Last fall senior Kaiha Harris knew that there was an opportunity for her family to move to South Africa a while before, but it was now within arm’s length.
“Coming to South Africa has been on Kaiha’s ‘most wanted’ list since she was a freshman in high school,”Harris’s mother Leslie said.
Kaiha sat in the stands cheering, as the Lancer soccer team dribbled the ball up the field, when she heard her phone ring. It was her mom calling to tell her that her dad, David Harris, had just gotten back from the job interview and had revealed the good news.
“It was only four days after my 18th birthday,” Kaiha said. “Some people get new cars for their birthdays; I got to move to Africa.”
Life in Petoria
Since Kaiha was able to finish up all of her credit in December before she left for South Africa, she didn’t have to attend school during her four-month trip. During the day, while her dad was out at work, Kaiha and her mom would spend the day together.
They went for walks around Glen Eagle Street, the large gated estate in which they lived. They also went out to buy fresh groceries every day, due to the lack of preservatives in foods. Some weekends, they went shopping in the malls and later baked cookies for David’s co-workers. On the days Kaiha wasn’t babysitting, they were also able to take trips out to the elephant sanctuary.
Hanging with the “Big Five”
Closing her eyes, Kaiha dangled her legs into the Tshkudu Game Lodge’s large pool. She leaned back until she felt something bump up against her. Kaiha opened her eyes to find herself face to face with a cheetah. Incomba, the runt of the cheetah cubs, rubbed up against Kaiha then sprawled out next to her to share the shade.
“That was just truly amazing, sit by the pool in the shade, and hangout with a cheetah,” Kaiha said.
The lodge had a main building with a reception area and dinning room, then five or six separate small guest houses. Paying for a weekend at the game lodge is a package deal; thee meals and two game drives each day.
The Tshkudu Lodge was host to many hand-raised wild animals, primarily Africa’s ‘Big Five’-–Rhinos, lions, water buffalo, elephants and leopards.
“They go into the houses and just hang out, so if you are there you have to keep your doors shut or else they will come into your house,” Kaiha said. “They like the beds.”
Safe and Sound
Along with being well-known for their culture, South Africa is also known for its crime level. Since the Harris family lived on a compound for Mr. Harris’ work, they had a native South African security guard, Ben.
“Because we live in a very secure patrolled and walled-in estate, getting in and out of it requires a passcode and gates. Nothing simple.” Leslie said.
While she was there, Kaiha wore an emergency bracelet around her wrist with a number to call if anything should happen to her.
Driving through the towns is difficult because of the packed 16-passenger taxis that drive haphazardly through the streets. It is also common, even in the busiest of intersections, for natives to be running up to cars begging drivers to buy their goods and baskets full of colorful arts and crafts.
“You are driving in your car like, ‘I really don’t want to hit you right now. I really don’t want to hit you right now,” Kaiha said.
While Kaiha returned home after four months, her parents will continue to live in Africa for another two years, if not longer. The reason Kaiha came back was because after missing Senior Assassins, she was set on walking in graduation and attending her senior prom.
Kaiha also came back to live alone in her house with her brother for the summer so she can continue her summer job as a camp counselor.
“Kaiha is very interested in experiencing the different cultures of the world by living, rather than visiting in foreign countries,” Leslie said.
Kaiha plans on moving and traveling later in life as an international teacher. While her trip to Africa was not Kaiha’s first out-of-the-country (having lived in Singapore freshman year) it gave her a chance to embrace another new culture.
“I fell in love with culture––I love learning about culture and becoming more adventurous.” Kaiha said. “There is more to life than Kansas.”