Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Poem: Lifted


Down a road I know well
Tall grass and palms
Thatched roof huts and women in
Bananas and tomatoes sold on the
Side of the road
Puffed up cumulus clouds
Birds perched on wires
Today as if they have sat out
Especially to bid goodbye
The buzzard and the roller

Last memories:
Clicks and croaks of a boubou
Words from a loving, hopeful, and trusted friend
Hugs from my sisters in Africa
Limp and dried out ears of
Her greatest resource

From above
Those square fields and
Don’t look so different from
Other parts of the

I am lifted
I am away now
Giving myself over to God’s will
Yet ever mindful of the power of choice

Monday, May 16, 2011

Arts and Crafts: Monkey Fruit Bowls

I've decided to leave Banani and serve the remainder of the year at the Native American Baha'i Institute in Arizona. I plan to continue this blog and record the lessons I learn on my year of service.

But first: I was able to take one monkey fruit home with me, where I painted it with acrylic, sealed it with varnish, and added plastic beads. I still think this would be a great craft project for junior youth, and it could be done with wooden bowls or gourds in place of monkey fruit.

stylized Crested Guinea Fowl

The words on the inside of the bowl read: "Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch..." A quote from Baha'u'llah

Friday, May 13, 2011

Livingstone (Part 2)

The Baha’i Community
We spent one morning visiting some of the local Baha’is and meeting children and junior youth. The children and junior youth had prepared songs and quotes from their classes to share with us and they also invited us to play some of the games they had been playing in their classes. We were then asked to teach them a few games which we used in our own classes at Banani. What I found most exciting about this meeting was the realization that the books created by the Ruhi institute (in this case book 3 and 5) really has had a worldwide effect. The Baha’i children in Livingstone, though of course their class is unique and colored with their own individuality, are memorizing many of the same songs and quotes as the Baha’i children in Colorado, or any other part of the world! Baha’i communities are arising to create close-knit communities, and children’s classes are one of the many activities that have brought communities closer, and Zambia is no exception.

We were welcomed like family into the community and as we left the residential area, the children crowded around the Banani youth and showered us with their laughter and hugs, waving goodbye.

Victoria Falls: Knife Edge Bridge and the Boiling Pot

Mosi-oa-tunya: that’s Lozi for “the smoke that thunders”, an appropriate description for this 100 meter fall of water. Around 625 million liters of water rush over the edge per minute*, and the falls span the width of the Zambezi, around 1700 meters wide. But I’m not a fan of numbers, so suffice it to say the falls are a torrential and thundering downpour of H2O. Nura, Sharghi, Krista, and I walked out to the Knife Edge Bridge. It began to rain as walked and the storm shower combined with the mist from the falls soaked us through and through. “I’ve never been so wet,” Nura said “not even in the shower!”

The Knife Edge Bridge from a distance

The bridge to the Zimbabwe side

The Knife Edge Bridge crosses a section of the gorge and gives visitors another perspective of the falls. The mist is so heavy, however, that one must constantly watch for the mist to lift in order to catch brief glimpses of the curtain of water. There was so much water on the footpath that it covered my shoes and created miniature waterfalls on the stone steps.

The boiling pot is where the falls meet the river below and can be seen by taking a steep footbath to the bottom of the gorge. Along the way, one can enjoy the surreal rainforest landscape. White butterflies flutter up and down the heavily vegetated cliff edge and the sun shines through the glittering confetti-like spray of water. The mist from the falls makes it seem like there is always a light sprinkle of rain.

The rainforest bordering the boiling pot trail

Natal Spurfowl (Francolin) on the steps leading down to the boiling pot

At the bottom of the trail visitors stand at the edge of the Zambezi and see the powerful swirl of water created at the base of the falls. We also saw the bridge which crosses to Zimbabwe, where people bungee jump or ride the gorge swing (often times they are screaming as their bodies drop and twist like a limp doll into the gorge).

*This number is approximate and changes throughout the year. Peak flow happens to be in April, the time of my visit.

Ah yes, and once again what better way to end the post than with a picture of monkeys...er, I mean baboons!

Livingstone (Part 1)

The Mighty Victoria Falls

Livingstone is one of Zambia’s greatest tourist hotspots, as it is the site of one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. It offers a variety of activities for visitors, from watching traditional Zambian dances to wildlife watching to high-adrenaline activities like bungee jumping and white water rafting. What follows is a sampling of memories and experiences from a two day trip to Livingstone which Banani International School funded for its youth volunteers.

Mosi-oa-tunya Wildlife Sanctuary
Tourists will pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to go on African safaris. If you have your own transportation, however, in some parks it is possible to go on a “self-drive safari” and pay much less. Guides cost extra, but I found that most of the wildlife can be found and identified on one’s own; you only need sharp eyes and good identification books.

Male Impala

We paid around 10 USD each to enter the park (the price is higher for non-residents) and drove in our white Banani van down the tarred road as well as many of the dirt side roads. As we entered the park, we tagged along behind a safari truck (that’s the way to do it!) and as they pulled over excitedly, so did we. More than half concealed behind a bush stood an elephant, only its large ears and trunk visible through the thick brush. Closer to the van stood a Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover), so named for its alarm call which sounds like a hammer striking an anvil.

Impalas thrive in this small wildlife sanctuary. Other common game animals include water buffalo, wildebeest, bushpig, and zebra. Because the park is small, there are no predators within its borders. If you are lucky, you might spot a hippo as you drive along one side of the Zambezi River, which feeds Victoria Falls. On our way out of the park at dusk, a hippo moseyed out of the river and onto the road. Safari-goers on a river cruise parallel to us craned their necks and struggled to see Mr. Hip-hop-opotamus, while we had excellent front seat views from our white Banani van…nanny nanny poo poo!

a herd of wildebeast in the shade


The Arts Café
Just down the road from the Fawlty Towers lodge where we stayed is a small building bursting with creativity. The Arts Café offers a variety of activities and I highly recommend at least spending an evening there. Visitors can take a workshop in which they learn to create their own drum, finger piano, jewelry, or other craft. Although we did not have time to take a workshop, we did attend an evening show, “Dancing Around Zambia”, in which performers shared the traditional dances from the provinces of Zambia. Most baffling to me is how they are able to move their hips without moving any other part of their body. I’ve tried it a number of times and probably look like a fool wiggling around in front of a mirror. The dance was full of energy and the performers were able to share their knowledge of the traditions behind many of the dances, as well as which tribe or province within Zambia they originate from.

Return for more tomorrow!