Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pictures, not words

Brain a little slow of late, so a small selection of photos from the past few weeks.

Hope you all had a great Christmas....



Zebras in the rain in the Ngorongoro Crater



The ruined church where we got married last year



The Serengeti



Zanzibar

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My year in brief(s)

To copy Mud and Tam I thought I'd take a look at my year so far. I know I promised you migration pics. Oh and sofa pics. All in good time my patient readers, I'm struggling to get them uploaded, downloaded whatever its called. So, while we wait for those....

January
See in the new year through bleary half drunk eyes from our hotel room in Saigon on honeymoon. Never seem to manage to see the new year in properly. Any other day I can (probably) stay up til dawn but the pressure on new years eve? naaa, always fall asleep like I've been knocked on the side of the head by Popeye with a big rubber mallet. I suppose all that booze doesn't help. So anyway, our grand plans of seeing the new year in lively and awake in the buzzing streets of Saigon was in reality viewed from our (very nice) hotel window, me asleep and drooling in the armchair and brand new husband trying to coax a wee bit of champagne down my throat. Can't fault the man for trying. Think he drank the lot himself in the end, good man.

Started off in Hong Kong and after Vietnam went on to Laos and Northern Thailand. Cooooool trip. Rode an elephant.

Come home mid Jan to a new life in a new town in a new country. Had moved a couple of months before to Tanzania from Zambia. Reality of this hits home.

Turn 32.

February
Explore this new place we've moved to. I volunteer for a few weeks with a local acrobat troupe made up of street kids.

March
Spend three weeks at Swahili school. Every day from 8 in the morning 'til 5 in the evening, plus homework. Feels like drinking water through a fire hydrant but I learn a lot and fast. A quick, secret trip to the UK visit the in-laws since they couldn't make it to our wedding in December. It snows.

April
Travel to Zambia. A two week visit to the Serengeti and surrounding areas looking to set up a Maasai speaking drama troupe. Amazing. See the migration, see lots of different Maasai dance troupes and a wedding (not sure how that happened!)

May
Go to Olduvai Gorge and see the origins of man. Amaaaazing. Go with a funny very knowledgeable man who always wears a bowler hat and who dug here many moons ago with Mary Leaky. He is full of gems and we stumble upon many old fossils just lying about. I fondly think back to my childhood dreams of wanting to be an archaeologist and realise that it would probably be quite boring and hot actually.

June
I start to blog. My life is changed forever. haha. not really. I go to Zambia to start Seka off on a new project. Spend the week living in the village way out in the sticks doing what I love best.

July
Spend some time with my mother who is having an exhibition in Nairobi. I go to the opening and she comes and hangs out with us here for a few weeks. We spend most of our time sitting in the fireplace.

August
Go to Zanzibar for the long weekend. Help out with some safari guide examining in the Serengeti. I get my bike.

September
My company is set up and work permit approved. Have a fun time being an extra on the BBC sitcom Taking the Flak (coming to screens near you in 2009!)

October
Train and form a drama troupe and create a play for a company that works with street kids. All in Swahili - challenging but fun.
Get a cat

November
Go to Zambia. Again. Create a new play and a radio drama. Catch up with everyone and bring back a year's worth of finances to go through. Yuk. Pick up my new passport with my new surname. I am now a different person.

December
More safari guide examining. In-laws arrive and we head out to the Serengeti and tomorrow to Zanzibar. So on that note dear friends. Have a fab festive time and see you on the other side.....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Off to check out some wildebeest and other status updates

I don’t spend hours on Facebook playing scrabble, poking people and sending them fish but I do like to update my status when I get a chance. I have had a bit of writer’s blogging block of late so I have made a deal with myself that at the very least I should write a Facebook style status report on my blog. Even if it’s just a sentence.

So. To bring you semi up to speed:

Sometime last week – Miranda reckons that Dr. Seuss is right: those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter

Yesterday's - Miranda is a leopard...not svelte...not powerful....not beautiful....not majestic....not rippling with muscles....not a supreme killer....but....spotty.

And today, Miranda is going to check out some wildebeest. Going to the Serengeti with the in-laws to see if we can catch the migration. Not literally, you understand, that would take much more time and equipment than we actually have. haha. So we'll be back on Wednesday with tall tales and lots of pictures.

A good weekend to ya'll

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sevens

The lovely mud has tagged me so here goes:

7 Things I Must Do Before My Parents Arrive

In my case 7 things I must do before my parents-in-law arrive. And they have already. On Tuesday.

I got married last year in December and at the last minute they couldn’t make it as mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and not allowed to travel. All clear now though and this is their first trip to visit us since we moved to Tanzania. So it is a Christmas visit as well as a trip to Zanzibar to see where we got married etc.

So 7 things I should have done before they came on Tuesday

1. Buy furniture (well, bought a small table, that’s as much as we could manage! Borrowed the rest)
2. Ask them to bring champagne duty free (done, yea!)
3. Book trip to Serengeti and Zanzibar (done)
4. House train the new kitten (ah, not yet. Is that actually possible?)
5. Print off wedding pictures (one year late but yes, done finally!)
6. Oh bollocks, thanks for reminding me – buy presents. Aaaah! (Not yet done)
7. Find a tree (not managed I have looked and looked. When I lived in the bush we’d just go and find a pretty piece of driftwood or cut down a small thorn tree and decorate it with different sprayed pods. But I can’t do that here in this wee town and can’t find anything appropriate. Someone at the nursery tried to sell me one but it was only about 30cm. Maybe in about 4 years it would have grown enough?)

7 Things I've been Doing Instead Of Preparing For Christmas

1. Playing with the kitten
2. Flitting off to Zambia for work
3. Trying to get back from Zambia despite canceled flights
4. Laughing hysterically
5. Hiding
6. Sitting in snarly fishing-line-tangled traffic
7. Swearing

7 Things I Can't Do This Christmas

1. Swear
2. Find a tree. See above!
3. Eat Turkey. We’ll be in Zanzibar eating lobster instead. Suits me fine!
4. Fight with the baboons. Woohoo!
5. See snow. Coz that would be a little worrying
6. Wear a silly hat. Please please don’t make me
7. Fart. I will of course but not in front of the in-laws!

7 Christmas Wishes

Ah you know, the usual. World peace, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. But second best:
1. That my friend Janine gets better
2. That my sis and her gorgeous beau have a happy happy life together. I get it now, I do
3. That we can all remember to laugh at ourselves a little more, even when the going gets tough
4. That we remember to stay positive and that things could be worse, they really could
5. That all those that have just been made redundant in my corner of the globe cope okay. And everywhere else in the world too
6. That next year is even better than last for all my blogging friends (including those I have yet to discover!)
7. That ‘that secret issue’ goes really well and relatively painlessly!

7 Things I Say As Christmas Approaches

1. Must buy presents
2. Must buy presents
3. Oooh we’re going to Zanzibar
4. Must buy presents
5. Zanzibar here we come!
6. Bollocks, what presents am I going to get people?
7. Ah whatever, I’ll think of something to get them. Maybe in Zanzibar

7 Celebrities I'd Invite For Christmas Dinner

Do I have to? I was hoping for a quiet ego-stress-free time. Okay let’s think.

1. Billy Connolly for the laughs and the accent
2. Kenneth Kaunda, first president of Zambia. To play his guitar and tell us tales of Saddam Hussein
3. Bono so that he can discover Janelle and get her a recording contract
4. Mark Ramprakash. For the eye candy
5. Judy Dench - she seems nice and capable of helping with the hosting
6. Kristin Scott Thomas coz she seems really nice, doesn’t she?
7. And maybe a very quick appearance by George W just for entertainment value. Stir things up a little. I think he would be quite fun to throw into the mix. Not for long, mind

Do you think they’ll all get along?

7 Favourite Festive Foods

We’ve never been a massively traditional family, doing the whole Christmas thing in all it’s splendour. Partly I suppose because we lived in the bush where it was virtually impossible to get tomatoes let alone turkey and brandy butter and Christmas pudding and partly because my parents were hippies trying to shun all that stuff. And for that I thank them.

I got my first taste of real Christmas food though, when we got new managers in to the safari lodge where we lived. I must have been ten, I guess. Ginny was a genius, I have no idea how she did it but we had the whole Christmas shebang. For the guests at the lodge of course but there was no FHB for the first time ever!* Turkey, Christmas pudding (is that the one with the coin in?) everything. She even got Jeremiah the head waiter to dress up as Father Christmas and give out presents to all the staff’s kids. Who where absolutely numb with fear. They literally just stood there rooted to the spot and BELLOWED!

The point of this? Oh that I’m not really sure what proper festive food is. Things that always seem to be around at Christmas that I love:

Brandy butter. Number one. I might start having this every day of the year actually. On my toast in the morning.

Marzipan.

All that booze

Ah you know what, all of it. Bring it on.

7 Other Bloggers Who Can Play Festive Seven

1. Val
2. Tam
3. Dumdad
4. Family Affairs
5. Angela
6. Reya
7. Lori
(if you can be bothered)


*FHB Family Hold Back. Let the guests eat first. Not enough of that so can’t eat/drink it. My grandfather was horrified if we ever asked for a coke (not often!) He would describe in detail the 3 day journey that bottle of coke took to get here, all along the bumpy road, in a truck especially booked to bring the coke for the paying guests not us. True. I still see Chitumbi the barman with his serious frown saying “No coke staff”. To this day coke seems such a guilty luxury! Makes it taste so much better.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snakes Alive

A few years ago, as I was going into my house, I heard a clunking sound. So being a brave girl I went over to my aunt's house and asked her to come and investigate the sound with me. It was coming from the bathroom so we went in and looked around and couldn't see anything. It almost sounded like a plumbing clunk so I went to the sink and checked the taps. Right above the sink, nestled into the corner was a wee shelf. Just above head head height. Nothing untoward with the taps so we turned to leave, mystery unsolved. 

Then.

From that wee shelf nestled in the corner, launched a massive cobra. At our heads. It was just trying to escape the poor thing but it did land on our heads and I'm ashamed to admit I did shriek like a girl having her pigtails tugged.    

Then my uncle came and shot it to pieces. In my bathroom. Quite scary in itself!

Anyway, that's just background for you. 

A few months later I was working in the nearest town and had a hideous 4 hour commute on Monday mornings on a corrugated tin roof of a road. So I'd wake up at 3 in the morning and drive to Chipata. One such still morning - you know the silence at that dead dark time - I heard a clunk coming from the bath. The light switch was on the other side of the bathroom so as I scurried across to switch the light on I snuck a quick look in the bath. And through the filtered moonlight, in the bath, I saw a big shiny writhey black cobra.

So I went back up stairs. Woke up bleary eyed boyfriend. There's a cobra in the bath. Come on, hurry. Here, wear these glasses, its a spitting cobra. He confused. Just woken up, not sure what he's expected to do anyway (me neither actually but just needed a witness I guess). Go down the stairs. Be careful. Big cobra. Massive. Switch on the light.

And there.

In the bath.

In all it's glory.

A pair of socks.

Needless to say I've never lived that one down!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I might have thought it could have been a dove


"I might have thought it could have been a dove" is my all time favourite safari guide exam quote. I've just got back from another three days of examining new safari guides. It was...well much the same as last time. This quote is from years ago and although there have been many close contenders nothing has beaten it yet. I shall continue to search. 

I got my kitten back from Janelle yesterday who was looking after him while I was in Zambia. Is much bigger and still gorgeous. The kitten that is, not Janelle! I wish I could teach him how to make tea - wouldn't that be cool.  Right now he is sitting on the windowsill chattering at the birds who are freaking out and flitting above his head, just out of reach. Maybe they're not freaking out, maybe they're just tormenting him...

And I've just realised it's nearly Christmas - how did that happen? Having been in Zambia in the bush for the past three weeks you don't really notice, but now that I'm back in town suddenly there's shiny things everywhere and all the poor staff at Shoprite have to wear silly red Father Christmas hats, poor folk.

My in-laws are coming soon - oh-my-god-on-Tuesday and we have nothing for them to sit on or anything. Eeeeeee, I'd better get cracking and try to make the place a little more...umm... habitable. Is that a word? 

Ah, can't get the picture up. Maybe later.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On plays and puppets and the like




Elephants and people. Seems to be the talk of the town at the moment. Well, with Val and Tam anyway.

So how does one make a play that shows the importance of conserving wildlife to people whose lives are threatened and whose crops are destroyed daily by elephants? To balance it out without sounding too preachy, to weave together all the different points of view and at the same time of course making it exciting and fun to watch?

Well, I think we did it. I hope so anyway. We spent about two months researching in all the villages where we'll be performing so hopefully it'll be based in enough reality to have an impact. It's a fun play. Serious but fun. Big issue of course. VERY complicated and political and controversial. The play is full of fun images and humour and great songs. They were still rehearsing when I left, finishing up making props and such, so I haven't actually seen how it will go down but I'll hear soon enough…..

Props. Simon has been working on this elephant. Simon has a special brain. He will sit and think of a prop, an image, a problem and come up with the most fantastic solution. Our plays are very visual while keeping the props simple and clever and Simon is a master at this. We had a fabulous Australian puppeteer, Sandy, come and spend a few months with us once and she taught us how to make various kinds of puppets. Everyone made fantastic and weird and wonderful puppets but Simon? Simon made this amazing, gorgeous COMPLICATED child with strings and pulleys and all sorts. And Sandy was gobsmacked.

We managed to scrape together some money to go and watch the Lion King in South Africa. This time Simon was gobsmacked.



Anyway, so we've had a few different elephant images in our plays over the years but this time decided to try something new. I didn't see the finished product but Simon sat very still and alone for a long time with a stick in a patch of sand, drawing, rubbing it out, drawing something else, frowning, smiling, enjoying the puzzle. By the time I left he had the head made, with a mechanism for the ears and the trunk as well as a sort of overalls thing for him to wear with a perfect elephant-knee movement.

So I'm back. Had a great trip and will write more on it soon soon....



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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Babe in the woods




My mother got a phone call the other morning from Abraham saying “Miranda, Pam, we have a baby nkuku here please come and get it!” A nkuku is a chicken, so my mother was thinking, okaaaay, that’s weird. Oh well, I’ll go up and see what’s going on. Turns out it is not a nkuku it’s a PUKU. A darling gorgeous antelope that’s not found in many places in Africa.

This morning we heard a commotion in the bush out across the dambo. Elephants trumpeting and going crazy all morning. And then a few hours later this teeny tiny wobbly-legged puku came tottering across the dambo. Could be that there were lions across there that killed its mother.



So if you know me or if you’ve read this post you’ll know that I have had my fair share (and then some) rearing baby animals. And somewhere buried in the dark cobwebby recesses of my storeroom is a biscuit tin full of baby bottles, special teats, syringes, droppers and all sorts of baby feeding paraphernalia – ranging from stuff for the smallest mouse in the whole wide world (which occur here – the babies are the size of fat ticks!) to birds, to antelope to leopards to elephants.




So. Out came the trusty box, on went the water to boil, out came the milk to warm up in went the feeding kit to sterilize. My mother and I laughing all the while at how many times we had done this. The up every few hours in the night for feeding, the trying really hard not to get too attached for the first few days until the danger period is over. How many times our ragged hearts have broken over these small creatures.




So it has imprinted on us, following us around, has found a small little nookie in my mother’s kitchen where it likes to sleep. My mother has been renovating and the floor is out but that’s good because at least it is rough and it doesn’t slip and slide on the shiny cement floor. Although a worry is that there is no gauze on the windows yet and a leopard might jump in and steal it. I hope not!

Anyway, so there you are. Our excitement for the day. For the next few days. Hopefully for the next few years….
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Then and now - same same sugar same


Every morning at about quarter to five the baboons jump on my roof. There is about 3 millimetres of tin roof between me and the thudding of baboon, dropping from where they roost a few metres up in the tree above the roof. And I swear to god it sounds like they are dropping a piano or a cast-iron bath onto the roof. And then they spend the next 40 minutes full of the joys of dawn running up and down the roof. Right above my head. Up and down, up and down, wearing massive big cement boots. You know it’s coming but every morning its heart-leaping-onto-the-pillow fright at the sound. Man. So needless to say it’s been early mornings for me since I’ve been here.

The rains have started, the cicadas are so loud they sound like they’ll vibrate your ears off, and it’s the beginning of 5 months of rain rain rain. Mud mud mud.

My mother showed me an e-mail I sent to her in mid December 2002. It went like this:

“How is it that our poor little human brains always forget about the rains and all she brings. It surprises me every time. So everyone is gasping in horror that five cars slipped off Jake’s new road into the mud axle deep (to Jake’s particular horror – just as he fixed it up) and that salt doesn’t come out of the salt cellar and that Georgina got bitten by a scorpion THREE times in bed, and that mosquito bites are starting to fester and that the Chipata road has been washed away with the BP and Christmas supply trucks lined up behind the washed away bit and wondering what the bollocks to do NOW. And that the toilet seats are always wet and you’re never sure if its wee or rain water. And that the cat looks PERMANENTLY bedraggled and PISSED OFF. And the phones? Why on earth don’t THE PHONES FUCKING WORK??? Oh and the rotting flying ants in the light fittings. Oh, you know it all, you’ve been there too (but do you REALLY remember or is it blocked from your memory like it seems to be from mine.)

“…………everyone is discussing turkey carols over the phone constantly over the radio. Along with ‘so-and-so is stuck in the mud’ please send help.

“There is the hugest croc lurking in the mud in the lagoon. Eeeeee”

So compared to this year (one month earlier):

-Haven’t heard of anyone slipping off the road yet but will start happening soon, though. One more big storm.
- Salt – yes
- Scorpion. The Phiri family, who live a few hundred metres from us had scorpion encounter. Gideon came over to my mother’s house night before last in a small panic saying that his wife, Esnat has just been bitten by something, they think it may be a snake. We rush over - quick torch sweeps looking for hippos or eles in the path - and at first it looks really bad. Her foot is black. Shit. My mother dashes off to get the car so we can take her to the nearest hospital (an hour’s drive away) but before she goes I have another look and realise that’s it’s a combination of herbs and charcoal (“traditional medicine’, says Gideon) that’s been rubbed on her foot. We wash off the charcoal and look for fang marks; nothing. She is in SO much pain. “If it’s really really painful” we tell her “it’s a scorpion, not a snake. And if it was a snake the site of the bite would be higher.” She calms down a bit. We’d probably tell her this anyway to try and stem the panic. The family looks visibly relieved. They have 7 children and they’re all sitting in the shadows looking terrified. I go and see her the next day and she’s fine. But exhausted. She didn’t sleep and is breast-feeding twins on top of that. Ah, man!
- Rain on the loo seats. Uh huh. Big storm a few nights ago. Stood in the middle of my mothers house and got DRENCHED! Wind blew the blinds right off. And blew over a tree in my uncle’s garden – which we only noticed a couple of days later!
- And the phones? Well, there were no cell phones in those days so the land-lines must have been down. Now the land-lines work, I think, but not the cell phones. How quickly we come to rely on these things.
- Oh and power cuts power cuts power cuts.


Aaaaanyway, bla bla bla! Having fun but hectic crazy busy. Great to be reunited with the actors here for a couple of weeks although everyone porridgey and lethargic in this heat.

Miss ya’ll but don’t have much time on internet – stolen computer time – so will have to catch up properly on your lives when I get back.


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Friday, November 7, 2008

Rains



There is a change that happens here every year that is so determined, and so sudden that if you slept too long you’d miss it. And it is so ingrained in my soul that as soon as I stepped off the plane yesterday I nearly cried. In October it is hot. Hot.

Hot.

Hot.

And dry. The cicadas play as if for the London Philharmonic, to the extent that in some patches of thick mopani woodland (such as where our little family village is) you have to shout above the noise. And your s’s cannot be heard.

And everything is brown. And dusty. And when the wind blows it’s that convection-oven-heat that you cannot escape from. 40 plus degrees Celsius.

The trees are all bare, reaching up for the sky praying for rain. The animals, the insects, everything seems to be holding their breath. Waiting for those first big fat happy singing raindrops to spatter down onto the dusty earth.

At night you have to sleep with a wet chitenje cloth over you and within seven minutes its dry-season-leaf dry again.

And everything shimmers. Mirages everywhere. By 6 in the morning it is scorching, animal bones seem to whiten and desiccate within hours.

And then.

The trees dream up some moisture from somewhere and suddenly, unexpectedly (even though you know this is coming) they sprout the greenest freshest cutest little transparent looking leaves you’ve ever seen (except last rains, of course). Within days, like whispered gossip, word has got out and almost all the trees are proudly wearing their new lingerie – see through, sexy and oh so tantalizing.

You start to hear all the different bird-calls. The migrants. Distinct, rainy season birds. That sound just opens up my heart, dissolves it like a sunny blue sky in the winter.

And then the air changes viscosity. And the bated breath-ness tension in the air hovers.

And hovers.

And then she comes. That first storm. Never just a sprinkling, a spitting. Always a massive theatre production – a musical – the black black backdrop, punctuated by thunder, lightening, towering clouds.

And the clouds tip upside down and dump their heavy load.

And this makes my heart sing.

Until February comes along and we’ve had three months of solid monsoon type rain. The mud is ankle deep, every little scratch turns septic, you’ve had malaria 4 times already. The rain blows sideways and comes into your house, soaking your bed. The blinds get blown off the windows so your house is permanently drenched. Everything is mouldy; nothing dries.

And then you dream of a gentle European spring with gamboling lambs and pretty bluebells nodding in the gentle breeze.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear Mr. President

In the past week there have been two presidential election results I’ve been holding my breath for and mighty relieved at the results. The US one I exhale deeply, dance a little jig, clicking my heels mid-air. And the rest of Africa is doing the same. Really. I bought a paper in Arusha on my way to the airport and two thirds of the paper was about Obama. In America. In Kenya. Everywhere. A little town in Japan called Obama, hoping to ride the wave. My sister wants to start a Facebook page called “I am Obama’s distant Kenyan cousin”. Heh. Every other word on the streets of Lusaka today is Obama. I cannot find the words for this victory.

And the other election results that I click my heels about are the Zambian ones. P.H.E.W. Phew. As you may or may not know our president died in August after a stroke. He was considered a good man, and did much for the country and it was sad for him to go. So elections were held again and Rupiah Banda, who was the vice president and who is from my neck of the woods, won. It was very very close. The opposition is a staunch Mugabe supporter and I shall not detail my opinion on this here public forum. You can’t be too careful. Anyway, it was a close call. The country is fizzing with election buzz. Zambian and American.

Last year I was in Chipata, a small town in Zambia attending the Ncwala ceremony for the book on traditional Zambian ceremonies that my sister and I were working on. I was staying in a little hotel just outside of town and was chatting to a few people in the dining room over breakfast. I had been on the TV a few months before and for some reason the interview had captured a lot of people. It was quite bizarre. I had brought a play to a small festival in Lusaka and we did a short skit for the TV followed by an interview. It was done in one of the local languages, which I speak and do not think is a big deal. But for some reason everyone else thought it was. Very funny. So everywhere I went around the country people would stop me and say “ah! We saw you on the TV. You were speaking Chinjanja!” Anyway, so I got chatting to these people in the breakfast room (hey, we saw you on the TV etc etc) and it turned out they were the entourage of the then vice president (now president) Rupiah Banda. And then he came in for breakfast and I was introduced to him and he said “Ah yes, I know who you are. You are Norman Carr’s granddaughter. You do the drama.” Eeeee. Spooky!!

So dear Mr. President(s) I am very very pleased that you both won and I am sure you shall both rule well and wisely. I would like to give you good words of good counsel but presidency is not really my field, and anyway I’m sure you have lots of advisers and everything who can do that for you, and tobetter effect than I. So good luck and be true.

Ah, I had hoped to write a profound stirring post about winds of change and all that bla, but I shall leave that to the professionals (such as Obama himself).

Congrats all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

To be continued...

'



I'm heading to Zambia for a month-ish. So since Husband will be in the Serengeti for most of November too, the kitty is going back to Janelle's and his mama for a wee while (thanks J!).

 

Will try and post from there. Miss you already...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

That shiny mountain



You know those clear shiny days where you see everything through refracted rainbow light and nothing can go wrong?  Everything you see holds a certain sparkly beauty and the things you touch don’t break for a change? Well I had one of those. Yesterday.

 

I wonder if it’s the mountain? They hold such a powerful energy don’t they? We live under Mt. Meru and although we can’t actually see her from our house, we have our own little weather system that is different from anyone who lives even five kilometers away. And when she is clear and close and rose tinted, as she was yesterday, it seems impossible not to have a positive day.

 

We had a dress rehearsal yesterday. At the Wednesday market in Tengeru. It was a fairly big crowd – about 200 people – and they laughed in all the right places and seemed to really enjoy it so that’s FAB! And the acrobats came and did a few gravity- defying stunts beforehand which was great. I just LOVE to watch them. And the performance was in view of the mountain and although it was performed in the midday sun and essentially on the edge of a rubbish pit everyone seemed to have a good time and it was still a lovely sparkly day.

 

Oh and on the way to work I got pulled over by the police and they almost immediately let me go again without even checking anything! How lucky is THAT!

 

And then….and THEN….I went to Janelle’s and got my kitten. Aaaaaahhhh. So sweeeeet. Right now he is sitting on my lap, curled up like a hedgehog, fast asleep probably dreaming of warm milk.



Monday, October 27, 2008

I told you so

Because I am a mature adult I do not jump up and down point my finger at someone’s face and cheer gleefully “I told you so” when I…well…when I told you so.

But because I am a blogger I can tell the rest of the world about me being right and being big enough not to jump up and down shouting “I told you so.” Except I suppose I am doing that right now on a much grander scale…Ah well, so be it.

Oh it’s a good feeling isn’t it? Being right?

If you’ve been following, a few months ago I helped out with some safari guide examining. I have been doing this on and off for ten years and although I’m not a specialist in any particular field (I think this is a good thing?) I’m pretty good at it and can spot a poor candidate from ten paces. I am not fooled by big words and trickery. We (my fellow examiners and I) agreed on almost all candidates except one. I wanted to fail him. He was a blagger of the biggest note. A man who doesn’t actually LOOK at the situation and animals and interpret it for you but instead will just spew off all the dreary facts – gestation period, weight, number of young. All the boring shit. On numerous occasions there was some really exciting stuff happening – waterbucks trying to mate, giraffes trying to mate (it was a frisky time). And he just. Didn’t. Notice. Almost drove into them in fact while he reeled off their stats. Too busy talking and trying to impress us with his big words. Anyway, I was all for failing him and said as much. Again and again. But I was vetoed by the other two and he passed. Although I made very clear to him in his brief at the end that it was by the skin of his teeth and had it been up to me I would have failed him.

SO, just a couple of nights ago I saw one of my fellow examiners and she said that she regrets passing him and it was a mistake – he hasn’t turned out as well as they’d hoped. And I – I furrowed my brow and said, “ah, that’s a shame.” Although of course inside and in my mind’s eye I was standing on the table punching the air and shouting “YESSSS!! YESSSS!” and singing, “Nanananana. I was ri-ight”

No, no, wait, that’s not it - there’s another one! The actress that I didn’t want to hire has also turned out to be a real nightmare. Blank, trouble causing, crap at acting. It was a bit of a weird one as the company that has employed me to do this play for them chose the pool of actors that I was to audition from. So I auditioned them and gave the company my selection. They wanted to add this actress, T. I didn’t. They insisted. I gave in. And just today they said that they seriously regretted hiring her (although I think they have amnesia as to their insistence at her getting hired). Anyway. This one I don’t get as much satisfaction for being right as I was the stupid arse that gave in to their requests and I’m the stupid arse that’s having to deal with all the problems now.

I must listen to myself more, no?

Still, it’s a good feeling!

Friday, October 24, 2008

My heart, she runs away with me


Its been an odd one.

My day was book-ended by two notable cars. Driving to work this morning there was a minibus in front of me that was trying to spray water onto its windshield. But the squirty things on the bonnet were obviously pointing the wrong way because it was spraying a lovely comely arc (in the glorious morning sunshine) straight onto MY windscreen. Completely missing its designed destination. Their windscreen wipers were swooshing overtime – as if to some funky jazz - but not getting much water. And they kept spraying. And spraying. And spraying. And I kept laughing and laughing and laughing.

And on the way home tonight I was driving behind a yellow VW beetle that was not doing anything special, just pootling along and it made me want to go and tickle someone. I love beetles.

Anyway, I’ve been all emotion today. As you can probably tell. Swing swing swing.



Work. Bla. Feeling a little trudgey. Finding rehearsal quite hard. Difficult to try and dig deep into the nuances of characterisation when you only have half a language under your belt. Lots of blank stares. I’ve been getting that all week. Anyway, we’re nearly done and I’m always waay too critical of myself work-wise so gave myself a good talking to (but not sure if I actually listened, as my sister pointed out). Oh also quite hard because two of the actors (ex lovers) had a fist fight a couple of days ago. During rehearsal. Uhhuh. And last night she called the cops on her ex boyfriend who got locked up overnight. And they all live near each other so hardly anyone got any sleep and we were minus two people at rehearsal. But we forged ahead and we shall see what monday brings.

And I spoke to my sister and our best friend from university has gone back into the hospital and that, I am just blocking that out for now. I cannot deal with it.

THEN (am I boring you?) I went to a concert tonight. Yes. A real live concert with world class (no I mean it, real proper world class) performers. Who all live here in Arusha. A cellist, a violinist, a guitarist, a sax and flute man (I don’t know how to spell flautist. Oh there.) A dancer. And there was music and improv and dancing. And it restored me.

There was the professionalism, the vibe, the energy, the fun, the chemistry that I have been missing. There. And I drank it in. Osmosised it. Whatever its called.

And I looked about the makeshift stage they had there and I pictured our new play. Opening night. Here. The one with the acrobats. The one that is going to be mind blowing. For this wee town, anyway. And I was inspired again.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Drums - a disjointed and rambling post






My last year of university I lived in caravan park with my mate Greg. He lived in the trailer bit (which had the wee kitchen, bathroom and ‘lounge’) and I had the caravan. It was rusty, the windows didn’t close and was sodding freezing in the winter. One winter I was in my bed, wearing as many items of clothing I could, with my duvet, blankets, jackets and the whole contents of my wardrobe piled on top of me. Brrr. And I woke up in the middle of the night, curled up under all this kit and thought I was a pie! I wasn’t on drugs either, I swear!

One lazy Sunday afternoon a posse of us, mostly made up of crazy Zimbabweans, had one of those fabulous impromptu two-day boozing sessions. One mate found a tyre somewhere and we were all rolling it about the place, being silly old students. Greg and I lived (if you can call it that, squatted, more like), on top of the slope. One of our chums had the tyre, lost control of it and it bumped into our neighbour’s caravan. The neighbour was a massive, bearded, long socked, slightly red fellow (you know the type) - and he came out brandishing a pistol! Fuuuck!!!

Anyway, this post is about drums (would you believe it?) and not yet another trip down memory lane. I’m getting lots of those from fellow blogger and university chum fush and chips if you’d like any more Rhodes tales, he writes amazingly. Anyway, back to drums...The caravan park was near Grey’s Dam and the hippies, all clad in tie-dye spirals and smokey haloes, used to go down to the dam and play their drums all night long. A tenuous drum link, but there you go.


Obviously, having grown up in very rural Africa and working with drama troupes here I’ve been exposed to my fair share of drums. Whenever we have a show (in village or in town) we play the drums for about two hours to call the audience in. It’s bloody hard work actually, but amazing. Oh this makes me sound like I know how to play drums. I so don’t I’ve tried but…nope. I just help with the crowd entertainment, do a bit of dancing so that people can laugh at me and be happy. I’m okay with this solution!

We left our drums out one night (stupidly) and the hyenas came and ate the skin off. Duh!

My sister and I worked on a book on Traditional Zambian Ceremonies last year and travelled around the country. Was amazing to see all the different kinds of drums in different parts of the country.





And it seems that drums in Tanzania are different too. So since I’m now working with a new drama group here we’re on a drum mission. We tried to buy some but they were massively expensive and poor quality so two of the actors said, “oh we know how to make drums” so that’s what I spent my Saturday morning doing. Not making drums, but holding my nose and taking pictures of other people making drums! Coz boy do those skins SMELL!
(I can't get those pics up right now, maybe later, kay?)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

That MOON!

Nothing profound, just to share with you that tonight, as I was driving from a friend’s photographic exhibition in town to another friend’s house for impromptu red wine and pizza (doncha just love friends?), I saw the moon. Oh my. Driving through town, its dark, I’m getting a bit up my own ass because there are so many cars with no lights on the road; I’m getting a bit cross. The traffic is crazy, there are bicycles everywhere, one eyed cars, I’m concentrating on not smacking into anyone. It’s dusty, hazy, crazy. And I look up.

And there.

Is the moon.

Hanging above the buildings, in all her splendour.

Ab-so-lutely gorgeous. Big big bigger than ever, swollen with pride. And I literally gasped. Caught my breath.

And then nearly smacked into someone so had to focus on the road again. And get grumpy at the one-light-no-lights-broken-down-trucks-no-street-lights-crazy-driving that is Arusha.

Ah, but that MOON!

Friday, October 10, 2008

On mitumba, actors and thieves




Ah a great day was had today. By me anyway. I hope you all had a good day today too.

Went to mitumba with the actors to buy costumes this morning. I have written about mitumba before but I think it deserves another tribute. Ah, mitumba! Imagine an area the size of a rugby field (that old line) dotted, strewn – what’s the right word? – piled? - with heaps upon heaps upon heaps of second hand clothes. Anything and everything you can think of. Sequined ball gowns to cruddy shoes to 50cent t-shirts. Can you imagine anything more satisfying? More exhilarating? More fun? Probably. But it’s GREAT! I LOVE it! I was about to say I’m not one for retail therapy, for shopping for shopping’s sake, but that’s actually not true at all. Heh heh. But I think that’s only because I’ve never lived in a city and it’s still all a bit novel. But mitumba? Mitumba is different. Extra special.

Anyway. Bla.

Today we went to a new mitumba for me - a different, open air one. ‘The cheap one.’ And indeed it is. We bought: 5 pairs of trousers, 14 t-shirts, 8 pairs of shorts, 2 skirts, 5 shirts, 3 khangas and probably lots more that I’ve forgotten for under 50 bucks. Not bad, huh? Oh and – since it was all a bit manic and I was trailing 11 people – I managed to be blinkered and not get distracted by pretty pink, shiny things. Well done me. But it’s open every Friday and Monday I’m told so I’ll be back. You betcha.

Then we all piled into a series of daladalas (minibus taxis) back to work. You know the scene. About 35 people crammed into a bus made for 14. Armpits in your face, babies on your lap, chatter, laughter, general good cheer.

Except at one changeover station, busy busy, loads of pushing and shoving, where a man pushed into me and stuck his fingers in my pocket. Ha. I was not to be fooled. I shouted, pulled his fingers out and bent them back. He then put his hands up and pretended to be all innocent. Yeah right. We were standing right next to a big storm drain and the actors said I should have pushed him in. Heh heh. Maybe next time, Mr mwizi man.



I always find afternoons a bit hard getting people to act – especially the physical stuff. Acting no – acting up, yes. Especially after a MASSIVE lunch of stodgy ugali (maize meal). Especially with new actors who have not yet been at the brunt of my slave driving ways. Nyahahahaha. Lots of eyebrows thrown skyward and sighs and dragging feet (literally. Ooooh nothing annoys me more than dragging feet). And THAT’s not going to help your cause! Anyway, so we knocked off early, and I rode home (first day to brave the crazy scary traffic in town on my motorbike – sorry mom!), inhaling fumes, with the bright sun in my eyes, a full tummy and a successful first week of working in Tanzania behind me. Hurrah!










Three cheers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Walk on

Ladies and gentlemen, progress has been made. Brain, creativity and inspiration have come skulking back. Not entirely mind, they’re still prowling around the periphery, taking quick nibbles at the chocolate brownies but it looks promising. Thanks for all the encouragement.

So yes, progress on that front. And hopefully progress on a much bigger ‘just say no’ front. I grew up in the safari industry. I have been indoctrinated with ‘accommodate, accommodate, accommodate’ from a very early age. Go out of your way, FHB (family hold back) ‘shhhh the clients!’ So, in short, I cannot say no. And people can sense this and they pounce in spectacular fashion. I could write a (very boring) book on all my experinces. Just yesterday, a woman cornered me and jabbered on an on and on for about 45 minutes. About what? I have no idea! It was in very rapid fire Swahili. I got the first bit that she has a child who needs sponsorship through school. Artist, fixer…drawer…..tanzanite…..dig…..roots…..what’s your address…………phone number please…….I’ll find you actors….. Umm. Yes, that’s all I got. 45 minutes. Of me nodding and looking over my shoulder and saying “um…”. Oh dear I really must get a grip. I eventually managed to scurry off.

Then, miracle of miracles, I (finally) put my foot down on the work people coming to watch rehearsals and commenting every three minutes, questioning my choice of this, my interpretation of that, my casting on her. On day one. Go away. Come back after ten days. And it worked. So easy! (thanks Tam!)

THEN today. As I was walking out of the rehearsal venue this afternoon a man stopped and shouted at me: “Praise the Lord!”
I faltered but (phew) kept on walking, with memories of my first day of university, reverberating in my mind like a recently gonged gong. Of being sniffed out as easy prey and sitting in a circle with a group of fresh faced youth singing kumbaya and holding hands (I’m not joking! How did I get myself into THAT situation?? Oh and I was just sitting there looking bewildered. I was not singing kumbaya).

Anyway, back to the “PRAISE THE LORD!” man.

I kept walking.

And he shouted after me: “Say His name. Say His name! Say Jesus Christ!”I’d got to my car at this point (him shouting across the parking lot at me) and I shouted, over my shoulder “Jesus Christ”. It sounded like I was swearing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shhhhh

I shan’t use this as a forum to bitch about work or people.

But I would like to thank Tam, dear sister of mine, for knowing and calling me and letting me rant – sorry about the phone bill!

Therefore I have nothing to say, really




except





a very good night to you all.

Monday, October 6, 2008

On the run



My brain and my creativity have gone off in a huff together. Turned into bloody sulking teenagers. Or maybe they’ve run away to Zanzibar. How dare they leave me behind? Well, I don’t blame them really, I’ve been in such a strop of late. As a result the plays (yes that’s plural) that I am supposed to start rehearsing tomorrow lie semi formed in my head. Bugger, shit.

Had a session with the acrobats today. We’ve come up with some fun images but that’s it. Every time I try and string them together into a story line it just comes out so…bla. I know these things take time and I always feel this daunted at the beginning of this process but am starting to PANIC!!

Please come back? If I’m nice and feed you chocolate brownies?

Oh and if you do decide to return, will you bring Inspiration back with you? Please please?














please?











chocolate brownies?

Friday, October 3, 2008

At least I don't have diarrhoea




I am feeling a little befuddled today. Got a mild dose of the morbes which is unusual, but it’ll pass. Soon soon.

Ah, I don’t mean to complain. I have a very fabulous life. I am very VERY lucky. At least I don’t have diarrhoea.

Just after the Millenium I had a difficult year, money wise. I was working, but being paid a pittance and hadn’t actually been paid for about 8 months. And I was broke broke broke. Luckily I was in Luangwa where living can be cheap. I had my own ramshackle wooden house, inherited from my grandfather so I didn’t have to pay rent. My aunt (also going through a hard period at the time) was also there and the two of us could only afford one meal a day of nsima (stiff mealie meal porridge – the staple in Zambia) and rehydrated beans. And every day we’d sit down to our meal and say:
“Well, at least we’re alive”
“At least we’ve got legs”
“At least we CAN eat”
“At least we don’t have diarrhoea”

So now that’s the standard “things could be worse line”. At least we don’t have diarrhoea. Coz that really IS grim isn’t it?

Oh and one day, about 7 months in - of this one-meal-of-nsima-and-beans-a-day - we sat down to lunch, started eating and both said “Hmmmm, something’s different. What is it? Yum.” And then we realised it was burnt. A little variation goes a long way.

And suddenly at the end of the year we both got a windfall. I finally got paid, after lots of fighting, paid back my debts and was almost back to square one. But not quite. So my aunt and I got the bus to Jo’burg (a 28 hour straight through bus ride), stayed at my cousin’s house and went into the shops in the flash area of Jo’burg. Oh what a sight we must have been! Both really really skinny, probably pretty scruffy too. Walking in and out of the aisles in the fancy supermarket just looking. We spent hours in there, just walking up and down, up and down. It was Christmas the next day so evetually we dragged ourselves away from the aisles and bought as many veggies as we could afford. Just veggies – broccoli and patti pans and squash and beetroot. It was like Christmas. It WAS Christmas. And then we got back to my cousin’s house (she was away), locked ourselves in steamed all the veggies and ate and ate and ate! That was probably one of the best Christmas meals ever!!

Ah, I feel better already!

So to cheer myself up I’ve been looking at pictures of South-East Asia from our honeymoon earlier this year. I took THOUSANDS. Literally thousands of pictures. So it VERY hard to choose. But today, I give you this one:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This one's for Mud







me, many moons past
Not Enough Mud and I were (sortov) cybertalking about the fabulousness of mud. So this one's for her

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pet Talk

me and baby crocodile


I was riding my bike yesterday and saw a squashed hedgehog on the road and, as these associations often go, the first thing I thought of (okay second thought, after ‘agh shame’) was that I haven’t had a pet in absolute ages. Since I moved here anyway.


Let me explain.

The thought pattern went thus:
Dead hedgehog lead me to think of my pet baby hedgehog that I smuggled in to Zambia from boarding school in Malawi. On the plane, in a biscuit tin full of tissue. When asked by the customs lady what was in the tin I told her I had a cold and this was all my snotty tissue – opened it up to show her, tipping the baby hedgehog under the tissues as I did so. She shood me on pronto. Anyway THAT got me to thinking about my mom who said she had a hedgehog as a pet that used to walk around and around and around her room or garden all night until it’s feet bled. She says they don’t like being kept captive. So she let hers go and I never got a chance to test the theory as mine died before it grew up.

And THAT got me thinking about the pet dassies (rock hyraxes) that my mother had, before I was born. She had two of them and one day, when she was asleep the one dassie kept running up to her, jumping on the bed and running to the door. And again and again. Jump up on the bed, onto her face, and run to the door. Eventually my mother got up and followed the dassie, who took her into the bathroom where the other one had fallen into the toilet! Isn’t that sweet? And clever? She managed to rescue it from an unpleasant death in the bog. Yuk.

THEN, coz if you’re still with me you’re following my thought pattern (what an insight, what an honour) I thought about all the pets I’d had over the years and how, since I couldn’t think of anything to blog about, maybe I should tell ya’ll about some of my pets. Too many to tell you about them ALL, but some highlights. In no particular order:

There was Mohawk the porcupine, who was very very very cute. We got him when he was a tiny tiny thing, could fit into the palm of your had, all soft quilled and shnoffly nosed. He grew up to be pretty massive, but when you tried to pick him up would flatten his quills so that you could pick him up easier (ish). Anytime we ate chocolate he would stamp his little feet and get really grumpy. He gnawed a hole in my parents door and slept under their bed.

Nido was not a favourite of mine. He was a monkey and a horror. Used to bite my sister and I on the back of the neck ALL the time. And throw spectacular tantrums. Jump onto the dining table and throw glasses about the place and curl his little hands into fists and pound the table. He was a MENACE. He used to prize your eyes open when you tried to sleep and your mouth when you were eating something. Literally get his little grubby fingers into your mouth and steal your food. The only time he was ever cute was in the evening when he’d get all sweet and coo-ey and cuddly and get into your jacket or shirt. But that usually didn’t last long coz he would then poo and THAT is not a pleasant thing.

Noah was an elephant and too sweet for words. But too long and sad a story to tell here.

The warthogs, Widdle and Miss Piggy – a decade apart – were very sweet. Miss Piggy got attacked by a lion once, on the building site where my uncle was building his house. The lion leaped out the bush and latched onto her neck but because she had grown rather fat over the years, he couldn’t get a good enough grip. Then the labourers chased the lion off wielding spades and wheelbarrows (can you believe it??). And Miss Piggy survived. And so did the labourers!

Umm, what else. My mother is into falconry and when I was about 11 we both had a Lizard Buzzard each. That was cool. Not VERY trainable, but we made all the kit and they got used to chasing a lure and flying onto your welding-gloved-arm when you called them with a whistle.



While we’re on birds – ah too many of those to count. Most ending in heartbreak at the jaws of Fang (Bird and Squirrel Devourer of Extra Tooth fame.) Some, reared from tiny pink featherless aliens, lived to soar and be set free. Although a few of those tried to come back home to roost and got chomped by Fang. It was a constant battle, that.

There were a few other cats, Generator, C-fa (C for Cat (obviously pronounced see for cat), who I wanted, in my innocence, to call K-fa since I was learning the phonetic alphabet at the time. Needless to say this was not allowed!) - she used to go for walks like a dog. One cat, I forget which, gave birth on my tummy one night while I was asleep. Now THAT was gross.

And lots of squirrels. Vertigo, Sebastian.

The civet, Rayban, was also VERY sweet, a little smelly at times, when he marked his territory. Cuddly and playful. And once he had grown up he was pretty nocturnal so we didn’t see him much.

We tried a dog once, but it got taken by a leopard.

The genets stuck around for ages after they’d grown up. They’d sleep in the rafters in the day and come every evening for a snack. We had two of them and when they were all grown up then we were brought another one - a baby - who I, home from school, adopted and called Livingstone. He was a cutie. But the other two obviously didn’t want him in their territory and killed him one night. I was distraught. He used to sleep in my armpit at night and one day I woke up to blood on the bed. I went looking for him but my mother sussed out what was going on and rushed in and steered me out the room, obviously seeing his body under the bookshelf. Jay, not known for his tact kept saying, “Whatever you do, DON’T look under the bookshelf!” So of course I did. But what was another wee dead animal heartbreak in my short life? I’d seen so many – the cat literally whipped one of my mice off my shoulder once. Anyway, I was particularly upset at the genet’s death, for some reason, so my ma took me to the island across from us and we climbed a big mchenja tree and sat there for hours and hours, mourning the little fellow. Wasn’t that a nice thing to do?

The bushbuck, Rigby, was big enough for the cat not to kill and he stuck around for a long time after he grew up. We could recognise him from his squiffy leg. One of my sister’s massive History text books fell off her shelf and landed on his leg, breaking it. So he was in a plaster cast for a while, but seemed to manage just fine.

People from far and wide would bring me the most hopeless little creatures. Tiny, bald unidentifiable blobs (I THINK it’s a bird/mouse/squirrel). And I would lovingly wake up every two hours, make special milk formula – different for each different critter – get attached and get my heart broken, month in month out. Lots survived. Lots didn’t. And finally I knew I was cured when someone came to me (I was out of my teens now) with a brood of day-old wrinkly, pink, blind mice that they’d found in the storeroom. And I just couldn’t. I had reached saturation point.

So its time for a new pet, I think. I have my dear cat Clever Bollocks, but she stayed in Zambia and is happy there. I have also had quite a few pet lice of late, but I don’t really want THEM thank you very much. my sis and widdle

But soon, soon I’m going to get one of Janelle’s kittens (maybe I’ll try and sneak two away, heh heh)

Oh, and we also had a couple of owls, a chicken called Dixie. Bla bla bla. You bored yet?

A final note: I think my alarming hair needs to be acknowledged. In my defense mu mother was my hairdresser. She's an artist. 'Nuff said.

Monday, September 29, 2008

An experiment




How the elephant came to be

Once upon a time, long long ago, when the birds sang even louder at dawn than they do today, there was a destitute but optimistic young man who wanted to get rich. He had heard of a very powerful, prosperous and potent old man named Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). The impoverished young man decided one day that he would travel across the mighty plains to find Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). He said goodbye to his pretty, fat and gleaming wife and set off early one morning, when the birds were waking up and twittering and singing more than usual (as they did in those long ago days). He carried with him a leather pouch that contained some herbs and a calabash full of milk. He took his spear to kill animals that he would eat along the way.

Twenty three days the sun rose and twenty three days the sun set and still he walked.

And he walked.

And he walked.

He passed herds of Eland gracefully klopping into the distance.

And still he walked.

He saw skeins of birds flashing in the evening light.

And still he walked.

He heard the deep throbbing call of the Ground Hornbill at dawn.

And still he walked.

He passed thorn trees, he crossed dongas, jumped small streams and waded through fast-flowing rivers. He brushed away flies and stepped over logs and eventually on the twenty-fourth day he saw, shimmering on the horizon, an uncountable number of sheep and cows. And in the middle of the uncountable number of sheep and cows stood a magnificent radiant, gleaming palace. And sitting under a shady tree in front of the palace sat the wise, old and magic man called Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor). And he saw the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs and he cried:
“Poor man, who do you seek?”
And the poor man said:
“I seek Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor)”
And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) said: “Look no further for it is I, sitting here under this lovely shady tree thinking about things big and things small”

And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) ordered his men to give the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) one hundred cows and one hundred sheep. For he did, indeed, feed the poor.

But the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man said:
“Old man, I do not want your riches or your charity, but I have walked across the plains for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs in order to meet with you and ask for the secret to becoming rich”

And Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) scratched his head and thought a while. For he was a wise man and wise men think and reflect on these things. And eventually he got up, stretched, scratched and shuffled into his mansion.

He came back a few bird-songs later with an ointment in a small glass bottle, wrapped up in a grey leather pouch. And he gave it to the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) and said:
“This here is an ointment. Every evening rub this ointment on your wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw. Wait until they have grown, and then sell them.”

So the tired, scraggly, scratched poor man (who had walked for twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs) thanked Ivonya-Ngia (he that feeds the poor) and set off on his way.

And he walked back over the vast plains, for twenty three moon-ups and twenty three moon-downs. He saw a busy dung beetle, rolling a ball.

And still he walked.

He skirted a big, fat, happy-looking snake basking on a rock.

And still he walked.

He crossed the fast-flowing river, hopped over a stream and crossed the donga. He saw a whirlwind, chased a hare and saw a firefly. And eventually, after twenty three moon-ups, and twenty three moon-downs he saw his village in the distance, with his beautiful, fat, gleaming wife, bending over the fire cooking porridge. And he rejoiced at the sight.

That night they sat by the crackling smoky fire and he told his wife of his walk through twenty three sun-ups and twenty three sun-downs, of the uncountable number of sheep and cows, of the ointment in the glass bottle wrapped in a grey piece of leather, and the walk over twenty three moon-ups and twenty three moon-downs. And his joy at seeing his beautiful, fat gleaming wife bending over the fire cooking porridge.

So every night, for twenty three nights, the man rubbed the ointment on his wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw. And every morning her teeth grew just a little. Eventually, on the twenty fourth day her teeth were as long as his arm and he asked her if he could take her teeth out to sell at the market. And he did. And he managed to buy a herd of goats.

And again, every night he put the ointment on his wife’s pointy teeth in her upper jaw and again her teeth grew and grew and grew. This time faster and longer than before. But when the man asked his wife if he could now take her teeth out to sell, she refused. And she started to grow even bigger and even fatter, and her skin started to turn thick and grey and she burst out of the hut and ran off into the forest. And there she lived from that day on. And she gave birth to a child, a healthy happy child, who was also an elephant.

Her husband used to visit her in the forest but she could not be persuaded to come back although she did give birth to many healthy children, all elephants.

And this, dear friend, is how elephants came to be (long long ago when birds sang even louder at dawn than they do today), and how they are just as intelligent and clever as human beings.


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A story from the Kamba in Kenya, noted by Jan Knappert (An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend - African Mythology) embellished by me. An experiment, something I’ve been thinking of for a while for a project I shan’t let on here. An honest opinion please. Really. Is it naafy, bla and so what? Worth pursuing?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You wouldn't necessarily think it but this is actually a meme



I first heard the phrase ‘kindred spirit’ in Anne of Green Gables. Man, I loved those books. My mother and I used to sit on the banks of the brown silty swirling Luangwa River, all set about with Nile Cabbage and hippos, under a huge towering ebony tree and she’d read me Anne of Green Gables out loud. All of them. How many where there – seven?


Anyway, I loved those reading sessions. I can still feel the dappled drowsy light on my skin and eyelids. We’d sit quietly, my mother reading softly to me… and sometimes a bushbuck would cautiously emerge from the bushes, stand still and breathe... in... out, shuffle around on the periphery and then hesitantly come and munch some mchenja fruit. It’s coarse fur quivering when a fly bothered it. Or the monkeys would climb the tree and drop mchenjas on our heads. Or a troop of banded mongoose would scurry past, scratching and shnoffling in the leaf litter for bugs and grubs. And I’d absently watch an inch worm or scratch an itchy bite while we sat there of an afternoon – those heady, drifty, home-school days. We’d sit in the shade and read, shifting our chitenjes to stay with the shade, startling whatever animal had come close to listen to the adventures of Anne of Green Gables.



And as the sun slowly dipped behind the winterthorn trees on the other side of the river (withthe elephants crossing in the distance) we’d smell the first whiff of baked potato from the Phyllanthus reticulatus - signifying evening, and we’d have to hurriedly pack up our chitenjes and hurry home before it got dark and the animals took the night shift. That chirrupy, hallucinogenic, crepuscular time. That time when we were no longer the masters of our world.

Ooooh boy, lets not get all nostalgic and sentimental here!







So dear red-haired-fiery-spirited Anne had a kindred spirit. Was she called Diana? I think so. Dark haired neighbour Diana. That idea – ‘kindred spirit’ fascinated me. It evoked sisterly friendship, sharing secrets, midnight feasts. In my teenage years I had no close close girl kindred spirits. We lived in a very remote area. I had adult friends, I had a sister, I had a smattering of friends in the village. All of whom I loved dearly but...you know? I’d spend all day over there in the nearest village, chasing flies, flying pathetic mealie-meal bag kites, playing in the mud in Disgusting Den (we were the Filthy Five), rolling in the dust, having the best of times. But I never had my very own Anne-of-Green-Gables kindred spirit.

And then suddenly I did. I was all grown up by this time, but suddenly into my life walked F. My kindred spirit. She came to work in Luangwa and the moment we met it was BAM! Best friends, literally just like that. You know when you meet someone and you’re like “Hey I know you!” I felt like I’d known her all my life.

Oy ve but we got up to mischief.

So, that was very long, ambling, rambling preamble to this meme. Yes you wouldn’t think so huh? A meme. I got this from the delightful, inspirational and fabulous Mud:

1. Get your phone

2. Go to the address book

3. Look away.

4. Press any key up to three times.

5. Scroll down three times.

6. Look at the name there, tell the world about them.

7. Pass it on to three people.

So I did that and F popped up. Ha, I guess I haven’t really told the world about her. I’ve just told the world about me me me!! Hahaha. F is:
Very positive
Very fun
Very adventurous
Very one-of-a-kind

We worked for the same safari company and our boss (against his better judgment, but he was desperate) put us in the same safari camp for a few weeks. (May Luwi Camp never ever change. It is a six-bed grass camp in the middle of the South Luangwa National Park on the dry Luwi river bed. The most real, most fabulous bush experience you will ever get. I’m serious). F was running the camp and they sent me in as the relief walking guide. That was one of the funniest happiest times of my life. And that’s saying something. Oh bloody hell, there I go again. Oh and the boss needn’t have worried the guests had a BLAST.




F is also step-sister to my other deep soul sister and kindred spirit Janelle. We like to keep things in the family! As Tam says in one of her posts “The branches from Janelle's family tree tangled with those of my family tree long before I was born, and despite her claims that her dad is crap at making money, his claim to fame in my family is that when my grandad and her dad were business partners, my grandad made a profit for the first and only time in his life…. She's a wicked, soulful, wild hearted, poetic one of a kind queen and I am very lucky to share some cultural dna with her (we the lost daughters of colonial wildlife big game naturalists)” So with this description of Janelle out there how could I possibly compete. I don’t have the words. For Janelle or for F. All I can say is that they are great and I love them. And THEN some.

So enough about me, lets talk about me some more.

I think mud said we could CHOOSE which meme to do but heck give em both to me, I’m on a roll. You’ll be pleased to know the next one you’re only allowed to use seven words per question so you’ll be saved some eye-strain and headache….(coz rules is rules, you know)


1. Where Where You 10 Years Ago?
Running a bush camp, guiding, in the sticks (dam it that’s 8 words. Oops now 15. Stop stop)

2. What's on Your To Do List Today?
Buy furniture – the in-laws are coming!
3. What If you Were A Billionaire?
Uh huh. Yeah right, a likely story
4. Five Places You have Lived?
Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, dreamland
5. Three Bad Habits?
Procrastination, procrastination, procrastination
6. Snacks You Like?
biltong, biltong, biltong
7. Who am I tagging?
Tam, Janelle, Val, Geli (I know its, 4 I feel daring)

But you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to….

photo of Luwi by Francois D'elbee