Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Chat With Daudi En Route to Nsefu

“Happy Anniversary to You! Happy Anniversary to You! I Love You! I love you! Happy Anniversary to you! Happy Anniversary to you!” AdventureMan sings me awake to the tune of the Superman theme. He always knows how to make me laugh, and after 39 years, he can still surprise me. We are so delighted to wake up here, in Tena Tena, on our anniversary. Life is sweet.

Morning at TenaTena Camp:

AdventureMan is walking to the next camp, and I am spending the morning catching up on notes, organization, small things, charging up my iPad, etc.

As I was saying earlier, you’d think this would all be very restful, and everything is done for us, but it all revolves around our game drive schedule, and any necessary re-charging depends on the generator schedule (unless you are in Nkwali, where you can re-charge everything in your own rooms; there are lots of electrical outlets) and at the same time, why on earth are we bringing all these electronic devices to the bush???

I’ve discovered a program on the iPad called Notes, and it allows me to write so much more than I would if I were writing by hand. I forget a lot of the smaller details and some of those small details are what makes camping life here so much fun.

The Robin Pope camps pay a lot of attention to detail. One of the things they provide is an insect repellant that is also lotion; it goes on easily, it smells good, and it really seems to keep the insects away, so I gladly use it instead of the Deet we brought with us which melts plastic if it leaks. How can that be good for our cameras?? How can that be good for us? And it is oily, and it smells so bad, and the tsetse flies just ignore it altogether. The insect repellant lotion, on the other hand, seems to work . . . and it smells like lemons.

We are all discovering new ways to use our cameras. I have discovered a program called Night Scenery, which allows me to take spectacular sunsets, and even photograph the essence of a night drive with some clarity – how cool is that? We are a good group in that we can sit patiently and shoot twenty or thirty shots of the lilac breasted roller, experimenting with various shutter speeds, aperatures, and compare them to the automatic function.

(I love my Lumix. I get great shots, and it takes me close to get the finest detail of a bird feather. It is lightweight, easy to handle, and doesn’t need as much light as many of the longer interchangable lenses on other cameras. I  have two batteries, so I can be charging one and using another. I have another, smaller Lumix also with me as a back-up in case the unthinkable happens and something goes wrong with the bigger Lumix. My one gripe – the back-up battery is not a Panasonic battery; it works, but it doesn’t show how much battery is left, so just at the worst moment, my camera can just die if I don’t remember to change the battery out when I think it might be time.)

Our new Scottish friends, Mark and Madolyn, show us photos they took at the salt pan and they saw lion with a big huge bushy dark mane, and she took a photo – are you sitting down? – with her iPhone, that I would have killed to take. It is close, it is detailed, it is every bit as good as a photo taken with a camera. So much for all the control we are trying to develop.

They also ran a rescue mission for all the village men passing on bicycles, telling them of the lion ahead, loading bikes into the Land Cruiser, ferrying them past the lion and dropping them off past the danger zone. Some of the pride of lions have 10 – 20 members. Most avoid humans, but . . . would you want to bet on that, riding by a pride of lion, say . . . hungry lion . . .on a bicycle? (shiver) Not me!

It is approaching deep winter here, so it can be cold, not bitterly cold, but cold enough to make you stupid when you get up in the morning, cold enough that you want a fleece and a scarf for the first few hours of the morning drive. Around mid-morning you start stripping off layers, until around noon when it is very hot and you know the sunscreen won’t be enough; you have to put on some kind of cover against the strong African sun, even approaching mid-winter.

On my way to Nsefu, our last camp in the South Luangwa, I am with our old friend Daoudi, whom we first met twelve years ago, on our first trip to the South Luangwa. We talked of our families, and changes, and I thought to ask him about a conversation I had had the night before, with our Tena Tena guide, Julius. I had asked him how his wife coped with him gone guiding several weeks each month, and he began his response with “She is a well-mannered girl . . . ” going on to discuss how they problem-solve and work with the situation. It’s of interest to me, as a former military wife; military wives also spend time apart from their husbands.

So I pondered this, it was the first thing he said, “she is a well-mannered girl . . . ” and that tells me being well mannered is the most important thing, but well-mannered behavior differs, I have learned, sometimes painfully, from culture to culture.

“Daoudi, when a Zambian girl is said to be well-mannered, what does it mean?” and he explained it meant from her earliest days, her parents had instructed her on proper behavior.

“OK. I understand that. But I might not understand well-mannered the same way you do. Like when we lived in the Middle East, you know I learned to wear clothes that covered me to the elbow and to the knees, and did not have a low necklline . . . ”

“Yes, modest . . .” he said, thoughtfully.

“Yes, exactly,” I affirmed,  “but also things very un-American . . . I learned to keep my eyes down, or at least not to look directly at a man and smile – that for us it might be friendly, but there it might seem forward. And I learned to use my quiet voice in public, and not to laugh out loud in the souks. Things like that, things I would not have even known if I had not been told.”

“Ah, yes!” he agreed, “these are also what it is to be a well-mannered Zambian woman. To speak softly with your husband, not to be shouting at him when you disagree, but to talk softly so you can come to agreement. Like that.”

We rode together in a comfortable silence, then I had another question.

“Would it be OK for a Zambian woman to be sitting here in the car with you when she is not your wife or your sister or a closely related woman?” and he laughed and said “Yes, it is helpful! Like you give someone a lift to help her get where she is going, there is nothing improper in that.”

So while some of the manners are like the manners of the Middle East, there are differences, too, and a person could spend a lifetime learning all these little distinctions and still not get it all right. Learning another culture is a never ending task, and it makes you envy those children who are born of two cultures (or more) and can pass fluently from one to another, knowing the subtleties of each. 

We have American nieces and nephews who have lived most of their entire lives in a foreign country, and while they are not born of different cultures, they played on the streets, attended social functions, the local culture seeped into them by their daily lives. They are idiomatically fluent and inter-culturally fluent, but it takes a lifetime of bi-cultural living to attain their level without a dual-culture mother and father. 

Nsefu Camp, the original Norm Carr camp, has little round plastered bandas set right on the river, where you can watch the elephant families cross the river, entirely lovely. 

Everyone arrives hot and tired from the walk, and delighted with all they have learned. We have a lovely lunch, and AdventureMan sleeps soundly for an hour before afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is a lot of fun; the chef has baked a beautiful chocolate cake for our birthday girl, and seven men enter singing “Happy Birthday” with the birthday cake for tea. 🙂

On the afternoon game drive we spot a civet cat, which we have never seen so clearly before,

and we see a porcupine family. When we first spotted them, it looked like the big porcupine was dragging something, but no, it was a little tiny baby porcupine sticking to Mom’s heelslike glue.

(Sorry, it’s just hard to get good clear sharp shots at night)

Again, a gorgeous night sky and a lot of fun trying to find constellations.  Dinner was a Mongolian barbecue, with sparkling wine provided by the Australian honeymooners, who had a true honey moon – the moon rose huge and red in the sky as we were eating our dinner. 

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June 24, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Hotels, Living Conditions, Travel, Zambia | | 6 Comments

Tena Tena, Day Two

We’re all doing a lot better in terms of sleep. We think we are pretty much over jet lag, but it is harder getting up at 0515 in the morning. I straggle to the campfire for breakfast, and all the happy conversation wakes me up. The moon is also just rising:

We have a great morning game drive, stopping wherever we want just to watch – herons and cranes fishing in the lagoons, baboons warming themselves, some with tiny tiny baboon babies. We see greater kudu, so shy, and we feel so blessed to see such amazing creatures. It’s just another great morning in the Luangwa valley.

AdventureMan spotted this, and called it Immature Impala Arrangement:

This elephant, fortunately across the canal, was seriously angry with us and eager to chase us. We left in a hurry:

I loved this quiet hippo, walking up the canal looking for the right spot to soak:

Mama Giraffe told him to stay put, and he did:

Back to camp for another nice lunch, and we think we are going to take a little snooze, but . . .

No napping today, we have visitors! A herd of elephant are breaking down and eating trees outside our tent.

At afternoon tea, where we all gather preceding the afternoon game drive, the elephants came into the camp, down between our tent and the last tent, blocking access to the game vehicles. Once they sauntered off a little ways, we took the path to the other side, got in our cars, only to discover the elephants blocking the drive we take to get out. We waited fifteen minutes or so until they finished with the acacia tree, then moved far enough inside the bush – maybe eight feet – that our drivers felt comfortable passing. 

Down the road, we are once again blocked, this time by the (normally) shy giraffe.

We sit patiently, knowing eventually the giraffe will get tired, or scared, or annoyed and move on . . . but that doesn’t happen. After about a half an hour, we leave the road and drive around, giving the giraffe plenty of space. Look at those colors! The sun is setting! Giraffes, be shy! We need to go!

Sunset is spectacular, and we almost miss it because of the giraffe blocking the road.

The hippo are all active tonight, and I want to get one of those classic shots with the wide open jaw, but every time it happens, someone has asked me a question or I am listening to a joke and I miss it! By the time I get focused, the mouth is closed. It’s like a great cosmic joke, on me, so I figure I just need to be happy with what I have.

The sky is so clear, the first night without some cloud cover, and on the way back, we stop in a clear glade and Julius points to constellations we don’t see in our hemisphere. The big dipper is there, but down low, near the horizon, and the north star is not visible at all. We see the southern cross, and the scorpion, and the long length of the milky way, and I am reminded of being a little girl in Alaska, where the stars shone bright and clear in the dark sky. We get so used to the ambient light ever present in our cities, that we have no idea
what the stars look like without it. The moon has not yet risen, so the sky is very very black, and each star is clear and sparkly. 

It is such a luxury, just leaning back and seeing this vast expanse of black with the sparkling stars. We also see a shooting star, and we can spot several satelites as they speed across the sky at enormous height and speed.

Dinner, back at the camp, is wonderful, an outdoor barbecue under the trees, steak, chicken, kabobs and nshima, the Zambian staple, like polenta, a corn based starch, accompanied by tomato relish, and it is very similar to comfort food served in the southern USA, grits, and also similar to a family dinner dish served with rice in Kuwait. 

We all proceed very cautiously to our tents, and it is a good thing. Shortly after our arrival, we hear the howooooot of the hyena, and we can hear the munch munch of the hippo. Elephant come back, between our tent and the last, and crash and crunch.  In spite of it all, we sleep soundly and awake all too soon to the day we will leave Tena Tena.

June 24, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, ExPat Life, Sunsets, Travel, Zambia | | Leave a comment