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All posts for the month July, 2015

Nelson Mandela Day.

Published July 31, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

I’m not all that great at interneting, but I’m trying my best to keep you loverfaces updated! Here’s a breifing on Nelson Mandela Day! South Africa has a national holiday to celebrate Nelson Mandela- more specifically, to commemorate his 67 years of service to his country by giving 67 minutes of your day to provide a service to others. I teamed with some Peace Corps volunteers for an event at a primary school- we had tons of activities for the kiddos! I was in charge of drawing (because Ma’am Koko is such a talented artist 😛 ) Along with coloring pictures of Mandela, we had group readings, Mandela trivia, a movie and some other games. We finished up the day with the most important part – 67 minutes of community service. Teams of 7 roamed to each corner of Mphane village picking up trash and cleaning up the roads while instilling in the children the values of community contribution, and taking pride and ownership in where you live – all in the name of Mandela. The amount of trash collected was impressive – over 2 dozen big black garbage bags bursting at the seams. A successful Saturday promoting community service among the village youth! 

  
 

     

     

   

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Races: #10. Savannah Half Marathon

Published July 25, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

  
Today I ran a beautiful half marathon around Savannah. We woke up super early to drive to the race site. The sunrise was beautiful.

At the race is saw many runners I knew from all over the place. It’s so rural here that the running community is really small and it didn’t take me long to integrate and get to know everyone. The course itself wasn’t too challenging, it had a lot of hills but they were very gradual. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m still coasting on residual training from the 56km two weeks ago. (Winning.) 

I got to an aid station about 13 km in and was told I was in place to finish as the 4th female, which was a great confidence boost. Around 16k in, some chick in pink came up behind me from out of nowhere, and I was like ….. Oh hell no. 

Her & I were quietly fighting for that spot for a couple kilometers but sadly she passed me. Damn. 

This half marathon had 270 runners. I finished in 1 hour and 55 minutes- only good enough for 6th place. I was really hoping for 1:45, but whatever. I’m definitely my own worst critic and I’ll probably never be satisfied with my finishing times, but that’s ok. My dissatisfaction is what motivates me to work harder and become stronger. 

I was excited for this race, not as much for myself but for the fact that my host mom finally ran her first 10k! And so did my PC friend Lizzy. Although those 2 ran in a race separate from mine, we saw each other at the finish line and decided to indulge in some celebrating. I love sharing my passion for running with others and races are not only for the running, but for the socialization aspect.

❤ Running with friends ❤

  

The Drakensberg Mountains

Published July 23, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

   
    
    
  
    
    
    
  
   

  

  

  

  

  

  
A couple months back I went on a backpacking trip with some Peace Corps volunteer friends through the Drakensberg mountains. The Draks are huge and cover a vast amount of land, much more than a few days of hiking would allow us to explore. But the smidgen that we did hike through was endlessly breathtaking and awe-inspiring. These photos don’t do the Draks justice though, no camera could really capture the beauty.

Disclaimer! Some of these photos are my friends’ from my hiking group, I can’t take all the credit here. 🙂 Man, collectively we got some incredible shots. One of my friends brought his GoPro and captured a ton of footage, then my other friend edited it and made a short video of our trip! Check it out here! 

Unfortunately an unfriendly rainstorm decided to plague the area with thunder and lightening so we were forced to take shelter at a little backpackers and abandon our final 2 days of hiking. We made the best of it though. We explored some nearby small towns, found a Chinese food restaurant, Ethiopian food and Mexican food, a brewery, and we spent some time just sitting around playing cards and sampling the array of home-made organic jams and jellies the backpackers owner sells.

I’m hoping this won’t be my only Draks trip while I’m here. I’d like to get back down there and explore some other parts of the discerning, mysterious and seemingly endless Dragon.

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Getting all packed!

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Katy & me before we started the trail- see how clean we are!

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Quick lunch break!

Quick lunch break!

 

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This is how we collect water

This is how we collected water from the caves we slept in

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One of the caves we called home for a night.

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Coming back into civilization

The gang at the Ethiopian restaurant.

The gang at an Ethiopian restaurant.

Ethiopian food!! Absolutely delicious, and all this was just 1 person's serving.

Ethiopian food!! Absolutely delicious, and all this was just 1 person’s serving.

Races: #9. The one that wasn’t really a race. 

Published July 11, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

  
Today we finally did something we’ve been talking about doing for a long time. We ran from Lebowakgomo to Polokwane. In total we ran 56 kilometers ~ 35 miles. First, this wasn’t exactly a race- in that, there weren’t any corporate sponsors, no first place medals or prize money or anything like that. But I feel it’s important to document this run because it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time, and I’m happy I finally did it!
I’ll start from the beginning. There are two very rural townships called Lebowakgomo and Polokwane, with a small highway connecting the two, the distance being just over 50 kilometers. A friend and I thought it would be a fun experience to run from one town to the other. Finding the right time of year was a challenge, as was determining logical things like hydration plans, transportation and the most important question- would this really be safe? Just the two of us running in this rural area? 

  
Suddenly, the running gods shined down on us.
A fellow runner I had met at many previous races is a member of Eskom’s Athletic Club and regularly invites me to runs they have. Eskom Atheltic Club consistently produces top performing South African athletes. If you take a look at major race results, such as Comrades, Eskom runners own the top 10 finishers every single year. These guys are fast. And inspirational.
One day I got an SMS informing me of a run Eskom was organizing from Lebowakgomo to Polokwane. Could this be any more perfect? – Running with a group, access to consistent hydration along the course, organized transportation and the general feeling of support – this is exactly what we wanted. I didn’t waste any time in saying ‘Count us in!’
Friday I ventured up to Nic’s place and stayed over, making it extremely convenient to only have to trek 5 kilometers to where we were starting the run. 
We met other runners in Lebowakgomo and started running! Several Eskom cars followed us the entire run, providing aid whenever we needed it. The selection was sufficient- water, soda, bananas, oranges and potatoes. And the occasional muscle relief spray around the knees. 

   

  

I tried to take some pictures along the way, although photos don’t really do it any justice. Running through the country is gorgeous. 
This run had so many hills- I felt like I was back at Comrades. 

  
We ran the first 10km and caught the sunrise just over the hill in time. 

Although there were only a dozen runners, I felt really safe. I almost always had at least 1 runner by my side, and with the hydration cars following us around, I wasn’t worried about anything. In total we had 12 runners, I was 1 of 2 Americans, and the only female runner. 

We ran through Chueniespoort, named so descriptively after all the wild baboons running amuck in this area. One local citizen noticed the name spelled wrong on the board and took it upon himself to spray paint in a correction. Crushed it. 

  
I literally can’t even count how many times I’ve ridden in a car along this exact course, and I don’t think I’ve ever fully recognized the beauty of it as I did by running on the road. It’s amazing how being in a car can really dull your perspective of the natural beauty that surrounds you. We ran through mountains and lakes, over hills and through valleys, past coal mines and wild animals. If I had stopped to take photos of everything, it would have taken me a lot longer to finish!

  
By 11am the sun was high in the sky and I couldn’t wait to get to Peter Mokaba Stadium just so I could rest in some shade. Around noon, I could see the stadium and knew I was basically done. I sprinted into the finish and was overwhelmed with joy to finally have completed something that I’ve been looking forward to for such a long time. 

    

 

Empowerment

Published July 6, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica
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The crew! From the left: Me, Mapula, Thepiso, Tumelo and Busi.

On this year’s 4th of July, I wanted to introduce my host family to American culture and show them how we celebrate our Independence Day by organizing a women’s empowerment weekend away. Five of us ladies (ages 16 – 46) rented a vacation cottage in the lush, beautiful Graskop area of the Mpumalanga province, which is centrally located near many tourist sites, making it easy to get around and squeeze in all the funsies. Each day was filled with many activities, delicious food and a belly ache of laughs.

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I made a point to incorporate typical ‘American’ things into our day on the 4th – BBQing, making s’mores, and playing card games. I even managed to facilitate some ‘U-S-A’ chanting. 🙂

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Turns out none of us are very skilled at BBQing and couldn’t keep the fire lit…so we took the party inside and finished up on the stove and roasting marshmallows over a candle. >.<

The aim of the weekend was to place emphasis on physical and emotional health, self confidence and overcoming fears. Each day we has group exercise- yoga, running, hiking and trampoline jumping. Each meal was carefully planned and home-cooked (and often vegetarian!) to encourage broadening dietary horizons and incorporating healthier foods into our lifestyles. We also had group discussions about boosting self image, feeling confident and recognizing ability.

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One activity supporting personal empowerment was zip lining!

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That’s the face of confidence.

Each of us took our turn zipping down a 450m line, 130m above a natural riverbank. This was easier for some more than others…but after extensive coercion and encouragement- we succeeded in getting all 5 of us women to zip the line! This adrenaline rush boosted everyone’s confidence and we were all smiles for the rest of the day.

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There were a couple of beautiful waterfall hikes in the area that we checked out – Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls at Blyde River Canyon.

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Lisbon Falls

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Berlin Falls

Another hike we went on took us to God’s Window. We also managed to see the Lowveld View and the Three Rondavels – very popular panoramic mountainous spots in this side of the country.

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We found an adorable little photography studio where we could dress up in old 1920’s costumes!!

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Family photo!

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I just had to.

This ended up being one of my favorite weekends I’ve had in South Africa thus far. Getting to laugh, joke, cook, BBQ, sing, dance, jump, zip, and spend time learning and growing with these beautiful women was an amazing way to spend my 4th of July. (While supporting cultural exchange- yay Peace Corps Goals 2 & 3!)

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