Published: January 7th 2008January 7th 2008
i'm writing this eating a loaf of bread from the market as my breakfast in true backpacker style, just ripping off chunks.
so i need to fill everyone in about what i did for christmas. you've seen a few of teh pictures, it was definitely not a traditional one!
the friday before christmas kennedy and i got transport to mukuni village - that's the "main" village around livingstone - it's where the chief stays, cheif mukuni, and it has a few small stores, some bars, basically where other villages go to get staples like mealie meal (used to make nshima), oil, salt, sugar, beer... so we did a little shopping of our own, bought gifts for his grandmother and mom and a few other people. the lady behind the counter looked at me dubiously and wondered aloud if it was going to be able to make it to the village. considering that i backpacked for three months and think of myself as relatively fit, i was wondering a bit how difficult the hike in could be, apparently too hard for white people to manage. after buying some chibuku (home brew corn beer) for his grandmother, we started off, first meeting up with his mother who was doing some shopping (okay, and if his 60 year old mom can do the hike, seriously...) and his brother, who escorted us to the village.
so the hike was a mere two hours, the only slightly tricky part was a 1/4 mile patch of amazingly thick, sticky mud that made "shoes" on your feet and made my feet a few pounds heavier, but other than that, a normal hike. of course, carrying a five liter container of beer and other groceries made things a little awkward, but no big deal.
we get to the village and go to his aunt's house, it's still early in the day so the women are out weeding the fields and the men are either plowing or out watching the cattle. we sit under the 'gathering' tree and talk for a awhile until people are done working. everyone starts with the home-brew (we passed through another village on the way in and got 10 liters of 7-day beer, a greyish beer made from millet). one thing to note, in zambia it's always beer o'clock.
my first test...draw and carry water. i go with a few of the nieces to get water - pump it, which is surprisingly tiring if you're not used to it adn then carry it back, african style, on my head. i was given the smallest container, about 5 gallons. you'd think i could manage quite easily when the others were carrying 10-20 gallons, but no...they walked back with one hand occasionally steadying the water, i walked back with the water sloshing out and clutching my container, not so much the epitome of grace and poise. i really don't know how they do it, i'm convinced that my hair is too slippery and that's why i couldn't manage, or maybe i'm just a little bit special and haven't learned how to walk correctly yet.
second test...pound millet for the beer. right, so, you put a bunch of millet in a large container and pound it, pretty simple in theory - it's basically a large mortar and pestle. so i watch for a minute, then they get me to try. now, it's actually a complex rhythm of pounding, one that was too complex for me. they get their whole body into it and pound the millet into a moist mash, yeah, when i tried i only managed to almost tip the whole thing over.
third test...plowing the fields. the work day starts early - pretty much at sunrise. so get up, inspect my ant bites from the previous night (i though my belly was on fire - got a cluster of 5 bites in the same spot, it's instantaneous pain for about 30 minutes) walk to the corral and get the two steers used for plowing. i didn't envy the boys who got the steers - the corral full of pointy horned cattle (about 3 feet of sharp horns on each side) who don't particularly want to work...then factor in about 6 inches of fairly fresh slippery manure. so, the steers are eventually roped and hooked up to the sled and the plow placed on the sled and we're off - it's about a 10 minute walk to the field, hook the plow up and go to work. one person works the plow, another walks in front (the cattle are trained to follow) and then someone on each side to direct the cattle when it's time to turn. if the person plowing is good, it goes quickly, if not, well, that was me. after they were almost finished, i tried my hand at plowing - you have to lean all your weight into the plow while maintaining a straight line over very uneven ground and all the plow wants to do is fall into an already-plowed row. so i managed two very crooked rows and i was out of breath after just that little bit. i now know why everyone in the village is fantastically strong.
most of the work is done in the morning, we were done by about 9 am which gives plenty of time to visit and eat. and the hearty breakfast after work - some tea and a few slices of white bread :) so saturday and sunday were spent visiting friends and relatives in the village. chibule is pretty small, about 170 people, and everyone is spread out. the fields are in the midst of the village, this protects then a bit from elephants and also means that the farmers can keep the cattle close, which protects them from hyenas - they're a problem in the dry season, two were lost last year, and when a steer can get up to 1 million kwacha (around $300) that's a big loss. the village is one of the furthest from mukuni and is beautiful - lots of almost rainforest bush closeby - all kinds of fruit trees are found in the forest. clean air, peaceful - a completely diffent zambia than livingstone.
sunday afternoon we took a walk to the first village for some beer and dancing with a bunch of friends. dancing here is completely different from the states. it's completely normal for two guys to dance extremely close and rather suggestively - there's nothing inappropriate about it and it's all done in complete fun. seems a bit odd to have that openness and yet at the same time a hug between a guy and girl can be misunderstood to mean that you're an item or even married... but pathious and kennedy danced for a awhile - i got some good video that i'll have to post. a side note, it seems that alot of the names are apparently 'english' names, like pathious and rostra, i usually make the mistake of asking what they mean and am just told that they're english - don't i already know the meaning? and guys here are all good dancers but it's a style that you'd never see in the states and there's distinct styles between tribes as well.
back home and to bed, but not before having about 3 dinners because we visited a fw houses and everyone insisted that we stay and eat - the generosity of everyone is really amazing. monday morning, visited until it started to rain, at which point we decided to leave to get back to town. now, kennedy's father had generously given me a goat and benson and edgar had each given me a chicken, so, our little retinue back consisted of me, kennedy, jonathan (kennedy's bother) a friend (each carrying a chicken) and benson leading the rather unwilling goat. 2 hours walking back in the rain with a frantic goat - though the sticky mud that's now turned into amazingly slippery mud that you almost ski in, and we're back to mukuni. oh, and i forgot to mention that everyone in the village asked how i had managed the walk into chibule... once back into mukuni, we tie the goat to the bus stop, chat with john, kennedy's older brother, then finally cathc a taxi back into town. now, we have a goat and tow chickens - what to do, what to do. naturally, you hog-tie the goat and throw him in the trunk of the taxi with the chickens, well, not throw exactly, but he was unceremoniously deposited in the trunk. back to town, me feeling bad the entire way because i'm sure the goat is terrified and it seems a bit cruel to add terrify the goat before eating him (yeah, he was going to be christmas dinner).
back at home, tie the goat up to the table inside and go out to celebrate christmas eve. in the morning, well, it's goat-killing time. the sharpest knife happens to be my small serrated kniife...by this time i feel really bad because that's not a good way to go. so it takes the goat a few minutes to die and benson skins and guts him. now, we have to hang the meat up to let it drain, so we hang it in a tree, clean up the mess, benson leaves and i work inside for a bit. now, julia, whose working in the kitchen, knocks on my door and hands me a chewed goat leg. right, so apparently we didn't hang the meat high enough and one of the dogs ripped off the leg - so i naturally wash it and it'll be fine to eat later. meh, food safety. so now i have to hang the meat inside, it's just a bit odd to have a whole quartered goat hanging in the house. then it's off to maramba market to get food for our christmas party. a whole bunch of guys, mostly rafters and kayakers, are coming over to have a christmas bbq. i buy loads of veggies and a 10 kg sack of potaotes, all for about $12, and walk back from town. so after preparing a bunch of food, people start coming over and the party starts. my goat and chickens were delicious.
new years - really mellow, i celebrated by going rafting on jan 1. the river's getting big so now we start below rapid 7 1/2. but rapid 8, the midnight diner, is HUGE and scary. it was a good day - lots of big water and good people. choongo, steve and babyface were on the river - my favorites of the guides. and after ending with a hot shower and hot meal - a pretty good start to the new year.