“My name is Shaun, I’m a student from Scotland. I chose to come to Nieu Bethesda as it reminded me of back home in a way, with the sheep and the hills, but with the Karoo culture and nature it was clear that I was in a foreign country.

The work here was pretty varied; in the evenings, if tourists were having dinner in the hall, I’d be at the bar serving up drinks and talking to folks about what they were doing here and about Scotland. I think the thing that surprised people the most was that Scotland’s hills aren’t that green, they’re more reddish-brown or similar to here. I remember one guy asking me, “we’re heading there in November, the weather is nice then, ja?” I wouldn’t say I rained on his parade; subjected it to a torrential downpour is a more accurate metaphor. In all seriousness, though, it was nice to talk to them about what they thought of Nieu Bethesda and, for those who had been, Scotland – I was a bit surprised by how many had. There was a time when I gave a future business student advice on uni life, and being able to speak French came in handy with one family.

I’d usually go hiking in the afternoon, after a bit of computer work in the mornings, work that could include adding up invoices and collecting payments, printing off signs and stickers, getting a bulk email campaign set up and rebooting Ganora’s Instagram account and Airbnb listings. Tasks were not always glamorous; the mailing campaign required mailing lists of a certain length, which took a while given that we’d been sent so many, the way Airbnb’s system is set up proved a little confusing for everyone, and it was tax season – need I say more? But, they had to be done, and they along with more diverting tasks taught me quite a few things that will come in handy at business school.

I had brought along a zoom lens (Nikon DS3400 55-300 mm for anyone who’s wondering) and often used this to get photos of the farm’s wildlife, something which Hester and JP are highly passionate about but usually don’t have the right equipment to photograph. Spotting wildlife is never easy and the Karoo is no exception. I had to use methods such as investigating every rustle in the bushes (usually just a sheep), immediately locking onto any sign of movement and taking a closer look through the bino’s at any funny looking “bush”. My hikes could also turn into scouting missions, looking for lost calves or dead lambs – on that note, one time I managed to spot a jackal in the grass, no doubt the perpetrator of what had been happening. There were also a couple of times when JP and Hester (and one of the staff once) graciously took me out in the bakkie, into the hills or onto a nearby game farm, and one can never go wrong here; it is amazing how close animals will let you get when you’re not on foot, as I’m sure any hunter or safari guide will tell you.

Some of these photos are already on Instagram, but here’s a selection if you missed them. I won’t have much time in SA after I leave here; just Cape Town and Kruger, and then it’s back to rainy old Scotland, where our summers are what you South Africans would call winter! I do wish Hester, JP, Louis, the Jack Russells and the staff all the best for the future and highly recommend staying here, or volunteering if you have some more time!

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

P.S. Bubbles was the only one of Ganora’s rehabilitated animals I was able to find. The Three Musketeers and Helen weren’t saying hello at any point, hopefully they’re doing OK out there. Otherwise, it’s the circle of life, as they say.”

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