Turns out the river we have to wade across this morning DOES have crocs in it. They promise me the water is too shallow at the moment and the crocs are all upstream. Hmmm. Heard a nasty story about a local woman doing the wash in the river with a baby on her back, and when she bent over to wash the clothes, a crocodile jumped out and snapped up the baby. Can you imagine? And they don’t have therapists or grief counselors in Africa. I can’t fathom what that woman went through and is likely still going through.
With no baby on my back and little meat on my legs, I safely traversed the (cold) river here in the rift valley. We walked a couple miles to visit a local clinic. This clinic has 2 nurses and treats hundreds. No doctors are nearby. The entire area here has one doctor for 140,000 people. Lack of medical personnel is a huge problem here in Mozambique, particularly in the rural areas. I’m here to discuss the possibility of GO Campaign sending girls to nursing school, but we have to figure out a way to ensure that they come back to the rural areas and don’t get seduced by the cities or job offers in other countries after they get their degree. When we crossed back the river, we were joined by one of the park’s top employees. He used to be a poacher and possibly killed the last leopard in the park, but then they hired the poachers to protect the animals they have reintroduced into the park. It’s a brilliant idea to hire the poachers and make it more economical for them to work for the park than to poach, and this guy seemed very nice and is apparently the best employee they have, but I kept imagining him killing the last leopard and I’m not sure I could ever be his best friend.
After the clinic, we visited a school. It wasn’t open today, but there were some kids around. A Portuguese woman in our group blew up a beach ball and the kids were so enchanted by it. It was the hit of the day. I gave out a few pens, which also brought great smiles to their faces. The simple joys of life.
Later, we visited an ecological study center that was built with “green” technology – it’s gorgeous. They study all sorts of fascinating stuff here, and they also bring in local children for after-school enrichment programs. The local kids must think this place is heaven.
This park, led by US philanthropist Greg Carr, has become a melting pot of very interesting people. Medical personnel, development workers, researchers, eco-experts, college students, funders, business entrepreneurs… There is really fascinating stuff going on here, trying to rebuild the park, bring back the animals, help the communities, protect the environment… all good. In 20 years, I think this will be a really remarkable place.
Tomorrow morning, instead of taking the long bumpy ride back to the airport at Beira, we are instead taking a small 5 seater plane. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a plane that small. I will make an effort to concentrate on the wild animals below and not the bumpy ride or loud propellers. I’m sure it will be fun. Right?