Saturday May 12- Orphanages and Alcohol

Saturday's traditionally mark the beginning of a two-day holiday, but when your time is limited, Saturday's are merely another day without the 'shit shovelling' and with the option to take the first shift in favour of sleeping-in.  

After playing hooky on the first shift of the day, the volunteers who opted for a field trip piled into my second favourite vehicle found in Africa (a 15 person van which would probably seat 8 people in Canada- again, all part of the experience).  This van drove us from Antelope Park and back to Gweru where we would be able to shop and stock up on alcohol and goodies for the week to come, and then would bring up to one of the local orphanages. 

Here's a little tidbit about Gweru:  Gweru is a cutesie little town in Zimbabwe but is not a tourist destination AT ALL.  So this means that it is populated solely by locals and these locals and very tradition and religious.  As a result, volunteers are supposed to dress conservatively so they are not gawked at and to avoid added attention while going about a power shopping trip.  Gweru is also basically made entirely of asphalt and which means it is hot all the time, making dressing conservatively a bit of a challenge.

Alex and I with our play dates (Nigel is in my arms)
In Gweru, there are various supermarkets, all with a guard at the front who checks your bags and receipts as you walk out.  There are also fresh fruit and vegetable stands and street markets with vendors, kids on the street looking for candy from guests and travelling church groups convincing people to sing with them.  In the supermarkets, items are fairly inexpensive to purchase, with the exception of sweets.  For example, 750 mL of Smirnoff Vodka is $11 USD and local vodka is $3 USD (anyone can be a cheap date in Zimbabwe).  After stocking up on goodies, we made our way back to our van which brought us over to the Rosedale Orphanage.  

Moses and I
Rosedale Orphange, which is considered a fairly fortunate orphanage, is not exceptional by Western standards.  It has numerous children anywhere from a few months old to late teens.  When we arrived, we were greeted at an iron gate by a crowd of children.  The children immediately grabbed all of our hands and started leading us to their yard so that we could play and dance with them.  I had the pleasure of being claimed by the darling little boy, Moses, and I scooped up a toddler named Nigel on my way to the yard.  Moses, as well as the rest of the children, had a fascination with anything on your body, especially sunglasses.  Unfortunately for Moses, my sunglasses have prescription lenses and if Moses wanted to wear them, I was going to have to crawl around to prevent myself from tripping over my own feet.  While we were at the orphanage, we were also treated to a song by Brenda; a 16 year old, self-proclaimed diva, with the voice of an angel (seriously). 

* Ellen Degeneres needs to discover her- she is incredible

"The Tree"
Before we knew it, we were being collected again to return to camp and I had to say goodbye to the best play date partners I have ever had.  We then went back to Antelope Park where we moved onto our third volunteer shift: polo.

For those of you who don't know, polo is played on horseback on horses that are bursting with energy and just want to run.  When I signed up for this event, I was terrified, but I did it because Alex (horse guru) wanted to do it.  Why was I terrified?  Good question.  I had not been on a horse for about a year at this point, and the previous 3, yes 3, times I had been on a horse, the horse decided to drop and begin to roll with me in the saddle.  Now, since I am an expert 'dodger', I dodged each steamrolling horse and was able to remain intact.  All of a sudden, here I was, about to go and play polo, on horseback, steering and holding on for dear life one hand, while holding a lacrosse-stick-like-weapon with the other hand.  Luckily, polo practice was not practiced on horseback (allowed the horses to rest up for the big game) and instead was a time for refining your skills as an expert polo thrower and picker-upper.

No wine glasses allowed
After my disastrous display of polo (it is not an easy sport), I collected my recently acquired alcohol and made my way to a boat cruise with Alex, Celine, and Caroline.  Picture this: a floating platform with park benches on it.  That was our boat.  It serves its purpose as a boat and has a little puttering motor attached to the back, which pushed us out into the middle of a dammed river that ran through Antelope Park.  A little ways into the cruise, Alex and I whipped out our bottle of wine and realized we had forgot glasses.  No worries though, drinking from the bottle is perfectly fine too!

We finally made it to our destination, which was a dead tree in the middle of the widest part of the river.  This tree also served as a parking spot for the boat as volunteers climbed up into the tree and took photos with the sunset as the background.  After making the leap of faith back into the boat (because God forbid you miss the boat and end up in the water), we trekked back along the river watching the sun go down.

Josefine, Alex, Caroline, Hanne, Tea and I at Club Vo
Once back on solid ground at the main camp, we made our back over to the Volunteer Lounge (which serves as a general hangout for volunteers and is also where we have our nightly meetings and find out what we are doing during the day).  At the Lounge, there was a fire in a barrel, flashing lights and music, which successful transformed our hangout into a ‘club’ for our weekly 'Vol Party'.  Business by day, party by night.

However, our party was short lived as we had been given the opportunity to go on a Night Encounter.  The Night Encounter is when the older Stage 1 lions are taken out into the bush after dark and are accompanied by trucks.  Donned in every layer that we were able to fit onto our bodies, with blankets in hand, we loaded up into the African chariot to go an get the lions.  The lions who live up at the breeding program were paving anxiously at their gate and were waiting for the lion handlers to come and let them out.  The experience was amazing, as we followed the lions in the dark with nothing but the occasional guide of the flashlight from the lion handlers riding in the true and the dull red hue of the light on the trucks.  The red lights on the trucks are used to reflect light of the retinas of animals in the bush and to help the lions find the animals in the bush without startling the wildlife.  The ride was characterized by missing lions who would show up right behind the vehicle and seemed to be stalking the truck and random chases through the bush with the truck bucking wildly as the driver tried to keep up with the charging lions.  It did not take long for the cold to chill you to the bone, but the shivering and teeth-chattering was worth it.  Alex and I were riding in the back seat between Colin, our Shona teacher, and Widmos, another lion handler who we got to know very well during our time at Antelope Park, and were tucked in securely and only jostled slightly during the chases.

After several exciting chases and many close calls with impalas, it was time to head back.  The lions accompanied the truck all the way from the middle of nowhere to the cages and appeared to be on their best behaviour, and were expected to go straight inside.  Then all of a sudden, 2 of the 4 lions turned and started walking away and were quickly followed by their whistling lion handlers (they whistle to get their attention and to make the lions follow commands, much like someone would whistle with a dog).  Nearly 45 minutes after arriving at the lions cages, the lions were finally convinced to go back in their enclosure.

We made the trek back to the main camp where our wrapped dinner was waiting for us since we had missed dinner, which we dismissed in favor of going to bed.  We quickly hurried, heads down, passing the party which was in full swing.  We successfully made it our rooms without drawing much attention to ourselves and wore all the layers from the Night Encounter to bed, hoping that by morning that the chills and goosebumps would be gone and that hopefully there would be another Night Encounter in our future filled with as much excitement as the one just past.


  1. You GO girl! So happy to see you writing. I hope you keep it up, beyond this wondrous journey! Welcome to the blog-o-sphere! I'll be one of your fans! Sending my love and support.

    1. Thank you! Sorry for the delay in replying. I am horrible at figuring out what everything means. Darn being computer illiterate! I guess it comes with being new to the blog-o-sphere!