Tag Archives: Africa

Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #2

Chickens.

The actual bird is not problematic.  Chickens are actually kinda cute, some are downright beautiful.  I’m not afraid of chickens or anything.  I’m okay with them being alive.  I’m okay with them dead all ready to be cooked.  And I’m especially okay with eating them.

I.

Love.

Chicken.

Bake it, fry it, roast it, whatever.  Yum yum yum.

Where I fail as an African woman is getting said chicken from that live state into that ready to be cooked state.

Throughout Africa, it is not unusual to see a woman on the bus or minibus carrying a live chicken (the eating kind, not the laying kind) tied into a plastic bag with only its head out, or in a basket, or the like.  This chicken is for dinner.  The African woman will kill it, pluck it, and break it down in order to cook it for her family.  (And it will be amazing because African chicken is soooo much better than any chicken I’ve ever eaten in America).

The only time I’ve been faced with any part of that process was in Zambia back in 2006.  In case you’re new to my story, prior to my summer in Zambia, I had done very (VERY) little actual cooking.  Didn’t really know how.  I had never even made fried chicken.  However, being very brave, I had purchased a number of chickens in order to make fried chicken for my team of TWENTY SEVEN people.  Knowing it was likely that I wasn’t accustomed to slaughtering chickens, the woman from whom I purchased them quietly did that business out of my eye- and ear-shot and brought the now-dead chickens to me.  She must have seen the rather horrified look on my face when I saw the pile of white feathered headless bodies as she immediately smiled and asked if I knew how to clean them.  Which of course I didn’t.  I also didn’t have a knife that would cut through bones even if I wanted to tackle the butchering part.  So I paid her a little bit extra to do the job for me (and told her she could have all the “insides”).  Less than an hour later, she returned with a big bowl of chicken pieces that looked a whole lot more like what I was used to seeing at home.

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale...

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale…

...what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like...

…what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like…

I would have tackled the plucking part, but it would have taken me about a day or two to do the job.

I’m not sure I would ever be able to do the killing part.

And for that, I would not make a good African woman.

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Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #1

And this is a big one!

In many parts of Africa there is a form of transportation called a “bike taxi”.

The bike taxi strikes fear into my heart.

Take a battered bicycle and put a “seat” on the back of it over the rear tire, and you have a bike taxi.

Like this one?

I wish.  No.

Like these ones.  (These have really good seats on them, by the way).

I recently went on another adventure to the African continent.  The trip in a nutshell went like this:

Fly to Dubai, meet up with Abner, hang out in Dubai for a bit waiting for our next flights, and sleep in the airport.  Fly to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania…me via Qatar, Abner direct.  Meet up with Abner again.  Spend night in DAR.  Take boat to Zanzibar.  Spend time in Zanzibar.  Take boat back to DAR.  Spend night in DAR.  Take buses and minibuses from DAR to Malawi.  Spend time in Malawi.  Take buses/minibuses to Mozambique.  Spend time in Mozambique.  Fly from Mozambique to South Africa.  Say good-bye to Abner as he heads to Lisbon.  Fly home.

This post is about the middle part of the trip.  The part where we meet up with friends in Sani/Nkhota Kota, Malawi.  There’s a lot of stories to tell up to this point, but this is as good a place as any to start.

In Malawi, especially in the rural “bush” areas, women wear skirts.  So, I was in a skirt.  And we were backpacking, so I had a big pack on my back, and a smaller one on my front.  And I’m not a young thing anymore…pushing 50 in fact.  And we’d been on the road for over two days, so I was tired and sore.

As we neared the place where our bus would drop us off to meet our Malawian friends, I began to wonder how, in the dead of night (it was after 10 PM) we would get from the roadside drop off point to Sam’s house (about 10 km) into the bush.  Is it too remote for a regular bush taxi?  Would we walk?  Or, please God, no, would he have arranged for bike taxis?

As you have probably guessed, it was the latter.  I took one look at those taxis and pictured myself trying to jump up onto the back to ride it sidesaddle with all my gear, and in a skirt, and I nearly died.  That was SO not going to happen.  “Fortunately”, once the “taxi drivers” saw the color of my skin, the previously agreed to price all of the sudden became seriously inflated.  I took that as my opportunity to encourage their immediate dismissal, opting instead to do the long walk.

Sam was quite amused.  African women have literally no problem with this form of transportation.  Even the very old ones with a parcel on their heads and one grandbaby in their laps with another one their backs.  And they are graceful while doing it.  Of course, they’ve been doing it their whole life.  This would have been my first time.

I seriously hate being a “problem” like that.  I try very hard to do the best I can to just quietly do what needs to be done.  And normally, I am extremely “game” in most travel circumstances.

But not this time.  I just couldn’t do it.  So we walked.  So I made all of us walk.  😦  And I was glad we did.  It was so very dark and the dirt road was bumpy and full of washed out areas, rocks, and potholes.  Even if I’d have gotten up there, I’m pretty sure at some point I would have fallen off, and possibly injured myself.  This is what I tell myself to make myself feel better about not doing it.

Perhaps the next time I find myself faced with a bike taxi I won’t be in a skirt, I won’t be loaded down, it won’t be dark, and there would be a step stool.  I’d give it a whirl if so.

But not this time.

In this particular case, I did not make a good African woman.


“You Ver” What???

I ver mectin!

If you are, like I am, blessed/lucky enough to live in a place where the thought of contracting river blindness, malaria, and even head lice, are things that you think about…. ummmmm…like pretty much never…take a moment and be thankful about that.

With the eradication of disease comes prosperity.  Did you know we had malaria (a mosquito borne illness) here in the United States in the South until it was eliminated in 1947?  A million people around the world die from malaria each year.

Did you know that we had major outbreaks of Yellow Fever (also a mosquito borne illness) here in the States until 1905?  Due to the highly infectious nature of this illness (despite attempts at reaching 90% vaccination rates in endemic regions around the world) there are still 30,000 deaths (and 500,000 cases of it) a year.

Did you know that the last major outbreak of cholera (spread through contaminated food and water) to hit the United States occurred in 1911?  Since cholera was introduced to Haiti by an aid worker after the massive earthquake of 2010, there have been about 350,000 cases of cholera and over 14,000 deaths.

How about diphtheria?  Diphtheria is a respiratory illness that has been largely eradicated in the United States (only a rare few cases in the past decade).  Did you know that the tetanus shot you get for skin injuries is usually a Td?  You probably know the “T” stands for tetanus, but did you know that the “d” stands for diphtheria?  Since the diphtheria vaccine was introduced in 1920 and high levels of vaccination rates were obtained, diphtheria for U.S. citizens became a thing of the past.  Not so for the people of Russia in the 1990’s and more recently the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic where large epidemics have occured.  And speaking of tetanus, there are hundreds of thousands of deaths annually worldwide from tetanus.  Only 50-100 of those many deaths occur in the United States.  Those cases are nearly always in unvaccinated/undervaccinated individuals.

These diseases are shackles to poor and developing nations and is one of the causes of keeping them impoverished, uneducated, and with seriously limited opportunities .

Because our medical system and our society in general is not constantly plagued by these expensive (both from the medical standpoint as well as the economic standpoint) diseases, we are free to grow and expand our economy and to put finances towards treating things that in developing nations are often not addressed at ALL!  Like cancer, depression, osteoporosis, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, etc (etcetcetcetcetc.)  There are diseases of aging in our country that are not even SEEN in other countries due to short life expectancy.  For 2011 the life expectancy for a Swazi is projected to be 31.88 years.  No, that is not a typo.  This is in large part due to a completely preventable and most often untreated, disease, HIV.

People in the United States actually have access to a drug called Latisse…this drug treats the condition of “inadequate, or not enough lashes”.  That’s eyelashes, people.  We have a drug for growing EYELASHES.  Now, part of me is absolutely appalled by such an apparent lack of perspective by the American public.  Another part of me is thrilled that we have the time, resources, and overall health to be able to treat such a thing as a problem!  I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone from Swaziland, or Zambia, or Ethiopia (etc.) who ever THINKS about having inadequate lashes.  But I digress.  Back to real diseases…

There’s all manner of diarrheal illness, and pneumonias, and African Sleeping Sickness, and polio, and meningococcal meningitis, and bubonic plague, and tuberculosis, and hepatitis, and typhoid, and ebola, and tetanus, and lymphatic filariasis andandandandandand.  I could go on!  Many of these diseases fully, or almost fully, preventable through education, simple medications, and vaccinations.

On a personal level, I have friends who suffer from chronic malaria.  People with chronic malaria become symptomatic a few times a year.  When sick they cannot work, and it drains their already meager finances when medications and sometimes hospitalization are needed.  It is hard to get ahead in life when one single disease has such negative effects.  Imagine facing ALL of these diseases (and so many more) on a regular basis?  It’s nearly unthinkable for us in developed countries.

So, you might be asking, what does all of this have to do with ivermectin??

And what do river blindness, malaria, and head lice have to do with each other?

Well, just one of the feared diseases of West and Central Africa is river blindness.  River blindness is the result of a chronic parasitic multi-system inflammatory disease caused by a worm that inhabits fast flowing rivers.  Black flies breed in these rivers and are the vector for this worm.  As rivers are often the primary water source in this part of the world, thus the potential for becoming infected.  Around 35 million people are currently infected with river blindness, and roughly 300,000 of them are already irreversibly blind. Approximately 140 million people in Africa are at risk of infection.  Being blind in most parts of Africa is nothing like being blind in the developed world.  As so many of those at risk for river blindness are from agricultural societies, being blind (or even visually impaired) can leave a person incapable of farming and providing for his/her family.  It’s hard enough to get any sort of education in these countries…imagine trying to get an education in most of Africa if you are blind!

Ivermectin is one of a family of drugs called “anthelmintics or antihelminthics”.  They treat worm infestations in people.  Worms are an extremely common finding in many populations in Africa (and around the world).  Among its other uses, ivermectin can be used off label to treat lice and scabies.  Taking a single dose provides 24/7 insecticidal protection.  The lice are killed when they bite and consume the now insecticidal blood of its victim.  Invermectin is also used in Africa to treat the worm infestation that leads to river blindness and filariasis.  In 2008 and 2009, a team of researchers to Senegal found that in communities where ivermectin was being used, the numbers of malaria carrying mosquitoes dropped off dramatically two weeks following treatment!  In similar communities where ivermectin was not being used, numbers of these mosquitoes had doubled in the same time frame.  To me, this is a fascinatingly unexpected and positive outcome to the use of ivermectin!!!!  To treat river blindness, an individual takes a single dose of the drug annually for 10-15 years.

I have this scenario in my head where communities would be tested and treated en masse for malaria infection, given insecticide treated mosquito nets, and maybe vector spraying would be done to eliminate mosquitoes.  To me, it seems, that with an aggressive multi-directional assault like this on malaria, malaria could be DRAMATICALLY reduced and maybe even eradicated.  With the addition of ivermectin into the mix, it might be an even more effective war.  Imagine…attacking malaria, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, scabies, lice and other worm infestations all at the same time!

If “the west” could coordinate all of its currently disparate efforts and wage a full out assault on malaria, I think we could see a huge victory.  It would take massive coordination of services and some pretty specific timing, but if one generation of mosquitoes and malaria cycles could be disrupted, imagine the effect it could have on people who live with these plagues on a regular basis.

Why can’t we do this???  Is it possible?  How much DDT would be needed to spray all of the homes in affected areas of Africa?  How many mosquito nets would be needed?  How many doses of ivermectin would be required?  And how many people on the ground would be needed to make such an assault possible?  How many cycles of treatment and spraying would be needed?  And perhaps the biggest quetion is would the governments of these countries even be willing to allow such a program??????

We have put men on the moon.  We have built impossible dams and bridges.  We built the Panama Canal.  We have eradicated smallpox.  Computer power that used to occupy a room now occupies nearly microscopic space.  Why can we not do something spectacular like free the world from the prison of malaria?

There are organizations doing great things to combat malaria and bring hope to a sick and dying world.  There are a multitude of NGOs, plus faith- and government-based operations involved in the fight.  What if they all worked together, in concert to pool resources, work towards a common goal, reduce duplicated efforts, reduced waste, and increased  efficiency?  What an amazing thing that would be!

Is it just a dream?


Hôtel Saint-Louis Sun

March 17th and 18th, 2011

Days 1 and 2;  Dakar Senegal

We’d originally planned on staying in Senegal for a few days, but because we were blowing our budget by the hour, we decided that once we had our Malian visas, we’d head for Mali where we knew the cost of things would be much less than in Senegal.  We’d looked into finding cheaper accommodations than the Sun, but weren’t successful.  Besides, the Sun was centrally located and pretty nice, all things considered!  So we splurged and stayed there.

The hotel was located on a very narrow, very busy street in the inner city of Dakar.  Doesn’t look like much from the outside, but upon entering, there is a peacefulness that is palpable.  Very friendly front desk people.  We initially had to wait in the courtyard for our room to be ready.  The wait turned into a few hours long, but it was a pleasant few hours spent discussing our plan of action, talking about how we couldn’t believe we’d actually made it to Dakar and were starting our grand adventure, and updating facebook statuses, that sort of thing.  I needed to check in with the young lady who was watching my cats to see if Mew Ling was taking her antibiotic pills okay.  Mew Ling every once in a while develops a urinary tract infection, which she did apparently in the days leading up to my trip.  The only time I could get her in to see the vet was the day before we left, so I was worried that she would give Lisa a problem taking her meds.  Lisa got back to me…Mew was fine, and taking her pill hidden in treats.

And we started taking some of our first photos of the journey, of course.  After shaving the next day, Abner decided he was giving up shaving for the remainder of the trip.

The rooms were upstairs and over looked the small open ceilinged courtyard.  Downstairs was a bar, a restaurant, the lobby, and a couple of meeting rooms.  We were in room three.  To enter the room required opening two doors.  The outer door was wooden slatted to provide privacy and allow in a small amount of light, the second was panes of glass.  I struggled getting the keys to work.  Why is it that African keys are always a problem???  Anyone else out there who has spent time in Africa find that keys and locks are a challenge for them?

The open courtyard was quiet despite the very busy city right outside the main entrance.  There were birds, weaver birds maybe, building nests in the trees which provided light shade from the heat of the day.  The walls were decorated with peeling but brightly colored murals.

This is the  first of quite a few very interesting key chains.  And check out the keys!  They look very similar to each other, but there’s a different one for each of the doors.

The room was a bit small, but very clean and completely adequate for our needs.  No evidence of bed bugs here!  We turned on the AC immediately figuring we should probably enjoy a little bit of cool when we could.  We had decided to come at the hottest time of the year because it:   1)  worked well for both of our schedules, 2)  would mean the least amount of mosquitoes as it was well into the dry season, and 3) would be the lowest time of the year for other travelers, so we wouldn’t be fighting as many people for the better hostel rooms, etc.

Our room was en suite…no shared bathroom facilities…not yet anyway!

We even had a closet and more wall art to enjoy!

If you ever get to Dakar, this is a good place to stay!  The food at the restaurant was good.  The beer (Flag was our choice) was COLD.  You can walk to the docks to catch the ferry to Île de Gorée.  The cost for taxi rides to the embassies for other African countries or to Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine are reasonable.  And you feel VERY much like you are in Africa!


Fear of Falling

April 10th, 2011

Day 25:  Kakum National Park, Ghana

When I was younger, I was kinda fearless.

I’m older now, and I have phobia baggage.

I’m afraid of falling.  It’s kind of like being afraid of heights, but not exactly the same.  I am fine with being in planes.  I love roller coasters.  I’m fine up in REALLY tall buildings.  As long as I am enclosed in some way I’m okay.  No, it’s not really heights that bring me to near panic…I’m afraid of falling.  There’s a couple of types of fear of falling.  There’s basophobia, which is the fear of falling, but it leads people to not want to stand up at all.  That’s not what I have.  There’s climacophobia, which is the fear of falling down stairs.  That’s incorporated into my phobia, but mine is bigger than that.  There’s bathophobia, which sounds like the fear of taking a bath (that’s called ablutophobia), but it’s actually the fear of falling from a high place.  THAT’S what I have.

I came by this fear rightly.  There were two specific events that took place in my life that set me up for my fear.  The first was when I was 16.  I was on a mission trip to Haiti.

(Me, laying block in Haiti)

While standing on a rickety scaffolding and concentrating deeply to lay concrete blocks, one of the missionaries’ kids grabbed my ankles and shook me.  The fear got a hold of me then and grew over the years.  I eventually began to struggle with getting up on my stepladder to retrieve items from upper shelves in my kitchen.  Ridiculous.  I got tired of being that afraid, so I worked on desensitizing myself.  I got over (mostly) the worst of it…I could climb my stepladder!  🙂   And then some years later, the second event took place.  On a trip to Chicago with my big bro, his wife/my best friend, and one of my other good friends, we went to the top of Sears tower.

(Taken from the top of the Hancock Building, not the Sears Tower, but close enough!)

I was deep in thought and standing by a window looking down down down at the ground so very far away, and my brother came up behind me and shook my shoulders and made a “aHAHAHahahah” yell.  The fear returned with a vengeance.  Since then I have been challenging myself to get better, again.  I am better with being high up, but still very fearful in certain circumstances, especially if there are people anywhere behind me.  I just don’t trust them.

My high up place doesn’t even have to be very high.  I don’t like looking over cliffs.  I don’t like walking across bridges.  I don’t like open ferris wheels (closed ones are just fine).   I want to sky dive.  I want to bungee jump.  I want to walk over insanely high bridges.  I want to not feel like I can’t breathe and that I’m going to die if I need to jump over an open ditch.

Abner also has a fear of heights/fear of falling thing.  Which begs the question…”why on earth did the two of us decide to go on a canopy walk in the rain forest?”.  Excellent question!  Because we NEEEEEEEEDED to.  And because I trust Abner with my life, I decided if I could walk across swinging rope and wood bridges high up in the trees with anyone, it would be with Abner.  You’d have to ask him what his impetus was!

While we were in Cape Coast, Ghana, we were very close to the Kakum National Park…and they had a canopy walk there that we heard about.  The walk was comprised of seven of these “bridges” hundreds of feet up in the air over wild jungle.  We hiked up to where the walk started.  It was rather hot and humid.  I’m very sweaty, BUT I’m an official green card carrying NGA!  A Non Ghanaian Adult.  🙂

Since a major component of my fear is having someone behind me, we waited until the rest of the people in our group had set off across the first bridge.  Abner went before me, and I went last.  I was confident and walking without my legs shaking beneath me until I felt the bridge shaking behind me.  Oh great.  My biggest fear, and it was making ground behind me.  There’s no place to pass on these 10″ wide bridges.  And this guy ended up so close behind me that he was clipping my heels as I walked and he was stressing me to move faster.  I called to Abner to make the guy back off before I freaked out.   He did, and I collected myself.  I let the guy pass me at the first opportunity, and once he did, I was able to actually enjoy myself.

We walked all those seven bridges.  We didn’t see any wildlife, but we heard the birds in the trees.  It was really a cool thing we got to do.

Five years ago I tried to walk across the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge here in Colorado.  I got out about 15 feet and I started to panic.  I want to conquer that bridge!  Abner and I will get around to trying sometime in the near future.  Cuz we’re rock stars!  And we can do it!


Top of the World

Day 15

Ya Pas De Probleme Hotel, Mopti, Mali, Second Stay


When asked what kind of music they listen to, you know how people often will answer “I listen to ALL kinds of music.”?  But then they really don’t?  Well, Abner actually does.  Abner is a Filipino-American who moved to the states as a teenager.  He’s in his late 20’s.  I had more surprises scrolling through the music playlists on his iPod!  I needn’t list the genres as they’re all pretty much represented there.  On the day we got to enjoy a leisurely day lounging and reading by, and swimming in, the lovely Ya Pas pool, I came across the Carpenters!  I pressed play for “Top of the World”, and Abner told me he was juuust thinking about listening to this very song.  I didn’t exactly believe him, but he knew more of the lyrics to the songs than I did…just like he knew all the lyrics to allll of his music.

We stayed at the Ya Pas when we were in Mopti before going to Timbuktu.  I didn’t find the pool that time around, but did so when we stayed there on the way back through after leaving Timbuktu.  I didn’t have high expectations in what the pool would actually be like.  Much to my absolute delight, the pool was located in a bit of an oasis in a very dusty land!  When I passed through the double sets of curtains into the pool area, I found myself in a walled in area filled with plants, and flowers….

…and a lovely blue tiled pool.  A pool that smelled of chlorine…which means it would be safe to swim in!

In a place where the color palette is largely made up of lovely dusty tans, browns, sands, yellows, and grays, the pool was a sparkling topaz hidden away behind mud walls and in the shadow of bougainvillea…

Ahhhhh….la piscine…..

Abner’s leap…..

…..and of course, our feet!

We’d just returned from our time in Timbuktu and were still in that “did we really just do that?” place when we spent our day poolside.  I think that this day, on the tail of those days, simply added more to the unrealistic nature of our journey!

Listening to Abner’s great music, in this oasis of a place, after having had one of the coolest experiences of my life…Well…I was on the top of the world!


Slogan Fail

When in Accra, Ghana, we went to a local cultural arts center before leaving Africa for home, to see if there was any sort of souvenir we just couldn’t live without.  Despite there being a labyrinth of stalls, the stalls didn’t have much variety from one to the next.  Much of what was offered for sale was less than spectacular.  And the salespeople were overly aggressive.

The stuff was made in part by local craftsman, though some was clearly imported.  These articles are designed for the tourist population.  In addition to paintings, carvings, jewelry, fabrics, etc., there were lots of religiousy tchotchkes and collectiblely stuff for sale…buttons, magnets, key chains, that sort of thing.  Most were made of carved wood in the shape of Africa, or Ghana and painted in green, yellow, black, and red.

Some had religious symbols or sayings on them.

My personal favorite?  The ones that somehow got through quality assurance that said:

” Except Jesus”

In hindsight, I wish I would have bought one of them.  🙂


“I Don’t Like Mangoes”

Finding fresh fruits in Senegal and Mali was rather difficult.  Bananas we could find, but that was about it.  Most of the fruit available was overripe, underripe, or just plain gross looking.  By the time we got to Burkina Faso I was dying (okay, maybe not DYING…maybe aching, yeah, that’s it, ACHING) for something fresh to eat from the plant family.  On one of our walk-abouts in Ouagadougou (I love that I’ve been to Ouagadougou!) we happened upon a street full of excellent produce stands.  Abner saw some mangoes that he had to have.

“I don’t like mangoes.”  (That was me sayin’ that)  There’s something about the flavor, something that lingers in my mouth that I really don’t care for.  But, since it had been a long time since I’d had a mango, I figured I’d try one again.

I’m very glad I did.  I didn’t have any idea what it was that I’d tasted in the past that put me off of them so badly.  But wow, were those mangoes unbelievably delicious.  Maybe I was just that hungry for fruit…but maybe not!

Abner, who took prodigious care of me on our journey, did THIS to the mangoes to make them easier to eat!  Apparently it’s not some new invention or anything, but I’ve never seen it done!  And I was terribly impressed.  🙂

Yummy mango! Who knew????

On another fruit shopping trip, Abner picked up some more mangoes.  He wanted some that weren’t quite ripe yet as he loved them that way, too.

When I tried one of those, I got that taste in my mouth, the one that made me not like mangoes…

Note to self:  you do not like GREEN mangoes… you LOVE ripe ones!

 


I Wish I Was In Ouagadougou…

Days 18, 19, and part of 20

I’d never heard of Ouagadougou before Abner and I started to plan our trip.

Best name for a city EVER!!!!

Capital city of Burkina Faso.

Even though there’s not exactly a whole lot to do there…we put it on our list of places to spend time mostly because we liked the way it sounded when we said “Ouagadougou”…

We wanted to take pictures of ourselves in front of some sort of  “Welcome to Ouagadougou” sign.  But we couldn’t find one.  Best Ouagadougou sign we could find was the one on a big trashcan downtown.  See????

It was rather awkward taking this picture…there was a cop across the street that made us nervous…like he might wonder why we were taking pictures of a trashcan…and it would be difficult to explain.  So we tried to look nonchalant while each of us surreptitiously tried to take a picture of the other.  I am casually sucking on a water sachet…I don’t look out of place at alll!!!!  🙂

Since getting to Timbuktu and back was a bit draining, we planned on relaxing in Ouagadougou.  We had a great room at a great hostel.  Hotel le Pavillon Vert.  I’m sure I’ll post on that at some point.  If you ever go to Ouaga, and you’re on a budget, you probably can’t beat the place.

Abner decided to not shave on this trip.  He started out being confused by people with being Korean…a little bit of beard and he became Japanese…a little more…Pakistani…full beard by the end of the trip and he was completely Saudi!  Oddly, not a single person thought he was Filipino!  When people would ask him, and he would tell them where he was from, very few people even knew of the country or where it was.

By the time we hit Ouaga, and were as tired as we were, I thought he was looking like a Laotian refugee…

🙂


Veggie Tales…West African Style

We stopped on our bus rides across West Africa.  We stopped (and broke down) a LOT.  Most of the stops have blurred together in my mind.  But, it WAS somewhere in Mali.  I’m sure of that.  I see a guy walking down the street towards Abner and me and he was wearing a white shirt with what appeared to be a familiarish cartoonish green cucumber on it.

Me to Abner:  “Look!  How funny!!  That guy is wearing a Veggie Tales shirt in the middle of nowhere Mali!”

Abner to me as the shirted man gets closer:  “Uh, that’s not a veggie, that’s a condom!”

So it was.  (It was an HIV education shirt).  And much laughter ensued…

🙂


Bon Anniversaire, Abner!!

Happy Birthday, Abner!  Thanks for bringing so much awesomeness into my life!  🙂  Here’s to the next visa and the next stamp in our passports…

Tent Sweet Tent

I’d like to welcome you to my home!  This was it this past summer in Malawi.  Some nights I almost couldn’t wait to crawl inside it and curl up on my air mattress and soak in the night sounds.  In Zambia two years it ago, it was soooo cold at night that I dreaded “lights out”.  This year, despite being the neighbor to the east of Zambia, the Malawi nights were relatively warm.  Perhaps this was due to the proximity to Lake Malawi?

Home Sweet Malawi Home by you.

Despite its relatively small size, I was still able to often lose fairly important articles inside of it.  I lost my toothbrush once for almost a week.  You can’t just run down to the store to buy a new one, ya know?  I finally had the time to tear everything apart and find it, but by then the brush and interior of the case had mildewed.  Pretty gross.  So, what do you do?  You pop it into a pot of boiling hot water!  Good as new…almost.  (ew)

Even though I was very comfortable at night I often did not sleep much.  If I got five hours of sleep I felt pretty lucky (this from a 9 or 10 hour a night sleeper).  Since I didn’t have much time to myself during the days, I decided to embrace my sleeplessness and enjoy the nighttime “solitude” in my little home.  I would spend the hours thinking, remembering, planning, and praying.  It’s funny where one’s brain goes when one is lying awake on top of an air mattress and sleeping bag listening to the distant waves of a lake on the shore with the bright African moon illumunating brightly when one is in the uttermost part of the earth…I’d get flight of ideas and wonder…

…how well would I be sleeping if my cat was here with me…(and then I’d miss her)…

…will anyone puke tonight?…(and I’d pray not)…

…are the dogs in my “kitchen” again?…(and if they are, did I prepare well enough so they couldn’t rob me?)…

…are those REALLY waves I’m hearing?…

…if he has Aspberger’s…(or what?)…

…when the propane tank is going to run out, again…

…why the dusk malaria mosquitos are so small and the dawn dengue mosquitos SO HUGE…

…how much more food can I buy with the money I have left “in the food account”… and will there be anything more than sugar, tomatos, yams, oil, and eggs to be bought next time?…

…how it is possible that it’s going to be three years already since Connie died…(and then I’d miss her, too)

I would pray for whatever and whoever showed up in my mind and eventually I would drift off to sleep.  Occasionally I would dream.  But every morning, when I unzipped my tent and crawled out, I was met with the most brilliant skies reflecting off the lake and I’d forget how tired I was and I’d wrap myself in the beauty and wildness of it all.  And I’d wonder what I ever did to deserve this amazing life God had given to me…


Photo Friday – “Wildlife”

I really DO love Photo Friday.  It’s the only thing I seem to be able to post on these days.  I’ve got dozens of drafts started about my summer experiences, but still am unable to get them the way I want them.  Some of them are simply Titles at this point. 

So, having just recently returned from Africa, I thought it fitting to share pics of some wildlife I saw while I was there.  These were taken “on safari” in the Liwonde National Park in Malawi.  Oddly, I don’t love very many pictures that I took this summer.  I do, however, love this one.  Not because it’s a great picture or anything – far from it.  No, I love it because there are four species captured in the one frame.  The hippo, heron, and impala are easily visible, but do you see the warthogs as well?

Four Species by you.

Did you know that members of different hippo pods have different “highways” that they each use?  I didn’t.  And hippos of one pod do not use the highways of hippos of different pods!  The things you learn when you are on safari! 

And here’s one of a warthog upclose.  Seems there was a warthog “highway” right in front of our chalet at the safari camp! 

The Warthog Trail by you.

The yellow at the bottom of the photo?  Normally I would have cropped that out.  It was my front porch.  I left in in as a reference to the proximity of the trail to our accommodations.  This highway was actually a hippo highway as well.  This was one reason we were all strongly warned to never leave our chalets alone, and to stay on the people pathways.  Those hippos were loud at night, too!  You couldn’t have PAID me to leave my chalet after dark, even if I wasn’t alone!  Even if I had one of the armed guard with me.  Hippos are some scary creatures!

More on our safari weekend in a later post…IF I can ever get the post to feel right!  🙂

Click on the links to visit the entries of the other participants!  Drop them a comment and let them know what you think.  There are new participants since I left for Africa.  A big hearty and belated welcome to them! 

Tall Chick’s

Iveystory’s

Melanie’s

CuriousC’s

Author’s

Here’s what’s coming up on Photo Friday in the weeks ahead…

Photo Friday Advance Diary:

22nd August: Julie’s choice – “Hat Day” (a picture of someone’s hat, that’s funny, pretty, or a self-portrait of us wearing our favorite or funny hat)

29th August: Mrs Nascar’s choice – Old cars (any interesting old cars from rusty scrapheap cars with a bird’s nest under the bonnet, to fabulous vintage or racing cars)

 …


Why Not Start With a Famous Foot Picture?

I have drafts on about a dozen posts about my summer.  I’m still trying to figure out how to get back to blogging.  I thought maybe I could kick start my creativity by posting one of my “famous” foot pictures!

We were wrapping up our summer with a “debrief” in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  While out souvenir shopping with my group, I came across this manhole cover (most of the sewer accesses we saw did not have covers and did not have any sort of warning that there was no cover- an American lawyer’s DREAM!) and dragged my group over and forced them to take part in my picture!  They think I’m weird…what else is new? 

🙂 

Wait until I start showing you some of the souvenirs I brought home!

Addis Foot Picture by you.

The cover says “MUNICIPALITE ADDIS ABEBA”.  I like this one.

The goat wandering by on the street also thought I was weird…


Am I Back?

If all has gone according to the original plan, I’m supposed to have arrived back in the states earlier today.  I’ll have flown in to Washington, DC on Ethiopian Airlines.  Once I get to say my good-byes and get all my kids off on their various planes home I’ll be able to take a deep breath and relax.  I’ll start making phone calls, if I can find a pay phone and if I still have minutes on my calling card, that is.

I guess I’ll need to get a flight home.

Soon, maybe even by now, I’ll be feeling that weird emptiness that happens when one goes from being constantly busy and constantly needed and never alone, to being in the place where the silence is uncomfortably deafening.  It’s like empty nest syndrome, only on steroids…

I’m probably starting to feel lonely.  I’ll shove my hands in my pockets and feel dirt in the seams – African dirt.  Even though I just got home, I think I’m probably longing to return already.

I might be home by tomorrow.  Unless Phil and his kids have met me here and then I’ll be hanging out with them for a few days.  I guess whenever I can get to a computer, I’ll let you know which scenario came to fruition.

(Posted in absentia, for the last time, at least for the last time this summer)


Happy Birthday, America

It’s always kind of weird to celebrate the fourth of July in a foreign country.  Especially in countries where people are constantly watching you, like they will be in Malawi. 

I took red/white/and blue tablecloths, some r/w/b star necklaces, and little U.S. flags.  I think we’ll make all the food be r/w/b at lunch and maybe sing happy birthday.  But that’s it.  I don’t know that Malawians would understand us making a big fuss out of our country’s birthday.

Even though I often leave her, I love America.  She’s not perfect, but the only reason she’s not perfect is because people live there.  But I love Americans, too.  As individuals they are the most generous and giving.  They are free-thinkers.  They are full of ingenuity.  They love to work and love to play.  Their interests are as varied as the people themselves are.  America is a land of opportunities.  With enough drive, pretty much anyone can become pretty much whatever they dream to be.

So, from near the heart of Africa, while eating red, white, and blue, food, I wish you, America, a happy birthday.

(Posted in absentia)


Immun-aiyaiyai-zations

This year I needed to update my immunizations for my trip to Malawi and Ethiopia.  My Polio, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever are outdated and I’ve never had Hepatitis A.

Today I met with Becky at Passport Health to discuss just what my travel needs were going to be.

The final list?  Here you go!

  1. Hepatitis A injection
  2. Polio injection
  3. Yellow Fever injection
  4. Oral Typhoid series

Still need to get:

  1. Tetanus booster
  2. TB skin test (last one was over a year ago, will be able to procur this at work)

Declined:

  1. Influenza vaccine (I never get this)
  2. Meningococcal meningitis vaccine (I’ve been exposed so many times to this I must have some sort of immunity)
  3. MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).  I have now had this vaccine three times and while I have converted on my mumps and rubella, my titers continually come back negligible for measles, so I’m figuring no additional attempts will work either.

Definitely don’t need for this trip:

  1. Japanese Encephalitis vaccine  🙂  TRUE! 

We also discussed malaria and dengue fever.  Since it is winter, the chances of getting these diseases are lower as the mosquitos are fewer and farther between, but, as history has proven to me, I can get malaria from that one mosquito.  The malaria carrying mosquito gets you at night, the dengue carrying mosquito gets you during the day.  When in Zambia I didn’t take malaria meds nor did I use insect repellent.  I will use repellent this year.  I’m still thinking about my options for meds.  The cheap option is doxycycline, but that often leads to an unpleasant other kind of infection.  The other “cheaper” options have given me night terrors and generally creepy feelings which make them very undesireable to take again.  The best option is MUY expensive.  Almost $9.00 a pill!  AND I’d need 60 pills.  I don’t even want to do the math on that.  We’ll just have to see!  For sure I buy some Arinate when I get to Africa.  I want that on hand whether or not I’m pre-treating.  That’s a miracle drug for malaria and I don’t want to be without it.

Then there’s avian (bird) flu and cholera.  Since I’m in control of food preparation and water sanitization, I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to avoid getting either of these.  Just gotta remember to keep “my kids” away from any chickens and not serve any eggs that aren’t fully cooked!

Lastly, I picked up a prescription for Cipro.  I can take that for traveler’s diarrhea or an upper respiratory infection.

I got the three injections today.  Praying they don’t make me sick.  The last time I got the Yellow Fever one I was sick (gastro stuff and fever) for days and my arm was useless and excrutiatingly painful to the touch for over a week.  That was years ago.  Maybe this time it won’t be so bad.  I’ll wait to see if these round of shots makes me sick before I tackle the week-long regimen of oral Typhoid vaccination.  That one can cause pretty good gastro side effects and I don’t want to pile that on anything else I might be feeling!

AND we (Becky-also a nurse-and I) talked about my working there in the future!  Just to fill-in for her, nothing major.  She took my info and seemed very delighted at the possibility of having someone who could help out there in a pinch, or for vacations, etc.!

This is the first time I have used a traveler’s health clinic.  Very convenient, very easy.  Always before I have had to call around and find this place or that place who could accommodate my needs.  When I showed up at Passport Health, Becky had already prepared a full packet of very useful information and recommendations.  Live in Colorado?  Ever need to discuss travel needs and get shots and scripts?  Consider Passport Health.  I guess it’s another Unpaid Service Endorsement from me!  🙂  It’s a pay up front business, so I need to look into filing a claim with my insurance to see what they might pick up.  Never done that before.  New skill to learn!  🙂

I haven’t been really great at posting lately, but if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know why!  (Because I’m curled up sick in my bed not far from a bathroom!)

Now, as I am expecting company in a few days, I’m off to clean my house, just in case I’m not feeling up to it later!

02/18/09, an update:

I should have updated this post long ago!  I had absolutely no side effects from any of my shots, not even any arm soreness.  I ended up choosing doxycycline for my malaria prophylaxis and was diligent about taking it as directed and diligent with my bug repellent.  Despite being chewed alive at dusk, I did not contract malaria (which was a great relief, having had it twice before).  I had only some minor gastro-intestinal side effects from the oral typhoid, but nothing hardly even to mention.  It could have even been coincidental.  The next time I travel to a place where meningitis is recommended, I will probably get that vaccine.  And, if it is available, I am considering getting the rabies series as well.  But as of this update, rabies is only available post-exposure as there is a shortage of it.

Bye for now!  And remember, traveling smart includes getting your vaccines!


“Photographic Art” – Photo Friday

PHOTO FRIDAY

(click above for more information)

Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday entry is entitled: Photographic Art © Jan Marshall 

Photographic Art.  Photos as art?  Photos OF art?  Photos enhanced to be more “artsy”??  I can’t wait to see how everyone will interpret this assignment!  I’d been thinking about how *I* was going to interpret this assignment since Jan (of the blog “A Curious State of Affairs) came up with the idea two weeks ago. 

It’s been a long and tiring and emotional week for me.  An excellent friend of mine passed away on Monday morning.  My mind has been a bit occupied with things other than doing something fresh and exciting for Photo Friday.  Despite not getting much in the way of inspiration, I still very much wanted to participate.  Hoping my entry isn’t a complete cop-out.  I messed around with a number of photographs doing different affects and enhancements, but didn’t end up with anything that I really liked.  So I ended up deciding on a photo OF art.

In one of my curio/collection cabinets I have a small oil painting on canvas done by an artist in Zambia.  I’m pretty sure it’s a painting that the artist recreated often to sell to foreign tourists, but I bought it anyway because I loved the bright colors, the long lines, and the general grubbiness of it.  I look at it and I can hear the excited chatter.  I wonder “What is it that has captured the attention of these ladies?”.  It’s only about 4″ X 8″.  I’ve not yet framed it.  But I thought that this would be a good place and time to share it.  I don’t know the name of the artist, but his cell phone number is on the back!  Perhaps I should call and ask his name!

In Zambia, as in many African nations, it is unrealistic to string phone lines, but very reasonable to set up cell towers.  People who can afford phones don’t have land lines, they carry cells.

Here is my unnamed, unsigned, Zambian work of art…

Don’t forget to check out the other participant’s work!  I’ll be posting links as they become available.

“A Curious State of Affairs”

“Idea Jump”

Next week’s assignment?  “The View Through My Window”…


“Pathos” – Photo Friday

 pa·thos  (pā’thŏs’, -thôs’) n.  

  1. A quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow.
  2. The feeling, as of sympathy or pity, so aroused.

There’s is nothing quite like the visual art of photography to evoke our emotions.  I love that it’s an art form that is available to everyone.  Most cannot paint, most cannot sculpt, most cannot draw, but everyone can point and shoot.  With the advent of the nearly idiot-proof digital camera, even the most unskilled eye and wavering finger can inexpensively capture wonderful images.

I love taking pictures.  My primary camera is a Nikon Coolpix S4.  The lens swivels 170 degrees allowing me to easily get shots from all kinds of angles.  Often my best pictures are ones that I did nothing to set up.   

I took this picture during the summer of 2006.  It was taken in Kansoka, Zambia.  This was “foot washing day”.  We had hundreds of orphans come to get loved on/hugged on/held/played with, as well as to get, in most cases, their very first pair of shoes and socks.  This particular little girl had captured my attention throughout the day.  I don’t know her story.  I don’t even know her name.  I never learned the stories of most of the thousand or so orphans we met that summer.  But most of them shared at least part of the same story.  In Zambia alone, more than three quarters of a million of them have been left alone in the world having lost one or both of their parents to malaria or AIDS.  The “lucky” ones had older siblings to care for them.  One 10-year-old we met was the oldest left in his household.  He had become the man of his family and was now responsible for the care of his four little brothers and sisters.

Life has dealt this little princess a very hard blow.  Life in sub-saharan Africa is difficult for most in the best of circumstances.  To be a child, perhaps even a baby, and to be left parentless, makes an already difficult circumstance a precarious one.  And yet many of their young faces still shine.  They laugh and play just like children do.  They are full of hope.

I look at her face and my heart is both completely broken, and yet paradoxically full. 

Pathos.  

(Click HERE for links to more Photo Friday submissions.  And please consider playing along with us!  We’re only three, we’d like to be more!)

Next week’s Photo Friday topic is “Joy!”.

… 


Chitenges?

While in Zambia in the summer of 2006, we (the girls), in order to be socially appropriate and inoffensive in our manner of dress, wore “chitenges” (pronounced chi’-tengies) over our pants whenever we were not in our tents.

Chitenges are a large pieces of material that are used as skirts, dresses, blankets, baby carriers, and probably a myriad other things.  The patterns on these chitenges are regional and many of the prints are quite lovely…fabric art, really.  The pictures in this post are a few of the prints on the chitenges I purchased (about 3 USD each) while in Zambia.  These are not the chitenges I wore every day while I was there.  I had three of those, and they are sort of beat up, have burn holes from when I got too close to the cooking braziers, and aren’t quite as pretty as these!

They are sort of difficult to walk in though, and we often found the edges of the garment getting caught between, or tangled around, our legs.  I decided a good term for this phenomenon was to be “chitengled”.  This is a similar phenomenon to being “pajangled”, which is what I have learned it’s called when your pajamas get all twisted up around you while you are sleeping.  🙂

The women of many African nations utilize similar pieces of material in the same way.  They call them by different names.

I am anxious to find out what they are called in Malawi, for that is where I will be going next summer when I lead a team there with Teen Missions!

Yep!  I got my letter of invitation from TMI to lead the “Malawi Matron Unit” team!  I’m mailing back my letter of acceptance today.  What a privilege to be able to serve again next summer.  To be able to return to Africa to do so is beyond exciting. 

Malawi shares a border with Zamiba.  I wonder if it will feel like I’m going “home” again.


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