Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Loving Lower Zam.

Let me list the things that I love about weekends in Lower Zam:
  • It’s not too far from Lusaka 
  • Eating lots of yummy food
  • Being near the water (swimming pools and river cruises)
  • Hanging out with friends
  • No cell phone reception
  • Hippos and elephants and crocs oh my
  • Drinking (responsibly of course) and not having to drive anywhere
  • Not worrying about what I look like and wearing yoga clothes all weekend
We celebrated a friend’s birthday this past weekend and it was really…great. 😊

Monday, January 8, 2018

Holidays in Zanzibar.

The last time I was in Zanzibar I was a Peace Corps volunteer.  Being a Peace Corps volunteer is fantastic in so many ways but it does typically mean you are always doing budget traveling which can be an adventure.  This time, I went to Zanzibar as a certified Public Health professional (aka, I had a job)!  Not that I didn’t have a fabulous time the last time I was in Zanzibar but it was just different.  This time, I flew to Zanziber (last time I took a ferry) and met up with friends from Mozambique.  We stayed in a lovely hotel (last time I shared a room with my Peace Corps friends…as you do when you are volunteers), played in the most amazing white sand beaches and blue water, and lounged around some pretty spectacular swimming pools.  We also ventured into Stone Town for a couple of days and went on a private spice tour (which I couldn’t afford last time), shopped in the streets and watched the sun set over the ocean at some amazing locations. 

The reality is that I do sort of miss my Peace Corps days.  The intensity of always trying to figure out how we were going to get to the next place and feeling like every day was an adventure.  But it’s also nice not to travel with that huge backpack or wake up with a nasty case of bedbugs.

Happy 2018 everyone!       

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Elephant Charge.

I recently participated in the 2017 Elephant Charge.  I didn’t know what I was getting into when my friend asked me to participate in this annual event that takes place to raise money for wildlife conservation here in Zambia.  I thought it would be a fun weekend get-away camping with friends as we drove around on some dirt roads in the bush.  Well, turns out the whole event is a bit more extreme than I anticipated (and it also turns out that I am much more suited for activities where my feet are planted firmly on the ground).  The objective is to drive the shortest distance through a set of checkpoints in a set amount of time and finish without tipping over your car, getting stuck, or dying (well, you get my point).  I'm happy to report our team did actually finish and win a small prize (we were a new team with the shortest distance).  After a bit of reflection (and being so thankful to be alive) I have to admit it was sorta fun.  

This whole event is done every year to raise money for wildlife conservation in Zambia so if you are interested in donating please visit the website (www.elephantcharge.org) and donate through our team (Hard Okra).  

And you can see some of our pics over there to the right...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Practicing Gratitude.

I feel really lucky that this is my life.  Not that I don’t have frustrations but when I step back and look at the opportunity I’ve been given, how can I be anything other than grateful?  Here are a few pictures from this weekend where we went to a lodge just a few hours away from Lusaka (www.royalzambezilodge.com) and saw some amazing animals, practiced a little yoga and spent lots of time relaxing.  


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mom and Dad in Zambia.

Over the Easter holiday my parents came for a visit.  My mom visited me when I lived in South Africa but this was my dad’s first time in Africa.  I was trying to remember my feelings the first time I came to Africa and it was both exciting and, frankly, sorta scary.  After living here for so long it seems silly to even admit because it’s just so normal now but when you have no idea what to expect, scary is understandable...another language (although luckily Zambia makes it pretty easy with that), the landscape, different currency, driving on the wrong side of the road.  Everything is just a little different especially when you haven't experienced it before?  Well, I’m proud to say that both of my parents are now quite comfortable and seem to like my little home here in Zambia.  I mean I didn’t expect that they wouldn’t but I have to admit that I was a bit stressed out because, well, I love this place so much and wanted them to like it as much as I do. 

We visited the mighty Victoria Falls which was crazy full due to the high amounts of rainfall this year.  My mom even braved walking across the Knife Edge Bridge and we got “misted” (or rather drenched) with lots and lots of water.  My father loved watching the monkeys try to scope out ways to steal food from the tables every morning at the lodge.  The drive to and from Livingstone was also an adventure as my parents learned that all roads are not created equal.  Potholes, people and many not so well-behaved trucks adorned the road.  We survived the trip though with only a flat tire and then decided to fly to our next destination in the eastern part of Zambia.  South Luangwa National Park did not disappoint.  We saw all kinds of animals including wild dogs, elephants, leopards (my parents can tell you about their exciting experience of seeing a leopard kill an impala and drag it up a tree), lions and soooo many baboons.  I mean hundreds of them.  It was a special Easter weekend. 

I also just dragged them around Lusaka to meet my friends and experience my everyday “normal” life.  We went to dinner with friends, a birthday party “braai”, and just lounged around my flat.  It was nice for them to know that my life here in Zambia is pretty normal.  I think they enjoyed it so much that they might even come back for another visit someday??  Although braving the 30+ hour travel probably will keep them away for a while.  Thanks, mom and dad, for making the trek!  And…I love you.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Indian Weddings and One Night (okay, several nights) in Bangkok.

I went to India for the first time over the Christmas holiday.  It was amazing.  Maybe it was because I went for a friend’s wedding and was surrounded by a fantastic group of people (plus I got to see two wonderful people say "I do" or at least I think that’s what they said since the actual wedding ceremony was in Hindi).  There was something about the vibrancy, organized chaos, intensity, food, people.  Sadly, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to enjoy the city of Mumbai so I definitely will be back.  The wedding really was the main focus of my visit although we managed to do a bit of sightseeing.  The friend who got married had lived in Zambia a few years ago so there were a few of us that represented her "Zambian days."  She was kind enough to prepare a “Survival Kit” for those of us who were attending an Indian wedding for the first time.  It included information about the traditional ceremonies and what to expect at each one (this was very helpful).  I’ll give you a brief rundown:

Sangeet ceremony is a wedding tradition observed in India that involves singing, dancing and music. The sangeet with the mehndi ceremony, which is the ritual of applying henna (mehndi) to the bride in preparation for the wedding itself were combined at this wedding.  

Wedding ceremony is the main ceremony, the priest, groom, bride and bride's parents sit beneath a mandap, a canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. The ceremony starts off with the kanya daan, in which the bride's parents give her away. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the agni) in a ritual called the phera. Then the couple will take the saptapadi, or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride's forehead and tie a necklace around her neck, symbolizing she's now a married woman.

Reception ceremony is celebrated after the main wedding. It is the first public appearance of the newlywed couple after their marriage and is sort of a grand party. This is a celebration time for both the families as they rejoice over their new accord. Reception parties are laid with sumptuous food to treat the guests.

We had a grand time enjoying and being part of all of these events and embraced every minute including wearing our traditional Indian attire!  Oh, and one of my favorite parts?!  The chai masala tea.  I mean I loved chai tea before but this?!  Sigh.  So, so good.   

I was also able to squeeze in some time in Thailand which was equally pretty great.  For the past several years I have traveled for New Year’s with my friend Heather to random places across the world.  This year we met in Thailand and I got to meet her and her husband's new baby girl (she is the adorable baby in all of the pictures).  We spent some time enjoying the beaches near Krabi…this was before everyone got food poisoning (except me since luckily I don't eat seafood, thank goodness)!  But after everyone recovered we flew from Krabi to Bangkok.  I wish I also had more time in Bangkok. While, yes, the pollution was terrible everything else was wonderful.  The city was vibrant and loud and the shopping was fantastic.  So many places I want to go back to and also to visit for the first time?  How does one fit all this traveling into such a short lifetime?  

I hope all my friends and family had a wonderful holiday and am wishing you all a happy, happy 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thanksgiving and African Safaris.

Can you believe this was the 5th year I've celebrated Thanksgiving in Zambia?  Well, believe it because it's true.  I was able to spend time with friends eating some traditional Thanksgiving food like turkey (so I'm still waiting for the day I can get tofurkey here), stuffing, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie.  I also had the opportunity to spend the weekend tackling another tradition.   This one more African of sorts.  The safari.  There is a national park in Zambia that I had yet to visit so my friend and I decided this was the weekend to go.  Kafue National Park.  The largest national park in Zambia and the second largest in Africa.  We had high hopes of viewing amazing wildlife such as lions, cheetahs, elephants, wild dogs, zebra, leopards.  Then we got to the park.  And we saw none of these animals.  It rained the entire weekend and we only managed to see a lot of bugs.  Including the dreaded tsetse fly which I frankly don’t want to see again.  Actually, we did manage to see one very angry elephant who was particularly protective of her young elephant family.  I’ve never seen such a protective mama.  She trumpeted and charged our vehicle which I’ve never had happen before…the one exciting event in a very rainy and bug filled weekend.  

As we were driving home from our Thanksgiving/African safari weekend I was thinking how much these two very different things have become part of my world.  I love that I'm able to still celebrate with traditions from home and also engage in new ways of seeing the world.  It can be hard sometimes living away from the things you've known all your life.  But I also believe that when you do there is a richness, a vibrancy, a greater awareness that starts to shape your days (and years)!  And for this I am thankful. 

Sunrise in Kafue National Park