Africa Story # 10
VALUABLE LESSONS LEARNED
learned many things on this trip. Some invaluable information helped to save my life, other things simply were very interesting and may or may not be useful in the future while there was a lot of trivial and monotonous stuff that one can only use to impress people a cocktail party.
An example of useless trivia is knowing what the pleural of animals is called. The problem is that a pleural is not always different from the singular. Have I lost anyone yet? An example of this is deer. There can be one or a thousand deer but they are still deer. Deers is not pleural for deer but instead refers to the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Are you keeping up with me?
I'm sure my readers know that a group of lions are called a pride while multiple painted dogs form a pack. That's animal group studying 101.But this is where the more advanced course in Africa begins. I learned that elephants form a parade, giraffes form a journey ONLY while runningand a tower while standing, impalas form a rank, zebras a dazzle, a group of hippos are a pod, kudos a cluster, impalas a rank, wildebeest an impossibility (really) and a group of mongooses form a mob.What really surprised me is how political primates are in southern Africa as a group of monkeys form a congress, baboons a parliament and mongooses form a business.
Looking for some bribes.
It seems like about every 20 kilometers we came to a checkpoint where police were standing around and able to pull drivers over for ANY reason.They can fine a driver for almost anything including a dirty windshield, a window permit that looks a little faded, a fractured mirror, wrong color of upholstery.OK, I made that last one up but it was almost that ridiculous.They just want a bribe.Not even the police are paid in Zimbabwe today so they make their living on the country's roads like bandits of old. Everyone knows about it and turns their heads.
One time our driver questioned the police officer and said he would be happy to pay the fine if the officer could show him the breach of policy in the regulation book.The office became frustrated and got off the bus and walked away.Our driver won the battle but lost the war.One mile down the road, another officer pulled him over and detained the bus so long that a scheduled plane departure was in jeopardy.The fine was paid and the trip continued. $20.00 US was the average amount paid.
We were on our way to visit a small village and elementary school.We were first to purchase food at the local grocery store and was told in order to save time, we (the tourists) were going to split up the list and make the purchases.The problem was that the list was in one of the many African languages that we could obviously not read or speak. Our tour guide explained that that was the fun of the experience.It forced us to interact with the locals and store employees in order to accomplish the challenge.It was entertaining, the people were very accommodating and we were able to find
Some of things that we bought were the same as our staples while others were out of the ordinary for us.Our list including a 25 pound bag of rice and a large bag of dried small fish that looked like weird sardines.Great for making soup stock we were told.Unfortunately the opportunity did not present itself to try some (did you detect the sarcasm)?
African women definitely hold an inferior status in Africa making it almost impossible to own your own home or business.They are starting more to voice their opinions and become stronger but I estimate they are about 40 years behind women in the United States.We discussed the 60's and burning bras but I don’t think they quite understand the symbolism and not everyone could afford a bra anyway.We tried.
To be continued...
Sheree Everett DVM
Africa Story # 11
The last few days on our month long adventure was in Cape Town, South Africa.The electricity, lower temperatures, swimming pool and wineries made it a fantastic finale.Our last day in Africa was a very long and difficult day of sampling wine after wine after wine (Am I feeling any sympathy?), playing with the ducks and goats but then ended emotionally at Victor Verster Prison.
A quick history lesson for all of my pupils (yes this is plagiarized from Dr. Google);
He wasn't born Nelson Mandela but rather Rolihlahla Mandela in Mvezo, a village on the eastern cape of South Africa, in 1918. He was baptized in a UnitedMethodistChurch and given the name Nelson by a teacher.
Mandela's father, a counselor to the tribal chief, died when he was 9 and Mandela was then adopted by the tribal chief.
He ultimately became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and helped bring an end to apartheid.
During his 27 years imprisoned he was first arrested in 1962 and served time at In 1982 he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison until taken to TygerbergHospital for treatment of TB.After transferring him to Constantiaberg MediClinic he was ultimately taken to his last prison in 1988------Victor Verster Prison in Capetown. He was finally released in 1990 and remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.
Some of his famous quotes include:
"It always seems impossible until it's done."
"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."--------------------------------------------
I literally had goose bumps.
After 1 van, 1 bus, 5 plane trips and a truck,I landed in Medford at midnight to then begin the last leg to home sweet home.A word of wisdom to future travelers----NEVER order the vegetarian option on African Airlines.TERRIBLEwould be a compliment to them. After the second meal being even worse, I refused the others and survived on my breakfast bars and almonds packed until we landed.
Sheree Everett DVM
Africa Story # 12
Folklore and Traditions
spoke English but at differing levels based on their position and exposure to the tourists.Many of the staff in higher positions spoke several languages to be able to work withtourists from all parts of the world.
They succeeded constantly.
We also often discussed those taboo subjects such as religion, politics and sex and they shared their folklore, traditions, and voodoo beliefs.What was amazing was their knowledge of all the birds, mammals, reptiles and fish that were ubiquitous around us day and night, rain or hot hot hot sunshine.They would educate us continuously about the animals traits, patterns, diet, behaviors and sickness prevalence. They could identify the species associated with any track or foot print and also give us an idea of about how old the tracks.This told us about how long along the animal passed and thereforeabout how far they were away from us.
Survival is the lesson that they learn and teach to their children. One sweltering day, instead oftraveling through the bush in an open jeep (to make an escape from charging animals easier) we walked through the bush. Having already used up 8 of their 9 lives from other animal encounters, a few people chose not to participate in this adventure. For protection, an additional tracker went with us to spot potential danger.
The trackers took us to a Blue Quarrybush,broke off several branches and passed them around.We pealed back the bark and exposed the inner green stem.A simple demonstration showed how to open up the greenery, splay the stem outwardly making an excellent tooth brush.The taste was pretty good too.
When we came upon some giraffe poop, our guide picked up many of the hard and round pellets and demonstrated an aspect of his youth - dating and courting behavior.The boys and girls stand in two separate lines, shoulder to shoulder, facing each other, approximately 15 feet apart.The boys would then put onepiece of giraffe poop in their mouth, carefully stand with one foot in front of the other and blow it out towards the line of girls. The distance able to blow this giraffe pellet determines who gets first pick of the awaiting girls.I must say our guide, Jubilee, was very adept at this.After his demonstration, he lined up the men in our tour group for them to give it a try (one Frenchman refused).One by one the men got into position and then attempted this feat but their accomplishments were pretty pitiful in my opinion.Although the girls in their culture don't participate this act, I wanted to give it a try.Only myself and 1 other gal was excited about the challenge.I positioned my body as shown, placed the round giraffe pellet in my mouth, filled my lungs with air and exhaled as far as I could.I was able to shoot the pellet only about 5 feet compared to Jubilees' 15.I know I am an overachiever and was pretty disappointed in myself.I promised to practice more once I got home but have had problems finding any giraffe poop in MoorePark.Darn.
Jubilee started to tell us how young girls use this tree when our female troop leader, Noki,took over saying she thought she should explain this tradition and belief since this was part of her youths experiences.
The trees are covered with sharp thorns of various sizes.The girls select 2 thorns from the tree and pry them off the trunk.This selection is a VERY carefullymade as they believe this is the shape that theirbreasts will develop into.They take the thorns back to their village and have a ceremony to burn them. Of course we had to ask our troop leader, having participated in this folklore tradition as a child, did it come true for her.She smiled proudly and said definitely.
Next blog will reveal how the boys tradition uses the Sausage Tree to guide their development.
To be continued...
Sheree Everett DVM
Africa Story # 13 Folklore and Traditions Part 2
We learned numerous tips on how to live in the bush including the right bush to use for brushing your teeth, the art of spitting giraffe dung to win a girls heart, how to make your breasts develop perfectly, when to run and when to hold still with approaching animals and when to simply say that last prayer.
Since both rhinos and elephants are herbivores, we first had to differentiate their poop, stool, fecal matter or whatever you want to call it.I found this very important as I wouldn't want to rub rhino poop all over me and find the mosquitoes were laughing at me while stinging me.FYI elephant dung is brown and rhino poop is black.One never knows when this type of valuable information can come in handy and be used to impress that special someone.Perhaps in the New York jungles.
I find folklore fascinating as peoples beliefs are occasionally based on fact but usually nothing more than fiction passed down from generation to generation. (http://www.colours-of-the-rainbow.com/african-legends.html)
Our hundred pound petite troop leader, Nonki, was very free to talk about the rituals involving herself at 12 years of age and the Knob Thorn tree.However it was a very different scenario as we approached the Sausage Tree with Jubilee.While standing at the base of this beautiful and massive tree, he described the sausage fruit and its usage.He explained that the fruit was so large and heavy that it would causemajor damage to yourself or vehicle if you happened to be at the wrong place as the fruit fell.Many monkeys were racing around the tree demonstrating this fact.
How did parents and young boys use this fruit as a part of their childhood ritual?Finally peer pressure was too great for Jubilee.We witnessed our friendly, funny and informative 350 +pound confident tracker blush brighter than a red delicious apple.He could survive living in the bush amongst dangerous animals, but was too embarrassed to give us the details of the folklore involving a boy and the Sausage Tree.We pursued it and asked if the scenario was similar to a young girls experiences and he simply smiled and changed the subject.If I remember it correctly he turned away and started talking about how to escape from a charging rhino while in the bush.
In researching the Sausage Tree, I found some interesting statistics but not the answer to our burning question. In addition to however the Sausage Tree fruit is used as a young man, this tree is a very important one in the bush for MANY other reasons. The mature sausage fruit dangles from the long stalks growing over 2 feet long and often weigh over 20 pounds.Yup that would certainly put a dent in ones jeep or head. The blood-red flowers bloom at night attracting bats andinsects while birds and most mammals including elephants utilize its fruit and seeds as a staple in their diet.
The sausage fruit skin is used in making beer as it hastens the fermentation process.I'll drink to that usage. Further uses include using the trunk and large roots to make dug-out canoes and grinding the skin of the fruit to make beauty cream.This cream is believed to have anti-cancer, antibiotic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities and is routinely used today by women as a face cream.I also found on the internet that this product is sold as a Pevonia Botanica for $67.00 per jar and marketed as a breast tissue firming cream.Too bad I didn't have that knowledge while I was in Africa.
Another belief involves theNyami Nyami.(http://www.victoriafalls-guide.net/african-mytholo... eating lunch one HOT day at a restaurant called Mama Africa's, next to the Carnivore restaurant FYI, we enjoyed music and a giraffe dancing for our entertainment.After lunch, the waiter gave each of us a soap stone carved souvenir necklace with a bizarre shaped serpent fish creature on it.This mythological creature named Nyami Nyami lives in the murky depths of the Zambezi.When this serpent fish creature is carried or worn, people believe this river God will protect them while in the water.
I find some of peoples beliefs very strange but yet we have many of our own that others would find strange as well so before we laugh, we must first analyze our own.
If a toad pees on you warts will grow, Don't let a black cat cross your path, When you hang a horse shoe on the wall, never hang it facing down or all the luck will run out of it, Carrying a rabbits foot is good luck (NOT for the rabbit).
To be continued...
Sheree Everett DVM
Africa Story #14
It Tastes Like Chicken
This simple necessity that we perform billions of times through out our lives can become a difficult chore when one travels. As a pseudo vegetarian, I don't usually eat red meat, further complicating this necessity.
We never drank the water in the camps and at times couldn’t even use it to brush our teeth.We often didn't know what we were eating and what to expect in taste.We were sometimes surprised in a positive way and other times not so much.The standard joke, no matter what we were eating is that it tasted like chicken. Tried crocodile? Tastes like chicken.Impala? Tastes like chicken. Giraffe? Takes like chicken. Trust me however that the Mopane [Colophospermum mopane] worms that I atedid NOT taste like chicken.
to truly appreciate the culture and immerse yourself in the environment.
Using this philosophy, I can now tell you where the best gelato is in all of Italy, the best baklava in all of the Greek islands, the best shortbread in Scotland, the best bread pudding in London and the best Peking Duck in China. however was the ONLY vacation that I did not return home 5-10 pounds heavier.I love Chinese food but trust me what we eat in the US is NOT Chinese food.
Due to the lack of burial grounds in many areas of China and Tibet , their religious beliefs against cremation and the high population of people, many deceased family members are dealt with a little differently. Specialists that are trained anatomists, literally cut up the deceased and the body is taken to the tops of mountains or dispersed in certain water ways.The birds and fish then consume the bodies.Many people are therefore hesitant to eat fish and birds for fear that they were involved in this food chain.
Getting enough protein was a challenge.Since my China vacation,I now pack nuts, dehydrated fruits and turkey jerky as a back up.To further complicate my life, we were told not to eat any uncooked veggies and/or fruit becauseof their polluted water.The contaminated waters were a BIG problem and any foods washed would also be contaminated.
After a week in China, I was forced to eat something that I never considered---------Yak.When asked what it tasted like, everyone's response was "It takes like beef".Yak is a huge staple in China and Tibet since it is able to thrive at high altitudes.They have found many ways to utilize this animal.Too many ways in my opinion.We ate yak meat, drank yak beer and ate yak yogurt.I love yogurt but trust me this is NOT a yogurt that I would even feed to Morgan.(Not that I ever give her human food-right?)
Africa had similar eating challenges although I still managed somehow to gain weight. Beef production is huge in Africa and is actually used as their Bride Price.My fellow touring friends learned that I didn't eat red meat and were always quick and happy to give me their veggies as a trade out for these prime cuts of beef we were served daily.Thank goodness for the protein bars and nuts that I packed.
This often does include food.Sometimes this tendency to say yes proves to be a little stupid in hindsight.During a home visit in a small village in Zimbabwe, the local women cooperatively made us lunch cooked on an outdoor fire.They cooked kale and thenblended peanut butter with it.Not bad really.They also served Mopane worms.Knowing that it was a protein source, I volunteered to try them and anxiously ate two. OK, they were pretty disgusting looking and even cooked in lard, weren't very appetizing.Not wanting to look like a glutton I stopped with two worms.Anyone believe that?I actually received a certificate for being a brave sole and trying them.Trust me the certificate was not worth it.When others asked what they tasted like, I said "tastes like chicken".
My next vacation is not so exotic.Hawaii here I come.Seafood will be on my plate three meals a day and trust me NONE of it will taste like chicken.I probably need to pack a pair of spandex.
To be continued...
Sheree Everett DVM