I have struggled to find a reliable internet connection, making posts embarrassingly few and far between.
The orientation went unbelievably well. On Friday, July 26th, we met at Chelsea Piers for our first evening together. The night was full of ice breaking/team building activities that help set the stage for another tremendous group. On Saturday, we met at Riverdale Country School to begin learning about BBL, Botswana, and ourselves through various activities led by our Sustained Dialogue moderator, Jen. We worked hard to identify to ways to improve our ability to dialogue and discovered many wonderful things about how we communicate and about ourselves.
Our trip began in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. On our June trip, we hit a major snag as Zim customs would not allow 10 of our bags into the country without having us pay a massive fee. We managed to work it through in June, but I was very nervous about entering again with an other 15 large duffel bags of donation items. While most of the kids made it through, two of our bags were identified as suspicious and were pulled aside. Fortunately, we were able to offer an explanation for the goods and they let us continue on our way.
Only a few hours off the plane, we arrived at the Falls and enjoyed a long walk along the path observing the falls. Even though the falls are nearing their lowest annual water levels, it is still a spectacular sight to see. A wonder of the world, one might say! From here, half the group went back to the hotel to wash off the grime we had accumulated from 24 hours of travel, while an intrepid bunch crossed the bridge span the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, entering our 4th country in a 24 hour period. We ended our first day in Africa at The Boma for our traditional celebration with dancing, drums, and strange meats, including Mopane Worms, Eland meat balls, and Kudu Stew.
On Tuesday, we visited Wild Horizons for an elephant back safari and saw many wonderful animals. We even saw a cheetah! Wild Horizons takes in orphan animals and rehabilitates them for return to the wild. However, some animals are unable to be returned and thus becoming instruments to teach local youth and tourists. Sylvester the Cheetah and the elephant we rode are ambassador animals – we got to see Sylvester out on his “walk”. After a quick visit to the market place, we returned to the hotel for crocodile burgers and then continued on to Chobe National Park for three nights of safaris and orientation.
The safari was an amazing experience. We saw two leopard, two pride of lion, thousands of zebra, hundreds of giraffe and elephant, impala, sable, roan, and so much more. We even saw a herd of Wildebeast, apparently an unusual sighting for this region. Of course, our most harrowing time was when we crossed paths with a honey badger…to steal a joke from a 2011 participant, we were lucky to have escaped with our lives!!! If you don’t know what a honey badger is, just follow this link.
We are now on our second day at Bana Ba Letsatsi and the projects are slowly coming together.
We are busy helping organize the center, folding clothes, sorting books and medical supplies, and painting. We are also helping design a Special Olympics program here in Maun, building a toilet for a BBL family, feeding and caring for the elderly with AGLOW. Everyone is working hard, staying present, and focusing on how our own well being. I am running low on battery and have already lost one edit, so farewell for now.