Postcard from Botswana - Sinka Matengu (BIS 2004)
After returning to Botswana from The University of Melbourne I eventually came back to live in my home town Kasane in the Chobe District of Botswana. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Southern Africa, and just an hour’s drive from the famous Victoria Falls. Chobe is known mostly for its vast wildlife species found in the Chobe National Park, which include the Big 5 animals. It is also home to the largest elephant population in the world. There are more than 100,000 elephants in the Chobe region that out-number the human population (just under 45,000).
Our staple food is maize meal commonly called ‘Papa’ or ‘Pap’, which is eaten together with beef stew or chicken stew or goat stew and a bowl of fresh vegetable such as spinach or rape. Kasane is along a perennial river, so we eat a lot of fish in my town. I work at Kasane Primary Hospital, the local government hospital, as an IT Officer in charge of the hospital’s entire IT infrastructure and my wife Agnes runs our IT business, Tri-Flex solutions, in Kasane.
I came to Australia on a government scholarship to study a Bachelor of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne in 2000. I graduated in August 2004. I will forever miss that lovely place that I had come to call my second home. I am still hoping to come back to Melbourne either to study or work.
Botswana alumni interested in helping to establish a local alumni group please email Sinka at firstname.lastname@example.org
Postcard From Thailand - Ewa Narkiewicz (BA 1985)
I’ve been living amongst 90 elephants in the Royal Elephant Kraal Village in Ayutthaya, Thailand, for three and a half years. The village is an exciting place to live with many innovative projects going on, all designed to help create a sustainable future for elephants.
My partner Michelle and I set up and manage the Elephantstay program, which comes under the PraKochaban Foundation, a non profit organisation dedicated to elephant conservation. We also manage the Elephant Painting School, which helps the younger elephants earn an income.
Elephantstay helps old elephants earn an income and enjoy a retirement that meets their physical, emotional and mental needs. We teach people from all over the world how to take care of elephants and, most importantly, educate people about elephants, and the 5000 year history and traditions of elephant and mahout culture. Little is known in the west about mahouts and how they dedicate their lives to living with elephants, so we are privileged to give people an opportunity to be a part of this unique lifestyle. As there are less than 4,000 elephants left in Thailand we are also proud of our elephant breeding program, the most successful in the world, with 36 successful births in only 9 years. Living and taking care of elephants is a powerful life changing experience, and to be able to make a diff erence to these magnifi cent animals and the mahouts has been extraordinary.
Postcard From Kuala Lumpur - Xandria Ooi (BCom 2004)
KL is fast-paced and constantly changing – there is always a new road, a new building or a new menu. Once I arrived home after graduation from the University of Melbourne, I could see the potential in building a career in a city that’s growing so rapidly and welcomes new talent with open arms. I graduated with a degree in Finance and Management but somehow fell into the arts and entertainment industry instead.
Now I’m working in the media in television, on radio and newspapers. While studying at uni I had a fortnightly column with The Star newspaper, an English publication in Malaysia. The column was called Tales of Two Cities and I was constantly comparing Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur, be it the food, the culture, the weather or merely the shopping. People would often ask “Which country do you like better?” and I honestly could not give an answer. Melbourne is unique. It was precious and charming and it felt very much like home, especially after I started working part-time in my third year of uni. In many ways, Melbourne would have been a lovely place to live and I do wish Malaysia had some of the calmness, order and culture that Australia is so famous for. Yet it’s true what they say about home being where the heart is.
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