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With my time in Zambia over, I headed off to France.

Of course this is much easier to say than to do. My first flight was just after 1 PM, so the cab picked me up at 11 (the Livingstone Airport is quite tiny so this was more than enough time).

After a short flight to Johannesburg, I had about a 7 hour layover. Even with lounge access this is a long time, but with a guitar in tow it would have been difficult to head into the city, plus the airport is not really close to much of anything. So, after 5 weeks of bad nails, well maybe 4, I opted for a manicure and pedicure to pass at least part of the time. Then I headed to the lounge.

My next flight was on EgyptAir to Cairo, not too surprisingly, but somewhat disappointing none the less with two long flights and a layover with them, they are a dry airline. Less comforting was that the plane from JoBurg to Cairo looked like it was about to fall apart, at least the interior was. And the guide for using the video system was anything but user friendly. It just listed the movies in order without a channel number, and you had to count from the top down to figure out which one was where. The system was supposed to have touch screen navigation, but that didn’t really work either. Thankfully, I slept most of the flight.

I then had 5 hours in Cairo, which gave me time to get some breakfast and freshen up a bit as well as get caught up on some personal work. Then I was finally of to Paris. I wish that this plane was what we had on the longer flight, as it was much newer and had much nicer seats.

Finally, I was in the country of my destination, but I still had a long way to go. And upon gathering my luggage and heading off towards the train, I realized that one of the wheels had broken on my bag. Of course I realized this after leaving the baggage area so I couldn’t easily make a claim, I know wheels aren’t generally covered, but the bag was cracked as well, so I will still to try to do this. Note: this makes the score suitcases 2, me 0 for this trip.

This time, I had about 3 hours until my train to Narbonne. But at least I was getting to the last leg of my trip. Finally I was on the TGV, and just had to stay awake to not miss my stop. The rest was easy. My arranged cab driver was there waiting with a sign, and got me safely to the chateau, where I met up with Ihla, owner of Drifter Sister and she got me settled in the little house right next to the castle where I would be staying for the next 6 nights.

And after 37 hours of travel, yes 37, and I didn’t even change a single time zone, I was ready to settle in after essentially losing a day and then some.

But, of course it was around midnight, so I had to be up pretty early again if I didn’t want to miss the outing to Collioure the next day, and I really didn’t want to miss it as it was one of my favorite day trips when I stayed in the castle with one of Ihla’s trips 3 years ago.

Needless to say, I made it, but I will leave the story of that trip for another post.


It may already be three weeks since I left Zambia, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about Livingstone and the people there almost every day. It was an amazing experience and I hope to be able to do something similar again.

So for this last post on my experiences there, I want to share a bit of what life was like on a daily basis and then talk about how that life led to making very dear friends veery quickly.

As I think I have mentioned, during the time I was in Livingstone I was staying in volunteer house with as many as 40 volunteers. While originally I had hoped to be able to stay with a local family during my time there, I quickly realized that being with other volunteers was also quite valuable.

The location, was the Sunbird Guest House ( used by Dream Livingstone Zambia (, the local volunteer organization that handled our placements and the day to day things that needed to be done in Zambia, to house volunteers. IVHQ ( handled everything prior to my getting to Zambia and does so for projects in many countries.




Life there could be chaotic at times with 40 people, but there some good places to hang out and chill.


That said, life there was not easy, but you got used to things like the following:

  • doing your laundry in a bathtub
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  • sleeping under a net in the top bunk
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  • sharing a tiny fridge and a not very large closet with 2-3 other people
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  • a pretty tiny bathroom – the almost always cold shower wasn’t that bad given how hot it was there
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  • a dining room that was so crowded that it was a constant challenge to get to and from the tables
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  • washing dishes with a sponge that had seen better days a long time ago</li



  • learning to enjoy instant coffee
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    Yes, it was hard at times. But in comparison to the kids we were working with, it pales dramatically.

    And, if it weren’t hard, the friendships that were made in only a few short days probably would not have happened. I can’t list everyone here who I hope to stay in contest with because if I try to, I know I will miss someone and that would be awful. Thanks to things like Facebook, and other communication options, it is possible to stay in touch.

    And hopefully, as some of us continue to travel, we will have chances to see each other again. Just writing this is making me cry, knowing how much I miss each and every one of you who I spent time with

  • playing cards
  • watching sunsets
  • walking to and from school
  • splurging on expensive dinners
  • going on safari
  • hanging out on the swing
  • stargazing during the power outages
  • whitewater rafting
  • hiking around Victoria Falls
  • singing along with guitars and other instruments
  • exploring the markets
  • discovering village life
  • And doing other things that I am sure I am forgetting.

    Peace, and a hope that we will meet again someday.

    As I get close to writing my last post about my time in Zambia, and move on to posts about France, I wanted to share something that often crossed my mind while I was out walking around Livingstone. Everyday, I would see many signs, that were quite varied in content and in structure.

    With all of these I couldn’t help but be reminded of the song “Signs” released in 1970 by the Canadian group Five Man Electrical Band ( ).

    And the sign says, “Long-haired freaky people need not apply.”
    So I tucked all my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why.
    He said “You look like a fine, upstanding young man – I think you’ll do.”
    So I took off my hat and said, “Imagine that! Huh… me, working for you!” Woah-oh-oh.

    Signs, Signs, Everywhere there’s signs.
    Blocking out the scenery. Breaking my mind.
    Do this! Don’t do that! Can’t you read the signs?

    And the sign says, “Anybody caught trespassing will be shot on sight”
    So I jumped on fence and I yelled at the house,
    “Hey! What gives you the right… To put up a fence to keep me out,
    “Or to keep Mother Nature in?
    “If God was here, He’d tell it to your face. ‘Man, you’re some kind of sinner.'”

    Signs, Signs, Everywhere there’s signs.
    Blocking out the scenery. Breaking my mind.
    Do this! Don’t do that! Can’t you read the signs?

    “Oh, say now mister, can’t you read?
    “You got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat.
    “You can’t even watch, no, you can’t eat. You ain’t supposed to be here!”
    And the sign says, “You gotta have a membership card to get inside.” Hooh!

    And the sign says “Everybody’s welcome to come in and kneel down and pray.”
    But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all,
    I didn’t have a penny to pay.
    So I got me a pen and paper and I made up my own little sign.
    I said, “Thank you Lord for thinking about me. I’m alive and doing fine.”

    Chorus x2:
    Signs, Signs, Everywhere there’s signs.
    Blocking out the scenery. Breaking my mind.
    Do this! Don’t do that! Can’t you read the signs?

    Signs, Signs, Everywhere there’s signs.

    It would take way too long to say something about each of these signs, so instead I’m just going to let you view them and have your own thoughts. Maybe when I get home and have access to the full web site for my blog I will change this to a carousel.
















































    And if you are unfamiliar with this song, here’s a link to a revival recording ( as well as an older, possibly the original, one (

    For my last weekend in Africa, I decided to return to Chobe once again. I realize that it had only been a month since I was there, but I don’t know when I will be back in Africa and wanted to take in the wildlife one last time.

    This time, the group from the volume house that was going was smaller, there were only four of us, so we had tons of room in the van on the way to the border.

    Upon meeting our guide, we had our quick coffee and pastry and the set out on the boat cruise. For this part of the trip we were not joined by any other folks and we also were tolls tent only 2 others would be joining us for the game drives and camping.

    It was quite interesting how much the river had changed in only 3 weeks. We saw a lot less crocodiles, and the hippos were more active. Some of my favorites from this part of the journey are:

  • seeing a fish eagle with a fish in tow
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  • spotting a crocodile with a wide open mouth
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  • and a hippo fight – I can’t include the movie but these are shots before hand
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    We also saw another elephant crossing and and ensuing mud slinging, maybe rye next time you tire of political adds you can remember this picture and smile for a least a short time.



    And, I saw a few new birds including:

  • the black backed night heron
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  • the goliath heron
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    And I got a couple of good pictures of some old favorites.



    When we returned to the hotel for lunch, we met the two folks who would be joining us for the rest of our trip. In my opinion, we really lucked out, it was a woman who originally came to Africa as a volunteer years ago who was taking a young girl who was essentially her unofficially adopted granddaughter. So it was great to be joined by folks with similar mind sets as ours.

    Before we reached the park gates we were treated to a great treat of seeing wild (also known as painted) dogs.



    We then began what turned into a tour of babies (and a few other things) with an elephant nursing and a baby hippo.



    It seems not matter how many elephants I see, I can’t stop taking photos of them. Not sure what it is, but the results are often pretty cool.



    The giraffes also work their magic on me fairly often.




    Near the end of the day we finally spotted some lions, they were pretty far off, but we could see them, especially with our binoculars.


    A little later we saw one a bit closer, but that was to turn out to be it for the weekend, despite searching (too much in some of our minds) a lot the next day. We did hear them from camp that night, but didn’t see them again.


    But before heading to camp, we saw a few zebras and had some amazing views of the sunset.




    At camp, we once again had great food and an awesome fire. In addition, we had a full moon that night to enjoy.



    Amazingly, it was quite a bit warmer than three weeks earlier, which meant I slept a lot better and was thus ready to go looking, unsuccessfully as noted above, for lions early in the morning.

    Despite searching so much, we did get a few other treats, including an amazing sunrise to go with the sunset from the night before.




    I was the first to spot both a black backed jackal and a new bird, the southern carmine bee-eater, which was migrating through at this time.



    And we got a very special treat of seeing a baby giraffe among other giraffe phot ops.



    Plus a few more zebras and another super cute baby elephant.




    We also witnessed a very unhappy elephant, the videos of whom I can’t include here, but suffice it to say, there was quite a bit of trumpeting going on.

    Finally, we were treated to one last view of a large group of elephants, yes including a baby, near the river giving us some great photos with reflections in the pools along the banks.


    One very special afternoon during my stay in Zambia was spent visiting two local villages. And the best part about it was that instead of doing it as a tour such as, we worked with a local from one of the villages whom we met at his stall in the Mukuni market in Livingstone (

    So, that day, after we were done with our volunteer work, we headed to the market to meet up with Oliver who would both arrange a ride for us to the villages and come with us to guide us and introduce us to people there.

    And the adventure started with the ride, we somehow fit 9 people in a taxi made for 6, and headed out of town. Of course, since we we over the passenger limit we needed to take a detour almost immediately to avoid a traffic inspection point. This involved driving down some very sandy roads which would have been much better handled by a safari jeep, of course that would have cost us a lot more.

    Once we were back on the main road it didn’t take us long to reach the turn off for the village, ands although we were now close to our destination, the rest of the way was more sandy roads so the small distance left took more time that we had already travelled. And the overloaded car struggled a bit as well, with the bumper coming off a few times. Of course, the driver only saw this as a small problem.


    Before reaching the first village, we stopped at the dry river bed, a sign of just how bad the water situation is these days in the area.


    I that same area, land was being actively burned in order to make it easier for the villagers to hunt. I really want to do more research into this technique to see if there is some upside to this that they are reaping without knowing about it, such as aiding in the germination of certain seeds in the same way that certain pine seeds are only propagated after a forest fire causing the need for controlled burns or the way prairies need to burn on a regular basis to stay healthy, again calling for assistance now that many natural sources of such fires have been removed.


    Upon reaching the village we were quite surprised to find that they had prepared lunch for us, I can’t even try to tell you how amazing this is, since they have so little and yet they were so open to sharing what they have. In addition, the food pretty much worked a miracle, my stomach had been off all morning and I hadn’t been able to eat much, but this food, super natural, was a quick cure, and I was able to eat everything that they offered. It was quite a welcome change from all of the highly processed, preservative ladder foods I had been eating for the past weeks.




    After the meal, we were presented with an interactive demo of how they make the products that they eat. Starting with cord, they shuck it, then grind it multiple times, removing the husks at each step, to yield various products that can be cooked in different ways. The two main items that are produced from the corn are nshima (, pronounced shee-mah which is formed into a cake like dish which is in a way similar to polenta and another where the grains remain more recognizable.





    Generally, in Africa, maize is used as a fairly nutritious staple (

    In addition, we got to just observer village life and meet a few very new villagers, yes those two girls are twins!




    After this, we walked to another area of the village, which gave us a sense of just how remote we were, and also showed us more how friendly these people are.



    And how self-sufficient they are.


    After this, we headed to another, large village where we meet more friendly people going about their daily tasks.



    Of course, it was a lot easier to meet folks when most of them are related to your guide. If I remember correctly, Oliver had 24 brothers and sisters, some of whom he didn’t know since they were children of one of his father’s other two wives rather than his mom’s.

    Finally, it was time to leave, and we had a great parting sunset as we made it back out to the main road.


    The same weekend that I went to the church service, a few of us headed to a local dance presentation on Saturday. We had heard about it from other volunteers and wanted to check it out to both get more of a feeling of the local culture and to do something that wasn’t very expensive.

    We headed there a bit early, since we had heard that there was a market next to it that was only open before the show. As it was a very small market, we had quite some time to kill before the presentation actually started.

    But first, we needed to get our tickets. This was a bit of a challenge, because we had also heard, that as volunteers, we could get in for half price. Of course the woman selling the tickets didn’t want to honor this at first, but we eventually convinced her to give us the reduced rate.

    Even after that, we had some time to wait, and we did so as the only people in the theatre.


    Even as the performers were warming up, nobody else was coming in, making us wonder if we were going to have a private show.

    Eventually, a few other folks wandered in, and interestingly, continued to wander in throughout most of the show.

    Since I don’t know the significance of any of the dances, I am just including some of the best pictures below.








    I wish I could add commentary as to the meaning of each of the dances we saw, but nothing like that was provided. I did find this link ( but I am not sure if any of what is described matches what we saw.

    However, I do want to share one particular story. Shortly after this dancer picked up the pot in his teeth as shown below, he lay down on the stage and put the pot on his stomach. Then another dancer took a very large pole and slammed it into the pot. Later, during our village tour we would see that this was a step in converting corn into nshima.


    The next part though is the most interesting as the other dancers came into the audience to get “volunteers” to perform the same act. And somehow, probably since I was wearing my chetenga, I was selected. I tried to get out of it, but my “friends” wouldn’t let me and I wound up on stage hammering this large pole into the pot. I tried to be gentle as it was a very strange feeling.

    I don’t have any photos of me in action for this as one of the folks I was with filmed the event on my camera as a video, and I can’t add that to this blog. But I do have this one taken as I was heading towards the stage.


    Also of interest, was a small girl who was doing her best to imitate the dancers. I am sure I couldn’t do it as well as her, as the isolations that they do in this style of dance are remarkable. I have no idea how they can shake their butts like that without moving anything else. I guess, if you learn it as a kid, you just know how to do it.

    Previously I wrote about how I walked just about everywhere in Zambia, including to and from the school where I was working. But I didn’t include the photos of that route, so this post will give you an idea of what that daily walk was like.

    Since school started at 8:30, and the walk could take up to an hour, this meant that it was necessary to be out the door around 7:30. The good part about that was that it was still fairly cool as the sun was just starting to heat things up for the day.



    The first part of the journey was down this sandy side road, until reaching the corner where this partially completed house was a guide guidepost for finding the turn back later in the day.



    Upon turning onto the main road, the surface changed dramatically, as did the traffic, as large trucks would come whizzing past often. Thankfully, normally we walked on the other side of the drainage ditch, only vying for space with the trucks when we wanted to hail a taxi.


    And, for the trip to school, we were only on this road for about 10 minutes (when going to town we stayed on it all the way there). The next step was to take a right, and cross the road (nowhere near as daunting as in India) at the aforementioned water tank.


    We then were on a quieter road, though it did have its traffic, including folks who liked to go very fast, thus getting slowed down on various speed bumps along the way. And our next right turn could easily be identified by the car wash on the corner.


    After this, we had another decent walk before coming to our next right turn at a corner that for some reason that we never discovered, could be flooded by running water despite it being dry season. Of course, both of these last two roads, not being main roads, were not quite as well paved as this shot close to that sometimes water turn shows.


    We then had a short jog before a left turn that was just before the sign above the road that sent folks on their way as they headed to the airport hopefully after a wonderful stay.


    At this point, we had another good walk before getting to the final stages of the trip. And this turn was marked with a sign for Gloria’s Bed and Breakfast, easy to remember things that have the same name as a friend.


    Although, by turning right again, we headed on the opposite direction. And here things changed again as there as a little bridge that went over a swampy area where by then end of my stay had me being accompanied by a chorus of frogs. They were singing so much, they almost sounded like woodpeckers sometimes.



    At this point, we just had to head past the barbershop to our next right which was onto the road where the school was located.




    So, while maybe not as memorable as “turning left at oblivion and right at the cow” in India, but noting the route markers during the walk to the school on first day proved to be helpful in the coming weeks.

    It seems that no matter where one goes I the world, shopping is part of any trip. And despite having very full bags, there was no exception to that rule in Zambia. I had to be good, and severely limit my purchases, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t look around and experience the various offerings.

    The first market that one finds in Livingstone is the Mukuni market. It is where the folks from the surrounding villages sell there artistic goods.


    With 50 individual stalls, there are many opportunities to buy, as well as many vendors vying for your attention to purchase their goods over somebody else’s. However, when you need change and they don’t have it, there always seems of be a sister or an aunt nearby that can help. Sometimes they have change, but other times they try to get you to take more things home with you instead of providing the money.

    Not too far away from Mukuni is a more local market with things folks need on a daily basis, as well as many shops with backpacks and purses, and some with hardware items. I didn’t shop there often, but it was always interesting to wander through that street to get a feel for the local vibe.



    For anything that I wanted to buy to supplement the food provide at the volunteer house, I would generally go to ShopRite. There were two of them, and the one that we frequented was quite new and very large with a fantastic selection.

    Other than these places, on two occasions a group of us set on to find a specific vendor or market.

    The first of these forays was to find the friend of one of the workers in the house who made some quite nice beaded jewelry and a few other similar things. Getting there was a challenge given that the hand drawn map we were following wasn’t quite to scale.


    But the walk was interesting, allowing us to see a new area of the town, and thus giving us more of a feel of local life. This was especially so since here we saw many less taxis as just about everyone was walking to get where they needed to be.

    In the end we found it and bought many of the things he had. By the time we finished making our purchases, we were surrounded by 10-15 kids bouncing on tires with excitement of seeing 3 mzungus in their neighborhood.



    He also sold his paintings, but given the lack of wall space that I have back home, I avoided buying these there or at any of the other markets.

    The other spot that we visited was another local market, Maramba.



    Similar to the local market I mentioned earlier, this market had many things folks would need on a daily basis.



    In addition, and the main reason we went there, they sell chitenge ( very cheap there. For example, the cheapest ones are 7-8 kwacha there and 30 or more pat Mukuni, depending on your bargaining skills.


    Since I don’t plan on wearing these back home as designed, the less expensive, synthetic, ones will be turned into other clothing items and the more expensive, silkier ones will be used as scarves.

    In the end, I don’t think I bought too much, for a change, and was able to get everything into my bags for the trip onward.

    So far, I have written about some specific incidents and adventures since I have been in my sabbatical trip. So now I want to spend some time just describing life in Zambia.

    First off, everyone is very friendly. Sometimes it can even be overwhelming how friendly folks are. Every day when we walk around (more on that later) we are greeted by and/or greet everyone we pass. It often goes something like this:

    “Hi. How are you?”
    “Fine, and you?”
    “Have a good day.”
    “You too.”

    Note, in the above, fine is actually good, as is OK. So it will be strange being back home where those are usually reserved for when things aren’t so good.

    Now, if there are children involved, high-fives are generally added to the routine. And this starts just down the street form us where the kids live there never seem to tire of them, even if we pass by 3 or 4 times in a day. As they spot us, they start jumping up and down, saying “high-five, high-five”, of course we oblige having them run out to the road and gather around us as we spread our high-fives around as evenly as possible.

    The picture below is of the family after we also gave them some toys one day as we passed. That is followed by a shot a week or so later of one of the girls doing a great job with the jump rope that was part of what we distributed.



    You will probably notice in the picture that that road is pretty sandy. This is the case just about everywhere. Even the main roads have sandy shoulders, so every day my feet are a few shades darker between the time I get home and when I can wash them.

    Given that I was in this neck of the woods last year, and it was sandy everywhere, I am not sure why I was surprised to find the same thing in Zambia (a.k.a. Sandbia – name thanks to Jeff, another volunteer who was here).

    Every day when I get home, I have to dump the sand out of my shoes into the trash. And most of my socks have met with the dustbin since there are holes in the toes. Of course, the white ones are also now a shade of brown, even after washing. The first picture below is before washing and the second is after, my guess is that you really won’t notice the difference.



    So back to that walking thing. People here walk just about everywhere. Yes, there are taxis for longer trips, but by that I mean really longer. For example, the school where I am working is about 5 minutes away by taxi (I know because we took one on we when had a lot of things to bring as donations, including 3 globes). Yet normally we walk and that takes us 50-60 minutes each way. The way there is quite nice as it hasn’t gotten hot yet, and it is mostly down hill. The way home, on the other hand, slopes gently upwards most of the way, and as we are walking between 12:30 and 1:30 it is quite warm.

    And the walking is quite nice, especially combined with the friendliness. You just don’t see that back home since folks just drive everywhere and don’t have the chance to greet others on a daily basis.

    In addition to walking to and from the school everyday, I tend to walk to and from town at least a couple of times a week. And that is also about a 45 minute walk, each way. As you can see from the link below, the town itself is not that big, so once there, I often find that I am walking all the way through town to the ShopRite to buy some groceries. Food is included here, but sometimes you find that you are longing for something from home, for instance the kumquats that I found the other day.

    And there is the ever present water tower to find as a landmark close to home if you should ever feel the slight bit lost.


    But the best part of walking through town for groceries is stopping for gelato along the way. After burning off so many calories walking, it seems rightfully fair to indulge. And on top of that, the small serving is just a perfect small treat with two flavors. And very good flavors they are, and super fresh – a most amazing find so far from Italy.


    There is much more to tell, but I will save that for later when I share more details about life in the volunteer house as well as what it has been like to teach English here. So I will leave you with a parting shot of one of the sand roads near the volunteer house.



    Since I kept past weekend as a low key one, mostly hanging around the volunteer house, it made sense to check out a local church on Sunday morning. Having gotten a recommendation from one of the folks running the program here, one of the other volunteers and I headed off to what was supposed to be a 3 hour service (8:30 – 11:30). At the exit of our property, we met up with a local who we had connected with the week before in a walk into town and headed to Calvary Pentecostal Church (


    Due to a bit of slow walking we got there closer to 8:40. And due to a schedule change, that was about 40 minutes after the service had been scheduled to begin. We don’t know when it actually began since things here tend to start a bit later than advertised.

    Given this, the singing was already moving full steam ahead, with a choir backing a leader and just about everyone in the congregation on their feet singing along if they knew the words. So we found some spots and joined in, clapping, raising our hands, and even singing when we were able to figure out the words after a few choruses.


    All of this of course was accompanied by a small band.


    Around 9:15, it was time for the preacher to take over and give his first message but as he stared, he wasn’t getting quite the response he wanted, so he turned things back over to the choir for one more song before delivering his message.

    After reading the scripture (Luke 9:57-62) which was translated as he read into Nyanja, he spoke about the importance of prayer, tying the message into another change they were making in their service to have a prayer meeting during the 7-8 hour every Sunday before the 8-9 worship portion of the service.

    After speaking for quite some time, if I recall right it was about 45 minutes, he transitioned into leading us into a call and response prayer. This was followed by another round of music and then a second message.

    During the second message, I don’t recall the scripture on which it was based, he relayed a great story about an older man named Charlie, who as a birthday present was given the gift of his first airplane flight. And how after the flight, when replying to a question of whether or not he had been afraid, Charlie simply stated that he had never out all of his weight on the seat. The preacher used this as an illustration of how people often don’t put all of their trust in God.

    As the time reached past 11 during this second message, and it was getting quite warm in the building, he asked if folks were hot, and promised to stop speaking after one more point. After probably another 15 minutes or so, he finally turned things over to announcements.

    While most of the announcements were not that applicable to visitors, one that was quite sweet was the recognition of the birthday of the woman who tracks everyone else’s birthdays by calling her forward and presenting her with a cake.

    Of course this was followed by more singing before we headed home pretty close to noon, if I recall correctly.

    All in all, it was a great experience. However, I do appreciate the shorter services we have at home. That said, a few days after this, we were talking to one of the staff members where we are staying, and he said that his Sunday service is 8 hours long. They have the same singing and preaching, and then they pray for every member of the congregation. Compared to that, 3 seems quite short.

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