Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Zimbabwe




A mission accomplished.

Don’t we all have a mission in life? I believe we do.

I've traveled to many countries, but Zimbabwe has a special place in my heart.

This is my short yet fascinating journey as if it’s just happening. . . . 

I can't wait for September 13. I am ready. My luggage is packed with key things to bring. I have two special items  - a birthday card and a number 50 candle. Yes, I am prepared.

I transited through Johannesburg, South Africa. There’s no more flight available to Victoria Falls that day, so I stayed overnight in Johannesburg. 

I woke up bright and early; it’s time to head to the airport. Excited and ready to make adventures.

The hotel picks me up at the airport with other tourists.  It’s dry season, and I see drought along the way. Nevertheless, what surprises me is the impressive infrastructure. There are no patches on the road, smooth, well maintained, and clean.

I am staying at Shearwater hotel close to Victoria Falls. This cute room decorated with some African design is my home for a couple of nights. I love it.

Can you believe that I don’t have an itinerary set prior to this trip? I even booked this hotel last minute. Yes, this is how I work. Crazy, right? But it works. I make it work.

While I am enjoying the view and relaxing, I am planning my big day. I met Thembie, who is in charge of hotel tours, helps me book my tours.  Now, I have an itinerary!

Thembie seems nice. I feel positive energy between us. I knew she's the person to help me with my mission. Our paths have crossed for a reason. So I began to tell her my story.

Like my travel itinerary, I don’t have a set plan to fulfill my mission. I just know that I want to do something - to meet five girls, give them gifts, do a little talk about setting their goals and dreams, teach them how to make it happen, and motivate them. Sounds complicated, right?

She volunteered to help me make my mission happen.


Today is the day! 

I want to see how the sun rises in Africa. I am up early to witness the sunrise. 

Why is the morning sun different in Africa? The stunning color of the sky, the majestic sound of the chirping birds, and the fresh dew of the morning are signs of a beautiful day - a new beginning.


I am moving along. The first agenda of the day is a good breakfast. I should be energized for this long day, packed with activities. Fresh fruits and fresh coffee? Perfect combination.

After breakfast, I got ready for my first itinerary - Victoria Falls walking tour.

Victoria Falls is considered one of the largest waterfalls globally, bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia. 

The voice of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance, while the spray and mist from the falling water can also be seen from a distance. Hence, the falls was given the nickname “The smoke that thunders.”


Victoria Falls was named after Queen Victoria by David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and famous explorer who discovered the falls in 1855.

I am standing at the ‘Rainbow Falls,’ which is the highest point of the falls. Obviously, there’s no rainbow but reaching this point is a fascinating experience.

Months ago, I was just envisioning that I will be here on my 50th birthday. Now, I am. I feel so blessed standing in front of one of the “natural wonders of the world” on my special day.


It’s time to meet the girls. One of the girls is her daughter attending school in another town, so I didn’t see her.

Thembie arranged to pick-up, everybody. I am excited to meet them.

I introduce myself and tell them the reason why I want to meet them. I see a smile on their faces, with a little bit of shyness. Once everyone got comfortable, we start talking and sharing goals and dreams. 

After having a good lunch and conversation, it’s time for dessert. Thembie pre-ordered the cake for me.  Love my giant birthday cake.

The birthday cake goes with a birthday song. They started singing for me—time to blow the candle and make a wish. 

I bought gifts for the girls I prepared in the U.S. It’s a little goodie bag with journals to write their goals and dreams and few cute items.

Sharing with them a piece of who I am is my way of sharing myself. It gives me joy and, hopefully, in turn, gives them motivation.

I love this restaurant close to the hotel. It’s a suitable venue for tourists who love Victoria Falls like I do. We enjoy taking lots of selfies, and I make sure to have photos with each one of them. It’s a lot of fun, not just for me but for the girls as well.

I can’t contain my happiness; it’s an inner joy coming from somewhere.

My birthday celebration isn’t ending here yet.  I have a date with my sunset. It’s an important date.

I am off for a sunset cruise to sail the Zambezi River for 3 hrs.  I admire the splendid view of the sunset surrounding the natural beauty of the river. Cocktails and snacks are available free of charge. I feel an overwhelming joy while I drink my cocktails and watching the gorgeous sunset on the horizon. This scene is surreal. But I tell myself, “no, this is real.”

Luckily, the cruise is not packed this day. So it’s like a private cruise with very few tourists on board. I am the star for the night and the only person by myself. 

Someone knew it was my birthday or someone has leaked the information. I am sure it’s Thembie. The staff on board started to sing an African version of the birthday song, then everyone joins the singing. When people you don’t know sing a birthday song for you, it’s a fun experience.


Nope, my birthday isn’t over yet! I have one more dinner date. It’s a dinner date with an African.



If you want to experience a piece of southern African culture, ‘Boma Dinner’ is a good one. But don’t forget to bring your appetite. It offers a traditional huge buffet dinner, filled with traditional music entertainment, singing, and drumming. Go and listen to the beat of the African drums, and dance the night away.

Finally, my long day is ending here. You would think so. It’s a wonderful one filled with fun and adventures. I am not exhausted, honestly. But for sure, I am having a good night's sleep.

Time to meet the girls again this morning. I promised to go shopping to buy them stuff for school and some things they want. They’re busy shopping, and we are all having fun. 

Yes, there’s Kentucky Fried Chicken in Zimbabwe. The girls love Kentucky,  so we enjoyed some chicken before we went shopping. 


On my last day, Thembie invited me to her house to meet her family. She cooked a traditional meal. In Africa, they also use their hands when they eat. Thembie’s kids washed my hands before eating. It’s a tradition they do for visitors. I was 
impressed! 




I didn’t expect a gift from the girls, but they surprised me with this beautiful textile. Looking forward to finding a design for a dress so I can use this. 



I need to have some souvenirs. These paintings would remind me of this memorable travel.


I created a mission out of this trip. From this mission, a new mission has begun.




A meaningful trip far away in a beautiful country. A milestone to celebrate. A challenge to achieve. A mission to fulfill. This is my journey to Africa. I know for sure I am coming back. 

I am ending my storytelling with this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson . . . .   

"Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn."

 


Thank you for the 50 years of existence. 
Thank you for the "50 challenge" achieved.
Thank you for the mission fulfilled. 
Thank you for all the love.



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Botswana



A great safari destination.

Bostwana is a land-locked country located in Southern Africa and bordering Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

I was ready and excited with my required items including my passport for a full-day safari experience. 
Did I dress for the occasion? 

We had an early morning pick-up from our hotel in Victoria Falls. After more than two hour drive and a stop at the border, we reached the Chobe National Park. 

Chobe National Park is the third largest and most visited national park in Botswana.


We made a few stops on the road when our driver spotted a sighting of elephants. Some of them look frail and old but the baby elephants are cute.



A “game-drive” in South Africa is an adventure that entails viewing wildlife in a 4x4 open land rover. This is the number one activity for visitors. A thrilling and exciting adventure.



I am sharing my safari journey at a glance and some tidbits of safari information I've learned from this experience.



Chobe National Park is known for having one of the highest concentrations of elephants in the world.

Did you know that elephants are very social animals?  They live in groups and communicate using a variety of low-frequency rumbles that can travel for many miles. That's pretty amazing.




You would often hear the phrase “big five” in this part of the world. The big five represents the safari royalty - the African Lion, the African leopard, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, and the rhino. It’s a term used by early hunters who recognized that the big five were the hardest and most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. It is now commonly used for marketing slogans in the industry of Safari. 

We were lucky to see three. The lion and leopard were hiding.



I actually thought that giraffe is one of the big five because it’s big and tall. Apparently, he didn’t make the list. 

 My hope was to see a giraffe. They showed up and didn't disappoint me.



Giraffes are herbivores, which means they only eat plants and trees. Their long neck has a purpose; it allows them to reach their food. Most of us know that giraffes are the tallest animals on earth. They are tall but they look cute when you see them like this.
 



From cute to small, tall, big, heavy, and endangered animals, this place provides you with incredible wildlife sightings and experience.


This adventure gives you an excellent opportunity for photography. These tourists look like professionals.


You would meet locals and learn from them. Meet our expert tour guide on the cruise. 



Can you see a crocodile almost bit me? He didn't, because my camouflage rescued me.





My spirit shouts with joy and my heart whispers with gratefulness. 
I am blessed to be in this place at this moment.




Botswana is a wildlife haven. 
For me, it's the ultimate safari experience.

This day I spent in the wildlife safari . . . was one of the best days in my life!