Alexandra Haass
Alexandra Haass
South Africa 2012-2013
"The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine (1737-1809) Read More About Alexandra →

Mpumalanga: A weekend in the African bush pt. 2

Saturday October 20, 2012

The knock on our door at 5:00 am came quickly and unfortunately it was still storming so our drive was cancelled until further notice. However, because we were the only ones young and stupid enough to get ready anyways when it did clear up it was only the four of us who went on the drive and thank god we did.... When we got in the jeep Antone, our driver, asked what we wanted to see. We replied the “Big Five”, which refers to the five animals (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and water buffalo) that are the most difficult in Africa to hunt on foot. It is very rare to see them, let alone ALL of them. Antone scoffed and replied “What else do you want to see?” But sure enough...

First, we spotted 4 female lions who had just fed on a zebra and actually caught scent of another herd and set up to attack while we were there, but the zebras caught scent of them and ran off.


Our trackers then noticed leopard prints in the road that was muddy from the rain. Then imagine the toughest iSpy game challenge ever, and our spotter Thomas reigned champion when he spotted the leopard through his binoculars. We drove up to the tree she was resting in and we then later followed her down the road. She came SO CLOSE when I was filming her stride by our car I could have extended my arm and touched her.



Elated by our luck, we all agreed that we could see nothing else and still go home happy. But apparently we all had lots of good karma in our banks because it doesn’t stop there, and at this moment we turn the corner to be greeted by two water buffalo. The last animal we needed to see to be able to say we saw the big five.


WE COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! This weekend was turning out to be everything we hoped for and more in spite of the poor weather. Ironically, we were instructed not to say anything at breakfast so as not to make the other guests jealous. Good thing I don’t suck at poker, but I’m still glad there wasn’t money on the table.

The afternoon was spent dozing in and out of consciousness by the pool and staring out into the bush in awe, with now a slightly better comprehension of what the term “wildlife” actually means.

Come four o’clock it was time for our evening game drive. My expectations were low- weather was rolling in and nothing could top this morning, I was okay with that. Well apparently lions are extremely lazy creatures sleeping 18-20 hours a day so sure enough the four females we had seen earlier were about 20m from where we saw them last. Knowing glances were exchanged between ourselves and the tracker, pretending we had seen them for the first time.


We then were radioed that a leopard was spotted not far from where we were... Huh, imagine that? What we didn’t know was that after plowing down some trees to get there, we would come upon our friend from earlier lunch tied in the tree as well. Apparently right after we left her she killed this impala to feed on for her and her cub. Amazing how something like an impala being tied in a tree by its intestines (sorry too much info?) could be so beautiful!


Anthon, our guide, could not believe our luck and we couldn’t either. We started joking that he had the power to find anything we wanted to see. Josh asked to see giraffes. Anthony says- we will try tomorrow they can actually be harder to find than lions. We turn the corner to have our sundowner (drinks and appetizers) and what do we see? Yep. We had our sundowner surrounded by giraffes.

“What else do you want to see?!” proclaimed Anthon.
“Male lions?” I asked.
Now that is a seemed like it as we drove through the pouring rain in the dark... But nope.
Driving down the road we see a female start to emerge from the bush, then 2...3..4, a male! 5..6, another male! 7... I was speechless. A pride of SEVEN lions just emerged from the bush, 2 of them males, and they were walking RIGHT NEXT TO OUR JEEP! Was this seriously happening to me?



Heads down the lions trudged through the rain and the mud as we followed them in disbelief... Until we had to go help another jeep who got stuck in the mud.

That evening was spent reminiscing, enjoying the wonderful South African food, and traditional African song and dance performed by some of the ladies at the lodge.

Sunday October 21,2012
The next morning our animal viewing luck finally ran out, but half the fun really is driving in an open vehicle in the fresh air and middle of nowhere with only nature surrounding you. We were sad to leave the lodge when we left, but we left humbled and thankful for the experience.

On the way back to Joburg we chose to take the panorama route where more beauty awaited, the Pinnacle outlook being my favorite. A canyon filled with white butterflies against a deep green and grey backdrop fluttering around. The view was majestic. To give you a slight idea, think the scenery of The Lord of the Rings, and no that is not an excessive analogy because this canyon actually was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagery.

This was our last stop before the airport. Overwhelmed by everything we each split off, to spend time alone in our own heads and this thought ran through my head. An amazing thought actually, to look off into the horizon (whether it be driving through the countryside, in bush having a cup of coffee, standing at the edge of a waterfall, or driving into a lightening storm) and observe what the world was like a thousand years ago. We all know the wild exists, but to experience just a fraction of it was a privilege. I’d be lying if I said that I now understand it, but my trip to Sabi Sands forced me to step back and acknowledge that the world will exist without us and no matter what... Mpumalanga, the sun always rises. And that is a wonderful thing.


Mpumalanga: A weekend in the African bush pt. 1

Mpumalanga:the place where the sun rises

Last weekend I ventured 1,864km from my bustling city life in Cape Town all the way north and across the country to Sabi Sands Game Reserve adjacent to the infamous Kruger National Park in the Mpumalanga province with my friends Lauren, Josh, and Colin.


As you can see, physically it was quite the trek (keep in mind South Africa is 3x the size of Texas!) As seems to be the trend these past few months, once again, South Africa slapped me across the face with humility, respect, and awe. There is so much I want to illustrate as part of this post so I can communicate the experience to you effectively, but also so I can personally reflect and document vividly as well. Therefore, I have decided to split this post up into a couple installments. I hope you check back soon to enjoy the whole story!

Friday October 19, 2012

As you all know I am a gem in the morning so you won’t be surprised when I say I literally rolled out of bed at 4:45am in what I planned to wear on the plane, brushed my teeth and caught a taxi to the airport to catch our 6:10am flight to Johannesburg.


After a much needed 2 hour siesta we rented a car, stocked up on road trip necessities (coffee, chips, dried beef and fruit) and we were off! I drove us the whole 7 hrs. since I am the only one able to drive a standard car. And let’s be honest I learned from my dad how to save and that everyone else on the road is a moron except for me so it was only natural that we save money on the car and I volunteer to drive. Josh was my co-pilot, Colin was the official documenter with his GoPro, and Lauren looked pretty and was the dj for our sing-a-long sessions. Our car, which was later named “Yoshi” was clearly the cheapest option available. In addition to its small size, the clutch and accelerator often would stick so I would have to use my toes to pull them back out. In addition, Yoshi’s horsepower was the equivalent of a three year old on a tricycle, but he got us there and back safely so there are no complaints!


Driving through the beautiful country side of South Africa shed light on how diverse and beautiful this country is and it seemed the farther and farther that we traveled from Cape Town the more and more I surrendered myself to it. The rolling hills, bright red dirt, small farmers, winding roads, canyons, informal traders... The vibrancy of the culture and scenery poured into the windows of our tiny car and lifted us all to a level of excitement we could not contain.

Finally, when we rolled up to the gates of the Sabi Sand game reserve we couldn’t hold it any longer and we had to celebrate our arrival to the broadway version of “Circle of Life” (come on we are grown ups, the Disney version was so 1990). Then as if hitting play made our presence known, as Yoshi climbed over the first hill we found our route blocked by a giraffe! Not like the ones that I fed at the Colorado Springs zoo as a kid, BUT A WILD GIRAFFE! Ear to ear smiles, screams, and off tune belts of it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all totally happened.


Upon arrival at the Nkhoro Bush Lodge, our day only got better. Welcomed by a very friendly staff we luckily made it just in time for the evening game drive. We hopped into the open jeep and were able to add elephants (of which you could see from the lodge at the watering hole), white rhinos, zebras, springbok and more giraffes to our list!





The game drive is followed by a wonderful traditional dinner, reflection of the day, and then exhausted we were all soothed to sleep by a miraculous thunderstorm that boomed throughout the bush and poured rain that pattered rhythmically against our thatched roof.

Rocking the Daisies

“When I was a girl, favorite thing in the whole wide world was to see a field and run for no reason...the sky is blue, blue for no reason.” – Bonnie Raitt

October 4-7 Cloof Wine Estate, Darling

This post is slightly outdated but I have to catch up on some of my goings on because I have a few epic ones to come that I don’t want to overshadow the also wonderful experiences that occurred earlier in the month. This particular account will recall the AWESOME weekend that was Rocking the Daisies (arial photo above). Just think the South African Lollapalozza, or Woodstock for those of you born circa 1989, basically four days of sunshine, camping, fun loving people, great food and drinks, dancing, no showers, and MUSIC! So much awesome live music, my ears literally were in paradise.

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It was so great to spend a weekend away from the city and just be surrounded by beautiful music, scenery, and people. I really felt like I was able to completely bring my mind into the present to fully enjoy the experience, neglect all worries or thoughts that existed in reality and be carefree. At Rocking the Daisies things didn’t need to be justified by reason, they were perfect just the way they were.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves here. To my fellow music lovers check out the following names if you know what is good for you:
– Jeremy Loops- a looping genius that brought the house down. Also my friends boss at Greenpop. He likes to plant trees too!
– Black Handed Kites
– Goldfish
– Black Handed Kites
– Desmond and the Tutus
– Pascal & Pierce










Travel with a purpose

(Photo credit to Nico Pascaral)

resəˈpräsətē| noun
“the practice of exchanging ideas, goods or services between two entities for their mutual benefit”

To everyone at home who is under the impression that I am galavanting all over South Africa having a marvelous time... You are right. It is my fault, however, that this is probably your only impression. A bad excuse as to why this is my first time writing about my internship is that I still am trying to wrap my head around the massive black hole that is “inclusive business”. Prior to arriving in Cape Town my perception of “inclusive business” was defined by “social entrepreneurship” and the Triple Bottom Line model (people,planet,profit). But, that was just the tip of the iceberg. A lesson learned from the UNDP report that we have been writing that dissects these concepts in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. With a general understanding of social entrepreneurship many of us think of brands such as: Toms shoes or Warby Parker sunglasses, or really any of those products that you can buy where a small percentage of the profits goes to a social or environmental cause.

First off,the players involved in this system are not just trendy brands but also, policy makers, NGOs,multinational corporations, think tanks, researchers, academics, consultancy firms.... The list goes on. And this is the general idea- there are over 4 billion people that live at the base of the socio-economic pyramid (BoP) that are currently not formally included in developed economies. But what if they were? What if multinational companies like SABMiller, PepsiCo, Nestle, Colgate, molded there business models to include these 4 billion people in their supply chains, distribution channels, and consumer base? Well by empowering the BoP through employment in supply, whether it be agribusiness or textiles or manufacturing etc., you improve their livelihood by providing a solid source of income. Including the BoP in distribution channels opens up opportunities for further employment and also facilitates entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities. Such improved economic stability then allows for general social development in education, healthcare and housing. Which then opens up a whole new market for these companies to sell their products or services. Companies are always looking for ways to penetrate new markets... Well hello people, there are 4 billion people out there with potential purchasing power that can also help your business do more business along all three tiers!
The idea of Reciprocity.

The concept makes enough sense, and despite the obstacles that have kept this from actually already happening, is still a necessary step that the developed economies of the world have to make. The economic crash of 2008 should be enough to convince you that reform must be made. The road that we are going down is not sustainable and as populations begin to increase, particularly in the BoP, even the developed economies will start to feel the repercussions. Which is why four areas of support for this change must begin to happen:

1) Policy making- governments of developing nations must implement policies that encourage businesses to invest and do business in their countries.

2) Advocacy & Research- think tanks, consultancies, academic institutions must produce and share primary research so that the market of the BoP can be understood. Companies do not implement new initiatives without first understanding the cultures, trends, and obstacles that exist in the marketplace. They are in business to stay in business and have to allocate resources efficiently. If companies understand the BoP they will be less resistant to trying new models in that market.

3) ICT (Information and communication technologies) It can not be argued that our world isn’t becoming more and more connected and reliant on technologies for information and communication. Who reading this doesn’t own an Apple product? Not everyone needs an iPhone, but basic mobile and Internet services will help the BoP immensely.

4) Implementation support- companies need guidance and support while implementing these new projects in developing communities. Language and education barriers, lack of resources and infrastructure, limited funding, all are obstacles that companies are not able, or willing, to take on independently. As they shouldn’t, there are many non-profits and NGOs that already have the skills and connections necessary to make that process more seamless. Transparency in this field, therefore, is key to making these ideas an actual reality.

Now do you see what I mean when I say the idea or “inclusive business” is a black hole? I am sure as you read through this you can come up with holes in this model (partially because I am trying to keep this to the point), but I also hope that you still walk away from your computer screen thinking – “Shit. That actually makes sense”.

Because that my friends is what I think every day I leave my office.

Lucky for me South Africa is a hot spot for inclusive business, social enterprise, sustainable business, triple bottom line models-call it what you will- innovation. It is amazing to go into the townships and see first hand the faces that make up this BoP market I talk about, and then go back to my office and work on the big picture. It’s all for them, and I hope that I find my place in this big picture and figure out how I can contribute in my time here.

Great friends, great adventures

Right before coming to Cape Town, on the annual trip to Casper and Lake Alcova, I came across a children’s book at my Gramma Marj’s house that I picked up to read quickly before bed. I can’t recall the name, but the theme of the story was to teach a young boy what was important in life... deep stuff. I remember reading If You Give A Mouse A Cookie! But the book hit home for me in a major way. So much so that I wrote the final quote on a piece of paper and have been carrying it in my wallet ever since to help me to remember what a privilege it is to be here. The quote reads:

Remember that there is only one important time and that time is now.The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing by your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world!

Whether you are a five year old being read to sleep, a searching 22 year old, or a seasoned 85 year old these words should be lived always. It is imperative to live in the moment to fully experience and enjoy and appreciate where you are, what you are doing, and who you are with. The past couple weeks have been no exception, and I have so loved every moment I’ve enjoyed with new friends in new places. There is always something to do and someone to do it with- never a dull moment. This weekend was no exception (and I use the term weekend loosely because it actually started Wednesday)!

Wednesday: Dinner in Bo Kap at the top of the hill with a beautiful evening view of Table Mountain and Lions Head for some traditional Cape Malay food. The hill to walk up was quite the trek, but very worth it.


Thursday: Connect 123 drink night at Slug & Lettuce. Always great to get together with new people in the group and hear about everyone’s experiences. Then off to Sgt. Peppers for a folk concert. Definitely felt like I was back in Nashville with that hipster vibe (shout out to the Nash crew-miss you all! @santaspubinspirit)

Friday:Joined by my friend Ana, the German girl that I intern with, we hit the town for a long night of dancing and billiards! Some games I held my own, others you wouldn’t believe that I grew up with a pool table in my basement:/

Saturday: Clearly it has been a long and stressful week (I promise I work hard 9-5... Sleep? Not so much.), so obviously the best way to celebrate our friend, Lucy’s, final weekend in Cape Town with a bang was to go on a sunset cruise (no, unlimited champagne had nothing to do with it). An experience that basically sums up Cape Town- spontaneous, beautiful, serene, great company, smiles, unforgettable, thankful. Here are the pictures to prove it:





Sunday: Shark Cage diving is cancelled...again. It was cold and stormy so a lazy start to the day was in order. Modern Family + Cape Town Family = Spooning.


Monday (National Brai Day): We surprise Lucy with a farewell brunch and remind ourselves that there are no “goodbyes” just “see ya laters”. Then a spontaneous trips to Camps Bay to enjoy the afternoon outside, before I head off to Hout Bay to celebrate the national holiday with friends introduced to me by my friend, Brent. Such a generous family to invite me into their home on a holiday. Always great to meet new people, and I hope to do some work with Ali, who runs a pre school and teacher training program in the townships. Full of delicious food and tired from a long “weekend” I then headed back to my flat. I made friends with a cab driver my first week here who drive me to Hout Bay. But unlike my journey to there, I drove the taxi home! I don’t know what is more entertaining, driving on the right side of the car on the opposite side of the road or seeing the confusion, or should I say sheer shock, when at a red light he looked over to see a white girl driving a taxi!





Today: For the third time I randomly contacted a friend of a friend who lives here in Cape Town. So far I am 3 for 3 in meeting some of the nicest people. This time it was Anne Pope, a friend of my dad’s friend, and a Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town. A warm and welcoming women, with an infectious laugh who most clearly was an educator as she engaged me in thoughtful conversation on inclusive business/ social entrepreneurship and then challenged everything I said, making me consider all angles. I definitely enjoyed her company, and look forward to future outings with her soon.

Tomorrow: Work from 9-5 writing a case study and conducting research on how information and communications technologies (ICT) can be utilized to aid sustainable business model that include low income peoples in every element of the supply chain. Then I will go to the university to see a lecture by the man that coined the Triple Bottom Line (profit, planet, people) business model.

I had to end with some proof that I am doing more than just having fun....

...but to be honest it’s all good 🙂

Due to popular demand: a proper update

To all readers at home curious about what I have been doing the past two weeks, I bring you a spark notes version of my new life in Cape Town thus far.

Day 1-2: A looong flight literally across the world. Denver, Colorado to Cape Town, South Africa = 28 hours of travel time.
* Move into 37 Roeland St. Western Cape. The view of the harbor from my room:


Days 3-5: Orientation with the friendly Connect 123 staff (where I learned how to purchase electricity credits and turn on the hot water- amenities I wish I would have figured out the night before when I took a cold shower in the dark!)
* Hop on hop off tour with new friends to get a sense of the city layout and learn about all the must do’s while in the city bowl.
* Dinner at the Waterfront. Thought was to get all of the touristy stuff out of the way.

Day 6: Begin work at Reciprocity. Meet my French bosses, Nico and Pierre, and the other German intern, Ana Jasmine. So far so good!

First Weekend: Cape Town nightlife. Hike Lionshead Mountain. Paraglide! Cape Town nightlife. Sunday braai in nearby township at a butchery called Mzoli’s (details to come when I get pictures to help describe how AMAZING it was)... Enough said, great weekend!



Monday: Won quiz night at a local pub.

Tuesday: Take trip to Khayalitsha, a local township, to speak with an entrepreneur that has successfully built an Internet cafe and computer literacy facility.

Wednesday: A wonderful dinner with a friend of a friend who is from Cape Town. Great food. Great company. Great conversation.

Currently: Enjoying time with new friends and a bottle of wine. Planning many exciting trips to come. Sneak preview: Shark cage diving this Saturday!

I realize this still may fall short of your expectations when looking for an account of my travels. They will get more detailed as I get settled, and I assure you that there will be lots of interesting content to come...

To borrow from my dear friend Brent’s blog (which you should definitely check out here.) living in a new country isn’t easy. Physical orientation, social norms, cultural history, political atmosphere, traffic patterns (or lack there of) all require time, patience, and willingness to adapt all while trying to redefine-or rather- define your place in the larger picture. This is currently the phase of my travels that I am in, but honestly, it is this challenge that inspires me to be here. I am so glad to be in Cape Town, but adaptation takes time. To be uncomfortable in a new place always brings needed growth, appreciation, and modesty. My journey to Cape Town has been no different.

Much love,

We all share roots

I began my journey to South Africa six days ago... I began attempting to write this blog post six days ago. Literally, I have tried to sit down countless times hoping that inspiration would immediately begin to flow through my figure tips, presenting you with a little taste of South Africa that would make you excited to continue reading (and possibly even a little envious). Clearly that was not the case, and I wonder why? I sit. I reflect. I still wonder, why?

Fast forward.

Today I was walking home from work. Focused on getting it right this time, as I got lost yesterday, while still trying to look confident and like I knew where I was going. 1 block, 2 blocks, right turn... doing good... 3 blocks, 4 blocks, 5 blocks... I love this city... 6 blocks, 7 blocks....Madam, madam, please. Lady please...Keep walking...Change lady,please. Anything please... Keep walking, but now there are two. The begging echoes, and they pull on my clothes.Please lady, we don’t want money, take us to the store, we need milk for our baby, we sleep on sidewalk, PLEASE. I break 4 blocks later. They light up, shake my hand, tell me I am beautiful and that they love the USA. I’m a bit nervous, but it is rush hour. I calm down and enjoy conversation with the man (the woman disappeared) while we wait in line for 25 minutes to buy the largest tin of baby formula he could find. It is obvious what I am doing because I am the only white person in a sea of poor black people buying their I learned was payday. We talk of how beautiful his 8 month old daughter is.

Important Quotations:
1) “Today is payday. I sometimes have work washing cars, windows, buildings... no luck this month. But I try not to steal!” and “You have a thick voice!”
2) “We are almost through the line lady. I promise. You looked worried when we came. Where are you going? I will get you back.”
3) The woman appears as we leave the store, “Thank you. I will think of your face every time my baby eats.”

I know where I am, because this area is where I got lost the day before. We part ways. I make it back to my flat safely and undisturbed, but as my mind spins it finally hits me like a slap in the face-I am in Cape Town, South Africa! Different than anywhere I have ever been before. My needed inspiration hit me. Clearly, I am a foreigner here (refer to quote #2), so I was reminded why I am here and what I am really doing. I am here to learn from the people of South Africa.

All of them.