Upon arriving for my 3 month internship, one of the main concerns I had was how to engage with a group of 20+ people whom I had never met and had all been here on base a month prior to my arrival. The one thing that helped me through this greatly was the veranda.
Though on the surface, the veranda appears to be nothing more than a concrete room with a roof and a lot of holes in its walls, for me it has become something far more personal and something of great support for me and other volunteers alike, whether they know it or not. I suppose some clarification would probably help to explain my belief behind this. For the volunteers here we are usually up at about 5am and then on the move through to about 7:30pm. Throughout all this time, the veranda remains a place that anyone can come and relax, discuss and engage with others.
For myself and I’m sure some of the others here, the veranda provides more than just a point for rest (although it really is a great place to have a midday nap!) but support, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Through the use of a communal area, people from all backgrounds and lives are able to come and make real physical bonds and engage with people they would probably never think to get along with outside of the reserve. By having a place to gather and sit with one another we are able to discuss and share interests and hobbies in an open environment where everyday is a new experience. Through this – and spending every hour of the day together – the months here really make the people around you your family abroad, helping to support you and grow with you.
On base, we also have access to a large selection of literature to choose from when we have downtime, and once again the veranda provides excellent facilities with mattress beds to get you comfortable. So even if you wish to drift off to another world or take in some wild life facts, you will still be able to be at the heart of the action and be able to engage with others, while expanding your literary horizons (unfortunately there is a really long queue for the first Game of Thrones book, seeing as we are unable to watch season 6 here!!)
However, even I will admit that every now and then it is nice to get a break from all the madness that goes on here and on my base days when everyone is out in town or on research, I find that the veranda grants me the time to really reflect on things I may have on my mind and work through them, whilst taking in the stunning view from the holes in the wall that we call windows. To be able to come to the veranda on days off and see both the Drakensberg mountains – which loom over the tops of the tree line – and the very wild life we monitor here on the reserve, is an experience that really can’t be explained but an experience that I will keep with me when I make my way back to England.
I don’t feel I would have managed to gel as easily as I have on my internship without the veranda but for you… well you are probably thinking ‘how has this guy managed to write so much rubbish about a concrete room’ but I guess when you are in the middle of the bush, with no family close by and some dodgy internet, you really have a lot of time to see things in a different light and I hope you find your own veranda one day if you haven’t already.
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