About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ferryride across the Zambezi River

We were at the mercy of the tour guides that the company operator assigned us at each location. We had become skeptical, after Wendy had more than a few "senior moments" around Cape Town.

Leaving C.T. and the wine country, we flew to Johannesburg, then into Livingstone, Zambia. There we were, plopped in a corner where three countries intersected: Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana. Pushing our luggage carts in the searing heat, we scanned the airport for someone who looked as though he/she could speak English. Turned out everyone did - they were taught English in school!

Then there she was! Mary turned out to be an incredible spokesperson for her adopted Zambia, as well as a superb guide. Raised in England and transplanted to Rhodesia by her mother and father, she married and stayed till Rhodesia became nonexistent. When the government took over the farm she and her husband owned, they headed to Zambia.

The next day she warned us, "Don't expect a customs and immigration office like you're used to!" We were about to take a "ferry" from Zambia across the Zambezi River to Botswana for a safari into Chobe Park.

We had an inkling of what to expect, having passed through the town of Livingstone, Zambia, on the way to our hotel at Victoria Falls. In town, red clay surrounded chicken-wire fences, which surrounded the schools, boarded factory, tin-roofed shops, and "Fawlty Towers." "That's the best hotel in town," Mary pointed out, "and the only one!" The one-story structure looked like it was constructed of fiberboard, and did, indeed, lean.

Our road was paved all the way to the ferry crossing, unlike the one we'd taken to board the Sunset Cruise the previous evening. About a mile from the ferry, we began to see eighteen-wheelers parked along the side of the road. They were fully loaded with copper and other goods leaving Zambia. Beside many of the trucks were tables and chairs, set up under small tents. "Is it a strike, like in Italy?" someone asked.

"No," Mary answered. "There's a hoe-down up the road, so they all stopped," she quipped. "Just kidding! Really, the ferry that carries these trucks across the River can only load one at a time. So some of the truckers wait days, even a week, to get across. They have full living arrangements in the cabs of their trucks."

"Aren't there roads or bridges?" someone asked.

"The fee is too expensive. And it would take even longer to drive all the way around than to sit in this lineup."

Like dutiful sheep, we got off the van, following our leader. Hundreds of native Zambians stood in a queue inside another chicken-wire fence. The queue led to a one-room wooden building, the customs office. On the other side of the building the dirt road became muddy, as it neared the River.

"Just follow me!" Mary instructed. "We have to get our passports stamped, then we'll get on the ferry."

We wound our way past the waiting Zambians, then cut in front of them. "This is going to be trouble," I thought to myself. Still, they kept smiling. "Where you from?" they yelled in English.

"U.S." we replied.

"Obama! Obama!" they began chanting.

We kept moving. One at a time, at a single window inside one room, we got our passports stamped and filed out. By this time, all of us white people were sweating profusely in the heat and humidity.

"Just keep moving toward the ferry," Mary advised. "You'll have a lot of hawkers trying to sell you wooden carvings and things, but as long as you keep walking, they'll walk with you. No-one will stop you or touch you."

I spotted our "ferry" - a pontoon boat that may or may not fit all fourteen of us. Were they kidding? Mud squished around my sneakers. As we moved down the bank, the hawkers descended. Still chanting, "Obama!" they held out wooden crosses, giraffe carvings, bracelets, or necklaces.

"What your name?" they asked each of us. Suddenly, they spied Mary, their savior who brought tour groups to them each week. From, "Obama!" the chant changed to, "Mary!" "Mary!"

All of us successfully boarded to cross the River. None of us had spent a dime. As we were pulling away, I noticed the black tee shirt on the hawker nearest us. It read, "Get Every Dollar." He raised his arms in triumph. "See you later - afternoon!" he yelled across the water, as we pulled away.

The other side provided more fanfare in Botswana. We were met by uniformed guards and our passports brought to an office and stamped. Guides whisked us away in two vans. Botswana was more developed with substantial shops, paved roads, and luxurious developments along the River. At a beautiful safari hotel we embarked upriver for the morning. Hippos and their babies swam alongside, followed by herds of Cape buffalo, impala, and more pachyderms than we'd thought possible. The giraffes simply ignored us, as we approached in open jeeps in the afternoon. Still, we had to return to Zambia.

The reverse crossing proved more costly. "G.E.D." tee shirt positioned himself at my elbow when we hit the wire mesh laid across the embankment. He insisted on knowing my name. I avoided eye contact, then felt guilty, as he walked with me. Finally, I wilted under his gargantuan smile. "What's yours?" I asked.

"Thabo," he responded. "Your name, missus?"


"You like necklace, Pamela? You must have!"

OK, OK, one more trinket wouldn't kill me.