Category Archives: African Adventures

African Food and a Recipe for (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian) Stuffed Acorn Squash

             What do you think of when you try to imagine African cuisine? I’m embarrassed to admit that I was preparing for pots of stew filled with unrecognizable chunks of whatever lurking beneath the surface and threatening to cause indigestion or worse…parasites?…the three D’s: diseases, dehydration, and death??!

I’m sure in remote areas or without using precautions, American stomachs might have trouble with some of the cuisine, but our trip had nothing less than spectacular, exotic and gourmet food every day! Grilled ostrich competes favorably with a good beef steak, and warthog is succulent and tender! Our resorts served first-class meals (including the “Full English” plus). Museum cafeterias offered classic favorite like burgers, fries, and cokes.The specialty dishes at our hotels were always appealing and most often bursting with flavor! (If you like seafood, try kingclip [fish].)If not to your taste, at the least the foods are fun and interesting to test!

It is in this frame of mind that I’d like to offer you a recipe for my own adaptation of something that I found in a Spar Deli in Capetown, South Africa. (Spar stores are a national chain like Tesco in the U.K. or Kroger in the U.S.) It’s Lent right now, and my son Joel has given up meat, so I’ve been trying to find vegetarian recipes that have lots of protein and flavor. Although I’m giving you the recipe for what I did, my theory is that  you could do the same thing with any variety of “stuffings,” including chicken salad, tuna salad, or your own unique concoction based on your personal palate of tastes. The unusual aspect is that it’s served in a cup of acorn squash, which is actually sweet, filling but not too caloric, and can be easily scooped out and blended with the other ingredients as you eat. It was a hit with my family.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
(4 servings)

Halve and clean (scoop out the fibers and seeds) 2 acorn squashes. Roast them in a covered roasting pan with 1/2 cup water at 350° for an hour. Cool.

Filling:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 jar grilled, mixed vegetables (or make your own and let them cool)
5 oz. Greek yogurt dip with Spinach and Parmesan
5 oz. Artichoke and Jalapeno dip (you could substitute your favorite dips)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts 

Mix until blended, and fill the cups. It’s remarkably easy and surprisingly good! I think it would be best on a warm day, but I was almost shocked by how much I liked it. (Not all of my creations have been so well received, but I won’t pass along the duds!  🙂  )For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake” (1 Corinthians 10:26-28; this verse does not refer to issues of health and safety, it’s talking about receiving hospitality without worrying about where the food was purchased or processed).

A Few (Dozen) of My Favorite (African) Birds (42): A Pictorial Guide to Exotic African Birds

Last fall in Africa, I saw dozens of gorgeous birds. (Okay, some were really ugly too.) Many were familiar, but even more of them seemed exotic and strange. I took photos until I was dizzy from my head spinning ’round, and although our guide was an able ornithologist, after we returned home, I couldn’t remember the names for many of my new-found feathered friends. Worse yet, there’s no Complete Idiot’s Guide for Identifying African Birds, so it took me a long time (too long to admit) to figure out their names. For any of you who’d enjoy a birds’ eye view of African exotics, or for any of you who’ve been to Africa and are trying to figure out what you saw, I’ve catalogued 30+ birds alphabetically by name and where I saw them. Some of them have interesting stories, but that will have to wait for another day… Hope you enjoy!  🙂

African Fish Eagle (Choebe River, Botswana)

“The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.” ~William Mathews


African jacuna (Also known as “Jesus Bird.”Choebe River, Botswana)

“Perseverance is not a long race: It is many short races, one after another.”

~Walter Elliot   African openbill stork (Choebe River, Botswana)

“We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.”~ Martin Luther King, Jr.  Black skimmers (Choebe River, Botswana)

“Who, being loved, is poor?”
~Oscar Wilde 
Red-winged starling (Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

~Henry David Thoreau  Blacksmith lapwing (or “Plover.” Choebe River, Botswana)

“I am a leader by default, because nature abhors a vacuum.” ~Desmond TutuCape Glossy starling (Swaziland)

“I remind myself every morning: ‘Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.'” ~Larry KingCape Weaver (South Africa)

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.”  Egyptian Geese (South Africa)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.”~Marcel Proust
Golden-breasted bunting (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
~Ralph Waldo EmersonGoliath heron  (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Beautiful light is born of darkness, so the faith that springs from conflict is often the strongest and best.”~R. Turnbull  Great heron (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”~Alexander Graham Bell  Hadada Ibis  (aka/Threskiornithidae, Zambezi River, Zimbzbwe)

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”~Nelson Mandela   Blue Helmeted guinea fowl  (Kruger National Park, S.A.) 

“Integrity is never being ashamed of our reflections.”~David Cottrell  Little bee eater (Very little! Choebe River, Botswana)

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden  Marabou stork (Very big! Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) 

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” ~Winston Churchill  Ostrich (The biggest! Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.” ~Lewis Mumford   Spotted Eagle Owl and Owlet
(Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Capetown, S.A.)

 “There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
~Buddha  Yellow-billed oxpeckers on a warthog’s back
(hitchhikers! Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“He who assists someone up the hill cannot help but get to the top himself.”
~Chinese Proverb  Peacock (most beautiful…as if you didn’t know! South Africa)

“God is a prolific artist. His paintings are everywhere.”  Penguins  (Boulders Beach, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher  Pied kingfisher (eating an insect along the Choebe River, Botswana)

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~William Jennings Bryan   Trumpeter hornbill (aka/Zuzu!  Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.
You mustn’t lose it.”~Robin Williams 
Red-headed weaver bird (Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
~Chief Tecumseh 
Reddish egret (pair of them! Kruger National Park, South Africa)

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins… not through strength but by perseverance.”
~H. Jackson Brown  Saddle-billed stork (Mbabane, Swaziland)

“I’m far from perfect, but I’ll be perfect for
that imperfect person that’s perfect for me.”  ~Amanda Bynes  Southern masked weaver bird (Choebe River, Botswana) 

“If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself.” ~Normal Vincent Peale  Trumpeter Hornbill (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”   White-backed Vultures (drinking water in Chobe National Park, Botswana)

 “We determine whether something will be a blessing or a curse
by the way we choose to see it.”~Kate Nowak  Whydah (Widow?) bird (Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa)

“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy.
It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~Sarah Bernhardt  Yellow-billed egrets with an openbill stork (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“You can tell the value of a man by the way he treats his wife,
by the way he treats a subordinate,
and by the way he treats someone who can do nothing for him.”~Ken Babcock

Hope you enjoyed the “tour” of African birds. Africa is by far the most exotic place I’ve ever been, and I love being able to share with you a little bit of the blessing wherewith I’ve been blessed.

 “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

The Three Rondavels of Mpumalanga

From the overlook at Blyde River Canyon, there’s a dramatic view of the “Three Rondavels” (named for circular African dwellings with conical thatched roofs). These fascinating rock formations are shaped like round, grass-topped, huts similar to those still in use today among the indigenous people groups of Africa.   Renier, our guide, explained to us that the people believe evil spirits like to hide in dark corners,              so they make their homes (and even hotel and other structures)                     somewhat round to keep away such unwanted intruders. Of course, these massive shale, dolemite, and quartzite “huts” are monumental in size, rising 700 meters from the ground (which is already 1,390 meters above the river floor below). They are utterly spectacular!Traditionally, the three peaks were known as “The Three Sisters” and were named for three troublesome wives of Chief Maripi Mashile, who was the courageous nineteenth-century Pulana chief that defended his people from a Swazi invasion.Legend has it that the three wives were Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto, and the three rondavels are named to commemorate these irksome busybodies! In this photo, you can see the “three sisters,” and to the right is a long, flat-topped mountain known as Mariepskop, named in honor of Chief Maripi, who used the mountain as a stronghold during the invasion.Blyde River Canyon is gorgeous, and the Three Rondavels are definitely worth visiting, but I’d really hate to be commemorated for being a troublesome wife.                                                            Wouldn’t you?   “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Proverbs 21:1).I’m also glad that the Holy Spirit indwells believers in Christ so that we don’t have to fear evil spirits hiding in the corners of our homes! Instead, God tells us that we’re protected by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:12-14), and that we do not need to fear evil spirits: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Later in the same chapter God explains: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

World’s Largest Canyons, Blyde River Canyon, and Changing Names

Our next stop was for some magnificent views of Blyde River Canyon, which is the world’s third largest canyon, (although I’d never heard of it before). In fact, would you like to see photos of the world’s largest and second largest canyons? Do you know their names? I wasn’t sure! America’s own Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world, although Copper Canyon in Mexico’s Chihuahua state is a group of six canyons with a combined area that’s even greater, and Peru’s Colca Canyon is twice as deep. Nevertheless, we’ll keep our Grand Canyon as Numero Uno!The second largest canyon in the world is also in Africa. It’s called the Fish River Canyon: 550 meters deep and 160 km long! The Fish River Canyon is in Namibia. We didn’t get to see it on this trip, but it’s a popular tourist attraction and reported to be gorgeous. In 2011, they began an annual ultra marathon along the banks of this river! Can you imagine???We were blessed with a beautiful day and had the leisure to walk along the rim of Blyde River Canyon, luxuriating in the views and learning a little of its history.  There are over 1,000 different species of flora in this area, including many beautiful wildflowers in the spring. The canyon is part of the Blyde River Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s most stunning geographical features. This 29,000-hectare (71,660-acre) park is carved from red sandstone along 60 km of the Blyde River. Our guide shared with us that the river was first named “Treur,” which means “mourning” in Afrikaans, because in 1844 some distraught settlers feared that their leader, Hendrik Potgieter, and all the members of his pioneering expedition had perished. However, shortly thereafter, the men returned, and the river’s name was changed from Treur (mourning) to Blyde (happy; joyous). This made me think of how the Lord works in us, to change our mourning into joy: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Since returning home, I’ve discovered that now there is a push to revert back to the canyon’s most ancient name: “Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve.” Motlatse means “a river that is always full.” That’s also a wonderful name, especially in an area that has been beleaguered with drought for twenty years!Do you have any idea what your name means? My name means “pure,” but I used to mourn that—hard as I tried—I couldn’t live up to my name. However, the Lord has comforted me, changed my name to “Christian” and filled me with joy, because I now know that Jesus Christ was pure and gave me his name when I accepted him as my savior from sin: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). How about you? Have you made “the plunge” into the canyon of God’s love and experienced the life-changing depth of his forgiveness and grace?

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” (Psalm 92:4-5)

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! (—S. Trevor Francis, 1875)

(The photos of the Grand Canyon, Fish Canyon, and the last photo of the Blyde River Canyon are used by permission of Wiki; the rest are mine, taken November, 2016, at Blyde River Canyon. Also, I’ve since learned that the section of the Blyde River that was first dubbed the Treur River was a tributary which separates in the canyon and still retains that name.)

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Anticipating the View from God’s Window

“God’s Window” is in South Africa and was our first stop on the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.* For  those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might notice that I haven’t written anything about Africa for a month, and that I have as yet to say one word about our safari in Kruger National Park, which is likely to be even more interesting to you than the view from God’s Window.

I apologize. At the most interesting sites, I take hundreds of photos,
and it takes hours…no days!…to choose and process the best to share. This requires unhurried days at home without any heaven-sent opportunities to interact with family and friends
(which often fill many days to overflowing).

That aside aside, I want to share three favorite stops along this famous Panoramic Route in the coming week before April begins and I try to finish telling tales from our adventures in Southeast Asia last spring. (I will return to African experiences sometime, though, because they were great!)Renier, our travel guide in Africa, explained that God’s Window was a special place in Mpumalanga along the Drakensberg escarpment where the cliffs drop over 2,200 feet to the “lowveld” (low grassland) below, opening up vistas of the entire Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and on a clear day you can see some 150 miles to the border of Mozambique!**                         That’s pretty close to “On a clear day you can see forever!”                                                   We were all super excited! Unfortunately, by the time we actually got there, clouds had filled the canyon and we couldn’t see anything but a sea of mist. So disappointing!  😦  But, how like life on earth! We have hopes and dreams and prayers for vision, and sometimes it does seem like we can see everything clearly from God’s window…from His perspective. However, other days our vision is totally obscured, and we have no clue what the future will hold. No matter how clear or cloudy the present is, may we keep calm and carry on with what we know to do (even if that means not going very far), waiting patiently for the clouds to lift and the Lord to give us more vision for the next steps in our journey.  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40: 36-37).

(Photo credits: *First photo from South African Tourism: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-gods-window
**Photo from Wikipedia
I took the animal photos during our safari in Kruger National Park and the rest on our trip to God’s Window and along the Panoramic Route in South Africa.)

Before Black History Month Ends: Take Time to be Charmed by the Queen of Katwe

queen-of-katwe Have you seen Disney’s Queen of Katwe?
It’s a perfect movie for celebrating Black History Month! queen-of-katwe-enjoying-her-first-snowQueen of Katwe is a glowing tribute to the brilliance and beauty
of African people, as well as their capacity for integrity and perseverance.

queen-of-katwe-accepting-recognitionWhen I first started preparing for this post, I was tempted to complain that the shortest, darkest month has become Black History Month, and that if I were running the country I’d choose March or May—long beautiful months…until I read the reason why. carter_g_woodson_portraitDr. Carter G. Woodson (African American with a PhD from Harvard who is known as the Father of Black History) chose the second week of February as “Negro History Week” because two men who were very influential in elevating African Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born then.

lupita-nyongo-as-nakku-harriet-in-queen-of-katwe Do you get frustrated by my rabbit trails? I hope not. phiona-mutesi-in-queen-of-katweAt any rate, Queen of Katwe tells the true story
of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katwewho grew up in “Katwe,” a slum of Kampala, Uganda. harriet-in-queen-of-katweHer father had died, and Phiona’s mother, Harriet,
fiercely defended the children, vegetable-market-in-queen-of-katweworking constantly in a street market selling vegetables so they could survive. phiona-at-mission-school-in-queen-of-katwePhiona and her little brother, hungry,
wandered into a mission school, where they were fed. missionary-with-child-in-queen-of-katweWhile there, they also met Robert Katende, a young missionary  robert-katende-praying-with-children-in-queen-of-katwewho coached soccer  chess-game-in-queen-of-katweand taught the children chess with the hope of helping them learn skills benjamin-in-queen-of-katwethat would enable them succeed in life generally. phiona-mutesi-and-madina-nalwanga-in-queen-of-katweThe rest is history
(current history:Phiona is only 21 today and still going strong!), returning-to-school-on-mission-bus-in-queen-of-katwebut I don’t want to say too much so you can fully enjoy the movie. receiving-prize-in-queen-of-katweAnd, if you have any school-aged children in your life, it would make a wonderfully inspirational movie to share with them too. Disney does it so well!

slum-of-katwe-in-kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katweBear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2-10)

(I took all the photos while watching the movie, except for the first [publicity poster] and the B&W of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, which is public domain, from Wiki.)