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New Year adventure report

Happy New Year!

I’m back from my adventures in Tanzania and Zambia (see below for some thoughts)… and now I’m back to the winter weather of Toronto, fond memories of 40 degree Celcius weather fading in my mind.

The the new music album is coming along nicely! Working on the album, and our upcoming theatre project is keeping me in Toronto for much of the winter….but this Feb, check out the Girls with Glasses Tour, singing songs around Ontario. Then in March, Clean Irene & Dirty Maxine gets a make-over at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, opening March 16!

Reflections on a month in Zambia and Tanzania

Another continent, under what seems like a different sky than the one that domes over us here. a whole other world. Incredible people and colourful, previously unimaginable images imprinted on my mind. Sensory overload.

A three-day-and-three-night train trip from Lusaka, Zambia to Dar Es Salaam (the capital of Tanzania) on the Indian Ocean. my eyes glued to the open, screenless windows of the train, as if to a movie screen. farmland, mountains, bush, valleys, dry river beds – the rains had yet to come. Kids running out of their homes and fields to wave and run along side train as we trundled along. women selling avacados and banana and tomotoes out of baskets on their heads, through the windows of the train; giraffes running in their slow-motion gait beside us.

Leading a drama workshop at an HIV support group in Lusaka, Zambia. The group meets on wooden benches set on the cracked pavement outside the medical clinic, under a big, flaming- red acacia tree. I was so unsure what to expect, and so self-conscious of my skin. But met with the most enthusiatic participants in a “name game,” ever! And subsequently, the most wild introduction to the devastating reality of what AIDS means here. People’s stories. I can’t begin to describe what i heard and saw. It’s unimaginable, and it’s real.

One in four people in Lusaka infected with HIV

Victoria Falls, Zambia: the highest waterfall in the world. The tribal name for the falls (Mosi-o -Tunya) translates to mean “The Smoke that Thunders”. Baboons, with red asses, loping along feet away from us.

An incredible night of music in Zambia, at the home of our hosts: A song-circle where everyone shares a couple tunes, everyone joining in on everyone else’s: it turns out, they all know each others songs, because they are all pretty well known, in fact the creme-de-la-creme of Zambian’s music scene. Early on in the evening, one of the hosts leans over and in hushed, thrilled tones says, “You realize that fellow singing is the most renown folk singer in Zambia! I can’t believe i’m sitting here in the same room as him!” – Pontiano, Lily T, Maureen Lilanda, Uncle Rex, Matthew Tembo – what a joy to share an evening with you all. A highlight of my trip.

On the way home, coming across a photograph of the continent of Africa at night, photographed from space. Most of it entirely dark, with only small sections illuminated with bands of electric light. Darkness at night. Imagine. Impossible to ever even for a moment forget my skin colour, or the impact of colonialism on this continent, and the enormity of my privilege which allows me to even be here in the first place: the luxury and the privilege of travel. How many people we met who rarely travel home, even 100 km to see their families, because they cannot afford to do so.

A visit to Zanzibar island. White palm fringed beaches. Green green ocean. Old old buildings in Stone Town. The mosques souding the call to prayer. The Anglican church that stands on the site of the old slave market. Slaves shipped from here to all points east. Slavery abolished in 1873. Everywhere chilling reminders of that inhuman, human “trade”, which is not so very long ago in our past. And the church: still today, a strange saviour. Preaching abstinance as the best prevention of HIV.

Days in Bagamoyo (“Lay down your heart”); Charles, who runs a health NGO which helps people living with HIV and AIDS. Taking us around to visit people on his day off, meeting volunteers who ride bicycles between villages to deliver medical “supplies” like peanut butter: protein for people who are HIV positive, and starving. The incredible work Zambian and Tanzanian people do as volunteers: unemployed, but full time volunteers. And then the big white SUV’s of the foreign aid workers.

The constant reminders of what we take for granted in North America. People living in the most unimaginable circumstances, without access to anything that resembles what we think of as our basic rights in terms of medical treatment and support. So little support can mean so much.

All this beauty and suffering and contradiction. The world.

One small place to help:
A place to find some fun Zambian music :
Our cousin, doing amazing work in Zambia: