Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 148/365 I Had A Farm in Africa.....

Or, at least a small house.

And it was actually my parents house.

Which they were renting.

But it was in Africa.

Other than that, me and Isak Dinesin both played "Out of Africa".

Her in the early 1900's, me in 1972.

Her on a coffee plantation in Kenya, me at age 16 with my parents at a fisheries wildlife station in Chilanga, Zambia, a little wide spot in the road outside of the capitol Lusaka.

She got the hot adventuresome lover played by Robert Redford, I got bored to tears because I wanted to be home in the States with my friends.

Nevertheless, this was the first building I saw when we landed in Lusaka. This is a modern-day photo, after they added the pavement and the grass. I had expected Africa to be all wild animals, and bush huts. It wasn't. Lusaka was traffic, hoards of people (all chattering in different languages -Zambia's official language was English, but there were 300 common tribal dialects. No one understood anyone else).

This was our home in Chilanga, with it's beautiful bouganvilla climbing over the front door. The rooms were all painted pink or aqua, and up by the ceilings there were huge flat wall spiders the size of saucers who ate the mosquitos at night. It was one of those things you got use to.

This was our servants home, which sat just down the hill in back of our house. It took a good month to convince my mother that she "needed" a house servant. The local Africans would come and knock on the door asking if Mam needed help. They knocked a lot. Finally it was explained to us that as "English" (anyone white was considered English, with actual nationality listed after that - we were English-American). Anyway, as "English" we were considered the "new business" come to town, and owed it to the community to employ someone.

Or in this case, someone and his wife. With their children. And this little white house was considered "the upper East Side" in Chilanga.

Afternoon life in Chilanga. This is what happens when video games haven't been invented, and all electricity comes from a generator.

Villagers in the Chambeshi River using fishnets. You could just as easily see the village women out washing their fabric wraps on the rocks, avoiding hippos and crocodiles who share the river with them. (Note: Hippos are cute. And mean. Avoid them.) (This is not meant as any sort of endorsement for the crocodiles, but they are usually self-explanatory.).

The southern plains of Zambia. The bush, so to speak. The home of 6 foot tall termite hills and herds of hundreds of wildebeasts.

A very tidy village we drove through, with no apparent sign of life. It was not uncommon to see huts with TV antennas sprouting from the roof. There was no TV inside, nor any sort of TV reception or for that matter any TV station for hundreds of miles, but having an antenna was a sign of wealth.

One of the first fisheries tilapia ponds near Chilanga. I got to see a lot of this, since dad worked with the newly-emerging fisheries industry in Zambia. At the time he was helping Zambia find new industries and food sources, one of those being a fish called tilapia. At the time tilapia was almost unknown to the West, but now, thirty-seven years later, you can buy family pack boxes at Walmart (and I do). Tilapia is native to Zambia, particularly Lake Bangweulu.

The beautiful Lake Bangweulu, looking for all the world like the Indian Ocean, but it wasn't.

Kafue National Park - FINALLY - I got to see the Africa I expected. It never, ever dawned on me that in Africa (of all places), the wild animals would be confined to national parks. Yes, even in Africa, the only place to see giraffes, elephants, lions, zebras, wildebeasts, etc is inside a national park. I found that incredibly depressing. I was hoping there was still someplace in the world where they could run free. So remember that the next time you're watching a cool Nat'l Geo show - yep - national park.

Whomping willow? NO! African Baobab tree. Very cool, HUGE possessed trees that look like they could swallow a small car, and sit next to a large wizard's school.

Zambian plains, on the way south to Livingstone. In 1972, the only road was a single lane of asphalt, the width of a Volkswagen Beetle. When one met oncoming traffic, each vehicle was expected to drop two of their wheels off the asphalt edge, and share the asphalt strip. This is why even today "overcorrecting" while driving holds no mystery for me - I've done it, in a VW Bug, faced with a large oncoming dilapidated truck, loaded with cargo and passengers hanging off the sides, driven by a driver who may or may not have been licensed. Never mind the zebras.

Our destination and reason for the adenturous drive south - my one birthday request: a visit to Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world.

It was amazing. Criss-crossed with tiny hanging bridges, surrounded by rainbows, rain forest greenery wet with mist that hung in the air, and nothing but the sound of roaring water. That's the one sound that will always remind me of Africa -rushing, roaring water.

If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me? Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesin), Out of Africa


  1. Great pictures, and it's nice to read about your adventures from the past. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hi Carole: I went to South Africa in '89 sill aparteid. I have to say that just being in Africa changed my life forever. Sometimes when I'm lucky enough to find a store selling art etc from Africa the earth smell takes me back there in seconds. There is the heat, the colours, the singing, the people, the earth, the animals like no other place in the world that made such an impact on my life. I loved Africa. It's a dream come true!
    Sincerely, Sandra