This week started off with an amazing anti poaching training session with the conservancy’s best rangers and volunteers. We were taught how to aim at a target – still or moving, using a paintball gun. SO. MUCH. FUN! We were split up into 2 teams and… we were GOOD!! Apparently the best group they’ve ever worked with. #score.
I was nicknamed KGB and other bad-ass volunteers ranged from Secret Assassin to Action Man to Under Cover Spy. However, we had to pause the madness when….
A mother and 5 month old baby rhino named Masimba started approaching us!! They came closer, and closer and closer… just out of curiosity. The rangers said they have never come that close to humans before, which was definitely exciting.
It also reminded us why we were there, and even though paint-balling targets is fun, the anti poaching team do it as part of a very serious training course to protect these majestic animals, which are in deep need of conservation (according to current stats, 3 rhinos are poached around the world every day!).
Conclusion: The beautiful rhinos watched as our team won by only 4 points so we danced in victory as the others did (or tried to do!) 20 push ups in the 30 degree heat. Ouch!
A more relaxing activity was filming this dam/ waterfall during one of the elephant walks….
…. and then finding a snake skin in the bushes! I see snake skins a lot during filming –they shed them whilst growing and they just get left on the ground. This one was definitely the most intricate and intact one we’ve come across and we had fun trying to determine what snake it was. Just to clarify: I DEFINITELY prefer this sort of snake interaction to last week‘s python and cobra shenanigans!
I also had the privilege of getting very close to giraffes this week. I do feel these animals are underrated…I mean, how crazy is it that nature has given them these insanely beautiful patterns, and yet, just like a person’s fingerprint, each one is unique?? I also love giraffes because they’re so goofy. Have you ever seen a giraffe spread its legs to eat?? Hysterical:
A very special part of this week was immersing myself into Shona culture. Matsika, the deputy head of the local school and ‘mother of all children’ of her village, as they call her, came to our house to teach us about traditional cooking, life in her village and then invited some of her amazing children and nephews/nieces over to dance with us. What an incredible way to connect with the community! So much fun and I even learnt a few Shona songs!
However, there is a more serious side to all this. We have been visiting Matsika’s school and village on a weekly basis and I have made friends with the teenage girls there. Amazing, kind-hearted and hardworking young ladies aged 13-17.
They are going through an extremely difficult stage in their lives because they are all getting their periods, but have no access to sanitary pads and sometimes, not even enough money to buy underwear (in which case their education has to stop because in Shona culture a man must never know or see that a woman menstruates!!) This is very sad and frustrating for girls who hope to change the country’s 95% unemployment rate and find jobs in the future, but sometimes can’t even finish their education because of a natural event. This touched me a lot, not only as someone who enjoyed school, but also as a woman. How INSANE is it that something that will bring men the big families they so desire is also seen as shameful, taboo and disgusting?!
We have found a local village that makes these sanitary packs with underwear , reusable and washable pads and special soaps and towels to clean them every month.
They are $5 each and I have already bought a few for some of the girls I met. This has made the women who spent hours making these packs by hand EXTREMELY happy and has changed lives for 2 girls at the local school.
Think about it: $5 can buy a girl’s EDUCATION.
That’s a HUGE deal and it’s only the price of a drink in the western world. I am now collecting donations to buy as many of these packs as I can and make sure that by the time I leave, these girls will no longer be ashamed of being women and will instead continue their educations in hopes of finding jobs and changing the country’s future. Anything is greatly appreciated and I will keep everyone updated with photos, videos and general progress on this little venture of mine that will hopefully make a difference!
Volunteer of the Week
Annnnaaaa!!! Anna is ecstatically happy to do quite literally any task the volunteers are assigned: tree cutting, hole digging, fence building – you name it! She is from Pennsylvania and hopes to become a vet. Anna goes to rave parties where she performs her famous ‘Octopus Dance’, pictured below. As you can see, I attempted the dance but was put to shame by her talents:
Speaking of talents, Anna does horse riding professionally and she also skied, played polo and was Most Valued Player on her tennis team. She has recently been part of another volunteer program in Ecuador, using her med skills to help local people in need.
Fun Fact: Every time we saw a tortoise, Anna would yell ‘Tortoise Alert!!’
Next Week: Brainy obstacle courses, world’s fattest croc, teaching elephants new skills and unexpected wildlife encounters!