I wanted to be Christiane Amanpour, or hell, Murpy Brown. My very first job - in a real newsroom - promised such a future. But then I got my second job in television...
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
In addition to the second-highest bungee jump in the world, Victoria Falls hosts a fine set of waterfalls coincidentally named...Victoria Falls. It's one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It's purdy. Plus, there's a bridge there that you can jump off. There we are, contemplating it.*
I was teased about my rented poncho, but got the last laugh at my drenched comrades, thank you very much.
*My slightly off-point pointing is an homage to my dad. Any vacation that brought us to a tourist sight was commemorated with photos of my sisters and me pointing to said wonder. But dad had an old camera with a viewfinder that was miles away from the lens. What he saw didn't quite correspond to the photo he took, thus a collection of snapshots of the Rowland girls pointing randomly into the distance. I asked one of my companions to take a shot of me pointing at the bridge, for old time's sake. "but you're not pointing anywhere near it."
We capped off our trip with a quick buzz through Chobe National Park, and it is simply impossible to take a bad photo here. These pictures came off of my little snappy digital thingy, and not some big thwacking professional rig. (I did take some closeup shots using my 35mm camera with the giant zoom, but I have no idea where one gets actual film developed these days.)
(Click on any photo to see it all huge on your monitor. Then click the back key to return to this page.)
Botswana takes its wildlife seriously. Poachers are shot on sight, and those that survive are sent to prison for a very long time. (In fact, the reason there are no rhinos in Chobe is because they were too much of a lure for poachers, putting other animals at risk, so they've been relocated. Sorry, rhinos.) This policy isn't just good for the critters, it's a sound business decision. With their diamond reserves dwindling yearly, Botswana needs the cash generated by tourism, and a well-stocked parade of elephants is quite a draw.
And damn, did we see elephants. They're everywhere. Like racoons. We also encountered a good number of giraffes, impala, kudu, warthog (Pumba!) hippos and fornicating baboons. The only thing I didn't see was a big cat. Half of our team did. They were in another jeep, and witnessed a showdown between a lion and a mother elephant, and reported back in breathless detail: The lion was stalking some nearby impala, when a baby elephant wandered close. (note: baby elephants is tasty.) The lion slinked under a nearby bush and the mama charged over, reared up on her hind legs and - bellowing - brought her full weight crashing down on the bush. Dramatic as that sounds, I was just as happy to have a bit of distance twixt myself and an enraged elephant, not to mention a jittery carnivore. I have newfound respect for that Mutual of Omaha guy, "I'll stay here in the jeep, while Rusty checks on the lion...."
Monday, July 6, 2009
Our dedication ceremony featured dancing like what we saw in the school gym, only all grown up. And my, how they've grown. These dancers are just young adults with day jobs and homework, but while our kids get summer gigs at McDonalds, they sweat their butts off perfecting the moves that have been passed down for generations. They were amazing, and absolutely idolized by the little kids in the neighborhood, who all gathered 'round to watch. Some of the elders got in on the act, too. And stayed.
The end of every build includes a house dedication ceremony. This team's occured at the new home of Mantu and her daughter. (We did the most work at Inya's house, but hers isn't move-in ready like Mantu's is. The next team will most likely have their ceremony there.)
Words were spoken, keys were presented, ribbons were cut. It was a simple little affair, really, but still we were reaching for the hankies. This little tin-roofed home doesn't leak, and its concrete floors don't harbor bugs. It has real windows and doors that lock. It may seem like little more than a toolshed to suburban America, but to Mantu, it's a life-changer. And the thatched-roof hut across her courtyard that she used to call home can now become what it was meant to be: a toolshed.