Monthly Archives: August 2005
Five days in Livingstone checking out all the animals…by elephant, by boat and by Land Rover – we did it all! The most exciting by far – because it really stretched our imagination [ha ha] was the elephant ride. I truly wish we could share the videotape of the ride –with all its ups and downs – with all of you but this bulletin will have to suffice. The bottom line though is that if you ever have the chance to ride an elephant…you must do so!
It was great…you just roll along while feeling the long strides by this huge beast, while riding [extremely] high off the ground [about 15 ft. high]. Though the elephants are well-trained, they often ignore the guides and stop and eat tree branches whenever they want. They are allowed to roam free on the preserve of the Thorn Tree River Lodge, when they are not working. Elephants see better at night than in the daytime and can see long distances. These particular elephants understand commands in Shona and English. One of the trainers was a young lady, about 5’2”, maybe 110 lbs, from Canada. She was trained at the only elephant training school in the United States…outside Little Rock, Arkansas!!!!!!
Joyceann and I rode on Bop, a 31-year old male elephant, while Bernice [our friend visiting from NY] rode on Marsula, a 19-year old female born without tusks. Genetically, 5% of the elephant population is born like this. Big, lumbering beasts, the elephants tear through the terrain, flattening trees and bushes and stripping trees of their bark. They leave the land looking like a tornado swath with uprooted trees all over…and the only reason you know it was the elephants, and not a storm, is that their droppings are everywhere!
After an hour straddling the elephants viewing impalas, giraffes and wild elephants, we gratefully returned and clumsily, 🙂 with help, struggled off their backs…all the while proclaiming this to be a fantastic experience!
It was a great day, we thought later, as we reclined by the pool, soaking up the sun, far too tired to move. 🙂 The Zambezi Sun Hotel was a fabulous 4-star location that offered wonderful amenities, including a herd of zebras that wandered their lawns at any given time. We were frequently reminded that the hotel was situated on the grounds of the National Park…especially when monkeys came down from the roofs and trees and stole food off your plate…as happened to Joyceann. Boy you should’ve seen the shocked look on her face!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
We also spent an evening on the Zambezi River on a river safari. Saw a lot of birds, crocodiles and the most amazing sunset. The real highlight was the midway break for food. We stopped on an island in the middle of the river…it separates Zambia from Zimbabwe…and enjoyed an outstanding repast of Buffalo wings, carrot sticks, and gin & tonic and wine in iced goblets! I kid you not –
To our delight, as we were returning to shore at the base of the Royal Livingstone Hotel, we encountered a herd of wild elephants drinking and eating. There were about 8 truly large wild elephants, just doing their “thing,” while on the other side of a rock strewn pathway [to keep the elephants from going too far] was the cultivated lawn and outside bar of the hotel. Talk about sharp contrasts!
Last, but not least, we set out again the next morning at 6:30 a.m. to embark on a land safari. This trip, covering much of the 1600 acres of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, proved to be the most fruitful of all. We saw impalas [deer’s to us], soaring giraffes that reached the tops of the trees,
Baboons, wild buffalo, monkeys, warthogs, guinea hens and most specially…and I mean almost within touching distance…the only two white rhinoceros in the Park! The rhinos literally crossed our path and we were able to get some marvelous pictures.
A woman from South Africa asked if it didn’t affect the natives too… Gilbert, the guide, politely responded that sometimes the natives did die.
Written by my sister Marilyn on our travels together
Mukuni Village of the Leya tribe is almost 700 years old. The communal gathering point for this village of 7,000 people is a huge tree (Ngnombe Ilede which means sleeping cow because of the shape of the trunk of the tree) right in the center of the village, this is the village place to talk and socialize.
The tree is not only renowned for its size but it is famous as the meeting place between the Chief and the explorer, Livingstone in 1855. Normally a visitor would be invited into the Chief’s residence but having had no experience with white people, the Leya tribe thought Livingstone was a ghost and refused to let him in the house. The tree is just a short distance away from the enclosures for the two chiefs –a brother and a sister. Nina (our village guide pointing out the Chiefs compound)
Mukuni was founded by a female landowner in the 15th century who, though she made her husband chief, retained ownership of all the land. From that time forward there have always been two chiefs, male and female and always related…brother and sister or uncle and niece, etc.
Today the village has its own school [through the 9th grade] and through the largesse of a German benefactor, it has its own water system. It is divided into four distinct neighborhoods, each with their own name and a separate spigot as a communal watering hole. Many new houses were being built – the wood framing is installed by the man, the woman is responsible for obtaining all the grass for the thatching which is done by the man, and then the woman applies the mud finish. Houses can last 25 years and the mud helps to keep the termites out
Mukuni even has its own jail…a tiny little building that faces the town square so everyone can see the inhabitant. The red, clay dirt is so thick you feel like you are dragging in it. It makes you wonder what they do if their children get asthma.
All the villagers are Christians and there are seven churches in the village.
We were able to see a real home setting which includes separate dwellings
within the family enclosure for the parents, female children and male children. [Parents should contain their jealousy!] The father of this family was at one time a porter for a former hotel and as such his house contained a television and a radio.
There’s no electrical power in the village so they use solar power whenever possible. Even if the government were able to run electrical wires to all the villages, we’re told it would cost the village upwards of $200 USD a month to maintain. This cost is practically insurmountable where $1 usd = 4,500 Kwachas, $100 = K450, 000 and $200 = K1 mil and the average person with a teaching job may only earn about K250, 000 a year or about $60.
As usual, whenever there’s more than two people present a favorite topic is politics. Right now the political gossip in Mukuni Village centers around local dissatisfaction with the male chief. He’s been Chief for 18 years but it has come to their attention that he is making good money off the tourist revenue [fees are paid for tours] but he is not sharing it with the village. Now he’s been away for a month, afraid to return home because he might be poisoned! To add to the shame of his actions of late, it was discovered that the Chief went to meet the President of Zambia at the airport which is contrary to the traditions of the President being responsible to meeting each Chief in their village. This act brought dishonor upon the village. It is considered a serious scandal of major proportions. Life is only relevant to the current situation.
About 15 women in their 20’s and 30’s in this group – there are 17,000 members all told. Fortunately for us the affair was attended by the Presidents’ wives from Zambia and Namibia, honoring the theme of “Traditional Values in Marriage.”
It was a splendid afternoon with the First Ladies staying the entire 4 hours!
We got a chance to sample different local dishes…interesting – at the beginning of the buffet line is a jug of hot water and soap and everyone must wash first. Throughout we were entertained by a group of 18 women, representing a variety of the 72 tribes/languages in Zambia, who drummed, danced and left us laughing and clapping with joy at their storytelling. Even though they spoke in Bemba, Leya, Njanya and Tonga, we were frequently able to appreciate the messages because of their style of dancing, facial and hand gestures and fabulous “attitudes!” Women wrap a scarf or material around their hips as an indication that they want to dance…as demonstrated most ably by the First Lady of Zambia. Some of the livelier performances offered messages such as: don’t let your sisters and sisters-in-law into your bedrooms, keep your business to yourself; and, all parts of your body can represent peace but when it comes to sex and “there” [on a female] there’s usually war; or, an important part of relationships is knowing how to “dance” [using the hips and pelvis] with your man, etc.
As delightful as that was, there was still the unexpected opportunity to sit in on a “traditional” marriage counseling session – an “Embusa”- given to young woman beginning at the age of 13. The “advisor” [one of the older women, highly respected] used pictures drawn on paper spread throughout the large hut [assembly room] and wooden carvings to convey her messages. The overriding themes were pleasing the man, submission, health, hygiene, spacing the birth of your children, AIDS, sharing your wealth, and keeping your home intact. Still, the messages emphasized the importance of avoiding those traditions demeaning to women, such as…the sexual cleansing of widows [widows are expected to have sexual intercourse with the youngest male of the dead husband’s tribe in order to cleanse the woman in preparation for her future life]. The problem is that most of these designated young men have AIDS and the women are now forced to flee to safe locations in order to protect themselves and insure their lives so their children do not grow up as orphans.
Twalumba and machomo bwange
[Thank you and good night],
Kelly, Joyceann, Bernice and Marilyn