Category Archives: Travel

20 Days in Africa

Voyager Review
By Chet Yarbrough


20 Days in Africa

Written by: Chet Yarbrough

Manue Joao paints a picture of three nation-states that vivify the great beauty and wealth of Africa.

Twenty days in Africa does not make you an expert.  But, as noted by our insightful Zimbabwe-born team leader, every visit to Africa changes both visitor and native.  Manue Joao paints a picture of three nation-states that vivify the great beauty and wealth of Africa.  In twenty days, the nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana were traveled by our group of 15 Americans; organized, directed, and helped by local guides and a host of excellent camp managers.

Having traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) before, we expected a cultural adventure.  OAT did not disappoint.  Along with spectacular scenic opportunities, events were scheduled to give travelers a more intimate and personal understanding of the host countries visited.

In twenty days, the nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana were traveled by our group of 15 Americans; organized, directed, and helped by local guides and a host of excellent camp managers.

OAT’s team leader, Manue offers a history lesson on Africa as we travel on planes, boats, buses, and Land Rovers, through the African Savannah.  


Today, the three major industries in Africa are mining, agriculture, and tourism.  Each of these industries have troubles.  Mining for coal is a big industry in crises with falling prices, and environmental concern.  African laborers are offered decent salaries but Manue notes that one coal mine had not paid their laborers for over four years.  He goes on to explain—the laborers keep working because there is no alternative employment.  The mine workers are ecstatic when, earlier this year, the mine owners offer 7% of their back wages to continue working.

OPEN PIT COAL MINING ( African laborers are offered decent salaries but Manue notes that one coal mine had not paid their laborers for over four years.)

In visiting a small village, we find that agriculture is constantly faced with the terrors of nature; i.e. poor rainfall, soil depletion, and animal destruction.

Subsistence Farming (Agriculture is constantly faced with the terrors of nature; i.e. poor rainfall, soil depletion, and animal destruction.)
Ivory Poaching


Tourism is troubled by ivory poaching, Rhino killing for horn harvesting profits, and elephant overpopulation in restricted habitat reserves.

——–Rhino killing for alleged medicinal quality of horns has nearly wiped out the species.——-
An outdoor oven made of cinder block with a corrugated metal door to close the oven opening.

Putting aside these troubles in the big three industries, there seems a leadership deficit in a country with so much untapped potential.

Many Africans seem trapped in poverty when the wealth of the country is laid waste by an interstate transportation system that strangles economic growth.  Trucks are lined up for hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months for transport across borders.  Vast tracks of land are only accessible by dirt roads.  Water, sewer, and infrastructure investment seems un-systematically utilized.  Government leaders are often corrupted by the power they wield over government employment, contracts, policies, and finances.

BORDER CROSSING IN AFRICA (Trucks are lined up for hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months for transport across borders.)

The history of Africa seems to set a table for an economic feast that is consumed by everyone except the vast majority of Africans.

Because of the European scramble for wealth and power (between the 15th and early 20th century), the continent of Africa was colonized by foreign rulers.  Great Britain, Portugal, France, and Belgium carved Africa into nation-states in the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.  Without regard to native societies a multi-state continent was formed based on the greed and hubris of occupying foreign governments.  The irony of Africa’s artificial nation-state creations was that these arbitrary borders become a source of conflict in the African’s drive for independence.

The economic difficulties of Africa remind one of the early days of America.  Every state of the original 13 colonies was a kingdom unto itself until the First Continental Congress in 1774.  Though the 13 colonies are largely populated by white English, Germans, and French, with a growing population of Black slaves, each colony became a melting pot for white immigrants arriving from different nations of the world.  In America, native American Indians were slaughtered or displaced by the advance of “civilization” with the increasing influx of foreign, largely white, immigrants.

To a degree, something similar has occurred in Africa.  In the early colonization of Africa, each nation-state was composed of native tribes who established societies controlled by early Europeans.  (The most obvious parallel to America’s slaughter and displacement of native Americans, is the slave trade that killed or displaced tens of millions of native Africans.)  As white European controllers are thrown out of Africa, the mixture of remaining native African cultures boiled over like an over-heated melting pot.

Either because of religion, ethnicity, or differing societal norms, one factional group stepped on another’s freedom.  Conflict rose; in some cases, with violent and deadly results.  In America, “boiling over” is evident in the civil rights movement, anti-war rallies, women’s rights marches, and elections of incompetent Presidents. In Africa, it is evident in the taking of private property without compensation, inter-state commerce inefficiency, equal rights movements for women, and rule by notorious leaders like Idi Amin, and Joseph Kony.

Africa is incredibly beautiful.

—————————————Typical African Sunset————————————————–

In sunrises and sunsets; in exposure to the largest and most beautiful animals in the world;

Victoria Falls-One of the seven wonders of the natural world.

in spectacular views of Victoria Falls, and with many Africans’ heart-felt acceptance of tourists.  A traveler sees and feels the radiance of nature and the kindness of all human beings.  But, the economic hardship of the general population in the face of such great potential wealth is disheartening.

The heart of the failure of African nation-states is said to lie at the feet of poor leadership and corruption.  Though there is undoubted truth in that observation, it seems an excuse for failure.  Every scheduled presentation by indigenous Africans notes how important education is to their and their family’s success.  It may be that the people we met are an exception but every culture has its exceptions.  It is these exceptions that modernize the world.

—-indigenous Africans note how important education is to their and their family’s success.—-
Stories were told of the sacrifice that a Principal makes to teach children English.

Sacrifice for education and family values are obvious characteristics of the people we met.  Stories were told of the sacrifice that a Principal makes to teach children English; a story of a prostitute who sells herself with the intent of saving enough to finish school and start her own business; a story of an un-wed mother who is first in her class in high school and goes on to college—all are native Africans emphasizing the importance of family and education.

One is drawn to the conclusion that corruption and poor leadership are a stage of early development that will be ameliorated (not eliminated) over time.  There is no quick solution but a first step would be to re-value the indigenous culture of each part of Africa. Simply changing borders is not the answer.  But, like early America, sections of Africa should consider their own Continental Congresses to provide government services that a single state is unable to provide; i.e. services like interstate commerce, military preparedness, and a common currency.  Every power not given to this centralized government would remain in the hands of respective nation-states.  This would allow each nation to retain its identity within a union of states of similar tribes and cultures that would wield power that is not reserved by independent nation-states.

Edgar Lungu (President of Zambia)
Robert Mugabe (President of Zimbabwe)

Today, the economic strength of Africa is being strangled by border crossing regulations that delay interstate commerce.  Undoubtedly, corruption is exacerbated by bribes to get consumer goods across borders.

Ian Khama (President of Botswana)

Respective state leaders are reluctant to give up control of borders because they get a piece of the interstate border crossing fees.  The greed of leaders can be co-opted by making them understand they will make more money with the opening of their borders by using some of the nation’s wealth to create paved roads into growth corridors of their states.

When foreign companies see they can get to their mine, or have water for agricultural development, they will invest.  Government leaders can negotiate deals with foreign businesses that demand training of native populations in the management work of new businesses.  When more Africans are employed, a source for government taxation is created which can add to the wealth of a nation-state or the corruption of a leader.  Each President of a respective nation-state remains in control of his country in a federalist system.

The emphasis on education must be reinforced with adequate funding from respective nation-states.  In time, that education will remove overtly corrupt leaders.  It will not eliminate corruption but it will improve the condition of the local population.

There is a cost inherent in this push for modernization.  Manue tells of a family structure that exists in the three countries visited. Close family relationship will be diminished by modernization.

Every village has a Chief who has a Head man who supervises the village.  These positions are inherited; not earned by performance.  This familial arrangement will be compromised by modernization because performance will become a more important criterion for Chief or Head man designations.  Money and power, rather than family relationship, will become prevalent as nation-states modernize.

Love for Africa is clearly evident in the people we met.  One suspects our visit is a sanitized view of the real life of most Africans.  However, our view is through the eyes of a rich, modern nation.  A young African boy or girl born into a family of loving parents knows what he/she knows and cares little about what a government does or a foreigner thinks. Family is everything to a child.

Twenty days in Africa is a trip of a life time; especially with a guide like Manue Joao.

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Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The Sheltering Skythe sheltering sky By: Paul Bowles

Narrated by Jennifer Connelly

PAUL BOWLES (1910-1999)
PAUL BOWLES (1910-1999)

The Sheltering Sky seems to be written about a man but is about a woman. Not surprisingly, a woman chooses to narrate the story.


By the middle of the book, one understands why a woman’s narration makes the story better; particularly when the woman is physically reminiscent of Paul Bowles’ main character. Published in 1949, The Sheltering Sky is narrated by Jennifer Connelly.

At first, a reader presumes the central character of the novel is Port Moresby, Kit’s husband. But, the book graduates from interesting to mesmerizing when Kit is recognized as the author’s most dramatic character.

The first half of this novel seems ponderous but the last half changes that mistaken opinion. The beginning perfectly sets the character of the story by juxtaposing world travel tedium with world travel misadventure.


There is an inherent unease that accompanies foreign travel. Anyone traveling to another country, particularly for the first time, knows the unease one feels. Language and custom in different countries are windows to a different way of life. When one of the windows is broken by an ignorant traveler, the broken shards have sharp edges. Asking directions is not simple. Asking questions can offend native customs. Accepting or rejecting invitations may have unexpected consequences. Indigenous citizens, as well as fellow travelers, intentionally and unintentionally take advantage of ignorant strangers.


The Sheltering Sky illustrates how travel unease is not limited by being a stranger in a strange land. Unease may come from traveling companions and the people you meet. Traveling companions become uneasy with each other because they are out of their comfort zone, away from the security of a culture they know. There is a loss of privacy. Travelers are wary of their interdependence because there is nowhere to turn but to each other. Foreign lands and people seem strange and unknowable–isolating and inherently uncomfortable.


Finally, Bowles offers a story that illustrates the danger of bacterial or viral infection when traveling in foreign countries. Everything that could go wrong seems to go wrong in The Sheltering Sky. Kit has an extraordinary adventure that begins in boredom and dependence, grows into terror and independence, and resolves in grim determination.

There may be a …Sheltering Sky for all human beings but it is a sky that shows no favor. Bowles’ story infers that humans live alone and die alone.  Life is life.  One may die as an ignorant slave of his/her own parochialism, or–have lived as an experienced traveler.

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“FOOTPRINTS” (Click Frank Sinatra-New York New York above while reading this article to get the feeling of being in NY.)

By Chet Yarbrough


(This blog entry was made based on a trip to New York, one and a half weeks before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.)




Triumph and tragedy are footprints in time that are reflected in two of New York’s more recent attractions.



New York’s latest memorial exhibits are monuments to America’s past and future; i.e. America’s “…giant leap for mankind” in the space shuttle exhibit at the “Intrepid” museum, and the Trade Center memorial at Liberty and Greenwood, near Battery Park.


These New York’ memorials exemplify great events in American history; each, in its own way, good and bad.  There is the spectacular achievement of space travel and horrible disasters of “Columbia” and “Challenger”.  There is the tragic slaughter of 3,000 innocents on 9/11; immortalized by a memorial to the lost; built on footprints of the twin tower’ foundations.


There is the symbolic triumph of new skyscrapers; i.e. “Freedom Tower” and neighboring buildings that tell the world, “Americans are free and not afraid!”.


Neil Alden Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died on August 25, 2012.


He spent 8 days and 14 hours in space, on the Gemini and Apollo missions, becoming a timeless symbol of American triumph.  The “Eagle”, the lunar lander’s name on the Apollo 11 mission, landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 and departed July 21, 1969.  Ten different astronauts repeated the trip on 5 different missions between 1969 and 1972.


The idea of two men sitting in a 4.2’ x 4.2’ x 4.2’ cabin, at the top of a 364 foot high (the Statue of Liberty is 152 feet high) Saturn rocket,  is overwhelming; particularly, when one actually sits in an Apollo mock-up of the capsule at the New York’ “Intrepid” exhibit.

On September 17, 1976, the first full-scale prototype of the Space Shuttle is completed.  It is called the “Enterprise”; named after the “Star Trek” TV series.  Though the “Enterprise” never leaves earth’s orbit, it is the earth-bound test vehicle for future shuttles.


Space Shuttles are meant to be reusable space delivery vehicles (trucks) for manned space stations.  The shuttle bay could carry a 28,000 lb. cargo with two to eight people, six of which would be mission or payload specialists.  Between April 12, 1981 and July 21, 2011, 135 missions were scheduled; 133 successfully completed their mission with loss of 1 at launch and another when returning to earth.  “Challenger” failed at launch and “Columbia” failed at re-entry.


Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Elison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael Smith, and Dick Scobee died in the “Challenger” mission (January 28, 1986).

CHALLENGER CREW (Names not coordinated with above list.)

(After the “Columbia” tragedy on Feb 1, 2003, several modifications were made to the “Enterprise”’ design but it looks the same.)

When visiting the 9/11 memorial, new feelings express themselves; i.e. a feeling of reverence, sadness, a feeling of pride for brave men and women that came to help, and a feeling of human insignificance.


Seeing the name of a fire-fighters’  engine number on a granite monument surrounding the foot print of the twin towers makes some cry, and some look away.  One that looks at surrounding buildings and massive twin tower’ footprints feels small and vulnerable.  Seeing a battered fire battalion commander’s safety helmet reminds one of brave fire and police personnel that risk their lives to protect and rescue people. 

The massive size of the two building footprints and the rushing water that drains into gaping maws at the center of each monument reminds one of how big and haphazard the world is and how an individual life is in danger of falling into nothingness.



At the same time one feels renewed; i.e. revivified by the “Freedom Tower” and a neighboring building rising above the skyline to let the world know, 3000 people did not die in vain.  These new buildings send the message that 3000 deaths are not a harbinger of an end but footprints to a future.

New York will rebound from Hurricane Sandy with the same energy, pride, and permanence that it has had from its beginning as a settlement in 1624 to its inevitable revitalization after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  There are many more footprints in New York City’s future.

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