Mosi-O-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders

August 24, 2010 | Stéphanie, Intern, Shared World, Zambia

Week one is coming to a close and we’re all settling in slowly. This week was a whirlwind of adventure, travel, laughs, and excitement. I think we’re all a little bushed and are looking forward to finding some routine next week with work.

We left Tuesday for Livingstone. The bus station was a novel experience: the moment that Moses, our minibus driver, pulled into the station, there were ticket sellers and baggage handlers hovering and crowding our bus. For the most part, they just want your business and as soon as you say that you already have a ticket or don’t need help with your bag, they leave you alone and search out other business. But it’s an impressive amount of people that surround your you in the first few seconds. I am glad though, that I am getting to know the ropes with Jason and Michelle and SWI. It’s a little less overwhelming and they have great tips for how to handle the crowds and sellers. Also, the intercity buses are relatively inexpensive and still quite luxurious  – cake snacks and juice are offered!

Once in Livingstone, we set out right away to view the falls. I’m sure I’ve said this a couple times too many already but they were amazing!! We arrived just before sunset and the light through the mist was dream-like as the sun fell in the sky. The amount of spray and the sound of water crashing is huge! I understand why the locals call it Mosi-O-Tunya, the smoke that thunders. As you walk over a bridge that’s about 600 metres from the falls , it is as if you are standing in a downpour of rain. There is no avoiding getting soaked, raincoat or not. I felt pure joy as we were pounded by the spray and took in the huge cascades – joy that’s comparable to standing on a mountain top! We stayed in the park until the horizon was red and the night sky appeared before we headed back to our hostel for dinner. In keeping with the novelty of the week, I tried croccodile curry for dinner! It’s actually quite delicious – kind of tastes like chicken.

Our only full day in Livingstone was busy. There was many activities to chose from but several of the girls and I went on a canoe safari followed by a walking safari. It was pretty amazing to see zebras (animals you’ve only ever seen in books and movies) 10 yards from me. We spotted croccodiles, hippos (one of the world’s most dangerous animals! I wouldn’t want to surprise one of those guys!), impala, baboons, monkeys, white-browed sparrow weavers, marabou storks, sausage trees and rain trees and got friendly with a 34-year old rhino. Our bus-ride home on Thursday took us an extra two hours. The bus broke down and they had to fix a radiator pipe. Many pick-ups stopped to help fix the bus and several passengers joined in. And the passengers had patience for the two hour repair that I haven’t seen in Canada –  not a complaint until about 10 minutes before they got the bus started again.

Yesterday, we met the first of our local partner organizations, Bwafano. Bwafano is a community resource centre that started with home-based care (the delivery of ARV’s to patients that were too sick/too ashamed/too fearful to pick up their meds at a clinic. From their work in the community, the caregivers identified other needs and gradually, Bwafano expanded to offer integrated programs. Today, they run a school; programs  and check-in’s for orphaned and vulnerable children; a clinic, voluntary counseling and testing for HIV, malaria, diabetes, TB; a lab for processing the tests; a skills-training centre and a small income-generating market. This year has been a tough year for Bwafano as the PEPFAR (let me see if I can remember this: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) 5-year aid program just ended last year and Bwafano’s funding has been dramatically cut back as a result. It’s incredible the programs that they still continue to run despite being underfunded and understaffed. We started our needs assessment this morning but before we conceive our projects, we’ll spend another week getting to know the organizations and witnessing their needs first hand. We have an interview workshop tomorrow morning and next week, we shadow some home visits with Bwafano volunteers and with the help of translators, conduct interviews with some of their clients.

Despite some minor injuries (sore muscles from gorge swinging, bruised bums from slips on the waxed floors) and some normal bodily adjustments to time, place, and diet, we are all happy and smiling and glad to be here more than ever. I’m nursing a small cold with afternoon naps and early nights these days but otherwise I’m loving it.

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