Tag Archives: Zambia

Leopards Hill Park and a new fruit!

Standard

On my drive to work each day, I pass an old and crowded cemetery, known locally as the “Old Leopards Hill Cemetery.”  Graves are crowded together in what seems to be a haphazard fashion.  Markers are made of slate or even wood.  There are no real roads or even pathways amongst the graves. 

constant-companion2

Funerals are big here in Zambia, and at least once or twice a week, I will see a large group of mourners gathered in this place, standing amidst the dirt and the dust.  But a new cemetery is being developed, literally right in the middle of the old one.  Called “Leopards Hill Memorial Park” it is privately owned and purports to “offer world class facilities and a tranquil final resting place.”  The front page of their website states “Rest in Peace – FINALLY.”  It is apparently going to be quite a comprehensive cemetery with a “full range of burial products.”

Read more about it HERE.

Today I drove into the park to have a look around.  There is an imposing entrance, a guardhouse and a group of solid-looking headstones near the front gate.

IMG_1440 IMG_1441

Most of the cemetery is still “under construction” but it is not an unattractive place.  There are wide swaths of open field and some new graves scattered here and there – some covered with mounds of flowers.  There are also some headstones set under the trees.

IMG_1437 IMG_1433 IMG_1430 IMG_1410 IMG_1420

As I walked further into the park, I saw what looked at first like a set-up for a wedding and wondered if the park was doing double-duty.  As I got closer, I realized it was for a funeral…obviously a big one, as the large monument was covered in white cloth as if for an unveiling and there were several large tents and canopies set up, along with a portable podium and sound system.  I asked the groundskeeper about it and he told me that it was a memorial service for a former member of Parliament who had died last year.   (I made sure it was okay to take pictures!)

IMG_1415 IMG_1414 IMG_1412IMG_1416

Across the park, I could see another, less elaborate, pavilion set up for a service, with the family getting out of a car and a long stream of mourners walking down the path to the site. 

IMG_1432 IMG_1434

Walking back to my car, I noticed fruit trees here and there.  At first I thought they were apples.  Perfectly round, green fruits with a hard shell, about the size of a grapefruit.  Some had fallen on the ground and there were dried husks lying around.  I took one and cracked it open to see what it was.  Another groundskeeper saw me and I asked him what they were.  He told me they were a fruit called “mazhanje” and he showed me how to eat it.  The pulp inside is actually many small pits – you scoop it out with your fingers and suck the pulp off and then spit out the pit.  It was delicious….sweet and juicy; like nothing I had tasted before.

IMG_1422 IMG_1421 IMG_1425 IMG_1427

When I got home, I looked it up…I THINK the fruit is an Uapaca kirkiana or sugar plum, although the picture on the Wikipedia page did not look quite like the trees I saw.  It is an indigenous fruit and grows wildThey do not cultivate it, but allow the trees to remain when ground is developed.  I have never seen them in stores or markets; apparently they are a big favorite with the locals.

 

Friday market…and lunch at Sugarbush Farm

Standard

IMG_1320

Fridays at the school tend to be somewhat more relaxed than the other days.  The students have an activity period called “Global Issues” which is usually an assembly or other activity.  It’s a half-day – we get out at 12:30.  And…there is the Friday market.

Early in the morning, a few of the local farmers bring their produce and set it up outside the canteen.  You have to be quick – it starts at 7:00am sharp and people are ready for it!  Everyone brings their own large shopping bags and coolers to fill.

IMG_1321 IMG_1322 IMG_1323 IMG_1330 IMG_1334 IMG_1333

There are bags of potatoes and onions, bins of cabbage, cukes, lettuces and packages of tomatoes (which are year-round here) and a variety of other produce and herbs – today there was fresh spinach, scallions, dill and parsley.  My haul included a big sack of smallish onions,  some plum tomatoes, a bag of spinach, some spectacular carrots and more…and it cost only 50 kwacha (about $9.00)

IMG_1324

They also sell beautiful fresh flowers…

IMG_1326 IMG_1327

At lunchtime, there is a different kind of market.  Local restaurants and privately-owned business come in to sell their wares.  In addition, there are a few other produce-sellers.  You can buy corn, pineapples, big bags of apples or pears and avocados.  There is the “Italian Guy” who sells chunks of Parmesan and mozzarella, and packages of prosciutto and other Italian delicacies. And you have a smorgasbord of options for lunch – including food from an Ethiopian restaurant or hand-made burritos from an authentic Zambian-owned Mexican restaurant.  (No joke!  The guy who originally owned it went back to Guatemala and before he left, he taught his employees how to make all the food – and now they run it!)  There are fantastic home-made cookies, fresh-made bagels and snacks like popcorn and muffins. And this happens every Friday!

IMG_1335 IMG_1336 IMG_1338 IMG_1339 IMG_1341 IMG_1347 IMG_1346 IMG_1345 IMG_1342 IMG_1348

Today was the first Friday of the month, and so we had the “Ladies Who Lunch” – just a group of us who meet at the Sugar Bush Farm for a glass of wine (or two) and a nice lunch.  Sugar Bush is a local farm, craft shop and restaurant and it was a great way to unwind from a busy week.

IMG_1352 IMG_1353 IMG_1355 IMG_1358 IMG_1359

Hard to believe that I’ve been here more than a month – and that the first few weeks of school have gone by so quickly!

 

Victoria Falls…and a cruise on the Zambezi

Standard

IMG_1235

The Victoria Falls are considered one the natural wonders of the world.  And even though I went during “dry season” they were still spectacular.   The pictures I took definitely do not do justice to the magnificence of the falls, the cliffs, the deep gorges cut by the river or the scenery.

When I entered the park, I was asked by a very nice young park ranger if this was my first time at the falls. When I said that it was, he offered to take me around and show me everything.  There was no charge (although I gave him a sizeable tip, because he made my experience so much more informative and fun.)  His name was Francis.

IMG_1247IMG_1223

“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

There was a large statue of David Livingstone near the park entrance.  He was the first European to see the falls and he named them after his queen.

IMG_1230

My first glimpse of the falls took my breath away.  The sight of the silver water, cascading down the mile-high cliff was just…well, “beautiful” seems inadequate.  During the rainy season, all the bare rock you see in these pictures is covered with water, and the falls are one huge wall of water, thundering down and creating a smoke-like mist that can make it difficult to see the falls themselves.  In fact, the local (and official) name for Victoria Falls is “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which means “Thundering Smoke.”

IMG_1224 IMG_1227 IMG_1225 IMG_1243 IMG_1246

We could see the bridge that separates Zambia from Zimbabwe.  You can walk across this bridge (you have to go through customs to do so!) and also bungee jump off it!  There were some people bungee-ing when we were there…you could hear them screaming with delight (or fear?) as they bounced down and back.

IMG_1253

After we had taken in the view from several vantage points, Francis asked me if I would like to walk down to the “Boiling Pot.”  This is a place where the water comes rushing in from several directions, creating a churning pool, as if the water were boiling.  He told me that the path down took about 15 minutes, but going back up would take about 25  and that I would be “very tired.”

Of course I said, “Yes!”

IMG_1267IMG_1270 IMG_1272 IMG_1271 IMG_1262

It was a lovely place; shady and cool.  I took off my shoes and socks and soaked my feet in the water.  I would have loved to sit there for the afternoon!

On the way back up (which was tiring, but not a bad climb!) we stopped to rest where a large family of baboons was hanging out under a big tree, playing and chattering in a very human fashion.  There was a mother nursing her baby and after the baby was done, it peeked out over its mothers arms to look at us.

IMG_1274IMG_1277IMG_1279

Back at the top, I realized that I was starving.  I thanked my guide and took off for the refreshment stand.  The only food that they had besides snack-type things like chips or candy were meat pies.  So that’s what I had for lunch…and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a proper British-style pasty, with a wonderfully flaky crust and deliciously spiced beef and potatoes inside.  I devoured it, along with a bottle of fruit punch.

When I got back to my B & B, I took a hot shower and sat in the cool of the gazebo for a while, with a cup of tea.  Then it was time to go on the cruise.  The proprietor had recommended the “cheaper” cruise; he said they served free drinks and you could see much more from the smaller boat!  Four other people from the B & B were also going, so we had a nice group.

It was a wonderful evening.  We were served a huge plate of appetizers, there was an open bar and then we had a braai (charcoal bar-b-que) with chicken and sausage, plus salad, cole slaw and rolls.  We watched the “rich people” boat gliding near us and decided that we definitely got the better deal.  (Apparently that cruise cost almost three times as much and there was no food or drinks included!)

We saw elephant, hippo and some beautiful birds…also more baboons and a warthog who came snuffling down to the edge of the river.  Unfortunately, he was camera shy.

IMG_1286 IMG_1290 IMG_1301 IMG_1299 IMG_1293 IMG_1304 IMG_1306

And as the boat turned around to head back to the dock, we were treated to a Zambian sunset.

IMG_1312IMG_1315

I plan to return to the falls in March, to see it during the rainy season…in all its thundering, smoky glory.

(Oh, and I took a different bus line back!  Much more comfortable and no blaring music – although they did start with a prayer for safe travels.  And given the state of Zambian roads and the way people drive, was not a bad thing!)

Signs and gates…walking a different way!

Standard

 

IMG_1194

Walking in Lusaka is always an adventure in and of itself.  Although a huge percentage of the population walks everywhere (when they are not taking the little blue mini-vans!)  there is a decided lack of sidewalks or places to walk next to the road.  Most roads have no shoulders and because of the torrential rains during the wet season, there are ditches for the run-off on either side of the road.  Some of these ditches are lined with concrete or pavers, but more often, they are simply dug out of the dirt.

IMG_1173 IMG_1214

 

Every once in a while, there is some kind of sidewalk.  Sometimes it is merely a dirt path, but sometimes, the owner of the building will create a sidewalk in front of their property as the Anglican Church has.  It is kind of odd to be walking in dirt and ditches and then suddenly have a proper sidewalk for 100 yards or so before going back to the dirt!

IMG_1207 IMG_1197

Most of the houses and complexes in my area are walled and gated – that is, they have a gate or a sliding door at the entrance that is opened for residents by a guard.   Some are quite simple, like the one at my flat.

IMG_1215

 

But others are much more elaborate affairs, with ironwork and scrolling.  Some of the walls have pieces of glass at the top, to prevent anyone from gaining entrance.

IMG_1212 IMG_1198 IMG_1185 IMG_1182 IMG_1176

 

There are security companies that will provide guards for the complexes and some of the “fancier” places and the embassy residences hire a whole slew of them.  Being a gate-guard may seem like a boring job, and perhaps it is…but the unemployment is so high here that the more jobs that can be created, the better.  One guard saw me snapping pictures on my walk and asked if he could pose!

IMG_1178 IMG_1180

 

The signage along the main roads is quite interesting.  Many of the signs are produced locally and lack the uniformity we are so used to seeing at home.  But some look just like any busy corner in any city.

IMG_1210 IMG_1209 IMG_1206 IMG_1200

 

 

Lusaka is really in transition and a period of growth…but sometimes the money runs out and people abandon their building project, leaving the skeleton of the house or complex incomplete and taken over by the wild flowers.

IMG_1211 IMG_1192 IMG_1187 IMG_1174

 

And always, there is a riot of color amongst the trees and flowering hedges.  Even in this dry season.

IMG_1202 IMG_1199

Hats, hats, hats…

Standard

IMG_1140

Every primary student (up to Grade 5) at the school is required to wear a hat when outside for lunch or recess.  If they don’t, they are restricted to a small shaded area.  The Zambian sun is very hot mid-day and kids could easily get sunstroke.  Copious water-drinking is also encouraged.  Most teachers also don a hat and carry a water bottle when outside.

When I was on a break the other day, the array of hats on the playground was so colourful that I thought I’d snap a few pictures.  Some of the kids were happy to pose for me, showing off their chapeaus.

IMG_1150 IMG_1152 IMG_1148 IMG_1147 IMG_1145 IMG_1144 IMG_1143 IMG_1142 IMG_1139

The older kids have no such restrictions – presumably they have enough brains to stay hydrated and out of the sun on their own.  And for the most part, they do!  The campus is open and there are plenty of ready-made places to sit for lunch, or study or a giggle with your friends.

IMG_1157 IMG_1158 IMG_1159 IMG_1161It is a very different lunch-time scene than ones I am used to, with all the kids crammed into a cafeteria, sitting at long tables and making a racket.  Somehow, being able to find a shady nook to sit and eat with a small group of friends seems much more civilised…

A backyard barbecue…

Standard

IMG_1120

This weekend, the tenants in the flat next to mine had a big barbecue in the common backyard and invited everyone in the surrounding flats to come.  Apparently these weekend barbecues were a regular thing last year, but this was the first one since I have been here.  It was attended by a large number of ex-pats, mostly in their 20s and 30s and most of them working for some service organisation or other.   (These service organisations are called “NGOs” for “Non-Governmental Service Organisation.”)

IMG_1133 IMG_1136

And they were from all over the world, too…some Americans, but also folks from Spain, Holland, France, Venezuela and several other countries.  There were also folks from Zambia; some were service workers as well and some boyfriends/girlfriends of the ex-pats at the party.

The three little girls who are daughters of the on-site manager were also invited.  They had made (with help from one of the girls who lives next door to me) a delicious chocolate mousse.  This was devoured within 15 minutes of being put out on the table.  Other folks had brought offerings such as cous-cous salad, baba ghanoush, some kind of spicy popcorn, fresh pineapple with rum and mint and other kinds of salads and side dishes.

But the real deal was the meat.  The huge grill was filled with charcoal and after the coals had turned to embers, piled with meat of all kinds.  Marinated ribs, sausages, steak, pork, chicken, shrimp…there was even a kind of cheese that could be grilled.  Unlike a typical picnic where the meat is eaten along with the rest of the food, this was like a separate meat course.  Good thing, too, as there was no room on the plate for such things as salad.

IMG_1125

IMG_1129 IMG_1127 IMG_1126

A lively game of Beer Pong was set up and played with great gusto throughout the evening.  I was informed that the red Solo cups being used were “regulation” and had actually been shipped over from the states.  Over near the pool, a more sedate game of Jenga was taking place.  The little girls darted in and out, always somehow having a full plate of food.

IMG_1131 IMG_1138

It was fun talking to everyone about where they’d come from and where they’d been.  After a few hours, I went back to my flat, but the party continued into the night and I could hear the laughter and the cheers from the Beer Pong game for quite some time.

IMG_1132

A walk through an “unplanned settlement” in Kabulonga

Standard

Today I took a long walk…not towards the city, but the other way, into what is called an “unplanned settlement.”  These settlements are areas that have sprung up over the past 40 or 50 years, as people build houses and other structures on vacant or unclaimed land.  The Kabulonga Dam (also called the Kalikiliki Dam) was built across a stream in a marshy area in the 1960s by the owner of the plot.  After several people drowned in the resulting lake, hostility towards the owner (a white man) caused him to give the plot and dam to someone else, who later died. Because the dam is on private land, it has not been maintained since 1990. The current condition of the dam is hazardous. According to Lusaka City Council Engineering Department, seepage has been detected at the base over the past few years and it is in danger of collapsing. The dam wallhas also been heavily eroded as people have built right into it; they have even used soil from the dam wall for construction purposes. The current structure of the wall would not withstand strong currents were the dam to be allowed to fill up.

You can read more about the dam, the settlements and what the government is (and is not) doing about it in this study done in 2007.  CLICK HERE.

I took a right out of my driveway and walked down Sable road.  I crossed the (unnamed) paved road at the end of the street and walked onto the dirt extension of Sable road.  There was a lot of new construction; big houses with yards and carports.  Lusaka is expanding.  I got some curious looks, but mostly smiles and “hellos.”  Then I turned onto the road going towards the dam.  There was a school, with a colorful sign and a group of boys playing soccer with a tattered ball.
IMG_1055 IMG_1056IMG_1057

Although the dam shows up like a blue lake on the map view, in reality it is a marshy area, with piles of trash on either side and houses crowed along the edge.  One of the larger piles of trash was burning, and there were people picking through the smokey rubble.  Where the “lake” would be in the rainy season, someone had planted a large garden, with what looked like cabbages and other greens.
IMG_1071IMG_1072IMG_1059

As I walked further into the settlement, the looks became more curious.  Several times I was asked “Where you going, Madam?”  Apparently the answer “Just taking a walk” was very odd, especially for a white woman dressed in hiking shoes and shorts, carrying two bottles of water in a waist pack and wearing a floppy LLBean sunhat.  I am sure I looked ridiculous.    There were houses crowded in together on the side of the “dam” and little stores – there was even a bar. Lots of grinning children ran up to me, saying “Hi!  Hi! How are you?” and then running away again.  Some of them let me take their picture.  I was apparently quite a curiosity.

IMG_1061 IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1065 IMG_1067 IMG_1068

There was trash and rubbish everywhere.  Plastic bottles, tin cans, styrofoam packaging from food, milk cartons.  All just lying in piles or on the road.  There is no trash pick-up, no place to put the refuse of the fancy packaging from the first world.  Plastic cannot be composted or burned.  People pick through it and sometimes make things…I complemented a little boy who had created a credible truck out of a couple of old milk-cartons and another boy, later on, who had constructed a vehicle out of a wire frame.  But the settlement is basically on top of a garbage dump…and there is no way to get rid of the mountains of trash.  And yet…colorful flowers still seem to grow…

IMG_1070 IMG_1069  IMG_1074 IMG_1076IMG_1077IMG_1073

And then, I took a turn towards town and suddenly I was on a wide paved road with a sidewalk…a rarity outside of the main part of the city.  I made my way towards home, and the sign for the “luxury housing” so close to the settlement I had just come from seemed incongruous.  I stopped at the little stand on corner of the dirt road where I had started my walk and bought some fresh tomatoes, eggs and roasted peanuts.

CLICK HERE to see a map of where I walked!

Scenes from the road

Standard

 

IMG_1045IMG_1047IMG_1046

 

One of the interesting things about Lusaka is that you are literally right at the edge of the bush.  Unlike other capital cities, which gradually get less crowded and more suburban as you drive away, Lusaka goes from congested, crowded city to sparsely populated landscape in a matter of minutes.  There are very few paved roads and even the new “main road” I took out of the city was basically a strip of asphalt with occasional speed bumps to slow traffic down when you reached a small group of “stores” on the side of the road.  These stores were usually home-made affairs, sometimes a simple lean-to made of branches to sell tomatoes or corn, sometimes a bit more elaborate building with white-washed sides and hand-painted signs.  And even in the most remote stretches of road, there were little shacks where you could purchase “top-up” cards for AirTel or another Zambian cell phone service.

I turned off the main road about 20 km from Lusaka (thinking I would find the Blue Lagoon Park…) and drove for another 10 or 15 km on a dirt road.  Here and there were turn-offs with sign for a school or a church.  And there were groups of houses – huts, really – every few kilometers, always with bagged coal at the edge of the road to sell and sometimes with a stand for vegetables.  People lived here.  Most walked everywhere, although the blue and white vans which serve as public transport were in evidence here, too.   No electricity, no running water that I could see.  Most kept goats or chickens and I also saw cattle and oxen.  I assume everyone had a garden plot and the kids went to one of the schools along the road.

Everyone was friendly.  Everyone waved  and smiled at the white lady in the small silver car, slowing down to take a picture.

IMG_1039 IMG_1040IMG_1041IMG_1049IMG_1040 IMG_1052aIMG_1041

Sunday Market and a mini-game drive.

Standard

IMG_0997

For the last day of our new teacher orientation, we all piled into the bus and went to the Sunday craft market at the new Arcades Mall.  This is a smaller market, with many local crafts such as rugs, baskets, masks, statues, fabric, furniture and other traditional African items.  It was a colorful scene and I could easily see doing most of my Christmas shopping here.  Vendors would stand in the middle of the aisle and if they saw you even glance at their wares, would try to coax you closer to take a look.  “Just a look, Madam!  Not to buy!  Just to look!  See what I have!  Just a small look!”

IMG_0993 IMG_0994 IMG_0996 IMG_0991

There were many beautiful items.  I was looking for some baskets for my house and also planned to buy several lengths of colorful fabric to hang on the walls, as the house is very plain and stark.  I am proud to say that I stuck to my plan, although I was sorely tempted by the incredible array of masks and wooden carvings.  I came away with four beautiful hand-made baskets, two with handles and two bowl-shaped ones.  I think I got a bargain on those.  And I bought five 2-meter lengths of printed cloth to hang on the wall.  I think I probably paid too much for those.  But it all evens out in the end.

Then we piled ourselves and our purchases back into the bus for a trip to a nearby lodge and game farm.  This is not one of the huge game parks that are several hours out of the city, but a more sedate affair only about 45 minutes away.  It was called the “Protea Hotel Safari Lodge.”   A beautiful setting on a lake, with a delicious lunch buffet.  As is my habit, I tried some of the more unusual offerings.  The salad table had an enormous variety.  I had some kind of coleslaw-like dish that was made of thinly sliced turnip with a creamy dressing…very nice.  And a cold lemon soup – again, a light cream base and a refreshing taste.  I also had a skewer of marinated beef and what I think was pork, along with an eggplant dish and fresh green beans.  There was the ubiquitous nsmiba to use as a base.  And my dessert was something called “South African Friendship Cake” which was like a very light cheesecake with a crumbly crust.

Protea Safari LodgeLake by the lodgeLazy lion

You could walk around the grounds and view the very tame impala and other deer-like animals who would come right up to the edge of the dining area.  And the lodge has three very old lions – a brother and sister and their father (the mother died of old age last year, apparently) who seem to spend most of their time just lying around, looking as bored as only a cat can.  Then some of us took a short “game drive” with a guide.  No really big game at this lodge, but we did see zebra, warthog, sable, impala, several beautiful large birds and baboons.   And some enormous anthills!  I was not able to get pictures of everything from the bumpy van…but I did get some!  Anthills!A "zebra crossing"Tree grown around another treeAnd baby makes three...A sable

It was a wonderful way to end a week of orientation.  Today all the staff returned and we started to really plan the year!