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#BigBlogX - The Big Blog Exchange 2014 opened today and I’ve entered with the hope of being one of 16 bloggers that will be selected to swap blogs and countries with each other for 10 days. Sharing their experiences as they learn about each other’s lives and cultures. Such a great idea and campaign. If you think I’d be suitable, please vote for me. I’m representing South Africa and nothing pleases me more than flying that bright coloured flag. More info on their website www.bigblogexchange.org/ and to vote for me, click here. Thank you!

#BigBlogX - The Big Blog Exchange 2014 opened today and I’ve entered with the hope of being one of 16 bloggers that will be selected to swap blogs and countries with each other for 10 days. Sharing their experiences as they learn about each other’s lives and cultures. Such a great idea and campaign. If you think I’d be suitable, please vote for me. I’m representing South Africa and nothing pleases me more than flying that bright coloured flag. More info on their website www.bigblogexchange.org/ and to vote for me, click here. Thank you!

Livingstone. Dwamba Market.

GreenpopZambia- Visual delights from the Dwamba Market that I visited with Patrick of The Original Cowboy Bicycle Safari Tours.

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Dried fish from the Zambezi River.

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Boabab seeds.

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I spoke to this young boy who was at the market with his dad. This little girl they told me was for lunch. Poor little chicken.

Livingstone with the Original Cowboy Bicycle Safari Tours.

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Zambia. - One of the best things I did whilst in Livingstone with Greenpop was a +-35km cycle tour around town with The Original Cowboy Bicycle Safari Tours, all under the careful care of our guide Patrick Muyunda.

Starting at 9am the tour took us through the more established suburb of Linda, to Libuyu and Maramba with a visit to a working quarry, that place where the mighty Zambezi River meets the road, the Cowboy pre-school and the Dambwa market.

The tours were started by the late Cliff ‘Cowboy’ Sikatumba who realised that many visitors would like a closer look at Livingstone’s offerings. All proceeds of the bicycle tours go to the Pre-Primary school which is now run by his brother Oliver and is st up to accommodate children between 3 and 9 years.

The tour was incredible in every way. Uninterrupted first hand breathing in of an area filled with history and diversity, people working to improve their lives through action and education. Patrick an excellent guide to it all.

Heart and soul. I highly recommend this to any visitor to the area. 

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Our Guide Patrick who started working with Cowboy, washing and maintaining bikes, at the age of 12 years. He taught himself English under Cowboy’s guidance and is now doing most of the tours.

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In the quarry with 94 year old Doreen who break rocks every day in the hope of filling a wheelbarrow. One wheelbarrow load can fetch US$1, if there’s a buyer. She let me try and I was astounded by the strength her small frame holds.  

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At the Living Falls Biopower outside town.

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Cycling out towards Victoria Falls. Following the leader.

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A view to Victoria Falls from the road.

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With Linda from Moving Sushi, my partner in travel.

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Cowboy’s Village School.

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Bikes at the market.

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Ever branded for Greenpop.

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Planting a tree with Uncle Benji. Watering Fate. With his bike. Two Wheels Across. And the projects he finds along the way.

Zambia- Whilst in Livingstone I met up with friend and internationally renowned photographer Christian Ghammachi who happened to be in the area at the same time as me.

Currently travelling from Cape Town to Dubai as 'one man, his camera and Two Wheels Across’, Christian came out to the Greenpop camp where he planted an Afzelia quanzensis tree with Uncle Benji. He named the tree Fate. Something which means much to him as is evident from his recently tattooed forearm which holds the inscription - “A man’s character is his fate”. 

Catch a glimpse of Christian’s incredible photographs at ChristianGhammachi.comI particularly love his elephant and wildlife features. Actually, I particularly like all of his work and am lucky enough to own a copy of his book 19 years.

Subscribe to his Two Wheels Across YouTube channel right here to keep in touch with Christian’s adventures. Also follow him on Twitter @TwoWheelsAcross for live updates. Safe and wondrous Christian.

Note: Creative Nestlin’ interviewed Christian in their wonderful way. Well worth a read.

Ilizwi Photo Club. Expression through Photography.

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GreenpopZambia- I now know that we all have an artistic side to us.

Although this is certainly something that took me years to realise about myself. In my mind, I collated art and creativity with the ability, or in my case, inability to draw. Perhaps its a gap in our education, or the rigid way in which life gets hold of us at a young age. But I didn’t always have the confidence of expression and spent too many years stifling my vivid imagination.

Then a few years back, my freedom of expression arrived in the form of a camera. Photos and matching words with which I could express my feelings and share my experiences. Now I write and document my life and travels in the form of an online journal, as though its the most natural thing in the world. Actually I can’t imagine life without this extension of myself and encourage everybody to find their artistic voice. Whatever shape it takes.

All this meant that learning about #TreeForZambia partner Ilizwi Photo Club and the work that they do, thrilled me. Being allowed the opportunity to spend time with them, yet another gift from Zambia.

As a youth development initiative, Ilizwi is driven by the super-talented Anel Wessels and Meghan Daniels with their team of assistants. They ‘work with young people encouraging self-expression through photography.’

Their first two weeks in Zambia was spend running photography workshops with a group of 20-23 year olds who had completed school and were employed in the Livingstone area. The workshop started with exploring self awareness through the lens of a camera. The who am I? What do I believe is good and bad and why? What is my role in my community?

The photographers each chose a story which matter most to them. These varied from arranged marriages, painters funding their education, single parenting, waste management, night welders, local beer culture, the value of water in urban and rural areas and more. Some of the photographers went beyond the photographs to working in their communities to bring about change.

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I was lucky enough to sit with some of the students on one of the mornings, helping them write up the stories behind their photos. Moved by their brave approach to some of the tough topics they selected, I learned a huge amount from their visual minds. This pic by Anel.

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Three of the students waiting to share their stories with me, one more moving than the next. Their photos incredible. What a privilege.

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It wasn’t all photographs and editing though. A team was born, one that found time for some seriously fun and enthused singing too.

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Having selected and edited their best images, Anel, Meghan and team prepared them for the Exhibition on the last night in camp. Printed works, words and videos told us more about their lives in Livingstone, each matched to their portraits as above.

Here is the link to the Exhibition on the Ilizwi Photo Club's Facebook page. Some amazing work which we were able to buy on the night. I came home with six pieces which had each moved me, offered personal insight, history and passion. I was also influenced by a couple of the photographers who I do encourage to keep taking photos.

Natural mastery at its most inspiring.

Thank you Ilizwi and team for introducing me to your powerful work. I’m humbled by you and look forward to seeing how your dynamic talented group of photographers take their dream forward. Also to following your impressive and wonderful projects closer to home.

For more info contact Ilizwi on mail or follow them on twitter.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

- Howard Zinn 

I saw this on a friend’s facebook page and thought it was worth a read and reminder, especially on days like these, when the world needs all the love and positive action we can muster. 

Building with Eco-Bricks. Taking Trash to Treasure.

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GreenpopZambia- I met the remarkable Candice Mostert in Zambia as she taught her simple and effective eco-brick building method to the local residents at Sons of Thunder farm. Another incredible partner of GreenPop and #TreesForZambia.

Supported by a group of volunteers they built a Bench from plastic bottles filled with non recyclable plastic papers and wrappers. Teaching the benefits of this innovative method of building. It’s not as easy at it looks in these pics, but involves seriously getting your hands dirty. Then again, all the most satisfying work does.

This method of repurposing waste to build homes can potentially change the way of thinking for many. The advantages?

1. Most homes built from mud and wood in rural areas need to be repaired at least three times every decade. 2. The plastic bottles last 1000 years and offer stronger insulated walls. 3. The use of wood is drastically reduced - yay to that! 4. It reduces the piles of waste by taking plastic bottles and other garbage and giving them a useful purpose.

I spoke to Reuben Charles from the farm about his thoughts on this method and he was thrilled by the simplicity of it. Determined to adopt it and show others working on the farm how easily a difference can be made.

Feel good all round. A fabulous bench that will be enjoyed by all, yet also stand tall as an example of how up-cycling and change can benefit all. Especially our fragile environment.

Let this be the future, taking Trash to Treasure.

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Sifting the sand to mix with clay for ‘cement’.

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Volunteers mixing in the sand and mud.

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Sometimes feet are better than hand, both - best.

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Once the consistency of the mud cement is at it’s best, the outer lay is crafted, smoothed and sculpted.

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Until a proud end product is there.

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Team effort. Group shot!

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Learn more at Trash to Treasure Festivals and sign up to stay in touch with Candice on her future projects.