Tshukudu Game Reserve

The following blog posts are by 3Ls Audrey Crumrine and Tyler Opel:

Tshukudu Welcome

After a long drive through the scenic areas of South Africa, we arrived at Tshukudu Bush Camp. The area of the game reserve we stayed in was made up of several elevated cabins and a central area where the meals were cooked and eaten in a campfire area.

We were greeted upon arrival by our ranger and guide for the next two days, David.  We were told to keep our doors locked, and valuables put away for safe keeping, as the monkeys have no problem snatching a cell phone or camera and throwing it into the bush.

After we dropped off our stuff, David met up with us for a quick word on dos and don’ts and then we were off on a game drive! The vehicle was uncovered with low sides. Up to this point, we had only experienced the animals from behind windows in our van. On these drives, we were close enough to see the wrinkles in the elephant’s skin and the eyelashes of the giraffe.

Game Drive at Tshukudu
Our entire group of students and faculty on a game drive at Tshukudu.

 

 

Using a tracker, David located the lions on the reserve and drove us to where the male and several females were. I thought we would maybe stay back for safety reasons, but we drove as close as 15 feet away from the group. The lions were unfazed. In order to get a rise out of the male, David revved the engine. The lion opened his mouth wide as if to roar, but seemed only to yawn. David took it up a notch. The lion began letting out a loud, deep roar/growl, and the females began roaring back. We then drove off with the lion watching, as if we had been welcomed guests in his territory.

Lion Roaring
Lion roaring.

 

 

Our ranger and the staff of Tshukudu provided dinner for us every night, and he always joined us for our meals. Our dinners were generally what would be considered a braai, or barbecue, with different kinds of meats, pap, vegetables, potato salad and various extras. Our breakfasts were usually eggs, toast, cereal, coffee, and delicious marula jelly. The combination of being able to pick a South African ranger’s brain and delicious food made these the best meals I had in South Africa.

Our guide David and his family have owned the land that Tshukudu for generations, with most everyone in their family involved in its operation or conservation efforts in some capacity. He told us of the poaching problem faced by their reserve and the neighboring Krueger National Park. The number of people being shot for poaching was shocking. The benefit outweighs the risk to these local people, who see the possibility of living comfortably from bringing in a couple of valuable animals. The description of the interplay between poachers and those who work on the reserves mimics that of warfare, with armed groups doing night patrols, scent-tracking dogs, and firefights. Our guide carried a .44 Magnum at all times.

Aside from the wildlife on our game drives and walks, there was also a resident honey badger, whom David had tamed. She hung out around camp and was not afraid of people, as Katie and I found out when we stumbled upon her in the dark and she came closer to check us out. One of us may or may not have screamed and jumped away. It may or may not have been me.

Audrey petting a cheetah.
Audrey petting a cheetah.

The highlight of Tshukudu for me was the opportunity to pet a cheetah. She was enclosed by a fence while she recovering from a digestive ailment, but was most certainly still a wild animal. She was incredibly playful, and allowed the females of the group to go up and pet her like she was just one of our house pets. While I petted her, she playful put her mouth around my ankle while also wrapping her paws around her leg. This was enough play for me and I backed away slowly, but smiling.

To end our time here, we all sat around the fire in an African drum circle and learned rhythms together. It was a special way to end our time at Tshukudu.

Audrey Crumrine

Our stay at Tshukudu Game Lodge was by far my favorite experience of the South Africa trip. The Sussens family started Tshukudu back in the 80’s with a vision for animal conservation accompanied by a full “bush” experience. Tshukudu is 5,000 hectacres of land (I know nothing about land measurements-but that is a big hunk of land) located in the town of Hoedspruit within the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

Our guide David on a walk with the group at Tshukudu.
Our guide David on a walk with the group at Tshukudu.

Our guide, David, was there to greet us immediately after our bus arrived within the camp. It took us about an hour just to get to the main lodge from the highway (I think it could be the world’s longest drive way). David was a member of the Sussens family, he was about our age and he grew up within the confines of Tshukudu. Needless to say, but David knew his stuff when it came to animal conservation, the indigenous foliage, and really anything you wanted to know about the surrounding land.

The best way I could describe Tshukudu would be a bed and breakfast type atmosphere, only with a 100% chance to see the African wildlife that everyone dreams of seeing after you watched The Lion King for the 100th time as a kid.  Our cabins were cozy (air conditioned I might add) and centered around the main lodge building where we would have our meals and meet to go out on game drives.  Upon our arrival David showed us a movie that basically described what Tshukudu was all about; how it was a family run operation that took pride in animal conservation with clips of the orphaned animals that the guides had raised playing with the guests. Yeah, you read that right- the most famous being tamed Cheetahs.

Professor Mark Schultz with the massive game drive vehicle at Tshukudu.
Professor Mark Schultz with the massive game drive vehicle at Tshukudu.

We went on our first game drive what seemed like immediately after we arrived. David fired up the safari ranger truck (at least that’s what I called it) and we all jumped in. The safari ranger was a massive open-air vehicle that had rows of seating that fit about 13-15 people. Within the first 15 minutes we ran into a family of Elephants- the highlight being a newborn playing with his mom. From there on we had our closest encounters with animals throughout our whole trip.

The experience that sticks out most in my head is when we got to meet Ntombi the Cheetah. Ntombi was originally an orphaned animal but at the time she was being nursed back to health and was on severe dietary regulations. She was put in a pen that was about 200×100 meters and the whole group got to go in and see her. After a few minutes of walking around and David calling for her, we found Ntombi lying under a tree catching some shade from the hot sun. David was clear to point out that Ntombi liked girls more than guys- who could blame her, right? Fortunate enough for me, Ntombi got up from the tree and walked straight at me. My initial reaction was “Holy $&#^!….that is a big cat!…and I hope she isn’t hungry” and sure enough she came within a couple inches of me, and I got to pet her as she walked by. That is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

That was just one experience while at Tshukudu. Other highlights included: being within 15 feet of a male lion as he roared, petting a Caracal (google it), a drumming lesson around the campfire, seeing David play with his tamed Honey Badger (yes, the fearless animal made famous by Youtube), and last but not least when the sun went down- the most amazing stars I have ever seen. Tshukudu isn’t just an awesome place to stay; they are making serious efforts to preserve the wildlife, not only within their lodge, but also for the entire country of South Africa. I look forward to going back.

Group Picture at Tshukkudu
The group at Tshukudu at the end of a game drive.

 

-Tyler Opel

Reflections on Soweto and Kliptown

The following post is by 3L Corrigan Clouston:

A very wise woman, Jordan Homer, once told me “travel is one of those things that leaves you speechless, but turns you into a storyteller.” Wiser words have seldom been spoken as the experience I had in South Africa/Botswana had left me breathless, yes has provided me enough stories to go on for days and drive my close family to insanity stemming from jealousy. I believe this experience, and the two weeks I had in Africa, has changed my perspective on what life can be and how it should be appreciated. It is hard to narrow down what I loved most about Africa (because I loved all of it), but I can narrow down the experiences that I have learned the most from.

Welcome to Soweto

The day where I learned the most about South Africa, and myself, was our day in Soweto. Our first stop in Soweto was at a plaza entitled “Freedom Square”, which hosted both a beautiful memorial dedicated to the ten pillars of the Freedom Charter and a five-star hotel that has served presidents, diplomats and celebrities. We had the opportunity to venture around the plaza and interact with the local community. Alas, after shopping local vendors and spending more rand than anticipated, it was time to move to our next destination.

We casually strolled across the plaza and crossed the street to traverse a well-beaten path leading across a pair of railroad tracks. In all honesty, nothing could have prepared by for what lay beyond the tracks – it was, at least to me, an entirely different world. As we watched the train zip by, and crossed the tracks our nostrils were suddenly full of a sour smell rising from burning piles of trash and plastic. In my entire life, I will never forget that smell. It has permeated my brain to where I can recall the slight nausea that accompanied the smell. As we continued to cross the tracks, it became apparent where we were – a slum.

Railroad track dividing Soweto from the shantytown of Kliptown.
Railroad track dividing Soweto from the shantytown of Kliptown.

I had never been to a slum, so to fill in the gaps in understanding I used preconceived stereotypes I had been told. Physically, it surpassed my expectations of what a slum was. There were rows of houses piecemealed together with tin and other scraps of metal of plastic. All of the houses were small, damp and dark. Our guide told us within each of these homes there were up to four family generations in each house, usually between 20-30 people. We were given the opportunity to enter in to the home of a resident, which absolutely surprised me. Inside the house made of tin and leaking from the walls were spotless pots and pans, with a little dinner table. The floor was made of dirt, but it was obvious the home had been meticulously cleaned.

It amazed me of the sense of pride the homeowner had for the very little they possessed. It made me think long and hard about some of priorities I have. In thinking about it since I have been home, I have realized it is always easier to complain about what you do not have rather than appreciate what you have. The people of Soweto have taught me to appreciate the people and experiences I have had. I am extremely fortunate to have had this experience and it has opened my eyes not only to other cultures, but to myself as well. I recommend everyone take the time to step out of your comfort zone and travel to Africa!

Soweto Academy

Corrigan Clouston

The Kgotla (Customary) Court in Botswana

The following blog post is by 3L Brian Kron:

On Thursday, January 8, 2015, Associate Dean Behan, Brad, Tshepiso ( a University of Botswana law grad/PhD program candidate/Lecturer/guide/friend) and I had the privilege of visiting a local Gaborone  tribe’s customary court system. This was of particular fascination to me because this court or tribunal exists in its own rite. Botswana has a customary court system separate from traditional legal matters. This makes the judicial system a hybrid system in the nation of Botswana. Essentially this is the most foreign aspect of their legal system we encountered. Our legal friends and lecturers always talked about it, but remained elusive and unclear how it works in my mind. Individuals have the right to appeal to a high court, customary court of appeals and essentially the court of appeals if necessary. But they deal with matters entirely on their own.

IMG_0163

One common thread in Botswana is that it is a heavily Christianized nation and for the most part has adopted Western society’s norms, customs, legal systems etc. But there also seems to be the existence of people who live true to their roots. This was the portion of the population I was interested in.

Tshepiso himself had not ever been to a customary court before. The tribal community’s customary court we visited seemed like a very divided society still figuring out their identity, for those who have not accepted the “Western Botswana way” entirely. Our first opportunity to witness customary court failed the day prior for requesting with such short notice. The officials that work in the court were apprehensive about having an impromptu meeting. They delayed the opportunity till the following day where we would have the opportunity to experience what we could.

Tshepiso in the courtyard of the customary court complex. Serious matters are adjudicated in the courtyard under trees such as this one.
Tshepiso in the courtyard of the customary court complex. Serious matters are adjudicated in the courtyard under trees such as this one.

We were driven to a location that looked official right near the urban area of Gaborone. A sign bore the name of the tribe. A particular name was used for this system of justice. How it is spoken and spelled I still have a hard time with. I refrained from taking photos of everything I saw, so not to upset some one or people. Our trip to the African continent was unlike any other foreign trip abroad I have taken. Normally I am familiar with the Germanic languages, and Spanish languages, respective to the region of where they’re used and where I visit. In Africa I was completely out of my element and can only thank the English for colonizing the minds of the masses with English language in the two nations we visited to make our experience more palpable and understandable.

But I struggled making diligent efforts to bridge any cultural gaps and tried to pronounce things properly when I heard them. I like any other astute traveler needed my wits about myself and took care not to be quick with my tongue and listened a lot more than I normally would; walking boldly but aware of my surroundings in a foreign land. We were truly in a foreign place but with people that which were kinder than ever. At our destination there was a courtyard with a tree in the center that was surrounded by modern buildings, a fire pit, a hut, a large longhouse type hut and a statue of a chief. It had a very open feeling and had some what of a connection with the natural surroundings, in my opinion. The gentleman we met was kind but bold in the tongue. He was our guide and cultural informer, if I may. He explained the customary court system in general terms but with more detail than any other Botswana attorney, lawyer or professor we had previously spoken with. I think that is due to the fact that no legal counsel is permitted to represent some one in customary court. His understanding differed from that of the Ivory tower so to speak. He immediately dismissed any outside information we were taught and than proceeded to give his short impromptu lecture. He may have been embarrassed and seemed to have rather preferred to have prepared something more for us formally. Which was not necessary. But was a kind thought.

My interpretation of Customary court could be concluded as this: any dispute is first sent to the artificial hut (representing the home) to make sure aggrieved parties have spent time to reconcile, than anyone is welcome to come to the proceeding which takes place in open air. Anyone and everyone is consulted or heard. It is a system that relies heavily on older generations. Each male and female goes to a respective gender specific training or schooling.  There the people are equipped with the means necessary to take part in the tribe. They learn how to behave, the customs and roles specific to their gender in the tribe.  After adjudications, the tribe’s Chief makes a final decision after council from his people and aggrieved parties. There is set codes of conduct that result in corporal punishment or excommunication. But the code is not written. Our guide spoke of young people not knowing how to act and living troubled lives between their tribal roots and Western society. The youth face troubles and know how the tribe will respond in customary court. They seem to live happier lives with less western influence in our guide’s opinion but also can stray into Western legal principles where things are handled differently.  One human rights issue in the region is a crime of passion. This crime occurs when a couple kills a significant other and than commits suicide. Apparently it happens at an alarming rate. I wondered if these two starkly different cultural identities are to blame.  Our guide seemed to think so.

The guide’s brother entered the room during our discussion. It is customary to stand when some one enters. We may have been a little late to do so. but I tried to follow our guide’s lead. It is common for individuals to have Christian and tribal names. I just wound up getting confused but tried to refer to people by the native name.  His brother assured us that his older brother has our best interest at hand and is an effective representative of the customary court with all the answers. It seemed as if the outside international community has an eye on tribal groups and human rights issues. The tribes (like the German federal court judge I met) assured me spontaneously that no human rights violations are committed. I understand the German judge assuring this but the tribesman we spoke with may have done so for different motives upon me asking about arranged marriages. I didn’t want to poke fun but genuinely interested in the process but that was his response. The guide also described a group of Dutch anthropologists who visited them studying their customary court methods and brought it back to the Netherlands to resolve industrial employee disputes. He mentioned that there is literature on the subject we maybe interested in. I am very fascinated by this and may try to find it.

We were told how lighting a fire at the beginning of the day symbolizes life at the customary court, how many cultural tradition days are held at the location and not only judicial matters. One would find traditional garb and customs practiced all in one place on a day like that.

It seemed as if there is a large portion of people who live pastoral traditional lives on the farm, the way their families and ancestors have for sometime, but also that many tribal members were venturing into modern society and finding themselves confused or getting into trouble. These were only my inferences from our discussion at the customary court.

Finally I reveled in the fact that there are societies that have oral traditions and life is carried on by and dealt with primarily by the oral word. In customary court proceedings are recorded but there is a strong influence of oral tradition. The primary function of the record is for appeals. My one regret was not seeing a proceeding and not spending more time studying this aspect of Botswana law. Some of the lectures we had during this day were far less different from our own American legal standards and European neighbors. From personal injury to tax law differences are subtle but primarily a thread of the same cloth. There seemed to be only nuanced differences. The customary court experience was unique and one I will not forget. However the study of the rest of Botswana law is essential and imperative to the course and understanding the legal system in its totality. The customary court seemed to be marginalized or dismissed by the rest of the legal community, where differences between the two systems of law exist. But customary law is recognized by the nation. I can only compare it to the Native American experience within the states. Which is all too removed from my life for historical reasons. But in Botswana there seemed to exist a large population of indigenous people that were unseen in the urban city of Gaborone but a significant population.

~Brian Kron

The Apartheid Museum

The following blog post is by 2L Taylor Sprehe:

On this trip I had the realization that I had been robbed of a decent historical education in high school.  Our curriculum basically consisted of the revolutionary and civil wars with a pinch of current events.  Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 with the first democratic universal adult suffrage election in South Africa in 1994.  That would have made me four and eight, respectively.  The developments of the youngest democracy in the world should have been given at least some attention though my secondary historical education.  Admittedly, I did not really start paying attention to the news on a global scale until I was about 15 or 16, but that, I believe, is typical of my generation in America.

We received our tickets to the Apartheid Museum and immediately noticed the inscription on the white paper.  “You ticket has randomly classified you as either ‘white’ or ‘non-white’.  Use the entrance to the museum for which you have been assigned.”  Ten points for audience participation.  I, randomly enough, was classified as “white”.  The entrants under both categories entered the same building, but they were separately exposed to vastly different perspectives of the Apartheid era.

Apartheid Museum 2

 

I would soon learn that was just a brief introduction to the museum.  After a hurried glance at the outdoor exhibits, which contained a brief history of the land on which South Africa now sits, we entered the actual museum.  The brochure laid out two possible courses for one to take in the museum: the full-on read everything I have unlimited time course, and the two-hour abridged course.  Our tour guide, Goodwill, notified us that we had limited time and to spend it wisely.  Although he was a tour guide and I’m certain this was not his first, or even 10th visit to this museum, Goodwill seemed to be honestly interested in the exhibits.  At least he seemed interested in making sure we understood what we were seeing.  This trip to Africa has been the first tour guided experience I have ever had, and if I learned one thing about tour guides it is that they are almost constantly saying interesting things.  I made it a guideline to follow Goodwill through the museum at his pace.  Excellent decision.  He narrated and commented on most of the exhibits.  Some of the highlights of the museum included a room commemorating all of the political hangings.  There were approximately 200 nooses hanging from the ceiling to represent each death.  They were all cluttered together to form a sky of rope and knots.  Another was the police riot vehicle that was open for visitors to climb in and look around.  The vehicle was about the size of a tank, mine resistant and seated 20 people with a snipers nest on top.

Apartheid Museum 1

The Apartheid struggle mainly occurred from 1960-1994.  That means there was plenty of video footage to display.  Probably another trait of my generation is the preference of visual learning.  I am used to taking in information through TV or the radio, so I immediately gravitated to the news clips being played on a loop throughout the museum.  The most powerful clip was the ten minute loop of F. W. De Klerk announcing the release of Nelson Mandela and the decriminalization of political organizing and the ANC.  The video would cut to other members of the South African Parliament who had looks on their faces that words can describe.  The museum ended with two piles of rocks.  One was to grab a rock from the pile on the right and throw it onto the pile on the left.  Your negative feelings about this era were supposed to be thrown away with the chunk of stone.  It provided much needed closure to this powerful experience.

Taylor Sprehe

Botswana Beef

The following post is by 3L Tyler Opel:

It’s been a few days since we all made the arduous trip home from Africa. You would think that the incredible wildlife, our great experience with the local attorneys, or even the trip to Nelson Mandela’s house would still be in my mind. All of those things were highlights and there is no doubt that they would make great blog topics. However, I am a dedicated carnivore and I still can’t get over how great all of the beef was in Botswana and South Africa. Fair warning- if you are a vegetarian, and that is totally cool with me if you are, you may want to continue reading some of the other blog posts.

steaks

Yes- you read that correctly. Of all the great experiences I had in Africa, I want to blog about steaks. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I’ve been to some great Steakhouses all over the world, and I feel like I had the best steak I have ever tasted in Gaborone, Botswana. In fact- the food throughout the whole trip was spectacular. But, when I had my first taste of the beef after we arrived in Bots, I was hooked.

The People of Botswana and their cattle have been linked for generations.  So much that in Botswana it is estimated that cows outnumber people 2 to 1. Of course the cows provide milk, meat, and hides, but most of the time cattle is a family’s only consistent source of income. Therefore the cows are tended to with the utmost care. In certain areas of Botswana there are massive floodplains that provide cattle with an excellent source of water and grass to feed off of, which are optimal conditions for cattle farming.

I never really had a steak that so encompassed the whole grass-fed and free-range methods of farming as I did in Botswana. But after experiencing the culmination of those farming techniques on my dinner plate- I was a believer.  Of course compliments must be reserved for the Chefs who prepared the food, but the beef was just so consistently good from restaurant to restaurant that it was clear that it was the true star of the show.

-Tyler Opel

ER Visit–Johannesburg

The following blog post is by 2L Bradley DeFreitas:

The trip to Botswana and South Africa was a very good one but there was one experience that I wish I did not have to experience.  After we had returned to South Africa from Botswana I had to be taken in to the emergency room in Johannesburg due to a bad spider bite that was getting continually worse.  The process at the hospital was actually a very quick one except I found out that the hospital did not accept my student travel insurance but thankfully the bill was not large enough for that to become an issue.  [Note: the student travel insurance does cover the incident but on a reimbursement basis.] Professor Behan and I were able to take a hotel shuttle to the emergency room and we had the same shuttle give us a ride back as well.

After I was called to the back the nurses first took my blood pressure and my heartbeat and I was then given a bed to sit on while waiting on the doctor.  I came in right at the time that four people from a bad car accident came in so I had to wait a little longer.  However, the wait did not seem too long to me at all.  One of the nurses felt bad that I had been waiting for almost an hour, normal in the states, and even apologized to me which made me realize that the hospitals in South Africa are not used to the same amount of wait times that the U.S. hospitals are.

I was able to meet with the doctor and he diagnosed my bite as a spider bite and then he decided that a saline IV drip would help with the swelling.  There was also an issue with my blood pressure so the doctor ordered some blood work as well.  I have never been a fan of needles and that night just reminded me of my hatred for needles.  The blood draw was not too bad but the IV drip was not a very fun experience.  The IV drip took about an hour to finish and during that time the blood tests came back.  Everything came back normal and the doctor gave me three prescriptions to fill before I left the hospital.

Of course since my insurance did not work I had to pay before I was allowed to leave the hospital.  My total bill came to about 3000 rand, which is equal to about three hundred American dollars, and that is with no insurance coverage.  I was amazed with the price because the same type of care would most likely have been thousands of US dollars if I had gone to an American hospital.  The quality of care and the staff at the hospital was top notch but I paid a fraction of what I was expecting.  The experience of having to go to an emergency room in a foreign country is one that was not as bad as it may sound but I hope that my next trip abroad does not have a hospital trip in the cards for me.

Bradley DeFreitas

Magistrate Court in Botswana

The following post is by 3L Bradley DeFreitas

On Wednesday January 7th, Professor Behan, Brian and I were given the opportunity to attend a magistrate court in Gaborone.  When we first arrived we were led to the Chief Magistrate’s office.  While in there we were able to ask questions about the process that a case went through while in the magistrate court.  After arrival we were told that there was a felony arraignment that we could attend and then there was also a verdict that the Chief Magistrate would read.  The Chief Magistrate offered to delay her verdict so that we could sit in on both the arraignment and the verdict.

For the arraignment, we sat in the gallery with the police officers who were the escorts for the two accused.  The two prisoners were accused of breaking and entering along with grand larceny. In addition they were both illegal immigrants.  Since neither of them spoke English, the court provided a translator which made the process longer than usual.  Each prisoner was read his rights and then the charges and at the end the magistrate asked if they understood.  Both answered that they did but it seemed that neither in fact understood what was going on.  In Botswana there is no public defender so if a person cannot afford a lawyer then he must represent himself which puts the poor at an immediate disadvantage.  These two were unable to afford attorneys so they would each be mounting their own defense.  I was slightly disturbed that there was no option for an indigent defendant and it made me appreciate that the U.S. system has at least some help for the defendants unable to afford an attorney.  Both of the defendants were remanded pending the trial since they were illegal immigrants.  After this we were led to the court room where the verdict would be read.

The court room was packed because this case was a very high profile case.  The defendant faced charges of rape and robbery.  The Chief Magistrate read her decision to the court and it was about 15 pages.  She went through all of the issues in the case and in the end she found him guilty of robbery and indecent assault, which was a lesser included offense in the rape charge.  Next, the defense attorney got up and addressed the court and what he said was a shock to all three of us.  The defense attorney essentially threw his client under the bus and told the magistrate that we all knew this day was coming and that the court should just go ahead and hand down the sentence that day.  The prosecutor seemed a little shocked but he did try and mitigate for the defendant by pointing out that he was a first time offender.  The magistrate decided to sentence him at the end of the week.  I later found out from the magistrate’s intern that the defendant was facing a minimum of 10 years for the robbery conviction.

Bradley DeFreitas, Professor Behan, and Brian Kron at the magistrate's bench in the Village Magistrate Court, Gaborone, Botswana.
Bradley DeFreitas, Professor Behan, and Brian Kron at the magistrate’s bench in the Village Magistrate Court, Gaborone, Botswana.

The experience at the magistrate court was one of my favorites for the entire trip.  I thought that it was fascinating to see how the beginning of a case is and how the end of one is as well.  Everyone at the court house was very accommodating and the Chief Magistrate answered any questions that we had about the case or the judicial process.

Bradley DeFreitas