An Alley of Angry Elephants

Hello again dearest friends and family. Our Gonzaga in Zambezi family has just returned from our two-day safari adventure and I hope that this blog entry will prove sufficient following the quick break we have taken from daily updates since we set up camp out in the bush.

First, an update:

Since our nine-hour bus ride into Livingstone, you will be happy to hear that our group has taken tremendous strides in tackling the various automotive difficulties we have been faced with. During our safari, one of the safari trucks ended up getting caught in sand some ways away from a pond full of enormous hippos – yet far enough away from the pond to pose no actual danger. The rest of us at the midway point to the campsite were eager to hop back in our own trucks at the thought of a rescue mission. In the end, everyone and every truck ended up unscathed with no morale lost.

Now, the nitty-gritty:

The safari was nothing short of incredible.

We started our day awaking in Fawlty Towers at the early hour of 6 a.m., yet everyone was incredibly enthusiastic with what was expected to come. We were given just enough time to chow down on our breakfast of eggs, beans, yogurt, and delicious dough balls before we all gathered into the resort bus and made our way to the first boat ride. The boat ride was brief and Father Dominic put it best when he described aloud exactly what everyone was feeling:

“Oh yeah, this is happening.”

Post boat ride, the gargantuan safari trucks and our safari guides; Percy, Richard, and Kennedy, awaited us. We crossed the border into Botswana via safari truck and embarked on the first part of our safari, a boat ride on the Chobe River. It is on this leg of our adventure that we were all made speechless by the sight of live water buffalo, crocodiles, hippos and elephants to name a few animals – all in what seemed like leaping distance from the edge of our vessel. Following the river voyage, we quickly reconvened for an amazing lunch before yet again hopping back into our trucks for the next part of the safari, making our way into the bush to camp out for the night all while navigating the nearby wildlife park.

After being jostled and thrown about by the high speeds of the safari truck racing against the rugged terrain of the park, we had our breaths taken away by miles and miles of elephants which, in fact, made up only a small portion of the 80,000 elephants taking residence in the area. From there, we saw all one could probably hope to see, elephants, impalas, kudus, giraffes, hippos, baboons, water buffalo, and leopards.

The part of the journey that I have taken to heart the most, which is the namesake of this blog post, involves our safari truck of nine. As the sun was setting, we were pressed to quickly make it to our campsite before the sun dipped entirely below the horizon. The elephants at the park had a similar idea, as they conveniently all – and I mean all – decided to trek past the roads we were traversing. They must not have liked the fact that their ingenious planning had been made a minor inconvenience by nine small and probably easily-squishable humans in a truck, because we were then surrounded by a volley of frustrated trumpeting. In the moment, I felt two things immediately: a selfish gratitude that I had two human shields sitting on either side of me, and also a very real fear of the volatility of nature. As our driver Percy put the pedal to the metal, however, I was struck with an appreciation for our circumstances and the astronomically low chances we had being so close to these magnificent although terrifying creatures. It further cemented for the fact that my life is something I need to more grateful for because it is in all facets a gift I have been given.

I have struggled with mental illness since the beginning of my teenage years and I continue to struggle with them today. In my life, I received the same message about the gift that is life when, in my freshman year of college, I was placed in the protective care ward at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Hospital due to suicidal ideations I was having at the time. Looking back at this moment and forward to yesterday, I can honestly say that I did not anticipate receiving the same message in one of my lowest valleys and one of my highest peaks. I am incredibly grateful for this gift that I have been given to not only be resilient, like the human fearing for their life amidst an alley full of elephants, but also the opportunity to be in this moment and have it leave a lasting impact on my outlook.

The safari only got better into today. Most of us were surprisingly able to hit the sack at 8:30 at night. We woke up at five in the morning, enthusiastic to hit the road again for the last portion of the safari, although not before we awoke our incredible staff leader Janeen Steer to an early morning rendition of “Happy Birthday.” In the hours we remained in the park, we tracked a pride of lions and took some incredible pictures, some of which you may see at the top of this post. Afterwards, our safari guides brought us across the Botswana border and waved us goodbye as we boarded a boat to the resort bus one last time.

Of all the things to have an impact on my life, I would have never suspected it would be a pack of furious elephants. Again, life is a gift. I am so glad to have had this revelation again and I hope that you reading are all in a place where you can see this too. Tomorrow, we will be spending the day shopping at Curios shops, ziplining, and bungee-jumping among other activities. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope it has been giving you as much joy to read as it has for me to contribute to.

Very Grateful,

Spencer Weiskopf, Class of 2020

PS: Mom and Dad, I love and miss you lots and wish you could be here. You two deserve the whole world I hope to one day be as incredible of a parent as you both have been for me.

Harris, keep on shaking your groove thing. I know you are busy and I hope that you remember to realize the gift that is your own life as you participate in your craft. Love you bro.

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9 Responses to An Alley of Angry Elephants

  1. Jeffrey Dodd says:

    Nice work, Spencer! I appreciate your vulnerability and your gratitude. Both will come in handy in the next month.

    I’m sitting here in my office in solidarity, wearing my Fawlty Towers “Staff” t-shirt, eager to hear what kind of bargaining y’all get up to tomorrow. If you see my guy, Lennox, say hello; there’s a man you can make a deal with!

    Wishing you all good gelato, keen insights from the Livingstone Museum (best dioramas in Zambia!), and traveling mercies as you cross the street this last day in Livingstone.

    As you look to the next stage of your journey, my secret wish for you all is that your time in Zambezi will offer opportunities to get a little bit wrecked, and that you love the growth that comes from it.

    Enjoy the trip up to Zambezi on Friday. Kiss that gravel airstrip for me. No, nevermind, don’t do that.


    PS…Spencer, from one guy who sometimes needs to get away from the crowds to another: Shoot me an email if you need to find a quiet place in Zambezi. I have a couple of hideouts!

  2. Hope says:

    Dad and I are beaming with pride! Your words take us right along with you on the safari and the beauty you have enjoyed and wow – you’ve come a long way since high school writing! LOL

    Just like Jeff, we also appreciate your vulnerability. I know with every telling, you are helping someone who needs to know they are not alone. Definitely take Jeff up on his hideouts! 😉

    Have a fabulous time shopping and exploring in Livingstone! You know I love shopping and hope your trip to Zambezi for the next leg of your adventure gives you many wonderful stories to share.

    Hugs to all your classmates!

  3. Christina Sciammas says:

    Spencer I am so moved by your post. Firstly the safari sounds great and I loved the description of when you were surrounded by trumpeting elephants! Awesome. I really appreciate your sharing of how you persevered thru your struggles to come to a place of really appreciating life. I volunteer as a Eucharistic Minister at a local hospital and just yesterday they called me to visit a suicidal patient in an adjacent lock down facility. He did not know I was a therapist he just wanted to talk about God and his life. I used your exact words in that I believe God meant to give him a precious gift that hopefully he would want to keep and why. We talked a lot and prayed I truly hope he gets to your perspective in his own way. I also love the message you sent your parents- so sweet. I can tell you have a gift. And hope you don’t mind if I make a shameless shout out to Chloe- love and miss you so much!! Bountiful Blessings!! Enjoy yourself Hope the group is now thoroughly enjoying your humor and sarcasm. It is truly missed around here

  4. Sophie Marks and Katie says:

    Megan Hayes!
    Sophie and Katie here! We’re currently playing pinball, and wish you were here! We hope all is well! We love and miss you bunches!
    Everything’s good over here…
    there was a big snow storm
    Eddy won the state rugby game for Regis it was epic, you can watch the video when you get back
    Dingus is still cute!
    And Kenneth made tacos with Turkey meat…I thought of you!

    Okay that is all! Goodbye!
    *insert YAYYYY gif*

  5. Kelen says:

    It has been so cool to witness your voice and energy on campus, as it is evident here as well. You are so great at recognizing yourself and in what ways you want to influence others, and honestly, better influence yourself to keep doing more and living bigger. I’ve been thinking about you a lot these past couple of days (I know this is just the beginning, but still), and so it’s comforting to hear from you so early on. I’ve been thinking of you as you enter into this trip of unknowns, and praying that you feel alive and connected in ways you both assumed and didn’t see coming. As written above, you’ve already started this. I’m proud of you for already connecting your experiences and emotions, and am looking forward for you to keep doing just that as you enter in Zambezi soon. Zambezi is blessed to have you, enjoy sharing yourself more and more.

    Ethan, today I got coffee w Mia and Zoe and the dogs and proceeded to think about you a lot. I’m praying for you as you remember what your experience has been in Zambia, and what your experience is now today. Enjoy spreading joy amongst the crew through your banter and wit – I’m smiling at the thought of you auctioneering for a sec, or impersonating the people you’ve already met.

    Janeen – HAPPY BIRTHDAY! This is 50…right? Know that I’m praying for you tonight. Also ever since my friends told me that you look like my mom I can’t stop thinking about it – so as I’m home now, I’m also thinking about you like all the time too.

    Chlo-dog, There was a really beautiful sunset tonight and I thought of you. If someone could touch Chloe’s weenus that would be awesome, thank you

    Kisu mwane,

  6. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    Spencer, so true. The gratitude we experience after a near death experience is richest when the reality of “what could have happened” really sinks in. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful travelogue, as well as your account of the dark days of youth.

    May you find even more beauty to draw on over the next several years.

    P.S. Can you let Chloeknow she’s looking good? Thanks!

  7. Wesley Johnson says:

    Spencer! This is emma jane’s Mom. You are a gifted writer and amazing soul. I’m not surprised at your talent for the written word one bit. I remember you devouring the bookshelf on play dates with EJ. In first grade! I am so proud of all that you have accomplished and overcome and can’t wait to read more. I feel like I’m there. You are loved!!

  8. Katie Newman says:

    Hi Annika and Ellie!!!!

    Miss you guys tons!! I hope you are having the most amazing time and learning as you go. I’m so insanely proud of you guys and what you are doing! I can’t wait to read your blog posts!!! Already planning my trip down to Portland Ellie and my trip over to Issaquah Annika!! Love you guys!!

  9. Tracy Zerr says:

    Thank you for this beautiful peek into your adventures. You are amazing young man. Keep doing you; because you are perfect! Thank you again for sharing your words.

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