Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

It all began June 9 as we headed to the Maasai boma village in southeast Kenya in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ambroseli National Park which has a swamp in it. I knew that baby elephants were often rescued there and didn’t know why. But I soon learned they were stuck in the swamp and couldn’t get out and their Mother couldn’t get them out either.


Shopping with the Maasai and all their beautiful beads and items for sale. And yes, I always buy something from them.

The ride took 1 hour from the hotel and the entire area had 8-inch ancient volcanic rocks scattered all over the area from the eruption of Mt. Kilimanjaro many years ago. We finally arrived at the boma where 122 Maasai lived in their individual houses made of cow manure.


The elder who spoke to us about their lives. It was very interesting to learn how another culture lives and makes it in this world even though they do it different than I do. And we both make it work for us.

Sitting under a shade tree and listening to the elder Maasai tell how and why they do things, each one of us asked a question at the end of the hour meeting. Then, we were invited to tour the boma to see where and how they live.


These two beautiful Maasai ladies live in the boma village we visited.

But first, I had to visit the toilet which my Tauck World Discovery guide said was 1 block away.


Sharon Davis danced with the Maasai ladies.

So Sharon Davis, my travel companion, and I headed to the toilet, also made of dried cow manure. We arrived at what we thought was the entrance but it was the back. Sharon said to me, “Stay here while I find the entrance.”

And when she returned to tell me where it was, she saw me fall from standing to flat on the ground and I didn’t hit one of those volcanic rocks that were also scattered around the out house. I had turned 90 degrees to my right to look and the next thing I knew I was one foot from the ground.

I landed on my right shoulder and right hip and my head hit the ground and bounced up like a ball. The ground was covered with 4 inches of dried cow manure which was all over the right side of my face, hair, leg and Nikon camera. But I still needed to go to the toilet.

The biggest surprise I had besides falling was the toilet had no odor. Having been to many toilets in this world that smelled horribly, it was wonderful to find one that did not smell and it was made of cow manure. I wondered how the Maasai could keep the toilet so clean and odor free and many peoples of the world could not.

When I got up, my right shoulder hurt so we went to our guide and told him what happened, and proceeded to tour the boma and all the souvenirs they had for sale.


The cow manure house we visited inside where this Massai and his child lived.

Then we enjoyed a tour of a home containing only a cooking pot, fire, little stool and bed made of sticks. This home had an 8×10 inch glass window which I had never seen in a Maasai house that are always made by the women of cow manure.

When we arrived back to the hotel, a nurse checked my painful shoulder and asked me to lift up my right arm to the sky and I did. She said “Take these pills and use this ointment for 4 days and your shoulder will be well.” So I did and added an ice pack to it every hour.

Neither Sharon nor I wanted to return home as there was nothing wrong with me, according to the nurse. So we continued on the tour. Plus, the Tauck tour of Tanzania and Kenya was awesome. How could we leave those precious wild animals and the wonderful people, we said.

The next morning I looked down at my chest and the entire right side was black and the entire left side was white. I thought my right shoulder had something break and now I knew it was a blood vessel. But it did not hurt and the black stain lasted for several weeks before my chest became white again.

Two days later, we were in a small town that had a medical center. There I saw a doctor dressed professionally in his suit and tie, who took an x-ray of my still painful shoulder. He called me in, lifted up the 5×7 X-ray to view my shoulder and said “You don’t have any breaks so you are good to go.”

So again we agreed to continue on the wonderful trip of Kenya and those wild animals living their lives right before us.


We saw this Momma rhinoceros and her cute baby in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

A few days later, the tour went to the Maasai Mara and I began having trouble walking on the right side so I used the hotel’s wheelchair while there and it worked well. I didn’t need to walk then and also didn’t use my right shoulder much either.


Sharon is on this balloon ride over the Maasai Mara. Can you spot her?

I didn’t miss one safari or anything. However, I did decline the hot air balloon ride because I had enjoyed 2 before there. But Sharon went on the hot air balloon and she was ecstatic about it. I could ride and see the awesome animals with no problem and photograph the balloon in the air withSharon riding in it.

Again, we decided to continue on with the awesome tour around Kenya and then to Nairobi, the only city in the world that has a national park in it full of wild animals.

The tour finally ended in Nairobi, one week after my fall. By now, my shoulder was still hurting and I couldn’t walk on my right side. There we went to a hospital which had a CT Scan machine and the professionally dressed doctor said my shoulder was broken in 2 places. Then he put a sling on my arm to wear for weeks until well. But because I am only right handed, I took it off and used the arm very little.


Again, we agreed to stay on in wonderful Nairobi until it was time to return home.


The endangered Rothschild Giraffe at the Giraffe Manor Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

I had booked a 3-day extension tour of Nairobi to again visit the rescued darling baby elephants in the David Sheldrick Orphanage where several of the babies had been rescued from Ambroseli. Next, was the Kazuri bead making ladies and finally, the endangered Rothschild giraffes that live at the Giraffe Manor. (“Read Eating Breakfast with Giraffes” at in Nairobi elsewhere in my blog)



THE DANCE wall hanging I purchased in Nairobi. Notice the boy and girl dancing in the upper left.

We visited all places we had planned. And at Kazuri Beads, I purchased a priceless handmade piece of art made by the bead ladies at www.kazuri.com. I named it the The Dance with beads made every day by 360 women who roll every shape of bead from Kenya’s Mt. Kenya clay into necklaces and wall hangings and sell them worldwide using Fed Ex.


Some of the 360 bead making ladies who serenated me with song and dance after I purchased their masterpiece wall hanging.

When I bought the wall hanging, the factory ladies stopped work, danced and sang for 15 minutes. They make $175 a month to support themselves and their many children as they had no husband or any help and each would get money from my purchase.


Marie, the lady who actually put the wall hanging together while her assistant, Florence, helped with macramé and assembling beads.

Two of the ladies worked 6 weeks creating the wall hanging with the many beads then sewing them into a custom African pattern using macramé. (See my story called “The Bead Making Ladies of Nairobi” elsewhere on my blog.)

Our wonderful Tauck tour ended and upon arriving home, I went to a hospital for a CT scan and learned my painful right shoulder clavicle was broken at both ends and my painful pelvis was cracked.


The red marks on this laughing skeleton show the bones that were broken in my body, all on the right side.

But I continued to hurt and went to Mayo Clinic and learned my pelvic bone was completely broken and so was the sacrum, which meant several of my world wide trips needed to be cancelled while I recuperated for 6 months.


To focus on something besides my broken bones, I hosted a BBQ luncheon for these wonderful people of my International Travelers Century Club. It was so much fun and we all enjoyed it very much. Of course, all we talked about was travel because each one of us had visited over 100 countries to belong to the club. And several had been to 150 and 200 countries. I had been to 251 countries/territories.

But I needed another dimension to my recuperating “trip.” Since I could not go on a world-wide tour, I created one I could go on to replace the trips I had to cancel.


And while I was healing, my doctor required I go to physical therapy.  Guiding me was Rachael Thompson of Select Physical Therapy who kept me going until I was in shape to travel again. Plus she gave me positive things to think about while recouping instead of negative thoughts.

Being able to get in a wheelchair and transferring to an electric shopping cart, Hester, my helper and I went shopping at stores with electric shopping carts. Plus, she helped me daily with food, cleaning, driving and all.


Reverend Bernadine S. Davis was one person I surprised by purchasing all of her items she was carrying in her arms one day. She said I blessed her and I told her you sure have been and I love you because you are human. Bernadette and I both made a scene as we screamed in joy and hugged and thanked each other for the wonderful experience of meeting by chance. It was a win-win for both of us.

While shopping at Walmart, I would select a person in the check-out line and pay for the items in their cart. This opened the door to conversations with these folks and enabled me to hear their stories. It was a wonderful discovery experience that was a win-win for us both, and converted a very negative experience into a positive one for me. And I continue this wonderful “trip” every time I go to Walmart.


Rachael Thompson made sure I performed each exercise correctly.

I was very grateful for the opportunity and I appreciated their kind responses more than they could know, changing a lemon event into lemonade for me so I can get back to thinking about my next world wide trip.

Photo Copy ©  2017 carolyntravels.com 


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The gravel road we took was unpaved and full of deep potholes and it was a lot of swerve driving to miss those potholes. Thomas Yilma, our guide from KibranTours.com, chose the route over an easier and smoother route because he wanted us to see the Elbore people who live on that route. We crossed dry creek beds one after the other until we came to one that was different.DSC_0590

What was different was nine cars parked on the other side of the wide dry river bank causing us to stop. And cattle blocked our way. Suddenly 2 men appeared at Thomas’ window and they talked in the Amharic language of Ethiopia. We had stopped 60 feet (18.28 meters) from a Bull Jumping ceremony, the Rite of Passage of the Hamer people, where a boy becomes a man and can marry. My dream had come true to attend this ceremony of the Hamer people in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia.DSC_0618

But seeing the event was not guaranteed as the event is a private Rite of Passage Ceremony among the Hamer and the date is not known publicly. But by taking the most difficult route, we had found a bull jumping ceremony by accident. And this one was just beginning.DSC_0621

We did not know about it but the rural Hamer people knew when the Rite of Passage Ceremony would be held by using a “calendar.” The calendar was a rope with the number of knots equaling the number of days before the ceremony. Since the rural Hamer people are illiterate, the rope calendar worked perfect. Each day they untie a knot in the rope. So if it is delivered on the 10th of the month and the rope has 20 knots then the ceremony is held on the 30th at a predetermined place. The Hamer people show up ready to support the bull jumper.DSC_0635

Each of the Hamer people must bring a gift of money or a goat which can be used for the celebration or the jumper’s bride price when he marries. Ike (eye-kay) was the jumper at this ceremony and the Hamer welcome visitors and tourists because they charge a fee for attending any of their events. We paid $75 USD (1500 Ethiopian Birr) for the ceremony for 2 persons. One-third went to the guide we hired to explain everything going on and why and one-third went to each of Ike’s Father and Mother.

When we arrived at the ceremony, Maza men were sitting in a circle painting the faces of other Maza, men who had successfully bull jumped and became men. These men would help the bull jumping ceremony by holding the bulls in place, making sure Ike didn’t fall from the bulls by dropping sticks on the ground to cushion his fall, help him up to the bulls and any other help they could give. Symbols of the Hamer and other designs were painted in different colors and shapes all over the men’s heads, making for a true Hamer work of art.DSC_0633

Next to the painting circle, females members of Ike’s family, sisters and cousins, were being whipped by the family’s Maza men with switches signifying good luck for Ike. They slashed the ladies backs so hard that it sounded almost like a gunshot pop. And then blood ran from the cuts. And over and over they were whipped and their backs were becoming full of slashes with blood oozing all over their skin. And the ladies were begging for more, even though the Maza men did not want to whip the ladies.DSC_0728

But it was an honor and tradition to be beat and whipped and the ladies begged for more because they wanted to remember Ike, their life with him and to wish him good luck. And now that he was becoming a man, his life would be different. To be whipped until bleeding was the way they could remember their Ike and have honor among the Hamer. After the whipping, dirt and ash were placed on the cuts and allowed to heal. The dirt causes the skin to pucker, making the scars protrude for all to see their honor of being whipped.DSC_0680

While the whipping and painting was going on, a group of Hamer ladies was singing and dancing non-stop and paying honor to Ike with their rhythmic beats and steps. Watching all of these events were about 100 Hamer people sitting in the shade and keeping up with the beat themselves. All the family members had a job in the ceremony, from singing, cooking, dancing, painting, whipping, helping with the bulls, counseling the boy on being a man, and donating a goat for the celebration afterwards.DSC_0698

Now it was time to go to an area deeper into the bush where the Bull Jumping Ceremony was being held. So everyone left en mass and walked 3900 feet (118 meters) on the gravel road into the bush where the ceremony preparations were beginning. about 15 feet (4.57 meters) from the ceremony area sat Ike. He was 10-year-old, not 17-year-old, and was sitting on a Hamer pillow that was a 9-inch (22.66 cm) high wood seat in the shape of a “T.”DSC_0704

He looked unhappy and confused. He did not smile or even talk to me or acknowledge my greeting. He barely participated in a photo. As I held his hand, I noticed it was limp, delicate and cold. We wondered if he was into this ceremony.DSC_0715

Ike, now, was called a “ukule”, a boy about to jump the bulls. He had a goat skin over one shoulder and a cloth tied around his waist. Inserted at the waist in the cloth was a a wooden phallic symbol, called a “ukule boko”, symbolizing a boy about to become a man. His head was shaved except for a 3-inch long Mohawk stretched from the crown to the nape of his neck. Sitting next to him was a Maza family member bodyguard.DSC_0765

Now it was time for Ike to be counseled by other Maza about becoming a man and the responsibilities and duties he must follow. He was taken into the circle of men and stripped of his goat skin and cloth. He was now naked symbolizing that he came into this world naked and lived one life. Now that he was becoming a man, he is naked again to begin living his second life as a man and marriage.DSC_0788

About 12 men formed a circle with Ike in the middle. They told him what it is to be a man among the Hamer people and he was expected to follow the traditions. And Ike would have to pledge that he would abide by only eating blood, milk, honey and meat until he married. He promised he would although he had many years before he would marry than older boys.DSC_0811

The bulls were being lined up side by side by the Maza men. Some bulls cooperated and others had to be pulled and shoved and lifted into place, but finally all 4 bulls were ready to be jumped. But it was normal that a ceremony had 10-12 bulls. However, Ike, being only 10-years-old, his family decided 4 bulls was enough for him to jump. And the bulls would be small as Ike was small and young.DSC_0831

So Ike began each jump of the 5 jumps with about 200 family members and tourists watching. He ran and took a flying leap up to the back of a 4-foot-bull and fell before he even reached the back of the first bull. Everyone became totally silent and shocked. So he tried again and this time a Maza man helped lift him to the top of that first bull and it was acceptable for a 10-year-old to have help. It would not be for a 17-year-old. Ike was able to jump from back to back to back of each bull successfully, landing on the ground standing up. Each bull’s back was about 2 1/2 feet apart.DSC_0830DSC_0829

Then he took a flying leap for the second try and again successfully jumped the 4 bulls again. And the third and fourth try was successful. The fifth try also was successful and Ike landed standing up and was declared a man and a Maza, a man who had completed the bull jumping ceremony. He then would pass the wooden phallic symbol, the ukule boke, to his half brother when he was ready to jump the bulls.DSC_0839

I congratulated Ike on becoming a man and he still was not smiling or happy. He had the goat skin over his shoulder again and the cloth around his waist sitting again on the Hamer “T” pillow. Finally, I was able to get him to give a thumb up signal but with no smile. He was the last to leave the ceremony area successful as a man with his bodyguard at his side.DSC_0883

If Ike had missed a bull and fell to the ground, he would have been ostracized by his family for one year. And he would be whipped and mistreated by them for embarrassing them. But he would be allowed to attempt another jump in one year.DSC_0819

Usually a 16 or 17-year-old boy jumps 10-12 bulls to become a man. But this Bull Jumping Ceremony was for a 10-year-old boy. Ike’s 17-year-old brother had died and his parents decided it was time Ike became a man. Ike’s father could marry as many women as he could afford with the bride price of buying a woman from her family with cows, and if he could afford to take care of his children and wife.DSC_0817

Cows are like money to the Hamer people and they determine a person’s wealth. Ike’s father had 3 wives and Ike’s Mother was the first wife. The first wife among the Hamer people has absolute power and authority over all wives and husband. Ike was the only living son of wife #1 and wife #2 had a 17-year-old son and wife #3 had a 17-year-old son, all ready to become a man by jumping the bulls.DSC_0841

Ike was forced to do the bull jumping ceremony now. If he didn’t, he would block his half brothers from becoming a man and marrying. He had no choice at 10 years-old. He had to become a man even though he was a boy.DSC_0127

The next day, the Wetele Ceremony was held in honor of Ike becoming a man, but Ike was not at the ceremony. He was with his Father at his Father’s home and this event was at his Mother’s home. It is not unusual for the honoree to be absent from his Wetele celebration, which means the grilled goat that is served to everyone.DSC_0185

At this ceremony, Hamer people were singing and dancing and grilling goats that were donated for the event. About 200 people were in attendance and several goats were sacrificed. Strips of meat were put on sticks around 2 bonfires to cook for 2 hours. Hamer ladies were baking bread from maize.

The wondrous smells of bread and grilling meat filled the air and all enjoyed the food, the celebration and Ike becoming a man. And soon, the ceremony will be held again for Ike’s 2 half brothers who will then become a man and eligible to marry because Ike jumped the bulls successfully.

Photo Copy © 2016 carolyntravels.com 


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When we arrived at the Mursi village, several women came to our vehicle to show us their lip plate. They were eager to show us because the Mursi people charge a fee for being photographed.


And they made sure they had the money before photos could be taken. With the money in her hand, one lady proceeded to show us her famous lower lip and how far she could pull it down and how wide she could stretch it. They collect money from the tourists for photos for their income.DSC_0120And next, it was show time. She took the terra cotta lip plate from her hand up to her lip, stretched it wide and down to open it into a circle.DSC_0121 And then in 2 seconds she just slipped the disc into that circle and there was an iconic Mursi lady with the lip plate extended from her mouth. When the lip is cut for extension, the 2 middle lower teeth are also removed to accommodate the clay lip plate, also call a labret. And she then was considered beautiful and strong by the Mursi tribe members.


We met this beautiful lady on the road to the Mursi village and she showed us her long lip loop, long ear loops, body scars and metal bracelets.

 At age 14-16, the Mursi girl’s Mother or family friend cuts a small hole in the her lower lip and inserts a small stick. Then, larger and larger plugs/discs are inserted to stretch the lip until the large disc plate can be inserted after several months. Ladies with the largest disc in her lip gets the biggest bride price for her family when she marries because the husband-to-be must give many of his cattle to her father for the marriage to occur. The lip plate is the Rite of Passage event from a girl to a woman who is ready for marriage. This has been the custom of the Mursi for hundreds of years. Each lady makes her own lip plate out of clay or wood and decorates it with geometric patterns and colors and then seals it with her breast milk. And if it breaks, she just makes another one.


The Mursi are also known as the Most Fascinating tribe in the world because of their unique headdresses, are one of 2 or 3 tribes that wear lip plates, the stick fighting ceremony by the males which is ritualized violence because the one standing or alive at the end of the fight has the right to marry. Also they are fascinating because of their bartering and sharing goods with other tribes, and finally, the Mursi speak Nilo-Saharan a language spoken in their immediate area and many cannot read or write.


Besides the lip plate, also called  a labret, the Mursi ladies are famous for their headdresses. The Mursi people are know as the most fascinating tribe in the world.

Just as soon as the Mursi lady had shown us her lip plate, our Mursi guide told us we have to get back in the vehicle. We did, but didn’t know why but did say the Mursi ladies would not negotiate a reasonable price for photos because they were drunk. We rode and rode into the bush on a dirt road full of large and small mud puddles with it splashing all over our vehicle as we sped up the site.


A beautiful Mursi lady without her lip plate because meeting with their King was a private ceremony and they only wear the plate in public. Their scars show how they are strong, are adults and can stand the pain of childbirth.

We then walked and walked through the muddy water and cow manure to a site where hundreds of Mursi people had congregated. Our Mursi guide wanted us to see a special celebration the Mursi attend once a year. This was a private Mursi celebration and they only wear their lip plates in public. We were allowed to attend if we again paid another fee. We paid it and we were the only outsiders at the important yearly ceremony. But first, we had to shoulder greet the village chief.DSC_0149



The King’s bodyguards.

When we first saw him, he was visiting with the village chief underneath a shade tree. Hundreds of cows were everywhere in the bush, grouped together by their owners. The day was super hot and muggy after all the rain.


The leaders of each of the 9 Mursi tribes gather to watch the prediction proceedings.


All the rain, mud and cow manure didn’t bother the 200 plus people gathered at this annual 4-day Blessing of the Cows by King Bitongay.  Nine clans of the Mursi people in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia each sacrificed a cow this day. This was an honor event for the Mursi because a cow is a treasured member of the family like a child.


King Bitongay points out his reading.

 The village chiefs from the clans were sitting and squatting in a circle intently watching the King’s every move as he pointed out lines and meanings of the lines. Every move he made and every word he said meant the future of each Mursi clan for one year.


Another cow’s entrails arrive for the King to interpret for the coming year.

Now that each clan had sacrificed a cow in honor of their King, the entrails of each cow was brought to the King and chiefs one at a time and laid out in the middle of their circle. Then, the King would read the entrails, looking at and studying every turn, bulge, indention, color, shape and size of the entrails of that one cow. By this method, he could determine the future of that clan. A bad or good reading would be the final prediction. When he finished reading the entrails of one clan’s cow, then another cow’s entrails were delivered for its determinations until all 9 had been read.


They are asking the King to schedule the stick fighting ceremony for the tribes so they can get married.


While these readings were being studied, a group of 10 men, all dressed in black and carrying 2½ meter long sticks, were running back and forth over and over singing a song in their language. The men were singing about their Rite of Passage from a boy to a man and asking for their ceremony to be held soon, for the winner could then be declared a man and eligible to marry.


Nine Mursi tribes wait for the King to read their cow’s entrails and then bless the cows for the coming year.


The Rite of Passage Ceremony is two 18-year-old men from different clans about the same age, height, weight and strength fighting each other with a long stick. And the winner of the match is declared a man and is eligible to marry. The fighting men have places they can and cannot hit on their opponent’s body. Delicate areas like the head, private parts, knees, ankles, elbows and wrists are protected with a cotton cloth and were not allowed to be hit. Other than these areas, they were free to hit them over and over and over until the opponent gave up or died.


The Mursi put dirt and ash in the body scars to make them pucker. The different scars signify strength, adulthood, belonging, strength, and show they can take the pain of childbirth.

The village chief served as the referee and set the rules which the 2 fighters had to follow. He had the absolute authority and final decision in each fight. The rules could be about anything anywhere on the body, or about time or place. If it appeared that one man was beating the other man to death, or it was obvious the other man was not able to finish the fight or was down and not getting up, the chief could end the stick fight and declare the winner a man. And the winner then would get to pick a woman to marry.DSC_0190

If the loser is going to marry having lost the stick fight, he has to pay his bride’s family 40-50 cattle. On the other hand, the winner pays 20 to 30 cattle to his bride’s family. Should the loser not desire to marry, he can fight next year. And if he should win the fight one year later, he has to pay 20-30 cattle to his bride’s family and he is now a winner.


The King Bitongay and I were happy to meet and greet each other. He had arrived from the reading of the animal entrails behind us.

A Mursi man can marry several women and are the richest tribe in the Omo Valley because they have the most cows. But the King was the richest of them all and had several thousand cows, therefore he was the King. He inherited the title from his brother who had died. And the brother inherited the title from his Father upon his death.DSC_0160

The entrails had been interrupted from each of the 9 sacrificed cows and the determinations were made for each clan’s future. A bad reading meant famine and no food for them or their cattle and diseases for them and their cattle causing a clan to alter their ways and do different things to make it through another year until the entrails are read again. A good reading would mean food for them and their animals and they could continue on for another year like they had been doing with no changes. All of the clan’s entrails readings turned out to be good and the Mursi were very happy and thankful for a good year to come.DSC_0172

In another area of the bush, the 9 sacrificed cows were being cut into small sections for all the Mursi to take home with them. One had the skin, another had a leg, another one had part of the head, shank, sirloin, chuck, ribs, brisket, round, short plate and loin until every bit of the cow was gone. Each one was happy that they sacrificed their animal to honor their King and to have food to eat. But the Mursi only eat their animals when there is a drought, weddings, famine, and special occasions because they eat mostly porridge and blood. So this was a special occasion for their King and each one was honored to have another good year.


Each tribe’s cows circle around and around the King as he bless them all.


The king now was ready to bless the 1200 cows from the clans in attendance on this first day of the 4-day celebration. As he prepared a Calabasas gourd with water and ash for good luck, the cattle were circling around and around him. As a clan’s herd approached, the King would sprinkle the ash water on them until all had been blessed.


Taking the cow’s back to the tribal village.

Then the keeper of the herd would lead them back into the bush where they would wait until it was time to go home. Herd after herd of cattle was blessed by the King.


Standing by the King were the hundred or more Mursi women who had been resting in the shade. They wanted to be close to their King as he blessed their cattle for another good year. So they joined him in the blessing ceremony in the center of the bush area.DSC_0307

The celebration was almost over and the Mursi could go home with their meat and begin their daily ritual of drinking their special home brew. They had refrained from drinking in honor of the King this day, but now in their huts and village, they could drink the brew until drunk. And they do this every day until the King’s Blessing of the Cow Celebration next year when they will go without drinking for half a day in honor of their King. But they were happy for the King’s prediction of another good year for the people and the animals.

Photo Copy ©2016carolyntravels.com 



The Mursi people greet each other by touching shoulder to shoulder.


Thomas Yilma, our excellent guide with Ethiopian Kibran Tours (kibrantours.com) (thomasethiopian@gmail.com) showed some curious Mursi ladies their photos with the huge circles in their ears.


The mud puddles mixed with cow manure flew all over our vehicle as we hurried to make it to the celebration in the bush.


The beautiful Ethiopian landscape where the Mursi people live in the Omo Valley is all green from the rains and the crops are producing food for the people and cattle. Only the northeast part of Ethiopia in the desert has little rain and occasionally experiences drought and famine.


King Bitongay greeted me with a handshake.


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They were everywhere in every rich color, size, length and shape, hanging on racks sorted by color and length in a large metal-roofed showroom.


Each was custom made by loving hands by beautiful dedicated ladies for customers around the world wanting to help others and have a piece of art.


Elizabeth is one of the ladies who has work the longest at Kazuri. She started in 1975, is now 65 years old and only speaks Swahili. She was married 16 years, has 6 children, 20 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. She is very thankful for her job that has enabled her to provide for her family for so many years.



Elizabeth’s hand has rolled beads on this table since 1975 and she is still rolling them round, square, oblong and rectangular. I watched her hand make that clump of clay into a perfect rectangle. She made it look so easy.

Such were the Kazuri beads and necklaces made by 334 ladies in Nairobi, Kenya for their customers. And these ladies are honored to make these necklaces because they give these bead ladies employment. And each one I talked to loved their jobs and were so appreciative of having the employment.


One of the main workrooms where the ladies roll out the beads, put holes in them, paint them, dry them and then fire them in the kilns in the back of the room. I spoke to them all in my very limited Swahili saying I love them and their necklaces and keep up the outstanding works of art for all of us.

Making necklaces for the world market is so popular that Kazuri has a waiting list of 300 women wanting to make beads.DSC_0870 And another reason is most of the ladies are single mothers with children and finding employment is difficult when they are responsible for raising the children and don’t have a husband helping with the expenses.


Men can make 60-100 pieces of pottery a day on the pottery wheel.

Several men also help work making pottery and beads because they also need employment. When more beads and pottery are sold, more ladies and men have jobs.


Jamila is single with 3 children and has been working at Kazuri Beads for 9 years. Here she is making earrings.

Coming to work all dressed in their colorful African ensembles, the ladies work 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday until 1 p.m. and they each get a tea and lunch break.DSC_0852 In addition, health insurance is provided for each one and their children. Each lady makes 15,284 Kenyan shillings ($150 US Dollars) per month plus commission and bonus. DSC_0828The more necklaces they make, the more money they make. Each lady can make 40 to 60 necklaces per day.DSC_0137


This happy lady just screamed when she saw that I was wearing the giraffe necklace that she made.  She was working on several more when we visited her.

Each unbreakable ceramic bead goes though many steps before it becomes a finished piece of art. And each lady can perform every step because the ladies rotate every 2 weeks into another step depending on their speed of work.


This lady is creating the elephant necklace and has several elephant beads on the rack to dry until it is time for to be fired and painted.

One time they are custom painting the beads and 2 weeks later they could be rolling round beads or stringing necklaces.DSC_0874

Kazuri, which means “small and beautiful” in the Swahili language, began in 1975 as a tiny workshop experimenting in making handmade beads.DSC_0924 Its founder, Lady Susan Wood, started with 2 African women. And soon, she discovered that many other women in the villages around Nairobi, most of who were single mothers, who were in need of regular employment. Driven by the desire to provide such opportunities, Kazuri today has evolved into a dedicated workforce of skilled ladies manufacturing handmade jewelry.


Nancy and I made our custom necklaces in the Bead Storage Room where they have jars with thousands of colors of beads. It was so fun selecting the color, size and shape of beads we wanted in our necklace and it was fast and easy with their helpers.

Kazuri applied its knowledge of ceramics and the artistic flair, making the necklaces attractive and popular for collectors and individual customers alike. The culture and wildlife of Kenya is reflected in each bead and necklace. Each necklace has a design name and customers order by that name. Custom designed necklaces can also be made by color and design.


Nancy and I made our custom necklace when we visited the workshop and one hour later, we had that custom necklace.

Clay to make the beads comes from Mt. Kenya in Kenya making each bead a true Kenyan work of art. The clay can withstand the high temperatures needed for firing in the kilns. It is combined with talc and silica and mixed with water to make the right consistency for rolling beads.


The before clay, and after firing, it makes the item lighter and able to take dyes, glazes, and painting.



Caroline is a 23-year-old single lady with a 4-year-old child who guided us throughout the Kazuri workshop explaining each step of bead making. She did an outstanding job!

Clay not used in the day’s bead making is recycled and used to roll beads another day. Mixing the clay with the talc and silica helps the clay change to white after firing so paint can be applied.


This lady rolled all of these beads in just a few hours.

Every bead rolling lady has a clump of clay from which she rolls the prescribed bead size for the day or pushes it into a mold. Some roll marble size and others roll rectangles and others roll gumball-size beads. Ladies are rolling all sizes of beads all of the time. DSC_0852Then, a hole is put through the bead using a straight wire and the bead is then put on a rack with wires until it is first fired at 1000 degrees Celsius for 8 hours and allowed to cool down slowly to keep from cracking. After this step, if the ceramic beads are dropped, they will not break.


This ceramic/yarn wall hanging is a piece of art custom made by Marie and her assistant Florence for clients. It takes 2-3 weeks to make a door size hanging and larger ones take up to 6 weeks. They are sold by size and can  cost $1500 to $3500 US Dollars (150,000-350,000 Kenyan Schillings). It was absolutely a gorgeous piece of art.



Florence assists Marie in their creation.

Next is the hand painted process with imported ceramic dyes, paints and glazes because they aren’t available locally. After being painted, each bead dries on the rack for 2 hours and then is fired again in the kiln at night because the 1000 degree Celsius makes the workshop too hot during the day.


Each row of these beads will become a beautiful necklace.

After this firing, the painted bead is a beautiful glossy color. The next step is threading and assembling the beads with strong fishing line. One lady can make 30-40 necklaces a day using the finished beads.DSC_0902


A necklace is now finished and goes into the Kazuri showroom next door to the workshop. And each 2-sided rack features one color making the showroom very colorful.


This young man is painting the cup like a giraffe. And the plates, saucers, bowls and more pieces are all available for a complete set of pottery. Other animal patterns are also available.

Besides jewelry, Kazuri also makes pottery ware and men needing a job and income work along with women at forming the cups, plates, bowls, saucers, pitchers, mugs, glasses and salt shakers in different colors and designs using molds and the pottery wheel.


He is the Keeper of the Molds which are used to form some pottery.

Plus, men are employed in areas where lifting is needed like the storeroom full of hundreds of huge jars filled with a single color bead and in all shades of that color.DSC_0909


The pottery is painted and allowed to dry for 3 days before it is fired 10-11 hours at 1200 degree Celsius. After cooling down for 3 days to keep the pottery from cracking, it is then dishwater safe, microwave safe, and lead free.DSC_0872

Beads were everywhere because of the loving hands of hundreds of single ladies thankful for having a job that helps support their children and for making a product that the ladies of the world love. Every bead has a story and every lady has a story as to why she is single. But being able to work at a job they just love makes each necklace special for the ladies that wear them.

Contact Kazuri at:     info@ kazuri.co.ke   Phone 3884058 FAX 3882501 Kazuri 2000 LTD. PO Box 24276, Nairobi, Kenya 00502 Kenya

Photo Copy © 2015 carolyntravels.com 

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Their hands were small, frail and delicate, their skin so soft, satiny and supple. “We eat and drink the fruits and vegetables of the desert,” DSC_0779the San Bushmen ladies explained as to why their skin is so soft even though the live in the dry hot Kalahari Desert.

Digging up a bi bulb tuber in the Kalahari Desert

Digging up a bi bulb tuber in the Kalahari Desert

To show us, one of the ladies dug a potato-like bi bulb tuber from the desert from which the San Bushmen get a milky liquid to drink and wash their face.DSC_0651 “We eat more than 300 different plants and have 218 species of medicinal plants in the Kalahari.”

The ladies and men stood around 4 1/2 feet tall and graciously and happily welcomed us to their homeland in their click language.DSC_0559 Some women were bare breasted, one carried a child on her back and several appeared much older. They were dressed in soft animal skins and their skirts were adorned with large polka dots of multi-colored beads to cover the holes that appeared over the years in the skins. A shawl of animal skin was draped across one shoulder, leaving one breast uncovered. DSC_0472Their shoes were handmade sandals from animal skins. And their hairdos where short with many twisted stands of hair standing straight up.DSC_0621

More and more San bushmen kept coming from the bush walking toward us single file on their path to where we were waiting until there were 12. These were the San Bushman from whom all mankind originated over 30,000 years ago, also called First People. DSC_0617The men wore animal skins to cover their private parts, plus they carried arrows and bows for hunting for wild animals.

Today, San Bushman are the only people who can run full speed and “talk” at the same time and they speak/sing the old San dialect. We were visiting with the Zunchwazi clan in the Kalahari Desert on a Tauck World Discovery tour. The San Bushmen now have to live in the Caecae village in Botswana because the government has leased their land for diamond and oil mining. And now they must obtain their food from farming in the new village, not their homeland in the Kalahari Desert.DSC_0488 Each clan “sings” a different click language in notes because their talking is singing. They communicate by notes, 4 click sounds and 5 tones. TC is a pop made with the tongue on the lips outside of teeth, C is also a pop made by bending the tongue by the teeth, X is a fast clicking made by the tongue and the roof of the mouth, and Q is a pop. They sing songs about giraffes, eland, and porcupines.DSC_0497

 Now it was time to follow the San Bushmen further into the Kalahari where the young leader of the group, with an interpreter who spoke English and their click language, told us about the advantages of elephant poop.DSC_0654 And we were all laughing so hard as he spoke using his mime antics. When we didn’t totally understand his actions, the interpreter helped us understand. He told us elephant poop helps arthritis, sleep, cuts which are rubbed with burned poop ashes, keeping mosquitoes away by burning it, and chicken pox by using the liquid from it.

 Next we saw how the First People find scorpions in the desert dirt and then eat them.DSC_0757 Scorpions, they said, have a lot of protein.DSC_0762 Living nomadic lives, San Bushmen eat bush berries, raisins, bulbs, corms (garlic like family), geophytes, cucumber, nuts from morama plant, bulbs, and medicinal plants and more, all collected by the women.  As the young San Bushman was showing us how they live in the desert, we noticed a tattoo on his arm and he explained it indicated he had ran for 24 hours non-stop.

Controlling their appetite was natural for the San Bushmen on long hunting trips. And they did it by eating the meat of the hoodia gordonii plant, found growing in South Africa and Namibia. The leafless spiny succulent plant was also used for indigestion and small infections. So in 1977, the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research isolated the ingredient in Hoodia –now called P57-which is the appetite suppressant. It was patented in 1996. In 2002, the San Bushmen’s rights to Hoodia were officially recognized allowing them a percentage of the profits and any spin-off from the marketing of it should it ever occur.DSC_0681

 As the San Bushmen were showing us how they make a fire from rubbing two sticks together, we also just had to take photos of their precious children and, like all children, DSC_0522they posed and had to see themselves in the photos. The San Bushmen are noted for their love of children.DSC_0520

 Now the fire was beginning and a big fire was going as all gathered in a circle to sing, clap, laugh, smoke a cigar and play Paper, Rocket, Scissors, 1,2,3. It was amazing to watch them in their intense competition.DSC_0735

 As we went to the next lesson on survival in the Kalahari,

we came upon Cobra, and old man with dread locks and western clothes, puffing on his hand-rolled cigarette.

Cobra, their healer and problem solver, smokes his hand-rolled cigarette.

Cobra, their healer and problem solver, smokes his hand-rolled cigarette.

“He is our healer”, our young San Bushman guide explained. He helps us get into a trance when we dance and he cures our cancer and solves our problems.”

Our guide them showed us how they make traps to catch small animals for their food,DSC_0743 and explained that they move to another place in the desert when they cannot find food.  And they moved frequently.

But the First People moved to one place they do not like. Between 1950-90, they were moved from their native indigenous land in the Kalahari Desert by the government of Botswana and they had to switch to farming as a result of the government mandated modernization programs. DSC_0586To hunt on their land today, they have to apply for restrictive permits in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, their homeland for more than 30,000 years, which has been leased for diamond mining and oil fracking.DSC_0619

The lessons of survival in the Kalahari Desert were over now and after posing for photos with us, the 12 San Bushmen walked down their worn path to their Caecae village where they must live another life they do not want. And all that wealth of knowledge learned from the Kalahari in anthropology, genetics, medicines, food and water is no longer needed.DSC_0778

 But the San Bushmen will remember it as long as they live. And the beautiful soft delicate ladies will eat the fruits and vegetables they try to raise in their little village while trying to live off of government

subsidies.  Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 



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It was below freezing cold in total darkness in the middle of a desert in the winter solstice. DSC_0239We were sleeping alone in our beds out in the middle of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan with just the constellations of Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Capricornus, the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, Saturn, Mars, Venus, the Crescent Moon and the Seven Sisters all dazzling down at us like diamonds.DSC_0237

Our metal beds sat on top of a huge field of salt with a sleeping bag on top. Crawling into the sleeping bag under 4 heavy layers of comforter, blanket, sheet and the bag were so tight we could barely get in, much less turn over.DSC_0258 Plus, I had on 5 layers of clothes and a fur hat because it was below freezing cold in June in the winter in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana in the Southern Hemisphere.

I must be crazy to do this, I thought, as I made myself get into the ice cold bed with 2 Bush Babies (hot water bottles) fully clothed all alone in the desert.DSC_0262 It reminded me of my early days on the farm when I had to do the same thing in the winter. And then, I vowed I would never live like that again. Yet, I was doing it again because I always dreamed of sleeping in a desert just once.DSC_0279

But this was a very special time to be in the Kalahari Desert because it was the winter solstice with the Matariki as the Maori call the  beautiful star cluster in Taurus. It is also called the Seven Sisters or “the Pleiades” by Europeans. Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius were particularly distinctive. During the winter, the Sun is low in the daytime sky so any planets opposite the Sun are nearly overhead during the middle of the night, providing the best viewing of the year. And they were. Saturn and Mars and everything else in that night sky was so sharp, bright and clear that I felt a special connection to them.DSC_0250

When I was growing up on the farm far from a city in the Northern Hemisphere, my Daddy would have us spend several times a year in the total darkness to look at the wonderful sky full of constellations, planets and everything else. And I never dreamed I would do it in the Southern Hemisphere in a desert in a Salt Pan.DSC_0260

All of our tour members agreed to sleep in the desert.

To get to the Salt Pan from our Camp, we rode 4-wheeled ATVs in convoy.DSC_0125 June, my travel companion, drove the ATV while I hung on in the back with my face and head covered to keep out the dust. Cruising along at 25 MPH, I was hoping the entire time that I would not fall off as riding a dedicated path in the salt pan at 25 mph was a little bumpy for this first time ATV rider. DSC_0184

But it was awesome, exhilarating and like the freedom of riding a motorcycle.DSC_0126

After 10 minutes, our guide stopped to make sure all was going OK with us. It was, so we proceeded through the Salt Pan at 25 mph, riding in the middle of nowhere. On our next stop, our guide had us jump in the desert while he took a photo.DSC_0140DSC_0141 Since I didn’t jump, my guide took our photo together and the photo was a wonderful surprise. Then it was back on the ATV at 25 mph for 10 more minutes. 

Stopping again, our guide put a backpack 200 feet from us in the Salt Pan and then each agreeing person was blindfolded and had to walk to the backpack.DSC_0170Everyone ended up many feet away from the backpack, showing how humans lose all sense of direction when they do not see a landmark in the dark. This was to demonstrate the importance of placing our flashlight on the bed facing the toilet so we could follow our light beam back to our bed from the toilet in the middle of the night, if the need arose.

After our next 10-minute ATV ride, we stopped for an incredible experience of sitting alone over 100 feet apart on the floor of the Salt Pan facing the Sun.DSC_0195 Our assignment was to watch the Sunset in total silence, alone. It was beautiful, eerie, different, a special time to communicate with God, and to meditate as the sun sank into the horizon. 

Back on our ATV, we headed to our final stop, our “home in the desert” for the evening.DSC_0218 DSC_0222Waiting for us was an area for cocktails by a huge fire, dinner by candlelight with white tablecloths, glassware and candles, a toilet, and our beds, all very far away from each other.  Even farther away from all of this was the “kitchen” which the Lodge had set up to serve us.

After cocktails, we headed for the dinner table in the below freezing winter night.DSC_0223 But then we weren’t as cold since our waiter placed a shovel full of hot coals from the nearby fire under each person’s chair. Instantly, it was warmer and a much appreciated touch. And the delicious hot soup, hot main course and dessert made us even warmer and ready for our sleep in the desert.DSC_0279

Our beds were waiting for us all alone in the Salt Pan. And now was the moment we had waited for so long. Amazingly, we slept soundly and warm all night and awoke at first light just in time for breakfast. And we were happy, thankful, pleased and at peace with our once in a lifetime winter experience in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. 

Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 

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At 2pm each Wednesday, hundreds of young children come running from every corner of the Leseding Township for singing, spiritual fellowship and nutritious food other than their day-to-day corn porridge.DSC_0363 All 600-700 of these kids are talkative, mannered and happy as the Letabo (Happy Place in their Sesotho language) Kid’s Club, is about to begin.

One by one, they eagerly fast walk into the Adoni Christian Church building DSC_0445where up to 10 children sit per bench for their weekly club meeting. Young children up to age 10 from the Leseding Township in Vaalwater, South Africa come for Christian education, friendships, soccer and those peanut butter and jam sandwiches(PB&J) with milk.

Marilyn Cook Missionary in South Africa

Marilyn Cook Missionary in South Africa

With donated funds, Marilyn Cook, director of the Kid’s Club who has been a USA missionary for 48 years in South Africa, buys 90 loaves of bread, 12 kilograms (almost 2 pounds) of peanut butter and 900 grams (1.98 pounds) of jam to make those sandwiches. And she buys the 80 liters (21 gallons) of fresh whole milk from a local Vaalwater farmer. DSC_0536 Total per sandwich and one serving of milk is 2.50 South African Rand or 25 ½ cents USD

Began in 2001 as a soup kitchen, the Letabo Kid’s Club leadership was assumed by Marilyn when the previous lady had to leave because of health issues.

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum

In 2002, the weekly soup kitchen was boycotted by the neighborhood children because it was a hot summer day and they did not want hot soup.DSC_0670So, PB&J sandwiches and milk were offered and the children happily returned to eat those sandwiches. The meetings grew then from 15-30 young children to 600-700 today and growing everyday.  At Christmas time, the club attendance numbers up to 2,000 kids.DSC_0571

The Kid’s Club began meeting in a tent, and the meetings were going just fine until the tent blew down and was destroyed in a 2010 storm.

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum

So then a roof covered concrete slab was built and it worked well for 3 years until the new church building was built in its place. DSC_0580A veranda-patio was later attached to the church building for serving food and other social activities. And the kids love their new church building for their gatherings.

At the Kid’s Club meetings, youth under 10 sing gospel songs in English/Sesotho and Bible stories are told to them in Sesotho.DSC_0453 In addition, they learn about and perform a story from the Bible at each meeting, and say the Lord’s Prayer in Sesotho. DSC_0474Taught by one of the young pastors, the children say a prayer thanking the Father for their food.

After the club activities, it is now time to eat and row after row of children line up next to the food on the veranda for that PB&J sandwich and a glass of milk.DSC_0522 DSC_0427

Immediately, some take a huge bite of the sandwich but many just guzzle the entire glass of milk first.DSC_0646

The outstanding result of the Kid’s Club is that the older youth help set up benches, tables, and microphone, and make the sandwiches. DSC_0531DSC_0583

Then they serve the sandwiches and milk to the children followed by cleaning the dishes and the church building to its original condition.

“It wasn’t like this in the beginning,” Marilyn said, “But our teachings about helping others and being an outstanding person have caused the older 10-18 year-olds to help the younger ones by showing them love and the love of Jesus, and to treat them with respect.”DSC_0520

As a reward for their work and compassion, the older children are given extra bread, boloney, and fruit drink to eat. “The older children are hungry also so we have extra food for them in case the PB&J sandwiches are gone,” Marilyn explained.  “Even the youngest child wants to help even though many of them barely can carry a bench.” DSC_0607DSC_0426

In the beginning, they just wanted to be a part of the event and help others,” Marilyn said. “But now, they also are being rewarded for their work and compassion with the extra food and more and more children are attending and getting into the joy of serving.”DSC_0617

Marilyn points out she receives great joy from helping these children because “they are happy little kids while learning to know Jesus as their friend and they are getting good nutritious food.” Photo by June Landrum

Bible Study is also being taught on Saturday for the 10-14 year-olds and for the older ones 15-30. Up to 50 of the younger ones attend the studies. They call themselves the “Revolution” and they bring their younger siblings with them. Cake baked by Marilyn is served at the end of the class. And if she doesn’t have time to bake the cakes, she serves cookies/biscuits.

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum


Marilyn also edits a magazine THE SOURCE for St. John the Baptist Community Church, which is located in the bush, 20 Km (approx. 12.5 miles) from Vaalwater, South Africa. “People from all over the world come to this church and they overwhelmed by the casual yet deep spiritual messages and fellowship,” Marilyn pointed out. Her magazine can be viewed on her website www.mission2sa.org, where donations can also be made. DSC_0463

So thanks to Marilyn and her 48 years as a missionary serving the disadvantaged peoples of South Africa, many children in the township have a nutritious meal at least once a week along with Christian education and fellowship.DSC_0436 And they keep coming from all over and lining up in advance for the 2 pm Kid’s Club meeting each Wednesday and those PB&J sandwiches with milk.

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum

Donations may be made to Marilyn Cook so she may continue her missionary work in South Africa. Her 5013C agent in the USA is Brian and Lois Lund, Mission to South Africa, PO Box 50063, Casper, WY  82605.

Photo Copy ©  2015 carolyntravels.com 

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum

Photo by June Landrum

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