Presentation on theme: "Botswana A Photo Essay by Kelly Macri. Our class was taught in a modern building a short walk away from the dorms that we stayed in. Besides the day the."— Presentation transcript:
Botswana A Photo Essay by Kelly Macri
Our class was taught in a modern building a short walk away from the dorms that we stayed in. Besides the day the power went out in the middle of an exam, we were satisfied with the classroom space we were given - fully equipped with new tables, chairs, whiteboard, and computer hookups for the projector, something I was not entirely expecting prior to arriving at the University of Botswana. Class started every day, sometimes even on Saturday, bright and early at 8:30 am. Waking up for class was easy though, knowing that it was 80 degrees, sunny, and that we were in Africa! There were only two days that we saw isolated clouds pass by during the three weeks we were in Gabarone - a pleasant contrast from the gray, cloudy skies of Cleveland that usually greet us in the morning.
To our delight, there was a vibrant shopping center, Main Mall, conveniently located within walking distance from the University of Botswana. There were stores for essentials such as food and soap but the main walkway was also lined with vendors selling handmade crafts that were perfect to bring home as souvenirs or gifts. By the end of our trip, our haggling skills had greatly improved and we were able to purchase a lot more gifts for our money than we did initially. Main Mall was also a popular destination to escape the monotony of lunch and dinner. Although the food tasted fine, there was not as much variety as we had hoped. Our meals typically consisted of rice or pasta, meat, and a starch or vegetable. At Main Mall there were many options for food including Debonairs Pizza, Nandos (a grilled chicken restaurant and my personal favorite), and even a KFC.
Many of the topics we discussed in class, Thermodynamics, could be applied directly to problems faced by the people of Botswana. One concept we studied was the flow of water, so we took a field trip to visit various water wells. On our way back from the one located farthest away from town, and rather far into the unsettled desert, we found the hut in this picture. As we got closer to take pictures, we noticed there were also cows fenced in on the property, and the owner came out and let us into the cow pen to take pictures. The design of these huts was another topic we discussed in class, regarding the flow of heat. Because Botswana is located in the Kalahari desert and its people are scattered throughout, it is important for them to find the most efficient ways to transport water and to heat/cool and provide electricity to homes, all of which were topics we made calculations on during class. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the diamond mine as planned which was another topic of the course but still had the opportunity to visit many other fascinating places in Botswana.
One of the day trips we took was a hiking trip up the Kgale Hill. Unable to find the route that the previous years group had taken, we decided to take a different path which turned out to be much more difficult than expected. While hiking up the hill we had to hoist each other up tall rocks, support each other from slipping down steep inclines, and avoid baboons that we could hear barking off in the distance. Although it was more difficult than the walk we thought we were taking up to the top of the hill, the view from the top made it all worthwhile. Kgale Hill overlooks the city of Gabarone on one side and the Gaborone Dam on the other. Even though we were all exhausted and thankful to be walking back down the easy path, we all agreed that if we hadnt taken the difficult path up, the experience wouldnt have been half as rewarding.
One day we took a day trip to the Mokalodi Nature Reserve located near Gaborone. We enjoyed the tour around the 30 km sq. Game Reserve and some of us even paid to pet a cheetah. However, a trip to Botswana wouldnt be complete without going on a real safari so we took a three-day break from classes to visit the Okavango Delta. Upon arriving in Maun, we were greeted with three open-air safari vehicles that would be driving us all the way to our campsite, six and half hours away. Luckily a 4am wake up call meant most of us slept right into the afternoon, missing most of the windy, bumpy, dust-filled drive. Although I wasnt initially thrilled with our transportation, by the end of the trip, it was one of my favorite parts of the safari. The guides were knowledgeable and full of personality and it was very refreshing to drive through the plains of Africa with a clean, brisk breeze flowing across your face.
Besides the occasional cattle, donkey, or dog, for most of the drive we didnt see any animals. With still two hours of our drive to go and without even entering the official Moremi Game Reserve, our first safari animal sighting was spotted on the side of the road. A herd of maybe 7 or 8 giraffes were grazing no more than 10 feet away from our vehicles. Only a few of us, not including myself, had been on a real safari before so for most of us, this was our first encounter with a wild African animal. It was very surreal to stumble upon wild giraffes just wandering along the side of the road.
It was not until we actually arrived at our campsite that we learned we were sleeping in tents and had no on-site access to bathrooms or showers. Although not everyone was thrilled, I happen to enjoy camping, and was excited to be able to camp in the African wilderness. We sat down to eat lunch before heading out for our first game drive of the trip when a herd of elephants walked by right on the edge of our campsite. The next morning at breakfast (which was served before the sun came up), a leopard walked right through our campsite. Although it may have been cold at night sleeping in tents, having animals walk right up to our campsite was more than worth two nights of shivering. A few other highlights of the camping experience were freshly fire-cooked bread, the unbelievable view of the stars and listening to stories from the guides around the fire.
We went on game drives early in the morning, as the sun was coming up, and another in the afternoon that lasted until the sun went down. During the middle of the day when the sun was the hottest and highest, many of the animals were off napping in the shade, but dawn and dusk are the most active times of day for the animals and the prime viewing time. Not only were these times good for spotting animals but they were also the perfect times for beautiful African sunrise and sunsets. No words or even pictures could convey the beauty of the sun rising and setting on the African plains. It is one of the most beautiful sights and I am so thankful to have gotten to see them.
On the second day of our trip we were scheduled for a river tour on boats through the Delta. There was only one main boat so we had to rotate in three groups. The trips were quite long and it was rather hot out so many of my group, the third one, decided to head back instead. Since there were only three from my group left, one of the guides offered to take us in the smaller boat. We got into the boat and were waiting to go when a hippo appeared on the opposite bank. The guide took us closer so we could get better pictures but after awhile the hippo got into the river and started swimming toward us. Hippos can swim quite fast underwater so once he got under the water, our guide started the boat and we sped away. I was delighted to have seen the hippo but with nothing but a small, fragile tin boat (with an engine that kept getting clogged by the plants and mud on the bottom of the river) separating us, I was also glad to be cruising down the channels of the Delta, in the opposite direction of the hippo.
Over the three days, the three different vehicles seemed to be in a competition of who could spot the best animals. Although I unfortunately was not a part of the vehicles that saw the lions on the last morning, I still felt I had a wonderful experience in the Okavango Delta and would love to go back someday. On the last night before leaving, the people in my vehicle were rather upset that we hadnt seen any cats besides the leopard that walked through the campsite in the morning and still had no luck on that game drive either. We were headed back to the campsite when we stumbled upon a single elephant. We sat for at least a half hour, in awe, watching this lonely elephant graze, with the skies illuminating in hues of pink and purple as the sun went down. Moments like these are unique to actually being in Africa - a zoo definitely wont ever be the same for me again now that Ive experienced these animals, up close, in their natural habitats.
In addition to the safari and the Thermodynamics-related trips, we also had the opportunity to learn more about the culture and history of Botswana. One of the cultural attractions that we saw were the cliff paintings. These paintings were done by the Bushman and are estimated to be up to 4,000 years old. It was fascinating not only to see what kinds of things the indigenous people of Botswana were painting about, but that these paintings have survived this long on the side of cliffs, exposed to the weather. On this same trip we also stopped along the road at a handcrafted pottery store where we all bought beautiful cups and plates to take back with us.
Another historical site that we visited was the tree at which Scottish Congregationalist pioneer, David Livingstone, taught the locals about Christianity. This tree was just one of the many places that David Livingstone taught on his 12 year mission to spread Christianity throughout Africa. Not only was the tree impressively large but also it was also interestingly and fittingly shaped. The tree created a huge arch with an open, shaded space that would have been perfect for David Livingstones gatherings.
We ended our cultural excursion with a visit to one of the traditional cultural centers in Botswana. The members of the center performed traditional songs and dances for us, led by the chief and his eldest wife, all in the traditional dress of their tribe. They even invited us to dance with them, play the drums and participate in traditional ceremonies. We also got to learn more about the everyday preparation of the food and cleaning practices, such as grinding the flour for the bread and how they sanitize their floors and surfaces. To end the day we all gathered to eat a freshly cooked meal. The dancers all changed back into their normal clothing and joined us for dinner. I was glad to know that even those who dont still live in the villages are still active in learning and spreading their culture and heritage.
Besides the safari, my favorite experience from Botswana was when we visited a local primary school. We were not exactly sure what we would be doing when we got there but it just so happened to be their sports day so the entire school was outside playing various games. The children were thrilled to see us and wanted to know everything about ourselves and about America. The teachers werent so thrilled that we seemed to be bring extreme excitement and chaos when we first arrived but after a while the children calmed down and we all were able to have some organized. Some of us played games like tennis and soccer with them while others taught and played games with the children that we play back home in America like Swim Fishy, Swim. It was rewarding to bring smiles to these childrens faces and to have them bring smiles to our faces.
Another great thing about traveling to and from Botswana was the ability to plan long layovers so we could go explore different places. Some of the places students stopped at were Germany, Paris and London. Although I was tired from the jet lag and it was raining and cold both days, I enjoyed being able to explore London for 10 hours both to and from Botswana. I was able to see many famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament. I would love to spend more time in London one day but the two day trips I spent were a nice break from being on the airplane and were essentially buy one trip to Botswana, get one free trip to London, which is always a plus.