I should probably change the name of this blog to “Better Late Than Never.” Although it’s been several weeks since my Christmas and New Year’s trip, I wanted to share it with everyone. If you don’t care about how I spent the holidays, let me tell you now that I was bitten by a lion. Yes, you read that correctly. A LION. Are you hooked? If not, how could you not be?! I WAS BITTEN BY A LION.
Anyway, here goes…
Christmas in The Ghetto
I spent my Christmas in Francistown – the former colonial capital of Botswana. Batswana have an affectionate name for Francistown: “The Ghetto.” Seriously. It’s an affectionate term. Francistown is an awesome city. In the local newspapers there is a section for news stories solely from Francistown and that section is called “Ghetto Metro.”
Several of us volunteers stayed with another Peace Corps Volunteer who has AIR CONDITIONING, CEILING FANS, and awesome neighbors who have A POOL. It was great. We ate Christmas lunch at a local Indian restaurant. Santa must’ve known that one of the things I asked him for Christmas this year was naan. No lie. Don’t judge. You come and live in a country where you have to eat rice, baked beans, and fat cakes every day and soon you’ll also be begging Santa for some naan.
We then went to a nearby ice cream shop and double-fisted milkshakes. Literally. It was sweltering hot, and the shop was all out of large milkshakes, so we each decided to get two medium milkshakes, or a medium milkshake and an ice cream cone. Never let it be said that Peace Corps Volunteers are not the epitome of class.
In Case There Was Any Doubt, Elephants Are Freakin’ HUGE
From there, another volunteer and I went on safari in Chobe National Park. It was incredible. As you can see from the pictures below, we saw a TON of animals.
The first thing we did was go on a boat cruise through the Chobe River, which operates as a border separating Botswana from Namibia and Zambia. After that, we went on a game drive through the park. It was beautiful. There were so many animals, it felt as though we were in Jumanji. There was even a moment when I seriously thought we were going to be stampeded by an elephant. It was awesome. And terrifying. Mostly terrifying, but still kind of awesome. Ok, it was straight up terrifying. Only now that I am several weeks removed from the situation can I look back and say that it was kind of awesome. But only kind of.
We spent the night in the park. The safari company provided dinner with wine and traditional entertainment. We spent the night sleeping in a two-person tent, just several feet from where lions were feasting and roaring. That was also awesome, until I could see that our guides were freaking out a bit. Then that also became terrifying. But still kind of awesome.
We woke up at dawn the next morning. We had breakfast and then sped off on another game drive where we saw more animals, including a honey badger! After the final game drive in the park, we went back to the Chobe River and crossed it, heading into Zambia.
Zim & Zam
In Zambia, we stayed at a hostel in the center of Livingstone. We ran into a numerous of other PCVs from Botswana and Zambia which was pretty cool. We also went to a bunch of markets and bought WAY too many souvenirs. It was fun until we returned back to the hostel and I saw what was (or should I say, what wasn’t) in my wallet. Womp, womp. On the bright side, I now have beautifully painted coasters, bowls, candelabras, and mosaics to showcase in my house. Well, my future house.
On our second day in Zambia, I went on a lion walk. The pictures are below. It was INCREDIBLE. The walk is run by a nonprofit organization that is working to increase the population of lions in Africa. A guide took me and five others on a walk through the game reserve. We got to watch the lions play and re-enact the final battle scene between Simba and Scar in The Lion King. I even got to PET THEM. It was nuts. But, even crazier than that, is that one of them tried to bite me.
For real, yo!
The guide asked me if I wanted to let the lion lick my hand. I wasn’t going to turn that opportunity down. The guide and I crouched down in front of the lion. He took my hand and held it to the lion’s mouth. The lion licked my hand, pulled back and sniffed it, growled, and then went to bite my hand. Thank goodness that the guide was holding my hand, as he was able to quickly pull it back so that the lion’s teeth only nipped my skin. Isn’t that terrifying and kind of awesome?! I was technically bit by a lion! Although its teeth only nipped my skin, there was teeth on skin contact. For sure. Therefore, I feel as though I can say, without lying, that I was bit by a lion. I think that I need to add that to my bucket list just so that I can cross it off.
The next day (New Year’s Eve) we went to Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls, which is one of the eight wonders of the natural world, is a grand and beautiful series of waterfalls that serves as a border separating Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was awesome, majestic, and wet. Seriously. We should have worn rain jackets or even embarrassing and unflattering ponchos as we were completely soaked when we left. My favorite part of Vic Falls was seeing the double rainbow at the bottom of the falls. See the pictures below. It was incredible. We were then able to cross over into Zimbabwe to see the falls from that side of the border. It was much less developed (surprise, surprise), but I think that the views from Zimbabwe were even better.
That night, New Year’s Eve, we went to a local restaurant called Olga’s, which purportedly has the best pizza in Southern Africa. Initially, I was dubious, but the pizza was in fact terrific. For the first time in a long time, we had real pizza. It was soooooo good. We sat eating, chatting, and just chilling. It might have been super low key, but it was still one of the best New Year’s Eve’s I’ve had in a long time.
The next day, we started the long trip home. All in all, it was a great vacation and a fantastic way to spend the holidays. It was a nice break from the issues I was dealing with in my village. I definitely want to return to Zambia someday.
Thanks for reading! Even though they holidays were several weeks ago, I hope that you all enjoyed yours as much as I enjoyed mine. Great friends, great food, great animals – what more could a PCV in Africa ask for? Well, you know, besides reliable running water, reliable electricity, faster Internet connection, the extermination of all cockroaches on the continent… =)