Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Orphanage

I admit that I did not have high expectations of this place. Maybe it was because all of the guidebooks say that Chimfunshi is nearly impossible to get to without a 4x4 vehicle and it is run by some rather grouchy South Africans, but this was not the case in the least! The road was not great, but worth every pothole! The family that runs this orphanage containing 122 chimps (mostly rescued from the Congo and the babies that have born in captivity) is very warm and insanely in love with their animals and the workers that attend to them are exceptionally knowledgeable. We watched them feed the babies bottles of milk and I even got to play with a funny little baby chimp who had a diaper on and a sucker in his mouth (see pics below). Wild! The animals, for the most part, are able to roam free on acres and acres of donated land, but they all find their way to the fences when it is feeding time.

Crazy “pets” were running around the place. They had geese, peacocks, turkeys, African Gray Parrots, dozens of little scavenger monkeys and a hippo to hilt. I am not kidding. They have a pet hippo (yes, the animal that kills more people in Africa every year than any other animal on the continent). “Billy” is insanely fat and lethargic and has big whiskers like the bristles on a plastic hair brush.

All in all, a nice way to spend one’s 30th Birthday.

I went with Peter and Cheryl Smith and their two boys Brendan and Jason (the Mennonites from L.A.) and Adrian, my favorite farmer from Cornwall. Adrian’s 50th birthday was on Friday night and Cheryl and I both share May 11, so we ate cake all weekend. Divine.


I’m no expert on arachnids, but I am pretty sure my cat killed a tarantula in my house on Saturday night. Sick. I came home from Teddy and Catherine’s wedding to find Franky playing with what I thought was a wad of black string on the floor, but to my horror, the small heap on my ridiculous red and white checkered linoleum turned out to be a large hairy spider. Disgusting. I don’t like to think of where that little thing had been living before Franky murdered it.

But on a much lighter note, the weekend was lots of fun. My first Zambian wedding was full of dancing and singing and a very, very long sermon (of course). Most of the homily was dedicated to people like me (those that are not married, but should be). Have I mentioned before that I get many strange looks from folks when they find out I am unmarried at “my age”? Amusing.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Chipata, Chipata, Chipata

A sea of yellow daisies float on the golden grass of Zambia’s savannah this time of year. Talk stalks of brown maze whisper and crackle in the breeze. The rainy season is now over and as the bus zigs and zags along the ribbon of tarmac from Lusaka to Kitwe I admire the thatched roofs and mudbrick homes of villages dotting the countryside where women pound maze in mortars, or “Ibende,” and cook nshima over charcoal fires. I prefer the simplicity of rural village life where subsistence farming generally ensures daily food for every person in the community, but I live in the urban Copper Belt where mines provide the money for daily milimeal, consistent electricity, and contribute the constant plume of sulphor dioxide that crowns our heads in town.

The young woman sitting next to me on the bus sang Christian praise songs throughout our journey and occasionally opened her cell phone to check for text messages. “Jesus Saves” was printed in Bemba across the screen and once again I was reminded that Zambia proudly touts itself as a Christian nation. Perhaps, “touts itself” is not fair. A more apt observation: most everyone I talk to here claims to be a Christian. As a Christian from a religiously pluralistic nation I found my mind wandering to the humble mosque in Kitwe that calls its Muslim followers to prayer five times a day. I wonder what they think of being Muslim in a place where Christian pop artists croon love songs to Jesus on the grocery store sound systems and evangelists passionately preach to passengers before every bus departs the Lusaka station? Strange.

I have a million things to do today and I have run out of time, so please forgive this lame synopsis of the last 2 weeks: went to Chipata to teach for a few days before meeting up with a delightful group from Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church who were meeting with leaders from the Presbyterian church in Harare about a potential partnership and took some time to spend in Eastern Zambia as well. I found myself awkwardly trying to remember exactly how to greet mazungus from home (we shake hands and hug differently in Zambia), so I felt like a big dope as I fumbled with my words and my arms. It was fun to see Zambia through the eyes of new visitors and as I wrote them in a recent email, I am so glad that I get to live here for another 4 months!

P.S. How WASTED do we look here?! The road was bad people. Very bad.