Tuesday, March 9, 2021


When I first started this project, I decided to keep my list limited to just the countries in the United Nations (UN), which is basically most of them. About halfway through the project, I thought there were only three that weren’t included so I added them to the end. But then I realized recently that there are actually a lot more than that. Many of these have been or are in conflict zones and/or disputed areas. Some are recognized by quite a few countries, some by only one or two.

The UN building in New York City

The UN is an intergovernmental organization whose mission is international peace and security that was created at the end of WWII. They include several other smaller organizations that have a focus on different aspects of security and preservation; some of these organizations include the WHO (World Health Organization), UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), World Food Programme, World Bank Group, and others. Its main headquarters are located in New York City, but there are other offices around the world, depending on its function. The head of the UN is the Secretary-General, elected to 5-year terms; the current Secretary-General is António Guterres from Portugal (elected in 2017).

I want to make a mention of some of these areas that have claimed some autonomy or independence but aren’t really recognized globally.

Bill Clinton statue in Kosovo

  • Declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia still lays claim to it 
  • Recognized as a country by 98 UN Members 
  • Capital - Pristina is the official capital, although Prizren is the historical capital 
  • Official languages - Albanian, Serbian 
  • Fun fact - There’s a statue of Bill Clinton in Kosovo after he visited the country in 1999, and Britain’s Tony Blair is practically considered a national hero after he helped save some of the people during their war in 1998-99.


South Ossetia 

  • Broke off of Georgia in 2008, but Georgia doesn’t recognize it. 
  • Recognized as a state by Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Nicaragua, and Nauru.  
  • Capital - Tskhinvali 
  • Official languages - Ossetian, Russian, Georgian 
  • Fun fact - The name of their capital literally translates to “land of the hornbeams,” which is a type of hardwood tree related to birches. The wood is used for a variety of purposes, including tool handles, piano actions, pegs, parquet flooring, shoe lasts, and chess pieces.

    This bad boy is possibly one of the oldest wine jugs in the world.


  • Declared its independence from Georgia in 1999 but was first recognized internationally in 2008 
  • Recognized as a state by Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Nauru, and Nicaragua 
  • Capital - Sukhumi 
  • Official languages - Abkhaz, Russian 
  • Fun fact - Abkhazia is home to the second deepest cave in the world. Discovered in the 1960s, Krubera is 7208 ft deep - that’s about 1 ⅓ miles deep! People have also found giant 8000-year-old jugs used for wine in some of these caves in Abkhazia.

    We Are Our Mountains

Nagorno-Karabakh, or Artsakh Republic 

  • Recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but both Azerbaijan and Armenia have been discussing the area since 1994. However, they entered a new war in late 2020. 
  • It’s not recognized by any UN member state, but only by other disputed areas (Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia) 
  • Capital - De facto capital is Stepanakert 
  • Official languages - Main languages are Armenian, Azerbaijani 
  • Fun fact - There’s a large sculpture that was created in 1967 called We Are Our Mountains. Made of volcanic tufa rock, it depicts an old man and old woman and is supposed to represent the mountain people of Karabakh.

    To check out more of statues of Lenin in Moldova and Transnistria, check out the blog called Deano's Travels.

Transnistria, or The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic 

  • Considered part of Moldova, it lies between the Dniester River and the Ukrainian border. 
  • Not recognized by any UN states, except for other disputed areas (Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia) 
  • Capital - Tiraspol 
  • Official languages - Russisan, Moldovan, Ukrainian 
  • Fun fact - Apparently, the largest bust of Lenin is found in the countryside outside of Tiraspol.

    The flag of Novorossiya. Looks somewhat familiar, huh.

New Russia, or The Union of People’s Republics 

  • Also called Novorossiya, it’s a group of two pro-Russia republics in Ukraine aiming at creating their own confederation, breaking away in 2014 
  • Not recognized by any UN states, except for the disputed area of South Ossetia 
  • Capital - Donetsk 
  • Official languages - Russian, Ukrainian 
  • Fun fact - Their flag looks eerily similar to the Confederate flag (of the US South during the Civil War) but without the stars.

    The Wall in Nicosia

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus 

  • Also called Northern Cyprus, broke off of the Republic of Cyprus in 1974 
  • Only recognized by Turkey 
  • Capital - North Nicosia 
  • Official languages - Turkish, Cypriot Turkish 
  • Fun fact - The capital of Nicosia is the capital of both Cyprus and Northern Cyprus and is the only city in Europe that has a wall running down the middle (since Berlin).

    Fishing in Western Sahara

Western Sahara, or The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic 

  • It was once a Spanish colony, but also shares disputed areas with Morocco 
  • It has diplomatic relationships with 31 UN member states as well as being a full member of the African Union 
  • Capital - El Aaiún (claimed); Tifariti (de facto); Tindouf (capital-in-exile) 
  • Official languages - Arabic, Spanish 
  • Fun fact - Western Sahara is known for its rich fishing grounds off of its coasts and its phosphate reserves, a key ingredient in agricultural fertilizers and detergents.

Taiwan, or The Republic of China 

  • China (The People’s Republic of China) claims Taiwan, although there is a lot of tension in how much autonomy China grants to Taiwan in its representation 
  • Taiwan is recognized and has official diplomatic relationships with 14 UN members and the Holy See 
  • Capital - Taipei 
  • National languages - Formosan (indigenous) languages, Hakka, Hokkien, Mandarin, Matsu, Taiwan Sign Language 
  • Fun fact - Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan have historically been part of both Japan and China.

    It's hard to take these guys seriously. But the Vatican is all about super extra costumes.

Vatican City, or The Holy See 

  • Claiming its independence from Italy in 1929, it’s the only independent country to decline to be a part of the UN. The main reason is that the Pope doesn’t want to interfere with political decisions. 
  • It’s an observer member to the UN and holds diplomatic relationships with 180 members.  
  • Capital - Vatican 
  • Official languages - Italian 
  • Fun fact - There are no armed forces in the Vatican City, except that soldiers of the Swiss Guard traditionally have served as its military detail. [I once lost a trivia question on this about 10 years ago because the guy leading the trivia night didn’t know this, and even after I showed him that my answer was correct, he still wouldn’t give me the points, and I’m STILL salty about this.]

    Olive trees in Palestine


  • Claims the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has historically been a disputed area between Israel and Jordan, declaring themselves independent. 
  • Recognized by 138 UN members and is a non-member observer state of the UN 
  • Capital - Jerusalem (proclaimed); Ramallah (administrative center) 
  • Official Languages - Arabic 
  • Fun fact - Olives are so important to their culture that nearly 45% of the land is dedicated to growing olive trees. In fact, some olive trees are thousands of years old.

I’ve also been fascinated by the idea of what happens when countries declare their independence. As we found out by watching the Brexit debacle unfold, it takes a lot of planning and preparation to go out on your own. (Granted, the UK was already independent in this case, but leaving the EU on the basis of maintaining their discriminatory hiring practices was clearly a rash decision.) And there were a few states that put independence to a vote (sometimes, several times) that did not get enough required votes to make it happen. I alphabetized this list; the years correspond to years they voted on this measure.

  • Aruba (from the Netherlands: 1977) 
  • Bermuda (from the United Kingdom: 1995) 
  • Bonaire (from the Netherlands: 1994, 2004) 
  • Cameroon (from France: 1958) 
  • Catalonia (from Spain: 2014, 2017) 
  • Central African Republic (from France: 1958) 
  • Chad (from France: 1958) 
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands (from Australia: 1984) 
  • Comoros (from France: 1958) 
  • Curaçao (from the Netherlands: 1993, 2005) 
  • Dahomey (from France: 1958) 
  • Djibouti (from France: 1958, 1967) 
  • Falkland Islands (from the United Kingdom: 1986) 
  • Faroe Islands (from Denmark: 1946) 
  • French Polynesia (from France: 1958) 
  • Gabon (from France: 1958) 
  • Guam (from the United States: 1976, 1982) 
  • Ivory Coast (from France: 1958) 
  • Kosovo (from Yugoslavia: 1991) 
  • Kurdistan (from Iraq: 2005, 2017) 
  • Madagascar (from France: 1958) 
  • Mali (from France: 1958) 
  • Marshall Islands (from the United States: 1983) 
  • Mauritania (from France: 1958) 
  • Montenegro (from Yugoslavia: 1992) 
  • Nevis (from Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla: 1977, 1998) 
  • New Caledonia (from France: 1958, 1987, 2018, 2020) 
  • Niger (from France: 1958) 
  • Northern Mariana Islands (from the United States: 1969) 
  • Palau (from the United States: 1983, 1984) 
  • Puerto Rico (from the United States: 1967, 1993, 1998, 2012, 2017) 
  • Quebec (from Canada: 1980, 1995) 
  • Republic of the Congo (from France: 1958) 
  • Saar (from France: 1955) 
  • Saba (from the Netherlands: 1994, 2004) 
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon (from France: 1958) 
  • Scotland (from the United Kingdom: 2014) 
  • Seborga (from Italy: 1995) 
  • Senegal (from France: 1958) 
  • Sint Eustatius (from the Netherlands: 1994, 2005, 2014) 
  • Sint Maarten (from the Netherlands: 1994, 2000) 
  • South Brazil (from Brazil: 2016, 2017) 
  • Tokelau (from New Zealand: 2006, 2007) 
  • Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [Micronesia] (from the United States: 1975) 
  • United States Virgin Islands (from the United States: 1993) 
  • Upper Volta (from France: 1958) 
  • Veneto (from Italy: 2014) 
  • Western Australia (from Australia: 1933) 
  • West Papua (from Indonesia: 1969)

Sunday, February 21, 2021


It’s been a busy week of nonprofit PR work for our upcoming Feijoada (it’ll be carry-out this year). And we got our first major snow last weekend and into this week, the most we’ve gotten in about 7-8 years. I think the total we got was between 10-12”! Not to mention my husband’s birthday was a few days ago and regular work and the kids’ school stuff. So, I’m looking forward to relaxing a bit in the kitchen this afternoon and getting a good meal out of it.

My son is obsessed with this bread. He was trying to convince me this bread is a complete meal.

Today is my final meal for this blog (in its original concept): Zimbabwean food. I started with a bread called Mupotohayi (also called Chimodho). I preheated my oven to 365ºF before I mixed all of my dry ingredients into one bowl: corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and whisked them until they were combined. Then I mixed all of my wet ingredients in another bowl: vegetable oil, plain yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and water. In a ramekin, I beat my egg first and then stirred it into the wet ingredient bowl. After that, I took my wet ingredient bowl and poured it into the dry ingredient bowl, stirring everything until it came to be a thick batter-like consistency. I poured in my batter into a well-greased loaf pan. I let it bake for about 35 minutes (or at least until I could stick a knife into it and it comes out clean). I thought this was great. Because I used masa flour instead of cornmeal (mostly because I guess I wasn’t paying that close attention), it had the taste of a tamale. (My son called it tamale bread.) I really enjoyed this. I bet it’s really good with a little butter on it.

Not sure why beef is so expensive, but I think I should've used a different cut of meat.

The main course today is Traditional Zimbabwean Beef Stew. It’s cold out, and I thought this was a fantastic choice. My beef choices were a little limited, and the price of beef isn’t that cheap anymore. I found a thin sliced sirloin cut and sliced it into smaller pieces, sauteing them in a little vegetable oil and salt in the bottom of a large pot. Once it was browned, I added in about a liter of water and only partly covered the pot, letting it cook over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes until it was tender. When the meat was done, I drained the beef broth into a bowl to set aside. In the same pot, I added another couple tablespoons of oil to the meat and fried some onions for a couple minutes and then added about a half can of diced tomatoes and let them cook for another few minutes. While that was cooking, I took the beef broth I set aside and mixed in a little bit of onion soup powder and whisked it together. Then I poured it back into my pot with the meat and vegetables, covering the pot and letting it simmer for another 15 minutes or so. I liked this, although that onion soup mix made it taste a little off. It may have been a bit of an overload on the onions. My beef got a little tough, and the broth was a little oily, but otherwise I kind of liked it.

The vegetables were good, but I think the temperature needed to be higher than what it called for.

To go with the stew, I made Warm Salad with Mustard Dressing. In a large bowl, I peeled and chopped my vegetables: sweet potatoes, carrots, golden beets, red pepper, small apple, covering it all in a bit of oil. I added some salt, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, and basil, and then I tossed all the vegetables to coat. I put these vegetables in a casserole dish and baked them in a 355ºF oven for about 30 minutes, but the vegetables were far from being soft. This part took forever, probably over an hour, and I finally pushed the temperature up to 400ºF before they finally started to soften up. Then I took them out and set it off to the side. You can either top with this bacon that you cook and crumble yourself or bacon bits that you buy in a store (I opted for the faster, ready-made version but somehow they got lost between the store and being put up. Ugh.). To make the sauce that goes with this, I mixed all the ingredients in a small bowl: mustard, plain yogurt, water, apple cider vinegar, oil, golden syrup (which I used Karo white corn syrup, hoping it’s close), minced garlic, salt, and pepper. When the sauce was well mixed, I drizzled it on top of the vegetables. I really liked the vegetables, but I wasn’t a fan of the mustard sauce. It was a little too tart; I probably could’ve done without the extra vinegar since mustard already has vinegar in it. But otherwise, I liked these vegetables.

Overall, I enjoyed this final meal. It was a good way to end this.

Most of these recipes came from zimbokitchen.com, so shout out to her for showcasing recipes from her country. To be honest, I couldn’t have done this blog without people like her putting up these recipes from their country. It helped me out immensely as I dived into cultures, trying to substitute ingredients for ones I could find, aiming at being as authentic as I could be. When I first started this blog, people asked me, “Why don’t you just use a bread machine? It’s so much easier.” But I didn’t want “easier.” I wanted to do things the way people in other countries do it. And it’s not always easier. It wasn’t always like that here either, if you go back just two generations. I sit here in the Midwestern part of the US in my relative comfort (I said “relative”), knowing some of the countries are much worse off than me, but some are better in some ways. My ties with the global polyglot community continues to show me that we all have a few things in common: we all have to eat; we all care for our families and friends in some way; we all have aspirations to do and be something; we’re all just trying to survive this crazy thing called life. Did I find what I was looking for on this journey? Did I accomplish what I set out to do? I think I did. No matter where you’re from, we all just really want the same things in life. Remember: countries are made of people, not governments. Stay global, my friends.

Up next: That’s all there is. I’m going to do a post soon on all the global states that are NOT part of the UN to wrap it up, just so they’re not left out of the conversation and get their recognition. Thanks for sticking with me through this.

Saturday, February 20, 2021


Zimbabwe shares many musical traditions with its neighbors. Percussion and rhythms are at the heart of it all, helping to create a musical language vital to their culture. Music plays an important role in ceremonies, in their religion and spirituality, and later on as a catalyst in gaining their independence. A number of genres developed in Zimbabwe and changed over time as they came into contact with Europeans.

Zimbabwe has quite a few musical genres that stemmed from traditional styles. One that got its start during colonial times is a type of vocal music called imbubwe. It’s characterized by male singers singing in an a cappella fashion. Miners working in the caves created this style as a way of passing the time and took advantage of the acoustics of the cave.

Other styles that developed in Zimbabwe, many of them after they gained their independence, include sungura (a style that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s), Afro-jazz (a Zimbabwean version of jazz that mixes American jazz, blues, ragtime, and African styles like kwela and marabi), rumba (related to soukous music from the DRC), Zimdancehall (related to and influenced by Jamaican dancehall), jit (general term for any pop music that uses electric guitars), and chimurenga (a style that transcribed traditional mbira music for modern electronic instruments and was used as a political and social commentary).

Mbira set inside a calabash resonator

Like Zambia, the mbira is an important instrument in Zimbabwean music. This thumb piano is made of wood with metal keys fixed to it. There’s a hole in the corner to hold it, and there are usually rattles attached to it as well. The designs can vary from what materials are used for the rattles, and the number of keys that are included. Sometimes, they are placed inside hollowed out calabashes to be used as a resonator (to make it louder). Years ago, I found a place online that makes handcrafted mbiras, and I bought one. I still play it to relax. Drums are also important to their music, and they utilize a number of different kinds of drums of different sizes, materials, and shapes. Other types of percussion instruments like wooden marimbas are also popular. Today, modern instruments are used in their music.

Jerusarema dance

Likewise, dance is also integral to Zimbabwean culture. It’s tied to spirituality and life events and ceremonies. Dances often vary from region to region and generally serve a purpose; sometimes it’s to tell a story or their history or used as a means of courting rituals. Polyrhythms are often the basis of traditional music, and these dances often incorporate these complex rhythms into their dance steps. The Jerusarema dance is one of their oldest dances and was once outlawed by Christian missionaries because of what they deemed “provocative” dance movements.

I was able to find several bands on Spotify. The first one is a sungura band called The Sungura Boys. I really liked their sound; you can definitely hear the polyrhythms that create a driving feel to the music. The higher pitched guitars with the bass along with harmonized vocals give it a complex sound.

Dumisani Maraire

Since mbira music is a staple of Zimbabwean music, I found a few mbira musicians who I listened to as well. The first one was Ephat Mujuru. Not only could you hear the mbira (and maybe more than one at times perhaps), but there were also rattles, percussion, maybe a marimba, clapping, and singing. I also found a few songs by Dumisani Maraire. He’s considered one of the greatest mbira players and spent his life performing on mbiras and marimbas and teaching people about Zimbabwean music and culture. Stella Chiweshe is a well-known female mbira player, who learned the instrument at a time when female players were pretty rare.

The Bhundu Boys are a band that mixes chimurenga and jit music with rock, pop, country, and other musical influences. Even when they’re covering American classics like Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” they never stray far away from their African polyrhythms that are so ingrained in their music.

Vusa Mkhaya

In the Ndebele-majority region, Bulawayo music is popular. One musician I listened to is Vusa Mkhaya, who specializes in imbube music. He uses this vocal-heavy genre and incorporates it into his music. I thought it was nice to listen to. He’s won several awards in the world music category.

Thomas Mapfumo

Thomas Mapfumo, known as The Lion of Zimbabwe, is a famous chimurenga musician. He’s particularly known for his opposition and criticism of Robert Mugabe. What’s amazing is that he’s been performing for nearly 60 years! His voice is recognizable for many Zimbabweans.

Killer T

Killer T is one Zimdancehall musician who I listened to. I’m a fan of dancehall, so I really liked this. Sometimes it’s good to have some upbeat music in your arsenal. 

Leonard Mapfumo

One modern genre that stemmed out of American and European hip-hop is called urban grooves. I listened to a couple musicians in this genre. The first one was Leonard Mapfumo. Although it was heavily influenced by hip-hop, he uses quite a bit of vocal harmony accompaniment that keeps ties to their own Zimbabwean styles. Maskiri is the other one I checked out. Some have called him the African version of Eminem. I liked his style, but I’m not sure I would necessarily compare him to Eminem. Perhaps lyrically, but I don’t know Shona, so the comparison is lost on me.

Up next: the food

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Even the earliest people in Zimbabwe saw the value in art. The San people lived in caves, and there are many examples of their drawings they left behind on the walls of the caves they lived in, depicting life as they knew it. There are also some examples of their early pottery as well. I mentioned earlier about the Great Zimbabwe city that was at its peak between 1250-1500AD. While it was being excavated, the workers found many of their pottery objects along with soapstone sculptures and utensils. They also found all kinds of ingots, beads, sculptures, jewelry, and other objects that have been traded from around the world.

The soapstone sculptures were one of the key parts of early Zimbabwean culture. Soapstone birds are especially known, which came to be known as the Zimbabwe birds. It’s not exactly clear what kind of a bird it is, or if it was tied to a religious purpose or not.

Zimbabwe soapstone birds

Art changed as the first peoples here came in contact with Europeans during the 19th century. Missionaries charged that local art and traditions were anti-Christian and set out on a mission to destroy it (particularly wooden masks and other carvings). (How can it be anti-Christian when it was created long before they met them?) By the 20th century, their art began to specifically be produced for white tourists. White artists began to make their way to southern Africa to paint and draw its landscape. For a long time, many of the most famous artists from Zimbabwe were white, and black artists of notoriety were relatively few.

Dance by Kingsley Sambo

So, here are a few black artists from Zimbabwe you should probably know: Kingsley Sambo (painter, cartoonist), Thomas Mukarobgwa (painter, sculptor), Joseph Ndandarika (sculptor), Dominic Benhura (sculptor), Owen Maseko (visual artist, installation artist), and Tapmufa Gutsa (sculptor).

The Mudzimu Bull by Joseph Ndandarika

Literature in Zimbabwe is largely written in English, Shona, or Ndebele, with some other languages being represented as well. There are 16 languages that carry an official status in Zimbabwe. The majority of its early history were oral stories of folklore and local myths and histories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The first Shona novel to be published was Solomon Mutswairo’s novel Feso (1956), and the first Ndebele novels were published around this time as well. Many themes also incorporated some of the folklore and myths from oral tales but also included issues around colonialism and independence. In the post-Mugabe period, literature became a key way of dealing with the aftermath of such a regime. These novels, short stories, and poems told accounts of where they had come from and served as the rallying cries moving forward in their protests.

Novelists include Shimmer Chinyodya (known for Harvest of Thorns), Chenjerai Hove (known for Bones, Shadows), Farayi Mungoshi (known for Behind the Wall Everywhere), Dambudzo Marechera (known for The House of Hunger), Batsirai Chigama (known for Gather the Children), and Kudakwashe Manjonjo (known for Aluta Continua: The Struggle Continues).

Up next: music and dance

Sunday, February 14, 2021


Well, I did it. I got to the last country in this blog, and I can’t believe I’ve almost completed this entire project. In fact, I’ve run this blog longer than I have been at any job. Years ago, I used to subscribe to TIME magazine as a way to learn more about what’s going on in the world. I remember reading about Robert Mugabe and some of the terrible things that were going on in Zimbabwe because of the way he governed. I haven’t followed it very closely since then, but he was ousted after 37 years running the country (or rather, running it into the ground) and died a couple years ago. I feel like he dominates much of their recent history, so I’m interested in finding out something else about this country (I already mentioned Victoria Falls when I covered Zambia). And how fitting is it that the last two countries are African countries that I’m covering during Black History Month.

The name Zimbabwe is named after the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe, located in the southeastern corner of the country. There are a few origins in different dialects of Shona, mostly around either “house of stones” or possibly “venerated houses.” Zimbabwe also used to be known by several names that include the term Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes, the British politician who set in place much of the colonization of Southern Africa and proponent of British imperialism. I can certainly see why they were quick to rename themselves.

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, surrounded by Zambia to the north; Mozambique to the east; South Africa to the south; and Botswana to the west. And they’re only about 150 meters from the Namibian border too. The eastern side of the country is quite mountainous while most of the country lies in a central plateau (also called the high veld); however, a small portion lies in the low veld areas. The Zambezi River serves as much of the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia to the north, along with Lake Kariba and including the famous Victoria Falls. Because of its location, there are several areas that have a tropical climate, but it can get quite cool in highlands. They also experience a rainy season between October and March. And although severe storms are fairly rare, they’re not immune to severe droughts though. But these large changes in environment and climate lead to a great biodiversity in Zimbabwe, even though deforestation and poaching have had really negative impacts on their environment.

Ancient city of Great Zimbabwe

Humans lived in this area nearly 10,000 years ago, and among the earliest people include the San people, who left behind tools and cave drawings. The Bantu migration brought farmers into this area nearly 2000 years ago. Trade with Arab traders began around the 10th century, and the Shona civilizations thrived between the 13th and 15th centuries, where the Great Zimbabwe city grew out of. As Europeans started trading and moving into various areas of Africa in the 1600s, a new Shona empire emerged as a response, called the Rowzi Empire (“rowzi” meaning “destroyers”). In 1821, a Zulu general named Mzilikazi rebelled against the famous Shaka and created his own clan called Ndebele. They then went on a rampage of destruction known as the Mfecane. By the 1880s, Cecil Rhodes with the British South Africa Company began his campaign aimed at taking mining rights from the Ndebele people. He basically got a charter to be able to do that and started moving into what was Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Of course the Ndebele didn’t like this at all, thus came the First Matabele War. Starting in 1895, the term Rhodesia came into being, referring to present-day Zimbabwe as Southern Rhodesia and present-day Zambia as Northern Rhodesia. The Ndebele revoked against the white rule in their native lands, resulting in the Second Matabele War. In 1923, the UK took Southern Rhodesia as a colony, whose people served on behalf of the UK during both of the world wars. And in 1930, they set in place a land act that essentially restricted the black population from owning key pieces of land so that the white minority population could own the best areas. (This issue will come back later.) After Zambia gained its independence, it set in place for Zimbabwe to gain their own in 1965. Their first years were met with instability as they scrambled to create different political parties and establish themselves. In 1980, Robert Mugabe became the first Prime Minister. The 1980s brought a ton of turmoil, starting with Gukurahundi, which was a genocide against people they thought were dissidents. Some estimates report that up to 80,000 people may have been killed over a period of about four years. This discontent lasted through the 1990s, and many people aimed their anger at Mugabe’s government over issues of salary issues, healthcare problems, and land issues. However, in the early 2000s, the Mugabe administration began a campaign to reverse parts of that 1930 land act and started taking measures to take away land from the white farmers and give it back to black farmers. Utter chaos ensued, and their economy collapsed; Zimbabwe saw millions of its people flee to other countries. Many countries waged economic sanctions against the country. In 2017, Mugabe was forced out in a coup, and he died two years later. Today, many people are still dealing with the fallout of starvation and disease.


The capital and most populous city is Harare, located in the central/northeast part of the country. With about 2 million people, it’s not only the center of government, commerce, and media, but it’s also a center for culture. There are many restaurants, entertainment, shopping centers, sports venues, museums, and universities throughout the city and its suburbs.


Mining and agriculture are the two key areas that drive their economy. They also depend on a certain amount of tourism dollars as well, although that’s been declining in recent years. Ecotourism has been popular in the past, but political instability has led to a huge decline in wildlife and increase in deforestation. Some of their main agricultural products include cereal grains like maize and wheat, coffee, legumes, and cattle production. When it comes to mining, their main exports are gold, diamonds, platinum, and other minerals. Inflation is high in Zimbabwe along with high unemployment. At its worst in ten years time, inflation rose from 32% in 1998 to 11,200,000% in 2008. I can’t even fathom that amount, honestly. In 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar became functionally useless, so they abandoned it in preference for the US Dollar, the South African Rand, and Botswana Pula.

The vast majority of people in Zimbabwe adhere to Christianity, making up nearly 85% of the population. Of those, the majority are Protestant with only about 8% being Roman Catholic. There is a small percentage who still participate in local religions, and nearly 11% are either unaffiliated with any religion or follow something else. Of other world religions, there are smaller numbers of people following Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.

English is the official language of the government and education. However, Shona is spoken by about 70% of the population with Ndebele at around 20%. There are several other local languages with a significant number of speakers: Tsonga, Venda, Kalanga, Ndau, Nambya, Sotho, and Shangaan. Because it shares a border with Mozambique, Portuguese is sometimes used along the border areas and in some of the larger cities like Harare and Bulawayo. In fact, Portuguese is starting to be taught more as a second language in many areas of Zimbabwe.

Since high school biology class, I’ve been fascinated with genetics, especially how traits and defects are passed down from generation to generation. I stumbled upon an article about a hunter-gatherer tribe living near a tributary of the Zambezi River Valley called the VaDoma. This tribe is susceptible to a genetic mutation known as Ectrodactyly, otherwise known as Lobster Claw Syndrome (they’re sometimes called The Ostrich Tribe). For nearly a quarter of this tribe, it causes people to be born missing the middle toes, so that they have two giant toes on their feet. Kind of like lobster claws. The thing is that with this tribe, they’ve made it illegal to marry outside of their tribe, so this genetic mutation keeps getting repeated over and over again. It reminds me of how hemophilia ran through royal families since they only bred among themselves. But anyway, here’s an article on the VaDoma if you want to read more on it and see photos.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, February 7, 2021


It’s February, and a lot of things are happening. Each of the nonprofit organizations I work with have events happening this month. Next weekend, I’ll be participating in Civic Day, listening in on an all-day webinar of speakers discussing the importance of voting by mail, the environment, veterans issues, and several other topics. And I’m also working on promoting our annual Brazilian feijoada luncheon, which will be carry-out style this year for obvious reasons. Hard to think that we barely got it in last year before everything started to be shut down.

A little messy, but oh so worth it.

But today is a different kind of meal. While most people in the US are making Super Bowl foods, we’re cooking from Zambia. The bread today is Zambian Fritters with Orange Syrup. I mixed my yeast into the flour, sugar, salt, water, and vegetable oil to make a soft dough before setting it off to the side until it was doubled in volume (about an hour). While the dough was resting, I made the syrup by adding some sugar, the zest from two oranges, and some orange juice in a pan and heating it until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes the consistency of syrup. I skipped making the icing (just powdered sugar and orange juice mixed together) since there was already a syrup. When the dough was ready, I heated some vegetable oil in a skillet and dropped spoonfuls of dough into it and fried it for about five minutes, or until it turned golden brown. I let it drain on some napkins. When it was done, I drizzled the syrup over the fritters. Some of my fritters were too large because my dough was really sticky. I meant to make them the size of doughnut holes. The smaller ones were practically perfect, but some of the larger ones didn’t seem quite as done in the middle. However, the orange syrup was really good on top of them.

Surprise of the night. This actually was pretty good. Especially if it were spicier.

The main dish today is Kapenta. I’m not sure if Kapenta is either another word for sardines or a fish that is very similar to sardines. I opened my sardines up and I poured the oil in a skillet and heated it to fry the sardines. I took them out when they were crispy and set them off to the side. (I drained off some of the oil at this point.) Then I added in some diced bell peppers (I used green, yellow, and red), onions, some jalapeños, and some diced tomatoes. Once I fried the vegetables up a bit, I added the sardines back into the mix for only about a minute or so. I actually liked this dish pretty well. I think it would've been a little better if I had deep fried them like it called for, but it was still good. Probably one of the few ways that I enjoy sardines.

I really liked this side dish. I will probably make it again and experiment with it a bit.

To go with this I made two similar dishes. The first one is Red Brown Mushrooms, which I knew I couldn’t find the particular red mushrooms that were mentioned in the original recipe, so I used white mushrooms (plus, I was sending my husband to the store). I rinsed off my mushrooms and sliced them, putting them into a pot with a bit of water, salt, and oil. I boiled them for 15 minutes before adding in some tomatoes, onion, and a little bit of ground cayenne pepper (instead of chilies). I let it cook down for a few minutes. I really liked this one. I thought it would make a nice accompaniment to any dish. If I were making this for myself, I would’ve added in some more cayenne to it.

Very healthy for you. I want to experiment with different kinds of greens.

The other similar dish is called Kalembula, which is basically sweet potato leaves, but I used spinach leaves since sweet potato leaves are difficult to find this time of year. In a pot, I cooked down some diced tomatoes, onion, and salt and stirred until everything was cooked together and most of the liquid from the tomatoes was evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Then I added in my fresh spinach and stirred until the leaves looked wilted and everything was mixed consistently. It needed a bit more salt than what I originally added, but I thought this was rather tasty. And really, I think you could probably substitute any greens (or multiple ones) in a recipe like this.

This was pretty tasty - and an excellent pescatarian meal!

I was going to make Nshima, which is another form of pap/ugali/fufu. It’s basically cornmeal and water that’s cooked down as a type of porridge or paste. I ended up not making it because I got tired, and I was hungry. I’ve tried to make it a couple times before, and it didn’t end well. But this meal really needed something to go with it, like rice or couscous. One thing my family noticed was that all of these dishes were fairly similar in their base: tomatoes and onions. Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with tomatoes and onions, unless you’re my husband who gets heartburn from tomatoes or my son who thinks onions are out to ruin his life. I've got news for them: I'm basically not going to stop.

Up next: Zimbabwe


Traditional music in Zambia served a purpose. Well, many purposes. Many times it was to entertain. But music also told stories, taught lessons, healed, and appealed to deities or spirits. Many of these traditional styles, such as call-and-response or polyrhythmic drumming, can still be heard and utilized today.

From the blog As Her World Turns. Check it out -- she has some great photos of her trips around the world.

Percussion instruments are really the central part of Zambian folk music. They use a variety of drums of different sizes, shapes, and materials to create unique and complex tones. Sometimes, certain kinds of drums are used for specific purposes, such as funerals. One of these special drums is known as the lion drum, and it’s actually a friction drum (one that has a stick inserted into the drum that resonates sound as it rubs across the drum head). There are also types of xylophones, like the 17-note silimba. Varieties of flutes and thumb pianos are found throughout Zambia as well.

One particular style of folk music from Zambia is called kalindula. It’s actually the name of a type of bass guitar that lent its name to a type of up-beat music that uses this guitar along with other handcrafted guitars called banjos (different from what we know as banjos in Western music, although it has its roots in Africa) and homemade drum sets. Kalindula music is played throughout Zambia and can often be heard on the radio. These bands also participate in music fests too.

Laban Kalunga, kalindula musician

One dance that is common in Lusaka and throughout the Cobberbelt regions is the Mooba dance of the Lenje ethnic group. It’s been included as part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. This dance is performed by both men and women at social events. At the peak of the dance, some dancers are said to be possessed by the BaChooba ancestral spirits. Dancers wear colorful beaded jewelry and headbands, a special skirt called a buyombo, and rattles on their ankles.

In Zambia, reggae, hip-hop, and R&B are particularly popular styles that made its way into their music. I first mentioned Sampa the Great in the first post on Zambia. She uses hip-hop, jazz, and African rhythms and harmonies mixed together with her poetic lyrics to create a complete package. She mainly sings in English. I love her music so much. It’s hard not to just go on and on about her music.

Sampa the Great

I also listened to Jordan Katembula (or sometimes known as JK). His music is more Zambian R&B and pop and was one of the leading musicians in Zambia in the late 1990s. It was pretty catchy and definitely has that “African sound” to it that I still can’t describe any better.

Jordan Katembula, aka JK

The music of Macky 2 is more like a cross between hip-hop and dance music. Definitely seems like something you’d hear in the club or at a party. Like Jordan, he tends to sing/rap in both English and his local language. Chef 187 is a little more straight hip-hop in my opinion, and he tends to have more guests on his tracks (at least on the album I was listening to).

Macky 2

I checked out Bobby East’s album Vanilla. I think it has a lot more reggae mixed in with it. I liked it, but I’m also a fan of reggae. He also collaborated with several people on most of his songs. It was kind of fun to listen to.

Slap Dee is probably one of the bigger names in Zambian hip-hop, and you can tell why. Some songs seem to have a strong American hip-hop presence to them, but others have a clear ragga or reggae feel. Another popular musician is K’Million. His music seems on the lighter side of things with elements from pop and R&B. Although he has a couple songs in English, most are in his local language.

Slap Dee

Up next: the food