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Friday, September 19, 2014

Consolidation Continues

We have now been in consolidation for almost twenty days. To put this in perspective, I lived and worked at my site for twenty days before the coup and consolidation. When we went through immigration at the South African border, we received 30 day visas with the expectation that we would not be approaching October while still "vacationing" and waiting.

And yet, here we are. Each day brings a mixed bag of promising news and security setbacks. SADC (South Africa Development Community) has had multiple meetings about Lesotho this week and has agreed to send in peace keepers from multiple southern Africa nations to help maintain security. South Africa Deputy President Ramaphosa is mediating between the political parties to help get parliament reopened and possibly to push up the elections currently planned for 2017. At the same time, security has not improved enough for family members of US Embassy employees or Peace Corps volunteers to return to Lesotho.

So, we wait and we find ways to fill the time. We are developing great relationships with the resort staff, who hosted a fun competition day for us on Sunday and kicked our butts in a staff/PCV soccer game this week. We have also been able to get out of the hotel a bit. On Tuesday, Peace Corps rented a bus so that we could all visit nearby Bloemfontein. This provided a great chance to resupply as most of us had packed only enough for a few days.

Some friends and I avoided a full day of shopping by catching a taxi to Cheetah Experience. Cheetah Experience is a non-profit cheetah breeding and education program. Cheetahs are incredibly endangered with more living in captivity than in the wild. Cheetah Experience is one of a number of cheetah breeding programs working to ensure that diversity of cheetah DNA is maintained in hopes of helping to protect this incredible species.

After our tour was completed-including critical cat petting and photo ops but not including my simultaneous allergy attack-my friends and I hung around for a bit. We continued chatting with our guide about our consolidation boredom. She asked if we were interested in volunteering with Cheetah Experience while we are here so I shared my contact info.

Within a few hours, I had an email from the project inviting us to volunteer. That night I spoke with Wendy, our country director, about the opportunity. Two days later, twenty-one of us were boarding the Peace Corps bus for a day of manual labor at Cheetah Experience. While doing something productive was award enough, the staff and live-in volunteers also treated us to "Cheetah Soccer", letting us play with the cheetahs at the end of the day. I managed to pet cheetahs and protect myself from my usual cat allergy problems-which was better than I can say for one of my friends!

Today another group of twenty headed out for more Cheetah Experience. While it may not be what we all came to Africa to do, it is wonderful to be doing something more than enjoying our resort and relaxing to the point of exhaustion.


Susan Pederson said...

Wow, petting a cheetah - that is so cool!!! I am enjoying your blog posts!

Clare said...

Awesome!! So glad you've found something to fill in your 'vacation' time. Also, weirdly, I just noticed your blogspot appears on mine as .co.nz at the end, which is cool 'cause that makes you even closer!!