What an exciting past few days! We are just now getting a wifi connection so we have some incredible updates from our past 2 days. We started out early morning on Thursday bound for Rundu, our stopping point for the evening before heading to Bwabwata National Park the next day. We were fortunate enough to be accompanied by Dr. Itanna at the UNAM Campus at Ogongo who has been an incredible help in our journey so far. After a long 7 hour drive, we made it to Rundu just in time for sunset. Our lodging for the night was right on the Okavango River, which we learned was the division between Namibia and Angola! We were able to film the sun setting over Angola which made for a wonderful end to the day.
The following morning we set out early for Bwabwata National Park, located in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia in the north-eastern most part of the country. We met with our contact Fidi Alpers, who works for the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC). We originally connected with Fidi through our contact at the Finnish Embassy last semester. After notifying him of our plans to travel to Namibia this summer, he insisted that we come and visit him and learn about the projects he is working on, which we were more than thrilled to hear. As Pericleans studying a country that is so far away from our home, we try to be extremely conscientious about our efforts, so that we can work to address an issue that would have the most positive impact on the local community. Hearing that Fidi was very eager to have us come visit meant that we were going to a place that needed our efforts would be most productive and sustainable.
Through our contact in past months, we learned that Fidi has been tackling projects that are very similar to the focus of our class, so we were all incredibly excited to meet. Fidi has been working in Bwabwata with the local Khwe people of Namibia, addressing community development including things like food security, poverty, and education. He introduced us to a number of individuals that also live and work in the park including local farmers, members of the Kyaramacan Assocation, researchers working alongside Fidi in the park, and many more. We spent the majority of the day hearing stories from local people about what they are dealing with in the Park, as well as interviewing some for our documentary. We visited Omega I, a large farm located roughly 70km into the park that has not been in use since 2001. Fidi has been passionately trying to make use of the farm in order to help provide food for those in Bwabwata as well as creating jobs and opportunities for community members. We were able to sit down and listen to the wants and needs of local workers and community members, as well as the hopes that Fidi has for the future, and we are hopeful that we can help to facilitate the opening of Omega I once again. After a long, but inspiring day, we headed back to Buffalo Core Camp towards the entrance of the park where Fidi lives year round. We got back early enough to take a short drive down the Okavango river and had our first Namibian safari experience! Bwabwata National Park is home to more elephants than people (of which there are about 5,200) so we saw many elephants heading down to the river to drink just before sunset. Our evening was spent around the campfire with a homemade dinner of local foods, conversing with friends and colleagues of Fidi. Among our group of 4 from the States were a family of 6 from Botswana, sisters Megan and Ilene from Switzerland, researchers Anita and Atila from Hungary, and local friends from the Park. Our three students were fortunate enough to spend the night at Fidi's camp, enjoying more conversation around the campfire, frequent noises from surrounding elephants saying hello, and a stunningly beautiful starry night sky.
Today we made the long 9-hour trek from Bwabwata National Park back to Ongwediva where we will be staying until Tuesday. We are excited to meet up with Dr. Tom Arcaro who will be joining our team for the remainder of our trip after spending the past week in Zambia with the Periclean Scholars Class of 2018. It has been an exhilarating few days in the north and we are so excited about the contacts we have made and relationships we have developed thus far.