This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Seems Peaceful - Zambian Wilderness

We are in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia.  There are many people living in the park, which is huge by any standard but now they are associated with the park and its inhabitants' preservation.  At one time there were several villages within the park and over time these villages were relocated.  Still, many people live in villages just outside the park boundaries.  There are no fences and interaction with wild animals is very, very common.

The key seems to be let them know you are there and give each other plenty of personal space.  On the other hand, the game drive vehicles have become common and routine and so many of the animals have come to accept them.  We were cautioned to avoid loud noises, fast movement and to not stand up.  With that consistency, the animals tend to watch you but at the same time ignore you.

Now, I am so happy to be able see real wild African animals, I will bore you with my photo album.

First, Birds.  Just like we have at home.

Then our first glimpse of an elephant out in the bush.  This is why you don't walk around quietly by yourself.

If you need a photo of an elephant I have about a thousand I could share.

Or hippos.

That trunk is a study in itself.  Totally fascinating.  If I was in the 5th grade I would do my report on elephant trunks.
I asked about poachers and they are still a problem, but much reduced in Zambia.
I was told elephant is good to eat but the poachers usually take the tusks and then some of the trunk to eat as it is all muscle and no bone to carry.

We did come upon a baby elephant that had died.  The rangers didn't think a lion had killed it.  It just didn't survive.  We found it by following the smell.

Lots and lots of impalas.  Amazing to see jump.

These warthogs looked like school yard bullies but seemed to get along with the rest of the group.

Termite mounds are fascinating to me.

Vervet monkeys kept showing up.  Eagles and Leopards eat them.

Hippos are pretty quick in and out of the water.

More birds

Water Lilies

Saddle billed Crane

Female lion with five baby cubs.

The cubs were very relaxed, while mom was on lookout.

I look at these guys below and hear Chris Rock asking me "What are you looking at?"

We kept saying, "this is just like a park,"  then realized again that we were in one.

Nice  place to play in the water, except for the crocs and hippos.

This area had plenty of grass so there was also plenty of wildlife.  Those are buzzards in the middle.
I always think of them in the Jungle Book movie asking, "What do you want to do? I don't know what do you want to do?  I don't know, I asked you first, what do you want to do?"  When teenagers are portrayed in cartoons it cracks me up.  Of course I'll never see another seagull without saying, "mine, mine."

This is a white-throated bee-eater.  I am not certain what he says.  They live in holes in the mud banks of the river.

These fellows below could be heard all along the river.  In ten seconds they could all silently drop down in the water for as long as five or six minutes and you would never guess they were there.

Even when moving fast there wasn't a huge noise.

Hippos spend a lot of time grazing up on land and this one died there.

This was the walkway out to our tent/cabin.  We had an elephant down below at times and baboons and monkeys as a nuisance.

Checked out a Baobab tree.  They are quite soft and repair their bark easily.  The blossoms are a frilly white and the seed pods are extremely hard.  The locals make a type of tartar sauce from them.

More Zambia.  I did see a monitor lizard poking around.

This was the local elephant that has the name of "Slash" due to the cut in his ear.  Everyone gives him a wide berth since the lodge came after he was there.  I sat and watched him with two guards for almost an hour until he moved on.

His eyelashes need a bit of a trim.

This is where the vehicle picked us up after a canoe ride.  We were always met with drinks and food.

This is the obligatory African tourist shot.  More drinks and snacks.

I had to look twice to realize that a frog was in the toilet.

We found him all over the bathroom and here in the shower where I took his photo again.

He and I worried about the same things.  "Would food pass by often enough?  Could I get a nice shower at least once a day?  Is there something out there bigger than me that will eat me?  Will someone "flush" before I feel I am finished here?"

So far, we are both living the good life!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Senior Missionary Malady Antidote

Wednesday morning I put on Levi's and we headed south.  It was a four hour drive to the Zambezi River and border with Zimbabwe.  We then made a left turn and headed to the Kafue River to meet our boat.  
The view below was just before the little river lodge where we left our truck and met the boat.  This view is looking back to the north.  The mountains are known as the Zambezi escarpment.  Lusaka and most of Zambia sit on top of that wide plateau.  It is the reason Lusaka has such pleasant weather at 4000 feet.  It is a lot warmer down by the river.

All that dry territory and beautiful rivers.  Not much irrigation to speak of since the soil is so poor.
We were met by Louis then Kristi and I got a two and half hour tour of the rivers in the middle of Africa. 

We had to pinch ourselves that we were really here.
There were folks washing clothes and dishes and themselves all along the rivers.
It is sort of incredible considering all the wildlife around.  As long as you look out for each other and give wide berth, there aren't too many problems.

Just a traditional hollowed out log for a boat.  We saw several out fishing, or just paddling along the way.  I would be a little nervous with hippos and crocodiles about.

This is typical of the scenes that have stuck with me most of all.
It seemed so unreal with a sort of Jurassic Park feel.  Here are elephants and hippos and strange birds.  Everything comes to the river to drink, but the best grazing grasses are further and further away from the river until the rains come.

I would be content to just sit and watch an elephant or hippo all day.  They were everywhere.
The pods of hippo reminded me of the "Jungle Cruise" at Disneyland.  Most pods were between 8 and 25 hippos.  There would be nothing and then there they were.  Just as quickly and noiselessly they would disappear.  We were told that they kill more people than any other wild animal.

I asked several people what animal they feared most.  They all had different choices and reasons.  Many feared getting between a mom and baby elephant unintentionally.
The elephants seemed to be relaxed and own the land.

Everywhere we looked there were these black dots which emerged into flapping ears as we got closer.

Finally we turned in to our river lodge.  We were greeted with drinks and given a briefing on safety for our stay.
1.  Watch out for monkeys - they are "cheeky"
2.  Watch out for the baboons - they will steal anything.  The bathrooms are open so don't leave anything there they can take.
3.  There is a local elephant that still thinks this part of the river bank is his home.  It is, we just let him have his space and eventually he'll move on.
4.  Do not leave the camp area without a "guide".
5.  Do not leave the paths or bridges that lead to your room/tent.
6.  At night you will be escorted to or from your room/tent.
7.  Blow the whistle tied to your bed if you need any assistance in the night.  The night guard will come.

I am thinking - "Is this going to be fun?"  "Will I be lying awake all night listening to the sounds?"

8.  If you would like something, just ask  We are here to SERVE YOU.

Naw, I'm not nervous, I am in paradise! 

I am having fruit juice and ice and humming tunes from "Lion King".

It couldn't have been better!
We ended up with the honeymoon suite and this was our view out on a point all by ourselves with the sounds of hippos and elephants and lions, yes lions.  Sound on the river carries an incredible distance.

I could get addicted to the antidote for my "medical emergency."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cleaning up the Desktop

 Every once in a while even a confirmed slob will clean up.
I suppose this is one of those times.  I am just throwing random photos that are on my computer desktop  in the blog and getting rid of them with a little bit of commentary.
First of all I have had this photo of a street vendor selling sunglasses because one of my sons collects sunglasses in a serious way and perhaps this photo would entice him to Zambia to find something unique.  If they don't have it, they will find it for you.

I have debated if it was a good thing to show a mission vehicle stuck in the mud.  Probably not since I am supposed to be the mission vehicle guru.  Then again I really believe that there should be more 4x4 trucks for just such occasions.  Or at least one for the vehicle coordinator.

This happened on the way back from the Blue Lagoon National Park.  We were on the axle and at least  50 kilometers to the next anything.  The two wheel drive truck doesn't even have posi-traction.  

We started filling the hole with branches and rocks but miracle of miracles, the only other car in the huge park was heading out right behind us.  When they saw us stopped they just drove out around us in the trees and I had to run after them to stop and help us out.  It only took a minute but it would have been an hour or two for us to do it alone.
I would have called it the highlight of the day after seeing all the birds and animals but the real highlight that day was driving out into the dry lagoon that was full of six foot high grass, no roads or paths and heading out at a high rate of speed looking for water buffalo.  It was an endless prairie in the isolated middle of Africa.  In January it will be under six feet of water.

Below is a street near the mission home that had Jacaranda trees in bloom.  I saved it as I wanted to paint it.

This chart below is posted in the water company office.
If you look closely the goals are amazing.
By 2015 they hope to have 80% of the homes hooked up to water.
The supply would be there on an average of 19 hours a day, at a public water supply 12 hours a day.
Their goal is to have that water, when it arrives, 95% bacteria free.
Those are great goals for the future, but what if you get water less than half the time and your water is of the 5% variety full of bacteria?
I'll never turn on a tap of water in California and think about it the same way again.

This lion is in front of the Zambian Supreme Court.  It is in front of the Immigration building where Kristi got "cramped" and had angels flying over her head.  It is decorated for Independence day.

Lady Justice was also decorated.  She is not blindfolded here in Zambia but she does have her eyes closed.  After seeing some of the newspaper headlines I wonder if she peeks at times.

Zambian Independence Day is October 24th.  The locals say it always rains that day and they look at it as a blessing and sign from heaven that their nation is blessed.

It rained the 24th, the activities went on as planned.

It rained hard for ten minutes at a time but we were surprised how quickly the ditches filled and the dirt dried.  The locals tell us the "real" rain will start around Christmas.

Below is a farewell dinner for two couples who were heading home.  Bruce and Vonda Louthan on the right are returning to Moab, Utah.  In the middle are Lincoln and Mary Harvey returning to Vancouver, British Columbia.  We will miss them both.

This is a lousy photo but each day I drive by I think I should paint that lady and her fruit stand.

Below was the only photo I took early one morning after Kristi woke me up.  
I have taken Kristi to the hospital exactly five times before now.  Each time we came back with a new baby.  Fortunately that was not the case this sixth time.  No baby.  Kristi did receive some shots and three types of pills for whatever caused her abdominal pain that soon went away.  
It is sort of a shotgun approach to medicine here.

This was at the "BEST" hospital and newest in Lusaka.  I woke up the guard to get in.  I woke up the receptionist to say hello.  I woke up the duty nurse to get directions.  We woke up the doctor to get examined.  I woke up the pharmacist to purchase the medication.  There were two men in the lab chatting so I didn't need to wake them up.  The doctor was asleep again for the final consultation.  However, this little guy below was not even sleepy and he had the run of the whole place.
I paid less than $45 USD for all that fun and medication in the middle of the night.  Quite a bargain!

I had this photo on my desktop just because this couple looked so modern Zambian.
A nice looking family.

Here is another dinner for the Louthans after the Harveys left.  In the middle are the Humpherys from Hyde Park, Utah.  They have replaced the Louthans as Public Affairs specialists.  The couple on the right are their neighbors, the Lyles, the Humanitarian specialists.

We had District Conference last weekend.  The count was over 700 in attendance.  Elder Ayubu thought I needed his hat more than he did as it started to rain afterwards.  I was happy to have a hat that style as it is the type of "andy cap" I usually wore at home.

So why am I cleaning up?
To be honest, I need a change.  We have been at this office thing for six months and I have never, never, never worked in an office before.  In fact for the last fifteen years I have been sort of carefree and when I reviewed Kristi's calendars we have been away from our home a total of four months out of every year on trips or overnight or visiting our children.  I am not used to being so consistent or doing the bidding of other people.  I asked for "hard things" and I think I got them.

So maybe I am "woosing" out.  One day I knew I had reached my limit and wrote on the President's calendar, "Skidmores Away".  I didn't have a plan or destination but I knew I was going to be gone for a few days or really be GONE.  I do have a tiny, tiny twinge of guilt but tomorrow I have booked a get-a-way at Chongwe River Camp next to the Lower Zambezi National Park for three nights.
I was most excited about the driving directions they sent to get there.  They included photos and "obstacles" labeled.  It also said a 4x4 was essential so I arranged to borrow one.  Three days ago they emailed to let us know the pontoon bridge was out of a river for repairs so now we will meet a boat for a two hour boat ride down the Zambezi to the camp.  This camp is opposite the famous Mana Hippo Pools on the Zimbabwe side of the river.  I am ready for quiet, outdoors, and being pampered.
I know the mission can survive without us.  I just don't want to tell the missionaries where I've been.
Would characterizing this as a "medical emergency" be too misleading?