Close Encounters of the Elephant Kind

Today was a really good day. We woke up and got ready for the day of all days, cause today we spent the entire day on Home Base Care (around 8 hours). We traveled about 30 minutes north of Livingstone deep into the bush. It was crazy. We were traveling on the main road for about 20 minutes, then our driver, Benny, turned onto the most random dirt road and drove for another 10 minutes into the trees. We were literally in the middle of no where.

We met up with the caregivers (Martha and Christine) at someone’s home, then we began our work. Today was very different. Instead of walking in between different huts and houses to get to patient’s homes, we were traveling about 10-15 minutes on foot (without seeing any signs of human life) between patients. The houses out in Natebe are all about 1/2 miles apart and are separated by the vast bush. There was a complicated network of trails that took us everywhere, and it would have been SO easy to get lost. There were no real indicators (except the sun) that would tell you where you were at. It just looked like a sea of short trees and bushes.

Overall, there wasn’t anything too exciting going on with the patients. We saw 20 of them today, and surprisingly, the only wounds we saw were small cuts. I don’t know what’s going on in Linda, but there are way too many wounds there. One guy got in a bike accident a few months ago and his leg was still a little swollen, but all the wounds had healed up. Besides those, I felt like a Physicians Assistant working in a primary care office. Literally, everyone was saying the exact same symptoms, everyone was lying about how much water they drink, and everyone was claiming they eat lots of vegetables. Everyone was complaining about coughing (most were just colds), back pain (from lifting improperly), tooth aches, etc. So we counseled them on things they can do, and gave them ibuprofen, Paracetamol and vitamins.

The coolest part of the trip was all the animals we saw. The people rely heavily on the animals they raise for food. We saw lots of cows (the bulls had massive horns), goats, chickens, and dogs. . . but I’m about 98% positive they don’t eat the dogs. We stopped somewhere and ate some scones a lady was making. They were pretty good, but I wanted some honey butter with them. The houses out there were crazy. Most were mud huts with straw roofs and some were entirely made of straw. Most of them have to walk a mile or two to get water from the wells. And many of them only visit the Livingstone (Maramba) every few months. This was the definition of rural. This is what I was expecting to see most of my time here.

We then came home and went with the rest of the volunteers to watch the sunset. After scouting for Crocs, we stood on the edge of the river and watched the sun go down with a beautiful view of the falls in the distance. We had no idea that we were going to have one of the craziest experiences on the way back! As we were driving home in the dark, we were telling the new volunteers that elephants will often cross the roads we were on, and that you can often see them in the bush around us. I turned to one of them and said while pointing, “Yeah, we saw some elephants right over there, a few days ago.” As I was saying it, about four massive elephants came into view right on the side of the road. We drove past them (because we didn’t notice them till we were right next to them), and they were literally within arms reach of our van. It was terrifying. The elephants along that road are very dangerous, because they do not come from the national parks where they get accustomed to the vehicles. They could have easily torn our car apart if they had wanted to.

Anyway, we are safe and sound and looking forward to more days of lots of fun!

-Braydan

Author: Braydan

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