South Africa Exchange 2016
During our Easter Break, 14 freshmen and sophomores along with two faculty members travel to South Africa to participate in an exchange with our sister school, Brescia House School in Johannesburg. The students will stay with host families from Brescia House and will attend school and travel throughout Johannesburg. They will spend 4 days on safari in Kruger National Park before returning to Johannesburg and their host families. Follow us to hear more about our trip.
Today we spent our last day in South Africa. We were all amazed that the time had gone so fast and we had to say goodbye to our new friends at Brescia House. This morning during the Registration Period, we did a presentation about Ursuline to the girls in grades 7-12. Annika and Emma thanked our hosts for their exceptional hospitality and then we showed them the amazing video Angelina made about our school. The entire school loved seeing what Ursuline New Rochelle looked like. They especially liked seeing our yellow school buses, our campus covered in snow, and our cafeteria space.
After the presentation, we spent our last few hours with our hosts and began to prepare for the goodbye. At 4pm we met at school, said our last goodbyes and boarded our bus to the airport for our long trip home. We can't thank our new friends and families in South Africa enough for all they did to make our visit so special.......know you are always welcome in NY !!!
At 9pm we boarded the plane for our 16-hour journey back to NY, with memories and friendships to last a lifetime! We thank the entire Brescia House School and Community as well as our families and The Ursuline School community for making this trip a reality. It was amazing!!!
This evening Brescia House hosted us for a Global Education Dinner. All of our host families gathered together along with the Brescia House Global Education Committee, for a final celebration of our visit. The evening was perfect as we gathered to celebrate the bonds made. The gorgeous South African evening provided us with an opportunity to gather on one of the lawns of the school where many photos were taken as the hot South African sun was setting.
We enjoyed a traditional South African meal of Bobotie, Rice and Sambals. Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa, consisting of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping. For dessert we had Melktert, a South African milk tart and Koeksisters, a South African doughnut-like cookie which is twisted and fried and then topped with a syrup. The evening was a fantastic opportunity for all to sit down for a final meal together and celebrate the wonderful bonds that have been formed. We were privileged to have Sr. Diane, Provincial of the Ursulines of the Roman Union, Province of South Africa present for this very special evening. Thank you to the Brescia House School and its families for hosting us for this life changing experience. We look forward to you visiting us in NY.
This morning we met at Brescia House and boarded a bus to go and visit another of our Sister Schools, St. Ursula's School in Krugersdorp, a mining town just outside of Johannesburg. There we were greeted by two retired Ursuline Sisters who live there. They were so happy to say hello to us and sent greetings to the many Ursuline Sisters whom we all know back at TUS.
After meeting the Sisters, we travelled through the gates onto the beautiful campus where members of the school administration and staff welcomed us to the school and invited us in for tea and biscuits. The students were on "holiday" but a few girls were at school working on different projects and joined us for tea and biscuits and a chance to get to talk. Their "Head Girl" is appointed by the teachers, administration and students to lead the school. The Head Girl warmly welcomed us to St. Ursula’s. The St. Ursula’s campus is a gorgeous, historic building in Krugersdorp, and has fantastic gardens and lots of windows to enjoy the amazing beauty outside. The building was originally a convent for the Sisters.
After our snack, members of St. Ursula's staff boarded their bus with us and took us to Maropeng, and The Cradle of Humankind. The name Cradle of Humankind reflects the fact that the site has produced a large number of some of the oldest fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years ago. The Cradle of Humankind was an amazing interactive display about the emergence of humans from chimpanzees millions of years ago.
We then returned to St. Ursula's where we were treated to a lunch and tour of their campus. Thank you so much to our Sisters at St. Ursula's for the amazing hospitality.
This morning we were again up and out before the sunrise to enjoy another half-day game drive with Dave and Eden. Although we did not see the leopard and cheetah we were hoping for, we again enjoyed the amazing beauty of Kruger and the animals that live there. One of the highlights of the day was when we encountered a pack of endangered Wild Dogs running down the path towards our jeeps. There are fewer than 150 Wild Dogs in the entire park (over 7500 sq. miles) so we were lucky to have had another chance to view them up close.
Our trip back to Johannesburg was a long one but a good chance for everyone to enjoy the last views of the gorgeous South African countryside as we headed back to the city. We arrived at Brescia House and were happy to re-connect with our host families and head back to our houses after a long holiday weekend in "the bush".
Thank you to our fantastic game ride drivers, Dave and Eden...... you truly made our four days extra special, sharing with us your knowledge and love of the animals and countryside of Kruger. We could not have asked for two better guides to lead us!!
This morning we set off at 5am and travelled further from our lodge to explore another section of the park. We were treated to a gorgeous sunrise as we approached the park gate. At the park gate entrance, we held a wonderful Easter Sunrise Communion Prayer Service on a gorgeous lawn. This was an amazing way for us to celebrate this special day in our religion.
Today in the park we were treated to multiple sightings of lions, something we all were so excited to see. Eden and Dave worked hard to be sure that we saw all the animals we could and they did such a fantastic job. We encountered a pack of wild dogs, which are one of the endangered animals in the park. There are only approximately 150 dogs left in the park and we were privileged to be able to see a wonderful group of dogs taking a rest right next to our jeep. It was amazing.
We encountered a family of elephants crossing the road right between our two jeeps. It was an experience I am sure no one will soon forget. As one of the girls said, "The Bronx Zoo is going to be so boring now!!"
This morning we had an early wake up and were greeted by drivers, Dave and Eden, who would take us on our journey into the Kruger National Park. We boarded our jeeps and took the short trip to the park entrance where we embarked on our daylong adventure.
As we drove through the park, we were awestruck by the beauty of the park and the beauty of the animals. Our first encounter with a giant elephant had us all speechless. As the elephants slowly approached our jeep, we saw the beauty and grace that the giant animals possess, while respecting the space of the animals. To quote Annika, "I have found a new love for elephants not only because they are so cute but because they're such interesting creatures; the amount of dexterity their trunks have is absurd. Seeing a baby elephant lying down and then get up - that was by far the most amazing and cutest thing ever." Dave and Eden taught us so much, including the importance of respecting the animals. Annika continued, "Park rangers deserve so much more credit than they get, because they can identify literally everything in that park and tell you about all the organisms including plants and birds. Their passion for the wild and the animals is truly inspiring." We thank Dave and Eden for being such wonderful hosts in the park. We could not have asked for anyone better to share his or her love for wildlife with us.
Saturday was full of elephants, wild dogs, zebras, rhinos, giraffes and so much more. We spent hours searching for the animals and everyone had the most amazing day.
When we returned to the Hippo Hollow lodge where we were staying, we prepared for dinner and enjoyed a great meal. We were even treated to a guest visitor at dinner when a hippo came up and grazed on the lawn at dusk. What an amazing day! We are off to bed, as we are heading out at 5am for an amazing Easter in South Africa.
This morning started very early as our host families brought us to Brescia by 6:30am so we could board our bus to travel to Kruger for our safari. The ride was remarkable as we saw so much amazing and diverse countryside. The trip took about 5 hours but we were happy to enjoy the incredible sights.
We arrived at our hotel and checked into our rooms. The resort is wonderful and has a great safari feel to it. At lunch many of us saw elephants on the hill across the river from us. It was our first view of the huge animal and we looked forward to many more sightings.
We traveled to Kruger for our sunset safari We boarded large jeeps which held 23 people and had canopies over the top. Our guide explained how we would have to look very closely and he assured us we would have the chance to see many animals and hopefully as many of the "big 5" as possible; he wasn't exaggerating. The 3 hour trip was amazing and we had the chance to see so many animals. At first we were all taken aback and excited by the impalas (an animal much like a deer) but we had no idea what was to come. As we drove through a small portion of the park, we were treated to up close viewing of a marvelous variety of animals, including elephants, zebras, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, hyenas, warthogs, and so many more. We all were so excited when we spotted animals and marveled at the beauty of the animals in their natural environment. We were treated to a magnificent sunset and then a gorgeous moon rise and sky full of stars. It was fantastic to take time out together to enjoy the beauty of nature during this very special time.
Tons of photos were taken and we promise to share them with you when we get better WiFi. We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have such great high speed internet!!! Time for bed as we are up and on our jeep by 6am for a full day safari.
Thursday we got a chance to truly absorb all that it means to be a Brescia girl as we spent a full day attending classes and exploring the campus. From the classrooms to the fields to the chapel to the people, so much is the same yet so much is different. Many of us spent our first class in Afrikaans, one of the 11 languages of South Africa, deriving from Dutch. Brescia House does not have a cafeteria and the girls spend break period (lunch and frees) outside. We have really enjoyed being able to spend time with our hosts sisters and to meet so many of their friends and teachers.
We will spend "holiday" together as a NY group when we travel to the "bush" and Kruger National Park for our safari vacation. Kruger is in northeastern South Africa and is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do lots of birds such as vultures, eagles and storks. Mountains, bush plains and tropical forests are all part of the landscape. We can't wait to see the amazing beauty of the South African countryside and hope to see the Big 5 and other amazing animals.
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