August 2, 2016
I am home from Africa!!! First of all, I never would have been able to make this trip and have these experiences without the support of my family and friends taking care of my house, my animals, and supporting me! Thank you so so much!
It was a nerve racking trip for me…anyone who knows me knows that I don’t travel- like ever. So I left my house, my animals, my family, my friends- for a month, and traveled halfway around the world, by myself. I was homesick initially, there were a few times in the first couple weeks that I wanted to go home. All of the volunteers were in the same boat- travel hours and hours and get plopped down in a wildlife orphanage with people from all over the world, different nationalities, personalities, and backgrounds. Now you have to live together and work together 24-7. I wouldn’t trade this past month for anything in the world. I was hard to say goodbye to people after two, three, or four weeks. We became a family- we hacked up dead, rotten animals to feed the carnivores. We got stuck in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road on the way to Vic Falls after hitting a cow. We all experienced new things- we became an extended Brady Bunch. How odd for Ryan and Micky (Nicky and Kevin’s children) to grow up this way…there are constantly different people, from all over the world, invading their house. Oh the people they must meet! And then, they leave…maybe to never see them again!
Overall, visiting Africa was an absolutely amazing experience!! Some of these things I have already written before, but I am want to reflect on the experience overall. It was total culture shock when I arrived. I found myself, on a daily basis, asking myself questions about how daily life functioned.
How can people live without hot water?
How can people live with no running water?
How can they live with no electricity?
Your toilet is a hole in the ground?
How is it possible for families to struggle to afford $120 a YEAR to send their child to school.
How can schools not have enough books for their students?
How does a school not have electricity?
What do you mean there are no power tools?
Can’t we use the chainsaw to cut this pole that is harder than concrete???
Government turned power out again?
Your definition of gross is different from their definition of gross.
I can’t just turn on the tap and get a glass of water?
No you can’t go to the bank and use the ATM….there is no money in it.
How do the police figure out who they are going to stop at the roadblocks?
I’m not sure what exactly I expected when I left for Zimbabwe- but I don’t think that I ever expected to have such an eye opening experience. There were things that were just as you would imagine- thatched roofs, dirt, lots of grass. We are so lucky in this country- and wasteful! Nothing in Chipangali went to waste. Nothing anywhere went to waste. Food scraps go to the animals. Things get reused. When we were in Matopos doing the carnivore research, we found a dead wildebeest- she died from natural causes. But following a necropsy she was cut up and the meat was given to the workers. A kudu was found in a snare- rather than the poachers getting the meat, she was cut up and given to the workers on that farm and some local villagers that needed food. They don’t have refrigeration- so what do you do with the meat? Hang it over a fence in the sun so it dries out and lasts longer. There are people walking a herd of cows and goats down the side of the road. Take the old nails out of that fencing and hammer them all straight so they can go in the new fencing. There is no just running to the grocery store on a whim for dinner. No Dunkin, Wawa, or Quick Chek for coffee. I’m still not sure where you go clothes shopping…there were definitely no malls there. How easy it is to go to the store and buy a padded envelope to mail something to someone? Not there. Need a gift for someone? Go on Amazon and have it delivered to them or your house the next day…or within hours in some areas! You don’t go to Tractor Supply to get feed for your animal…you make their diet yourself. All of the houses have fencing topped with razor or barbed wire or electric around them.
As much as we all complain about teaching in the US and in NJ- we don’t have classrooms that have holes in the ceilings. We don’t have books that are so outdated and have to be shared by 4 or 5 students per book. We have paper. We have electricity. We have computers. As teachers, we aren’t making every single poster that is on the walls. When you need supplies you can order them. The pencil cases Natalie’s students put together were a huge hit with the students! The kids and teachers were so appreciative! Their supplies are so minimal. The teachers loved the lessons Natalie’s students made.
By our standards, I would say that the areas I was in are poverty stricken. But I guess that the term “poverty” is totally relative. I’m not really sure what poverty is in Zimbabwe.
Despite all these things that we see as deficiencies- they don’t see it that way- they don’t know any other way. That’s how life is for them and that’s how it has always been- so who are we to feel sorry for them? We visited one of the villages in Matopos- the children that lived there were so happy and excited to see us. They sang and danced for us. They don’t know about all the TV shows they are missing- or Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
Live each of your days to the fullest. Chase your dreams. Appreciate everything, everyone, and everyday you are given!
Update…I have since had the where do they go clothes shopping question answered!! They go to a place called “Bendies” or “Bend Over Boutique”. Basically, clothes are donated from all over the world to the government, who then sells it to locals by the bundle. The locals will take the bundle to town, and on a weekend, they will close a road and all the locals who purchased bundles of clothes will have “stalls” and sell the clothes. Some of the “shop owners” will bring stands and hangars to display the clothes as well. Others will fold the clothes into piles of shirts or trousers or whatever else they have, but most often they just have it in a pile on the ground. Hence, the name “bendies” as you have to bend over to look for stuff. Many times there is stuff with the tags still on it, or you will find money in the pockets. But, you can usually get some good bargains if you are willing to sift through the piles! According to Kato (one of the anti poaching dogs- two legs haven’t experience Zimbabwe fully if you haven’t been to bendies!