Saturday, August 11, 2007

Look Out For Hippos and Elephants!

I have been away from the internet for a few days again, and I have a lot to tell you. My trip is almost over and before leaving Africa the delegation spent a few nights on Safari! Before we left though we traveled to the Zomba to visit an orphanage founded by Joyce Banda.
Joyce Banda is currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Malawi, but that wasn't always the case. She was involved in an abusive marriage and at age 25 she became empowered by the growing women's movement. She took her three children, left her husband, and started a garment manufacturing business. She inspired other women to free themselves from abusive relationships, poverty, and injustice. Ms. Banda created the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, and this is just one of her many contributions to Malawi's women and children. Her orphanage in Zomba is a part of her foundation; it is there that she provides a nutritious meal, an education, and a safe home for children who have lost both of their parents. I had the opportunity to meet with Ms. Banda, and she is truly an incredible woman. She has overcome many challenges and is now a successful leader in Malawi and wonderful role model.
The children from the orphanage and the all the nearby townspeople were eager to greet us on Thursday afternoon. The students had prepared a song for our visit, and we took a group photograph together. I am still in awe at the warm welcome we receive at every new site. I am honored that our simple visit is viewed as such a celebration. We didn't stay very long at the orphanage because we had a three-hour drive ahead of us in order to get to Mvuu Lodge before dark. The Mvuu Lodge, or the place of Hippo's, is where we spent two nights on an African Safari. For me this part of the trip was especially exciting. I've always wanted to go on a REAL African Safari, and my one wish of the weekend was that I would see elephants. Well I certainly got my wish! I saw elephants, warthogs, hippos, crocodiles, bushbuck, and impala, just to name a few. I had warthogs snorting by my door as I was trying to fall asleep, geckos trying to sneak into my room, and I was almost eaten by a rhino (well I guess that's a little bit of an exaggeration)! Truthfully though, during a dusk safari ride our jeep got stuck in a ditch and we couldn't get a signal on the radio or the cell phone. Did I mention we were in the gated area where the rhinoceros live, and it was getting dark very quickly?
My two nights on safari helped me to realize that I am by no means a wilderness girl. I couldn't fall asleep at night because the animal noises were so loud, and I started screaming when I saw the lizards in my room. I did love the baobab trees; they are the biggest, most beautiful trees I have ever seen. I am only five feet tall but when I stand next to the trees I feel even smaller. At night, the stars were magnificent, they literally sparkled above my head, and again I was reminded that I am only one in such a huge world.
Tonight is my last night in Africa, and it is a bittersweet feeling. I am very excited to see my family and I long for the comfort of my own bed. However I have truly loved every second of this experience and I know that I will miss Malawi when I'm gone.

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