My days have been jammed packed here in Zimbabwe, filled with lots of lion time, exploring the city, getting to know the other volunteers, and lots of other activities. The other volunteers and staff here are a lot of fun… I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them as well as learning about their own countries as well. I spent today with two of the volunteers from Norway, Sarah and Monika, and I learned a lot about their home life. For instance, did you know that a meal for two people in Norway is about $100-150 at a decent restaurant or that a hamburger (just the hamburger itself that would be on the dollar menu in America) is about $8… however they get paid about $30 an hour working at a hardware store… very interesting the differences and such around the world. So my lunch today that consisted of sazda (traditional maze-like substance that was referred to as nshima in Zambia), steamed cabbage, chicken, and a tomato-based “gravy” sauce that cost all of $1 was literally like free to them… and by the way the traditional, local meal was absolutely delicious!
The days are still pretty routine: a few walks with the lions, some interaction time with the cubs, some work time, meals and talking with the other volunteers… all of it being extremely enjoyable. I’ll give you some of the highlights and not so much of the daily activity that has gone on over the past few days. The first being the game drive… Ed, the general manager here, took a few of us out on the “Zambezi drive,” a path within the national park that circles near the Zambezi River and is filled with wildlife. We were hoping to get lucky and see some wild elephants and that we did—a few of us were in the back of Ed’s pickup truck for the drive and literally just feet away from us were wild elephants. There have been three elephant attacks that have unfortunately resulted in fatalities within the city of Victoria Falls itself since I’ve been here. For such a short amount of time (a week), this is an extremely high amount so everyone has been on high alert and have been extra cautious around them. They’re currently in mating season which is the reason for them being so dangerous. Although they can be dangerous and attack, they are magnificent animals and incredible to see in their natural habitat. We also saw water puck, bush puck, buffalo, impala, and baboons on the trip… definitely a highlight as we were able to enjoy the sunset during the entire thing!
Another highlight was Rows of Charity, a local orphanage that the Lion Encounter project partners with. Every Saturday afternoon as part of our community outreach program, the volunteers spend a few hours at a local orphanage. Like Lubasi, the children aging from 4-14 at Rows of Charity were absolutely wonderful, just looking for a bit of love and attention. Most of the children come to the orphanage just for the day to enjoy a warm lunch meal, and to get some well-deserved attention. The children have either lost their parents to disease and live with their grandparents or their parents aren’t able to take care of them properly. They do however also take in children who desperately need a place to stay. Just last week, a mother dropped off two of her kids in a nearby park along with a suitcase and the intention to never see her children again. It is completely heartbreaking and the children were brought to the orphanage in hopes that they could be provided with some food, shelter, and the love that they deserve. The orphanage took the two children in and they are doing alright but terrible things like this aren’t uncommon here and it is fortunate that there are places like Rows of Charity that can provide the necessities that children like these need. We served the fifty-plus children their lunch and talked with many as they enjoyed their likely one meal of the day. Once they were finished with lunch, the fun and games began. I played keep away with about twenty of the older kids along with a few of the other volunteers… they had so much fun and knew all of our names by the end of it. We played a few other games as well during the afternoon… these kids are so sweet and it basically breaks my heart knowing the situation they’re in as they had absolutely no control over it but rather were just unlucky and born into an unlucky situation. It just makes me think about how that different my life could be and question why I was given the life I was while these kids were given a life with little opportunity… definitely breaks your heart. We all got lots of hugs goodbye… so, so sad.
On a lighter note, I visited one of the seven natural wonders of the world today. To my surprise, I found out that this is the third I’ve visited along with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the harbor in Rio… so four more to go! Victoria Falls was amazing! We got to see the falls from all of the angles and even enjoyed walking into the midst from the falls. It is high season meaning there is A LOT of water flowing through the waterfall so we got absolutely soaked of course… like we practically got our shower for the day! You wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between us after we had walked through the falls or if we would have jumped in a swimming pool… that is how soaked we all were, but we had great fun on our adventure! Again, safety isn’t a top priority here in Africa as rocks were literally all that stood between the path and the edge… no fence or rope but rather a few slippery rocks… a bit scary actually! Although I’d probably say I preferred Iguacu Falls in Brazil/Argentina over Victoria Falls, it was still incredible to see!
Of course I’ve stayed busy with the lions; playing with them, cleaning their enclosures (reminded me a bit of the wrangler days at Camp Kitaki), participating in legitimate research in their development, and of course enjoying every minute of the walks. My one day off from “work” for the weekwas today so it’s back to “work” tomorrow but I hardly think anyone could consider it work!
Hope you are all doing well!