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Amazing Trip: Malealea, Lesotho, The Great (Pony) Trek

We met up with Doug Tilton and drove to Lesotho for a few days. Doug is the PC(USA)'s Regional Liaison for Southern Africa, so he works with the partners in Lesotho, as well as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar & Mauritius. He helped us to set up appointments with the Lesotho Evangelical Church, the PC(USA)'s partner, and visit several of their organizations and programs. We were so thankful for Doug's help and we thoroughly enjoyed his company.

But first, we spent a day on a pony trek on the mountainsides of Malealea. Ryan has wanted to do this since the first time he visited Lesotho, when he was studying in Johannesburg in 2004. Doug had never taken the opportunity to trek either, though many people had recommended it to him. It was an amazing way to see the gorgeous mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

It was quite scarey at first, scaling the rocky mountainside on horseback. Especially going down! It felt like you were about to tumble over the pony's neck. Gradually, we began to trust our sure-footed ponies more and more. We rode to a waterfall and then to "bushmen cave paintings," to which we had to get off and hike the rest of the way. When we were on foot on the steep and rocky paths, we appreciated our ponies even more!

Ryan saddling up

On top of the mountain, starting off from Malealea

click here for the rest of the pictures from Malealea, Lesotho...

Posted October 5, 2011
Amazing trip: The Kruger National Park, South Africa

We were super lucky to see a leopard as we drove in to the park! I spotted it!

For loads more pictures & the story of almost walking into 14 lions...

Posted September 28, 2011
2nd stop on our amazing trip: Johannesburg, South Africa

The Nelson Mandela Bridge in downtown Jo'burg

Bring on the culture shock!

We had a 16-hr bus ride from Harare, Zimbabwe, to Johannesburg, South Africa. It left at 8pm and arrived just after noon the next day. Fortunately, we managed to book a luxury bus this time--Greyhound--which felt more like checking into a flight, and the seats were comfortable and posh! The bus itself was the beginning of culture-shock. We slept pretty well, and the border crossing at 4am went quite smoothly. We didn't have to pay anything to enter South Africa--one quick stamp allows us to stay for 90 days.

When we arrived in Johannesburg (a.k.a. Jo'burg or Jozi) it felt like we had not only arrived in another country, we'd arrived in another world. I could hardly believe we were in Africa anymore--I could hardly believe we'd arrived here by bus. In many ways, Jo'burg felt like it could be any big city in the world. Granted, many big cities feel like that--they have their own distinct culture, yet alot of similarities, such as busy traffic, tall buildings, a mixture of people.

When we made it to our guest house, the first thing I enjoyed was a nice hot shower--with excellent water pressure. Then we walked a few blocks to a big mall for dinner, a movie, and browsing at a book shop. I was gaping at the mall--it was so shiny and fancy--I had to take pictures! We had delicious sushi for dinner and watched the movie "Crazy, Stupid, Love." The book store added to the culture shock--not only were there lots of books for reasonable prices, but there were books which criticized and addressed current issues in the country. Very different from Zambia.

Ryan & Molly on the Greyhound bus from Harare to Jo'burg

the dazling Hyde Park Mall in the Sandton area, a northern suburb and now the business center of Jo'burg

In 2004, Ryan lived and studied at the University of the Witswaterstrand (Wits--pronounced "Vits") in downtown Johannesburg for 6 months, with an NYU nstudy-abroad program. His focus was spoken-word poetry. I'd heard so many stories about this transformational period in his life, and he was very eager to show me all around the city, and visit some places he'd not been to before. In five and a half days, we still felt like we didn't have enough time in this extraordinary city.

Our first full day, we paid a visit to TEE College and had lunch with director, Megan Baxter. We'd met Megan at the AATEEA (All Africa Theological Education by Extension Association) Conference in Ghana last October. Different from TEEZ (Zambia), South Africa's TEE COllege trains people on 3 levels (Certificate, Diploma, and Degree) and primarily trains clergy according to the requirements of thier respective denominations.(TEEZ works at the Certificate level only and trains primarily Lay leaders.)

I was also very impressed with the huge store-room of materials and the color-coded system of organizing them, and also with the fact that they have their materials translated into 5 different languages: Sesotho, Xhosa, Zulu, English, & Afrikaans.

Megan Baxter, director of TEE College, shows Molly the materials storeroom--which is twice as big as is visible in this picture

Certificate level materials in 5 languages

Molly with Janet Guyer in the Dunkveld Fruit and Flower market in yet another shopping center near our Guest House (there are three just within walking distance!)

The following day, we met with PC(USA) Mission Co-worker Janet Guyer, who works as an HIV & AIDS consultant. She helps Presbyterian churches in South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe & Zambia (check these!) improve and incorporate HIV & AIDS curriculum into their programing. It was also neat to talk to Janet, because she grew up in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which we will be visiting in a couple weeks. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries there, and she later served there for several years herself doing similar work with HIV & AIDS in churches. That evening we also saw a play downtown at the Market Theatre called "Death of a Colonialist." Though perhaps not well-titled, it was very well written, performed and produced, tackling issues of South African History, family dynamics, and the flight of young professionals from the city and country.

The Market Theatre

downtown Jo'burg

Our third day, we visited the "Cradle of Mankind" including the Sterkfontein caves and Maropeng Museum. This area is very important in archeological research: several early hominids have been discovered here ("Little Foot" in 1994 and Australopithecus sediba in 2010). The museum was AWESOME--one of the best I've ever been too--very interactive, explaining the movement of tectonic plates, species classification system, and extinction, as well as the theory of evolution and how all the early hominids may fit together. If you look at their webpage, you may want to come all the way to South Africa just to go to this museum.

Ry crawls through the Sterkfontein caves

The theme of the Maropeng museum and also of our blog!

an exhibit at Maropeng museum

Little Foot (Australopithicus)--almost a complete skeleton, with 32 teeth in place and everything. S/he didn't live in the cave, but fell in and died there, thus the excellent preservation.

Day four included a tour around the city, Soweto and the Hector Peiterson Museum (commemorating the Soweto youth uprising), and the Apartheid Museum. It was a long and emotional day. The Apartheid Museum is designed to give you a multi-sensory experience. Your ticket arbitrarily categorizes you, so Ryan was "non-white" and I was "white" and we entered in separate gates. The atmosphere goes from dark lighting and restrictive, caged, confined spaces throughout the exhibits of the 50 years of Apartheid, to emerge finally into areas of light and openness as you reach the new South Africa of the last decade and a half.

The inside of a shop in the Hillbrow neighborhood where Indians now sell herbs, roots, bones and skins and things to Sangomas (indigenous healers)

a baboon hide! the hunting selling of all these things is now all regulated by the government

Soweto is much more posh than I expected. It has really improved. Living conditions vary from shanty villages to millionaire homes. Only a very small areas that can be considered "slums" remain.

Many people who don't have a source of income, rent the land around their house to others, who put up small dwellings. The owner may or may not provide electricity to them.
So this is a strange mix of development and shanty town all jumbled together.

Cooling towers from an old coal-electric plant which used to spew out pollution on Soweto --now painted with murals and used as a bungee-jump attraction. Symbolic of the changes and development happening in this historic township. These roads are better than most of the roads in Kitwe and Lusaka (especially the compounds!)

New Stadium for the 2010 World Cup--the Stadium's design is themed for Umqombothi--traditional brew in a calabash.
The round shape and redish-brown bottom layer represent the calabash/gourd, the light brown represents the color of the traditional beer made by fermenting corn, and the white top represents the foam!

Apartheid museum--the pillars outside state 7 fundamental values of SA's post-apartheid constitution: democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom... I read the above quote just inside the "white" entrance.

Day five, Sunday, we went for Quaker meeting, which I had long been awaiting. This is a very special place full of very special people in Ryan's journey of faith. It was the first Christian worshiping community that he ever became a member of, and their faith and practice formed him greatly. Even though he was only there for 6 months, he became heavily involved in the meeting (~congregation) and even served as the Young Friends Co-Clerk for the South Central Africa Yearly Meeting (like their General Assembly or General Synod) to which he was nominated in 2004 and then flew back to attend in 2005 and 2006!

Quaker meeting House

There weren't many people at the Meeting for worship, though this is a snap of the Monthly Meeting for business

Sunday afternoon we visited the Wits campus, though unfortunately most everything was closed. During our time in Jo'burg, we also got the chance to meet up with a couple of Ryan's friends from Wits, Nduka and Michael, both of whom are now fathers! We will pass through Jo'burg twice more before we leave South Africa, so we hope to perhaps see these and other friends again. Though we ended up having more days in Jozi than we originally planned, five days was not enough!

Dinner with Michael Matsie, Ryan's friend from his days at Wits

Nduka Mntambo and his son Lunga on the Wits campus

Ryan & Molly on the Wits campus

Next stop... the Kruger National Park!
Posted September 24, 2011
Where to find our New Old posts

As you may have noticed, our blog went silent for a few months. We apologize for that. It was a combination of a busy travel schedule, a lot of work, and limited internet connectivity in our final months in Zambia.

I have been trying to catch up on blog posts, filling in the missing months, as well as a few posts I started but never finished and posted. In order to keep the story basically chronological, I'm posting these new old posts approximately at the date when they happened. So here is a list of these posts, with links you can follow. I will update and re-post this list as I go. So you never have to miss a single word or photo!

New Old Blog Posts: (click on the title to be redirected)

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay a little more up-to-date as we travel to different countries. I will try to post new new posts (current happenings) once a week or so, internet-allowing. So, now after a dry spell--here's the rainy season. Apropos, since it just started raining in South Africa, which is where we are now.

Posted September 23, 2011
Zambia Presidential Election News: "We at the PF have the people"

We've been praying for Zambia and all our friends there, as they went to the polls Tuesday, 20 Sept 2011. Some rioting has broken out over delays in voting places and suspected fraud, and also because of the delay in releasing confirmed results. Challenger Michael Sata, of the Patriotic Front, who is very popular in the Copperbelt, where we lived in Kitwe, seems to be ahead.

"The President for all Zambians"
Rupiah Banda's campaign has included HUGE billboards, a fleet of 4x4 trucks with his posters on them, handing out free chitenge fabric with his face and party brand it, giving away bags of mealie meal (allegedly from food relief supplies), and fixing/building infrastructure--roads, hospitals, schools--which he hasn't managed to do in all his days as President, until just before the election.

"Don't Kubeba" (don't tell)
Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front has pretty broad grass-roots support, though his campaign materials are less high-tech. His slogan basically means--go ahead and take Rupiah's mealie meal, but don't tell them you're still going to vote for Sata. 

This past year in Zambia, we heard many people say that the PF has indeed won the vote the last 3 presidential elections, but official results have not "reflected" that, nor has the ruling party changed.  I pray that some meaningful change might happen for Zambia.  Who knows if Sata would be a better leader?  He may end up just another crooked or ineffective politician once given the chance.  I do find some hope though, that there seems to be a popular uprising, and a possible party change.  I just hope that the violence will cease, and peace can prevail. 

Check out some interesting quotes and read further articles on the rioting and results:

Zambia election results trickle in slowly from International Business Times

Zambia presidential election results are in at about half of the country's constituencies. The Patriotic Front's Michael Sata has an early lead over incumbent Rupiah Banda, whose party has been in power for 20 years, but it is much too early to call the election.

With 85 of 150 voting districts tallied, Sata leads the race with 43 percent of the vote, compared to President Banda's 36 percent. However, Banda still leads in the most recent opinion polls.

The two politicians fought a fierce battle in the 2008 presidential elections, with Banda edging out his nationalist opponent by a mere two percentage points. Sata alleged that the vote has been tampered with, a claim that has again arisen in this year's vote.

Two Killed in Riots over Zambian Election from a paper in Sydney, Australia
...Supporters of Sata's Patriotic Front (PF) in the Copperbelt towns of Kitwe and Ndola accused authorities of withholding results that favoured their candidate.

Their frustrations turned to violence on Thursday as police said two people were killed in riots that were broken up with tear gas and water cannons.

Ballot papers and vehicles set ablaze from Zambian newspaper, the Post (generally the PF-slanted reporting)

...A Law Association of Zambia monitor Dumisani Tembo, who also had his vehicle stoned, said: "We arrived around six in the morning but while other places seemed ready for the poll, Lilanda East looked very far. There was literally nothing, no polling booths, no ballot boxes, there were only lids for ballot boxes. No voters' register, no presiding officer and no posters to indicate what stream this is. That's what started to cause the anxiety."

...The eyewitnesses said the voters burnt the electoral materials in protest against the delay in opening the polling stations. They said the polling station did not open up to about 13:00 hours, thereby angering the electorate that had waited outside the centre long before 06:00 hours, the stipulated time of starting the voting process.

...Speaking at David Kaunda National Technical High School in Lusaka Central constituency where he is also a PF parliamentary candidate, Dr Scott said it was surprising that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and the Lusaka City Council had badly organised the electoral process.

"There are lots of late deliveries of materials which have contributed to these disturbances. What we are wondering is whether this is a deliberate attempt to bring down the PF vote in Lusaka because it's the major contributor to the national score or whether it's just incompetence," Dr Scott said.

China's stake in Zambia's election from BBC news the day before the election

...Neo Simuntanyi, director of the left-leaning Lusaka-based think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told the BBC that Zambian party financing was totally opaque and it was hard to really know where money was coming from.

"Although there's no way to prove it, there are a lot of suspicions that the MMD is maybe benefiting from Chinese support just because of the sheer scale of their campaign," he said.

"The MMD has never had that kind of money before and you can see that in how well-oiled their campaign machine has been and how big their presence is everywhere around the country."

...Mr Simuntanyi suggested that it was in the interest of Chinese companies to keep the MMD in power, in order to maintain the favourable - or as some would say preferential - investment climate they have enjoyed in Zambia in recent years.

China's main area of interest is mining, having bought up on the cheap a number of copper, cobalt and nickel mines, which had been mothballed by Western investors when commodity prices fell.

...Although there have been repeated allegations - and in some cases hard evidence - of poor labour conditions and low salaries in Chinese-run mines and factories, the Zambian government remains happy with its new friend because the investment has driven economic growth to almost unprecedented levels.

...Given Lubinda, a PF parliamentary candidate, said the size of the ruling party's campaign had been surprising.

"All of sudden they seem to have so much money - whether or not it's coming from the Chinese, we don't know, but for all that and the advantages they have had through the state-owned television and newspapers, we at the PF have the people," he said.

Posted September 22, 2011
Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum

Author: Molly & Ryan Dowell Baum
Created: July 26, 2010

"We are the scatterlings of Africa/On a journey to the stars/Far below, we leave forever/Dreams of what we were ..." -Johnny Clegg

Where are we?
The Dowell Baum Team is at home in Kitwe.
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