Victoria Falls

On Thursday we went to Victoria Falls. We had originally planned to ride the elephants, so we woke up super early. But when we got to the pick-up point for this activity, we realized it would only be an hour-long ride instead of the anticipated 3-hour ride. So we decided it was too expensive for such a short time and went straight to the falls instead.

Because of this, we got to the falls much earlier than we would ever have done otherwise. But it worked out extremely well because I’m pretty sure right after sunrise is the perfect time to view the falls. I didn’t realize that the rainbow created by the mist moves with the sun, so the angle of the early morning light made for some incredible photos.

my first view of the falls. i will never forget it.

my first view of the falls. i will never forget it.

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Looking down from the top of the Eastern Cataract:

at the top of the Eastern Cataract

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Facing the falls and walking along the Zambian side (only one half of the falls – the other half is in Zimbabwe):

facing the falls

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i loved the constant rain shower created by the mist

i loved the constant rain shower created by the mist

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looking across to the zimbabwe side of victoria falls

looking across to the zimbabwe side of victoria falls

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world and is three times as high as Niagara Falls. Its average volume is less than that of Niagara and Iguaçu Falls, but that is only because the Zambezi River, which feeds it, is a very seasonal river. At the end of the dry season, around October or November, there is hardly a trickle across the entire mile-wide face of the falls; at the end of the rainy season, around April or May, you can’t even see the face of the falls for the mist created by the huge volume of falling water. We came at a really good time – not too much water, but enough for an incredible experience and some beautiful photos.

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Livingstone and the Zambezi

On Wednesday we drove an hour and a half to Livingstone, which is on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. Named after David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer who traversed much of Southern and Central Africa, the town of Livingstone is also the site of Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. More about Victoria Falls on another day.

Because of its proximity to Victoria Falls, Livingstone is very much a tourist town. So we spent our first few hours there supporting the local ‘curio’ artists.

the main curio market in Livingstone

the main curio market in Livingstone

one of the curio vendors. of course, I didn't write his name down, so I've already forgotten it.

one of the curio vendors. of course, I didn’t write his name down, so I’ve already forgotten it.

We then drove out to the Overland Mission base, where we stayed while in Livingstone. Our ride there took us about 30 minutes, most of which was on a bumpy dirt road through the ‘bush’, as we call it. What an incredible place!

on our drive out to Overland Mission, I snapped a photo of these cell towers disguised in various renditions of tree.

on our drive out to Overland Mission, I snapped a photo of these cell towers disguised in various renditions of tree.

The base sits at the top of the Zambezi River gorge, so the view is magnificent. In addition to the houses for the permanent missionaries, there are a number of large tents spread out on the base, which are used to host teams for mission training and short-term missions trips. We stayed in one of these, right on the edge of the gorge.

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the view from our tent

the view from our tent

The permanent houses and the community buildings are built with cement block and traditional grass-thatched roofs, many of which take advantage of the breathtaking views.

the view from the main community building

the main community building

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the classroom on the base.

the classroom on the base.

looking out from the classroom. (if I had class there, I wouldn't be able to pay attention for the view.)

looking out from the classroom. (if I had class there, I wouldn’t be able to pay attention.)

We spent some time exploring the base and its various lookout points as the sun was setting.

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The main community building includes the kitchen and dining area where everyone gathers to eat meals together. The groceries are trucked in once a week, and people take turns cooking and cleaning up. We joined them for dinner the first night we were there and enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about their work in the area.

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity we had to stay at this base. Our time was so much richer because we were able to spend our nights as part of a community instead of in a hotel. We were also able to take an impromptu hike down the gorge that never would have happened if we were on our own. But that story and its photos will also have to wait for another day.

Lusaka to Kalomo

Our flight arrived pretty late into Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, so we spent the first night there and then took the bus down to Kalomo the next day.

Lusaka, with a population of 1.7 million, is a bit smaller than Nairobi (3.3 million in 2009). I took a photo of at least part of Lusaka from our hotel room, and you can see the skyline is pretty minimal. You can also see how many trees there are, which is wonderful.

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Despite its size, in some ways it is more developed than Nairobi – better roads, drinkable tap water, greater variety of produce. It is so interesting to see a little of what life is like in some other African countries.

My friend Sheri met us on Saturday morning in Lusaka and took us to an ATM to withdraw some local money. The currency of Zambia is the Kwacha, which currently stands at around 5,000 ZMK to the US Dollar. Starting this coming year, however, the government will be cutting 3 zero’s out of the currency and printing new money to reflect this change. According to Wikipedia, this change doesn’t really affect the exchange value of the currency, but just makes commercial calculations easier. Makes sense – increments of 5 are much more simple to calculate than increments of 5,000. But until then, we are millionaires.

Our trip to Kalomo began at the Lusaka Inter-City Bus Terminus, which was especially busy on Saturday, since it was the beginning of most people’s Christmas/New Years holiday.

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Our bus was also completely full (although there was no one sitting in the aisle – the traffic police check for these kinds of things now), and there was more traffic than usual on the road down, but despite this, it was a pleasant enough ride.

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Katie Ryder, if you're reading this, this photo's for you - to add to your sign collection.

Katie Ryder, if you’re reading this, this photo’s for you – to add to your sign collection.

On Sunday we went to the church Sheri is helping her Zambian friend start up. I’ll be posting a brief video of the service there in the next couple of days. But I did also take a few photos.

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And finally, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner with Sheri’s family this evening. We are so grateful for the hospitality of people we have only just met!

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After Christmas, we will start our touristing down here – taking a day trip into Botswana and Zimbabwe, checking out Victoria Falls, maybe riding on some elephants, hopefully seeing the area where Sheri will be directing a new orphanage, and going white water rafting on the Zambezi river!

The epic journey begins

I’m typing this while sitting in the Kilimanjaro International Airport, taking advantage of the free WiFi, while waiting for the ticketing desk to open. Three hours early is too early, I guess. We are starting on our epic journey today. OK, it’s not that epic in terms of number of countries visited, but I did realize that we will be taking virtually every form of transport during our journey.

Below is a rough diagram giving a general idea of our trip and its various modes of transport. We are flying to Zambia to visit one of my high school friends from RVA, taking the train back to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, staying a couple of days in Zanzibar, and then taking a bus back to Moshi.

I was going to write more, but the ticket desk just opened, so we’ve gotta run.

As they say in Tanzania, “Safari njema!” (Good travels!)

The Dume Challenge

While Steve and I were standing in line at Tanesco (Tanzanian Energy Supply Company) to pay our electricity bill, we noticed a reality-type game show playing on the TV in the corner. It looked like any other reality show – an attractive host, beautiful beach scenes, some participants battling out the challenges for the ultimate prize… And it looked to be a Tanzanian show, with a very high production quality. Since I’m already interested in the state of video/television production in Tanzania, I was intrigued.

At the end of the next commercial break, as the show was starting up again, we noticed that it was sponsored by a product… Dume… but we couldn’t figure out what the product was. Of course, we asked the young Tanzanian man in front of us what this product was, and after fumbling with his words for a few seconds, he told us “condom.”

It was then that I noticed that the game show participants were all wearing t-shirts and caps with the Dume logo emblazoned across them. How odd to us from the US, to see an entire reality show very boldly sponsored by a brand of condoms!

At first I assumed this was just one of those ‘cultural differences’ between Africa and the US. But after a little bit of searching online, I came across a few things that make me think this is more than just your typical Tanzanian game show.

The first is this article,
http://allafrica.com/stories/201209010390.html
which is about Tanzania’s continued efforts against HIV/AIDS transmission, and which mentions this reality show in the last paragraph, as part of that effort. The Dume Challenge.

And then I looked up the organization that is behind the reality show, T-MARC.
http://www.tmarc.or.tz/index.php?id=39
A local, Tanzanian-run social marketing organization, with partners like USAID, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose purpose is “to develop and expand consumer markets for a broad range of health products” in Tanzania.

Turns out the Dume Challenge game show is part of a larger AIDS awareness/education campaign funded by USAID, in coordination with PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). On their website, PEPFAR has stated that some of their current goals are to create ‘country-owned and country-driven’ projects and to ‘address HIV/AIDS within a broader health and development context.’ It is interesting and encouraging to see these goals unfolding on this end, with local players addressing local issues. My sleuthing only got me so far, however. What I’d really like to know is who came up with this HIV/AIDS campaign idea in the first place?

On that note, let me leave you with the intro to The Dume Challenge, which I found on YouTube.

St. Margaret’s

I thought I would share a little bit about the church we have connected with in Moshi, since it is part of our life here now.

St. Margaret’s is an anglican church, but I’ve heard that probably only about 10% of the english service congregation is actually anglican. This, and the fact that there are at least 5-10 countries represented on any given Sunday, gives the church a very diverse feel.

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(There is also a swahili service that meets prior to the english service. It is much larger and, from what I hear, much more anglican. We would like to start going to this service, as well, but 8:00 is early, so we haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

St. Margaret’s english congregation is in somewhat of a unique situation at the moment, as their most recent pastor and his wife were only here for a year commitment, and have just left. This congregation has had experience in functioning without a pastor before, so this is nothing new, but it is always a time of unpredictability and necessary flexibility. Since it is a small congregation with an even smaller number of permanent/semi-permanent congregants, almost everyone has to pitch in in some way to keep things functioning.

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They have solved this in part by having a simple sign up sheet at the back of the sanctuary containing the positions that need to be filled for each Sunday of the month: Speaker, Service Leader, Music Leader, Prayer Leader, Scripture Reader, etc… There is also a Service Coordinator whose job it is to ensure that all necessary spots are filled before Sunday rolls around.

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Although it is a challenge, it is this kind of experience that can really draw a community together. Because there is such a necessity for involvement, people have to step up and pitch in. It is an excellent time to learn about personal strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately a place where the words of Paul can be experienced and affirmed:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
(1 Cor 12:4-11)

We are looking forward to seeing the ways God will move in and through this congregation in the months ahead. …And if you know of a pastor who is interested in working overseas with a primarily western congregation, direct him my way!

A lesson on making chapatis

Some of you know what chapatis are. For those of you who don’t, they’re a kind of flat bread that is commonly eaten in this area of Africa. They are definitely an African version of the Indian chapati, made with white instead of whole-wheat flour, thicker, and fried in a small amount of oil (or shortening, if you’re really living it up).

I grew up LOVING chapatis, as does every child in East Africa, I’m pretty sure, but I never actually really learned how to make them. So only a week or so after we arrived, I asked our house-help, Hadija, to show me how she makes her chapatis. Turns out she used to make them for a living – selling them for a small profit – so she definitely had it down to an art!

I thought about taking photos of the process, but decided instead to watch and learn, and then sketch it out after the fact.

As with most traditional recipes in this part of the world, there are no measurements – it’s all about consistency. But the ingredients are simple, so it’s not hard to learn.

You’ll need some oil, flour, salt and warm water.

Measure out the quantity of flour you would like to use based on the number of chapatis you ultimately want. We used about 6 cups of flour, I think. Mix in some salt, then begin to pour the warm water into the flour, mixing it in with your other hand. (I was surprised by how much water Hadija used, actually – the consistency was much stickier than I would have made it. Good thing I wasn’t making them!)

Once you have it at the right consistency, continue kneading it in the bowl until it loses some of its stickiness.

At this point add some oil, just enough to give a kind of sheen to the dough, and knead some more. Hadija also coated her hands in oil so that they wouldn’t stick to the dough. Once you have added enough oil and kneaded it well, your dough should look very smooth and slightly shiny, feel quite soft, and will no longer be sticky.

Pull pieces off the dough and shape them into the size of… hmm… I don’t know, actually. Larger than an egg, but smaller than a tennis ball. Once you have shaped out all of the dough in this way, (1) roll out your first piece until it is the size of a small dinner plate. (2) Coat the surface with a thin layer of oil, (3) stretch the dough by pulling on both sides, flip the top down, and (4) roll it into a tube so that the oil is on the inside. (5) Twist the tube around your fingers a couple of times and tuck the loose ends into the center.

This process is what gives the chapati its characteristic flaky quality.

Repeat these steps with all your pieces and set them aside. Now you are ready to roll them flat and cook them. When you roll them for the second time, they should be the size of a small dinner plate again, and about twice as thick as a tortilla.

To cook, put a small amount of oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Place a chapati in the pan and cook, flipping frequently, and coating each side with oil a few times during the process. Hadija actually just used a spoon to both add the oil and flip the chapati. (She has fingers of steel, pinching the hot chapati between her thumb and the spoon to turn it.) Once both sides have turned a golden brown, with a few darker, crispier spots, the chapati is done.

People usually use them to scoop up the rest of their meal – beef stew, collard greens, beans, rice, sauteed cabbage & carrots… yum.

OK, so if you actually want a real recipe, the one on this blog looks like a relatively good one. The technique is slightly different, but the outcome looks the same. And it actually has measurements.

http://joyunspeakableinkenya.blogspot.com/p/kenyan-recipes.html

Hashing in Machame

Machame is a town that is a few thousand feet up the western slope of Kilimanjaro. This was where our last Hash was. The path we took was incredibly beautiful, but a bit more tricky, with a number of false trails (ultimately marked with an F at the end, at which point we had to backtrack until we found the correct trail).

We were actually about an hour late to the Hash because our taxi was delayed. But this ultimately worked out to our benefit because one of the false trails was so long that we ended up catching up with the rest of the group as they were backtracking! We were also told that we missed getting soaked in the rain.