Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 14 Part 2

14.2-HEADER

November 16, 2015 cont …

9:18P

Back from dinner and drum entertaining and dancing around the boma.  For our presentation we performed the hokey-pokey again.  All the staff members joined in and danced with us.  It was really fun and nice to drink a local beer (Zambezi) by the campfire.

So, anyway, back to our list at the Lukosa Homestead.  As we were sitting there in the “summer kitchen” we all went around and told our names and where we were from.  Then each of the villagers, minus the small children, who were only seen and not heard and very well-behaved, told us their names, marital status and how many children (and grandchildren) they had.

Homestead women

The women of the homestead were seated on a mat on the floor inside the summer kitchen.

Shalom, the first twenty-some year-old boy, translated for the headman as he explained the men’s duties in the homestead and his wife, via her grandson, who was the older young man, told us about the women’s role in the homestead.  We were then encouraged to ask questions followed by them inquiring about our life and culture back home.  They were particularly interested to learn about our process of getting married, weddings, and having children.  They were intrigued to learn that some married couples in our culture choose to never have kids.  The woman then brought in a tall wooden receptacle that resembled a butter churn and two long wooden poles.  Inside the receptacle they placed grain and used the wooden poles to pound down on the corn, alternating one pound at a time forming a fast engine-like motion.  By doing this for hours they would eventually create cornmeal. To help pass the time the ladies would sing while they worked.  The grandson who had now taken over the tour, translated the song’s lyrics:  “Those who work will prosper and those who are lazy will suffer.”

Cornmeal churn

Women making cornmeal

(Note:  We are now hearing the deep grunting of a leopard right outside our tent – yeesh!)

The grandson then gave us a tour of some of the structures around the homestead.

Village tour

Young man giving us a tour of the village. Beside him is the village “headman.”

We were able to go inside the girls hut because it was “the tidiest hut in the homestead.”  Haha!  The boys hut was off limits to our viewing because it was “messy.”

Village Hut

The girls room

We also went inside of the “winter kitchen.”  This is where the women do their cooking when it gets cold out because it’s more enclosed that the “summer kitchen.”  Interestingly enough, this winter kitchen is also where they hold “calling hours” for viewing a dead family member before they are buried.  The room was very simple.  It, like the “summer kitchen,” was round.  We were told the kitchens are intentionally designed this way because snakes like to hide in corners.  The villagers build their kitchens round so there are no corners for the snakes to hide.  Against one of the walls was a case of shelves and in the middle was a small fire covered by a metal grate.  On it sat a cast iron kettle with two small cast iron pots beside it on the ground.  The structures where everyone slept (the girls’ bedroom, boys’ bedroom and headman’s house) were all square.

Winter Kitchen

Inside the winter kitchen

After the tour we returned to the cool summer kitchen for “bush tea”, coffee and delicious rosemary shortbread cookies.

African Bush Tea

The young man being very hospitable and serving the “bush tea,” coffee and cookies.

We were also given the option of eating home-cooked mopane worms – yes, you read this correctly – WORMS!  This was a very interesting experience.  Vitals informed us prior to arriving in the village that the women would not be offended if we declined eating them.  The worms come from the mopane trees and are loaded in nutrients.  They were first boiled in water, then fried with onions and tomatoes.  As the bowl was passed around, I took one of the worms.  I mean, why not?  When in Rome … right?  The worms were crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside.  Their flavor closely resembled that of a sardine.  Hmmm … no regrets but not exactly on my most favorite list.

Mopane Worms

Village woman offering us some mopane worms

As we enjoyed our morning tea and coffee, the learning and discovery continued as we were told that when a young man is talking one-on-one to an elder he never looks him directly in the eye or if the elder is seated the young man never remains standing so that he is above the elder’s head.  Eye contact is considered a form of aggression and standing above an elder is disrespectful.  So the young man must kneel or be seated.  I did not notice this behavior during our visit to the village.

Overall, visiting the Lukosa homestead was an amazing experience. The family was so grateful for all the groceries and cleaning supplies we brought them.  It was wonderful to see smiles on all of their faces.

Smiling African woman

I love the smiles on the faces of the villagers.

Next, we took the minibus to St. Mary’s School.  There, some of the kids came outside to greet us with a song.

African children singing

The boys and girls of St. Mary’s School in Zimbabwe greeting us with a song.

We were able to visit three different classrooms (the 1st graders, a computer room and the 4th graders).  In the 4th grade class we sat down amongst the students and talked with them.  They were still learning English but able to communicate pretty well with us.   I sat at a table with Cheryl and the kids told us about their favorite sports and games to play at lunch time and what they were learning.

St. Mary's School

Sitting down with the 4th Graders at St. Mary’s.

One particular boy was very enthusiastic in answering our questions and even read us a long paragraph from his English textbook.  It was so heart-warming to see the excitement in all their faces.  They loved having their pictures taken and insisted on us showing them their picture from our digital cameras.   Each of these kids had their own pencil, broken in half from a full one.  There were also aluminum soup cans on their desks filled with rocks or corn kernels.  This was what they used to learn math.

African Student Reading

One of the boys eagerly reading to Cheryl and I.

The school’s principal was grateful for all the gifts we donated including reading books, coloring books, deflated soccer balls, pencils, pens and crayons.

Some of these students walk up to 6 km a day to get to school and then, of course, another 6 km to return home.  This made me ask Vitalis if they had to worry about encountering wild animals during their walk.  Vitalis explained that the kids are only walking when their is, at least, some daylight and they are taught what to look out for and how to respond.  However, he said, there aren’t too many encounters with animals except for elephants.  Then he chuckled and explained that the elephants have learned to avoid and actually will run away when they hear children coming.  This is because children will sick their dogs on an elephant who is too big to stop a small dog as it darts in between and around their legs.  This behavior exhausts the elephant who then gives up.  In addition, Vitalis said that children used to roll tires over to an elephant who would pick up the tire with its trunk and throw it down.  The rubber tire would then bounce back up and all over the place.  This frustrated and exhausted the elephant who didn’t expect the tire to bounce so they would eventually give up and walk away in frustration.  So because of this, Vitalis stated that as soon as elephants hear the sound of children coming, they take off to avoid these frustrations.  I thought this was an interesting and hilarious look into the life of the locals.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all the new learning and discovery throughout this trip.

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 11

Africa.Day11.Header
November 13, 2015 – 6:14A

Awake and showered.  Feeling great!  I woke up at 5:30A and laid there for about ten minutes in the cool air with the comforter over me before getting up and putting on my glasses so I could sit outside on our front porch and enjoy the peaceful view of the Kafue River here in Zambia.   I had to wrap myself up in my giant white comforter because it was a bit chilly.  Doesn’t look like we got any rain though.   On the opposite side of the river the trees are beautifully reflected in the water.  I watched a lazy crocodile silently float downstream and listened to the birds.  It was such a relaxing way to start my new day.

I thought more about the people we have encountered here.  They all seem so relaxed and always smiling.  When you return from a game drive, for instance, and they ask you “how was it?” they seem genuinely interested in what you have to say.

I hear some hippos grunting – I think they’re coming from across the river.

Heading to breakfast now.  Our first activity of the day is fishing!  Very excited for this!

1:18P

What a fun day so far!  I wonder what’s around the next corner (maybe another elephant – haha!)

This morning after a nice breakfast of fresh fruit, porridge and pancakes those of us who opted to go fishing got on a small boat and sailed down the Kafue River.  As our guide “Golden” moved up the river looking for a good spot to fish, we saw many animals including various antelopes, birds and, of course, hippos.

Hartebeests

Hartebeests along the Kafue River in Zambia

“Golden” was very patient with us as some of the people in the group had never fished before while the rest of us were, by no means, experts.  Therefore, “Golden” had to repeat his instructions on how to cast a fishing pole several times.  Haha!  We fished from 7:00a till around 10:00a.  “Golden” jokingly said if we don’t catch any fish we don’t eat dinner tonight!  All six of us caught, at least, one fish.  I lucked out and caught eight!  They were all tilapia and catfish.  I was so proud of myself for having caught the most.

Kafue Fishing

My first catch of the day on the Kafue River in Zambia

Tilapia

One of the Tilapia that I caught while fishing in Zambia

The fish we caught were to be cleaned, cooked and served up with tonight’s “traditional dinner.”   It was funny to be fishing and, all of a sudden, you’d see a pair of hippo eyes curiously popping up out of the water.  Some of them even swam closer to our boat.  Very curious creatures.

On the ride back we saw a huge crocodile crawl from the river bank into the water.  What an experience to have gone fishing in Zambia!  How cool is that!

During our fishing expedition the other half of our group was on a game cruise up the Lafupa River.  When we returned to camp they were already there eager to inquire about our luck with fishing.  We all gathered in the main lodge and relaxed on the sofas swapping stories and photos.  It was so much fun.  The lodge also had a nice little gift shop with some very cool stuff.  I was saving my money for the open air market I knew we were going to hit up in Victoria Falls.

While everyone was relaxing, Aryn’s sister Kathryn and I got word that there was an elephant out front so we jumped up, grabbed our cameras and hurried to go see.  This thing was huge.  It was walking along the road into camp eating whatever trees were to its left and right.  It walked from where the jeeps drop us off down to the “boma” just across from the bar.  I captured a great video of the whole experience on my iPhone.  This elephant wasn’t but a few meters from us and we were quickly advised to back up.

Elephant in Camp

Elephant walking by the “boma” at Lafupa Tented Camp in Zambia

Elephant and me

Me with the elephant in our camp in Zambia.

Elephant at bar

What did the bartender say when the elephant walked up to the bar?

The best part was when the elephant tried to walk between two of the buildings, he got stuck and had to back up to get out.  Haha!  So cool to watch.

Elephant booty

Elephant got stuck!

After we ate lunch, Vitalis briefed us on the optional excursions in Victoria Falls and passed around a sign up sheet.  I am opting to do the elephant back safari ride & rhino game drive combo and the helicopter flight over Victoria Falls.  So excited for this!

Afterwards, we were released for our mid-afternoon siesta.  I decided it was time to finally hit the pool and boy what a good decision.  One of the ladies from our group, Rene from Wisconsin, was already there.  The water was absolutely perfect.  It was so nice and cool and exactly what I needed to escape the afternoon heat.  Rene and I talked about previous travel experiences, our life and careers back home and future travel goals when, all of a sudden, here comes this massive elephant (probably the same elephant from before).  The elephant walked right up to a palm tree beside the pool and started eating the branches and leaves.  Right away, a staff member appeared to monitor the elephant.  We all watched, afraid to move or make a sound, and, at one point, the elephant turned and looked directly at Rene and I.  The staff member was standing by a nearby building and came forward and threw two rocks directly at the animal.  It turned its head and walked away from us.  Wow!  That was exciting.  We have all been warned that the elephants in Zambia are more aggressive towards humans due to the country’s history with poaching.  We learned that elephants have incredible memories and are actually able to genetically pass these memories on to their offspring.  So bad memories from the area’s past issues with poaching have been passed along to the current generation of elephants.  Fascinating.

I stayed in the pool for almost an hour.  A giant breeze came through which felt great against my wet skin.  I didn’t even need a towel to dry off.

Now I’m relaxing on the deck of the main lodge looking out at the two rivers.  This place feels like a resort!  The sky is filled with beautiful white billowy clouds.  Perhaps some rain is headed our way?  I feel incredibly relaxed.  Today is Friday the 13th.

2:40P

We are being held up at the main lodge by an elephant loitering around outside the reception area.  I got some great pics and vids of him with his two left feet standing inside the boma.  I guess I’ll have to wait for a while before I can go back to my room to change out of these gym shorts (that I swam in).  This guy seems in no hurry to leave the camp.  Going to get some more pics.

3:11P

I’m sitting on the front porch of our “tent” looking out over the river.  Darker clouds are beginning to roll in and winds are really picking up to the point of creating small, gradual waves upon the river.  The staff is predicting some rain.  The view here is so nice that I don’t want to leave but I’d like to take a quick shower before “high tea.”

9:00P

Before heading out on our evening boat ride on the Lafupa River, one of the staff leaders, Phineas, gave us a brief history lesson on Zambia.  The economically depressed situation of this country makes me so sad.  Sixty percent of Zambia’s population is currently unemployed.  It was also interesting to learn that the average life expectancy is only 47.   This is mostly due to the spread of HIV from infidelity in some marriages.  We also discussed the controversial issue of poaching since it is still a major threat here.  Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks and rhinos for their horns.  So very sad.  All we can do is spread the support of more game viewing vs game shooting for purposes other than food.

On our boat ride up the Lafupa River we saw many hippos and a small crocodile but the majority of the time our cameras are feasting upon the awesome sunset during our “sundowner” cocktails.  I was seated at the bow of the boat with my feet propped up on the railing, taking in the peaceful scenery while drinking a Mosi lager.

Lafupa Game Cruise

Relaxing during our game cruise along the Lafupa River in Zambia

Dinner around the “boma” was fun.  The table tree stumps were from leadwood trees.  Vitalis had me lift one of them to experience just how heavy they are.  Boy was he right!   It was cool eating the tilapia and catfish that we had caught.  Also served, was oxtail soup in a delicious brown gravy, polenta and vegetables.  The tribal entertainment (singing and drums) was awesome.  The staff manager, Natasha, was so nice and wanted a goodnight hug from each of us.  What a fun evening and exciting day overall.  Feeling very tired.  Tomorrow’s wake-up call is at 6:00a.  I’m setting my alarm for 5:30a so I have time to sit on the front porch and enjoy our view of the river.  Night night!

P.S.  I forgot to mention I was bit by a tse tse fly during the evening boat ride.  Damn!   It hurt like hell.  Also, there is apparently a friendly warthog, named “Lulu,” that roams the premises here in camp.  She will actually come right up to you if you offer her food and eat right out of your hand.  I have yet to meet her but Kathryn said she met “Lulu” and she was approachable.  I want to meet Lulu!  I want to take her home.  Her and Louie (my pug) can run around the house snorting together.  LOL  :)


The First Step in Connecting with Others

I believe the first step in becoming a master at connecting with others is having a clear and deep understanding of yourself.   Today’s world makes it difficult for people to have self-confidence.  This is particularly true for teenagers who are more sensitive than most adults.  Sources of low self-confidence stem from many directions such as how you were raised as a child, classmates in school, social media, advertising, television, movies, magazines, etc.  We tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to live up to what we perceive or others tell us is a desirable self-standard. Self-awareness can be achieved through a variety of activities such as spending time alone meditating or taking a walk allowing your mind to process a day or previous week’s activities. Consciously reflecting on you unconscious principles (your specific attributes) allowing no one else but you to form an opinion is a good practice to develop as a way to gain better self-awareness.
Gaining this awareness is not an overnight process. It can take years, even decades but the more you do it is rewarding and will be recognized by others as you connect with them. Tip: There may be moments when you get stuck and are unable to help yourself form an opinion or are not satisfied with the opinion you’ve helped yourself to form. In that case carefully select someone (not necessarily someone you’re close with) to engage into this discussion to help you out of your rut. Make sense? Hope this helps!


Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves NOW AVAILABLE

My first-ever book (book 1 of 3) is NOW available on paperback, hard cover and ebook. Go to barnesandnoble.com and type in Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves. I go by the pen name B.W. Gibson
This has been a log journey so I am very excited and looking forward to everyone’s feedback.


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