Thursday, May 6, 2010

Completion of the ISP and the Big 5


Sorry for the long span of time with no update, but I have been more busy these past 3 weeks than the rest of the program combined (I’m guessing to make up for all the hours I would have spent on homework had I been at UPS). Things have been absolutely amazing, I am dreading leaving this amazing country so soon (a week!!!). Instead of telling one or two long stories, I’ll give the highlights, and unfortunately, lowlights, of the past 3 weeks:


-Seeing elephants, monkeys, baboons, warthogs, eagles, hippos, and crocodiles on a nearly daily basis
-Getting to continue interacting and learning about my mongoose
-Making many new friends in Kasane, both those that I saw on the street every day as I walked to work and those who I developed a more personal relationship with
-Getting to know the expatriot community in Kasane and having them take us under their wings. Activities they ran for us included a bird walk, taking us out on the river for a day and touring us all around, and having a braii (bbq) for us in a valley that borders Zimbabwe and a national park in Zim, so it was chock full of wildlife.
-The aforementioned river trip, which included going to the most geographically unique place on Earth, where four countries share a border (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia), seeing more hippos than I could count, and watching a Fish Eagle swoop down and pick up a baby otter off the river (sad but at the same time amazing).
-Watching some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen.
-Seeing a hyena for the first time along with 5 lionesses hunting a giraffe
-Learning how to make a fire and cook over it
-Getting to know the lodge staff and because of it receiving a free boat cruise
-Having the opportunity to learn about practical applications of all the biology classes I have taken so far

-Having a baboon “use my tent like a trampoline” (as stated by the man who scared them all off) and subsequently having one of my tent poles bent and the other one snapped in half. Two other tents were caught in the destruction too
-Helping with the putting down of a injured mongoose, which was both awesome and hard to watch
-Having to spend the last week inside writing my paper and doing data analysis when the weather is in the low 80’s everyday and the sun is shining
-Getting charged at by a hippo. We ran from it and it stopped about 15 feet away from us, still in the water. Scary but exhilirating

Tomorrow we give our presentations on the research we’ve been doing, which will be attended by member of the community, the Botswana Tourism Board, and representatives from other NGO’s in the area, so just a little pressure. On Friday, the group of us in Kasane will take a 12 hour bus ride to Gaborone, where we will reunite with the rest of our group. We give presentations, have reentry orientation, and then next Wednesday morning I fly to Mozambique to begin my summer vacation.

It’s a melancholy feeling, both sadness to be leaving the country that I’ve gotten to know so well and have come to love, while also being excited to return to the US. My time here has made me so much more of a world citizen and has taught me so much, not only about myself, but about my worldview. To say the most cliché, yet summative statement I can think of, we have it so easy in the US. And so many people in the US think they understand “Africa” and have knowledge of it, when in reality they know a stereotype of a few countries. As Westerners, most people view Africa as one giant country, which is a huge misnomer. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to glimpse a small sliver of Africa, and even more lucky to be able to experience all these things, then return to my cushy life in the states. There is no one solution for Africa, every country has its own ailments and needs, and no blanket policy can ever work effectively.

But I’m off my soap box now. I hope everyone has a great last few weeks of school and that finals go well. I can’t wait to see you all in just a few short weeks!

Go siame!

EDIT: This morning the group of us decided to go on a final game drive before we leave Botswana, and we went with a small, locally owned group who we’ve gotten to know while we’ve been staying here. As we learned today, going with a locally owned business has the major perk that we told our guide we really wanted to see a leopard, and so he devoted our drive to tracking and asking about leopard sightings. Not only did we see a lion, not only did we see a Serval (a rare smaller kind of wild cat), but we saw the most beautiful leopard from about 10 feet away. It sent chills down my spine. The one animal we hadn’t seen and that I had been absolutely dying to see, and we got the chance to see it up close on our last day here in Kasane. It was quite the moment.

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