Saturday, April 16, 2011

Southern Africa Trip

From 30 March-14 April, we were away from our Mthatha home on a tour through the broader southern Africa region. The purpose of the trip was threefold: 1) to visit Melanie Quinn, our colleague with Mennonite Mission Network, serving in Francistown, Botswana; 2) to see the sights of the region, in particular Victoria Falls; 3) to visit Anje and Philip Cassel, workers with Mennonite Central Committee in Macha, Zambia. Since, from Francistown onward, we traveled through Botswana and Zambia with both Melanie and the Lindell Detweiler family, our Network colleagues in South Africa, the trip afforded much quality time together as a team. The pictures below tell the story of the Zambian portion of our journey.

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We crossed the border from Botswana to Zambia and back again by ferry. Here our Opel Zafira, which made the more than 5,000 km-round-trip journey without a hitch, boards the pontoon.

The day after arriving in Livingstone, Zambia, we headed for the Falls. Anna, Jesse, Levi, Moses, and Isaac get set to go down one of the trails to view the Falls.

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Baboons such as the one below are fixtures near the entrance to the trails at Victoria Falls. They’re obviously used to people and acquiring their food, as these were so aggressive as to climb into the back of our car in search of nourishment (they made off, only briefly, with a bottle of motor oil). We were also concerned for Levi, clutching an apple in the above picture, as the baboons, lurking near but out of view here, would have stolen it right out of his hand.

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Victoria Falls, Mosi Oa Tunya, “the smoke that thunders”, themselves. From even this picture one can sense something of the sheer volume of water which plunges into the gorge. We were there in the season when the water is at its highest level.

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Our group gets soaked. The trail along the edge leads to several fantastic vantage points of the Falls. Actually, when this close, the Falls are quite hard to see; one looks rather into a blinding wall of white—spray bounding up from the waters’ long fall. In places such as the one above, that mist is a torrential rain.

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Another trail leads down to the “boiling pot”, or a treacherous whirlpool of water having made its fall. An intrepid Moses surveys the scene.

From natural wonders to man-made oddities, all taxis in Zambia were this shade of blue.

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After Livingstone, we went three hours further inland to Macha, current home of Philip and Anje Cassel and their sons, Everett and John. They live and work on the complex of Macha Mission Hospital, a ministry of the Brethren in Christ (BIC) church in Zambia, a member church of Mennonite World Conference. The BIC church in Zambia dates to 1906, when the efforts of four missionaries, two American women and two Zimbabwean men, led to a church. The Cassels worship in one of the several BIC congregations in the area.

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Our two days at the Cassels’ centered around their dining room table, symbol of their most gracious hospitality.

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Traveling with four children certainly has its trying moments, but, as so many of our team activities in South Africa, our way was made by the Lindell Detweiler children’s ever-present willingness to play the role of older cousins to our boys. Here Annika carries Jesse on her back.

In addition to the highlights represented by these pictures, we also enjoyed:

  • finally seeing Melanie in her own environment. Though she has spent every Christmas with us since 2008, we had yet to make it to Francistown. We saw Bopaganang Basha, the youth centre where she works, worshiped at her church, met her friends, and ate delicious Indian cuisine at a local restaurant.
  • the wildlife along the way. Without even entering a game park, we saw dozens of elephants, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, and more on the stretch between Francistown and Zambia.
  • Fawlty Towers, the backpackers (low budget accommodation) in Livingstone. It features an expansive courtyard, large swimming pool, even a lounge with satellite television where we were able to watch the NCAA men’s basketball championship (too bad the game itself was total rubbish!).
  • our first hitchhiking experience. 20 km outside of Nata, Botswana on the return trip, our car ran out of petrol. But friendly assistance got me to and from Nata with a container of gas while Anna, Melanie, and the boys spread a blanket and read from the Chronicles of Narnia by the side of the road.
  • the friendly and helpful border employees in Botswana and Zambia, not so much the aggressive hawkers and moneychangers on the Zambian side.
  • two days in Johannesburg on the way home. We met up with another set of colleagues, the Suderman family, who is staying there for several weeks as part of their work for the Anabaptist Network. The highlight was a day at Gold Reef City, an amusement park. This was just what the doctor ordered for our boys after several long days in the car.

We’d been anticipating this trip from the beginning of the year, and are grateful that we made it to Zambia and back to Mthatha safely with many blessings in between.

-Joe

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