirts of our South African friends.”

“An unexpected present came our way before saying goodbye to South Africa: we were given the opportunity to touch the smooth, velvety coat of a cheetah! Not many among the six billion people on earth have had the chance to do this.” 

Source: Thanh Nien – Translated by Tuong Thuy

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