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Mickey and Dan's Excellent Adventure (in South Africa!)

The House of D is fast establishing our presence abroad. First, we rode elephants and bamboo rafts in the tropical jungles of Thailand last August. Then, we found ourselves maneuvering snowmobiles over the icy glaciers of Iceland over Columbus Day weekend. Now Spring Break has come and gone, and once again, we found ourselves taking full advantage of the opportunity to embark on an international adventure… this time braving the lions, rhinos and intense part scene of South Africa! The question is, which of those is more dangerous for a group of close to 40 Harvard Business School students about to graduate?

It always helps to have an expert on a country. For this trip, we had two as Mickey Konson and Section E’s Daniel Zinn joined forces to produce a trek that took us through the modern, European architecture in Johannesburg to the rugged safari land on the border of Botswana to the breezy seaside beauty of Capetown. Our business school educated minds were well fed as we ingested South Africa’s economic and political history while visiting monuments and townships in Johannesburg. Then, we discovered that business school has no bearing when you are on the unrefined plains of the Madikwe Game Reserve. Negotiation skills don’t exactly come in handy when a lioness is about to pounce on you to protect her cubs! Believe me, we know. But the ability to adjust quickly to new environments proved its worth as we rapidly became “safari snobs”. Wildebeests and impala were a dime a dozen as we held out for the more exciting citings of giraffes, buffalo and hyena. Our final days in Capetown brought out a while new set of wild animals: penguins, seals, ostriches and one giant eland named Shubert who gets high on nicotine.

Really – if you want to see a big antelope smile, seek Shubert out on your next trip to South Africa. The smaller adventurers of the group were ready to ride ostriches but after hearing that an ostrich brain is smaller than their eyes and the only way to dismount is to get thrown, we settled for a ride in a sky cable car to visit the top of Table Mountain instead. Evenings were spent discovering another type of wild – the wild nightlife on the shores of Capetown. Those who partied with the Zinn brothers stayed up ’til dawn. Those who didn’t ended up braving something far more dangerous than the wildlife at a place called Fez… had to be there.

Interested in hearing section tales of our travels? Ask Marcus Lo about his elephant. Ask Keri Devon about climbing through the window of our room to get the perfect oceanfront view. Ask Patia McGrath what it’s like to get up close and personal with a white rhino (the next Barbara Walters special?). Ask Rachel Carriere whether leopards are more then big, lazy cats. Ask Lori Shoch if she’s mastered the African tribal dance moves after a brilliant display upon our arrival (it’s all about the kick). Ask Jacques Stambouli why he chose the brisk walk up to the top of Cape Point when taking the cable car might have been easier. Ask Greg Vigil how to most effectively spend the last of your rand. Ask Mickey Konson how to keep 40 tourists from Harvard Business School under control (hint: friends from the military who also happen to be expert tour guides and named Roland come in handy). Just don’t ask me about South African wine or riding a rhinoceros in the airport. Some things are better left unsaid!

The spirit of adventure and companionship in old D is becoming so great a phenomenon that this time about 30 fellow adventurers in sections C, E, G and elsewhere joined us. Even new D took the same route to the same destination as we discovered at the airport – essentially turning our flights on South African airways into Section D transports and making South Africa overrun with Harvard Business School graduates for one crowded week. The antelope and zebra didn’t seem to mind, but apparently the lions gave both classes fair warning. But now that we’ve braved the rugged terrains of South African wilderness and nightlife, are we ready to return to the perilous halls of Harvard Business School again? Hard to tell, but if they ever do Survivor: South Africa, we’ll be the first in line.

April 1, 2002
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