Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ILSSO: South Africa

ILSSO.  18 days, 44 hours of total flying and one amazing country: South Africa.  Just recently, PJ, Travis, Madi, Sam and I, along with 71 other state FFA officers were able to attend the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (otherwise known as ILSSO).  We spent just over two weeks in the beautiful country of South Africa learning about South African agriculture and international trade between our country and theirs.

When people ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, it is so hard to pinpoint just one moment.  The scenery, the people, the farms, other ILSSO travelers, the food… There are so many great memories from this experience and I would like to highlight a few.

Protea flowers
1    The farms.  We traveled across the sea as agricultural students and really took the opportunity to learn more about agriculture while we were there.  Overall, we visited 15 different farms.  They ranged from dairy, maize, and potato farms to Protea (their national flower), wine, and mango farms.  I loved seeing how farming had many similarities along with many differences compared to what we have here in America. It was also great to see how much pride and passion each farmer had in what they had created. 
Ready for the game drive with our Nebraska friends!
     The safari game drive.  This was an experience all in itself.  We were able to go on 4x4 jeeps and see some of the coolest animals South Africa has to offer. It was pretty surreal to be so close to wild zebras, giraffes, springbok (their national animal), rhinos, water buffalo and so much more.  We even got out of our jeep and chased down a cheetah! (I know this sounds crazy but trust me, we actually did it!)

Blyde River Canyon
      The views.  You know when you look in a magazine or see a photo online of a spectacular and beautiful place? That’s what you see in South Africa.  The diverse landscape kept me in awe of its’ beauty for the entire two weeks.  From the Blyde River Canyon to Cape Point, I often found myself speechless because of how great this earth is.

The people.  We had the chance to visit the village of Kayamandi.  Kayamandi faces many struggles such as improper housing and access to basic necessities.  However, the biggest thing I noticed while I was there was the smile on everyone’s faces.  Children danced in the streets and their laughs could be heard from blocks away. The hospitality and the warm welcome from everyone in this community was so humbling.  It really showed how in a country filled with poverty, if you have a family that loves you and a few good friends, you are much richer than you think.

ILSSO was an experience of a lifetime.  We were able to learn so much and make so many lifelong connections.  I learned that the passion and pride for what you do doesn’t fade when you leave the United States.  It was so incredible to go on the other side of the world and meet people who are just as passionate about agriculture as I am.  It really shows how agriculture across the world is tied together and Together We can feed the world. 

Thank you to Shane Jacques, Cindy Hefner, to all of our sponsors and everyone that made this experience possible!

Stationed by the plow (literally, I found a plow while I was there!!),

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