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Unbelievable Excursion and Finishing the Program

It’s been a while since my last post, but that’s because we spent the last 6 days traveling to the northern part of Botswana! We visited the Okavango Delta, which is where a lot of the wildlife lives in Botswana. Specifically, our stops were in Maun and Kasane. While we stayed in Maun we visited the Khwai community and while we were in Kasane we visited the Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. It was a jam-packed couple of days, but I’m going to try and go into as much detail as possible.

Day 1: We drove from Gaborone to Maun. This took about 15 hours and was completely exhausting.

Day 2: We visited the Khwai community, which is a community that is deep into the Moremi Game Reserve. This community has to be accessed by safari vehicle, because the road going to it is dirt and is very bumpy. The drive from Maun to Khwai was supposed to be about 3 hours; it took us 5. There are two roads to get to Khwai, but one of them requires that you pay a toll. Unfortunately, we got about forty-five minutes down this road before someone realized we’d taken the wrong one. We had to turn around to get back to the other road. Additionally, two of the people in our group rode on a smaller truck that kept breaking down. On top of that, the truck with 9 of us in it was behind the smaller one for the entire ride and we got sandblasted for the entire drive. I’ve never had so much sand in my eyes (or probably my lungs!) in my entire life. The plus side is that it made my skin very smooth. We finally arrived at about 4pm and left to start back to Maun at 5:15pm or so. The sun sets at about 5:30pm and our vehicles were open-air. We spent the fourish hours back to Maun huddled together under blankets, singing at the top of our lungs to stay warm. It was definitely a bonding experience!

Day 3: We drove from Maun to Kasane. This drive was not as bad–maybe like 10 hours? It was still a long day and we were very excited to get to our chalets and go to sleep.

Day 4: This was absolutely my favorite day. At 6:30am we went on a game drive in Chobe National Park (the animals are usually out early in the morning and in the evening) and saw so many amazing things. The sunrise was incredible, and we started the drive off with seeing some impalas. As we moved toward the Chobe River we started to see some buffaloes drinking and grazing. The best part, though, was when we drove up to a hippo and her baby. The baby was so young that it still had its umbilical cord attached, and our safari guide said he thought that it was probably about five hours old. Its mom started walking over to the river and it got up to follow her but had to stop and lay down a few times to rest. Then, once it got in the water, it didn’t know how to swim. It kept going under and bobbing back up. I’m hoping it figured out how to swim so its mom wouldn’t have to help it!

This was the mom and baby hippo we saw on the game drive. It was so small!

Later that day we went for a boat ride on the Chobe River. I think this was my favorite activity of the entire excursion. We saw a couple of crocodiles, including a few that were outside the water. We also saw a lot more buffaloes and a few hippos who did this thing where they opened their mouths super wide to show that it was their territory. There were a lot of elephants eating grass who didn’t seem to mind at all that we were right beside them. There was even one that was walking up the middle of the river. We also came across a little beach that had kudus, impalas, and a family of baboons on it. This included a baby baboon that was tumbling around and playing, which might have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Sunset happened while we were on the water too, and it was incredible. I would do the boat ride every day if I could.

Here’s the baby baboon from the boat ride! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything cuter.

Day 5: This was our day at Victoria Falls, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We visited it during the high water season, so the amount of mist from the falls made it seem like it was raining. I was really happy that I had my raincoat with me! The whole place was beautiful, and I hope that someday I can go back when it’s low water just to see it look a little different. There was not much wildlife here, just a few monkeys, but the waterfalls definitely made up for that. At first it was cloudy, but as we kept walking the sun came out and there was a double rainbow. It was just such an incredible place.

Victoria Falls!

Day 6: We drove back from Kasane to Maun. This was probably a 13-hour drive, and we got back around 9pm which was good. I took the opportunity to start packing (I leave for home on Thursday!) when we got back.

This will probably be my last blog post from the trip. Tomorrow we will have some presentations, visit an HIV hospital, and have a last big dinner altogether. Botswana is an amazing country and I would love to come back someday to show my family around. I’m going to miss it, but I’m definitely ready to go home. I miss sleeping in my own bed and my family!

Quick Update

It’s been a while since my last post, so I don’t have to much to update y’all on. We’ve had a relatively relaxed weekend, but we did visit a cultural village on Friday to learn about Setswana culture. It was really cool to see things like dances that are traditional here. Today, we went to see Aladdin and it was so good–I’d definitely recommend it.

Somehow it worked out that out of 12 students on this trip, one person’s birthday was June 7 and four people’s birthdays were June 8. Last night we had a big dinner to celebrate everyone’s birthdays, and it was great! We had cake and the restaurant had a little area where we could dance and let us be the DJs.

The big theme for me from the last few days, however, has been that I’m sick. I woke up a few days ago with a cough and unfortunately it’s just continued to get worse. I was feeling better, but now my throat is sore and I have a lot of sinus congestion. This morning I woke up to find that I probably have pinkeye. I haven’t had pinkeye in so long that I don’t even know when I last had it. Tomorrow I’m planning to go to the clinic on campus and hopefully get some kind of eye drops or medicine to help that go away. One thing I definitely did not expect from this trip was a head cold and pinkeye, but it just goes to show that you have to be prepared for anything and everything. This is the first time I’ve been far away from home and sick, which has been kind of tough. Prayers for a speedy recovery would be much appreciated!

Giraffes and Zebras and Impalas

I can’t believe it’s already been over a week since we got to Gaborone. Part of me feels like the time is zooming by, and another part of me thinks it should’ve already been more than that. We started classes on Tuesday, and the guest professors we’ve had have been amazing. I’m learning so much about Botswana and the culture here.

One of the zebras we saw at the game reserve!

Yesterday ay we visited the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which was amazing and by far my favorite thing we’ve done on the trip so far. We went on a game drive and saw so many animals. The first animals we saw were kudus, which basically just look like big deer. After that, though we started seeing giraffes. I’m not sure how many of them we actually ended up seeing, but there were so many. They were so graceful. We also saw some impalas and zebras! Our professor told us that out of all the times he’s visited Mokolodi, he’s never seen zebras. I always thought zebras wouldn’t be camouflaged well because their environment was mostly brown, not black and white. It turned out though that they were hard to see through all the vegetation. We ate lunch beside a lake in the reserve, which was awesome. As someone who’s big on parks and nature, this was a pretty amazing experience. I wish we could do that every day!

One of many giraffes we saw peeking at us over the bushes!

Today we had a day to rest before doing a hill climb tomorrow. I’m a little nervous about that because we’ve been told that it’s very challenging, but I’m looking forward to some hiking time!

Dumela!

‘Dumela’ means hello in Setswana, the language spoken here in Botswana. We’re trying to learn some words but that’s the main one. It’s really important to greet everyone you see here, even if you don’t know them.

I’ve never been so relieved to get off an airplane in my entire life. I only ever want to be on a plane for that long again so that I can go home in a month. Thankfully, the flights and customs were all uneventful (we went through customs in South Africa, not just Botswana, so I got another stamp for my passport!) I hope that it’s just as smooth when it’s time to go home.

One of the buildings on the University of Botswana’s campus

The University of Botswana is very different from NC State. The people here have been very hospitable and are happy to help us with whatever we need. It’s definitely different here than at home, like the Internet. We thought we would all have to physically connect our laptops to ethernet cables only to find out when we arrived that they now have wifi in these dorms. Unfortunately, when you try to use the wifi it doesn’t work. Luckily, there’s something you can use to turn your laptop into a hotspot you can connect your phone to. I can’t do that on my laptop (Chromebook problems), but the other NC State student in my suite can and is letting me use hers.

 

This is called The Three Dikgosi Monument and is of three important chiefs who were a part of why Botswana is so successful.

Over the last few days we’ve been exploring Gaborone. We’ve been to the mall (not the same as at home–I’d consider it to be more like an outdoor shopping center) a few times to get necessities and to do a little souvenir shopping and went to visit a monument as well. I got a super cute wooden zebra. We also had orientation today and toured the campus. While we were touring we saw a mama warthog and three of her babies walking around the campus looking for food. It was definitely the most exciting thing that we’ve seen so far!

 

This was the warthog family we saw on campus!

We start class tomorrow and later in the week we’ll be visiting an orphanage, which I’m excited about. I’ll make sure and post again later this week or early next week!