When I first began telling people about my upcoming year in South Africa living on a game reserve I was met with many similar questions. I will answer a few of them here. If you have others send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to the list.
Where will I be?
The first 6 months of the program I will be at Ulovane Environmental Training program http://ulovane.co.za/ on a reserve in the Eastern Cape. The nearest city is Port Elizabeth. PE is a little more than an hour southwest of Amakhala Game Reserve. http://www.amakhala.co.za/
The second 6 months will be determined once the training has began.
How did I choose the Ulovane Program?
There are a number of reasons Ulovane moved to the top of the options.
The program came highly recommended by Grant Fowlds from Project Rhino KZN. Grant was key in the implimentation of the ProjectThorn Hornucopia horse program at iMfolozi.
The program is unique in that it offers a 4 week section working in a marine environment. This section might be the most applicable to opportunities when I return to California.
Amakhala’s location in the Eastern Cape means that I will not need to take anti-malaria drugs for the year.
I also needed to consider my recovery and how I can continue to make progress with my healing. Part of the consideration was comfort. Yes I hate to admit this but I did not think my body was ready to spend a year sleeping on the ground in a tent. I will likely need to ice and elevate on days that push my physical limits.
Ulovane’s professional licenses and certifications offered the most likely opportunity for me to qualify for a year-long student visa.
Why the Eastern Cape?
For many of the same reasons I chose Ulovane, I wanted to be in the Eastern Cape. The variety of different landscapes, ecosystems, wildlife and access to coastal waters made the Eastern Cape a desirable choice. Additionally in not being in a malarial zone was important in my decision making.
What will I be studying?
The course is titled: FGASA 1 Year Field, Marine and Back-up Trails Guide Skills Program.
FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. They are the professional accreditation association for EcoTraining. FGASA also administers the exams that I will need to pass in order to become a certified guide.
The first 10 weeks of the program is the introduction.
The content will include:
Creating a Guided experience
Field Guiding as a career
Grasses and Trees
Historical Human Habitation
This includes 4×4 driving skills, tracking, and Wilderness First Aid (level 2)
Remember how I said I would be too busy to make artwork – that is a whole lot of material to cover in 10 weeks.
The next section 7 Week Section focuses on gaining experience as a walking guide. That means rifle training and lots of hours being on foot walking in the bush. Emphasis will be focused on the skills needed to safely be in proximity to large mammals (elephant, rhino, water buffalo, etc.) and predators (leopards, lions, etc.) and lets not forget the creepy crawlers (insects, snakes, etc.).
We will also learn to track animals by identifying markings, prints, and signs.
The program will conclude with the 4 weeks Marine Guide Specialization Course.
Days will include exploring estuaries, boating trips, snorkeling in coastal waters, exploring tidal pools and learning about marine wildlife.
What made me decide to do this?
As many of you know, I sustained significant injuries when I was hit by a truck in the fall of 2016. It has been a very long and slow recovery process. During those long days of not being able to do the things I love to do (like make art, ride bikes, be active and healthy) I had ample time to contemplate whether I was making a contribution. Yes, my artwork talks about topics that I think are important but the audience for my work is limited to those who physically experience it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the work I make and I do believe it explores important topics but I want to have a greater impact and reach a wider population. In order to do that, I felt I needed more knowledge and first-hand experience.
How many students will be participation?
I will know Sunday when we all are scheduled to arrive at the reserve. I believe there will be a total of 10 students enrolled in the full year course. I suspect others will join for the 7 week walking section and the 4 week marine course as they are additional skills and accreditations that existing guides may want to obtain.
What has you nervous going into the training?
I am most nervous about not having the base knowledge that the other students have. I didn’t grow up visiting the bush and learning about the animals and their habitat. Everything is going to be new to me from the names of the animals to the stars in the sky.
What was the Visa process?
Applying for a study visa required jumping through many hoops, tracking down piles of documentation and an in person interview at a South African consulate. If you are interested in applying for a visa start the process earlier than you believe you need to.
Will I have an opportunity to travel while in the program?
The schedule is pretty demanding so there is not a lot of open time or long weekends. We have a tremendous amount to learn in a very short amount of time so I suspect my evenings and Sundays will be spent studying. After the first 10 Week FGASA Level One training is completed, I will have 2 weeks to travel. My father will be making the trip over to visit. Our plans are still being worked out.
I will have a second break between December 15th and January 3rd. Charlie will make the flight to South Africa for a visit.
It is yet to be determined where my placement and schedule will be for the second part of the program.
Will I come home?
How will I use the knowledge I gain once you return to California?
In all honesty, I do not know. My goal is to maintain an open mind, know that I will grow from this experience and wait to see what opportunities exist that I can not conceive at this point in time.
Will I still be raising money for ProjectThorn?
Yes. The horses still need feed and care.
A few things are different though.
The campaign on Generosity.com has ended. (IndieGoGo shut down Generosity)
Green Planet Films, the 403c organization that processed our donations to make them tax deductible, has stopped their fiscal sponsorship program.
With my being away for a year and not being ready to apply for non-profit status I decided to request that donations be made directly thorough 12Hours in South Africa.
12Hours is the organization that managed and distributed funds to all the various vendors we used for the horse project.
They are a trusted partner and I am 100% confident in their mission and professionalism. I will be working closely with 12Hours while here to identify potential future projects.
Donations can be made on their secure website using a credit card. Funds can also be electronically transferred.
Is this a departure from your art practice?
Perhaps but not likely. My art practice has always involved traveling, researching and submerging myself in new places and situations. My practice has always been observation based and reflective of what I discover. This will just be a more intense and focused period of time.
My work has consistently dealt with environmental and conservation issues.
I will be having a solo exhibition at Prizer Arts & Letters in Austin in October.
Will you have time to make art?
I hope so but I need to prioritize the course content. I will be shooting video and images. I also have a sketchbook packed. I am confident this experience will inform future work but how much will be completed while here is tbd.
Why are you doing this?
Why not? Wouldn’t you want to?