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Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 14 Part 1

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November 16, 2015 – 5:50A
Looking out from the front porch of our “tent” at a beautiful sunrise over Hwange National Park.  Temperatures are nice and cool.  Enjoying all the sounds of nature surrounding me and feeling very privileged.  I slept like a log last night.  Heading to breakfast soon.  I have a feeling today’s visit to the “homestead” and the elementary school will be eye-opening.

3:45P

Back at Tent 9.  What an enlightening day for learning and discovering.  Our jeep drive from Kashawe camp to the Hwange National Park boom gate entrance is 45 minute and from there to “Hwangetown” was maybe another 25 (by minibus).

First, we stopped at an open-air market to look around at the wares the local people were selling.  Most of the stuff was items you’d find at a hardware store along with cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, produce, spices, dry beans and nuts.

Fruit Market

A glimpse into one of the open air markets we visited. This was a produce stand but most of the items sold were hardware-based.

After browsing around for about a half hour, we got back on the bus and drove to a local supermarket called OK Market.  There, we donated $5 to Vitals for him to purchase groceries and cleaning supplies for the family at the “homestead” we were about to visit.   Browsing through the OK supermarket was a learning and discovery experience in and of itself.  The store was clean and very well-organized.  There was a variety of grocery items along with a section of cooking supplies, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, paper products, etc.  Everything was arranged on the shelves in a neat and orderly fashion and each aisle was clearly labeled overhead with the category of products it held.

OK Supermarket

Looking in the OK Supermarket from the front entrance.

I bought a $1.00 packet of oxtail soup dry powder.  I thought this would be an interesting thing to take home and cook for Aaron.  I also bought some pre-packaged chocolate chip cookies (brand name Charhons) to try.  I ate two and gave the rest to a family of three sitting outside the store.  Their baby was so adorable and smiled at me when I handed him a cookie.

Flame Tree

A beautiful flame tree across the street from the OK Supermarket in Zimbabwe.

Then we got back on the bus to head for the hosting homestead in the Lukosa village.  On the ride there, Vitalis taught us the words “Chi-ni” (which means “Greetings”) and “Ta Boca” (which means Thank You in the Shona language.  Vitalis explained all about his native language of Shona.  He said the alphabet is the same letters as ours expect they don’t have the letters X or L.  Their vowels are the same 5 vowels as ours but pronounced the same as they do in Mexico.  Words of the Shona language are very basic and easy to sound out as everything is pronounced just as it looks on paper.  Vitalis joked about how difficult it was for him to learn the English language.  He asked us why certain words were pronounced nothing like they are spelled.  We all couldn’t help but laugh in agreement as he gave some examples.  One example he used was the word “cafe.”  He asked: “If the word ‘cave’ is pronounced ‘k-ayve’ then why is the word ‘cafe’ pronounced ‘ka-fay’?”   That’s when Nora shouted out:  “Blame the French for that one!”  Haha!

Next, Vitalis asked us:  “If the plural version of ‘tooth’ is ‘teeth’ and the when you have more than one ‘goose’ you have ‘geese’ then why if you have more then one ‘booth’ you don’t say ‘beeth’?”  We all laughed hysterically at that one.

As we neared the village, we saw a couple of women carrying baskets on top of their heads.  Very cool.

Basket African Woman

A woman gracefully balancing a basket on her head.

There are a total of 500 homesteads within the village of Lukosa.  The homestead that hosted us today was very simple.  There were a few small structures made of mud from termite mounds with thatched roofs, a chicken coop and corn and grain silo made of sticks and a small outhouse made of cement blocks.

Lukosa Homestead

A view of the homestead we visited within the village of Lukosa.

We were immediately greeted by the family who were all very friendly.  There were six women, an older gentleman (the “headman”) and a boy in his twenties.  The school-aged kids were all in school but there were four 3 and 4-year-old boys.  One of our OAT pre-trip letters had suggested bringing something customary of your home state to share with the people at the homestead.  I brought a small pack of Ohio State Buckeye candies.  I handed them to one of the women.  She showed her son who was standing beside her and a big smile came across his little face.  It was adorable.  I loved it.

The family invited us into a structure called the “summer kitchen.”  They said it would be nice and cool in there.  We all filed inside and sat along the built-in bench that aligned most of the interior wall.  The women and children all sat on a grass mat on the ground.  In the center was a long wooden table. The boy in his twenties did most of the talking and then another boy (also in his twenties) came and took over the lecture.  Both of them spoke very good English.

Summer kitchen

In the foreground is a wooden stand used to dry dishes. The round building in the background is the summer kitchen where we all gathered to meet the family.

I’m heading out now for our evening game drive.  I will write more tonight before bed.

 


Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 13 Part 1

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November 15, 2015 – 12:46P

Sitting on the front porch relaxing in the cool afternoon temperatures of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  Let me start by writing about last night.  What a fantastic thunder and lightening storm.  The lightening first appeared in the distance filling up the entire sky with deep shades of red.  Not long after, there came bellowing roars of thunder that spanned for nearly an hour as I lay awake in bed.  I was hoping for rain and between wind bursts I could hear footsteps in the grass outside our “tent.”  The wind bursts became so ferocious that one particular gust blew so hard against the canvas wall behind our beds that it knocked over the lamps on Aryn and my nightstands.  This really made us nervous and my first reaction was to quickly unplug my camera battery that was charging.  Then, I replaced the lamp onto the nightstand and finally it began to rain.  The rains were heavy and I pulled the heavy comforter up to my chin to keep warm.

Eventually, the weather system moved out and we were able to sleep again.  The following morning we both admitted our concern over the canvas roof possibly ripping right off or the doors flying opening and a lion creeping inside to escape the rain.  You know, I never did figure out what those outside footsteps were.

After a nice breakfast, the following morning, we headed out on our first game drive of the day!  The sky was overcast and a light rain materialized which really cooled things down to, I’d say, the mid 60’s.  It felt amazing.  I can’t say enough good things about OAT.  They don’t miss a trick because the jeeps came equipped with enough green ponchos for us all to wear.  Unfortunately, when the rains come the animals hide.  We did, however, see a few impala, zebras and some birds.

Zebras in Hwange

Zebras hanging out in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

After a while, we stopped at a picnic area with bathrooms.  The guides served up our morning tea and coffee with these wonderful rosemary shortbread cookies.  Since it was overcast and slightly raining, we gathered beneath the thatched roofs of one of the structures that stood beside a giant candelabra tree.

Hwange Pavilion

Pavilion where we gathered to escape the rain for our morning tea & coffee. Notice the beautiful candelabra tree.

One of our guides, Mafuka, had taken some long strands of tree fiber from one of the baobab trees.  He began by pressing them in a downward motion along his leg and by doing this he was able to twist the strands into a tight, thin rope.  He, then, used these short ropes to make bracelets for all the ladies.  I, selfishly, asked him to make one for me as well, which he did.  He also made one big rope and, when holding it up, said it was strong enough to tow one of the jeeps.  Wow!

Baobab Bracelets

Mafuka making the bracelets out of fibers from the baobab tree.

While Mafuka was making the bracelets, he shared with us bits and pieces of his life and the Zimbabwean culture.  He particularly focused on the cultural practice of polygamy.  Very educational.  Mafuka is 74 years old.  He has been leading game drives for over 50 years.  He, now, has 3 wives as he divorced his 4th one years ago.  Divorce is a very informal process here in Africa.  The man simply tells his wife he no longer wishes to be married to her and sends her on her way.  No divorce attorney or paperwork is required.   If there is a child between them, the man is expected to provide for that child.  Sometimes this gets messy.

The process of getting married is fairly simple, as well.  If a man likes a particular girl, he simply courts her and if she falls in love with him and and he wishes to be married, he asks her to marry him.  If she says yes, he, then, pays a dowry.  The dowry price ranges based on the value of what the woman can bring to the marriage.  For example, if she is educated, she could bring a substantial income to the marriage and, therefore, the price of the dowry increases.  Mafuka gave the example of “10 cows and $5,000,” as a dowry price.  He also explained that if a guy has a good reputation the dowry price is lower than a guy with a bad reputation.  This is the opposite of what we would think would determine someone’s dowry price.  However, it’s done this way so to possibly discourage a “bad boy” from marrying your daughter by raising the dowry cost hopefully to a level that he can’t afford.  Smart thinking!

Mafuka continued by stating that if a man finds another available girl that he likes or, in some cases, his wife may suggest bringing in a particular girl (say one of her cousins) and the man likes her, he can ask her to marry him as well.  Mafuka said he knew of a man with 40 wives.  He also shared that despite having multiple wives, some men cheat on their wives with a mistress.  This can create a lot of village gossip.  Our other game drive guide, Thabani, is much younger (probably in his mid 20’s) and has only one wife and three children.

We also learned there is a lot of societal pressure around having children.  So much that there have been cases where girls who were unable to bear a child have committed suicide.  There have also been cases of men committing suicide from the stress of trying to keep his mistress a secret from his wife(s).

Baobab Tree

Beautiful baobab tree where Mafuka stripped the fibers to make our bracelets. Notice the extensive scouring of bark. This is the work of elephants rubbing their bodies against the trees and can be seen throughout Hwange.

(This conversation will continue in part 2 of Day 13)

 


Trip of A Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 1

November 3, 2015 – 2:50P

Waiting at my gate at the Akron/Canton Airport for Delta Airlines Flight 2211 to Atlanta where I will meet with long time friend Aryn Wilson, her mom Judy and sister Katherine for out trip through OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) to Africa!  Departing at 3:21P and arriving at 5:10P.  The flight to Johannesburg, South Africa departs at 7:10P with a flight time of 15 hours (sigh).   Planning on taking some melatonin paired with plenty of red wine to help me sleep.  Lunch was a delicious Oktoberfest beer and some mediocre spring rolls at the Great Lakes Brewing Co spot in the airport.

I’m excited and a bit nervous.  I have no idea what to expect and so my mind is racing.  I’m hoping to see some giraffes!  I emailed our trip leader Vitalis and he said that three of the four parks we are visiting have giraffes!  Already missing Aaron (and Louie, the pug).

Hopefully this trip allows my mind to destress from my hectic work life and free my mind to spark some creative juices flowing for my next books “Sheldon’s Falls” and “The Integrity Pie.”  Got my headphones and some music on my iPhone.  Gonna listen to some Pearl Jam.

P.S. Praying for safe travels and Aaron to be safe at home.


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