Sunday, July 12, 2009

Travelling and Enviro update

First off, Tuesday is my Grandpa's birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA! Sorry I can't be home to say it in person!

Also, I missed the 3-Amigo Birthdays in Southampton this weekend – hope everyone had a blast, as per usual. Happy birthday Kyle!

Ahhh there is so much that has happened in these last 2 very busy weeks! To save you a long post and to save me from all the typing, I’m just going to briefly tell you what’s been going on – for any more detail, you’ll have to wait until I get home!

From July 30 – August 5, some of the WUSC volunteers and I travelled up to Maun and Shakawe on a Cultural Hike Trail. We drove all the way, which took over 13 hours, but the travels were definitely worth it. I started the trip off being pretty sick and running a fever of 103 F, but I went to the doctor who prescribed me some meds and I was better within 2 days.

Our first big stop was the Tsodilo Hills. These are 4 famous hills found in the north west part of the country. We began by visiting a small community who sold jewellery to make a living. Without getting into much detail, this was by far the most obvious poverty I have seen since living in Botswana. There were naked babies covered with flies, women with no teeth, huts with no doors and just an overall sense of scarcity. Given all that, the mood of the community was positive, the people were full of smiles and you couldn’t see any desperation in their eyes. I still felt uncomfortable there though. After buying some jewellery, we headed for the hills. We climbed the female hill (the second largest of the 4) because it is full of ancient rock art. That night we camped out in Shakawe and slept to the sounds of hippos outside our tent all night.

The next day we crossed the Okavango River and began our cultural hike. We took many modes of transportation: car, ferry, walking, donkey cart ride and mokoro boats! We were able to have traditional San food while watching San dancing and camping in the middle of the bush. On the mokoro trip, we were instructed to keep a watchful eye for crocodiles and hippos, which was quite nerve-racking! We even had the chance to play with some local children and taught them some games. It was hilarious playing with them because anytime one of us would say anything, the group would roar with giggles and laughter!

On the way home from Shakawe, we got into an accident with someone who was swerving to avoid a pothole in the road. Then we arrived in Maun and decided to go on a safari in Moremi National Park. The safari was more than successful – we had close encounters with elephants, hippos and giraffes, were able to see a huge variety of antelope, saw zebra and jackals and watched lions feeding on an antelope. We even got a little too close to an elephant which was not happy to be surprised by us and we thought he was going to charge us! Then on the way home from the park, the safari truck’s brakes failed and we went smashing into a cow that was crossing the road at the wrong time.

Needless to say, the trip was an amazing experience and I have been told by locals that I have truly seen the country. Since we arrived late from the trip, I spent the night at my boss’s house and my Monday using the Internet. I was tired from the trip and had a long day at the house. After seeing some pictures that my sister had posted of her summer, I was actually feeling a little homesick, missing my family and friends. On my way back to Mochudi, I was in a pretty bad mood – I was feeling like I might be getting sick again, I was stressing over all the work I have left to do and details regarding the community cleanup. I was tired and grumpy and just wanted to head to bed when I opened the front door to my home and found my host mom greeting me with a huge smile! She was excited to see me, told me to sit down and that she was all ears to hear about my trip. It made me feel so much better right away and reminded me about how much I owe this experience to the amazing people I live and work with.

Just this past week we had the environmental seminar for the kids on Wednesday and the community cleanup yesterday. Both were a huge success and the collaboration with Stepping Stones and Someralang Tikologo was very appreciated by both organizations, WUSC and the community. There were over 70 people who came out to participate in the cleanup and all were provided BBQ meet, garden salad, pap and chakalaka. I feel very proud of Ruby and my efforts to put together the workshop and cleanup. I think it was more than well received from the community and everyone had fun participating.

And now I sit here panicking, thinking about next weekend: the 150km YCARE walk! I definitely feel like I am not prepared to do 8 hours of hiking through the desert in Botswana for 3 days straight. Thanks to everyone who was able to donate to me. I was able to find a sponsor in Gaborone, Bokomo, who was willing to make up for the funds I wasn’t able to raise. They have given me some T-Shirts and hats to wear during the walk so I advertise their products, which is awesome! They are even providing me with energy bars for the walk.

This week I am working with the students on their art design that they will paint on the walls. I will let you know how that, and how the walk, goes next week! Wish me luck!

Go Siame,


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