Learning the ways with the lions!

Like I said in my last post, this project is much more structured than the last—best part of all is that all of the meals are provided… much cheaper, more time, and definitely more convenient! With the structure has also come a daily routine which consists of waking up at 6, getting onto the open air truck with the other volunteers at 6:30, arriving at Mesuwe lodge for a cup of coffee before our morning activity. Often the morning activity is a cub walk but there are other activities that can take place during this time such as a fire break (which I get to work on tomorrow). After the morning activity is breakfast. Breakfast is absolutely fabulous, a very traditional European breakfast with toast, egg, baked beans, sausage, tomato, and onion… like I said, I feel a bit spoiled compared to Zambia! Then we participate in a midmorning activity, anything from learning their traditional Ndebeli language to lion training to teaching conservation in local schools to research. Next up is lunch (which again are fabulous meals) at Mesuwe before heading back to the rest camp (about a ten minute drive) for the afternoon off—nice as it is beyond hot out and a little bit of time to relax as well! Then we head back around 3:30 for our afternoon activity, usually another cub walk before returning to the rest camp for the night where we have dinner and then hangout. The day is much more routine but the activities and responsibilities do change which is nice—and as great as it was getting to know Louise in Zambia so well, it is nice having so many other volunteers to get to know—they are all wonderful! The volunteers come from all over, two others from the US, one from the UK, two from Norway, and one from Iceland so one of the best parts of the project so far is just getting to know each of them and learning about their culture and ways of doing things back home—people from Norway have some pretty wicked traditions!
The open air truck in the morning is brutally cold but it’s something that you just kind of have to put up with because before long the sun is out and it gets hot! Even by the end of the morning activity, the jackets are off and it feels like a summer day at home. Each morning so far I’ve been on a cub walk. Yesterday we woke up to rain which is very rare for a June day here in Zimbabwe so the cubs were quiet anxious to get going when we got there—lots of energy but they were very fun to watch! I especially enjoy the volunteer walks as it is “our time” with the cubs… we get to play, hangout, talk, get to know the staff better (by the way… they are completely awesome), and just have some fun! Client walks are fun as well—I especially enjoy watching their initial reactions of oh my gosh… is this cat real? Of course it is not as much interaction for us as the clients clearly are of top priority, but even then it is a lot of fun just watching the cubs and hanging out with the other volunteers and staff. Yesterday midmorning was my second lion training and Derek was in charge. Well, Derek (Big D) is definitely a fun fellow so our lion training consisted of a bit of learning followed by a bunch of ridiculous stories of clients and volunteers over the years… let’s just say we all have a very enjoyable morning of storytelling… of course this storytelling was taking place in the lion’s enclosure. Near the end of our “lion training,” it was feeding time. The cubs get about 20 pounds of meat each, every other day—the meat consisting of various animals such as giraffe, kudu, buffalo, etc. You can just imagine a wild lion being given meat… quite a sight watching them chew up their 20 pounds of meat, what a meal! Today, my midmorning activity was conservation education in schools of which three of the other volunteers were also involved. So last night we prepared and made a lesson plan for the students—we taught about ecosystems all around the world and how they work together then focused on the one found here in this region. There was almost a complete language barrier which made the teaching difficult, but we managed and the children really seemed to enjoy it. Compared to Libala, they seemed to have it a bit better—they had enclosed classrooms and plenty of supplies for the students, but even then it was nothing compared to a school in America… even the worst of the schools.
The afternoons have been great—yesterday a few of us explored the town of Victoria Falls and visited the nearby market. This afternoon was spent by the pool, a bit of time to relax under the hot sun and hangout. The afternoon activities so far have been lion walks once again, switching off between the sets of lions so we are able to interact with all of the cubs and get to know them—they have quite different personalities surprisingly! Nights have been pretty relaxed as everyone is worn out from the day but have mainly consisted of talking and getting to know each other. Tonight a few of us ventured off to the “creamy inn”… a nearby ice cream shop (surprise for any of you that know me and know that I am completely obsessed with ice cream… especially in the summer!) that served waffles with ice cream and syrup… absolutely terrible for you but absolutely delicious!! With all of the walking and physical work that we are doing during the day however, I’m not too worried and it was a great treat!
I am still writing blogs but the internet here is pretty darn bad and very hit or miss so I will keep writing and I will upload them when I get a chance!
Life is still great, getting to meet a lot of new people—both other volunteers and locals here in Zimbabwe, and having a fabulous time!
P.S.-Imagine the Lion King and picture the scenery… yep, that is about what it looks like here… it is absolutely gorgeous and I am completely obsessed with the wildlife (as there are wild animals like warthogs, baboons and other monkeys, elephants, buffalo, etc. everywhere) and nature here! I love it!
~Susan

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