First 180 Days

July 15 – This date has history for us. It is the date we moved to New York in 2002; of our return to London in 2005; and, after 10 years there, our arrival in Livingstone, Zambia.  

InviteUnlike our usual style of travel, hand luggage only, we left London with over 150 kg in 8 battered cases and dirty soft bags. Fortunately we did stuff our bags with all the remaining items in our London apartment because our shipment has not arrived yet. It is now finally on the high seas, the delay being because we wanted to ensure our residency permits (which didn’t arrive until late October) were in order before we took this final step to complete our move. It will be good to have our books and music, my paints and easel and food processor; but the rest I am not so sure about. I am enjoying the simple life with no clutter.

OfficeIt was ‘winter’ when we arrived, the cool mornings balanced with sunny days of 25C. We set up office on the verandah. The office is computers, coffee (jugs of iced water now that it has ‘warmed up’), binos and bird book. The view is ever changing and the air is always clean (if sometimes humid this time of year).

"Down Dog"With us came a mini gym of TRX and yoga mats. I had company for my early morning ‘Downward Dog’; ‘One Eye’ being one of our neighbours dogs. Sadly she was run over on the highway only weeks after our arrival; however, Anook, her mate, is a regular visitor although not a yoga participant. With our permits to stay, a dog or two of our own will soon follow.

jet boat, zambezi river
One Friday afternoon, shortly after we arrived, we were invited out on the river. Having no boat or mooring yet we had been unable to make the most of the Mighty Zambezi. My expectation, a leisurely cruise, was shattered when I learnt it was to be an exhilarating jet boat ride in the gorge. Being the ‘unadventurous’ type when it comes to this type of sport I was ‘not happy’. But I would have missed a treat…and one I highly recommend. The gorge is beautiful and, with the only way to see it being by raft or jet boat, this was a good trip if a wet and heart-stopping one.

Flatbread, Yeast FreeI am continuing to develop recipes for BrowsersGrazers. The availability of what we would consider simple ingredients is inconsistent, making my cooking much more innovative and in keeping with the reality for the camps and hotels here, my target audience. There is no good bakery in town, a business opportunity if we did not have 8 hour daily power cuts, and I am enjoying making my own bread. I have sourced some very good local products: lettuces, herbs, eggs, cheese, butter, yoghurt and meat; and, with our own vegetable garden in addition, we are eating well.

Musuku Uapaka KirkiThere are many new foods like these ‘bush fruit’, Musuku Uapaka Kirki. The rough inedible skin and colour did not appeal. However, the flavour and texture are similar to ripe pear; but, with large pips, you need to eat a lot for the same satiety value.

Zambian Friends

Soon after our arrival we made a couple of trips to Lusaka. Business to sort: Alastair’s changed work contract with Nomura; applying for our permits to stay; and meeting friends old and new. This picture is of Michael and Anna his fiancée. My mum introduced us, via email, to Michael. He lodged with her for a few weeks when he was studying in Hobart last year. What an amazing coincidence, he may have been the only Zambian student at Hobart Uni. Alastair and I are attending their wedding in mid January; and when mum visits next year a trip to the Copper Belt to see him and meet Anna is top of her ‘must do’ list.

Living in Zambia, miles from the city, I was amused and surprised to have my worlds – Britain and Zambia – collide. Shortly before we left London I took the photo, on the left, in our ‘hood’, East London. In Livingstone I found the “Keep Calm” slogan used by French and Spanish women in their restaurant. The world is small and we are all connected, even if it is by 6 degrees.
keep calm

Within our immediate environment we already have a tally of over 150 birds. Here are 3 of my favourite images/videos:
– African Barred Owl, wide awake as he was being heckled by assorted passerines;
– Finfoot, a very shy bird, swims past each morning and home every evening (a short video I made one morning – At the bottom of the garden);
– Scarlet-chested Sunbird (the female is brown) tried to make her nest in our bathroom (this was during the days of my ‘open door’ policy, mentioned later). After making my little video – Scarlet Chested Sunbird– I closed the window so she would nest in a less precarious spot.
Like Tasmanians travelling north to escaping the winter Alastair and I travelled south in mid-October for a break (and to escape the ‘mad season’ in Zambia, ie the pre-rain heat, as it is fondly known); Two weeks in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Along with visiting Robben Island, memorable, and an “African Penguins” colony, I caught up with two of my brothers, Ben and Tim, who were both there for work. Great to see them near our new home.
South Africa
Alastair’s work contract and travel meant he missed the first rains. It was like returning to a new land after 2 weeks in Asia, transformed overnight from a dry barren land, with dead-looking trees, to a land in every shade of green. It was extraordinary, both the speed of the change and the beauty; and it continues to look lush despite worryingly little rain ‘after the first blush’. If you have travelled to Africa only in the dry season, the time that provides the best opportunity to see the animals, the wet summer is a very different and wondrous time well worth experiencing.

With the rain (little that there has been) came beautiful moths and weird and wonderful creatures – some in huge numbers – and I have lit a few mosquito coils to discourage some ‘gnats’. Wow, the power of smell. It took me back to my childhood in Tasmania – camping. Fortunately we have few mosquitos which I am so, so relieved about. This had been a concern because they ‘like me’ and I could not see myself covered up every evening in 30C to avoid the bites. We are so fortunate with the scarcity of mosquitos – it is not like this everywhere on the river.
As the temperatures rose I developed an ‘open door’ policy to keep the air flowing. But I made the wrong assumptions that everything that comes in will then leave. This lizard enjoyed the cooler months in the sun in our bathroom. The scorpions are regularly found, not welcome but they cannot be kept out so we need to keep your eyes open. But the 4 ft cobra, who stayed 48 hours, was more than I had bargained for. I feel it was my ‘initiation’ into life in Africa. A story to which I am sure there will be many more.
Bathroom Visitors
I am enjoying the garden; everything grows so fast. Seeds germinate in days and tomatoes produce fruit in just 3 months. What’s more, you can plant all year, there is no frost here. But there are many things to learn before we start our small commercial garden on our few acres. As we search for the gaps in the market, I am exploring the possibilities of what we can successfully grow because, with the scorching sun, heat and humidity, there are a few difficulties to hurdle.

Alastair and Alana

In mid-December I joined Alastair in Joburg, on his returned from a week in Europe. We made a detour, a quick trip to Cape Town to see my niece, Alana, who was visiting her father, Tim, who was still working in Cape Town. It was our early family Christmas.

The light and heat of the Zambian summer demanded no tinsel to make Christmas shine. We enjoyed it with friends and neighbours, spending Christmas Eve on Chundu Island, Zimbabwe, which is less than a kilometre downstream. Christmas Day, a delicious meal including fish and ice cream cake reminded me of Australia. When family read this they will express different memories so perhaps it is that this is the first southern hemisphere Christmas I have had for nearly 20 years. I did enjoy it, it felt right.

On a daily level – I love getting up before 6 to beat the heat, wearing shorts all day and having birdsong by day and a cricket symphony by night. (Although I am not so keen on crickets in the bathroom singing at 3am.)

I miss London – my friends and all the city has to offer. The difference between these two lives is so great there is no comparison and that makes it easier to adjust and enjoy. It is not like moving from the city to the country. These are different worlds. Here I have hippos ‘mow’ the lawn and the birds are so loud that Mum, in Australia, is learning the birdsong via FaceTime.

PO Box
You will have seen from my postings our internet is good. We have email, WhatsApp and FaceTime and ‘snail mail’ although a little precarious. Living out of town we check the post box only a couple of times a week. It is like being a kid, hopefully expecting. Silly really but it is nice to get a letter to open; old traditions are hard to break. That said we get no ‘junk mail’, what a joy.

ZambiaA friend recently said she hoped it has been all I expected. My expectations were not specific; and just as well because it is different to anything I could have imagined. That said, I have not been disappointed. There are challenges, there is much beauty, the Zambians are very friendly and welcoming, as are other ex-pats we are getting to know. In short, ‘life is good’ and we are settling and enjoying a life full of possibilities.

Wishing you the very best for 2016. May it dawn with the warmth and hope that the Mighty Zambezi gives me each morning.

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