Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Some Things Just Don’t Translate

Three sets of eyes looked at me with disbelief, mixed with horror. I was explaining to my three students that I was having a group of American university students at my house for Halloween. We would all welcome the Hallowe’en trick-or-treaters as they came around in our compound. We expected hundreds – children from far and wide throughout the city came to trick-or-treat where the westerners lived. Even if the children didn’t “get” Halloween, they liked the costumes and the candy.

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It wasn’t the trick-or-treating my students didn’t get. It was that I had said we would all be dressed as pirates. We would have patches and capes and bandannas, some would have hooks, others would have swords. We would say things like “Ay matey!” and “Aaargh” and “Pieces of eight.”

They didn’t know what pirates were. They had never seen Peter Pan with Captain Hook, they hadn’t seen Johnny Depp in his fey performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. I started off with enthusiasm.

“Oh, pirates lived a long time ago. Hmmm, no actually, there are still pirates today. They sail old ships, and then they stop and capture ships on the high seas and like hold people for ransom. They sing songs and drink grog and some of them have peg legs, or hooks for hands . . .” even I could see that this was not going well.

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“No no!” one cried. “Why would you want to be a pirate?”

“hmmm, well you’re right, REAL pirates weren’t very nice, I guess. They raped and stole from others, but for some reason we just dress up and PRETEND to be pirates. . .”

Now, it’s even starting to sound lame to me.

“There were some good pirates, too. . .”

“What did they do, khalti?”

(I am totally blank. I have an image of a deer in the headlights; the deer is me with no where to run.)

I don’t know. Were there any good pirates? Why do we think pirates are so much fun? Is it the costumes? As kids we would make each other walk the plank, and swashbuckle around, it was a good break from cowboys and Indians. Seeing it through my students’ eyes, though, it just wasn’t working.

Some things just don’t translate.

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October 21, 2006 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Halloween, Middle East | 7 Comments

Hiking With Robin Pope in Zambia (2)

The days pass too quickly. Our bags catch up with us on the third day – one day to get from J-burg to Lusaka, one day to get from Lusaka to Mfuwe, and one day to get to the camp at Nkwali. We never had a moment’s concern; they kept us informed every step along the way.

Here is what the day looks like – early early you hear a knock on the door and someone says “Good morning!” and you struggle out of bed. It is still the middle of winter below the equator, so it is cold. You jump into your clothing and head for the campfire, where breakfast is served. Toast is being heated on the grill, there is hot cereal and cold cereal, and some mornings there is even bacon. There is always hot coffee and hot tea. You can socialize or not, as your morning nature indicates, then grab your gear and load up. Usually it is you and your traveling partner, maybe another couple, and the guide. Every day you take off to a new area, sometimes for the whole day so you can see outlying areas, and sometimes just for three to five hours.

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There is never a game drive where you don’t see something. Most of the people who show up at the Robin Pope camps are good safari travelers – good at spotting movement, as excited to see a bat eared fox as another lion, people who will sit and watch giraffe, or hippos, or storks . . . people who know when not to talk, and people who are considerate of one another when shooting photos or movies.

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We move on to Nsefu, where the cabins are round! There is a big outdoor BBQ that night, lots of fun, down by the marsh where there is always something happening. We saw a huge Pell’s Fishing Owl, a great thrill, and several varieties of eagle. Watching the raptors is a huge thrill.

And then – our favorite camp – Tena Tena. They put us in the very end cabin, and oh, we like that very much. Tena Tena is rebuilt every year – you get there by boat. Tent-cabins are rebuilt once the rains stop and the floodwaters recede. The cabins are fabulous – during the day, they are totally open to the outdoors. Big huge king sized beds, flat woven carpeting with pile carpet accents, a large dressing area with shelves so you can really unpack and move in, and a huge outdoor shower and toilet and sink area to be shared with the stars and moon shining down on you. At night, the tents are closed, and an electrified fence prevents too much chance of invasion. The marsh area in front of the camp teems with life – after dinner one night, we have to wait until the leopard leaves before the guide will take us to our tent.

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On our very favorite game drive at Tena Tena, we were out on the night of a full moon, and came across a pride of lions hunting. We spent nearly an hour just watching breathlessly as the lions tracked their victims, spreading out, sharing the responsibilities in the pack. There is no ambient light at all, so the sky is black as ink, and the stars are sparkling brighter than the finest diamonds. The moon casts a ghostly glow on the surroundings – enough light I can shoot photos without a flash. It is magical, and unforgettable.

My husband tells this story of Tena Tena:

“One night, I heard a loud sound and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I opened the tent flap and not two feet away was a hippo, eating a bush, and it was the loud chewing that I heard. What a thrill! The hippo was huge! I watched spellbound; I woke my wife. . .it was awesome. Two feet away! And then, the second night, he was back. What a thrill – he chews so loudly! The third night he was back again – ‘that damn hippo! I can’t sleep!’”

October 21, 2006 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, ExPat Life, Lumix, Travel, Zambia | | Leave a comment