BLOG # 7 – 21st August 2012
Elizabeth Winterton

MJ has a baby

On the 16th August MJ gave birth to healthy white infant. We were fortunate to be there only a couple of hours after birth when the babies eyes hadn’t even opened fully yet. MJ spent the morning grooming her new infant surrounded by her other children, Madonna and Mowgli.  After ditching MJ for Clover when she had her infant, it will be interesting to see whether Mr Wizard will go back to MJ and help care for the infant which is suspected to be his. 

MJ with Mowgli, her new infant, and Madonna.
Conservation Club/ Summer School News

Throughout August, myself and staff at the conservation centre are giving lessons to Grade 8 and 9 students from Kafinda Basic School to help improve their understanding of certain topics. With big enthusiasm I travelled up to Mulaushi on Friday expecting to teach a class of 20 with the help of the girls from the Conservation Club. Unfortunately we were disappointed with only 1 student turning up. However we still went ahead with the lesson and the girls helped teach about plant cell structure, photosynthesis and transpiration. With a lesson packed full of experiments, Leah, the student from Kafinda, got to test a leaf for starch, watch stomata, and even use a microscope to view onion plant cells.

Charity, Agness and Victoria demonstrating the starch test

This lesson was followed up by the girl’s Conservation Club lesson. This week Jesse, the local Peace Corps volunteer, came to teach the girls about HIV and Aids. With around 20% of people in Zambia living with HIV the lesson was extremely valuable. I am hoping that in October we can travel to Kafinda and the girls can teach the Grade 8 and 9 students and raise awareness of how to prevent HIV.

Jesse teaching the girls about HIV & Aids

The Life of a Baboon Researcher: Part III

It’s not all baboons. A little bit of Africa…

My two favourite things about travelling to a new country are markets and food. Markets because you can buy local crafts & paintings (as well as food!), but most of all you can interact and chat with the charming locals as they try & sell you things at 3 times the actual price just because you're a Muzungu. If there's 1 rule I've learnt in Africa it’s this; everything is a multiple of 3. If you think something will take you 1hr, it will take you 3, if you're offered something to buy, divide the price by 3. There also appears to be no more than 3 degrees of separation. Everyone knows everyone, or at least the wife of the cousin of the brother etc. If someone says they have malaria, there’s a 30% chance they have malaria (although the clinic will disagree); it’s most likely a cold.

This rule of 3 (particularly the time rule) is pretty much a daily occurrence so one of the greatest things I’ve learnt over the last 8 months is patience. Something I haven’t yet learnt to cope with though is the bus station in Lusaka…

After doing the 3 month shop you struggle out of the taxi to be surrounded by men barraging you with “Where are you going?, Where are you going? How are you? Livingstone, you going to Livingstone? Kasama? Livingstone? Mama, why are you ignoring me, where are you going!!?” Even after firmly acknowledging you do not need help and know where you’re going the jostling doesn’t stop until you finally arrived in the bus queue. After the dodgy man comes round making you pay extra for your luggage (and then pocketing the money after taking half the passengers off the bus at Kapiri to avoid paying a fine for overloading), and the bus workers somehow managing to fit hundreds of bags neatly under the bus (surprisingly in some kind of logical order), you’re squished into your designated seat. You then promptly shut your eyes for the rollercoaster journey of speeding, harsh braking, overtaking on blind corners, horn honking and of course the obligatory preacher and gospel music. An experience not to be missed.

Something else not to be missed is the food. As I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite things is trying out new food, and coming to Africa I was pretty certain I would be treated to a fantastic variety. Unfortunately this is not the case in Zambia. Breakfast is either rice with sugar, or a porridge made from maize meal. Lunch and Dinner are comprised of nshima with relish (a gelatinous lump of maize meal accompanied by veg, very fishy fried fish, or a meat stew). It’s actually pretty tasty if you get a good relish, and extremely cheap. Other delights include fritters (similar to donughts with no jam), caterpillars, termites and cassava (I’m yet to try the latter 3). Fortunately, Desmond the camp attendant is a whiz in the kitchen and conjures up tasty meals of pasta, curry, lentils, pizza and tortillas. He’s also a great bread baker and I’m currently teaching him cakes and pastry. Luckily the copious walking helps stave off the weight gain!

Despite the transport issues and rule of 3, Zambia is a wonderful place to live. When camp gets a bit too peaceful you can escape to the hectic delights of Lusaka, and when all that gets too much (usually after 2 or 3 days!) you can come back, watch baboons all day, and sit under the stars.

The Arts and Crafts Market in Lusaka