Monday, April 30, 2007

So as we continue to drive, I ask Stuart how many women work for him. I was astounded by the fact that he can only keep about 20% working continuously based on the fact that there aren't as many retailers who don't outsource their work overseas. Not only is sustainable work needed, but he also spoke about his collaboration with a non-profit to help educate the women and their children. Stuart also gives me a little insight on Rugaya, who she is. Click to hear audio clip (4 1/2 minutes).
This next clip is only 2 1/2 minutes but it's Stuart and Conway narrating what I see as we are driving through Delft and finally arrive at Rugaya's home. It was very interesting to see the town (left pic), shopping off the street. Many taxis I saw, which makes sense since many don't have cars to be able to get to work. The plain looking schools which have nothing more than the building itself. Finally, we arrive at Rugaya's home and this is what her street looks like (right pic).

Friday, April 27, 2007

The last post on Monday has an audio clip that gives an overall view of what I learned while I was there, but I want to give you a little bit more as it's hard to put it all into such a short version so I'll start with the road trip...

In the morning of my visit with supplier Bug Zoo, Conway (owner of Bug Zoo) says we'll take a road trip to visit with the ladies that do the detail work on the clothes I import. We leave the office and just before we get into the "Bug" car, we meet up with a man named Stuart and he gets into the car with us and off we go. I felt like I needed to backtrack and figure out how Stuart ties into this road trip. So this audio clip is an interview with Stuart, he starts by explaining why he is there (I didn't get a chance to record me asking the question, so it will start with him explaining what he does.)

In a nutshell, he started his own company Tamarind about 3 years ago, working to empower women in the community. Basically he is the link between these women who are skilled in all different areas of the textile industry, whether its beading, embroidery, crocheting, etc... with retail manufacturing companies (like Bug Zoo). I learned much in this interview of the life there and saw it first hand on our drive as you see in the pictures. (The pic at the right shows the number of these types of homes are quite deep and it went on for miles.) Stuart explains that much of these women live in impoverished areas with 50% unemployment rate. Go ahead and click on the link to find out more about what his business is, how it works and why he started it...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Although my whole day with Bug Zoo was great, I want to jump into the middle of my day and start on the road trip to visit the ladies that work from their homes or in their communities close to home. I knew Bug Zoo was doing something special by hiring these ladies to work from their home, what I didn't realize was the impact that it has.

Before I left for South Africa, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Mommycast, and they interviewed a woman who had lived in Africa with her husband and two children for a few years. It was a great show and they spoke about life there, what it's like... touching on quite a few different areas. Not really knowing the experiences I would have, I contacted Mommycast and they showed interest in any audio I might have while I was there. So I bought a small audio recorder and off to South Africa I went.

There is so much I want to say that I will break down each portion of the road trip as each touches on different areas. But I consolidated the interviews I have into about a 6 minute audio clip for Mommycast which focuses on woman in South Africa, which I am sending to them today. It consists of a portion of the drive to Rugaya's home, narrating the life there as I was seeing it firsthand driving through as well a a little history about Rugaya, then visiting with Rugaya, and finally leaving her home telling me more about the issues facing South Africa, specifically Cape Town. Picture at left shows Rugaya and Stuart walking on Rugaya's street outside her home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The animal pics showed a fun side of my trip to South Africa. My real reason for going was to meet my two suppliers, Bug Zoo and Hooligans, and hopefully a local representative of Feed The Children. In the end, I was able to meet with one of my suppliers, Bug Zoo, who was based in Cape Town. I got in late on a Sunday evening after 25 hours of flying and layovers and we had set up that I would be picked up at 7 am the following morning. What was I thinking? and Conway was there promptly at 7 am in his "Bug Zoo" car (see pic of Conway and car). It's definitely great advertising, people were always looking at us as we were driving by.

Conway outlined my day with taking me to the office first to meet the staff, spend some time getting an understanding of the business and how it worked there. Then we were going on a road trip to meet the "ladies" who work from their homes. After lunch, we were going to go meet the original owner of Bug Zoo and see the first Bug Zoo store.

At the office, I met his wife and business partner, Chantel, who also has a job as Director of Rape Crisis in Cape Town. She was able to welcome me before taking off to her job. I don't know how she works full time and helps run a business! (That's why she's so skinny.) So Conway was my chaperone for the day... and what a day it was! I have never learned and seen so much in such a small amount of time. I felt like a kid on a field trip...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I received an interesting question today about what my blog is about - I just see a bunch of animals. I will close today with my final safari pics of my trip to South Africa and will go into the real reason I went on the trip - the business side of it. Stay tuned...
One animal I thought we'd see were the monkeys. We were told to zip up the tent every time we left to keep them from having a party in our tent (which it sounds like they are not good house guests). We did not see one, which I guess was a good thing.

Here is a great pic of a zebra (left). Don't you love the butt shot? Although there are many different antelope there, I chose the waterbok and impala to show you.
The waterbok (right pic) is known for the white ring on its rump (kinda like a wet paint toilet seat ring). Botlierskop Reserve is well known for the black impala (left pic), very rare. As you can see in the pic, they've been breeding them for some time. We were told the black ones are quite expensive.
The evening entertainment at the reserve is that after a nice dinner, you join the group by the fire and play bongos. They teach you a simple tune and the instructors play the melody and it was a lot of fun. See my husband and I by the fire still banging after everyone has gone. Overall, the safari was awesome! It's nothing like a zoo experience.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Of the "Big 5" animals, we saw 4 of them (rhino, elephant, lion and buffalo). We did not see the leopard, which is extremely rare to see; although, we were told there was a small one in the reserve that occasionally feeds on the antelope.
The buffalo were well hidden down in a ravine in the tall grass. We almost missed them. There were about 12 in the herd and we saw a baby one too. They were wary of us in the beginning, dead still just looking at us with a sort of blank stare. Some of them finally got bored and started moving about, yet very aware of our presence. I must admit, the buffalo do not intrigue me as other animals do. My husband, on the other hand, was fascinated with them. It could be based on my first encounter with buffalo. It was on our first safari about 9 years ago. Our first ride out we came across buffalo just as the sun was setting. The jeep got stuck in the mud and the buffalo started milling closer to us as we made much noise trying to get unstuck. I remember that night vividly because we thought that was the most beautiful sunset we had seen and it could be our last. Our guide had to throw sticks at them to get them to go away. When they got as close as they did, you realize how big they really are. They hide themselves well in the tall grass and look much smaller than they actually are.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lunch with the elephants was amazing! I am glad we ate first though... it's messy feeding them and they started going after our leftovers pulling fruit right from the bowl with their trunk. (They got a reprimand for that.) So I was the first volunteer to feed Sam. First he sucked the pellets from my hand which felt like a very powerful Hoover vacuum. Then Sam wanted me to pour the pellets into his trunk for which he kept sucking them in his trunk to make room for more - quite greedy. They do need to eat a lot!

Then Sam was instructed to lift his trunk over it's head to allow me to hand feed the pellets into his mouth. At first I just put it at the edge and most of the pellets fell out of his mouth. (Notice Sam's "get on with it" look as if saying will you learn to feed me right?) The trainer told me to put it way into the back of his mouth and feel the smooth tongue. It was smooth alright and slimy! But way cool!!!

So let me show you my husband feeding him in his mouth at the side angle to get a feel of how far you actually go in. It's quite scary to be that close to an animal so large. When they first walked up, as he got close to me, I immediately backed away - very intimidating.

So while we spoke to the trainer, I had to ask about the jewelry that is made from the elephant hair. I have a bracelet with a strand of elephant hair in it. A friend from work had said that elephants have no hair and that it came from his butt... that I have an elephant butt hair bracelet. Well I got close enough to the elephant to see he had hair on this tail and chin whiskers (many of them). So Damien, no longer do I wear an elephant butt hair bracelet!

So the two elephants we met were actually in the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy" where they get drunk off the amarula berries, which makes a great liquor by the way!

Monday, April 09, 2007

So back to the safari...The rhinos are a beautiful beast. They definitely have my respect. The last time I saw one over 9 years ago, we were being transported by jeep from a canoe trip through a small reserve which had rhinos. We rounded a bend and came face to face with one angry rhino. He started trotting faster and faster after us... we couldn't back up fast enough. Finally our driver managed a three point turn in the road, which was the rhinos chance to charge us. He decided to let us go. As one guide joked in the past, "How do you know when a rhino's doing a mock charge? If you are still left standing!" I was happy to have a peaceful sighting with these rhinos this time round!
I started an Easter tradition last year that everyone loved so this year it got a little bit bigger... so we decided to do it at the park. We have an Easter Eve Flashlight Egg Hunt with some of the local kids in our neighborhood. They come in their pajamas with flashlights and scout for eggs just as it's starting to get dark. They exchange their eggs for non-edible prizes (as it is close to their bedtime and they'll be getting a lot of candy the next day anyway). They sure enjoyed themselves this year as seen in the pic!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The giraffes are one of my favorites. For being as tall as they are, they are so graceful. We saw a family of them, what looked to be a dad, mom and two small ones. It was wonderful to see one drinking as in the pic to the left. They can't stay down very long as they can get a blood clot in their neck and die.

It was neat to see a giraffe run, another first for me. The other interesting thing was that they walk both right legs then left but run front legs then back legs, galloping like a horse.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nothing says the "wild" more than hearing the sound of bones crunching by a female lion eating a carcass! (pic at left) I'll admit it was thrilling although we were all cringing at the same time hearing all that crunching bone.

She was only allowed to eat after the dominant male had his fill. See him here growling at us protecting his food. The low deep growl was quite fascinating. We did not hear him roar though.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I did really do some work while I was there and am still working on that as it will take longer than I thought, but I do have to tell you about the great safari we went on! The place was beautiful!
It's called Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Once we arrived, our bags are taken away to our room while we leisurely ride a small boat to our Tree tent (top left).

The picture of the room at left is exactly like they show (our pic matches close to theirs). Check out their website. This is not like any tent accommodation you have ever seen! Don't think we were roughing it out there. And if you're feeling a little bit adventurous, you can take a shower outside! (I am not telling whether I did or not, but I will tell you the bath tub was great too.)

Some say Botlierskop was named after the rock formation as seen in the pic - a Dutch word meaning bottle top. Others say it was named after the original owner of the land. Supposably the owner did not get along with the surveyor, who incorrectly spelled the land owner's name as Botlierskop.

Stay tuned for the a glimpse of one of our safari rides...