Lessons for Life, From the Bush

Group picture along the river with the infamous “Mr. T” and Lance on the far right

It has been an exciting two days! As I am writing this, we are in Livingstone unpacking from our safari adventure in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. It was the most beautiful, inspiring, and perspective-altering experience.

Our group formed in the SeaTac airport a little over a week ago, so we are still figuring out the group dynamic and building trust. These last couple of days has provided us the opportunity to go deeper with each other. We now have nicknames, inside jokes, and the first beginnings of mutual trust and respect. The safari was a beautiful environment for us to strengthen bonds, create lasting community, and soak up each other’s company before our departure for our pursuit of accompaniment in Zambezi’s community and culture.

Our journey started with a boat cruise on the Chobe River—led by the charismatic and beyond knowledgeable, Mr. T. Wildlife on the river is lively, harmonious, and thriving. Each animal has a role, and they play it perfectly. The boat and the open-air Land Cruiser tour provided an ideal environment to observe, record, and bond with the animals and each other.

The animals—on the river and in the park—were as majestic, enchanting, and enormous as they seem in photos and media. Chobe National Park has no shortage of impalas, elephants, and giraffes. In the beginning of our tour, our co-leader Abbey said something along the lines of, “Impalas are the McDonald’s of the bush.” She was right; it seemed like an Impala was never out of view for very long. However, I learned to appreciate their comforting presence as time went on.

We were lucky enough to see a pride of lions feasting after a freshly made kill of Cape buffalo. That whole first day we were on the hunt for lions. It was approaching dusk as we drove endless dirt roads tracking them, but things felt different as Mr. T slowed our vehicle and said he smelt a fresh kill (I’m telling you—this guy was a legend!). We began to see other vehicles parked alongside the road and slowly 3 male lions came into view. We were so close! As we moved further along, we saw the buffalo carcass and more lions feasting from it. I expected to feel more sad or disgusted by the act, but it truly was beautiful. Mr. T explained it well when he said, “the lions are grateful to the buffalo for providing food for the pride.” As we drove away, we saw two buffalos lying under a tree about 500 feet away grieving the loss of their loved one. It was tragic, but somehow peaceful. “Life on the bush,” said Mr. T.

As majestic as the lions were, they could not compare to my love for elephants. Elephants are amazing to see in real life, in the wild. It is clear, they are wise, loyal, and family-oriented. We saw countless baby elephants with their herd, and their mamas never failed to shield and protect their babies from outside influence. We could see them playing, teasing, and loving on one another. Trust me when I say, many tears were shed.

As we sat around the fire at night and asked each other questions. My peer Kalie poised a question to Mr. T. She asked why he chose to become a guide, and in classic Mr. T fashion he responded with, “because I see and learn something new every day.” That stuck with me. Mr. T is a lifelong learner, and I think we all could benefit from his wisdom and the lessons from the bush.

Our time on the safari was beautiful and amazing, but it was also reflective and challenging. There is nothing more pure than seeing mother nature in all her glory, and Chobe National Park provided us all an opportunity to grow and think deeply about our actions and behaviors. Abbey might have said it best—as she sobbed at the sight of baby elephants nursing from their mother—”why can’t everyone just recycle?”

The Animals on the bush can teach us all valuable skills, and I saw unique traits in each species that reminded me of our own characteristics and values:

The strength of lions to take down prey,
the loyalty of water buffalo to mourn their fallen mere feet from their predators,
the patience of hippos to bask in the sun and float in the water as a practice of self-care,
the trust of giraffes to follow their tower blindly,
the ambition of impalas to always seek the strongest mate, and
the love of elephants to protect their young from any outside disturbance.

I wish—for myself and our community—these traits throughout our journey to Zambezi and beyond.

Nicole “TANJ” Perry
Gonzaga ’23

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8 Responses to Lessons for Life, From the Bush

  1. Heather Atkins says:

    Wow! Just, WOW!

  2. Lori Brown says:

    Beautifully written Nicole!! Or should I call you Tanj? It’s like I’m right there with you. I’ve been to Chobe too, so could picture you so perfectly with the way you described it. Amen to the animals, the teachers of life! And Mr. T, the perfect philosophical guide 🙂 I’m not surprised you favor those amazing elephants, since you are the mama elephant on our block. Here’s to lots of love and community building as you head to the village soon! ❤️ Lori (and Curtis, who is out buying canned tomatoes for when you return).

  3. The Rosenwald Family says:

    Wow! Thank you for this fantastic update. This gives us a lot to think about. The interdependence of nature is our Earth’s true beauty.

    We loved sharing today’s blog, Dr Z’s tiktok, and Andie’s photos with everyone we came across today!! 🙂 There are a lot of people on this journey with you! Xoxox

  4. Bryce Kreiser says:

    Glorious writing, Nicole. Your sense of wonder evokes my own experiences with that good and heavy silence that inspires awe, humility and gratitude. Thank you for that.

  5. Jennifer Akins says:

    Chimene Mwane Zamfam 2022!
    Tunasakilili mwane Sarah, Eva and Nicole for your amazing descriptions and reflections on Zambia so far! Yes to listening hard and long, to allowing your hosts to properly host you all, to curiosity, to figuring out what it means to be an American in Zambia and in Zambezi, and along the way to laughing hard and long (oh and I so agree about the elephants being the most amazing animal of all!). I am so-so-so incredibly happy for you all to be on this journey together and I wish I were there! Yet I also am sure that I am in the right place for me right now – if only we could live parallel lives. My calendar is telling me that you arrive in Zambezi tomorrow (today?) and I look forward to reading the next person’s attempt at describing that experience, one that will live on inside you forever. Give my love to the mamas and everyone else in the boma. My wish for you all is that you soak up all that emerges from the animate and inanimate beings of Zambezi and let everything affect you as you affect it all through relationships.

    Oh, and lean on each other and love on each other – you are all amazing!

  6. How beautifully reflective. I felt like I was traveling with you, a part of your journey, experiencing the range of emotions you connectedness. Also love to hear about the community that you are building, the trust that is developing among you. Bonds forever.

  7. Erin Fairley says:

    Very descriptive writing, Nicole. Amazing journey you are on!

  8. Mark & Tanya Perry says:

    We love reading this and all the posts. So thankful to share in the journey in this way, it is very moving. We feel connected to the mission and experiences through your writings and all the shared media. We are so proud of ‘TANJ’ and I for one never expected her to embrace that name and the story behind it, but so glad she has!

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