Lions, Great White Sharks and Johnny Pines

In section H, we believe that everyone’s goal at HBS should be to visit as many continents as possible. To get us started, over winter break a group of HBS students, led by the esteemed Jonathan Pines traveled to South Africa to experience the summertime beauty of Cape Town and the pristine wonders of a safari.

The genesis of the trip was an email sent out to Section H by our South African sectionmate, the aforementioned Mr. Pines, in the middle of November. He mentione,d “A few people have expressed interest in visiting South Africa in December and January. I am going to Cape Town then.” This sounded intriguing. Reading on: “December is also a very exciting time to be in Cape Town—it is summer holidays and the beaches and streets are packed and there is a great vibe. Most of my friends will be there.” Just in case the potential fun factor wasn’t clear, he concluded: “It might be an idea for a few of us to hire a house on the beach where we could have parties, barbecues, our own swimming pool, Jacuzzi etc.” That’s exactly what we did and it was fabulous. For the record, our house had three swimming pools.

The crew featured such HBS all-stars as Mike Nally (NH), Amy Rabinowitz (NH), Dave Schlendorf (NH), Ethan Baron (NH), Ed Smith (NH), Susan Dunn (NB), Shar Matin (NB), Jess Luterman (NC) and Julian Coulter (NG). Rounding out the group were Luke Burns, a Sloanie known to many in the RC and Matt Oak as the token New Yorker.
Notably, the day we arrived in Capetown, the Financial Times ran an article about how the South African Rand was the worst performing currency of the last year. This early introduction to BGIE bestowed considerable purchasing power on the dollars burning a proverbial hole in our pockets. And after a term of practice, we were able to cut a wide swath indeed on the Capetown scene. A large New Year’s party at our house with over 150 of our new friends capped our efforts. We also toured the South African wine country, and visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement were imprisoned for many years. We even chartered a boat to see great white sharks up close. Yes, there was an underwater cage attached to the boat and yes, we went in it.

The odyssey concluded with a safari at a game reserve on the South Africa/Botswana border. Heartwarmingly, this area is known as a “high risk malaria red zone” so our group was heavily armed with an assortment of pills courtesy of UHS’ finest. We spent two days driving through the bush in a land rover in hot pursuit of lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos. From the breathtaking splendor of one of the brightest night skies in the world to the grace of a herd of impalas traveling in seeming unison across the clearings, it was Mother Nature at her finest.

The trip ended on an amusing note. After all, what holiday abroad would be complete without a run-in with the law? Now let me ask you this: if you are driving on a remote highway in a country with a history of rural carjackings and someone runs onto the road and tries to flag you down as you are speeding right at them, what scenario comes to mind? Yeah us too-so we upshifted, changed lanes and blew by the guy. Unfortunately this particular uncouth bandit turned out to be a police officer keenly interested in giving us a speeding ticket. We were traveling in two cars but he only pulled over one at a tollbooth. He was greeted by the effusive Shar Matin who managed to talk his way out of a visit to the police station while somehow refraining from offering some unsolicited advice on how the officer might improve workplace safety by not standing in the middle of the highway.

Thankfully, we all arrived safely back in the U.S. jet lagged but enriched by a beautiful country that offered us a unique lifetime experience. We were particularly cheered when, after an Air France baggage handlers strike, our bags elected to join us several weeks later. But in all seriousness, Jonathan Pines did an amazing job of leading the group and all of us would like to thank him again for all of his hard work and preparation. May all of you have someone in your section as generous and fun as our boy Johnny.