Week 8: Petting Lions

My Week 8 blog post is going to be a bit different than the others. Early in the week I hit my head and ended up with a mild concussion and a cut on my forehead. I wish I could say it happened while I was rock climbing up a mountain in the dark (yes, I did that). But unfortunately, when people see the scar and ask how it happened, the story will go more like “Well, I was doing really cool things in South Africa… and I closed the trunk of my car into my head.” Oops. My injury put me out of work for the week, so instead I’m going to use this post to share some of the adventures I’ve had outside of work. 

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to fly to Cape Town to visit Danny, another William & Mary Law student. Danny is working in Cape Town at People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP). It was really nice to see a familiar face and swap stories about our internships. I also found it interesting to compare the environment and culture in Cape Town with Johannesburg. Cape Town felt quieter, a little safer, and there seemed to be more of a young adult population. Another difference I noticed was the poverty. In Joburg there are people begging for money or selling their products at almost every traffic light. It may have just been the area of Cape Town I was in, but I only saw a handful of people begging in the streets, and the homeless population seemed smaller.

 My favorite part of Cape Town was a sunrise hike we did on Saturday morning. We woke up at 5am to  climb Lion’s Head mountain. Hiking turned out to more accurately be rock climbing up steep slippery cliffs in the dark. But reaching the top was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in South Africa. I can’t describe how surreal it is to stand at the edge of a mountain and look out at the ocean while the sun rises. I felt like I was on the edge of the world.

 Below are two pictures of Lion’s Head. The first is a picture I took of the mountain from far away (before I knew just what sunrise hiking would entail). The second is a picture of Danny and I at the top, with our heads literally in the clouds.



Another exciting adventure I’ve had in South Africa was visiting Lion Park with Jessica, a Khulumani intern. For the first part of the day, we got into a rickety old safari vehicle and drove around the reserve. We saw herds of lions, wild dogs, ostriches, antelope, giraffes, wildebeests, and a few other animals. After the safari tour, we got to the activity I had been waiting to do since before I even arrived in South Africa: playing with baby lions! They acted just like kittens. Note: it is much scarier when a lion cub playfully tries to bite and scratch you than when a kitten does it. Although I had been talking about petting baby lions for weeks, my favorite part of the day ended up being the cheetah I got to meet. The park rescued him when he was a cub, and he was much more sweet and gentle than I expected.

Below are two pictures from the Lion Park. In the first I’m tentatively petting a lion cub who had tried to bite me moments before. The second picture is my reaction to being licked by a cheetah.