I have arrived safely in St Lucia! I am here to volunteer in the Conservation & Photography program run by African Impact, a group that runs many such worthwhile projects all over this continent. There are 3 different projects being run here in St Lucia and this time they have so many volunteers that the main house is full and the photographers are put up in a separate house for the first week.
St Lucia is home to South Africa’s first natural World Heritage site, the iSimangaliso Park. It is an amazing park, set right on the coast with great vistas and much biodiversity. We will spend a fair amount of time here photographing the people, landscapes and nature so I know I have an exciting month ahead.
There are 6 of us in this program. We are one male (Simon) and 5 females. There are 2 girls from the UK -Hayley & Danni, two of us from Australia -Megan and myself, and Azu from Japan. We get to know each other very quickly as our first week involves an intensive photography workshop. I have become good friends with Megs my roommate, a fellow Australian who is originally from New Zealand. She is the closest in age to me as the rest of the group are all in their twenties. Our first week is spent working with Emil von Maltitz, a well known professional photographer from Durban. www.lime.photo.co.za
Amongst the many things he does are tailor made photographic tours of South Africa, so if you are coming to this part of the world and are interested in photography, I would definitely recommend you look up his website. A number of us have already signed up to do a 4 day tour of the Drakensburg Mountains with him and I am looking forward to that already!
On our first day we are given an extensive orientation to the area and shown around town. As we live close to a local park we are advised to look out for the hippos who wander the roads at night in search of lush grasses. We are given instructions on what to do and what not to do in the event we run into one on our way back from a night out!
I also learn there is still a bit of tension between the black Zulu community and the white South African locals. I am also quite disturbed to learn that even 16 years after Apartheid the answer to petty theft in the area is that the supermarket here will ask a Zulu local to check their bags in a locker before entering the store. No such requirements if you are white! I ask if I may face any problems and I am told that the last black volunteer they had who was an African Englishwoman had also been asked to check her bags!
Fortunately (for their sake?) I have not been asked to check my bags yet and I’ve found everyone in town really friendly and helpful.
We were also informed that if the local white South Africans see the volunteers hanging out with the local Zulus in a bar, they may cause issues and the Zulus will be asked to leave the bar. Integration between the communities is still frowned on here!
I find all this disturbing but I am quite aware from my previous visit to South Africa that the tension between the black and white communities certainly does exist in parts of this country.
“When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves.” Albert Einstein