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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Victoria Falls - Zambia

Here is a stock photo that lets you understand the geology of the area.
The mighty Zambezi spreads out trying to penetrate the rock, but the softer rock runs perpendicular so that is the weak spot, and then it finds a breach in each successive band to make fifteen or more gorges so the water zig zags until it moves on being the life force of the middle of Africa again.

The local name for the falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya or translated - "the smoke that thunders".  It is not the highest falls or the widest falls but it claims to the the LARGEST falls based on height X width, or the biggest sheet of falling water.
Below you can see our first glimpse of "the smoke that thunders" from a little known lookout tower. 

Getting closer you can feel the power and the spray.

The trail goes along the rock opposite the falling water.

We rented rain parkas to try to stay a little dry and protect the cameras.

When the wind blew in our direction it was just us and the wet elements.

From the highway bridge where bungee jumping takes place the view is spectacular.

Rainbows show up everywhere due to the heavy mist on sunny days.
Notice on double rainbows the second one is a mirror of the first and the color order is reversed.

This was really Kristi and my second trip to the falls.  We visited with an overnight couples conference back in February.  I feel a little guilty because the young missionaries will not be visiting - we don't really talk with them about some of the recreation we get to do.  I hope they don't read this blog.  :^)

In February I took an ultra light flight over the falls.

It was like being in a postcard.

I loved every minute of it, but it was entirely too short.

Besides seeing the falls, we could see hippos and wildlife from above.

But it is only on the ground next to the water that you feel the power.

Your mind wanders about the dangers and the stories that could be told from over the years.

Kayaking would be great but the risk is 100 percent.

Rebecca had to put her feet in.  I don't blame her.  It gives you such a feeling of being connected to something greater.

Another sunset on the Zambezi, just above the falls.

One of the reasons we coordinated the date of Rebecca and Brent's visit is that we have been vacationing with two other couples every two years for quite some time.  We first met the Griggs and Oborns while serving in the Air Force in Germany in 1974.  When we meet, it is as if we just saw each other last week.  This was the year we were to visit Africa but we begged off for some reason - so the Griggs and Oborns scheduled Africa without us and we ended up turning in papers to serve a mission.  Well, Africa turned out to be on our itinerary anyway.

You will notice the Oborns are not in the photo.  Lynn had a heart attack one week before the trip and was in surgery before Elaine could get to the hospital.  They are very grateful that it happened before they were midway over the Atlantic.  Lynn is doing great and they are planning on coming to see us here next year.

So, what could be better than family and friends and a world class tourist destination?

I am afraid I will bore you with the next post of lots of African animals, but folks, that is what Americans think of when they think of Africa, so I am almost obligated to share.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Visitors - And A Break!

We welcome any visitors we get.  Lusaka is not really a tourist destination.  If fact I could go on about the lack of city parks in a city of over a million people.  Did I say lack?  There are none.  Zero.  Oh wait, the city has over thirty parks on the books but these "areas" have been leased out to industry for a quick kwacha to the cash-strapped government.  It is a total disgrace but far down the list of needs of the citizens of Lusaka.  Where does a family go to experience the beauties of nature when they live in Lusaka, Zambia?

The truth is, if you have a little money you can go to a game park, the Zambezi River or Victoria Falls.
Our oldest child, or "firstborn" as they say in Zambia, came for a visit.  What a pleasure to have our daughter Rebecca and her husband Brent stay with us for a while.

However, because of the lack of tourist attractions and greenery in Lusaka we headed south to the Zambezi river.  Our first stop was the dam that stops the Zambezi and creates the world's largest man-made lake by volume of water, Lake Kariba.  It is 40 miles wide and 140 miles long.  Below is Kariba Dam that started the backup of water in 1958.

Here we are with Brent and Rebecca proving their presence in Zambia.

This is looking downstream.  Zambia is on the left and Zimbabwe on the right.  The river will continue to split the two countries until it enters Mozambique and then empties into the Indian Ocean.

We got to leave the mission for a minute by walking across the dam to the Zimbabwe side.
By the way - this reminds me of what the fish said when he hit the cement wall!

Our rooms were on the lake and Rebecca was finally able to relax away from home, family, and demands of a very active life.

Lake Kariba had kapenta fish introduced into it many years ago and now it is a major industry supplying the needs of Zambians with little minnow/sardine fish about two inches long that are dried and sold throughout Zambia.   The fish are attracted to the lights hanging over the net at night.  When the time is right the lights are switched off and the fish dive into the net and then the net is emptied into the boat.  This action takes place all night long, then the crew sleeps in the daytime.  Often the crew will stay out many days until the hold is full.  If you don't think about the difficult job of the fishermen, the sight of all the lights blinking on the water at night is quite beautiful.

Here we are enjoying a nice breakfast before heading west to Victoria Falls.

We had many miles to go and there isn't much new to see along the way.  The fellow below was anxious to sell us his tortoise and a python skin.  You can see the tortoise at his feet.  The turtle was about nine or ten inches by twelve inches.  I felt sorry for him but a life with us the next few days wouldn't have improved his circumstances.  The python skin was almost twelve feet long and sort of dried and stinky.  I really didn't want either but this guy was a regular car salesman and I took the snake skin to help him out.  How will it look on the garage wall?  Do you think the grandkids will notice it there?  Before they are old enough to read this blog I laugh at the tales that snake will illicit.

This is one of the streams the road passed.  Folks washing and bathing as usual.

So -- we are on our way to one of the "seven natural wonders of the world" or at least a big waterfall!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dinner With the Sisters

We have hosted the missionaries in Lusaka for dinner fairly often.
The Sisters in the Woodlands area felt they would like to have us over for dinner in their home to show their appreciation.  Sister Skidmore was especially thrilled to not be cooking dinner.
Next to Kristi is Sister Jones, Sister Chasinda, Sister Griffus and Sister Jaker.

The weather is usually quite pleasant so we ate outside on their patio.  They cooked a pretty traditional Zambian meal.  We had nshima, relish made up of rape, onion and seasonings (rape is similar to kale and reminds me of spinach), beef stew full of tomato and onion (also used as a relish), beans and rice.  Kristi made a lemon cheese cake for dessert.
You will notice that we had spoons and forks on the table because rice is pretty difficult to eat with your fingers if it is the fluffy kind. 

When we started eating I asked Sister Jaker if I could take a photo of her technique of eating.
You must first have clean hands and then get a small ball of nshima and with your thumb, get some relish to give it some flavor and a little more nutrition.  Then you sort of delicately pop it into your mouth without touching your mouth.  You NEVER lick your fingers, that is like "double dipping".  It is important to only use the same hand (usually the right) the whole meal for sanitary reasons.  You still don't really need a fork if the rice is sticky enough or you can gather it with the nshima.

Nshima is made up of ground cornmeal and water.  Depending on what area of Zambia you live in you might have ground Kasava root mixed in for a slightly different flavor.  If you do have kasava in it, the nshima isn't quite such a brilliant white but more off-white.

The food here is very tasty as long as you don't eat nshima all by itself.  Everything is so fresh that the flavors are really wonderful.

Friday, April 18, 2014

New Computers?

Often we are caught up in other peoples' decisions that affect our lives.

Here is a small and trivial example.
It "was time" to replace all the computers in the Mission office.
I had just spent ten months trying to learn Microsoft again after joyfully switching to Macs to make my life easier.  Finally, I was sort of comfortable in doing my job.  But no, it "was time" to replace and upgrade.

I asked for Macs but the folks in South Africa just laughed and said there is no support for Apple in Zambia.  Once I had the correct specifications and bids I bought 4 new computers and waited for the experts from South Africa to show up and install them.  In the meantime they finally agreed to replace the fifth computer in the office, the only computer that had any issues at all.

Famous last words: " Don't worry, we will be in and out in a jiffy" and "we won't leave until you are trained and feel comfortable."

Here is a very nice man, Graham Walker.  He has taken over my office for one full week.
It seems my computer is the master for the other four with lots of other switches and programs that are still a mystery to me.


This is Dudley Vorster, below, at Kristi's desk.  She wasn't able to get anything done for a week either.
Graham and Dudley have worked together for eighteen years.  They speak a different language, and I am not talking about Afrikaans.  "Computer speak" is the most frustrating language, as you can pronounce the words but the meanings are not remotely related to any definition you had relied on your entire life.  Dudley was entirely too cheerful during this painful operation.

Everyday, we were assured whenever we asked a question, that ALL would be explained in the training we received before they left.

The last day arrived.  Finally, late that afternoon I sat at my desk and started down my list to see if I could just access my usual tasks.  After thirty-five minutes Graham and Dudley "had to go" to check out some of the other church computers in town.  We were left with upgrades in Microsoft, Outlook, Excel, Word and IMOS.  Nothing looked the same or worked the same.  We all had new printers and it now takes two extra clicks to do anything on them.  I have back ups and more back ups and now I take a removable drive home with me.

Apparently, it "was time" for more learning and more stress.
Now it might just be my generation that shares my feelings.  Notice Elder Packer below.  He is excited to have the latest and greatest and sees the expanded opportunities with upgraded equipment.

I never thought I'd see the day that I was content to just do things the same way, every day.
Maybe that is why some of the missionaries call me "Older" Skidmore rather than Elder Skidmore.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Young Men's Activity

A couple of Saturdays ago we had a Young Men's activity in our branch.  Here is our group of participants before we started.

Part of the activity included food as usual.

Teams were formed and each team was given the same ingredients.

There was no hesitation on getting started.  These young men know how to cook.

Tomatos, onions, carrots and sausage are standards.

No nshima was eaten today.  The basic was rice.  Some boiled, some fried.
Three bowls from each team were prepared for the judges.

Kristi got to be one of the judges.  By the time it was ready we were ALL ready to eat.

The winners had not fried the rice and had gone easy on the salt.
Sandwiches were also made to accompany the main course.

During the meeting part of the function, Dino was awarded the Young Men's "Duty To God" award that he had earned over the last couple of years.

This is the medallion he was given.  All the young men were told about the program and encouraged to improve their lives individually by setting goals and accomplishing them.

I was asked speak for a little bit so I told a story about how doing your assigned task to the best of your ability is all we are asked to do.  When we do that, everything seems to fall into place.

Every activity seems to take most of the day.  Time is not critical for some reason.  I seem to be the only one who is anxious to get going and start, and then move on to the next portion of a program, but I must relax more and just let things flow like everyone else.  Here all these young men hung around and everything just progressed at a steady pace.  Perhaps in the USA we are over-scheduled and finish "on time" and move on to the next activity not taking the time to just enjoy each others' company.
Here was a wide range of ages and everyone stayed on task and socialized, deepening their relationships.

Waste Not, Want Not

This hose sits on our lawn and is used for four or five different yards.
I finally took a photo of it as I was amazed at how many patches were on it.  I counted fourteen but it is still used everyday for washing cars and gardening.

I have often thrown something out just because I thought it looked shoddy.
I would have a lot more money in the bank if pride wasn't such a factor in my life.
But then my pants and house windows don't get a little extra spray when the this hose is directed elsewhere.  Disposable money is not available in much of the world and the choice to repair something is then obvious.  
I suppose life is all about choices and deciding what is most important to you in the long run with what resources you have available.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How the young Sisters dress

This blog has brought a few inquires from future missionaries about how the sisters dress here in Zambia.  I really hadn't thought about it so I started to notice and asked if I could take photos of the sisters who were coming to our home for dinner.
Sister Rakotonindriana uses a bag that is made locally out of chitenge material.

Sister Lyon uses the recommended shoulder bag.

Sister Vea uses a colorful backpack.

So all three types were being used in the same flat.
I next asked to photograph their shoes.  I don't know how stylish or practical they are but they said they worked well.  Even in the rain the mud doesn't stick too badly.  Everyone walks around the big puddles and the soles just track red into the houses.  I notice the sisters usually leave their shoes on their porch.

Here are the four happy sisters after dinner.  Sister Vea from Laie, Hawaii; Sister Lyon from Morgan, Utah; Sister Rakotonindriana from Madagascar; Sister Gehring from Houston, Texas.

Mormon missionary dress doesn't stand out much in Zambia as the locals dress quite conservatively.  School uniforms and slacks and ties on young men and suits on older men is common.  Women wear very nice  western style clothes but many will still use a chitenge to wrap around the lower half to keep their clothes clean.  (Sister missionaries don't wear chitenges when out).