Since I was eighteen years old, I have wished to go to Africa. Initially, I wanted to do volunteer work there through Katimavic, a program that is designed for youth in Canada to do volunteer work in Canada and abroad. That hope was not materialized, and since then I’ve been looking for an opportunity to visit this amazing continent.
Last year, my daughter, Natalie, was looking for opportunities to do similar work overseas and was able to be accepted as a volunteer at the Banani International Secondary School near Lusaka, Zambia. She has been there since early January, and is settling in nicely. When we knew that she would be going for sure, I couldn’t help but want to visit her and finally make this trip I’ve been wanting to make to Africa.
I will be leaving this Friday and will be traveling for two weeks. As a bonus, I was able to arrange a stop over in Zurich, Switzerland, to visit a high school friend whom I haven’t seen for over 35 years.
I’m going to keep a blog about this trip so that my family and friends can come along with me on this exciting journey.
Until the next entry…
Getting ready for the trip
Feb 15, 2016
So, I’ve been doing a bit of research on Zambia and here is a blurb from the web:
With an abundance of wildlife, huge water bodies and vast open spaces, Zambia offers unforgettable holidays exploring the real Africa.
Acknowledged as one of the safest countries in the world to visit, Zambia’s welcoming people live in peace and harmony. And here, in the warm heart of Africa, you will find some of the finest Safari experiences on the planet, including face to face encounters with Nature at its most wild.
Now, as I’ve told my friends and family, I’m not so much into Safaris and amazing waterfalls, although they do look breathtaking. I go on trips to meet people and bask in their culture. So, no Safari for me, and I won’t even be going to Victoria falls. But you can be sure that I’ll be meeting a lot of people and loving every minute of it. I have written a poem about why and how I like to travel. Perhpas I’ll post it here for you.
Poem on travelling
Travelling and learning and
Getting to know new people is one of
My favorite things
Seeing new places is also good
But I’m a tourist of people
Different personalities fascinate me
I learn from talking and listening
The physical place is not as important
It’s the people that count for me
Connection matters to me
Friendship is important to me
It’s the trip of the soul that counts
The body just comes along
The physical landscape is interesting too
But if I go somewhere and don’t get to
Know a new soul
I may have as well stayed home!
And here is one I wrote today…
The beautiful continent
So what do you do when you have been dreaming
Of something for years and years
And suddenly the dream becomes a reality
Without you planning it?
I’m talking about my trip to Africa
A dream that has been with me for a long time
Like a loyal friend
So long that sometimes I wasn’t sure if it would
Actually take place
Now I’ll finally set foot on the continent of
One of my ancestors
The black and beautiful continent of Africa
My great great grandmother hails from this land
Her story an intriguing one
She was bought and brought to Iran to work
At the home of the Master of the house
But ended up becoming his second wife
She was beautiful, I hear
But we do’t know which country she was from
Her story is shrouded in mystery
But her contribution to the family easy to see
So, it’s to her continent of birth that I go
With hope and expectation
To the continent of wonderful people with
To the continent of music, dance and drums!
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
How does one prepare mentally for a trip that has been a life time dream? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself of late. I think the best way is to be open to experiences that will come. Not to expect too much. Go with the flow. Try to take it all in. I’ll be writing, of course. That’s how I deal with new experiences. That’s how I process them, and make them a part of the collage of my life. Here is a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of the trip.
My dream trip is three weeks away
Time to get excited?
I think so!
Zambia, here I come!
To see your beautiful people
Bask in your sunshine
Here I come!
To hear your beautiful accents
And local languages
Even the names of people makes me smile
Here I come!
To see the radiant smile
On people’s faces
To see them dance
To absorb it all and store it
In a safe place in my heart
And best of all
I’ll share this experience with my daughter
What a blessing
Here I come, Africa!
January 27th, 2016
Friday, February 19th, 2016
What an afternoon!!! I should be on the plane to Switzerland now, but guess where I am. At home! What happened you ask… Well, the short version is that I couldn’t fly to Switzerland because my passport had to be valid 3 months after the date I would come back, not the date I would leave. So, because of two weeks, they could not let me fly. Seems a little silly, but considering that for a trip to Africa, your passport has to be valid for 6 months after your return date, this was a blessing in disguise. I could have flown to Switzeland, but would not be able to fly to Zambia after that.
So with an hour left to the closing time of the passport office, we got there and managed to renew my passport. A few calls with our travel agent, and the trip was reorganized, and I leave on Sunday.
Saturday, February 20th, 2016
I should be in Zurich now, visiting my high school friend, but instead I’m at the library updating my blog! Well, there is more news today. I will not be flying through Zurich now, but I will do that on the way back, so at least my visit with my classmate can still take place. For now, I’ll be going directly, or via one night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Lusaka. I’ll then be picked up from the airport by a lovely group of people, including Natalie, and then we will make our way to Livinston, near Victoria Falls. Originally I thought I would be too tired to go along, but as my hosts in Lusaka had their own enexpected events, I will be going on this trip after all. I counted. 20 hours of flight from Montreal and about 7 hours by bus to Victoria falls. Now, that is a lot of traveling. Who knew that the world was so big… Or at least that getting places would take so long…
Managed to talk to Natalie today, and we made last minute arrangements. She seems to be having fun and is missing the girls from the school who are on a one week break. So it’s the volunteers and the principle of the school and a few teachers and I who will be making the trip to Livingston.
Sunday, February 21 2016
The day of departure has finally arrived. Tonight I will be sleeping in a hotel in Addis- Ababa, Etheopia. I’m glad I can get some rest before the second leg of the trip to Lusaka, Zambia. I will be picked up at the airport by the Banani School, school bus, and we will head right away to Victoria Falls, another 7 hour drive. All the volunteers at the school, plus two couple who are administrators or teachers will be going to Livingston to visit Victoria Falls. And I’m lucky to be able to join them. Initially, I was not going to join this trip, but I think it was meant to be. Next time I will write, I will be probably somewhere in Africa. The internet is not as reliable as here, so I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.
Saturday, Febrary 27 Banani School
Well, as you can see the idea of a daily blog hasn’t worked so far. I was whisked from the airport to the Banani School bus, where will eleven other people, we started our journey to Livingston right away, actually after leaving some of my luggage at a Baha’i home. The journey was long, and I dozed off quite a bit, which was good. Five school youth volunteers, two teachers, and four administrators, and I along with our wonderful Zambian driver, Mr. L. made this journey together.
Livingston was a whirlwind of activity, from visiting Victoria Falls, to a Zambian village where we bought art produced in the village, to the animal Safari where we stood close to three young Buffaloes along with our armed guides, to visiting an animal sanctuary, where I actually petted a lioness. Oh, and then there was the gorge swing, and ziplining, which was very special, especially because Natalie gathered her courage and decided to jump and swing with another one of the youth volunteers. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, but she thoroughly enjoyed herself and is proud of this accomplishment. I’m happy for her. Zipping across the gorge was more than enough for me. Some more shopping of arts and crafts, and then we left the area.
We had lovely breakfasts at our hotel, which was called Faulty Towers, but it did take a while to get our orders. It was worth the wait though. We had dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant where they make their own pasta on site, and at a wonderful Indian restaurant. We waited for our food for over an hour at the Indian restaurant, but I guess we were a big group of fourteen, and it takes a while to prepare the food. The food was fantastic though, and probably the best Indian food I’ve had anywhere. Maybe being hungry helped. 🙂
Sunday February 28th, 2016 Banani School
We arrived at the Banani School while it had a power outage. There is a generator, and the space the girl slept in had light, but the homes didn’t. So, we dined by candle light. Gas stove works still and hot water is still there during the outages, so that’s nice. Here, there are regular outages every day, so so far, each morning till about two pm we have had no power. Shower is in order though and that’s the most important thing. No blow drier, so my African hair is in full swing. 🙂
Yesterday, I had a lovely breakfast and lunch at Bahereh Smith’s home. She is the Principal of the school. We nicely chatted in her back yard for a couple of hours. Dinner was at Manijeh Smith’s home, yes she is a Smith too, but a different Smith. Manijeh is in charge of student affairs and the volunteers, and whatever else needs to be done. She is wonderful. We had a potluck dinner at her place and played games.
This morning, the students started arriving from their one week break. I met a few of them, had a tour of the school and where Natalie is staying, and had lunch at the school cafeteria. Then it was nap time and because electricity was back I did some work on the Internet. We just has a lovely visit from a Baha’i couple that lives in Lusaka. We had tea and cake and chatted. I told them about my book and gifted one to Soheila and Jamshid. Three mor books left to go. I will be donating one to the Banani library as well.
After a cloudy morning, the sun is out, and the temperature is very comfortable. I think I will go for a walk on the school grounds. It’s a huge property and all the teachers and staff of the school live in homes on this property. It’s like a little village. A wonderful village….
February 29th, 2015
My first cup of Zambian coffee
Brewed by Ruth
Served in a beautiful mug
Prepared with care
No electricity required!
The coffee hits the spot
Now, I feel ready to write
A cup of coffee
Sitting in the backyard
What else could I ask for
I’m in Zambia!
The rain has stopped
The sun is shining
The birds are singing their joyous song
I’m so thankful
Feel so blessed
My dream has come true
I’m in Africa!
February 29th, 2016
Manijeh’s place at Banani
Today, I had a chance to write in the morning, WITH a cup of coffee kindly brewed by Ruth, the wonderful young lady who works at Manijeh’s place. Right now, I’m at Banani in Manijeh Smith’s Office. She is the Student Affairs coordinator and looks after the volunteers too. She is like a mother to them, so kind, but firm. Her home is open to the volunteers, and today, Natalie and Karie had a day off work, so they slept in and missed the breakfast at the cafeteria. So, around 9:30 they came to Manijeh’s place and made scrambled eggs with tomato and toasted bread. We had breakfast together and then they left to do their own things. They have to prepare a deepening on the Fast for the youth, and Natalie wants to see how she can put her nutrition skills to use here. She will soon have a chat with the Principal and see what is needed. She said she already had a few suggestions based on what she had observed too.
Tomorrow, I meet with two grade 12 English classes to talk about my book and read some poetry to them. I’m looking forward to that.
I’m sorry I’m not posting pictures here. My computer skills are not that suffisticated, but there are photos on my Facebook page, and more to come.
With love to you all from Zambia
March 1st, 2016
Today was my last day at the Banani School. It has been a wonderful experience. I had a chance to talk to two grade 12 English classes about some of the subjects in my book. I’m happy that they asked questions, and I hope that they found what I shared with them interesting.
I spent some time with Natalie as well, which was nice. Her volunteer colleagues are lovely and I’m so happy they are sharing this experience together. They learn so much from each other as well.
Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Lusaka to spend two evenings there before my Friday morning flight. It’s an hour and a half drive at least. I’ll be driving in with the wonderful administrators of the school who needed to go to town anyway.
I will be visiting Mehri, who recently moved back to Zambia from Montreal. That will be a treat too. I’ll stay with another Baha’i family though, since the home Mehri is staying at is already full to capacity.
Till the next update,
March 3rd, 2016
So guess what…
I like hanging out with the ‘help’
I feel at home with them and
Their genuine smile
Their hardworking ways
Their appreciation for the little things in life
I can talk to them with pleasure and joy
They have known hardship in life
Their humility and patience inspires me
Their strength of spirit wonderful to see
I like hanging out with the ‘help’
That’s who my great great grandmother was
Before she became the lady of the house
She was the same person
She did not change
Titles don’t make us who we are
Who we are is in how we see the world
How we treat others
How kind we are
March 3rd, 2016
March 13, 2016
It’s been a week since I got back home. And yes, I guess Montreal is home now. On a Ted Talk, I heard, don’t ask me where I’m from, ask me where I’m local. So many of us have lived in different countries, that sometimes it’s difficult to say where home is. Or perhaps we can have many homes, but where we live is our present home and that makes sense to me.
Being away from home is a wonderful education. On my trip, I met so many wonderful people who have lived very interesting lives, from long time pioneers to Africa, to dedicated teachers, and yes, even the ‘help’. One had travelled with the family that she worked for to England, and had learned different cuisines from the various cultures her employers came from.
I learned that some places in Africa don’t have the comforts we take for granted here in the West! Zambia has issues with electricity now, and about eight hours a day, there is no electricity. Yet, it seemed everyone had come to terms with that and saw that as a part of life. And even though the streets of some villages and small towns were not paved, and would get muddy after the rain, I saw people walking around in fashionable clothes. Simple, but fashionable. Paved, or unpaved roads, life goes on.
I will probably never learn to bargain properly, and I’ll find the experience taxing each time, but that’s also part of life there. Maybe eventually, I would become better at it. The way I saw it was that the people from whom I bought art probably need the money more than I did, so that was fine. People tell me bargaining is a game you have to play, but I don’t like the game.
Seeing Natalie at The Banani Internationl School was the icing on the cake of course, and visiting the school, a treat. Many dedicated souls work there and the girls attending it are greating a great education. Character development classes and service projects round out the curriculum there. The volunteers learn invaluable lessons too and I’m sure the friendships they forge with other volunteers and some of the students will last a long time. I’ll try to post more pictures soon.