My favorite things in Africa, part 3

My friend Shari and I have traveled in 12 countries, in 3 continents, the past 4 years, together, plus many other countries separately. We seem to be amazingly lucky. We’ve been in, or missed by a day, five devastating natural disasters: a huge fire (South Africa), a landslide (Hong Kong), a 6.5 earthquake (Costa Rica), a volcano eruption (Iceland), and a flood (Peru).

These are things I love in Africa:

1.           Wonderful fruits I don’t even know the name of. I got out of the car to ask villagers what this amazing little red fruit is. We bought a bag of them from people standing on the side of the road on the way to BlydeRivierSpoort. What they said sounded something like “Dilahdwa.” Anybody got a better name than that? WHY ISN’T ANYONE IMPORTING THIS STUFF?

2.           There are 73 dialects in Zambia and amazingly, people seem to know what language others speak just by looking at them.

3.           Mango farms. They’re everywhere. I ate dried mango till my jaw hurt. We cut up fresh ones in our hotel room daily–the best fruit on the planet. I think avocadoes and mangoes are my two favorite foods in the universe. Right after chocolate.

4.           African babies. The people and the animals. Check out this baby elephant that crossed our path.

5.           Rocket and Peppadew Salad. They don’t use dressings in Africa, just a little olive oil. Rocket is a green, and peppadew is a sweet-sour pepper I am in love with.

6.           The South African practice of saying “Pleasure!” instead of “You’re welcome!” I can’t get enough of that. It makes it sound as if you’re completely thrilled to be doing an act of service. One of my 2011 goals is to say, “My pleasure!” when someone thanks me.

7.           That I was briefly a millionaire in Zambian ketchwa. Actually it’s horrible that the exchange rate is 5,000 to 1, allowing me to achieve that status for $300. And I didn’t even need it because everyone wants your dollars in Zambia.

8.           Nelson Mandela. Racism is alive and well in post-Mandela South Africa, unfortunately. My perception is that his tenets of tolerance and forgiveness for the oppressors who incarcerated him at Robben Island for many years are far from fully realized in the government and people of South Africa. I watched Invictus on the plane home: a good movie about Mandela inspiring and leveraging the national rugby team to unite South Africa and ease racial tensions.

9.           Lions walking in front of your car. A pack of wild dogs, or a family of 60 baboons, lounging or clowning in the road. Kid you not.

Tomorrow, things I don’t love so much in Africa.

Under the Big African Sky, part 2

In the village of Muukuni, everyone lives in huts made of mud and straw. The “palaces” of the female and male chiefs are just BIGGER straw-mud huts. Virtually everyone drops out of school at age 15 because their families cannot afford to send them to secondary school through age 18.

I am fascinated by this very large village comprised of smaller villages–with fenced compounds for each family. I believe I was there for a reason, and I intend to find out what that is. They don’t seem to have any help in sending children to school. Only 3 in the village with 3,400 school-age children have had the chance to go to college, which makes them local celebrities.

My guide, Philip Muwba, is 32 and wishes he could study to become a math teacher. Instead, he has a part time job giving tourists elephant rides. My other guide, Lumba Simulube, is a single mother of a 4-year old daughter, and she would love to study to be a nurse. I asked how many children would LIKE to go further in school, and they said, “Many! They just can’t afford to.”

But after age 11, parents must pay for uniforms, exams, and tuition. The exciting thing about this village I found in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia), different than working with villages further north in Africa, is that Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) is just minutes away. So the large town of Livingstone has grown up around it, with secondary schools and a college where young people from the village can be educated. I am gathering more information to find out how directly I can work with those schools and the University of Zambia four hours away.

It’s very inexpensive to send an African child to school. I am hoping to put together a great way to sponsor the students who excel in school but have no way to access higher education. I have a contact in the village who is highly motivated to help ambitious, smart kids who have a desire to help their people, become educated and return to help their people. I hope to put something together that’s really cool and tell you about it, but first I have to research how you get money directly to the educational institutions to sponsor kids, etc. I’m talking to my full-time humanitarian friends.

Check out my photos of the children in the village fascinated by the photos we took of them. (You could entertain them for hours by taking their photo and showing it to them, as they have no mirrors and have never owned a photo of themselves.)  

We took four of the kids from the village (with their adult chaperon) to our five-star resort for the day. I can’t even describe how fun it was to watch 12-year old Precious, 6-year old twins Austin and Herbert, and 2-year old Kala, swim in a pool for the first time. Eat in a restaurant. Play with my two iPods. Watch soccer on TV. Kala couldn’t stop stroking my white skin and hair. All firsts for them.

They were completely fascinated by ice floating in glasses of water, and couldn’t eat enough of it. Ditto shaking salt on food. Shaking it on a plate and dipping their fingers, or their food, in it. It was an experience I will never forget.

Under the Big African Sky, part 1

I love to travel, to see how others live. How they are the same, how they are different. How they eat, not least of all. I’m thrilled by names, places, people, animals, transportation. A tiny international airport in Zambia where they hand-write the tickets and cats wander the waiting area.

I spent four days roughing it in the five-million-acre Kruger National Park in the province of Mpumalanga, “the place where the sun comes out.” It’s fun just to SAY Mpumalanga.

And our guide, Nick–probably worried when he saw two blonde American women–warned us that his motto is, “TIA.” Or, THIS IS AFRICA. Rough translation, don’t even think about whining. My own version of it, when I’d see something crazy, was, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

We met lots of Africans, and not one who had ever been off the continent. Their mouths would gape open with astonishment when I described to them that the week before I got to 95-degree Africa, I was skiing in snow waist-deep. I told them it’s so cold where I live that the hairs in your nose freeze, so you have to wiggle your nose to break up the ice. And your breath makes a frozen vapor cloud. They can’t imagine it.

One asked me, incredulously, “How can the children write in school? Aren’t their fingers stiff?” Central heat (or AC), of course, is something they’ve never experienced.

In the village of Muukuni, 7,000 people live, the vast majority without jobs. No electricity, no running water, no internet. The women carry water in pots on their head. The only junk food I saw was a little hanging stand at the entrance to the village–but only the occasional tourist who visits buys it–and apparently not much, since the vendor’s bags of potato chips were sun-faded.

In my world travels (23 countries on 4 continents the past 4 years), I’ve found few places untainted by Western culture. Even rural Vietnam and China had far too much processed food. The ONLY places on Earth that don’t have processed foods are the places where the people have virtually no access to cash.

Muukuni Village is one of those rarities. The vast majority of families have zero income, and there is no government aid. Unfortunately, they also have leprosy, extreme poverty, and a high mortality rate. The chief can be put to death if the Council decrees so, and once they decided to poison the chief. When he didn’t die, they buried him alive.

My guide, Lumba Simulube, told me her large family was orphaned in 1996 when her father died of a nosebleed. Since you don’t generally die of that, they assume he died of a hex his brother put on him.

Only four in the village own a car–for commercial purposes.

There are things I like about village life. For instance, there is zero crime. Maybe that’s because everyone is poor (so who would you steal from?). But part of it has to be this: look at the photos of the community jail. While I was standing next to it, a couple of young men were escorted in by the village elders. They are questioned, and they are caned by an old woman, only if they refuse to be accountable for their actions. Look at all the kids gathering around–it’s rare that anyone needs discipline, so the kids were fascinated.

The crimes of these youth?

They are referred by parents if they use bad language, disrespecting elders, or refusing to do their jobs.

Back from Africa: Green Smoothies, Detox, and Dr. Oz

I’m just back after 2 weeks in Africa, perhaps the most amazing trip of my life. I’ll show-n-tell about it this week. Meantime, I’m getting a late start on our detox, but I’m on it! Are you? I’m doing half a gallon of green smoothies daily, and 100% raw, for the rest of January.

 

Someone ran up to me in the airport waving a magazine she’d bought at a newsstand: For Women First. The weight-loss section (wouldn’t be a women’s magazine without that, would it?) has an article on Dr. Oz’s “#1 Fat Cure.”

It says, “Dr. Oz’s humble blend of cucumbers, apples and leafy greens has ignited a trend that’s got women surfing to sites like GreenSmoothieGirl.com in droves.”

Fun stuff. I was glad when Dr. Oz started promoting green smoothies. Specifically he quotes the following benefits.

Blending breaks apart plant-cell walls better than “even the most persistent chewing could, which gives green drinks an intestinal absorption edge that food-form produce can’t match.”

One GS enthusiast in Ohio said she lost 19 lbs. and gained lots of energy in just a few days. But her periods and PMS were less severe too. (Note from Robyn: I have virtually no PMS, though I had terrible cramps and mood swings in my 20’s.)

Chlorophyll, the plant pigment concentrated in greens, binds to mycotoxins, acidic waste products made by fungi and yeast, to block these toxins from entering the bloodstream. That makes green drinks “life changing” for the 70 percent of American women who have an overgrowth of candida albicans yeast. That overgrowth leads to persistent fatigue, chronic sinusitis, allergies, carb cravings, and yeast infections, among other things.

The writer talks about how three-quarters of women are depleted of enzymes by age 35. (Note from Robyn: men too! This is just a magazine for women.) Nutritionist Michelle Schoffro Cook explains that digestive enzymes produced by liver and pancreas are needed to break down food and absorb nutrients. Some of them assist in breaking down and burning fat. But cooked foods can’t supply enzymes. Green and fruits are chock-full of enzymes that reduce the workload on liver and pancreas, “allowing them to focus on their metabolic tasks like fat burning and energy production.”

Magnesium prevents fat storage, and 80 percent of American women don’t get the magnesium they need from their diets, according to Carolyn Dean, M.D: “When magnesium is low, cells don’t recognize insulin and glucose builds up in the blood–and gets stored as fat instead of being burned as fuel.”

“Magnesium in supplements is packaged in particles too large for the body to fully absorb, reducing its bio-availability down to about 4 to 15 percent,” said Dr. Dean. “Green plants take up the mineral from the soil via tiny rootlets, making their magnesium particles much, much smaller.” That means more than 90 percent is delivered in the form of energy to you!

I love that the mainstream is starting to talk about enzymes.

A tip from Jacque in Alpine, Utah

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

I recently read in a comment that you are looking into gluten free recipes, etc.

I wanted to let you know about this 9 grain bread being sold at Alpine Food Storage. Maybe you’ve already heard about it, but I am really impressed since most of the gluten free alternatives consist of merely rice or potato flour. I was very pleased to look on the label and see words like quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, and buckwheat.

What a great feeling to know you aren’t just taking away gluten, but replacing it with nutrition-packed grains. I think Chirine at Alpine Food Storage does an amazing job finding quality products to supply in bulk and could give you more information. Right now, I think it’s just someone putting ingredients together right out of his home.

I’d love to see more people enjoy this kind of thing, but I hope they can keep the price low. It tastes like whole wheat to me and he even offers some that is not only gluten free but also corn free. For a lot of us who can’t tolerate gluten, most of the products we turn to are corn, which is pretty unhealthy as well. I am trying to minimize my intake of wheat and corn and really appreciate finding a bread recipe that can do that and help supply the grain in our diet. =) Thanks for all you’re doing on here, I love reading through everyone’s stories and ideas.

Jacque: Thanks for this. Many people are suffering with gluten intolerances, and I believe that number will grow, especially as people who are simply undiagnosed become more educated. Desi and I are going to develop a program that is not only gluten-free, but also whole foods.

Mary kicks white carbs to the curb!

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

I sent you my story of healing over the past six years. I hope you received it. [From Robyn: I didn’t. ??]

Just want to add that if I eat no “white” nor alcohol, I have no inflammation, i.e., pain, in my body. I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, and went from being bed-ridden to EVERYONE thinking I am fifty, when I am now 71.

What I am now doing for over 3 years (smoothie every AM and vegetables, fruits and whole grains) is reversing age. My hair is losing the gray, I feel 19 and have so much to share.

I want a mic and a stage!! No one can “get it” unless they do it. I have gone back into pain and exhaustion when I poisoned my body with some simple carbohydrates. These tests prove that my plan works! I hope you got my story. Just ask and I will email it to you again. Yeast is the result of the sugar from simple carbohydrates, and the yeast inflames the weaker parts of our bodies and is also addictive. Weight is a sub-issue. Health is the issue!

[Mary, please re-send your story!]