It all started when twenty (20) students flew into the country at different hours to take on an adventure that would hopefully change their lives.
Here’s what’s in this issue:
The first week is by far the most hectic of all. Students register for classes, move in to their dorms or homestays, and attend an all-week orientation, all while adjusting to a new environment, food, and the weather.
The students attended lectures that introduced them to Botswana culture, lifestyles, traditions, as well as the political, economic, and social spheres at the University of Botswana. During orientation, they took a bus tour of the city, tasted local food, danced to the music, saw a few cultural sites, and also got the chance to use public transportation.
One of the best parts of the orientation week was 'The Great Gatsby Combi Safari." Students were divided into six groups with one student volunteer as their leader. The students learned how to, where, and when to take public transport around the city while competing for a prize. They came up with a creative collage of pictures and/or videos that best represent their day experience in the city. The staff evaluated the submissions and picked the winner.
Video from the winning group!
Orientation week was packed with fun activities like The Combi Safari as well as educational ones like the talk on safety and security in Botswana and on the UB campus. The fast-paced week culminated with a welcome dinner which was held at an Indian restaurant called Saffron. We also had a homestay welcome braai at Mma Bianca's house (the homestay coordinator) where students and staff brought home cooked food as well as delicious desserts. We interacted, danced, shared stories, and sat around a fire in the night.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
We have multiple volunteering days arranged for our students over the course of their time in Gaborone. This semester, we failitated sessions on team building, leadership skills, and arts and crafts with kids from S.O.S Children's Village. S.O.S. houses over 120 orphans and vulnerable children from Gaborone and nearby villages. We also donated a few essentials for each child. It was loads of fun!
We also volunteered at Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a game park and nature reserve that promotes conservation while also providing tourist and educational activities. The staff, students, and volunteers learned so much about Botswana's nature, conservation in Botswana, and Mokolodi's history. During our volunteer activity, our tasks included building ridges to prevent soil erosion when it rains, digging holes that would trap rain water, cutting down harzardous trees, and more.
Our last volunteer day was at Meso Day Care, where our future generation starts to paint its dreams. Meso is located in Kanye, a village an hour and a half southwest of Gaborone. We organized a fun day with the kids who are aged between four (4) and seven (7), and most are orphans or vulnerable in some way. We played educational games with them, attended their graduation ceremony, and shared a great lunch. We were fortunate enough to be able to donate a computer to the Meso staff in order to help them provide the best services to their students.
Our students showed so much enthusiasm towards these projects and volunteering activities which always warms our hearts.
In addition to volunteering activities, we have numerous excursions that assist the students in becoming more acquainted with their local community. Apart from the community public health site visits, such as Princess Marina Hospital, Hamadubu Waste Management Site, Botswana-Baylor Children's Centre of Excellence, and more, we traveled to Jwaneng mine, Bahurutshe cultural village, Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Kanye village, Chobe, and Victoria Falls.
We were honored with the privilege of visiting the Jwaneng mine, which most Batswana have not even had the chance to see. Jwaneng is the world's richest mine by value and diamonds are the largest contribution to Botswana's GDP. We wore the mine gear on our trip to see the monster trucks and the huge pit where they source the diamonds from. The work done there is incredible.
Our students, staff and student volunteers have the chance to experience trips at every corner of the country. We made our own clay pots from scratch at Motse lodge in Kanye as shown in the image above. We also played games, jumped on the trampoline, and hosted our own talent show competition in Serowe at Khama Rhino Sanctuary. But the day didn't end there - we had an evening game drive where one group was ecstatic about seeing hyenas and a leopard!
It's always exciting to be on these excursions and experience Botswana from a whole new perspective.
No matter how many times we go on these excursions, or hop on the safari trucks to see these animals, and have a taste of local food prepared in Setswana culture, it always feels like it's the first time. Students always express their amazement and appreciation for these experiences.
“Good bye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.” ~Walt Disney
After creating all these memories, making new friends, and experiencing different cultures, saying goodbye may be the hardest thing to do, but it surely isn't an unpleasant one. We had a farewell dinner at the Golf Estates in Phakalane which had a sophisticated yet young and vibrant feel. Our students took over the planning of this gathering and they made us proud. The theme was Christmas which explained the decorations: the lights, the table deco, the Christmas drawings on the agenda and on the certificates, as well as the music. The night was sweet and very lively; we danced it away and it did not seem like we were saying goodbye.
The food was great. The music was amazing, and everyone looked absolutely stunning.
In the last excursion for the semester, the fall 14 group flew up to Kasane, Chobe National Park before driving into Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls.
In Chobe we had the opportunity to go on a boat cruise in the Chobe River as well as camp in the national park for two (2) nights. Chobe National Park is located in Botswana's north eastern district, with the Chobe River forming the Park's northern border near the borders to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia and is famous for its vast variety of wildlife. Chobe National Park was founded in 1967 which made it Botswana's first national park. Chobe has one of the greatest concentration of elephants of any national park in Africa. The park has 4 of the big 5: Elephant, Lion, Leopard, and Buffalo. The last of the big 5, Rhino, is rarely seen there. The package for the trip included daily game drives at different hours of the day, bush prepared meals, as well as camping in the middle of the park. We came across many animals there including: The big 5, Giraffes, Baboons, Leopards, Impalas, Gemsboks, Crocodiles, Wilderbeests, and more. As they say, 'A picture is worth a thousand words'; see for yourself.
From Chobe, we went to Victoria Falls, which is a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America's Niagara Falls. The group had a chance to view the falls and enjoy various activities. We also visited a market in the town of Victoria Falls where we purchased different local crafts.
All the pictures above were captured by our students as well as our CIEE Gaborone staff. This is their experience--animals up close, the feel of Cictoria showers on their skin, the animals at peace in their habitat, the beautiful view of the sunset from the Chobe river, and so much more exciting things that cannot be captured on camera.
This was one extraordinary experience. The students were thankful for the memories they created, the friends they made, and the lessons they learned. It's always amazing for CIEE staff to see the students grow as individuals, learn, and find more ways of understanding the world and its diversity.
Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!