Monday, August 20, 2012


Well it is hard to believe but my time in Botswana is rapidly coming to an end.  Less than 24 hours from now I will be on the long journey back, flying from Gaborone to Johannesburg to London and finally to Boston.  There are many things I wanted to write about on this blog that I didn't get to, including the second half of my trip to Chobe and my week in South Africa.  Additionally, I went to the Sir Seretse Khama Rhino Sanctuary this weekend with three new American friends I met about two weeks ago.  Aside from my travels, I could have written volumes about my time here in Gaborone - the day-to-day experiences, the incredible stories of the people I interviewed, and the ever-present spirit of faith and optimism in the face of hardship that seems to permeate every aspect of African life.

This morning I went to Holy Cross Hospice for the last time, and it was a bittersweet goodbye.  I have built relationships with the staff over the last two and a half months, and they have been so wonderful and welcoming since day one.  It has been an honor and a pleasure getting to know them during my time here, and I greatly admire the work they do despite the many obstacles that the organization faces (not to mention the personal obstacles many of them have to contend with).  I managed to get a group photo with the staff and volunteers in front of the hospice sign:

Holy Cross Hospice Staff & Volunteers (and me!)
I was able to achieve my goal of 30 interviews with family members of people who have passed away, thanks in no small part to the staff you see in the picture above.  Many of them have stuck with the hospice over the years despite fluctuations in funding which have caused them to miss occasional paychecks or take pay cuts periodically.  They really care about their clients and the mission of the hospice, and it shows in their positive attitudes and excitement to include volunteers from all over the world.

This weekend I went northeast of Gaborone to the Sir Seretse Khama Rhino Sanctuary (known as "Khama Rhino" by the locals).  We went on a game drive on Sunday morning and saw lots of animals, including wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, impala, kudu, springbok, squirrels, and RHINOS!  This was the first time I've seen a rhino in the wild - they are very rare to see because they have been heavily poached for their horns.  Apparently in China people will pay top dollar for a rhino horn - the powdered horn is supposed to be a powerful aphrodisiac.  Unfortunately this has led to much poaching of rhinos just for their horns - despite the fact that rhino horns will grow back if you cut them, like a fingernail, people continue to kill the animals in order to poach the horns.  In the rhino sanctuary they have about 34 white rhinos and just 4 black rhinos, the most endangered type.  I didn't manage to get any good pictures of the rhinos but our guide let us get out of the jeep and walk closer to the rhinos to get a better view, after a long discussion with another driver to make sure that was okay.  It is rare that you are allowed to get out of the vehicle on a game drive because it can be very dangerous, but our guide wanted us to get a good view so he drove the car behind some bushes and we walked slowly and carefully from bush to bush until we were about 50 meters from the rhinos.  Apparently rhinos have poor eyesight and when provoked they can run up to 40km per hour, so we were careful not to get too close or disturb them.   

Giraffes at the Rhino Sanctuary
Wildebeest (taking no notice of us despite our proximity) at the Rhino Sanctuary
On the way back to Gaborone we passed by the Matsieng footprints, which the Batswana believe were one of the places of the origin of man.  The site consists of a very small placard and a massive rock with footprints carved into it.  It was hard to tell which of the footprints were 2,000 years old (if any) and which were newer or copycat engravings.  It does make sense to me that the Batswana believed this to be the origin of creation since the rocks contain three deep holes that contain water year-round, which is a scarce resource in this part of the country.  It hasn't rained once since I arrived here on June 6th, but there remains about a meter of water in the deepest hole at Matsieng, and right now is one of the lowest points of the year according to the woman who was working there.  Although the water looked a bit like primordial soup to me (another argument for this being the origin of man?) I can imagine what an important place this is due to the constant presence of water in the middle of very dry surroundings.

Matsieng's Footprint

Me as I pretend to emerge from the primordial soup!
Also along the way back to Gaborone was the Tropic of Capricorn, so we stopped to get a quick group photo:

Tropic of Capricorn (with our tiny rental car, aka "The Little Rhino" in the background)
On my bucket list of things to do before leaving Botswana has been to taste Chibuku.  Chibuku is a  home-brew style beer made from sorghum, maize, water, and yeast.  It is very popular in the Old Naledi neighborhood where I conducted most of my interviews, and it is actually brewed there for distribution around the country.  When I first heard of Chibuku I thought it was a home brew, but it is very much a commercial enterprise complete with branded packaging and even a few billboards advertising it.  You can buy a liter of Chibuku for 5.50 pula - about 75 cents in US currency.  The alcohol content on the label is "3% plus or minus 5%" - the longer you let it sit, the more it ferments and the stronger it gets.  I can see why this is so popular in a country where the cheapest beer you can buy in a store is about 7 pula for 330ml - you can buy a liter of Chibuku for 5.50 and let it ferment up to 8% alcohol in a few short days.  Liquor stores here don't sell Chibuku (not that I have noticed at least), so you have to go to a local bar or the brewery to buy it.

On our drive back to Gaborone we saw an open bar and decided to ask if they sold Chibuku, much to the owner's amusement.  She gladly sold us a carton and showed us the proper way to shake it up before opening ("shake it harder, like you mean it!") and how to properly open the top and form the spout to drink from.  The drink looked like a watery chocolate milk and tasted a little earthy and tart and yeasty; it reminded me of the yeast and warm water mix you make before baking bread, but it was cold and had some ground up maize and sorghum grains mixed in.  It certainly wouldn't be the first thing I reach for when I'm thirsty, but I can see how it would be easy to drink once you acquire a taste for it.  As one of the others travelling with me said, "how did you feel about beer the first time you tried it?"  That's a pretty accurate description of Chibuku in my book.  An added bonus for the people who drink it is that it is nearly a meal substitute with all the sorghum and maize floating around in there, so if they are short on cash it is like killing two birds with one stone.

Demonstrating good Chibuku-drinking technique after giving it a good shake
We didn't even come close to finishing the liter despite sharing it between four people, but we certainly got our money's worth posing for pictures with the carton, much to the amusement of our gracious bar hostess/owner.

Discarded Chibuku cartons around a fire pit in the yard of the bar - clearly this is a popular drink!

Small building next to the bar where we bought the Chibuku advertising the drink (and the dog of the bar owner)
Despite having had a few sips of Chibuku we made it back to Gabs without incident :)

This past week I met a few nursing students from UPenn who are here doing a four-week clinical rotation - some of them at the hospice - and I went to a lecture their professor gave at the University of Botswana on global health for their course in community health nursing.  It made me look forward to being back in school this fall!  It seems like ages ago that I was studying disease processes and treatment protocols, but in a few short weeks I will be right back into it and seeing patients in a clinical setting again.

In closing, I leave you with this fantastic photo (that I didn't even get the chance to write about!) of my husband and I in South Africa.  We had the opportunity to walk a cheetah at a wildlife rescue organization (Tenikwa) near Plettenberg Bay.  The experience of walking the cheetah basically sums up how I feel about my time here in southern Africa - it has been exciting, educational, at times a bit scary . . . and now I am sad that it is coming to an end but also ready for the next chapter to begin.  After all, you can't walk a cheetah forever!


I hope that some day I will be able to come back to Botswana, but until then I will be diligently writing up my research findings and working on finishing school to become a nurse practitioner.  Until next time!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chobe in Pictures

I'm finally getting another update up!  I want so share some photos from my trip up to Chobe National Park, which is in the northeastern corner of Botswana.  The trip was a quick weekend turnaround with 11 hours of driving each way, but well worth the travel time.  On our drive up we saw an elephant and two or three giraffes on the side of the highway!

Wouldn't want to hit one of these guys on the road!
The Chobe river runs along a portion of the northern edge of Botswana where it creates part of the border between Botswana and Namibia.  It flows east and merges with the Zambezi river at a point where the borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all touch.  Just a few miles down the river from there, the Zambezi river cascades at Victoria Falls, which we visited on Sunday.

We arrived at our lodge on Friday afternoon and were welcomed by two warthogs chowing down on the lawn near the parking lot.

Welcoming Warthogs
The lodge was fantastic - it was a bit of a splurge for us but we managed to get the "local discount" since one of the people traveling with us has applied for residency in Botswana (they didn't seem to check on our claim that we were residents anyway).  After freshening up, we headed out for a sunset boat cruise into the park, during which we saw hippos, elephants, crocodiles, mongoose, warthogs, baboons, monkeys, kudu, impala, and about a million beautiful birds. I'm sure we saw other things as well I just can't remember at the moment - it was overwhelming and beautiful.

Thankfully we had borrowed a camera with fantastic zoom capability so we were able to capture some photos that did the experience justice.

A banded mongoose crosses the path of a young antelope

Water Buffalo - these things have massive horns!
Reportedly the most dangerous creature to encounter on safari if you are on foot.
Hippo having an afternoon snack
Hippo close-up

Elephants on the island in the middle of the river

Myself and my travel companions on the roof deck of the boat

Hippo naptime





HUGE crocs - the big one was at least 8 or 10 feet long!

Elephant family walking down to the water

The elephants began drinking in unison, using their trunks like straws

Then they poured the water out of their trunks and down the hatch!

Baby elephant! It looked over at us mid-gulp.

Chobe River

The island in the middle of the river, with hippos, water buffalo, and elephants visible

More sunbathing hippos

This croc jumped out of the water just as our boat approached

Croc close-up! Scary!

Camouflaged Croc - the hill behind is the Botswana side of the river

Elephants and water buffalo on the Namibia side of the river

There were so many beautiful birds

This was amazing - towards the end of the boat ride, we stopped in an area where there were tons of different types of animals heading for the water.  These are impala and elephants.

It almost looked like a stampede just before sunset - from our vantage point we could see impala, water buffalo, hippos, elephants, and warthogs

Here you can see some warthogs in front of the impala, which are in front of the elephants

And there is a bird!  Does this remind anyone else of the opening scene in the Lion King? I couldn't help but hear Elton John singing "Circle of Life" when this was happening.  It was surreal.

And then some GIRAFFES emerged from the trees!

Giraffe joining the party

It was really an indescribable experience to see so many animals in one place, and it made me incredibly happy that Botswana has done such a great job of preserving the natural habitat for these animals.  What a fantastic way to start a weekend!

On the boat's journey back to the lodge we circled around the other side of the island and saw this guy:

Water Monitor lizard - this one was definitely more than 2 feet long, and he slid into the hole behind him in the cliff as we sailed off
We caught a beautiful sunset with a classic African red sun on our way back.  It was a magical day, and our trip had just begun!

Chobe Sunset

I will put the rest of our trip, which included a game drive and a visit to Victoria Falls, in a separate post since this one has so many photos in it.  Stay tuned!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Research Update

It's been busy since my last post - I went up to Chobe national park last weekend for a wonderful safari/riverfront experience, and I have been working hard on my research.  This weekend I made Pakistani food for about 10 friends, after discovering that they sell Shan Masala (the best spice mixes) at Hyper Choppies!  I'll post some of the fantastic pictures of Chobe in my next update, but for now I wanted to write a bit more about the research I'm doing.

I have been going to people's homes along with staff from Holy Cross Hospice and interviewing the family members of people who have died.  As of today, I have completed 21 interviews.  Going to people's homes has been a really interesting experience, and has shown me once again how universal the human experience is regardless of geographic location.  The people I am interviewing are mostly in the lower income strata of Botswana, and most of them are in the Old Naledi neighborhood.  "Naledi" means star in Setswana, and Old Naledi is one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in Gaborone.  Most people live in one-room houses, often with an entire family living in one room.  Some of the houses have electricity, but most do not, and very few have running water.  Most of the houses are built from cement and cinder blocks with corrugated tin roofs and no insulation.

A nicer house - two one-room apartments next to one another
The neighborhood is expansive - I'm not sure how many people actually live there but it is extremely easy to get lost driving around on the winding maze of roads.  There are some cars driving through, but the streets are generally used more by people on foot, chickens, and stray dogs.  On any given block you will see people pushing wheelbarrows containing large containers of water to bring home from the pump, women with babies tied to their backs with blankets, children playing with soccer balls in the street, and groups of young men looking for entertainment or drinking Chibuku, the locally made sorghum beer/porridge.

Most of the interviews I have done have taken place outdoors, since it is winter and sitting in the sun is the best place to be in the chilly mornings.  Probably about 8 of the interviews I have done so far were indoors.  It is fascinating seeing how different people live - the houses in Old Naledi look very similar from the outside but I have seen a wide variety of interiors, from a tattered foam mattress on a dirty cement floor to a pristine pink room that could belong to an American teenage girl to a bachelor pad with a big TV and little else.  Most of the houses have small camping-style gas stoves for cooking, but some people cook over an open fire in their yard.

The majority of my interviews have been in Setswana with the help of a translator, but many people, especially the younger generation, speak English.  Doing these interviews has made it really clear to me how much richer information is when you hear it in your own language!  It is much easier to connect with the person I'm interviewing and ask follow up questions when the whole interview is in English.

I haven't yet tallied the results of my interviews, but from what I am hearing people are incredibly grateful for the hospice services they received.  My questions are aimed at finding out what their experience was like having a loved one who is ill and what (if anything) was helpful about the hospice services received.  One answer that I didn't anticipate that I have been getting very frequently is that transportation to and from the hospital or clinic is one of the most needed things, and is greatly appreciated when available.  I have yet to encounter a family that owed money for medical-related expenses after the loved one passed away.  Although the health care system is under much strain here in Botswana, health care IS free and accessible to all citizens.  People recognize the value of this and they do appreciate it, even when they have complaints about the conditions in the hospital or tell stories of misdiagnosis or improper treatment (which happens frequently in the U.S. as well).

Typical block in Old Naledi

Speaking of the hospital, yesterday afternoon I went with one of the hospice staff to check on a hospice client who had been hospitalized at Princess Marina - the main public hospital in Gaborone.  We went onto the ward where she was staying and found her in a bed along the walkway.  The ward was basically three or four big partitioned sections with a walkway connecting all of them.  There is no privacy for patients, since in each partitioned area there were about 15 or 20 women in hospital beds that were tucked in wherever they would fit, many of them surrounded by 4 or 5 family members visiting.  There looked to be about twice as many patients as the ward was designed to hold.  The wards are separate freestanding buildings on the ground floor, and all of the windows were open as were the doors on either end of the walkway, so air was freely circulating which was nice since it was a warm day, although the unmistakable scent of illness and bedridden patients was still present.  There are signs all around the hospital that say "Prevent TB: keep this window/door open."  We spoke to the patient for a few minutes and asked if she had eaten anything, she said no.  She also said that she didn't have any family to come visit her.  According to several people I've talked to, the hospital staff does not help patients to eat - they just bring the food and if the patient doesn't eat it eventually they take it away.  We were there around lunch time but I didn't see any food being served so I can't say whether that is true, but if the patients really do not get any help eating then that is a very sad state for the hospital to be in.  How is anyone supposed to recover from illness if they aren't getting any nutrition?  We left the patient and said we would continue to check on her and wished her a speedy recovery.  I think just having someone come and visit her to check in perked up her spirits a little, since it was clear she doesn't have any family who can come help her.

Last week I had the opportunity to shadow a friend, who is also a nurse practitioner student, at his internship at one of the local clinics.  The clinic was about 30 minutes drive outside of Gaborone, so it was in a slightly more rural area but not too far out.  My favorite part of the whole day was the sign welcoming us out front:

There has been new research in the past few years that males who are circumcised are less likely to contract HIV during sex.  Because of this research, the government here in Botswana has started a campaign to get the majority of men here circumcised over the course of the next few years.  I know many of you guys reading this are probably cringing, but circumcision is a straightforward outpatient procedure with minimal risk.  According to my friend who I was shadowing, people have been surprisingly accepting of it and the campaign seems to be going relatively well.

The clinic day was fascinating to see - as a family nurse practitioner, my friend sees patients of all ages and conditions.  One patient was pregnant, he saw a two year old with a possibly fractured forearm, a couple came in worried about STI symptoms, several people had dermatologic problems (mostly related to HIV), and a few people with constipation and stomach pain.  It was apparently a slow day at the clinic, but we saw 12 or 13 patients between 9am and noon.  Although the government funds the clinics sufficiently, there were problems with shortages of supplies and other essentials.  One patient said that she was supposed to have a chest x-ray for TB but the x-ray machine at Princess Marina was broken so they told her to come back later.  We could only find one clean speculum for the women's health appointments and the others were in the autoclave, so we could only do one pelvic exam.  We also took a long time finding a sterile cup to get a urine sample.  There was only one functioning blood pressure cuff, so not all of the patients had their blood pressure taken before coming in.  Apparently the issue is not funding but organization and logistics - the clinics that are outside of Gaborone have trouble staying on top of supplies and the distributors of the supplies are located in the city, so it is very time consuming to get more supplies when you run out.  I only saw the example of this one clinic but this could be a fantastic project for someone in healthcare management to take on. I'm sure each clinic is managed differently as well, so that must contribute to how well-stocked and organized a clinic is.

I could go on writing for a long time but I've got to get out and do some interviews today.  I'm heading to South Africa on Thursday to meet my husband (who FINALLY got his visa approved) but I will try to write an update about my trip to Chobe before then.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Namibia Part II - Walvis Bay, Dune 7, and the Return

On Monday morning we woke up bright and early for breakfast at our hotel, then drove down to Walvis Bay, about 30 minutes south of Swakopmund and also on the coast.  The drive between the two towns is fantastic - on our left there were golden sand dunes rising up into a eerily foggy sky, and on our right was a beach and the sea with grey water and pounding waves.  One of my favorite parts of driving through Namibia is that they have these huge signs with exclamation marks on them.  The first exclamatory signs we saw said "! No Lines" to indicate that the divided road was no longer divided.  We also passed a few that contained nothing but an exclamation mark, which I'm curious about - perhaps these signs are just a general warning?  I took them to mean "Get excited! You're in Namibia! !!!"  Here is one from the drive between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay:

Seems a little obvious when you're looking at sand dunes to your left and a beach on your right that there might be sand on the road, but hey, I'm not one to complain about excessive signage.

We got to Walvis Bay without incident and boarded a catamaran for our next adventure - a cruise and wildlife tour around the Bay.  We had no idea what to expect since we decided to take the boat ride on the recommendation of our hostess in Windhoek, and there was no mention in the guide book or from anyone we had talked to about taking a boat in Namibia.  We literally had written down the phone number and called the afternoon prior to see if there was space for us on the boat.  Thank goodness there was room for us, because this boat ride made the trip entirely worth it!

We walked down a long wooden dock to get to the catamaran, and one of the kids in the group noticed a jellyfish in the water off the dock.  I stopped to look and take a photo of the large jellyfish floating very close to the surface - a wildlife sighting already!  Little did I know that I would see more jellyfish than ever in my entire cumulative life experience on that boat ride - we sailed past pockets of them in the water so thick you could reach in and easily grab four or five in one scoop!  What a sight to see.

Jellyfish off the Dock
Once we got on a boat we were in for a real treat - our guide and our boat captain turned out to be fun-loving South Africans who loved to tell jokes.  Right after getting on the boat our guide picked up some chunks of fish from his cooler and called to two huge pelicans that were off in the distance.  He said "come! come on!" and they flew right up behind our boat!

Pelicans Looking for a Snack

Then the boat started moving at a faster pace, and we got a bit farther out into the bay.  Our guide proceeded to reach off the back of the boat and pick up a jellyfish WITH HIS BARE HANDS!  I couldn't believe he wasn't getting stung, but he explained that these jellies don't sting.  As you can see in the photo below, he had no problem touching its tentacles.  I was too nervous to touch anything other than its head, but it was very cool to see such a huge creature up close and personal.

Walvis Bay Jellyfish

We then sailed even farther out into the bay, and went past acres and acres of oyster beds.  We saw a crew of men hauling the oysters up into a small boat, which looked like incredibly hard work, and we also saw a huge old fishing boat sitting out in the middle of the oyster beds.  Our guide explained that that old boat has had the engine removed and there is one guy who lives on it and watches over the oyster farms to make sure nobody steals the oysters!  What a life.  He goes back and forth in a small boat to the coast, but apparently he lives out there for a week at a time and sometimes he invites friends to keep him company on the boat.

Before long we saw something splashing in the water a little ways away.  As we approached it became clear - dolphins!

There was another boat that looked very similar to ours out for a cruise as well, and the dolphins were following them.  Soon they began following us, and there were at least 15 dolphins in various locations around the boat.  At one point they were swimming right underneath the front of the boat, and we could look over and see them gracefully moving just below the surface of the water.  It was an incredible experience to see them so close!

Dolphins Swimming with our Boat
After hanging out with the dolphins for about 30 minutes we headed towards a large sand bar.  We saw more splashes in the distance and thought at first they were more dolphins, but they were seals!  There is a huge colony of seals that live in the bay, and they know that the boats provide fishy snacks for them so some of them got really excited when they saw us.  They were splashing around in the water and following the boat - one even came up right behind us to check out what was going on.  And then we saw the sand bar - SO many seals!  I felt like I was watching a National Geographic special on them - the sheer volume coming from so many animals was incredible.  We could see the huge bulls making loud, deep noises, and baby seals crying for their mothers, which sounds incredibly similar to "maa".  Some of the seals were fighting for territory, some playing and/or fighting in the water, and some swam up to say hello to our boat.  To top it all off, while we were standing there, a flock of flamingos flew overhead!

Seals - A small portion of the number we could see from the boat.  Wish I had a panorama!
 We started to head off after several minutes commenting on the dramatic plot lines that were unfolding in the seal colony and soaking in the grandness of the scene.  We thought our time with the seals was over, but suddenly our guide was yelling from the back of the boat.  "Come here, Pacho" he said.  As he came around the side of the boat, he said "I want you all to meet my dog, Pacho."  Following behind him ON THE BOAT was a seal!  I was a little intimidated at first, knowing that this was a wild animal and that seals have sharp teeth and massive body weight, but once a few others on the boat willingly reached out and pet him, I did the same.  Pacho turned out to be a very friendly and cooperative seal!  Anything for a free meal, I suppose . . . we even got to pose for photos with him!  Apparently he is the friendliest seal out there, and he knows our guide very well.  Because of that, we could get close to him and he was happy to allow us to pet him, and even seemed to enjoy being scratched on the head and neck like a dog!

Family Photo with Pacho
Apparently there is another seal that follows the boats around who is particularly unfriendly, and the guides have nicknamed him Saddam Hussein.  He barks loudly and has been agressive in the past, and a few weeks ago he bit one of the boat hands on the leg as he was making a repair on the boat!  I was glad not to have that information until after I had my photo op with Pacho!

Such a Friendly Guy!
 After everyone on the boat had their fill of photo ops and Pacho went on his way, they served us a nice lunch of cold sandwiches, fresh oysters, and champagne.  It was such a fantastic experience!  We kept saying to each other "I don't think this is Africa . . . " Feasting on oysters on a boat and hanging out with seals and pelicans were not exactly what we pictured living in Africa would entail :)

Just before we docked we passed a boat signal with a bunch of cormorants perched on it - as we went by, our captain pointed out the birds to us and made a comment about their character - as you can see, he said, they're hanging out in the red light district.

Seedy Cormorants in the Red Light District of Walvis Bay 
 We giddily stepped off the boat and on to dry land, still in disbelief that we had such an amazing experience.  We planned to head back to Windhoek that afternoon, but not before we saw one more sight - Dune Seven.

Ready to Go! (and representing with my Yale sweatshirt on)
Dune Seven is the tallest of a set of huge sand dunes which sit about 15 minutes drive west of where the boat took off.  As you can see from the picture above, it looks like we are about 1,000 miles away from the ocean.  It turns out that as soon as you drive inland the fog disappears and you are in the desert again (reminiscent of San Francisco yet again . . . minus the enormous sand dunes!).  The dune doesn't look so high in the picture above, but if you notice the tiny person climbing up in the background, you will see that it is a lot bigger than it looks!

The four of us started out with an optimistic attitude but by the time we were 1/3 of the way up we were already losing steam.  There were two teenage girls who started at about the same time we did, and one of them bolted up at twice the speed we did, while the other abandoned the cause less than halfway up.  By the time I was 2/3rds of the way up, the slope was so steep that I could only go about five or six steps before stopping to catch my breath.  Some of my companions began using their hands as well as their legs.  We questioned if we should have rented the 4x4 dune buggies they were touting at the base of the hill!  With a little faith and a lot of effort, we made it to the top!

Almost There!
 There was a nice cool breeze awaiting us at the top of the dune, and a wide open view that brought a sense of accomplishment with it.

 What a surreal experience to be shrouded in fog and feeling the chill of the ocean breeze just 45 minutes before we found ourselves on the top of this huge sand dune!

The Easy Part
 We walked along the crest of the dune for a while, and debated whether we should attempt to keep going until we reached the next dune over which appeared to be slightly higher than the one we were standing on  . . . but with a 4 hour drive ahead of us to get back to Windhoek we decided that climbing one gigantic sand dune was enough for one day.

The jaunt down took almost no time at all and felt like a moonwalk - a great reward for such effort climbing up!  by the time I got to the bottom, the cuffs of my rolled-up jeans had turned into sandbags - I actually had to stop halfway down to empty one of them because it felt like an ankle weight!

Driving Away from Dune Seven (on the left)
We drove back with exhausted grins on our faces, happy with an incredibly successful adventure on the coast.

The Almost-Full Moon Lighting the way Home
We spent one last night in Windhoek after an obligatory stop at Joe's Beerhouse again, and set out early the next morning for Gaborone.  I won't go into details about that journey, since it is not nearly as fun of a story, but suffice it to say our 11-hour drive turned into a 13-hour drive again thanks to my driving skills, a big white truck, and getting used to driving on the left hand side, which resulted in us switching out our rental car for another one.

Looking back on this trip, I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunities I have had.  I spoke to some of the hospice staff after returning from my trip and several of them said to me they have never seen the ocean.  It is so important to be able to put things in perspective, and to be thankful for all we are given in this life, big or small.

Until next time!