Updated 3 p.m. ET, Saturday
MADIKWE GAME RESERVE, South Africa —
The first big game that Michelle Obama and her family happened on here was an elephant.
It was a young buck only meters from the two open-air off road vehicles she and her entourage of security and aides sat in.
It was an unusual sighting, the family’s guide said Saturday. Elephants are rarely in the particular area of the sprawling park that the Obama family spotted them. They do not like the taste of the brush in the western region of the park. The soil is full of tannins and it makes the brush bitter to the elephant’s palate.
The sighting lasted only a few seconds. The first lady and her family, including daughters Sasha and Malia, mother Marian Robinson, and niece and nephew Leslie and Avery Robinson, were on their way to a photo opp with the press traveling.
As they ooohhhed and awwwwed at the elephant, a photographer and video camera man approached hurriedly hoping to get a shot of the first family looking at the elephant.
The first lady’s game reserve guide saw the press moving toward them on foot and called out: “It is dangerous for you to be out here.”
The photographer and camera man turned to run. The young elephant did the same.
“The press scared the elephant,” the first lady said.
Her aides erupted in laughter, said the first lady’s communications director Kristina Schake.
Aside from hippos, elephants are the most dangerous animals in the reserve. If spooked, they begin to run and trample anything in its path.
After the frightened young elephant ran away from the first family, they posed for a picture quickly then headed back to their vehicle.
It was a bright, crisp day. The family returns to Washington on Monday.
“Let’s see the animals,” Obama said with a smile as her vehicle drove away quickly into the brush to hunt more big game.
Updated 11 a.m. ET, Friday
GABORONE, Botswana — After meeting with HIV infected teens at a clinic here, the first lady headed to Sanitas Tea Garden, a place known a the “green diamond of Botswana.”
The garden contains an array of plants and colorful pots. Some of the the plants are used in organic ingredients in its lunch offerings.
Michelle Obama ate a healthy lunch there after speaking with a group of 23 young women and their mentors and family members.
She told the women that their country embodies a “vision of Africa on the move.” The remarks were similar to those she gave in Soweto earlier this week.
Obama also met this afternoon with President Ian Khama, a session that ran about 40 minutes. Her staff referred to it as a “courtesy call.”
6:55 a.m. ET Friday
GABORONE, Botswana — Michelle Obama arrived in Botswana Friday morning. She was greeted with a traditional welcome by 25 children ages 6 to 18, who wore costumes of hide and what looked like zebra skin and shells around their ankles. They clapped and danced, and sang “Obama Ye-Le-Le”. Another 50 children waved U.S. And Botswana flags.
The weather here is chilly but sunny — quite a bit more pleasant than Cape Town.
Her first stop was the Botswana-Baylor Adolescent Centre of Excellence. There she joined the center’s “Teen Club” completing a mural at the construction site that will become the adolescent center.
The center is affiliated with Baylor University’s Pediatric AIDS initiative, which has been part of a successful effort to stop the spread of HIV from mothers to their unborn children. Such transmissions have been virtually eliminated, said Michelle Gavin, who recently became the Ambassador of Botswana.
“There’s been tremendous progress made and great challenges,” Gavin said. “Virtually every person in this country who needs anti-retrovirals is getting them.”
The Teen Clubs are a kind of support program for HIV-infected children and teens affected by the virus. Some of them have lost their parents to the disease. The kids are considered survivors. Over 80 percent of children with HIV don’t live past the age of six. The center at Baylor here provides treatment for 4,000 children with HIV/AIDS and their families. It started in 2003.
“I enjoy painting murals,” she said to one of the teenagers painting with her. “It’s therapeutic.”
What Obama may not have known is that the teen center she had come to support does not have the money it needs to complete construction. Aside from the wall she painted, it is dirt and a small unfinished building.
The first lady’s visit “will help lead to some more donations,” said Bostwana based Peace Corps volunteer Peter Butzen, who assists Teen Club.
The first lady began the day in an orange suit paired with a graphic belt but changed into a more casual outfit for the mural painting for which she wore a heather gray top, gray slacks with paint splatters and gray converse.
Her next stop in Botswana is a women’s leadership lunch, continuing the theme of empowering young women.
6:05 a.m. ET, Friday
GABORONE, Botswana -- First lady Michelle Obama met media maven friend and political supporter Oprah Winfrey on Tuesday evening in South Africa, a White House aide said. The two women were visiting the country at the same time. Winfrey, who has a school for girls in the country, is receiving an honorary degree from a local university. Their meeting was closed to the press and first reported by Reuters.
Obama is now in Botswana. She departed Friday morning.
9:34 p.m. ET, Thursday
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — One of the first efforts Michelle Obama launched in the East Wing was a mentoring program for young women to drive home her message that success requires hard work. This week, Obama took that message to Africa for the first time.
At the mid-point of her tour of South Africa and Botswana, the first lady has heard the uplifting stories of young women who have overcome the odds. She met with one of the first black academics to earn a PhD in South Africa, several of the nation's Rhodes scholars and the creator of a micro-finance institution in Senegal.
But she has not met with many women like Promise Mootle, a 22-year-old single mother. Like nearly half of young black women in South Africa, Mootle is unemployed and her prospects are bleak, a situation that has led to despair in some communities.
2:09 p.m. ET, Thursday
Following a stop at The Kitchen, a cafe in Cape Town’s Woodstock neighborhood, Michelle Obama and her daughters paid a visit to former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Thursday. The Obamas met the Nobel Peace Prize-winner at the city’s new soccer stadium, which was built for last year’s World Cup tournament. The 55,000-seat stadium was the stage for a program to spread the word about HIV/AIDS and to encourage young South Africans to use sports to stay healthy.
“What do you feel? How are you feeling being here?” the archbishop asked the first lady, according to a pool report. Gesturing to her two daughters, a niece and a nephew, “It’s not about us now, it’s about them,” Obama replied.
At one point, Obama and Tutu dropped to the ground and did push-ups. Watch:
5 a.m. ET, Thursday
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — First Lady Michelle Obama will not visit Robben Island on Thursday as planned because of high winds and rough waters.
Aides said Obama was looking forward to the trip, where she was planning to tour the cell where South African icon Nelson Mandela was held for part of the 27 years he was imprisoned.
Obama and her family would have been given a tour of the prison by a former inmate who served time while Mandela was there for opposing apartheid.
Instead, she is touring District Six Museum, which pays homage to the history of a sector of Cape Town. The District, which was established in 1870s as a racially mixed area, was forcibly segregated in the 1970s.
Non-whites were removed to barren outlying areas.
2 p.m. ET, Wednesday
Standing behind a lectern in a church that was a hub for anti-apartheid leaders, first lady Michelle Obama asked young South Africans to use their history to inspire modern activism.
Addressing a crowd at Regina Mundi Church, she focused on 76 women from South Africa and 24 other nations brought together for a forum sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Obama called the struggle for racial equality “the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation,” she said. “And all of you – the young people of this continent – you are the heirs of their blood, sweat, sacrifice and love.”
Obama, who is here for a weeklong visit, has embraced this nation’s political and racial history since arriving Monday night.
After meeting former president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, she described him in an interview with reporters as looking well. “He looked happy. He looked upright,” she said. “I’m still trying to process it. It was very surreal.”
Visiting Mandela and his extended family was like “going home,” she said.
Obama also seemed emotional as she spoke at the church, its walls still marred by bullet holes from 35 years ago, when officials tried to stamp out an uprising among children opposed to apartheid.
Prior to the speech, Obama was introduced by Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, as “queen of our world,” a play on the latin translation of Regina Mundi.
“We welcome you as a daughter of African heritage,” Machel said.
Obama told the audience that Africa’s youth have an important role to play.
“You can be the generation that makes the discoveries and builds the industries that transform our economies,” she said.
Obama continued her day with a service project, harvesting carrots at a community garden in Soweto, a sprawling mixed-income section of the city. Obama also attended small groups that were part of the forum for young women, which ranged from the need for child care for working women to domestic violence at schools. She interjected only to nod or give an affirmative finger snap with the young women, who use the snaps to show their approval.
“I’m just here to listen,” Obama said.
12:11 p.m. ET, Tuesday
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The first lady and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, made a stop Tuesday at the Emthonjeni Community Center in Johannesburg. While there, the Obamas took some time to read Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” to a group of South African children.
Here is the full text of Michelle Obama’s remarks to the children, as released by the White House:
MRS. OBAMA: So we brought a gift. We brought you lots of books, some of my favorite books, some of the President’s favorite books, some of Malia and Sasha’s favorite books. But we wanted to read one of our favorite books.
This is called “The Cat in the Hat.” Do you want to hold it up? “The Cat in the Hat.” I used to read this book to Malia and Sasha all the time when they were little. I don’t know if they remember. But we’re -- all three of us are going to read it.
It’s about a little boy and a little girl who are home all day by themselves, and it was raining outside, and they were very bored, and they got a visitor that wasn’t invited. And he caused a lot of interesting stuff to go on.
Okay, you ready? Malia, take it away.
(The First Lady, Malia and Sasha read “The Cat in the Hat.”
8:30 a.m. ET, Tuesday
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — First lady Michelle Obama met briefly with former South African president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday as she opened a week-long tour of South Africa and Botswana.
Obama has said she hopes to inspire young adults during her visit here, but she herself seemed inspired as she came away from the visit to Mandela and his foundation.
The talk with Mandela, the nation’s first black president and patriarch of racial equality here, took place at his home. Mandela, who at 92 is not often seen in public, was not on Obama’s official schedule.
She and her family, including her mother, daughters, niece and nephew, went to the home with Mandela’s wife Graca Machel.
This is Obama’s second solo official foreign visit and her schedule is jam-packed. She will visit the jail cell where Mandela was held on Robben Island and a medical clinic in Garbone, Botswana, and will give a keynote speech at a church in Soweto that served as a hub for the movement against apartheid, South Africa’s system of racial subjugation. Obama is scheduled to stop in four cities in six days.
After a quiet arrival late Monday, the first lady awoke early Tuesday for a day of meetings with South African dignitaries and historical remembrances of the nation’s racial struggles.
The events are an attempt to adapt the mentoring and wellness programs that Obama has honed in the U.S. to an international audience, while also engaging in official business. Her past visits to Mexico, on her first solo official visit last year, and trips to England and India with the president have struck similar themes.
She began the day with a meeting with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, one of the three wives of South African President Jacob Zuma, at the presidential mansion in Pretoria. Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist and polygamist who has been criticized by advocates of women’s rights here, was not present.
Obama spent more time and appeared more relaxed with Machel, Mandela’s wife and the former first lady of Mozambique.
Machel took Obama’s arm as she and her family toured through a selection of archives, including calendars that Mandela kept while he was imprisoned. She said, simply, “wow,” as she looked at a letter he wrote to his supporters from prison.
A few South Africans lined the residential streets around Mandela’s home shouting “Welcome to South Africa” as Obama’s motorcade passed through.
Zoom in and click the icons on the map below to view photos from the trip.
First lady Michelle Obama’s official visit to South Africa and Botswana this week will focus on engaging African youth and paying tribute to the cultural heritage and political struggles of both countries.
Her schedule includes a hearty mix of public events, visits with local consulate officials and tourism, and The Washington Post will be on the ground with her to provide you live coverage.
Obama will be accompanied by her daughters, Malia and Sasha, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, on the five-day goodwill tour that will take her from a meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela’s wife to a safari in a Botswana game resort.
We’ll have tweets and pictures throughout the week here, along with a robust package of stories. Follow me on Twitter for the latest.
See a partial run down of the first lady’s itinerary below.
The first lady’s itinerary:
June 21: Meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma’s wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma in Pretoria; visit to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
June 22: Obama delivers keynote address to a U.S. sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum in Soweto.
June 23: Meeting with U.S. consulate employees in Cape Town; visit to Robben Island, where former President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned; remarks to young people attending a workshop at the University of Cape Town.
June 24: Meeting with Botswana President Ian Khama; visit to the Botswana Children’s Clinic Center of Excellence Teen Club.
June 25: Meeting with U.S. Embassy employees in Gaborone, Botswana; family safari
Follow the conversation on Twitter: