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Life Changing Experiences

Surrounded by Giraffes and Elephants Riding Home Through A Beautiful Sunset – Community Service Africa

A great update from Community Service Africa!

The Westcoast Blogger

I initially wrote this update en route to Chobe National Park in Botswana a week ago, but have only just now found access to email to send you news from the bush!

Last Sunday, when we were still in South Africa, we took a break from service and took some time to discuss our cultural exchange experience – in particular in reference to Apartheid’s legacy. After a delicious lunch on a patio, where Tristan decided to try Monkey gland sauce, without the 15 million dollars the other kids would do it for, we visited the Moholoholo Conservation center where we saw a female lion growl at us and a leopard climb up for meat. We pet a baby rhino and a honey badger tried to steal Jackie’s new bead bracelet. Shortly after we took turns facing our fears and fed the creatures.

Popular songs on the trip have been playing in the vans. The girls can all sing “the climb” in harmony, and we often hear “I’m so excited”. Jasmine somehow convinced the local guides to join Matt and her in the choreography which had won at the staff training weekend in June. It took some coaxing, but they adorned some silly hats and clothes and performed for the group.

On Monday and Tuesday, we went back to work at Shileski PS. Alli had the great idea to transform the chalkboards by repainting their surface and Tristan was the brave soul who repainted all of them. Michael, Rachel, Amber and Jayme planted a garden in a nearby nursery garden and everyone pitched in to finish painting the school. We were confronted by the reality of the community poverty when we were asked to tag the chairs and desks with spray paint. It was also startling to see local women ask for our empty paint buckets to be used for collecting water at a local spigot.

On the last day, we gave oranges and water to the local kids and Michael presented the soccer uniforms donated by the City of Westmount, in Montreal. MPoh was astonished when we told him this was our first experience doing manual labor and working with the kids. He was very moved when we said goodbye and said he would never forget us.

The next day we crossed the border into Botswana and noticed a remarkable difference in scenery. There were donkeys on the road, cattle everywhere, and as our difficulty to reach you on the phone can attest, were now really “in the bush!” Upon arrival in Francistown, we were surprised by a traffic jam – which lasted only a few minutes. We realized that it was the President of Botswana Ian Kana’s police escort that had jammed the road. The President waved at Albert our driver who couldn’t stop grinning for hours after.

We exchanged our money into Pula (bills which means rain – coins are called thebe for rain drops), and checked into our beautiful cabins in Tati Town. On route to Kasane Botswana, we hugged our first Baobab tree and started adopting the expression “This is Africa, bru “which is Africans slang to explain all the little things that make us shriek, look puzzled or sigh in wonder.

The next day we experienced our first safari both on water and in a big open vehicle. Michael spotted the first elephant after we had seen hippos, crocodiles and buffalos up close. We rode our pontoon float to a spot in the cross of the Chobe and the Zambeizi River where four countries meet: Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

That afternoon we saw lots of wildlife because our guide Gabriel taught us to be “Patient like vultures.” And so we had many beautiful nature moments surrounded by giraffes and elephants, and rode home through a beautiful sunset.

In our next update, we will fill you in on the details of our time in Zambia.

Until then, big hugs from Community Service Africa.