I am writing this at 4:42am on the fourth day of my return from my fourth trip to Zambia and I am feeling the jet lag more than any other trip. Zambia is six hours ahead of us here in Toronto so my body thinks we are still there and it is 10:42am.
I woke up this morning, oddly, thinking of the smells of Africa!
Scent is often very subtle and to many the least acute of the senses. I have always been fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your frame of reference, to have good hearing and a great sense of smell.
My boys rarely got away with sneaking in late after a night out as I could always hear them, even with their attempts to avoid every creak they had memorized on the stairs.
I always tell my husband Carl that in our old age, he will be my sight and I will be his ears and sense of smell and I credit these special talents to the fact that I have poor eye sight so my other senses are able to compensate for my loss.
Throughout the year, in anticipation of my trip to Zambia, I gather items that I feel would be useful to the people of Barotseland and place them in the open suitcase on my bedroom floor.
Each year there is a theme;
In 2011 the focus was on things that they could use to make extra money. A chisel set, material to make quilts, a saw and tape measure etc.
2012 was education as my husband & I took the money for Njamba & his older brother Kafuku (then 16ys &20yrs old respectively) to go to high school which was a 10hr paddle in a dugout canoe away from where they lived.
In 2014 we built the tree nursery and started the Resource Garden and seed bank. The Silozi Seed Bank & Trees for Elephants.
And 2015 was supposed to be about facilitating communication.
Up until now, I have been communicating with our manager Fredrick via text on our phones and occasionally via Facebook with our assistant manager Matindo. Rarely can I send an email as the air time needed to receive emails or access the internet is expensive.
I am happy to report that thanks to 10 year old Connor, I will be able to communicate with SEEDS in Mongu for the next year. That is a whole story in itself which I will expand on in a later blog post.
Each year when I open the suitcases, to share what I have brought, I get a whiff of home. Likewise when I open my suitcase with my personal items when I arrive back home I smell Zambia.
That may seem strange to those of you reading this, but it is true and I am sure if you think about it, you have experienced it on your own travels. When you step off the plane onto the open air tarmac. When you are driven through the streets of a place unknown. When you sleep in a bed that is not your own.
I remember the smells of un-deodorized body’s on the bus and the always pleasant dry smell of a hug from a small child covered with dust that, on some days, continuously blows in little spurts.
The subtle non-smell of the staple food, Nshima (ground white corn) being whipped in a big pot along with the sweet smell of the relish (vegetable-sometimes with meat) of the day.
Or even just the smell of nothing! The smell of heat in a small un-polluted city like Mongu with no industry to change the smell of the landscape. Or the smells of the forest that are cool, clean and fresh in the early mornings and gradually warm throughout the day where standing in the shade is mandatory. Whether you are on the Zambezi River or in one of the National Parks, morning safaris smell different from evening safaris but both are luxurious. The anticipation of what you may see or hear and even smell, like the elephant dung burning in the large tin can at the back of the vehicle to keep the Tsetse flies away.
It is always bitter sweet to come back to Canada after traveling to Zambia.
I always go there with great plans to help and my list of things to do and return feeling mostly satisfied with what was accomplished. There is always so much to do!
As I head downstairs to make my morning hazelnut coffee, I walk by the beautiful handmade basket that I purchased for $3.00CAD at the museum in Barotseland. It is still dark and I know my steps so well that I don’t need a light, but I smell the scent of the fresh wicker as I walk by and it is though I am back in Zambia.
I used to say that once you go to Africa it will be forever in your heart.
Well now I can say that not only is it in your heart, it is, if only for a short time, embedded in your nose!
It is all part of the adventure and Africa has a smell of its own which I hope you get to smell some day!
It is totally worth it!
I managed to record some amazing animal photos and film on this trip so stay tuned.