Sunday, September 11, 2016

august 2 updated

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!

july 30 update

July 30, 2016

Want to know why a leopard can't change its spots??  Because they are actually on their skin as well.  If you were to shave the hair off of a leopard, their skin would still be spotted!

Kevin is working on making haylage for the animals... It is a mix of-
Spent grain (mases- also used for fishing to attract fish).
Acacia pods (milled)
Dicrostatis cinerea (sickle boss) (in South Africa used in horse feed to prevent gas colic) For Kevin’s silage, he cut down a tree, put it through a wood chipper, and then through a hammermill.  This could prove to be an important forage resource for ruminants because it is a very invasive species due to overgrazing of cattle, but, it is a very important tree that is used for firewood and wood chips.  

Everything was wrapped and has been sitting since May.  Today was the first time Kevin had opened one of them and fed it for the first time!
The sheep seem to like it!

At feeding time…

Prior to being wrapped and fermented.  Kevin is going to try and send me some samples and I will be sending them to Dr. Felton, my major professor from West Virginia University and hopefully they will be able to collaborate on some projects!

The monkeys are naughty!  We darted one of the Vervet monkeys because she got in a fight with one of the other females and had her tail almost bitten off and broken.  We applied an elastrator band above the wound so the damaged area would fall off.  

The oxygen levels of all the animals are monitored while they are tranqed.

The monkeys are naughty!

Waiting for the cage to be cleaned so she can be put in to come out.  She spent the night in the nursery and then was returned to her cage to heal.

I walked around for a while taking pictures of the animals and the orphanage…want to make sure I didn’t forget anything!!
Dash was unmotivated to get up for a picture….

The baby kitchen

The nursery

Stenbok that lives at the orphanage.  Yes he has two ears…the other one was folded back against his head!

Tami, the female kudu, a permanent resident of Chipangali.

One of the duiker babies

Dash, you handsome beast!

One last spa treatment from Victor.

Still think these are Shame’s long lost relatives.

july 29 updated

July 29, 2016

Today we visited another local school. 

This school was in a much better position than the one I previously visited, but Chipangali also supports this school as many of the workers at the orphanage send their children to this school.

It is one of 2 out of almost 50 schools that offer computer classes.  The computers were desktops and would have been considered outdated by our standards.  

The sheet hanging on the board is the screen they project things onto.

The school had a nursery where they would start all the plants for their gardens.

They had a water harvesting technique for when it rains. The water from the run off is contained in ditches that goes from plant to plant, all around the property.  Most of the water is collected from the roof.  

They also had a school garden where each class gets a bed and they use it for their aquaculture lessons.  

They soak chicken manure in water to use as fertilizer for the gardens.  

They also had a new design on the hand wash facility so the students don't have to touch the knobs to turn on the water after they go to the bathroom.  

Rather than have the students touch the handles, a foot pedal system was devised so no more dirty hands turning the water on and off!

The goal of the school is to produce children who can fend for themselves regardless of the level of education they finish.  Some families can not afford to send their children all the way through school.  All of the students also help raise chickens that are sold for meat and eggs.  

Even though this looks very similar to a commercial layer system in the US (much much smaller scale), this is relatively new in Africa and not very common.  The school uses it because they are limited on the space that they have.

Behind the school they have a garden for the students who do not eat prior to coming to school and for lunch.  This is a problem due to the parents only having enough money to pay school fees.  The school fees per child per term are $40- there are three terms per year.  So $120 per year.  Some families don't even make that much money a year.  

Any upgrades to the buildings come from fundraising efforts.  There are about 750 students in the school and they do not have enough classrooms for all of them so they have some new ones under construction that they are currently using for teaching as well.    All children enrolled in government and private schools in Zimbabwe have to wear uniforms.  This is so that there is no way to know the income level of a family.  I did notice there were many students who had numerous patches and/or holes in and on their uniforms.  All of the students seemed to help with keeping the outside areas of the school clean including sweeping and raking.  They loved the lessons that Natalie's students made for me to share with them.  

Guess they don’t have fire extinguishers in Bulawayo…

The baboon cage was finished today so we could move the male back into his own cage!!  He was so excited!  

While filling up water dishes one of the female lions grabbed the hose from a volunteer.  She was not happy to have it taken away from her at all!!!

All of the volunteers went to get pizza and watch Ryan's hockey game tonight.  
The Brady bunch…Chipangali style!!!