It was really difficult taking things in at first landing in Cape Town, South Africa because I was so eager to see what there was out there for us to explore and compare. Now that I reflect back on my trip I remember feeling a strong contrast in their social development. By talking to one of the locals, I learned about the difference in our countries’ histories. By listening to the news broadcasted I realized that crime was similar to our own in America. By observing underdeveloped communities it dawned on me how much alike African society reflected what development should look like. America had it’s own class of development however it was not as various as what I witnessed in Cape Town. To me this signified how societies shift in the same direction, especially when reform is present. The only difference is that I saw this shift occur at a rate far greater than our own past developments.

 

So for once I did not see the bird flying over the building that took it’s home. I saw the bird taking back the home that building imposed itself upon. Western domination is becoming a thing of the past.

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There’s a reason Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. Words can’t express how amazing and beautiful the falls were and pictures definitely don’t do it justice. We were able to get up early in the morning and to watch the sun rise over the falls. This is a sight I will not soon forget. It was so peaceful and I was able to feel as one with nature. We went back later in the day and took the tourist route of the falls where it was hard to find a spot where you didn’t feel a mist on your face. You just wanted to stay and stare in awe at the beauty of the cascading water over the side of the rocky cliff. This is a place I definitely want to go back to and visit in my life time.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

When we were first assigned to blog our experience throughout this trip I wanted to document everything as accurately as possible. I did so, leaving little room for identifying the few key elements that would set apart and characterize the trip. It has been over a month now since we embarked on our journey and, while there is much rambling I could present, a condensed version of my long-winded yet short-lived observations is what should best be shared as it is of greater meaning. This is my summarization of our journey.

While we spent most of our trip in Zambia, South Africa did leave an impression on me. The most apparent thing upon arriving there was the beautiful scenery. Almost everything about the city is picturesque. There was certainly heavy European influence in what we saw during our approximately 3 days there. This goes to show the complexity of the African continent and how it cannot be classified with the limited information we are given about it. Asian and Indian influences are also not foreign to Africa, we learned. The cultural mix of man-made features in Cape Town, along with the natural mountainous features, made it gorgeous and a place many of us would like to return to.

While the views were excellent, we gained the most by the information that was presented to us. Our first presentation there was by Dr. Michael Power, a strategist for Investec of whom we were fortunate to meet with. He shifted our perspectives of Africa as a whole our second day there. He made it clear that there is much mutually beneficial opportunity available in the developing nations of Africa for students from highly developed nations. Things such as mediation between the nations or simply working abroad could go long ways into developing success for both parties. He also gave us insight about the development of the continent of Africa, “The Hopeless Continent”, as it was once provokingly named. The truth of the matter is that many African countries have an impressive amount of economic development already in practice with prospects depicting much more to come. In fact, there is nothing but hope in store for Africa and its continuously expanding nations.

The rest of the memorable parts of Cape Town consisted of more breathtaking views and incidents of reality. One in particular was our drive through a dense area of slums. The reality of it, present before me, was a bit dispiriting. It felt a bit invasive, to say the least. Here we were driving around these people’s quaint neighborhood with cameras in hand. It wasn’t until a man gave us the most genuine smile and cheerful wave that I felt welcome there. It made my day. It goes to show what I learned in a previous trip to Arkansas: happiness and fulfillment is present in any lifestyle, regardless how far it strays from our conventional beliefs.

In Zambia, we were privileged enough to visit quite a few great locations. This included the US Embassy, The Bank of Zambia, Zambian Parliament, Zambian Railways, Copperbelt University, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, and Victoria Falls, to name a few.

The US Embassy allowed us to get a have a clear picture of what it is like for Americans to pursue international opportunities on behalf of the United States. Most of my international ambitions before this visitation were solely for career and business-related purposes. Now I think it would be wonderful to be able to have a career in which you are able to aid the development of countries filled with potential.

The Bank of Zambia had an excellent presentation for us. It was filled with lengthy discussions of Zambian macroeconomics, which may not appeal to those who aren’t a fan of the topic (luckily I am), but what I took from it was something more special. I realized, that day, how ambitious of a country Zambia is. Their economical pursuits were apparent and all was expressed with a hint of complete determination. Needless to say, I now have high expectations and am excited for the future of Zambia. Furthermore, the way they received us was with utmost hospitality. They offered us lunch and we gratefully accepted it.

The National Assembly of Zambia, or the Zambian Parliament, was interesting to witness. Unfortunately, it was difficult to fully understand but we were still able to learn about the way they meet to discuss important decisions to be made for their country. It was much more informal than I expected as there was a lot of joking throughout the meeting. Most of what I remember hearing was “thank you mister speaker”, which is what members would say before stating their case. Though I wasn’t able to obtain the full scoop on what important issues they were discussing, it is certainly something I will never forget witnessing. The setting was enough to allow comprehension of the culture and its unique form of dealing with significant matters.

Copperbelt University was one of my favorite places we visited. We met students in what they call the “American Corner”. It is room filled with American books, magazines, etc. that is used by students who are wanting to study abroad in the United States. Essentially, we were able to meet with other college students that we were able to make friends with. They asked us many questions about the US and the way universities work here. We happily answered and were able to establish many similarities and differences between our two nations. It was really just a laidback and casual experience that contrasted most of the locations we visited. We had a great time. It goes to show that we enjoy the simpler events of interacting with other students and helping guide them along the most. Another example of this was visiting with Dr. Musoma’s family and friends. They held a welcome dinner for us and their hospitality was unmatched. We were able to listen to and converse with such genuinely great people. That made for a pleasant evening for us.

Overall I enjoyed sharing this experience with such awesome people. I was able to get to know all of the Regents that I hadn’t known before. The trip wouldn’t have been half as fun without them. So thanks guys for making the trip much more enjoyable!

Furthermore, I would like to thank Phillips 66 for graciously sponsoring the trip. I am certain we are all highly appreciative and I hope we were able to capture what you envisioned. Thank you to Dean Strawser for allowing this incredible trip to take place and for being cooperative with Dr. Musoma’s wishes. It is very kind of you to do so. Thank you to Dr. Musoma for creating all of this for us. We can’t thank you enough! And thank you to Mrs. Musoma for joining us and keeping us in great company.

The short yet composite journey left a deep impression in all of us. It was something that is difficult to explain in a small number of words but we have each gained something special from it. I am certain that we will always remember the time we were able to form our own story of Africa.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

Three days to explore a city as wonderful as Cape Town are not enough, but our beautiful hostess made the three days perfect. Semwano Chonya welcomed us into the city, and planned three days packed full of amazing adventures.

From the first time I met her, I could tell she was a busy and important woman, and the more I got to know her, the more and more I admired her. She was full of such grace and elegance as well as sweetness and love. We could not have had someone better to look after us during our stay in the city. It was saddening to say goodbye to her on our last night, but hopefully it wasn’t a goodbye forever. I hope I get to meet with her again. She left a mark in my life, and I’m so grateful for her.

Thank you, Semwano. Thank you for being you. I wish the best for you, and I wish our paths can cross again.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

Africa. The place where friendships are made and strengthen. It is where the people are nice and enviable sunsets are an everyday blessing. The location of mouth-watering dishes and seeing a gorgeous scenery everywhere you go. Experiencing this and realizing the stereotypical, single stories are wrong and that you have the opportunity to change that; you have the chance to tell everyone back home about the beauty behind the dry grass and red-ish dirt. As most individuals, I’ve always had the dream to change the world, or at least one person’s life. To know that I can teach someone about Africa and encourage them to go so that they too can discover the exquisiteness in a continent that most don’t get the opportunity to experience in their lifetime is something that makes me get chills along my arms. If you’re reading this blog, like my friend always says, I challenge you to discover the magic in place where you’d least expected. I challenge you to do everything you can to adventure out into the world and reveal the secrets of the land. I may be biased, but I loved the discoveries and adventures that I had in South Africa and Zambia. If I could do it all over again, I would not even think twice and embark on this trip once more. I hope to go maybe to another region on the African continent and unearth the magic of that land.

 

Zikomo and until next time, Africa!

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

It’s been a little over a month since we were in Africa. I must admit I still miss the sights and smells from driving and walking around the cities of Cape Town and Lusaka, for example. I can’t help but think how much the trip actually opened my eyes. Two weeks ago, I was in Panama helping an indigenous community learn basic saving concepts. I couldn’t help but think about the similarities and differences between the African and Central American countries. For instance, even though Panama and Southern Africa are not anywhere near each other, I noticed that the people from both regions are similar in that they had what it is referred to as Southern Hospitality. The people (and the scenery) are definitely a fact in making me want to return back, whether it is South Africa, Zambia, or even Panama. I had a trip of a lifetime, that changed my perspective on the world. I am trying to eliminate the single stories from my mind, which makes me even more excited to travel to other countries and discover their hidden beauty. I know that this Africa trip was just the beginning of many more traveling stories around the world that I hope to have, but it was my most memorable one. I will forever be grateful for this blessing of a trip that Phillips 66 gave my friends and I.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting the Chimfunshi Sanctuary, although we only stayed there for a day and night I feel like it was one of the more influential part of the trip, well at least for me. It made me realize that it’s nice to just sit down and be completely there every once in a while and how different foreigners viewpoint of us Americans and our country is from our own viewpoint of ourselves.

Literally the only thing we did during the night that we were at the sanctuary was eat dinner and sit around the warm campfire and chat. It was all very peaceful though and since we had all gotten to know one another in the days before it was fun to just sit around with friends and talk about nothing in particular. We also didn’t have any phones so we were kind of forced to interact, not that any of us minded at this point in the trip I don’t think.

This fireside chat was very enlightening for me because one of the men that was staying at the sanctuary opened up to us a bit and we got to see a much different view over Americans than the one we had been hearing up until this point. His opinion over the United States wasn’t a very good one, he believed the US to be very imperialistic and materialistic. It was all very interesting to hear, in my opinion.

All in all I really enjoyed our stay at the Sanctuary. It reminded me of the importance of staying grounded and of taking some time to live in the moment, it seems like here at home I’m always so busy thinking about what I’m going to be doing and should be doing that I forget to think about the present.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

One thing we did while in Zambia, Africa was go on a safari. You can see many of these animals at a local zoo, but  it is truly different seeing them in the wild and not confined. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. One of the main reasons I liked this safari so much is that we were able to get out of the truck that we were riding in and walk up to a mother white rhino with her child. We were within 50 yards of the two. You might be able to get close to animals in the zoo, but it is different when there’s not a fence or glass separating you. That is what made it feel different.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized

Anyone who knows me knows I love sunsets. I really, really love sunsets. The group of students quickly learned that too, thanks to my constant camera clicking every night.

There’s just something about sunsets that calms my mind. It may be the many different colors  splattered across the sky, the reflections in the water, the shadows and the silhouettes created, or I don’t know, but whatever it is, sunset time is my favorite time of day every day. From my point of view, every sunset is different, so I make it my goal to appreciate it every night, even if it is just me looking out my window for a minute or two.

I am now fortunate enough to be able to say I’ve witnessed the sun setting from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, on the road to Chingola, from a beautiful lodge in Livingstone, from the Cape of Good Hope, the southern-most tip of the African continent, from the window of huge airplanes over 40,000 feet in the air, alongside baboons, alongside laughter, alongside great new friends. Those beautiful, surreal sunsets were great ways to end amazing days.

Houston to Dubai flight

Chingola

Cape Town

Cape of Good Hope

 

 

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Yesterday was the night of the first Aggie football game of the season. As I watched the Aggies in the crowd swaying to the Aggie War Hymn after a great victory, I was reminded of the time the Regents’ group did the same in Zambia on our last morning in the country.

Our last few nights were spent in Livingstone at the Munga Eco-Lodge. It was a gorgeous and very peaceful place, and our wonderful hosts made it so much better. The owners came out to greet us the second we got there, and were very attentive to us. They sat with us when we were out for dinner and hanging out in the lobby. They were two very sweet people. I got to talk to them and hear their story, which was very eye-opening and inspiring. Their passion for Zambia and the lodge made me admire them both so much, and I can’t wait to see what the place looks like when they’re done implementing all the plans they have for it (because it is one of my goals to stay there again).

The morning of our departure they asked us to show their staff our Aggie War Hymn, and they in turn sang us a farewell song. I was surprised by both them wanting to hear us and them having a song for us too. It was very touching that the whole lodge staff came out to see us part ways. It was the perfect ending to such a great trip in such a hospitable country. Every single Zambian we met was more than welcoming to us. It’s the Zambian hospitality that made the trip enjoyable and kept me from missing Aggieland, because it was just as friendly.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have been part of the trip and for everyone involved in making the trip possible. I never saw myself travelling to Africa, and now it’s one of my top goals to return one day.

Categories: 2014, Uncategorized