Skip to main content Text Only version of this page
Where I Live
A-Z Index
 Find Out
 The Team

Contact Us

  Lizo and Laura in Africa
Updated 01 February 2003, 12.13

Lizo and Laura came into our webchat studio talk about their experiences in Africa.

Find out what it was like being out in Africa, meeting kids from different cultures and all the behind-the-scenes goss.

Hear storyListen to webchat

  • Lizo, what jabs did you have to have before you left?
  • Laura, how would you say life in Africa is different from in the United Kingdom?
  • Laura, how did you feel in Malawi seeing kids who didn't have very much to eat and had a really hard time?
  • Laura, what lessons would you have if you were at school in a poor country such as Kenya or Uganda - how are they different from ones here?
  • Lizo, what was the best part for you of your whole African experience?
  • Lizo, in Timbuktu where do they get their food from in the middle of nowhere?
  • Lizo, what was it like sleeping in a tent in the desert?
  • Laura, did you see any lions?
  • Laura, what was it like being with chimps?
  • Lizo, what animals did you see on your travels?
  • Lizo, how long do you reckon it will be until scientists manage to fully clone a quagga?
  • Laura, did you notice any big problems in Africa with poaching?
  • Lizo, when you were in some of the really poor areas did you find it hard to get hold of food and water?
  • Lizo and Laura, what was the weirdest thing you had to eat?
  • Lizo, how hot did it get?
  • Laura, did anything happen that you didn't expect?
  • Lizo and Laura, what was the most interesting thing you learned?
  • Lizo, why do we not know about Msawawa in the UK and where can we find out more?
  • Lizo, what sort of hobbies do children in South Africa have?
  • Laura, did you have fun and are you just itching to get back or is Africa the sort of place where you want to live forever?

    Alistair, 14, Farnborough
    Lizo, what jabs did you have to have before you left?

    Lizo: Oh gosh, that's an unusual question. What jabs did I have to have? I had to have a rabies jab, I had to have diphtheria, I think, meningitis, I had to make sure my yellow fever was up to date. A couple of others I think as well as making sure that I was taking anti-malaria tablets to try and make sure that I didn't catch malaria out here. So it's lots and lots of injections so my arm was a bit numb for a few days after that but definitely worth it, definitely, definitely worth it.

    Faiza, 15, Surrey
    Laura, how would you say life in Africa is different from in the United Kingdom - what are the biggest differences?

    Laura: The biggest differences I think in the countries I went to - Malawi, Kenya and Uganda - was that a lot of the people there, a lot of the children, were a lot poorer than children in the United Kingdom. A lot of children don't have enough to eat - we did some stories about famine and we did some stories about AIDS - and a lot of the children really don't have enough food to eat on a daily basis - they eat maybe once a day if they're lucky. A lot of them don't have clean drinking water, they certainly don't have taps in their homes like we're used to. A lot of children have to walk several miles to get water. The children there are also very, very lucky if they get the chance to go to school, not everyone can go to school because it's too expensive to buy uniforms and to buy books in a lot of countries - a lot of families can't afford that. So children there were really interested in education, they were excited if they were able to go to school. And so they really enjoyed things like that which a lot of people in our country, I think, take for granted - just having electricity, having food, having running water and having schools to go to.

    Sara, 13, Bedfordshire
    Laura, how did you feel when you were in Malawi seeing kids who didn't have very much to eat and had a really hard time?

    Laura: It was really, really difficult because you arrive in places like that and especially for me, this is my first foreign reporting assignment so I'd never been to places like that before. And you arrive and you know that you're going to be doing stories about famine and about children who don't have enough to eat but it doesn't prepare you for actually meeting them and seeing these people and seeing how they live. And a lot of the children we met there - a lot of families we met there - literally have nothing - they live in little huts in the middle of the countryside, like I said they don't have any electricity, any running water, there are no shops for them to go to buy food, they literally are surviving on tiny, tiny amounts of food, which is often given out by aid organisations and charities. It's very, very difficult, it's very hard and it's very hard seeing that and then coming back to our country, where we have so much food, so much of everything, and thinking that they're still there in their homes trying to get together enough to make a bowl of porridge in some cases, it's very, very hard, nothing can prepare you for actually meeting them. But one thing I would say is that the people we did meet, although they had very, very little compared to what we're used to, they were very, very generous and very kind people. Often we were invited in to have a cup of tea with people and it would be drinking water of theirs and having their last little bit of anything they had, bearing in mind they'd have to walk five or six miles to get more water, so they were very generous people that we met but it was very difficult.

    Justin, 14, Surrey
    Laura, what lessons would you have if you were at school in a poor country such as Kenya or Uganda - what sort of classes are you going to have and how are they different from ones here?

    Laura: Well if you are lucky enough to go to school in Kenya or Uganda and we visited a school in Kenya you have pretty much the same lessons as children here do. There's a big emphasis on learning English - so you would definitely be learning English. You'd definitely be learning maths and you'd be learning your country's language as well - Swahili in most cases in Kenya and Uganda. You'd be doing a bit of science and - what else were they doing? - they weren't doing French or German or European languages but there was certainly an emphasis on science and maths and certainly English skills. The differences between going to school in Kenya, where we visited a school, is that the school buildings, again like a lot of the houses there, are very simple - they're just shacks made out of, often, wood and bricks and mud and they don't have any electricity, so they don't have any computers or anything like that, they don't really have blackboards, so in this particular school we visited in Kenya they had diagrams and words and all sorts of things that we'd expect to be on blackboards actually written on the walls - written on the sort of plaster of the walls. So schools, although we might say they're basic, they're still teaching the children there the same things that children over here learn about.

    Adam: Do they go to school for like the same length of time and five days a week?

    Laura: They do. The Kenyan village we stayed in - we were actually staying with Masai people - and the children there have quite a hard time because they had to get up really early in the morning, when the sun comes up, and they have their traditional Masai duties to do before school - things like herding the goats and milking the cows and things like that. Then they go to school from about 8 o'clock until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. So it's a long day, busy day.

    Jade, 14, Altrincham
    Lizo, what was the best part for you of your whole African experience?

    Lizo: Oh that is such a difficult question because there are so many highlights. I'll mention two or three. It was fantastic going to the desert festival in Mali in the Sahara, simply because it's the kind of thing that you think I'll never see anything like this again. It was about a three hour drive from Timbuktu by jeep over all these sand dunes and you just arrive in what feels like the middle of nowhere - way out in the Sahara - and then about two minutes after we arrived there, there were a few people milling around and then suddenly across the horizon came about a hundred people on camels, nomads, who were travelling to the festival as well. And it was just like something out of a film, you had to just stand there and watch open mouthed. That was an incredible experience seeing all that kind of thing. Also just spending time in countries like Nigeria, just seeing the huge contrast between life there and life in the UK and just being able to share some of that with the people there who were, like Laura saying, they're incredibly warm and friendly and that was another big highlight for me, I really did enjoy that part of it.

    AJ, 9, Oxford
    Lizo, in Timbuktu where do they get their food supplies from if they're in the middle of nowhere?

    Lizo: They carry a lot of food with them and a lot of water and because they're nomads and basically they spend the whole year roaming round the desert, they'll spend a few days in one place and a few days in another, they really take their food with them, whether it's vegetables or animals that they'll slaughter along the way, they're very self sufficient like that. And we ate out in the desert with the nomads and it was an incredible experience.

    Pete, 10, Aberystwyth
    Lizo, what was it like sleeping in a tent in the desert?

    Lizo: It was - what people often don't appreciate about the desert is that it gets very, very hot during the day and at night it gets very, very cold because the sand doesn't hold the heat very well, there's no cloud cover so suddenly as soon as the sun goes down it gets very, very chilly. So we were just sleeping in a sleeping bag on the desert floor, it was cold, it was bumpy, it was definitely not like sleeping in your bed at home but it was a real privilege just to feel you were actually able to sleep out in the desert with this incredible crowd of people - the nomads - that we were with and I'd do it again like a shot.

    Anna, 13, South Shields
    Laura, did you get to see any lions?

    Laura: No we didn't get to see any lions and I was so upset, I was really looking forward to seeing a lion. The closest we came to seeing a lion was when we spent the night in a Masai village in Kenya and we were staying in a little Masai hut and the toilets were outside and none of us thought anything of that, that was fine but then some Masai children told us that we should be careful if we went outside the village to go to the toilet at night because there were lions and there were elephants out there. So although I'd been really looking forward to seeing a lion before I went I was actually quite pleased at that moment that I didn't bump into one in the middle of the night out in the game reserve. But no I didn't see a lion, I didn't see an elephant. We saw hippopotamuses or hippopotami - whatever they're called - from quite a distance away and obviously we played with the chimps which was great but no lions I'm afraid.

    Katie, 10, Stockport
    Laura, I really loved your report about the chimps. What was it like being with them and getting so close and getting to hold them?

    Laura: It was amazing actually, it was a really special experience. It's strange because they're so like children, they're so like little babies, they're just like little hairy babies, they've got such expressive eyes and they really, really love playing. We were very, very lucky to be able to play with them because not everybody gets that chance. And they were very, very special and bearing in mind a lot of the chimps we were playing with had been treated really badly - they'd been abused or their parents had been killed or they'd been in zoos or generally treated very badly - they were extremely nice to us, they weren't that scared of us, they were coming up and hugging us and kissing us and they were so special to play with, it was a real privilege, they really were like little people, quite amazing.

    Laura, 13, Southampton
    Lizo, what animals did you see on your travels?

    Lizo: Well of course I saw some zebras which they're helping to try and breed into the extinct animal the quagga - they were incredible. We get really, really close to them and zebras - of course everyone knows what zebras look like but it's the first time I've actually been within a few metres of one, so that was a very special moment for me. I didn't see any lions, we went looking for some one morning in the Pilanesberg game reserve, just outside Johannesburg in South Africa but unfortunately we didn't see any. We saw elephants, we saw lots of unusual bird life, we saw lots of baboons all over the place in the Pilanesberg game reserve and when we were in Cape Point by Cape Town in South Africa on Monday, we saw lots of deer, all that kind of thing. So yeah lots of exotic stuff. And it's just incredible, the animals that you know really, really well because we've grown up seeing them on nature programmes and hearing stories about them when you actually see them close up it's so different, you just look at a huge elephant and you just appreciate how powerful and wonderful an animal it is. I mean I've been lucky enough to do lots of things with in the past with Newsround Extra last year when we went to Sri Lanka and looking at how elephants are a big part of the culture there and what they're doing. But every time I see an elephant or every time I see a zebra like that you just kind of feel - wow - you're seeing something absolutely incredible even though you feel they're animals that you're incredibly familiar with already.

    Stephanie, 13, Bristol
    Lizo, how long do you reckon it will be until scientists manage to fully clone a quagga?

    Lizo: They're not trying to clone a quagga, what they're trying to do is actually use zebras, which have not that many markings on them as some zebras don't, to actually then selectively breed those so that you eventually get an animal that's identical to quagga and it's not a look-a-like it'll be genetically identical to what quaggas were like because they just happen to be like an off-breed of these zebras that didn't have that many markings on them and they'd lost them completely on their back half. So they think with the selective breeding they're doing at the moment - they've been doing it for about 15 years - they reckon in about another 15 years, so 30 years in total, they will have quaggas back again and that will be amazing actually bringing a species back from extinction. Of course you can't do that with most species that have become extinct because, unlike the quagga, they're not offshoots from animals that still exist. But what they're doing with the quagga they're very, very excited about that. So maybe Newsround will be back in 15 years time to see how they're getting on and if it's all been a big success.

    Katie & Susan, 15, Runcorn
    Laura, did you notice any big problems in Africa with poaching?

    Laura: To be honest no, not at all, not in the areas we were, I know poaching is a problem in a lot of parts of Africa, we didn't purely because we weren't really in any major areas - where we stayed in Kenya we weren't actually in the Masai Mara game park, we were just near there in an area called the Great Rift Valley. So we didn't notice anything ourselves although obviously a lot of the chimps we met on Ngamba Island in Uganda were the victims of poaching because their parents had been poached, a lot of the chimps parents had been taken by poachers for their meat and the baby chimps, you saw me playing with on the report there, were actually the orphans of this trade. But I didn't see any evidence of poaching myself, no, although I do know that it is a big problem on the continent.

    Karl, 12, Woking
    Lizo, when you were in some of the really poor areas did you find it hard to get hold of food and water?

    Lizo: No because obviously when we're planning a trip like this we take food and water with us because we're fitting in so many different stories in that we don't tend to spend a long time in one area - we'll spend a day somewhere and a day somewhere else. But even if you don't have food and water with you the people are so incredibly friendly they're willing to come and share whatever they have. I've travelled all over Africa and people are just so warm and just so generous that it's not a problem but obviously you don't want to take things away from them when you can quite easily bring your own so we'll usually travel with our own supplies for what we need for that kind of thing.

    Karen, 11, Telford
    Lizo and Laura, what was the weirdest thing you had to eat?

    Lizo: It must have been out in the desert in Mali, about three hours from Timbuktu, at the desert festival, it was a kind of stew, it had some kind of animal in it, I never got round to asking what it was because I thought I'd prefer to live in ignorance. It was actually quite tasty, to be perfectly honest, but what it was I still don't know to this day but it's nothing I've tasted before and I doubt I could get in Britain.

    Laura: This isn't going to sound very nice at all but when we stayed in the Masai village in Kenya when visitors come to their village because they don't often see that many people outside their village it's a great honour for the Masai people and so to honour us being there they slaughtered a goat which we insisted they shouldn't do - we said no, no it's fine, it's alright we don't need to eat goat, it's fine we'll just eat whatever else - we'll have potatoes. But they insisted that we had this goat, which they then cooked over the fire and we had to eat and it really did taste a bit funny, to be perfectly honest with you, they had put lots and lots of salt on it, so it tasted a bit better but it was a bit chewy and it wasn't the best food I've ever had to be honest. And also we weren't allowed to have chips with it, they didn't have chips, so it was a bit unfortunate.

    Adam: Laura, were you ever surprised - did something really ordinary and normal that you'd expect to eat in the UK - like cheese and pickle sandwich, things like that - did you every come across anything like that?

    Laura: One thing that turned up on a menu in Malawi - and to be honest in Malawi we were obviously quite lucky to find anything to eat because there's quite severe problems with a food shortage going on there at the moment - but we stay in one place where we had a menu and out of the 30 things on the menu 28 of them were off every single night. But the one thing that was on and which I survived on was chicken in a basket - I haven't had since I was about six. So chicken in a basket with chips was what kept me alive.

    Adam: Laura, in your report about the famine what I noticed was that on one day it was raining really heavily, which you might think is actually a good thing that they got some rain there but could you just explain what that meant?

    Laura: I mean this is one of the things that really confused me actually because not having been to Africa before and knowing that we were going to Malawi which was having severe problems with almost famine I was expecting the whole country to be very dry and very barren, almost like a desert but it wasn't - the area we were in was very, very green, very, very lush, there were things growing in the fields and like you said the first day we were there it absolutely poured with rain. And I couldn't understand this, I couldn't understand why the crops couldn't grow there. And one of the men we were with from Unicef explained to me that the problem they have is one minute it's very, very dry and they have severe drought and all the crops die and then the next minute, in their rainy season which starts about November, they have lots and lots and lots of rain which then drowns anything that might have survived the drought. So they've actually got this really odd problem where one minute they just haven't got enough water and then the next minute they really have got far too much water so nothing can grow at all, it's a really terrible situation. And also when you see the pictures of Malawi, that it is so green and lush, you wonder well why can't they grow anything and it's because of that problem of having one extreme to another but never really a happy compromise between warmth and rain.

    Celina, 13, Neath
    Lizo, how hot did it get when you were filming?

    Lizo: When we were out in Timbuktu it got very hot indeed, it was approaching 40 degrees about midday because the sun is right overhead, it's kind of beating down on you, it's a very hot dry area anyway, so we actually just tried to do our best not to be working between about 11.30 and 1 o'clock because it just got unbearably hot. In a lot of the other places we were at it wasn't quite as bad as that so that was the worst in Timbuktu in Malai during the desert festival and when we were filming about desert encroachment in Timbuktu it was getting up to 40 degrees there. But as I said at night it gets very cold because there's no cloud cover and the sand doesn't hold it very well, so you actually do get these incredible contrasts of one minute you're incredibly hot, 12 hours later you're actually wrapping up in a fleece, in a duvet, just to keep yourself as warm as you can.

    Adam: Lizo, how did you get your equipment around the place - was there a lot of stuff for you to carry Lizo?

    Lizo: Well most of the places we went by jeep, so we had quite a bit of equipment to carry, like I just said when we were going to the desert festival or arrived in Mali. If we were flying from one country to another it would all go by plane and we had about 15 different boxes and then when we got to each country and travelling around we'd get a big jeep, pile everything in the back and then go to wherever we were going but you had to go very carefully and quite slowly sometimes because a lot of roads are very, very bad and obviously camera equipment's quite delicate so you don't want to be racing down roads or bumping around in the back. It's difficult but it's doable and we got around everywhere we needed to and actually nothing broke and we were very lucky like that.

    Jack, 11, Norwich
    Laura, did anything happen that you didn't expect?

    Laura: I didn't expect to be eating goat. I don't really know - I think, to be perfectly honest, because I'd never been to Africa before and everyone's got such ideas about what an amazing place it must be I was actually expecting anything and everything to happen, I had no idea of what to expect so I was just very open to everything. I think the thing that I wasn't expecting really was just how nice everybody was to us, I was expecting some sort of problem with people who were very poor - the people we were covering for our AIDS and famine reports to somehow resent us being there and filming them whilst they were having really bad problems - but they didn't, I think that was the one thing I wasn't expecting but did actually happen - the fact that everybody was so nice to us. There wasn't anything that unexpected like I said apart from the goat but I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome we had everywhere.

    Monica, 10, Isle of Wight
    Lizo and Laura, what was the most interesting thing you learned in the whole time?

    Lizo: I was fascinated by how things were in Timbuktu in that 20, 30 years ago it was a really lush town on the edge of the desert with this big river, the Niger, going through the middle of it and just how quickly that can change - the river's now miles and miles away, the town is just kind of complete dust and desert. But I was just fascinated by how quickly desert encroachment can naturally happen - desert coming in and taking over towns. And also what can be done to try and stop that - about proper planting of trees to try and hold the soil together. So that was two facts - one of how dust encroachment can happen and happen so quickly to a really lush green town and to how people can try and resolve that.

    Laura: One of the things that was most fascinating to me again was going back to the Masai village in Kenya, just learning about the Masai people and how they've preserved their way of life over hundreds and hundreds of years. There are only about 250,000 Masai people who live in Kenya and they live over these vast areas of land in the centre of the country and they lived there for hundreds of years and they don't really take anything from the land - they have the same opinion about land as the aborigines do in Australia - they don't think land belongs to anybody. So they herd their cattle across these vast plains of Kenya and they use the milk from the cattle and they obviously eat the meat from the cattle when they need to eat. But they've lived there for such a long time and haven't really taken anything from the land - they live a very, very sustainable life which has been going on for hundreds of years. And at the moment it's not desperately threatened, they are carrying on their traditions at the moment, although the children we were speaking to were obviously learning how to use the internet as well. But I was very, very interested to find out more about the Masai people. They use every last bit of a cow - it's not the same as when we have steak from a cow and then the rest of the cow goes to waste, they use everything. They use the skin to make blankets or clothes, they use the tails to clean out bottles, they use the blood - they actually drink the blood which is pretty gross. But they use every single bit of the animal, it really is a very sustainable way of life they have.

    Shuti, 9, Oadby
    Lizo, why do we not know about Msawawa in the UK and where can we find out more about him?

    Lizo: Well you can probably find out more about him on our website I'm sure. Different people are known all over the world for different things so over here if you ask people who Will and Gareth are they've got no idea. So the kind of music that people are into here - he's a big star here - doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be a big star elsewhere but I'm sure now people have seen him on Newsround maybe some record company will say yeah let's get him to release something over here, you never know.

    Shannon, 7, Burnley
    Lizo, what sort of hobbies do children in South Africa have?

    Lizo: It's difficult to say because obviously it's a country of great contrasts - lots of children are into lots of different things. Because of the lifestyle of many of the children you meet they're very keen on animals because they're a very important part of their life in some of the countries we visited, where you have to look after your animals, they're a bit more than pets, they're your absolute livelihood. Like in Britain a lot of children we met they're mad about football, they sort of say oh yeah David Beckham, they're absolutely mad, crazy about football and what's happening in the Premiership and they want to know if you go to matches all the time. So all sorts of hobbies, a lot similar to what children in the UK are into.

    Bhavini, 12, Barnet
    Laura, did you have fun and are you just itching to get back or is Africa the sort of place where you want to live forever?

    Laura: Yes, yes, yes. It was so much fun, it was absolutely amazing. We worked hard whilst we were there but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, it really was incredible. Yes I am dying to go back, I can't wait to go and see more of Africa - I've only done three countries so far and I haven't even done those properly - so I'd love to go back to all the places we've been already and to go and see the rest of it. It was an amazing experience. It was great fun. And yes I'd love to go back.

  • More InfoBORDER=0
    PicturesOn location with Laura
    PicturesBehind the scenes with Lizo



    E-mail this page to a friend

    Full Chat Section
    Also in Hotseat now:
    In the Hotseat: Laura
    Astronaut Michael Foale in the hotseat!
    Interactive bullying special
    Full Extras section
    Our webchat with Rings actor Andy Serkis Gollum answers YOUR questions
    Today's quickfire quiz How well do you know today's news?
    Harry Potter Your guide to Harry Potter
    © BBC Back to top^^
    Homepage | UK | World | Sport | Music | TV/Film | Animals | Sci/Tech | Weather
    Pictures | Find Out | The Team | Games | Chat | Vote | Win | Quiz | Club