In May and June of 2007, 13 undergraduate students from Northern Michigan University are taking a field course in Zambia. Most of the students are majors in the Biology department, and all of them will be doing short field studies of their own design while on the ground in Zambia. The group will be making a stop in London on the way, spending four days seeing Zambia/Africa-related British sites (Burton's tomb, Livingstone's artefacts at the Royal Geographic Society, the British Museum of Natural History, etc.) and adjusting to the time change. The course is being led by me, Dr. Alec Lindsay, a professor in the Department of Biology at NMU, and Dr. Jackie Bird - a parasitologist in our department. We have made this blog so students can hopefully post notes thoughts, pictures and discoveries to the world. This should allow classmates, teachers, family and friends to share in their insights and keep track of their travels. Not only that, but viewers of the blog can add comments to posts - please do! We would love to hear your thoughts. Zikomo!

09 June 2007

Leaving too soon!

(This post got written in Zambia, but only posted upon our return)

We made it back to Lusaka, and we are all making ready for the trek homeward. Luangwa finished off very nicely – a final day of safaris and data collection ended with a nice dinner all together at the Flatdogs restaurant. We also invited our drivers from the bus, Chanda and Kelvin, to join us on the safaris and for the dinner on that final day. These two young men have been helpful to us, and despite having a good job (by Zambian standards) the big game and wilderness of South Luangwa were things they had never seen and likely never would have unless some wealthy benefactor sprung for the tab (the average annual income in Zambia is ~$400).

This being the case, the Zambassadors decided to all pitch in and pay for their meals and safaris. So Chanda and Kelvin (pictured in the safari vehicle with their guide, scout and Darren and Jake) got to see their first live lions, elephants up close, zebras feeding and all kinds of other animals that they too had only ever heard of. One of the more interesting things to occur was that the vehicle with Chanda and Kelvin also came upon a cobra out in the bush which was clearly terrifying for Kelvin and Chanda. We asked them later about it, and they distinctly believe that snakes can bite them because they are black, but snakes could not bite us because we were white. This belief seems to be quite pervasive – very interesting.

After all that excitement, we hit the road on Monday for Lusaka. We had high hopes of making the 13-hour drive in one day, and we did make it down the rugged and bumpy road between Mfuwe and Chipata without too much trouble. However, once on the road from Chipata, we had a fan belt break, the trailer come apart, the fan belt break again and a flat tire! It was an adventure that left us at times thinking we were stranded on the Great East Road. However, everyone had long since adjusted to “Africa Time” – at one fan belt stop the students got a bunch of villagers going with hacky-sack games, and at the other fan belt break, we all laid down under the southern sky, watched the Milky Way, Jupiter and the Southern Cross and sang some songs.

Once it was all over, we pulled into Eureka campsite one last time, at nearly 1am. Beat and road-weary, we had made it back to Lusaka in time to catch our flight. We were all thankful we had allowed two days for what was touted as an “easy one-day trip.”

And so now we recover, shop and repack in Lusaka, readying for our flight out of Zambia at 8am tomorrow morning. We arrive back in Marquette on Friday night, and although we are all anxious to see family and friends again, leaving the African skies behind will be hard for us as well.

Zikomo kwambiri, Zambia.

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