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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Finding Culture in Zambia

Elephants have a culture.  There are patriarchs and matriarchs and long term relationships.
They have a leader and spend most of their time looking for food and looking out for each other.

It takes many years to train a young elephant so that it can go off on its own.

Sometimes, that timing is not agreed upon by parent and child.

Elephants spend their time when not looking for food, just enjoying each other.  If you watch for a while you can detect their mood and current distractions.

That trunk can nimbly pick up very small items, or whack a youngster back in line.  It can reach twenty plus feet off the ground, even before they decide the item is important enough to get back on their hind legs and reach even higher.  They do not breathe through their mouths so in-between tasks they must keep their lungs going.  They use them as snorkels while crossing rivers.   They hold up to seven and half liters of water for a good squirt down their throat.  Or they can suck up mud over and over to spray on their thick skin, as he is doing below.

Sometimes they just need a good butt scratch and you feel like maybe you shouldn't be watching so closely.

Lion culture also has the males showing up just at certain times.  Most of the time the females stick together with their cubs.  These two females were on the lookout.  The one further back in had two cubs with her.  I couldn't see them.  We were told they were still pretty young so she kept them well hidden.

Here is the newest mom.

One option for our time was to visit a "cultural village" on the Zambezi River.
We hesitated as there were only four of us and the guides would call ahead and the local people would prepare for our visit.

I didn't want to put people out.  I really didn't know how much money they expected to earn from our visit.  I wasn't certain if we should pay more, and I wondered if it would be sort of phony Disneyland type of experience.  But  ---  who knows until you try it.  The basic entrance fee was subtle -  at the end when we signed the guest book, our guides took care of that as it was included in our stay.  There was a tip jar in the dance area and we were happy to contribute but I am never certain what is satisfactory without over tipping and messing up the "tourist culture".  No matter how hard I try, there will always be a difference between the "haves and have nots."  I am slowly realizing I am in the "have" category of this bigger world culture.  With that label comes some responsibility.

We arrived by boat and were greeted by the young fair maidens of town.

We were taught how to greet the "headman" of a village and then individually introduced to him in his hut.  Afterwards they asked us if we wanted to take a photo.  It is always a "yes" for me.

Next, we were treated to more singing and the village spiritual leader blessed us.

Then he went through a ceremony showing how the dead were honored. 

Petronella was our escort and she showed us the grass clothing the women used to wear….

The weapons used in hunting and where they came from.
The spear was the most potent and feared weapon, and depending on how it was held indicated friend or foe.

These are plates they used.  On the left is one woven with reeds, the middle is wood and the right is pottery. 

This village was a little too tidy but not unlike many in use today.

Today you would find many modern items in the homes but their living is still quite simple by North American standards.

Here is where a family would sleep, the father on the right with a wood head rest and the rest of the family on the left with the mother.  One major responsibility for the wife was to always see that the husband had clean water in a vessel in the bedroom.

A village would have a lookout for lions and elephants and hippos and they would try to discourage them from entering a village.  If a large animal did enter they would usually just leave until the animal moved on.  There is a limit on the amount of elephant you can eat.  It is a long walk to a freezer or snow bank.

Kristi is learning to pound maize.

This lady was not impressed with her technique.

Once it is broken down and the chaff separated, it was time to grind it.

First the grinding stones needed to be prepared by roughing them up with even harder stones.
This is done usually about once a week.  The grinding is done every day.

Then the grinding of the fine flour took place.  Kristi did OK at this but I wouldn't be hiring her by the hour.  It would have been a little wait for the pancakes to be ready.

Kristi then had to celebrate that I was not leaving her behind to live that kind of life.
Her dancing skills seemed to improve with time.

I got to try spinning the top with a whip for my part of the program.  It wasn't as difficult as it looked.

Kristi still stood out, even after her frenzied participation.  We are working to be more Zambian.

Some people just weren't impressed with our sincerity.

I think these kids just couldn't wait for us to leave, so they could get back to video games and their mothers could microwave lunch and take them to soccer practice.

We were off again, past the elephants...

Boaters or fishermen in their dugout canoes….

People washing dishes, clothes and themselves.

We saw our last pod of hippos.

Said goodbye to the good life...

Our truck was still in good shape and we headed home past boys playing checkers.

  Culture can be found anywhere.
I think it only takes two to set a standard, then it is a matter of how many will join in.
I suppose the more you have join in the way you live and think, it will result in a dominant culture.

I would join the checker culture above, as it is clear they have no worries whatsoever.

This was the road north and back to our culture.

Let us all be good citizens in whatever culture we belong, and perhaps there will be more peace.