Day 2!

We started the day with breakfast by the pool at our accommodation. We then left for a half day tour of Soweto township in Johannesburg. In Soweto, we first toured the area by bus. Our guide told us about the history of gold mining bringing people to Johannesburg and segregation in the township during apartheid. He also discussed the gross economic inequality today in Soweto that exists as a result of apartheid.

Next, we drove to the Hector Pieterson Museum. This museum commemorates the youth movement during apartheid that fought for education and equality. It is named after a young boy who was killed during the Soweto Uprising protesting the enforcement of teaching in Afrikaans.

After the museum, we walked to the Mandela House where Nelson Mandela’s family lived from 1946 into the 1990s. On the way over there, we passed by lots of artwork commemorating the resistance.

To close our Soweto tour, we had a home cooked meal with a group of local neighbors. They gave us each a South African name and taught us how to greet people in one of five languages. When we finished eating, we put our chairs in a circle and had an honest conversation about politics in both of our countries. After our meal and discussion, the locals sang and danced with us. They performed several traditional songs and then we were asked to close with an American song. We enthusiastically sang “Don’t Stop Believing!”

For the second half of the day, we went to St. John’s College and played squash against girls and boys from St. John’s and St. Mary’s School. After our matches, we ate a barbecue dinner. Then, we heard a lecture by Rev. Sidwell Mokgothu, who was an activist in the African National Congress (ANC) opposing apartheid rule.

We finished the day at our accommodation with group reflections on all that we had experienced that day. Submitted by Lily and Chris

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We’ve arrived!

Johannesburg welcomed us with sunshine and 80 degrees and smiles from our tour guides. The trip was long and uneventful. Our first stop was at our accommodations, 10 Stirling, where we enjoyed some tennis, swimming, tea and R&R before heading off to the Apartheid Museum. After a great tour there, we hit the courts for a light hit. Dinner was mostly chicken (some vegetarian options) and now we are settled back in our accommodations. Everyone seems happy and we look forward to getting our internal clocks in line with the local time. Tomorrow is a visit to Soweto, the most well known township in Johannesberg.



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Hello out there, family, friends and other interested parties!
Tomorrow is our last day of the school term and we’re all excited to be heading to South Africa soon. We’ll try to keep this blog updated with daily posts once our trip begins.
Until then,
– D. Prockop

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Most Definately Not a Girl


Safari Awesomeness

June 27

People from other groups came back gushing about everything they had seen, including rhinosauruses (sic), herds of elephants, massive crocodiles, and one particularly belligerent charging pachyderm. However, my group had by far the best trip. 

We kicked off our trip with a couple of warthogs (just like Pumba from Lion King) and a small herd of zebras, pausing for “oohs” and “aaahs,” before moving on. We were anxious to keep moving, as our true goal was to see the “Big 5:” elephants, lions, rhinosauruses, bison, and leopards. The next two animals that we spotted were giraffes, one male from a great distance and then a pregnant female giraffe who was very close to our Land Rover. We were incredibly excited, given that in the first 20 minutes of our trip, we had already seen 3 different species of animals, including our majestic mascot. Then, while we were admiring the beautiful scenery and the many Pumbas ambling through the bushes, we saw it. A grey back rose above a bush for a moment and disappeared. Our tour guide slowly pulled around a bush and we saw it. An elephant. it was enormous, corpulous and massive; we were astounded by its sheer bulk. Someone asked, “Is it a girl?” As it turned its back to us, however, we could see that it most definitely was not a girl. With the extremely well-endowed pachyderm having moseyed on and our desire for photos having been quenched, we moved on, overawed yet excited for more. Almost Immediately, the elephant was followed up by a bison. The tour guide told us that the bison was the most dangerous of the big 5 and probably the most dangerous on the reserve, as hippos, rhinos and elephants might mock charge, or run towards and then turn away from their target, while bison charge with only one ambition: to attack. They also pursue their prey with vicious intent, not stopping unless it loses sight of its prey. Having heard that, we moved on pretty quickly, not wishing to enrage it and become the target of that considerably large creature. Then, we emerged from the bush into a flatter savannah-like area, we saw entire herds of impala and springbok. The whole time, we were seeing lots of smaller quadrupeds, like springbok, steinbok, impala, and the occasional kudu, as well as intermittent larger ones like wildebeest and gemsbok, or aardwolf.

At this point, the sun began to lower in the sky; since this is the South African winter, their nights are currently long, while their days are short. In fact, they just had their winter solstice, while the US had the summer solstice, while we were on the trip. Consequentially, sunset is rather early in the day, and we began to wonder at the glorious, glorious sunset. Beautiful gradients of vivid hue began to emerge on the horizon, and the potential for artsy photos increased tenfold. Beauty simply exuded from the environment around us as we moved on.

The next exciting animal we saw was a crocodile lying on a beach. All of a sudden, I can see why they can disguise themselves as driftwood; upon cursory inspection, it didn’t even appear to be an animal, but a log on the riverbank. Then, we saw hippos from a distance. Our guide said that while hippos do “mock charge,” intending mostly to scare off intruders, they do have fiery tempers, and we were all glad to be observing them from the safety of our Land Rover and from a good distance. Finally, we saw another pregnant giraffe and a herd of white rhinos. At that point, we had seen the 3 of the big 5 which were out in the area at that time, and we returned to the lodge for a great dinner and a dance show/competition (of which, I am proud to say, I was a winner, along with Cher and Cynthia and two people from other groups). Everyone was tired at that point, and many people retired to their beds. Everyone wanted to be prepared for the next day, when we would be woken up early to see the highlight of our trip: Lions. 

Alaric Krapf ’15
Rising Fourth Former

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Game Watch


Game watch 6/27

The Groton Orchestra and several Waterkloof High School students woke up early in the morning for a trip to Mabula Game Lodge, where we found many surprises waiting for us.  After a very satisfying lunch, we climbed into modified Land Rovers that had no roof or sides, exposing us to nature. The trucks drove us along winding dirt roads into the grasslands and the home of many wild animals.  We first saw a large herd of African buffaloes mingling with impala and a pair of rhinoceros.  The rhinos were huge and a sight to behold.  We moved on and found a pack of water buffalo moving back from their daily watering hole.  It was a large herd of maybe 25 or so and they moved right across the road in front of us.  Over the course of the safari we saw a massive crocodile up close, many more impala, warthogs, water buffalo, gazelles, antelope, and some unique birds.  The highlight of our trip, however, was when we saw four elephants right on the road, eating and lounging right along with us.
 Seeing wild animals was not the only surprise that was prepared for us.  For dinner, we had a traditional African ‘boma’ around a bonfire with traditional African buffet including crocodile meat and African curry.  At the end a group of singer-dancers came and presented a cake for those members of the orchestra with nearby birthdays – Peter, KT, AJ, Chelsea, and Jae-Hee.  The dancers then performed and dragged some of us in to dance with them.  It was a great way to end the night.  Now it’s time to go to sleep to get a good nights rest for our 6:15 game drive tomorrow.
Evan Haas ’15 Cello
Rising Fourth Former
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Last Performance


Last performance 6/26

 After a hectic morning at their hosts’ residence, the members of the Groton Chamber Orchestra busily packed away their instruments for the final performance of the trip. We were all both sad and excited that our last performance was so imminent.  As soon as we arrived at the elderly home, we set up in a small conference hall. Despite a few problems here and there and an unexpected, unfortunate descent of a music stand upon a cello player, the performance was successful. The orchestra received numerous compliments from the audience and was rewarded with delicious fat cakes made by the wrinkled but skilled hands of the ladies at the concert.
 Our next destination was a nurturing house for disabled children. Before we entered the institution, DJ warned those who are very emotional that what they will experience may be overwhelming, so they may leave the building if necessary. What we witnessed was truly disheartening. Every patient we met was severely disabled: either mentally or physically and often times both. Although the institution is officially for children, there were several patients whose ages were well over thirty. The eyes of the patients were often aimless and the limbs were tense and twitching. We were once again reminded of the bleak fact that there are still a considerable number of problems that we will have to solve.
 Today was a day of mixed feelings. We were freed from the pressure of concerts and performances but also realized that our days in South Africa were very limited. We met new people and bonded with them, but also learned about one of the many problems we will have to face. We will cherish the remaining time here in South Africa and never forget the lesson we learned.
Peter Nam ’15
Rising fourth former
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So Much to Learn

Day three in Pretoria started off early. A 6am wake up followed by some bacon and fried eggs. Delicious! The bus departed Waterkloof at 7:30 for Soweto where we met up with a Groton graduate of the class of ’06, Katie Gannett.  She showed us the facilities for the Grassroots Soccer organization in Soweto after which, we participated in one of their programs for African youths. The purpose of these programs is to educate young Africans about the dangers of HIV/AIDS as well as to build self-confidence and develop other life skills. We divided into two groups and each group participated in part of an actual class.  In the program I was in we danced and sang with the children.   We had a great time sharing our favorite school subjects, sports teams and dance moves. The ability to understand one another beyond the language barrier (the programs are given in Zulu or other African languages) never ceases to amaze me.

After saying goodby to Katie and the Grassroots Soccer participants, we
went to Nelson Mandela’s house. There we were given a history of Mandela’s life (who is affectionately known as “father” in South Africa). Then we toured through his house picking up more information about the man who ended Apartheid. We also visited the memorial for Hector Pieterson, a black youth who was killed while students protested these of Afrikaans as the language of education in South Africa.
To finish the day we drove to St. Andrew’s church where we listened to, and played for The Melodi Music Project.  Melodi Music, conducted by Nimrod Moloto, is an organization that teaches music to kids from all over Soweto, and they are VERY good.  They have made numerous tours to other countries including twice to the Netherlands and to Germany.  After we finished our concerts we were able to chat with the other musicians.  They are remarkable group of people, ranging in age from middle school to the sophomore and junior years of college.  We capped off the trip with some crazy group photos and made the bus ride back to Pretoria where our host families greeted us with a delicious traditional South African dinner and a hot shower.
I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Sam Caldwell
Class of 2013
When we visited one of the programs of Grassroots Soccer, we separated into two groups led by Katie and another worker named Walker.  The Walker group, which I was privileged to be part of, filed into a classroom filled with kids from around five to fifteen years old.  The teacher, or “coach”, as they called the adult leaders of the Grassroots Soccer program, was talking about choices and the importance of making individual choices. Every time someone answered a question, the entire room would snap fingers to support that person’s answer, or, as they said, “felt their answer”- a great way to encourage listening to and supporting each other.  Many of the kids were very engaged in the material and answered the questions with lots of spirit and intellect.  As part of the curriculum, we played a game in which we wandered around  the room chanting “Mingle, mingle, mingle!” until the coach called out a phrase that would require each of the players to choose a group. For example, we had to separate into groups when the coach yelled “Favorite soccer team!” Interestingly, the Korean soccer group attained a lot of fans, while Brazil got two (aka Ben and me).  Afterwards, the coaches related the importance of choice to HIV.  To visually demonstrate the prevalence of the disease in Africa, a coach had 6 people stand in front of the room in a line.  Pointing out one person of the six (our very own Lillian), the coach told us that one out of every six people in Africa has HIV. Crazy!  We were going to play a game outside, but unfortunately, we had limited time and needed to depart for our next adventure.
Class of 2013 (Rising 6th former)
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Garden Delights


Day two in Pretoria 

Today we played at the botanical garden in Pretoria. It was a great performance featuring the Waterkloof concert band playing an incredible program featuring a Michael Jackson medley, and selections from “Phantom of the Opera”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The Groton School Chamber Orchestra followed their performance, and the highlight of the day was a combination of the two groups playing a finale of the Michael Jackson medley, “Africa”, and the U.S. national anthem as well as the South African national anthem.
Following the performance was one of the craziest events of the trip: Melissa Cusanello meeting up with her long lost uncle who lives in Pretoria. It was remarkable and beautiful scene.
The interaction between the two musical groups continued at lunch when the two were able to sit, talk and eat with each other.
The day ended with a get-together at Basson’s (a violinist in the Waterkloof group). It was a great night filled with card games, mingling, the game Big Booty, and a bonfire. The food was also incredible with traditional South Africa desserts and meat cakes. Unfortunately the night had to end at some point and I returned home to my host Nicolaas for some well deserved sleep.
David Caldwell
Class of 2013
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Waking up at Five o’Clock…


Saturday, June 23

Waking up at five o’clock in the morning is not my favorite thing to do during a summer vacation, but it was totally worth it. All our orchestra members and the beloved Durbanville families, who courteously hosted us for a week, headed over to the school and said our final goodbyes. I hugged my host, Barbara, and we promised each other that we would keep in touch through Facebook. I could never thank her enough for all the amazing experiences we had together.

After the emotional farewells, we went to the airport to catch our flight to Johannesberg. Then, we took a 30 minute bus ride to the Waterkloof High School, where we were greeted by a large crowd of grinning faces. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and we felt at home. Even though we still missed the friends in Durbanville, we were excited to meet new people, with whom we will create another set of wonderful memories. Our Cape Town journey has come to an end, but the adventures in Pretoria have just begun.
The Waterkloof Concert Band and our chamber orchestra came together and rehearsed for the majority of the afternoon. We played “The Legend… Michael Jackson” , which is a combination of the celebrity’s several hit songs. It includes Billy Jean, Thriller, and Heal the World.  We also practiced “Africa”, a song by Toto, which was arranged by Dan Smith, the conductor of our host school’s band. It felt claustrophobic with so many people crowded together on an average size stage, but it was an incredibly fun experience. It was as if we bonded through music.
Then, we had an open rehearsal, during which we played some of our concert repertoire and the Waterkloof band watched us.  We were very happy to receive so many compliments afterwards.  After all the hard work, we had lots of fun, talking and laughing, with the new friends we made at the school.
Jae-Hee Lee
Rising Third Former
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A Fond Farewell to Capetown


Friday, June 22

Today was the saddest day that we have experienced so far on our trip to South Africa.

   Unfortunately, our planned trip to Robin Island was canceled due to to maintenance on the ferry and the threat of bad weather. Though the morning was unexpectedly pleasant, the rain did begin to fall midway through the day. We made the most of our nice weather and took a tour of Cape Town. We saw the house of Parliament and “The Castle,” the oldest stone building in Cape Town. After our tour, and a nice walk through the botanical gardens of Cape Town, we went to Signal Hill for a beautiful view of the town and a few more pictures to remember our time here by.
   We left to explore the waterfront. We had visited the waterfront earlier this week, but we didn’t have time to see the shops the way we did today. A group of friends and  I experienced our first burgers from Spur Steakhouse- a real treat. My friends and I went out to the dock after eating and explored the various shops on the waterfront. We came across two magicians doing card tricks while we were shopping, but neither was good enough to earn any money from us. We left from the mall with a little less money in our pockets and headed back to our host family houses to (sob) pack for our early morning departure. We packed and spent some quality time with our hosts and headed to Durbanville for a going away party.
   We took part in an interactive presentation with the Drum Cafe at Durbanville, a fun call and response show. We were all given traditional Djembe African drums and repeated rhythms played to us by the Drum Cafe band. Afterwards we drank hot chocolate and ate South African pancakes (more like crêpes to us) while listening to the a student band from Durbanville rock out to familiar tunes, even the American National Anthem! There was a slideshow of pictures of our trip, and we exchanged gifts with our South African hosts. Even our conductor Mr. Teranella got emotional describing the great times that we had during this week.
   I feel that I’ve become incredibly close with my hose Joganan. It will be incredibly difficult to say goodbye in the morning, but I’ll never forget the great time that I spent with him and his family.
Johnathan Terry
Rising Sixth Former
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