Today was sadly our last day in Zimbabwe. We left the hotel this morning at around 7:15. We hopped in three separate cars and started driving to our destination, the Zambezi River to go canoeing. It was about an hour drive until we finally reached our launching point. The tour guides gave us a safety talk, which filled everyone with a rush of adrenaline. They told us that we might encounter crocodiles or hippos. This made me a bit anxious at first, but once I was in the canoe the thoughts left my mind. All I could think about was the amazing landscape that surrounded us. During our excursion, we saw a large crocodile resting along the Zimbabwe shore, as the river separates it from Zambia. We later came across a herd of elephants bathing in the river. Pearl thought that seeing the elephants in the wild for the first time was “amazing, especially because they were in such a large group.” After two hours of fun on the river, we ended our adventure with lunch in the bush. We were treated to various different meats for lunch including steak, chicken, and crocodile. We stayed there for a while to wind down before we departed for Victoria Falls. When we arrived, as soon as the falls came into view, my breath was taken away. There are no possible words to describe the power and beauty of this waterfall. Nygel described Victoria Falls as a “sight to behold.” After exploring the area, we drove to our hotel to rest before a night out for dinner.
At 6:30 a.m., we woke up, packed our bags, had a quick breakfast and were on the bus by 7:30. Upon arriving at the airport, we met for the last time with our friends from Hoops4Hope. I was very sad leaving this beautiful place. Those strong feelings of friendship mean much more than anything as they stay with you forever. Unfortunately, we had a limited amount of time as our flight was soon. After an hour on the plane, we approached Victoria Falls. You could already see the cloud of water coming from the fall and the enormous area of the national park. That evening, we had the chance to wonder around this park with a safari guide. It took us three hours just to see a small part of this wonderful animal kingdom full of danger, experiences and emotions. The evening was very chill. It started with a BBQ and ended with an impromptu pool party. It was one of those days where a range of feelings and emotions would fill our souls.
Today the group woke up at 6:15 and went to the ride. People were divided in two groups. The first saw the black rhinos in their natural habitat, grazing. While the second group trained the elephants to train tracking the poachers. Later, everybody came back to the lodge and had breakfast. After that, the group gathered at the big rock and climbed it and then the guide taught us how to make fire with wood. Afterward, the group had lunch, packed the suitcases and went to the bus. In late afternoon, the group reached the lodge and rested until dinner time. Hoops 4 Hope crew came to the hotel to have dinner with the group and after it Ngoni and some students made beautiful speeches about the wonderful experience we had and there was a exchange of flags with some greetings from both, Hoops 4 Hope and Ross students.
This Saturday morning we woke up at 6:30am to walk with the elephants and rhinos in there natural habitat. We all experienced the same things that these creatures do in the wild, but are split up into two groups so it’s easier to handle when around wild animals. After seeing the elephants and rhinos we went to the top of a hill to look over the beautiful land around us infested with all different types of wild animals, when having breakfast at this spot a herd of buffalo and one elephant came running in right in front of us while still eating, they said this elephant didn’t get along with the rest of the other elephants but instead was interested in the herd of buffalo and has been with them for a long time and is not sure if it’s identity. After breakfast we went to a community and learned about their culture, we also learned how to milk a cow and plow a field. Then, they gave us some of their corn, the consistency was soft and chewy. After going to the community, it was time for lunch. The site was looking over a river with elephants in front of us and people feeding them by hand. After lunch, we went to help the wild life rangers clean up a site deep in the woods. There were two jobs. One was knocking down walls with hammers, and the other was picking up pieces of wire. The purpose of this was so eventually they could turn it into a place were animals could go graze on more open fields. In between all of these adventures, we would take our time looking around to see all of the different types of animals and landscapes. After the long day, we came back to the lodge had dinner and had the rest of our night to ourselves to relax and recover.
Today we came to Imire Rinos and Wild Life Conservation Center. Firstly we had breakfast at Ballentynes Lodge and went to the kids orphanage for the last time to say goodbye. We played with the kids for about one hour and their big smiles were priceless. and then took the bus to Imire, during the way we had the change to experienced unique moments, the railroad is completely different then the ones we are used to, to get to the lodge we had to pass inside a river with the bus.
When we got at the lodge we had lunch and in the afternoon we went on a safari in which we had the chance to see and feed amazing animals such as elephants, rhinos, antelopes, monkeys. After that we had an experience climbing a rock – the chiefs of the communities used to stay up in the rocks to see when the enemies were coming – in which we were able to appreciate a wonderful view of the sunset and the nature in Imire.
Unfortunately, today was our last day with the amazing people that work for Hoops4Hope because we built lifelong friendships throughout the week. We played a couple of basketball games at an indoor/outdoor court. It was H4H vs. Ross then other local kids played as well. The feeling of playing basketball in a different country gets more surreal everyday. A television station cane to film the games and interviewed Ally and Ben after the games. They asked them about their experience was on the trip, as well as if they think that people from Zimbabwe are talented. They answered with talking about how incredible the experience was and how playing with kids and seeing smiles on all of their faces was so contagious. They also said that it was very impressive how the kids work so hard and grind on the court even if it is blazing hot outside. Afterwards, we left to prepare for a party at the H4H center. The whole night was filled with music, dancing, and heartfelt goodbyes. I presented my ukulele, signed by everyone on the trip, to Ngoni and the H4H team. After countless meaningful hugs and goodbyes, we went home and packed for tomorrow, awaiting our next adventure.
Today was a much different day then usual. We started off our day waking up and eating a delightful breakfast at the lodge. After breakfast and our brief meeting about the plan for the day we headed out and went shopping in the Sam Levy shopping center. We were able to walk around for a short amount of time until we headed to our next activity for the day. We arrived at the flea market where we were able to look at some of the locals personal work that was for sale. Some things that we saw were necklaces, bracelets and many other art works. All of the people that had shops at the flea market were very “pushy” in wanting you to look at there items , saying things such as “come in just take a look” or “come in here your friends are this way”. Also many of the sellers were willing to negotiate prices but some were very “closed doors” to negotiate certain items. After going to the market we went and completed are final activity of the day which was building a court at a local school. Sadly, due to rain, we were only able to fix up some holes in the court but it was a great experience to fix up the basketball for the kids. Some of us were even able to write are names in the cement which was pretty awesome. Overall it was a pretty influential and inspiring day.
Today we visited the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe. The main focus of the gallery was Mugabe’s forced retirement. We saw many photos of the streets of Harare flooded with happy faces protesting about their government for the first time in over 30 years. It was amazing to see the emotions of people who have never been able to walk through the streets of their own city in protest. The gallery had presented short videos and documents to represent this important moment. Other than the art and photos that has to do with the movement, there were paintings and statues. After we were done looking at the gallery, we headed downstairs to the gift shop. The gift shop offered numerous items such as shirts, magazines, key chains, and jewelry.
After our morning at the gallery, we visited a local school to play a competitive game of five on five full court basketball. There were two games, a boys game and a girls game. The girls team from the local school was very well prepared and unfortunately beat our girls team easily. After that, some of the boys from the varsity team (myself included), played against their under 16 team. It was a very close game and we each took turns having the lead to the game. Towards the end, the local team started to dominate and beat us by a close 4 points. It was so much fun to play against kids from a different country who love basketball as much as we do.
Today we went to restore a basketball court for the kids, we painted it red and we drew the lines. We played with the kids and we helped build the court. After that we went to another school, in the town where our jv basketball coach, Levi Mwanza is from. The kids were all playing basketball, we played songs and games with them, and we also ate lunch there. Some of the kids helped build trees for the community, and Mark said that we should come back after ten years to see all of the trees that we planted grown. We also got the privilege to see a marching band that came to the school to greet us and made a marching performance for us. The kids in the marching band were really talented and they were really excited to meet us. We also got a warm welcomed from the kids who wrote posters for us. It was really cute. After that we played more games with the kids and then later in the day the older kids started to play basketball with Nygel. Nygel also coached the kids and taught them basketball skills. The kids were already really good at it and they really enjoyed Nygel’s coaching. After that we gather around we said goodbye to the kids and to mark and we drove back to the lodge.
Today was a simple day. We woke up early, and had our usual breakfast. It was raining pretty heavily in the morning so we couldn’t build the basket ball court as planned but we still went to the after school program to play with the children. Since our morning was slightly delayed by the rain we didn’t have to rush out of the house so quickly, so since we all woke up at 8 and were now told that we were leaving at 12, we all went back to bed. When we boarded the bus we drove to the Hoops 4 Hope center. We had a delicious lunch prepared to us by Fiona, the manager of Hoops 4 Hope wife. We had chicken, squash, rice, mixed vegetables and fruit. After our lunch we played knock out on the little brick driveway, until it was time to go. When it was time to go we hoped on the bus again and drove for nearly an hour to the after school program. The ride was tiring but every time we ride the bus we all see different people and different environments. We drove past vast corn fields and along long highways. On the sides of the road local venders were selling everything from tomatoes to car parts in their small, homemade stand up shops in which they made them selves out of wood and plastic bags. The road was flooded with water and the amount of trash drifting along the streets were amazing. Clumps of trash floated along the water into the farm land and into the dirt sidewalks. We drove past factories and more slums, until we reached our destination. When we pulled up we were greeted by native dancers who played the drums, maracas and horns. They danced in their fur and feather costumes for 2 hours with us and the children. They taught us fun dances and songs. Later we went outside and played basket ball and sand songs and danced. Being with the children is always such a fun experience because they are always so energetic and loving. After hours of singing and dancing we drove back home and relaxed and showered before dinner. We ordered in Thai food and Hailey, Luis and I went out to go pick it up. It took a really long time to get since the order was huge , but when we got home everyone enjoyed their meals and we all settled in bed to rest for the next big day.