BY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – There was no way I could go all the way to Africa, see giant black caterpillars for sale as food, and not try them. Yes I am a vegetarian, and have been for 17 years. No meat of any kind, no dairy. But this was Zambia, Fear Factor style. So I bought the caterpillars and asked our chef Dowdi to prepare them.
The faculty had been at Victoria Falls that day and we were about three hours late for dinner. I walked in to see a giant platter of cold greasy fried caterpillars with my name on it! I had been bragging about how I was going to eat them for two days, and there was no backing out now. So I grabbed four or five and shoved them all in my mouth—probably not the greatest idea. The taste—I can only describe as—a cold greasy pork chop with dirt in it. Yes the caterpillars are full of dirt and it was a big part of the texture. Once I ground them up in my mouth so I couldn’t tell what was a head or leg or whatever, I had to deal with the next big problem, how to swallow this black mass of bugs! It was rough going, and I thought about trying to sneak out of sight so I could spit them out—but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of trying them in the first place so I finally got them down.
I would like to say that I loved them, but alas I cannot… I think perhaps if I had gotten there while they were still hot, and was able to slather them in hot sauce, they would have been pretty good. As it was, it was more for the bragging rights than anything else!
I heard they serve fried termites like popcorn in the rural areas….
BY GINGER LEYENDECKER, MESA, ARIZONA
Well we got home after 36 hours, after the security scare, two seven hour layovers, and a run-in with a possible terrorist! A middle eastern woman sat in between Kai and I at Johannasburg. She was nervous, and kept receiving cell phone calls. Right as the plane was to take off, police got on the plane and came and told her to get her bags, and took her away. We wondered whether it was racial profiling, or if we had narrowly missed disaster. Either way, it opened up the seat between us and we had more room for those 11 hours on the plane!
The spider bite I got early in the trip became infected, due to a combination of not having water all the time and my tendency not to take showers very often! By the time we were on the last leg of the flight it was the size of a half golf ball on my shoulder and really hurt, sending pain down my arm and up my neck. I went from the airport to the ER, got through triage and then waited to be seen until after 2am. A helicopter had brought in an emergency and I would have to be seen the next morning. I went to my doctor and he said "It's a good thing you're here this morning, I wouldn't want to see this thing tomorrow!" I was given an antibiotic IV drip; I had a bad reaction to the drugs that had me out for the entire day. So now I'm on a different antibiotic and will go in Monday morning for another IV and a lancing of the infected boil!! Oh man where is that documentary crew when you need them???
I just want to go on the record and express how very proud I am of the students in the film crew. They have become true professionals and stepped up their skills and talents in a collaborative effort to make this film the best it can be. They are doing a marvelous job working together, taking care of what needs to be done, finding creative solutions to problems, and being the mature and dedicated crew we all thought they could be. I think both the feature and the documentary will be a huge success, and that working on this project will open up so many possibiities for these students in the future. Way to go film crew! I really admire all that you guys have done, and can't wait to see the outcome of your hard work. Cyndi has taught you well, and you are living up to her vision. She is doing a great job producing and troubleshooting. The synergy is really paying off.
I was very sad to have to leave this wonderful group, the crew and the beautiful Zambian people, but it looks like I got home in the nick of time with the bite. Now I'm trying to get ready for classes on Monday ... after the lancing of course...
BY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Today we went to the Kawata Cultural Center to interview craftsmen. A woodcarver, a basket weaver, a batik and fabric artist, and a drum maker spoke to us, explaining their craft and how they learned it. The people who live in this craft village are very proud to be able to work for themselves and support their families from their art. They were very open to speaking with us, especially because we bought lots of their crafts!
Afterwards I got to take paper and pencils outside our compound and draw with the neighborhood kids. At first they were shy, not wanting to draw or speak. So I started asking them what animals they liked, and gave each kid the sketch. Soon the kids were drawing pictures for me. Before long I was surrounded, not only surrounded but enveloped in dozens and dozens of beautiful faces, yelling out “lion!” “elephant!” “zebra!” I stayed out for close to an hour, and we had a great time with the kids.
I am struck by the Zambian people in that they are so positive and proud and happy. Not just the ones who are well off, but also those in “high density” areas. People walk around everywhere, with pride in their appearance and dress, smiles for each other and a general sense of friendship among all. Even in opposing political parties who are demonstrating in the streets (this is election month) there is no violence. One of our guides Alan explained that “they might buy us a beer one day, or we might sit and buy them one, we are not against each other because we are for opposing candidates. We are all Zambians.”
BY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA – (Sunday, August 13, 2006) The faculty members, Kai Kim, Jeanette Roe and I had a day that was the experience of a lifetime. First we went to the amazing Victoria Falls. It was simply incredible the volume of water that flows through, and the power you can hear in the roaring sound. We were soaked in mist that refracted rainbows all around. Some people were bungee jumping off the bridge that crossed the gorge, and others white water rafted at the bottom. I would like to be able to come back and do both someday!
Next we went to a national wildlife refuge. First we saw giraffes and impalas. Then monkeys and elephants (in the distance). We then hired a ranger who knew the migration of the animals, who took us in further. We came up on water buffalo, and he said we should keep our distance even in the car because they are the most dangerous animals in the park! Then we went to an abandoned training compound where baboons had taken over the area. Then, an experience that is hard to describe in its fullness. We came upon Zambia’s last two wide rhinos, an odd couple who were relaxing under a tree. The ranger told us to walk with him, and we got within a few feet of them! They were undisturbed and we stayed there in awe for a very long time. They were huge and beautiful. Finally we had to take the ranger back to his post. But first he took us to see zebra. As we were leaving I felt a little sad that we didn’t get to see elephants close up. Then, as we were about to leave the park, there they were—a herd of about twelve on the road and to the side! We actually had to wait there, they were blocking our exit—“trapping” us as Alan our driver said.
We got to eat at a traditional Zambian family restaurant on the way home. On the drive I was amazed to see people walking at all hours of the day and night, from town to town.
When we got to our resort, I finally got to eat the caterpillars, made by our chef Dowdi. They had been reconstituted and deep fried. They looked horrid all big and black, but I have to say—not bad!!
BY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN LUSAKA -- I am struck by so many things in Zambia so far. The kindness of the people, their happy positive demeanor and willingness to help. The city is beautiful. Our host, Dr. N'agoma, is so gracious, putting us up in his resort and feeding us. We really appreciate all he has done for us. To him I say a huge "Zikomo", or thank you.
We had a readthrough with the cast of BAD TIMING yesterday and they really made the script come alive. I think the project will be a huge success.
Also, the faculty met with the President of the Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce, Sam Kangwa, yesterday. It is the premiere art school of Zambia. We met many of the faculty members and were given a tour of the school. They were very excited about the idea of an educational exchange, and our meeting was very successful. It looks like they will be a perfect fit for Mesa Community College, and we will be able to exchange faculty and students in the art department and other areas.
I also bought some dried salted caterpillars last night and the chef has agreed to cook them for us soon. More on that later! They also sell roasted termites, so of course we'll have to try those too.
Elections are going on this year and we have seen demonstrations and marches. My favorite part of this trip has been interacting with the wonderful people, listening to their points of view and comparing them to my own. It seems as though people everywhere have many of the same hopes and concerns.
Many people here have to face adversities that are not part of our daily lives -- challenging living conditions, HIV-AIDS, lack of certain resources, etc., but they have an admirable and strong spirit. They are proud and beautiful and positive. They are an inspiration and so far this trip has been worth it for this understanding alone.
Zambia is "ndimwa babwino"--very good!
For faculty members Kai Kim and myself, going to Zambia seemed like a longshot at first. There were times over the summer when we didn't know if our funding would go through, and whether we would have permission to leave our school duties for the project. Well, it looks like everything's a go and it's finally hitting me--I'm going to Africa!!!!
I am so excited for the opportunity to assist in the educational exchange part of the program. Our intent is to determine exactly what our schools have to offer each other in the way of faculty and student exchange, and to implement the best of both for the benefit of all. There is so much we can learn from the Zambian people, not only in the visual art department, but in the areas of dance, theater, music, sociology, and anthropology. We are hoping to collect materials to bring back for curriculum development, to be shared by all the colleges in the Maricopa Community College district.
Next summer we will further our plans and hopefully get our exchange program scheduled. I know I would definitely not be opposed to teaching a workshop in Zambia!!
I am looking forward to meeting the people I am hearing so much about, and learning about their rich culture.
BY THE AFRICAN VOICE DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW, MESA, AZ, USA - The last week, we worked on a short video to give people a sense of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. Three of the editors put together versions of varying length.
SHAWN DOWNS put together the Who We Are in Two Minutes movie. Shawn recently graduated from Arcadia High School and will be going to the LA Film School upon his return from Zambia. Shawn is an excellent cinematographer, gaffer and all-round crew member. Shawn had a short film in the PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL 2006. I'd count on seeing great things from him in the future.
LINDSEY BLACK crafted the Who We Are in Five Minutes. Lindsey graduated from Mesa Community College. She has made numerous short films and is looking to build a career in the independent film industry. Lindsey enjoys acting, editing and producing. Already a Sundance veteran, Lindsey is looking forward the 2007 festival. She learned a great deal about networking at the last festival from actor, Adam Scarimbolo.
MICHAEL MONTESA completed the Who We Are in 17 Minutes. Another Sundance veteran with a commitment to work in the independent film world, Mike is a respiratory therapist by vocation and photographer/cinematographer by avocation. Mike has won several awards at the annual Mesa Community College Art Show. In addition to being a great on-set photographer, Mike loves designing movie poster and DVD case covers. His designs are terrific.
BY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, MESA, USA - I am honored to be a part of promoting cultural and educational exchange between America and Zambia. This project offers a wealth of opportunity for students in both corners of the world, to become educated global citizens who will affect positive change for decades to come.
The Filmzambia project has taken on a life of its own, from one student's vision in documenting his story to the inclusion of a global exchange program of film, art and education. We are blessed to have students such as Jabbes, and visionary educators such as Cyndi Greening, who are willing to put forth their time, effort and heart into building something so important and impacting to society.
My part in this will be to promote educational exchange between our countries, and hope to see this happen between students as well as faculty members who will offer their skills and knowledge in their area of expertise. It would be wonderful to have students and teachers from Zambia come to MCC, and we wold love the opportunity to teach and study in Zambia.
To travel to Africa has long been a goal of mine. I have been to 11 other countries, but never to this beautiful continent. To be asked to be a part of this project is a dream come true, and I look forward to building friendships and learning about Zambia, its culture, art, and people.