Week Two in South Africa was bittersweet. I could feel that time was flying by too quickly and I would be on a plane home before I knew it.
Day 9, Wednesday: If you knew me, you’d know how much I am not a fan of snakes. So imagine what happened when a client brought in an anaconda to the clinic. It was from a pet shop and was not native to the area. It was not feeling well because it was actually too cold for such a tropical snake to be in the area. It needed more of a heat lamp and a higher ambient temperature. Apparently, in SA, you can learn a little bit about snakes too.
We also went to take care of a buffalo who was acting a bit lame. That was fun because we all had to wait in the back of bakkie to be safe. They had darted the lame buffalo but the mother was hanging around and being very protective. Time was of the essence to get this buffalo on a stretcher and pulled into a different enclosure for treatment. I never thought I’d say this, but I was living for the adrenaline of it all! We also got to check out a wildebeest that seemed sick. All these animals that I had never seen before were now suddenly laid out in front of me, in need of my medical care. Let me tell you, it is impossible to give an injection to a buffalo. Their skin is so thick, it might take you a few minutes to get it all in, as it did for me.
Day 10, Thursday: Today I actually helped with a bull castration! If you told me I would be holding onto bull testicles during this trip, I would have laughed. Even though it was something I could do in the US, it still made the whole day.
We also got to check out a big abscess on the face of a Sable. It was about the size of a baseball and filled with puss. I wish I had gotten it on video because it definitely would have made an episode of Dr. Pimple Popper.
To top off the day, we went back to that farm in the mountain and had a good old South African ‘Braii’, which, I have been told, means BBQ. We cooked steak and chicken kabobs over a fire in the complete wilderness. They told me to watch out for baboons that might be around and smell the food. Baboons.
Day 11, Friday: I am not going to lie. This day was disappointing. We drove for about 6 hours in total with one of the doctors to go see some wildebeest that he wanted to buy. We saw wildebeest for about 10 minutes max. I got sick quickly from spending so much time in the car.
Day 12+13, Saturday and Sunday: The weekend made up for how Friday went. We went to Kruger National Park! It is very large and we stayed overnight to see as many wild animals as possible. We saw Hyena cubs, lions, a leopard, giraffe, zebra, warthog, elephant, and more. It was a wonderful view of the South African wildlife that you’d imagine.
Day 14, Monday: Today, a dog that had gotten shot came into the office. This is the kind of medical care that is needed in South Africa. There was also another surgery that was performed on a dog that had broken its leg. Nothing is simple here. There are no wellness visits, there are terrible, terrible, emergency appointments.
In the morning, we also went to do a postmortem on a cow who had died before reaching the slaughterhouse. We examined the organs of the cow, which the vet told us was full of infection, right there in the abattoir. I had never been in one before and I could see and smell the cows hanging by their ankles, waiting to be cut into. I hated it. But I needed it, if I am going to be a veterinarian. I hated the whole experience even more when the vet said that he had approved the meat for consumption. I was horrified. I don’t know what the standards are in the country but I wouldn’t think the US would let that go through. It made me do a lot of hard thinking about meat consumption around the world and how important regulation is, especially in circumstances like this. I wanted to learn more about how that might affect whoever or whatever eats that infected meat.
Day 15, Tuesday: I leave today. This day was looming over my head for a while. I don’t want to leave but I have my photos, I have my knowledge, and I have my memories that the trip has given me. I have never done anything like this in my life and it had opened up the rest of the world for me. I traveled alone, as a small white woman, in a country with a lot of crime due to poverty, where I would be a clear target as a tourist. I have a new view of the world today.