Good morning to our lovely friends at home as we prepare to hit the hay back in Livingstone,
My inner zoo camper heart (Yes, that’s a thing. My parents let me go each summer and I even was a camp counselor) is bursting! No bus this time, but two vans transported us to Botswana promptly at 7 am. Crossing the border ran smoothly unless you had fruit in your bag. Pro traveller advice: You cannot take fruit across borders, no matter how delicious it is. After disinfecting the bottoms of our shoes and collectively eating all of the strawberries, bananas, and cucumbers that were present, we continued on to Kalahari Tours, where we were kindly welcomed with coffee, tea, fruits, muffins, and the most heavenly donuts I’ve probably ever seen.
Here, we met our safari guide, George, who made an incredible tour even better with his witty humor and vast knowledge of the Chobe River. We had the privilege to board his boat, and we were off, hoping that no one would get sea sick or decide they wanted to go for a swim. George noted that we didn’t want to end the tour with “sad smiles” should something go awry.
I’m thankful that El Capitán George (as he calls himself) has probably the best eyesight in the world because I am sure I don’t, and I’m not sure about my peers (Why, oh why, did I think not packing my glasses was a good idea?) At first, George pointed out various animals, including guinea fowl and a type of reptile whose name I don’t remember. As the boat tour continued, George and his perfect vision spotted our first elephant. Yes, I said our first. We slowly approached it, growing ancy that it would move before we reached it. However, after rounding the corner, we came across an entire herd of elephants! But this was only the beginning.
After seeing a wild community of crocodiles, elephants, hippos, and many birds, we arrived back for lunch, then took off again in the safari trucks with George and his colleague, Lance. Our bodies may or may not have been tossed up, down, and all around by the bumps on the road, but throughout the rest of the afternoon (we literally didn’t stop until 6:29 pm), we were able to see many of these incredible animals even closer, with the addition of a pride of sleeping lions. I think my cherry on top, however, was a moment at sunset. A solo elephant had been eating and decided it wanted to get very up close and personal with us. It was both a slightly scary and amazing sensation. We drove on a bit more, but shortly after, the elephant crossed directly in front of George’s “Safari Ferrari,” right in the glory of a sunset that rivaled one from my hometown. (Yes, I am a firm believer that NM has the best sunsets in the world). We were all silent, and the moment was genuinely so serene I could have cried.
Our safari was not just about looking at cool animals, though. While there was no direct theme or lesson, I made many observations on the power of teamwork and support.
One: Baboons and impalas. Lance pointed out that we saw often them together. He said the reason for this is they share a common enemy so they tend to band together. I thought of this as a beautiful alliance, and after all, the definition of leadership is working together toward a common goal, right?
Two: Elephants. We were certainly entertained for at least 20 minutes as we watched a family of elephants—a mom and her two babies—playing in the mud. The smallest baby kept toppling over and the poor thing had trouble getting up. While the three certainly struggle-bussed, together, the mom and the older baby were able to get the youngest back on their cute little (but not really) feet. This is an example from nature on how teamwork makes the dream work, and support makes all the difference. I’m so thankful that I am surrounded by the most supportive group as we finish off our first week in Zambia (+Botswana) together.
Three: Pride. As we sat watching a pride of lions sleeping peacefully (thank goodness), I made a silly little analogy in my head and thought of our group as our our own little lion pride. A group of strong, powerful women, and our source of guidance and leadership, Jeff (+Kris). We all work together, and we share in each other’s emotions, achievements, jokes, the works.
I continued to think of these values of union and friendship as we rose from our “skyscrapers”—I mean, tents—at 5:45 am and jumped back into the vehicles for our game drive, where we were even able to see a leapord in a tree.
Our safari was incredible, but this was made possible by the people present. To our tour guides, George and Lance, who so kindly took the time to answer all of our questions, engage in meaningful conversations, and kept us safe on this journey. To the crew, Amos and Jiggaman, who thoughtfully set up our camp and gave us delicious meals. And of course, to our own little pride.
To finish off, upon our return to Livingstone, as a lover of running, I wanted to commemorate my first run in Zambia. Joined by Claire, Hattie, Bella, and Grace S., we went for our first brisk jog together immediately after arriving back through a Livingstone neighborhood. Our endorphins definitely were released, and I am so impressed at the energy we somehow mustered up to get our bodies moving, especially after spending so many hours in a safari car. Running is cool, y’all.
To everyone I love at home, I miss you dearly, but always remember we sleep under the same stars, even if yours aren’t as numerous and brilliant as those constellations that George pointed out to us with a lightsaber.
With peace and love,
P.S Mom and Dad–You would be so proud of me as I used my Spanish miles away from home. George was muy curioso about Spanish vocabulary, and I may or may not have taught him a few slang words we use in Burque.
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