Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Final days.

Returning to Lusaka it was time to see the heart. The chaos, the trash, poverty, plastic bags, basically where the 3 million (per 2010 census) Lusaktonians (made that one up) are during the day. We found them…buying material and shoes, shouting and selling all of the nick-naks and any piece that they could get their hands on.

We explored the shops at city market, walking by a movie store, a copy shop, and some women selling cow hearts. A conglomeration of anything and everything posed at the west end of town. Walking the streets of town, something I don’t do often, allows you to see a side of Zambia often missed. Lusaka is a sprawling city and town center is not the meat and pride of the city. Perhaps it once was but currently it is a piece of a greater puzzle, but to sift through the pieces time and a guide are helpful in order to appreciate the final product. We walked through the streets. Observed business men and women heading to meetings, observed lines of people waiting to get their voter registration cards, and encountered the mass exodus across the bridge that steadily occurs from 8:00 till 17:00 daily.

Hitting a few hot spots within the city, Sugar Bush and Zam Bikes, my parents got a better feel for the entrepreneurial opportunities of the city. Early mornings and afternoons were spent reading and relaxing on the porch.

Nshima. Finally my parents were able to try a bit of nshima. Zambian food made by a Zambian, Moomba. An evening meal with a family of Zambians that allowed us to try vegetables, ground nuts, chicken, ocra, beans, and gravy with nshima. A well rounded meal…

Following me to work, my parents were able to enter Matero, the city within the city. The compound of horrible roads but beautiful schools, manily because of the kids who attend them, sometimes. We drove around and visited coaches that were finishing up an intervention explaining the biology of HIV. How it attacks your immune system, what the immune system does, etc.

Rounding off the vacation was an evening at the Marine House. Happy hour drinks for St. Patrick’s Day lead us there. A piece of America in the midst of Zambia.

The following day mom and dad left. Headed back to NM and to life there. I went back to work. An extremely unproductive and odd day for me…the weekend has been spent regrouping. Finally there, I think.

Till next time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Increasing wildlife knowledge courtesy of Master Leanord.

Early risers. Off to the border crossing, what a scandal that is, not for us but for the truckers that wait weeks for the two ferries to cart them across the river. Lines of trucks formed miniature communities of people- stoves burning, chairs popped up- perhaps the first trailer park? I don’t mean that negatively, the community was unassuming and raw. My heart goes out to those weary drivers waiting for a boat to cross them over. Ever think of building a bridge? Hmmm, a brief insight into the politics and stalemates marking Africa’s infrastructure.

Being up close and personal with nature in the Chobe National Park impacted me inCross the border was a safari vehicle, Leanord, and what turned out to be an astonishing interaction with natural beauty. Our camping safari consisted of 3 days and 2 evening. Camping out in the bush at a luxiourious camp, set-up for you upon arrival, complete with think mattress-like mats, pillows, comforters, a cook, wine, marshmellows, a shower, a bathroom- pure convenience. To complete the safari package, 2 river cruises, and 4 safari drives.

Our first day we spotted hippos, baboons, spider monkeys, water monitor lizards, a slew of birds and insects, crocodiles, elephants, giraffe, lions (male, female, juvenile), cubs, cape buffalo, impala, kudu, etc. the list goes on and on and there is no way that I could ever recount bit by bit the moments of this trip. What I can say is that I saw much more than I ever expected- see pictures below.Being up close and personal with nature in Chobe National Park impacted me in multiple ways…you see the lion king and you visit the zoo, but you never imagine that animals mingle, co-exist, and never-ever look themselves in the mirror. To not know what you look like, can you imagine? Most likely there is a certain freedom found within this ignorance.

We were in a group with a couple from Sweden, a young girl from Holland, and our guide, shall we call him, Master Leanord. Master Leanord was, is, and will always be a bush baby, a true believer and master of the African bush, especially Chobe. He knew the prides of lions by look and feel, understood the personalities and dynamic of each miniature ecosystem and character roving through the terrain. He would narrate the activities of the animals with such ease, as if he had written a script for the animals and they were just following cues. He had the eyes of a hawk or a lion or whatever animal he was looking for and it was obvious that observing years of animal movements and interactions had left him with a fantastic wealth of knowledge.

Did you know that elephant trunks have 4,500 muscles and that most elephants are either right or left trunk dominant? Did you know that a black and white saber can somehow magically disappear into the green and yellow stripped reeds? Did you know that the black tufts on the back of an impala’s heels give off a scent that allows the herd to relocate each other after being separated? Did you know…that is the epitome of Master Leanord.

The elephants and a honey badger visited us, separately, on the two nights that we were in camp. A true proximity. The safari of a lifetime.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blast from the Past: Days in LSK

After a brief hiatus I am back. I apologize for the static as you have all been waiting for an update- some indication that I am still conducting myself in a respectable manner. Well I am pleased to say, I have been…here’s what has been up- or I guess for all you readers down, if we consider the geography of it all.

About 2 weeks ago my parents arrived from New Mexico- land of the green and red chile!!! A much anticipated visit they walked through the gate and my worlds collided in smiles, hugs, luggage, and stares. Welcoming them to Africa, to Zambia, to my life, to my job, and to traveling on the left side of the road was an ambush of language (Nyanja), customs (women’s day and chitenge), and many muzungu (white people) mouths to feed (nshima).

Our plan: 2 weeks of days in Lusaka, a trip to one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World, safari, and ENCHILADAS.

Can you tell that I was really excited about the food?! I have to say 7 months sin green chile was almost unbearable. But I survived and now I’ve had a my fix for the next 7 months.

Upon arriving we checked my parents into the 252 B Twin Palm Intern House, introduced them to the majority of the office and ate. What did we eat? Chicken wings. The following day was spend shopping at the Tuesday vegetable market- full of color and chaos, shopping at the cultural village for symbols of time spent in Zambia. Bartering and bantering filled the morning. March 8th is International Women’s Day and a day off in Zambia. GRS decided to have a women’s group/coaches training event at a farm outside of Lusaka. We headed out there in the afternoon, to introduce my parents to the realities of my life: dancing, chitenge, nshima, heat, and a whole lot of talking.

Perhaps a bit of an overwhelming experience, my parents met the peer educators that I work with, my colleagues, and the women’s group that supplements and assists the GRS curriculum. It was a stunning day. Hot, sunny, and an initiation into who the members of GRS are, lots of faces.

In order to introduce my parents to all the faces in my life, we held a braii (aka bbq) for our parents. Max’s, my housemate, parents were here at the same time. Parent’s weekend!! Lots of food, drink, music, and conversations peppered the night and seasoned it with a family feel…

Next morning it was off to the bus station, onto the bus, and 5 hours down south to Livingstone. After a luxurious lunch we headed to the falls- or should I say the storm…literally smoke and mist thundering away. Seeing the “smoke” as we approached the falls and hearing it as we walked along the path…photos can testify to the shear volume of water but only memories will suffice for the sentiment of being pounded by water, soaked to the bone, having to scream to be heard, and a slight reversion back to a child playing in the rain.

Drinks and dinner at the Royal Livingstone that evening left us pampered, satisfied, and sleepy. In prime shape for Botswana and the adventures to come.