Sunday, August 28, 2016

Zam!

I'm finally getting back to posting about the amazing vacation we took in June. After Jacana, we went to Livingstone, (as in Dr. Livingstone I presume) Zambia. To get from Jacana to Livingstone, Zambia, we took four flights and then ended up at a real airport, meaning not a dirt air strip, called Kasane. At Kasane we went through customs, "checked out" of Botswana and were told to wait in the lounge for our pilot. We waited for just a few minutes and then a representative from Wilderness Safaris came over and introduced us to our pilot. I think his name was Steve. You'd think I remember that since Mr. Deep's name is Steve...I mean Stephen. 

Steve walked us out onto the tarmac to the plane. It was just the three of us. There was no co-pilot or flight attendant. Steve asked about our travels thus far. When he learned we'd been flying around in the small planes for the better part of a week he asked us if we wanted to recite the safety spiel to him. We did, he filled in a few gaps in the information, and we were on our way. I sat in the front with pilot Steve and Mr. Deep sat behind us. Steve told us that since we were the only passengers he would take our flight over Victoria Falls so we could get a good look and then he would take us to Livingstone Airport. 

I think I have somewhat of an overactive imagination. While we were flying, somehow, I got the idea in my head that maybe Steve wasn't a real pilot. Although he obviously did know how to fly as at the time I came up with this notion we were already in the air. So I thought that maybe he was a real pilot but not the pilot we were supposed to have. Do you ever have these strange paranoid thoughts? A few things made me wonder. First, the lack of a co-pilot and the fact that we had had one on all of the other flights. Second, he asked us to recite the safety briefing. Was this because he didn't know it? Third, would a real pilot with a schedule volunteer to fly us over Victoria Falls? Didn't he have something he needed to do? Fourth, and most alarming, he was wearing street clothes. I couldn't say anything to Mr. Deep about my theory because I wasn't sitting next to him. And since I couldn't come up with any motive as to why Steve would pretend to be our pilot if he really wasn't, I just told myself that I was crazy and looked out the window. Of course he was the real pilot after all and we had a wonderful flight to Livingstone and some great aerial views of Victoria Falls. 






When we landed in Livingstone the airport was empty. We went through customs and got our visas. At the time, we thought we wanted to also visit Zimbabwe so we got a multiple entry Zambian visa. We later heard the falls viewing was better from the Zambia side (not always the case but this was the story when we were there) so we didn't end up visiting Zim after all.  

We boarded a bus (again we were the only passengers) and were taken to our final lodge Toko Leya. Toko Leya sits on the bank of the Zambezi River. Toko Leya was a good re-entry into semi-civilization. There were no restrictions on electricity meaning my hair straightener could make a triumphant return. And, after a week of being cut off from any news or communications, there was wifi in the lodge. Mr. Deep wasn't too excited about that being he was on vacation from work but I was excited to check Facebook and what'sapp chat with my friends and family. 


Toko Leya Lodge
During the orientation we were told that at Toko Leya we didn't need to wake up until 7:00 a.m.! We had been waking up at 5:30 at Chitabe and 6:00 at Jacana for our morning activities so 7:00 seemed very luxurious. 

Shortly after arriving at Toko Leya we met Godfrey, our guide. No, his name didn't contain any B's. Godfrey took us out for our first afternoon activity, a boat cruise on the Zambezi river. Even though there were other guests staying at Toko Leya we had Godfrey all to ourselves AND he was more than happy to talk about birds with Mr. Deep. On one side of the river is Zambia and on the other side Zimbabwe. We saw lots of great wildlife which I will post shortly. Below are a few photos from that first river boat cruise. 




The next morning we planned to take a helicopter ride over the falls and then visit the falls on foot. We headed to breakfast and ordered the special, huevos rancheros. Being American Mr. Deep and I love Mexican food and any time we see anything remotely Mexican on a menu we are going to order it. But it was a bad idea because the huevos rancheros took forever to make as the chef was clearly not Mexican. After 30 minutes the food finally came out out but the eggs were raw and we had to send it back. Meanwhile Godfrey was waiting to take us to the helicopter and so we were getting stressed. Finally, we ate and met up with Godfrey. 

I have a trait, one that I don't love about myself, where I need to point out when I am right and when something is not my fault. I don't know why I need to do this but I do. I am working on it. Anyway, I felt I needed to tell Godfrey why we were late because it was important to me that he know that we are not tardy people and that we did respect the schedule he had created for us. I tried to explain the situation with the the huevos rancheros but Godfrey said not to worry about it. I don't even know if he caught the part about the huevos rancheros so I again tried to tell him. I am still not sure that he got it. He told us that because of the delay he would drive us through the town for a tour and then we would take the helicopter ride a bit later. After the helicopter we would visit the falls on foot. 

He took us through the town of Livingstone. He showed us schools, the hospital, a market, disco and more. Zambia has been an independent nation since the 1960's and it seems to be doing pretty well. Godfrey said government corruption is not really a problem. The town of Livingstone is doing particularly well because as Zimbabwe continues to falter, Zambia and specifically Livingstone has become the tourism centre for Victoria Falls. 


Maize meal for sale at the market
Beans!

Lots of pretty fabrics. They gave us a piece of fabric when we left Toko Leya but I gave it to Christine since I don't sew.


A tray of eggs selling for 27 Kwacha. That's about a $2.70.
This is the wall protecting a school. To prevent people from coming over the wall they stuck broken glass into the cement. 



We then headed for our helicopter tour. More about that and our trip to Vic Falls on foot in my next post. 


Monday, August 22, 2016

Good News Bad News

Mr. Deep and I have arrived back in Joburg. Things here are dryer than ever. Only this time it's not due to lack of humidity.

Good News: 
The flights were smooth and we were able to fit all of our luggage in the Uber.  The massive amount of luggage was due to a tremendous amount of shopping while in the U.S.A. Also, many friends made generous donations of items for the less fortunate here in Joburg. We received puzzles and books for the library at the Diepsloot Combined School and donations of goods for the Santa Shoe boxes. We were also given lots of kids clothing that I will find good homes for. 

Bad News: 
There was no water at our house when we got here. Meaning when we turned on the taps nothing came out. 

Worse News:
As I write this over 24 hours later we still have no water. 

Not having water when you return from flying half way around the world is right up there with not having any electricity on Christmas. It's poor timing. The only thing you really want to do after such a long trip is take a shower and unfortunately that was not in the cards for us upon arrival. 

Good News: 
We belong to a gym and we were able to shower there.

When you live in South Africa and you don't have water or electricity you assume there is some kind of outage that affects more than just your house. So I checked with our neighbors is to see if they had water. 

Bad News: 
They said they had water. This is obviously good news for them.

Good News:
Our neighbor kindly offered that we could come over and shower. As mentioned we went to the gym but it is still nice to have good neighbors who offer such things.

Bad News: 
Yesterday was Sunday so getting a technician out to examine the situation was unlikely.

Good News: 
Even though it was Sunday Joburg Water said they would send a technician.

Bad News: 
They didn't.

Similar to the Christmas situation Mr. Deep and I wondered if the lack of water had anything to do with an unpaid invoice. We pay the landlord and she pays the utility BUT sometimes the utility forgets to send out invoices and without an invoice people can't pay in a timely fashion. 

Good News: 
The landlord followed up with Joburg water and was told that they did not shut off the water due to lack of payment. 

Bad News: 
If they had shut off the water they could likely quickly and easily turn it back on. Now, we are left to wonder what exactly is wrong? Why is this problem only affecting our house and how long will it take to fix? 

Good News: 
At 1:00 p.m. (about 26 hours after we arrived home) security called and said Joburg Water was at the gate! I quickly buzzed them in and then went outside to wait for them. 

Bad News: 
Ten minutes went by and no one arrived. I thought maybe they were examining some issue in another part of the complex. But then security called again and said one of the guys in the bakkie (truck) did not have ID on him and therefore Joburg Water was not allowed to enter the grounds. 

I would certainly be willing to put my safety (as well as the safety of everyone else who lives in the estate) aside if the man without ID has knowledge in the art and science of how to get water running again.

Bad News:
Security does not see it that way.

Good News: 
We normally have running water. There are many people who don't. I have to be careful about who I complain about this problem to because I don't want to seem insensitive to those who live in shacks and who NEVER have running water and electricity. 

Bad News: 
We still don't have water. 




















Thursday, August 18, 2016

Impressions

I write a lot about my experiences in South Africa that I find interesting and unusual. This time I am going to turn the tables a bit. We are back in the U.S.A. for ten days. Here are a few observations.

We landed in New York City on a beautiful August day. Whenever I visit New York in the summer I need to remind myself of one word...January. Because as gorgeous as it is in the summer winter is a world of pain.  After we dropped off our bags and Mr. Deep went for a run (good for him because I was not feeling so energetic after flying for 17 hours) we went to Starbucks. Of all the things to do in New York the first thing on our agenda was visiting Starbucks. 

I love Starbucks. If you aren't a fan you might wonder what is so great about it. We do have lovely coffee and numerous comfy places to drink it in Joburg. We even have places where you can sit with a laptop for hours and no will bother you. But there is something about Starbucks that is special. Their coffee is fine but it's definitely more the atmosphere that attracts me. That and the free wifi which is particularly useful as my South African SIM card doesn't work in the U.S. Starbucks is the answer to any question you could have...have time to kill, go to Starbucks, need to meet someone, go to Starbucks, feeling hungry, go to Starbucks, feeling tired, go to Starbucks, feeling bored, go to Starbucks, need to do work, go to Starbucks. You get the idea.

While we are on the subject of coffee I need to ask a question of my American readers. What is the deal with cold brew? I am seeing signs for it everywhere in America and while maybe I have heard of it before I am not quite sure what exactly it is. I am going to assume it's coffee served cold that somehow was brewed without ever having been hot. Like Coors Light. Wow, there is a major marketing push going on now for cold brew. And now I am feeling like I must try it even though I don't even know what it is. That's good American marketing.




This one is hand crafted
While many would describe the humidity in the northeast over the past week as oppressive I am thoroughly enjoying it. As I write this post the humidity where I am is listed at 71%. and it feels like heaven. Joburg is so dry and it's a struggle for me to stay properly hydrated. Yes, I know people live in shacks without proper services like water and electricity but for a moment we need to talk about my struggle with proper hydration. Even though I try to drink a good amount of water each day in Joburg my hydration is always a losing game. I wake up every morning feeling like a pile of dust. I can feel my skin aging rapidly and I am pretty sure that in the near future I am going to look like Georgia O'Keeffe minus the nice paintings. But with humidity, I can drink a few glasses of water a day and feel normal. I am not constantly parched with a headache and I'm not applying endless amounts of lotion. My skin is naturally plumping back up to normal levels and I believe I am now aging backwards. 

I am also noticing (and missing) the politeness of people in South Africa. In Joburg when you walk into a store you are greeted with "good morning ma'am" or "morning morning how are you ma'am?" The correct response to being asked how you are is good and you? which is pronounced "good and youuuuuuu?" Then, once these pleasantries are out of the way, you can proceed with your question or your business. 

In America people might also say good morning or ask how you are when you walk into a store but there is no one correct response. You can reply that you are good without inquiring back as how the other person is. People might also say hello or good morning in America and they might even ask how you are but then they might walk away before you can reply. I'm not saying people are rude here, I'm just saying our American way of greeting each other is totally different and much less involved kind of abrupt and not very genuine. It's not all that genuine in South Africa either as you're expected to reply "good and youuuu" and not to start listing your problems when asked how you are but I still like pleasantries and the way people in South Africa are careful to greet each other before getting down to business. I'm not saying people in the U.S. are rude. They aren't. It's just a different greeting process.

There was one gentleman who was rude to Mr. Deep. As we walked in New York a homeless man asked Mr. Deep for money. Because both Mr. Deep and I are so used to concerning ourselves with having spare change on us at all times so we can tip the never ending car guards who we come in contact with, Mr. Deep replied to the man "sorry I don't have any change." This response was not quite right. A better response might have been to say nothing, or to reply sorry I don't have any money. But Mr. Deep replied that he didn't have any change and the man took exception. He started yelling at Mr. Deep and continued to yell at him as Mr. Deep walked down the block. He yelled, "you don't have any change? What the F*** am I supposed to do with change motherf*****? This is New York F****** City! I don't need change. I need at least $20."

Welcome to the U.S.A.











































Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Birdman of Botswana (and Zambia)

A funny thing happened in the middle of Botswana. Mr. Deep got really into birds. Over the course of the trip he became more and more excited about photographing birds, talking to the guides about birds and even borrowing and reading the guide's books about birds. At Jacana Camp, I was supportive of this new found interest as birds were a large part of what we were seeing given all of the water. And there were many colorful and beautiful birds to be seen. But when we got to Zambia the obsession continued.  So much so that on our last boat cruise on the Zambezi, when I found out that other guests would be joining us for the first time, I had to gently remind Mr. Deep that not everyone wants to sit and photograph each bird spotted for 20 minutes. But, it turns out my speech was unnecessary as the other guests were just as into birds as Mr. Deep. 
The bird man in action

Fish Eagle
Wattled Crane
Reed Cormorant
African Spoonbills
Spur-Winged Goose
Male and female Fish Eagle
African Black Crake
Saddle Billed Stork
Little Egret
Rosy-Throated Longclaw
Lilac Breasted Roller
Swallow Tailed Bee-Eater
I haven't met many birders in my life but I am positive that Mr. Deep is not typical. I imagine birders to be gentle people who go out at sunrise after doing a bit of light yoga. They lie on the ground or sit in a tree for hours drinking herbal tea from a thermos. They wear Birkenstock sandals. They patiently wait for birds to appear. I also imagine that birders have other friends who are birders and they probably talk for hours about birds, "remember when we saw those blue footed boobies in Galapagos?" And real birders are not saying this because they just think it's funny to say the word boobie. They are truly interested in birds. Mr. Deep is nothing like this except for that his interest in birds is genuine. Yes, he would get up early to photograph wildlife but he would drink coffee and not tea. And although he's seen over fifty Grateful Dead concerts he would never wear Birkenstocks. But perhaps the most notable difference is that Mr. Deep has a very unique way of speaking to the birds he is photographing. Saying things like "f-ing fly you f-er" or "turn around you f-ing bastard" or "stay still f-er!"  


Even though I've known Mr. Deep for over twenty years he continues to amaze. I found myself thinking "who is this man?" when he jumped up from the bar (at least that part remains consistent) and screamed "there he is! The Pied Kingfisher." 


Giant Kingfisher eating a fish
The creation of this blog post was not easy as Mr. Deep wanted to be very involved. I appreciate his help in identifying the birds for the photos BUT, he spent most of Saturday afternoon second guessing my photo selection and I was summoned upstairs to his computer room no less than eight times so he could "make an appeal" for additional photos to be added to the post. He did get some great photos though and many (but much to his dismay not all) are included in this post. 


Goliath Heron
Malachite Kingfisher
Copper Tailed Coucal
African Darter
Egyptian Goose
African Skimmer
Egyptian Geese
Egyptian Goose
Black-Winged Stilt
White-Fronted Bee-Eater
Grey Loerie
Juvenile African Finfoot
Marabou Stork
African Open-Billed Stork
Pied Kingfishers (one happy as he has a fish)
Pied Kingfishers
Water Thick-Knee
Bee-Eaters
Bee-Eater
Half-Collared Kingfisher
Baby Brown-Hooded Kingfisher
Mangrove Kingfisher (could be a Brown-headed as well) with insect
Red Hornbill 






About Me

My photo
Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have moved from the U.S. to South Africa for three years. We moved due to an exciting opportunity my husband had with his job. Second, I won't be working anymore. I'm actually not allowed to work so that will be different given that for the past twenty years I've been somewhat of a workaholic. I'm excited to share our adventures with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.