Shawnda: A cold sanctuary: A rhino’s tale

July 10, 2011

“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded” [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

So, a bit of an update on the past few days:

We spent two nights at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Serowe, Botswana.  Although I enjoyed Mokolodi, this was a vast improvement.  We saw a wide range of animals including white rhinos, impala, springbok, birds, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, warthogs, and jackals.  My pictures could not possibly do the Sanctuary justice; it was absolutely beautiful.  We did both a morning and evening game drive. 

To begin however, I think I should mention the trip to Serowe. Little needs to be said about our miserable experience.  A crowded bus, two kids punching me in the head, air conditioning that went on once every 10 minutes for literally 1 second, sweaty people, 4 hours. Unbearable.  But we made it.

We woke up bright and early to leave our dorms at 6am for our first game drive, spending the beginning hour driving in the biting cold and waiting for the sun to come up.  As soon as my camera had enough light to focus, we come across two giraffes on our right; I was sitting on the left side again of course.  My focus was terrible, but just sitting and watching such still and aloof animals sufficed; I made a mental image.  The drive alone was enough to satisfy me, our driver was wild and reckless, but it made for an interesting two hours speeding and weaving through the sandy paths.  Much of the land was cleared with scarce amounts of trees and bush throughout.  The land was brown and mainly leafless, with trees and hills bordering the outskirts.  Sprinbok were a hot commodity there; we saw multiple packs roaming and eating the elephant grass.  They almost appeared to be glowing against the grass with their white bellies and clean, brown fur.  Towards the end of our drive, we were finally able to see three rhinos displaying their rear ends for the majority of the time.  It was surprising to see how well they blended in considering their size.  They gave us a quick pose, all aligned perfectly in a row, then passed ahead of the first truck into the bush. 

We spent the afternoon eating brunch and then doing various activities.  Sarah and I spent some time taking pictures, during which I was able to use her 300mm super lens.  I honestly cannot believe I didn’t consider buying a better lens before I came here.  I had to stand back in most cases just to focus on something 10ft away.  We found a random playground in the middle of the bush, oddly placed if you ask me.  At 4 we were off again for our second game drive, which proved to be more exciting than the first.  We saw plenty more rhinos, a watering hole, of course more springbok, and little Pumbas running through the brush.  We were able to get out of the trucks and walk around enjoying the sunset and taking pictures.  Just standing on the ground and looking out at the sun was such an overwhelming feeling; I’m in Africa.

We ended the trip with an experience as unbearable as the arrival.  5:30 am and we were on the safari trucks, anticipating a combi ride to the bus station.  Instead, we hitched a ride in the back of the pickups 20 km and what seemed like 20 minutes on the highway in below freezing temperatures and feral winds.  Still, our first minutes in the trucks were somewhat memorable considering the breathtaking stars in the sky and cityscape ahead of us; but that was soon forgotten when the wind was cutting into our faces.  The stuffy bus never seemed so desirable.  Finally, we arrived at the bus station with runny noses, bad hair, and compromised immune systems.  The bus ride back was calm and cramped, but the warmth was more than welcome.

In the calmness of the loud bus, I began to think about the initial reasons of why I wanted to come here, and how I’ve been applying those to my experiences.  I still find myself at a junction, deciding between public health and medicine.  I am so passionate about both, and am still unable to choose between the two.  I know I want to spend my time helping and educating people on health. With medicine, I’m mainly terrified of the process and time commitment, but I just have an assured feeling that I would be happy in the end.  With public health, I know I would enjoy learning about disease, doing research, and educating the public, but honestly don’t see much promise in the job market.  Doing an MD/PhD is a possibility, but seems like too much time spent on my indecisiveness.  So, either way I am helping people, but whether I will be happier with one over the other, I am still unsure.

I ended the trip with a full appetite of African wildlife, broken headphones, a sufficient lack of sleep, and uncertain mind. 



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