Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ku-omboka "fleeing the waters" Ceremony

Despite the warden messages from the U.S. Embassy, the four of us plus Dennis, our Nyanja tutor and two TTF clinical volunteers (Ann and Tyler) booked a little guest house and jumped on the 8hr bus ride all the way across much of Zambia to the town of Mongu in Western Province. We were headed to the Ko-umboka ceremony celebrated by the Losi people every year around this time. The ceremony revolves around the flooding of the Zambezi river into the floodplains surrounding the town. Traditionally the Losi King lives on an island during the dry season and as the waters began to rise packs up his village and moves inland to the Winter Palace.

The Losi kingdom is a part of the Barosteland territory which currently is in the middle of some political turmoil. A small group of people are threatening to succeed unless the Zambian government starts paying more attention to them. In fact many of the local people were boycotting the ceremony since the current King is in good standing with Banda, the President. Rumors were spreading that the ceremony would not even take place and that riots could break out. Luckily everything went as planned. though only about 1/3 the number of people attended. This however, worked to our advantage as we were able to see everything and get close to the action.

After some initial engine failures and organizational frustrations we were picked up by a passing banana boat and headed out to the island. Since we were late, we missed the launch of the Kings boat, but we luckily crossed paths with them as the rowers started on their 5hr journey down river. We choose not to follow the procession and instead headed back to shore were we met up with the King as he rowed into the Winter palace later that day. What followed was hours of celebration through dancing, drumming, offering of gifts, and a trip on our part to the local disco "moto moto" where we discovered that most Zambians dance alone in front of mirrors at clubs to perfect their endless hip isolatations. The next day was more dancing, singing, eating, drinking and we visited the local museum.

It was a great trip out of the city where we got to see another part of the country and breath some fresh air away from all our other responsibilities. Can't say that the overnight bus ride was all that great but Mom and I did see a hyena on the side of the road as we drove through Kafue National Park.

"My Other Home" Guest house was just that complete with hot water in the morning for bathing!

They even had set up a little washroom outside for us which was perfect to come home to after a hot sandy day!

The town of Mongu, really felt like the beach with no ocean for miles around.

Nora and Dennis overlooking the floodplains. All that you can see is covered in water durring the rainy season and is all plains durring the dry season.

I guess during the dry season it really is 25K to the river, not so much now! We heard the flooding spans over 90K on a good year!

Banana Boats at the harbor.

This was the second of three boats we used. The engine almost fell off of this one!

The Kings boat. The Elephant represents strength.

This kid was in a boat fishing. the grass puts up a good fight against the rising waters.

The smaller boats are guard boats to protect the king.

This is the Queens boat. The bird represents authority.

Traditional dress is animal skins around their waists and lion manes on their heads. On top of rowing the men were dancing the whole time along with the steady thumping of the drums.

We don't usually use umbrellas for rain here in Zambia, but instead for the sun.

Moving day is not just for the king. We even saw people with the straw walls for their huts folded nicely in the boat to be reassembled on higher ground.

Traditional dress for both men and women are long skirts in brightly colored fabrics.

Near the Winter Palace

The arrival of the kings boat at the Winter Palace.

A simulation dance with future rowers of the king.

This is a good spirit, though he frightened many kids and looked like he was melting inside his wool clothing.

really it was...

some recent farm harvests.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our trip to the Mountain Kingdom

Lesotho, The Mountain Kingdom welcomed us with open arms this March

We stayed at the lovely Morija Guest House in the foothills above the village. Apart from the comfort, we found many friends as we gathered in the evenings for drinks on the patio and tasty home cooked meals.

Our first day trip was to Mafeteng to visit 'Me Anunciata who was the headmistress at Paul the VI high school when mom and dad taught there. When we pulled into the church parking lot, Dad spotted a nun and asked her if 'Me Anunciata was around. She replied, "I am Anunciata!" She was overjoyed to see us and after a tasty luch we headed to Taung to see the school and the house where I was born.

Next day we headed into the capital, Maseru. We toured the hotel where we lived for a month in 1991, enjoyed lunch at the Alliance Cafe, visited the Peace Corps office and found some interesting sites.

The landscape surrounding the guest house was breathtaking and serene. Just fifteen minutes up the hill and through a eucalyptus forest you emerge onto a tranquil mountain lake, not something one would expect in Africa. Nora and I made the most of it by swimming of course!

Our next outing was to Roma. In 1991 Mom worked at the National University of Lesotho there, so we wanted to visit our old house and the well worn dirt pathways that Nora and I vaguely remember following to school. We dropped in on Lois Sebatane, who came to Lesotho with the very first Peace Corps group and stayed. Dad co-authored a paper about adult education with her.

We then ventured into the Mountains to view the Mohale Dam. This is the second dam built by the Lesotho Highlands Water Project aimed at providing electricity to Lesotho, but mostly for channeling water down to Johannesburg. Coming down from the mountains we stopped to buy peaches and dad had trouble deciding with so many offers. Mohale Dam

Next we stopped at Me Anunciatas cresh to visit her students on our way to visit 'Me Laurentina in Mohale's Hoek. The kids had no end of songs to sing us and it brought a smile to Sister's face seeing the children so happy and engaged.

At Lapeng La Sefapano, we found 'Me Laurentina safe in the shelter of the other sisters and an abundant grape harvest. She accompanied us to visit Ma Neo in Quthing. Mom and 'Me Laurentina cooked lunch while dad, Nora, 'Ma Neo's daughter Angela, and I found the Masitise Cave House, built in 1866 by Paris Evangelical Society missionary, Rev. David Frederic Ellenberger. Cave House

Our last day was spent climbing the plateau behind the guest house. We met cows, saw some Dinosaur footprints and got some good exercise.