Posts Tagged Zimele

South Africa: Favorite Photos

South Africa is definitely a beautiful country with all seasons to experience, from hot summers to cold winters. I was able to feel it all in one trip, the hot sun beating down on us in the village, to the cold winter frost on top of the mountains in Drakensberg. The most unforgettable sight was the stars and Milky Way galaxy at night. The night sky was so bright it felt unreal.

The prints are up for sale and all profits will go to Zimele.

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South Africa: Saint Lucia

One of the must-do’s in South Africa is to see the wild life. Our first stop was the town of Saint Lucia to see crocodiles and hippos. Surprisingly hippos are probably the most dangerous animals in the area, but I assume it’s due to the fact that these large beasts are allowed to roam the city streets day and night. Nothing was cuter than seeing the baby hippo take a nap next to mom and stretch his little paws. If you come to South Africa, you can expect to eat very well, just look at the photos! After lunch we visited a beach that meets the Indian Ocean where the sand is littered with titanium deposits.

Our next stop was the cheetah farm where we saw wild cats and cheetahs feed and pet them after they weren’t so hungry. Don’t be fooled by the cute cats on the fence, they look and sound ferocious in person. The only actually cute cats were the cheetahs. A few simple rules, never approach from behind, and don’t play with their paws. They were so fun to pet and rub, I wanted to hug it like Hobbes.

Our last day out was to the safari in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. We started off early in the morning, and drove around for 8 hours trying to spot animals. The most abundant were the impalas and zebras, and it was always a joy to see some giraffes. The lions were quite a distance away and they usually just lay in the sun, so not much action there. We were all hoping to see some elephants all day long, but it wasn’t until the final hour on our way back did a male elephant stopped us on our path. Our driver informed us it was angry and it started walking toward us as the driver slowly backed up the truck so we could maintain a very uncomfortable yet close up viewing distance. Seeing a giant up close and personal with unknown angry intentions really puts the fear in you. Imagine wanting to let your mouth release your fear but knowing you have to be silent so you don’t agitate the elephant even more. We were all done with seeing elephants ever again after this experience! When we finally got passed the elephant, our last spotting gave us a chuckle – the ever so tame and harmless donkey!

Fore more info on the safari trips, check out Heritage Tours & Safaris

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4

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South Africa: Making Bricks

One of my favorite experiences in Swayimane was brick building for a new rondavel. The bricks are made from the dirt and water straight from the land. We dug up the dirt into a pile, then added water as we used gumboots to stomp and mix the mud. It was a great workout for our legs. The next step was to fill a brick mold with the mud, tap out the air pockets, smooth the top, then score. Liz and I decided to make a design on top of each brick. It was one of the few chances we were really able to get down and dirty, but also experience the labor that the local women do all on their own.

Photos taken by Scott Kwak

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South Africa: Drakensburg

During the weekend when we had time off from the village, we took a trip up to the Ukahlamba Drakensberg mountains to stay overnight. While biking along the trail, I found a beautiful lake with a mountain view, so I made my group wake up early the next morning at 6AM to catch the sunrise. It was freezing weather in the morning, the windshield was completely frosted over, and we brought extra blankets to stay warm. It was worth the effort, as the sunrise was awe inspiring. I was so excited by the landscape, I was literally running around the field getting all different angles as the sunrise time was limited.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4

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South Africa: Swayimane

The heart of the trip was to visit the village of Swayimani in the province of KwaZulu Natal and teach the Zulu women trade skills to establish better living conditions and sustain their own economy. We came as the Zimele team. Each team member would teach finance, another fashion, baking, medical, daycare, and I taught photography and computers. The skills they learn would help improve their quality of life, and even help them grow or start their own business. Zimele does not give hand outs, instead, they encourage each adult to find a way to generate and save money as a community.

I was assigned to teach two classes a day for three days. Each class had just over a dozen women, eager to learn. While their native language was Zulu, some spoke broken English and we had a translator in each class. The women were donated a handful of new digital compact cameras, yet they’ve never held one before. It was amusing to watch them fiddle with the devices, and humbling to watch their eyes light up when they were able to take their own photos for the very first time. One of the youngest students had the greatest potential, as she immediately grasped the concept of composition and light/shadow. Once I assigned homework for them, the women spent the rest of the day taking photos of everything. This was by far the most rewarding lesson I have ever given anybody.

We brought as many extra luggage per person possible with donated items such as medical supplies, sewing tools, bake ware, calculators and toothpaste. We would ride in the back of a “bucky” every day back and forth from our B&B to the village. It was quite uncomfortable flying through the rough dirt terrain, and even worse after a full day of sweat and dirt, however we made the best of it. Being dirty and uncomfortable in a group made the experience a lot more tolerable, sometimes funny, and always a bonding moment. The number one thing that kept the group intact was our sense of humor.

The kids were one of the greatest joys of being with the Zulu people. While we didn’t know their language well enough to communicate verbally, it was not necessary for us to bond. The act of being there, playing soccer with them, taking photos of them, was more precious than words. They lit up when they saw us, as did we.

There were two nights we stayed at the village in their rondavels to experience a small taste of their living conditions. It was close to comparable to camping, no electricity, no plumbing. We just roughed it out for 2 days and 2 nights with sleeping bags and air mattresses. Being guests at their village, the hostess Thanda would prepare amazing meals for us with a full table setup. We were very honored how much effort they put in to make us feel comfortable.

While the community lives in poverty, none of them acted like it. They were always cheerful and were always grateful of what they had. Their lands were beautiful, the people even more so. We felt so welcomed, as time passed we were feeling like this was our second home.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4

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South Africa: Miranda’s

Our flight took us from New York to Zurich, then to Johannesburg and finally landed in Durban. We would then take another hour drive to Pietermaritzburg, our bed and breakfast lodging. Miranda owns the B&B with her husband Max, and their dog Tessy. Tessy would wake up late at night and bark at all the porcupines eating their garden. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any porcupines ourselves. You can see Scott, our trip leader for Zimele, sitting in the back of the “bucky”, which is how the rest of the team would be traveling for the remainder of the 2 weeks. Xolani was one of our main drivers, he is the funniest man in South Africa, incredibly dedicated, and drives like a madman, like me.

Every morning Miranda would cook us a delicious breakfast, and the nights we spent there, an amazing dinner. We were absolutely spoiled by her meals and desserts. The dish which I will forever be fond of the name, bunnychow, is chicken curry in a loaf of bread. We can see the distant rolling hills from the back yard, and chicken and ducks would wake us up early every morning.

I have to admit my impressions of Africa was dirt and brown, however I was completely wrong when I witnessed all the lush green hills and trees that surrounded me. It was a beautiful land, but unfortunately segregated between the rich whites versus the natives.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4

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South Africa: First stop, Zurich

On our way to South Africa, we had a 12 hour layover in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a nice experience to see the city for a day, and it was definitely more than enough time. ¬†After a while, all the architecture begin to look the same, however I was amazed how crystal clear the water in the rivers were, it made me thirsty, and if I could swim, I’d jump in. Our team from left to right, Hannah, Annie, (Sophie our Zurich guide), Mike, Scott, Liz, Maria, Coco, Peter, and me (behind the camera).

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4

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Zimele, the story through my lens

Dear ladies and germs, this will be my very first international volunteer trip! I am heading to South Africa to tell the story the women and children of Kwazulu Natal. The core purpose of Zimele is to teach them skills that will help self sustain their community, instead of relying on outsiders to fund and provide for them. As one woman said, “I’d rather you teach me to fish, than to give me fish.” Just as critical is allowing the women to build confidence and respect.

My first goal is to teach the community how to use their computers for education and business, as well as teaching them basic photography skills with the digital cameras that have been donated to them. They will be tasked with telling their own story with the cameras. This is a significant step in empowering women.

My second goal is to tell my own story through my photography. I am most excited to share the beauty and hardships of life in poverty of South Africa. You will not see endless sad photos from me, instead, I will tell stories of success, joy, and a bright future for this community.

Along with your monetary support, you will be providing me with encouragement to know what you support what I do. I am providing the funds for my own trip. 100% of your donations go straight to Zimele.

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I will set a deadline for the fundraiser to be May 12th, the date I fly out to South Africa!

Show some love! El Bob thanks you for every donation made!

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