Kruger National Park (2) --- South Africa
When one comes to Africa, you undoubtedly think about the Africa plains with different animals roaming around, or perhaps about the African jungle with apes swinging from the trees. These kinds of images have been planted in our minds since primary school days, whether you were educated in America or in China. It was a great feeling when we went to South Africa and finally confirmed the first of these images, or rather re-painted it with more reality. We had already visited a "jungle", or more appropriately a rain forest, when we went to Korup National Park in Cameroon.
When we first came to Cameroon, we were not presented with the images that we expected in Africa. What we saw here were some things we had never learned about in school or in books. When you deal with people and with bureaucracy, you do not have an image of Africa that is different from the rest of the world. That is exactly what we did - we came and dealt with students, faculty and officials - and we found out that Africa is not much different from the rest of the world. Sure, Cameroon has corruption, inefficiency, and silly rules. But, where in the world do you not find human greed, selfishness, and hunger for power? These are the driving forces for a lot of people in this world. They might be using different ways to achieve their goals, but they act basically for the same reasons. Ask yourself, is there anywhere in the world that people are more corrupted than those officials who ran ENRON and Anderson, etc, and who jeopardized thousands of people's lives.
In addition to enjoying the beautiful scenery and the marvelous wildlife, what else did we gain from this trip to S.A. and Kruger Park? We learned that an elephant has six sets of teeth during its life time. When its last set is worn down from chewing all the grass and tree limbs for food, it would eventually die of starvation. So an elephant could live a lot longer if there were some good elephant dentists! Did you know that the position of male dominance in a troop (or barrel) of baboons, consisting of 30~40 individuals, is generally held for only 6-12 months - much less than a chair person's average tenure time in a university! Is this the result of higher or lower civilization? We certainly learned more English terms used in S.A. which are truly fun. Yes, we have learned more English - at least Tom did. Before the S.A. trip, Tom only knew " A school of fish" and "A herd of cattle", that was about it. In S.A., we learned "A Raft of Hippos", "A Crash of Rhino", " A Dazzle of Zebra", " A Pylon of Giraffe", " A Thrash of Crocodiles", "A Barrel of Baboons", " A Leap of Leopards", " A Clan of Hyena", and " A Siege of Herons". ( At least we remembered these after Ann Evans, our guide, remind us with an email!)
We are writing these web pages after returning to Buea from the two week trip to S.A. We appreciate how much our impressions of S.A. have changed from those we had as a result of the apartheid years. S.A. is presently a dynamic, lively, and realistic country. It is a good role model of what African countries could and should be. If they can hold their course, they will be benefiting more from their diversity. We see that people are happy, children are alert and bright. All things are working properly there. While we had thought highly of Nelson Mandela before, it's nice to know that everyone we met in S.A. had a great deal of good things to say about him, and they consider him to be the Father of their new South Africa.