Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Nsefu, Day One, Parting Ways

Friday, June 8
The sun rises on our first morning in Nsefu, we eat our porridge, and we head off on a game drive with our old friend Daudi.

Our friends are off to visit Kawazaa village, warning us NOT to find lion without them, and we take off – of course, we are looking for lion! We are always looking for lion! We don’t find lion, but we find lots of raptors, the biggest eagle, cranes and herons, we watch hippos, and once back in camp, we spend hours watching the elephant families crossing the Luangwa.

As you might guess, it feels like we are eating all the time, but when we get back, we haven’t gained an ounce. I think it is because we are doing a lot of active riding; the roads are bumpy and you have to steady yourself, you are climbing in and out of the game vehicles, and there are a lot of crossings where the guide says “Hold on!” Here is Daudi, taking us across one of those river crossings:

As you can see, not every game drive stars lion, or leopard, but there are thrilling moments with birds, elephant, hippo – or crossing the river.

This is a Lillian’s Lovebird, one of my favorite birds in the world. The camps are full of them, but they are fleeting and flitting, and very difficult to capture in photos.

Morning tea at a hippo pond – you know how I love hippo:

Back at camp, it seems to be elephant river crossing day. One group will gather, and cross, while another group waits across the river. They meet and greet, and then head on their way, while another group crosses.

This group has a baby. The baby can actually walk most of the way, but when it is too deep, there is always a barrier of larger elephants on the downstream side of the baby elephant, who is holding on to Mama’s tail, and is supported from behind by another elephant.

At one point, something spooks the elephants crossing close to the dozing hippo, they start running and splashing, maybe an elephant accidentally steps on a hippo, and a loud ruckus breaks out. Elephants trumpet, hippos scold loudly. Fortunately, it is all show and no go, no real fight and no bloodshed, the elephants continue on and the hippos go back to slumber.

Our friends came back just in time for tea, and begged off the afternoon drive, saying the mating lions they had seen on the way to the village would have to be enough. They’ve been to the Kawazaa school, and to the village for lunch, visiting the clinic and even helping kill the chicken for lunch. It’s been so much fun, but also very stimulating, and they want to take a break.

Mating lions?! You saw mating lions? Let’s go see the mating lions!

Jonah found the mating lions in no time, which was a thrill, except that they had mated with such great vigor that now they were lying in sated stupor. We took some photos, but how many photos can you take of exhausted sleeping lions?

Nsefu Sunset:

We started back, but on the river road, saw an unusual sight – lions on the river banks across the river, and a lion climbing up the bank we were on.

He wasn’t wet, but he was calling to the lion damsels across the river, and had clearly made them some promises he intended to keep.

We tracked him for a while at a distance as he gauged his chances for a safe crossing here and there, and finally, we left him with our best wishes for a safe passage to lion nirvana.

At dinner we finalized plans with Jonah for an early departure for another trip to the Chichele hot springs with hopes of finding that dark maned (older) lion Madolyn was able to photograph with her iPhone, with breakfast at the hot springs and back at Nsefu Camp noonish.

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June 25, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, iPhone, Photos, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Zambia | , , , , | 4 Comments

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. 

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