Location: Maun, Botswana
I still can't upload any pictures here but I've been able to upload a few on facebook... enjoy!
Location: South Africa
After leaving Shorobe we headed straight for Tsodillo Hills, where there are a ton of rock paintings from the Bushmen and their ancestors. After a 6 hour drive across some of the flattest land I've ever been on, the hills came into view, and even though the biggest is a meager 1000ft tall, the hills are sill quite impressive. The geology of them was quite interesting, apparently they are the old cores of volcanoes that have eroded away. We went on a hike and while the the hills have had recent fires the area was gorgeous. Occasionally there would be a neat little painting of a Kudu or a wild dog. After that we headed to a village called Sepopa, which is right on the panhandle of the Okavanko river and delta. The river was 20 km wide at this point and main channels have created a labyrinth built by floating papyrus. The birdwatching was spectacular, with skimmers catching fish at our boat side, yellow billed kites and fish eagles getting into aerial brawls over territory, and the occasional crocodiles basking in the sun. We even got to stop for a while and fish but we didn't catch anything.
After Sepopa we spent an entire day traveling to the other side of the Delta into Moremi Game preserve. We spent three days going on game drives, and completing assignments on animal observation, community ecology, and population dynamics. One day as the sun was setting we came across a pride of Lions enjoying a large buffalo for dinner. I'm amazed at how close we could get; pretty much six lions were within 15 feet of our car, tearing through flesh and bone. These cats so large and powerful... its pretty terrifying but exciting. Sometimes on game drives I feel a bit ridiculous because I'm this white American who has paid lots of money to stalk and annoy wildlife and there are hundreds of other foreigners here taking millions of pictures. Its hard to enjoy the moment at times. However, these feelings are easy to forget, and giraffes chowing down on a lead wood, or a jackal trotting next to our car brings me back to the scene.
We spent Halloween deep in Moremi, but we prepared and brought face paint, a bunch of candy, and some whiskey to celebrate. I dressed up as a Green Beret, with a camo-painted face. Some of the others in the group dressed up as a zebra, red lechwe, Barney the purple dinosaur, and a sausage tree. After Halloween we drove back to Maun to begin preparing for the end of the semester and the beginning of our independent study projects. For the month of November I will be an intern with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. I'll will be studying human wildlife conflict, but to be more specific- How the government is implementing the method of using chili peppers to keep the massive elephant populations away from crops. I believe that if conflict is going to be resolved there needs to be cooperation between the government and farmers. Also wildlife is such a valuable resource to Botswana because of tourism, and I want to see if the locals understand the economic value of a lion or a hyena.
The last thing I want to talk about is the election. Obama is our President elect!! People here pay a lot of attention to American politics because what happens in our country affects the rest of the world. This is something that I don't think is understood very well back in the states, and its hard to believe that people here in Botswana and elsewhere in the world (like all the Europeans I've met) care more about U.S. politics than some American citizens do. There was an Obama frenzy in Maun the day after the election, not not because Obama is black and will lead the United States, but because they understand the US issues here and believe that he is the better choice. Some even will say they wanted Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards, but they all are happy to see Bush leave office.
I hope all is well in the States!!
Go Siame le Tsala sentle!!
Andrew sent me a quick email re: some business and asked me to post a note that he is getting your messages and loves hearing from one and all! Because of computer time restraints he hasn't been able to answer any of them yet, but after 11/1 when he begins working on his independent study he hopes to get more computer time and answer messages. Keep 'em coming he says, he loves hearing from you. What a time he's having.
All the best,
Location: Maun/Shorobe, South Africa
Well it has been a long time since I've written anything here, but there's so much to tell. This entry will be about my home stay in Shorobe, and I'll continue the next one with my excursions in Moremi.
Shorobe is a small village about 30 min. to the east of Maun, and during our homestay we comuttted into Maun everyday for classes. My family had very little but they were very wolcoming and generous, and I've never felt as far away from my home comforts, as I did living with this family. It was something totally new and undescribible, but has greatky broadened my experience. My mother, Sara, was about 60, and she was an adorbale woman who was about 5 ft. but could balance 60 pounds of water on her head. Sara spoke no english, but I did my best to have broken conversations with her in Setswana. She mostly asked me about my day and what I had seen, and my answers got the point accross, but occasionally I would be saying something completely different than what I was trying to say. She would then just laugh and then keep talking to me, eventhough I could barely understand. Her dauther Grace was in her mid twenties with a jubilant 13 month old son named Kumo. Every morning Kumo would wake me up by wondering into my room covered from head to two in sand, and shout to wake me up. I would carry him back to the cooking area and cook a delicious serving of egg in a basket with porridge and instant coffee.
After a long day of school I would return to Shorobe and meet my Borther, Obonye, at the football pitch and play until the sun went down. The local team let me join in on their practices, which were well organized games. I've missed playing soccer so much, and it was wonderful to run my ass off in the hot African sun.I even scored a goal from outside the penalty box one day. After soccer I would fetch some water, heat it up over the fire, and attempt to clean my body in a tub that only holds 10 gallons or so. Dinner is very different here, and it takes some getting used to (the meat is tougher, the sour porridge tastes and smells like vomit, jalo-jalo...) but after a long day statsifying an empty stomach becomes an enjoyable routine. I do love what they call dumpling, or Madompi, which is pretty much bread that is cooked by boiling it in water.
One night a couple of the guys and I hit up the local bar with our home stay brothers and sisters. At first it was a little akward, because everyone was starring intensely, but as the night warmed up things beacame di monate (enjoyable). At point point we all started to dance in a massive circle with beers in our hands, and laughs all around. I beacme very close with a number of people of the soccer team, but my favorite was this guy named percy, who was the host brother of another SIT student, Tom. the three of us spent the weekends exploring the bush, playing frizbee, and made pools of sweat in Accaia trees during the peak of the day. In the afternoon, we would hang at the bar and have a beer or two, before going the the pitch to play some soccer.
Now that I'm in Maun I plan on visting Shorobe every week or so, until I have to head dwon to Gabs in December. By the way I've been planning a trip to Namibia and South Africa once the program is over. I hope all is well!
Location: Kasane, Botswana
Last Saturday my fellow students and I got aboard an over night train in route for Francistown (the second largest city in Botswana) and after a scorching hot and stuffy nap on an uncomfortable train bed we got in a com-b and headed north to Kasane. The fringe of the desert is so amazingly hot, sometimes I feel like my skin is melting off from the 40 degrees centigrade (maybe 105 in Fahrenheit?) Of course after traveling for almost 20 hours, our com-b broke down 50 km outside of Kasane. The heat, along with our water running out, scrambled our brains into desert hallunication. It was very exhausting, but we got to watch a very beautiful sunset, and were treated to a delicious dinner of impala meat in Kasane. The first day in Kasane, we visited a Nile crocodile farm, where I got to hold a baby croc. Later in the afternoon, we went on boat ride along the Chobe river. I have never seen as much wildlife, and as much diversity as I did on the riverbanks of the river. Hundreds of different species of birds were gliding past our boat, we even saw a fish eagle and a yellow billed kite get into an ariel fight just a few meters above our heads. There were hippos everywhere, some got very close and tried to scare us away by opening their massive jaws and showing their massive bodies. Herds of elephants were on every shore and around every corner, we even had to stop and wait as a family slowly crossed the road. The Chobe national park has the largest population of elephants in Africa, around 80,000. I have to admit that it has been incredibly strange being around so many lekoa (whitepeople). I almost miss being the minority I was in Gaborone, and everyone here is a wealthy tourist. On Wednesday we got to visit Victoria falls, but because it is the end of the dry season there was hardly any water flowing over. However this allowed us to walk on the rim of the falls and climb down into the canyon to experience the impressive geology of the falls. These next two weeks I will be living with a home stay family in the very rural village of Shorobe. I expect this to be the most overwhelming cultural experience of the trip, partly because I'm moving from the extreme of a tourist setting to a village setting. I hope everyone is well and I'll talk to you soon. Tsala Sentle!!
Location: Gaborone, South Africa
Dumalang! Tsala ya me ko America. Le Kae?
(Hello my friends in America, how is everyone?) Well I'm coming up on the end of my two week home stay in Gabs. My family has been so wonderful. They are a more modern family compared to the family I stayed with in Otse, in terms of accommodations and beliefs. At first I thought it was going to be like living with a family back in the United States, but they are still Batswana, and even though there is a heavy western influence in their home, they will never abandon the heritage. The thing I love the most about my family is how big it is. My mother has a 12 year old son named Bakang, 7 year old daughter named Sepe, and her husband is a General out west and I won't get a chance to meet him. That's just the immediate family, but my mother has 7 brothers and sisters who are always visiting. There are 3 cousins staying with us permanently, and I have many other cousins that spend the night, so there are always a dozen or so people in the house at any given time. I've become really close with one cousin named Rebatho, who is 21 and studying at the University of Botswana. We have pretty similar backgrounds, like losing our fathers at a young age, and we have numerous conversations that go above and beyond the basic getting to know one another. She has taught me about traditional Batswana culture and how it seems to be fusing nicely with western influence. Last Friday we went out to the clubs with everyone else in the group, and even though people don't go out here very often, when they do, they stay out until the sun comes up. My cousin literally drove me into the ground and dragged me home at 5 in the morning, thank god she was with me, cause negotiating a cab ride would have been quite difficult.
This week Botswana celebrated their 42nd Independence Day on Tuesday the 30th of September. We were given two days off from school, and I was so excited for the celebrations. Well it turns out when a holiday comes around in Botswana everyone returns to their homes and watches TV for the entire break. I did try and go downtown but the city was absolutely dead... major disappointment. However when I got home my family had a Braai (BBQ) and I got to celebrate a little with my family. After that I met a couple of others in my group at a club named Lizard's Lounge. It took a while for things to get bumping in the club, but around 1AM the place was packed and partying hard. Around 2 AM a local hip hop artist took the stage and gave a concert until I left at 4AM (by the way when I left people were still showing up and the club was just getting started) The MC who took a stage mixed up lyrics between English and Setswana. He even re-did a 50 cent, and Ludacris song in Setswana. It was pretty freaking sweet!
It has been a little weird, or I should say interesting, being a huge minority among the population. At times I feel like a celebrity, and everyone wants to talk to me or try and be my friend. Mostly I find that people are interested in me rather than assuming that I have loads of money because of my white skin, which has been a wonderful surprise because I was a little nervous about people wanting money from me. I never blend into the crowd (which I kinda miss) but occasionally I'm ignored by people, which I consider a break from everyone always wanting to talk to me.
Saturday I get on an overnight train to Kasane which is on the opposite side of the country. There we dive into studying wildlife along the Chobe river. I also get to visit Victoria Falls... the largest waterfall in the world. I do have some sad news, Planet Ranger is being very difficult with uploading photos, and I have been unable to share the visual side of my trip. Hopefully we'll fix that soon. I hope all is well, and talk to you soon!