African Adventure – Part 5

On Safari (Part 1)

African friends explained to us that going on “safari” was as simple as going on a trip into the bush. It didn’t need to be organized or done with a group. We went on our first safari after visiting the Victoria Falls.

We crossed over into Rhodesia and then drove along a track, looking for the border into Botswana.  After driving for about half an hour, we came upon a wire gate stretched across the road.  We thought that we had somehow found ourselves at a farmer’s gate, and got out to investigate.  We were just about to retrace our route when an African man, dressed in the uniform of a border agent, came running out of the bush.  It was the border into Botswana!

We drove through Botswana for a couple of hours and then arrived at the Chobe Game Reserve.  This was the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got married for the second time.  The reserve is famous for its wildlife and we had lunch at the lodge which had magnificent views of the Zambesi River and the five countries which came together at that point.

The Caprivi Strip in Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia could all be seen from the window and we were scheduled to take a ferry across the river, about twenty miles downstream.

In Canada, we have ferries that look like this.

One of the BC Ferries.

One of the BC Ferries.

But this is what we saw coming toward us across the river.

One of the pontoons on the Zambesi River.

One of the pontoons on the Zambesi River.

The Zambesi River is home to crocodiles and hippos and a number of animals that could end our safari right there.  I was about five months pregnant and was terrified, but I got in the car and we drove onto the Kazungula Pontoon.

The pontoon had two outboard motors, ones on each side, and the two men operating it called instructions to each other across the deck.

We arrived on the Zambian side of the river and drove several miles before we came to a traditional African building which turned out to be the border control site.

A roundavel, a typical Zambia building.

A rondavel, a typical Zambia building.

The agent had been sitting on a chair reading the Bible and came over to process us. It was good to be back in Zambia.

On our trip we saw chimpanzees, lions, zebras, giraffes, impalas, kudus, elands, rhinos, and hippos.  We never saw elephants in Africa, and I think they are  even more rare now than they were in the mid-60s.

Our next safari was a trip from Lusaka to Mongu in the Western Province of Zambia. But it will have to wait for another day.

Thanks for reading and have an adventuresome day. – Maureen


African Adventure – Part 4

Babies and Cars

Imagine being 21 years old, married, and going off to work and live in Africa for two years.  For us it was an adventure.  For our families, it must have seemed like madness.  We could not phone home, or communicate in any way except by what is now known as snail mail.  Any news we wanted to send home would take ten days to two weeks to reach them.

In early December, 1966, I found out that I was pregnant.  Our families were thrilled with the news.  First grandchild for both sets of parents.  And the baby would have 20 aunts and uncles.

Remember, I was still doing the laundry, kneeling on the floor beside the bathtub, and walking to school in the African heat.  I became quite sick so we decided to try to find a car to buy.  My salary as a teacher (John’s salary was the same) was $2,400 per year.  Zambian volunteers were the highest paid in the world.  The volunteers in India got only $500 per year.

Through a friend of a friend, we found a car that we could afford.  It was a 1954 Peugeot, and cost us $240.  But here’s the thing.  The entire roof of the car was rusted from being in the African sun for over ten years.  The doors opened backwards, and the driver was on the right!  It served us well, and took us on many trips around Zambia as well as to Malawi, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Botswana.

Because Rhodesia and Zambia were opposite politically (Rhodesia was an apartheid state), Zambia declared a policy of no-trade with Rhodesia, which meant that all goods had to come from somewhere else.  Gas had to be trucked in to the country from Tanzania.  The roads were appalling and there were many serious accidents.  Gas rationing was the solution.

We had little coupons which we had to take with us to buy gas.  Most months we were limited to 10 gallons.  One month we had 12 gallons, and one month, only 4.  Gallons.  For the whole month.

People helped each other out and if you had a spare coupon you gave it to a friend who was planning a trip.  If you knew a doctor, it was a bonus, because they had unlimited coupons.

In March we set out for the beautiful Victoria Falls, in Southern Zambia.  They were wild and natural, and uncommercialized.  We walked along a dirt path and came upon the Falls.  In the African language of that area, they  were known as mosi-oa-tunya, which translates to the smoke that thunders.  It describes the Falls perfectly.

John and I sat on a rock at the very edge of the falls and had our photo taken.  It is one of my favourites and whenever life has had its difficult situations, we look at that photo and tell ourselves that we are the kind of people who sit by Victoria Falls and can face anything.

The slides we took in Africa are being digitally translated, and I will add photos when they become available.  Until then you will have to use your imaginations.

Thank you for reading.  Have a wonderful day. – Maureen


Searching for a Good Cup of Tea

I started drinking tea when I was a young wife, living in Africa.  Zambia is a member of the British Commonwealth, so tea-drinking was already a tradition when we were there from 1966 – 1968.  Have you ever read Alexander McCall Smith’s, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency series? It is set in Botswana, a country we visited when we were in Africa.  I don’t think any detecting could be done without the ladies being fortified with a cup or two of tea.

As I was growing up in Nova Scotia, tea drinking was very important.  I remember my mother saying of a woman who was visiting her who refused a cup of tea, “When I asked her if she wanted a cup of tea, she said no, she didn’t like tea.  Not like tea?  I’ve never heard of such a thing!!” 

When we moved to the States for a couple of years in the 1980s, a neighbour asked me over for a cup of tea.  She  poured a cup of warm tap water into a cup and gave it to me along with a tea bag.  I drank the resulting brew – I won’t call it tea – but the next time we got together, at my house, I showed her how to brew a perfect cup of tea.  I like to think she was thankful for the lesson.

Over the years I have tried with very little success to get a good cup of tea at a restaurant.  I have had no luck until recently.

At first, the tea was always served with cream.  If you wanted milk, you had to ask for it and you were looked at as if you were crazy.  I am going to tell you something.  Coffee may taste better with cream, but tea does not!  Most of the time, you will be served a cup of hot water with the tea bag on the side.  This will not do!  Tea has to be steeped!!!

How to make a perfect cup of tea:

  • Boil the water.
  • “Hot” the pot – pour a small amount of the boiling water into the empty tea-pot.  Swish it around.  Pour it out.
  • Insert the tea bags or loose tea – I prefer tea bags, but many prefer loose tea.
  • Pour a full pot of boiling water over the tea bags/loose tea, and let it stand or “steep” for 5 – 7 minutes.
  • Pour into a tea-cup.
  • Serve with sides of milk, sugar and/or lemon.
  • Enjoy.

My husband has learned to make tea this way and every morning, my tea awaits me when I get out of bed around 7:30 a.m.  The first cup of tea of the day is the best.  I recommend husbands everywhere learn to make steeped tea.  It will bring you much happiness in your marriage!

I said earlier that I had not had a good cup of restaurant tea until recently.  We have a restaurant here in Canada called Tim Horton’s that is well-known for its coffee.  What many people don’t realize is that for the past three or four years, Tim Horton’s has steeped tea.  They make it perfectly and it always tastes fresh and refreshing.  However, as far as I know it is available only in Ontario.  I know Quebec doesn’t have it.  Any other provinces have steeped tea?  Let me know before I travel there please.

Did I tell you that I love Tim Horton’s?  I wonder if they learned their tea-making skill from my hubby!