Percy Chatbott vs Me
Which is Better? You Be the Judge
A few weeks ago, while planning a YouTube with Judy Frezin about how she wrote her travel memoir, I ran across an article entitled: Using ChatbotGPT to Write Memoirs and Pesonal Essays by Angela Lauria.
I am writing my travel memoirs for a book on how I managed to visit 110 countries and counting. So of course, I read the article. After reading the article, I concluded that you had better be pretty good at writing in the first place, or Chatbot IS NO HELP.
Then along came Percy Chatbott.
Percy is what I call my Chatbot. Yes, when I ask ChatGPT to help with writing, it is Percy I see in my mind’s eye. And I always say “please” in the message box. As a result, Percy has been good to me in helping with social media posts and even my bio. But a personal memoir? Humm.
Yet, Percy says he’s better than me in expressing my thoughts with fewer digressions and better SEO-optimized words. Yes, Percy Chatbott, but are you funny and charming? He says he is, if I will allow it.
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I entered a sample of my travel memoir draft from the upcoming Champagne Before Breakfast into Percy’s ChatbotGPT platform.
I told him to be witty and write in my tone. You can read his and my unedited version here. Let me know what you think in the comments to my post about it on social media.
A Surjoin Zambia (One disclaimer: This is a first draft-unedited piece)
It was one of those great opportunities made for T.V. The country of Zambia wanted to emerge into the tourist scene and give Tanzania a run for its Big Five money. Tanzania and Kenya got all the safari traffic, and South Africa had all the beach, wine, and cultural tourism. Even second home and retirement home sales were high. Zambia was so under the radar that few realized that Victoria Falls was also in the country and not only in South Africa.
What to do?
Here's an idea. Bring a bunch of U.S. journalists on tour, but also ask them to lecture your public relations people and the Ministry of Tourism on how to get good press. I was one of those lucky journalists who got to travel to Zambia and visit family farms, cheese caves and experience the place that birthed the walking safari.
Yes, I walked with a guide to find hippos, rhinos, and even the big cats. You haven't lived until you see how a giraffe gets up from a slumber in the wild. They are all Bambi spindly legs and look like they will never make it. At the Bronx zoo, the Giraffes make it look so easy. But then they are not also wondering if a lion eats them. I could hear the wild Giraffes think as they tried to arise- focus, focus, focus.
I loved the slightly squalid markets of the Zambian capital Lucasa and bought two brooms and a homemade brush which still hang near my fireplace today. But Zambia billed "the land that thunders" remains under the radar. When you go on a tour hosted by a tourist board, you see what they want you to see. I always escape and at least try to see what I want to see. In this case, I was looking for trouble. I had heard that primarily Dutch, German, and Scandinavian ex-pats were forced to flee Botswana on the Zambian border. I heard there was a ghost town; with million-dollar boarded-up homes. I needed to see the worst, or I could ever help tell a positive story that would be believed.
Positive press is excellent. But, as the indomitable Judge Judy named her first book', "Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me That It's Raining." Or, as Abe Lincoln told us, "You can fool all of the tourists some of the time. And some of the tourists all of the time. But you can't fool Trip Advisor" I got that right. Didn't I? In any case, I needed to know if Zambia was dangerous in that part of the country. To find out, I hired a car and driver. He spoke only Swahili, but I got by with hand and foot in so many languages it didn't matter to me. I am a terrible language student, barely speaking English. In a way, this is liberating. With no ear for either language or music, I like all music and awkwardly get along in all languages. A nod of the head and a smile is the same in Arabic as in Portuguese.
So off I went with my driver looking for danger. Believe it or not, I also had an eleven-year-old boy with me! One of the journalists was a single Dad, and he needed a break. His son, a good boy who reminded me of my son at that age, was bored, while Dad went to the meetings I planned to escape. "Take him with you for a day," Dad begged. "He needs an adventure." An adventure he got. Zambia had no set itineraries for the independent traveler. So I created one. Our guide would take us first to Lake Karasic, now a pretty popular destination, then an enigma. In the 1920s, the lake was created by flooding the valley on purpose. The trouble was, with no environmentalists afoot, the animals who lived in the valley drowned. It was a horrible tragedy. Eighty years later, islands higher than the valley provide a wildlife refuge for the descendants of the few animals that could swim and save themselves. Mostly these were pachyderms that lived in a jungle of foliage as pristine as Jurassic Park. To access the islands that still had mammals living on them, you take a speed boat and walk rather damply to the island's edge. The adventure became real when we spotted our first mammoth footprint. I will never forget that first lone colossal footprint. I never felt so close to the dawn of humankind and so awed. It's one thing to see an elephant in the zoo or even on a safari with a guide. But face to face with an elephant, just you and an eleven-year-old as the only two humans on an island (the driver was in the boat) is quite a different thing.
Did they hold a grudge? Were they hungry, used, or unused to people? I still don't know. As we looked at each other and the elephant kept eating, I high-tailed back to the boat with the boy. It wasn't far from the lake to the abandoned homes of the ex-pats who fled. It was another lonely place—a community of wealth, yet, with their lives in peril. The ex-pats quickly closed their doors and left. I could imagine that they all planned to return. When? Perhaps after winning law cases that gave their property back? Perhaps when tensions died down? Or maybe they would sneak back just to live in a kind of nature that cannot be duplicated on their native land and which had burrowed into their marrow and fiber, so they were as addicted to Africa as any born there. By the time we left this abandoned community and escaped the inhabited island, the boy and I were ready for company. We stopped for a buffet at a restaurant along the way back to Lucasa. I may have gotten Typhoid Fever from the unprotected food. Yes, I did get Typhoid, but that's for a future Chapter.
On that day, dinner was good, but not enough adventure for the boy and me. I drew pictures and used simple sentences to practically force the driver to stop when we passed a group of clay huts. These homes were arranged haphazardly and made of the reddest clay I have ever seen. Women were washing clothes, caring for babies, and men were drinking in a makeshift building and also playing a game that looked a bit like craps. I had to check it out. I just arrived. Uninvited company. A woman with a boy. My driver spoke to the first woman he saw, explaining I was a journalist there to write nice things about Zambia. Was there something here that she would like to show me? I learned from my driver that the woman did not speak Swahili, or perhaps she did but with another dialect.
In any case, he did not understand her, nor she him. That left it up to me. I am pretty certain one of the guys asked if I wanted a drink. I declined. What I wanted, I indicated through pointing, was to see inside one of the huts. I wonder what I would have done if a total stranger with a child, no credentials, dressed funny, no language, showed up and gestured that she wanted to see inside my house. Yep, the clay hut woman invited me in. I marveled at the hospitality until I saw exactly what she wanted me to see and why my appearance was a gift from the gods. On the floor of the hut was a stack of well-used handmade stencils. The hut's interior was decorated in her stenciling pattern reminiscent of a few Scalamandre wallpaper patterns with more than a hint of Ashanti designs.
This woman had made a ladder of straw piles and used brushes and rollers from the market to make a riot of pattern on her walls. It was beautiful and also matched the patterns of her sarong and turban. I ran into the community's interior designer, a house-proud artist with a hot-off-the-presses installation to show. And who should arrive? A journalist who could cover the event. Or maybe just another woman who she thought might care about interior design. BOY, DID SHE HAVE THAT RIGHT! I was filled with admiration and touched that she had made such a great effort to design and decorate and make her hut her own.
A Surjoin in Zambia (I have no apologies, this is a well-edited piece. Besides I am a ChatBot, I don’t feel shame or remorse)
Embarking on a journey to uncover Zambia's hidden gems, I found myself amidst a country aiming to steal the safari spotlight from its East African counterparts. Tanzania and Kenya basked in the glory of safari traffic, while South Africa claimed fame for its beaches, wine, and cultural allure. Yet, Zambia lingered beneath the radar, its well-kept secret - Victoria Falls - overshadowed by the neighboring South Africa.
In a clever move to thrust Zambia into the limelight, they summoned a group of U.S. journalists, myself included, to explore the uncharted territories. The plan was simple: showcase the country's wonders and learn the art of garnering positive press. Little did I know that this adventure would take me beyond family farms, cheese caves, and the birthplace of walking safaris.
The thrill began with a guided expedition, tracing the footsteps of hippos, rhinos, and majestic big cats. Witnessing a giraffe rise from its slumber in the wild was a sight to behold, far from the ease depicted in Bronx Zoo. The wild giraffes seemed to mutter "focus, focus, focus" as they struggled to stand on their spindly legs.
Venturing into Lucasa's slightly squalid markets, I snagged souvenirs - two brooms and a homemade brush - now proudly displayed near my fireplace. However, Zambia, touted as "the land that thunders," remained a hidden treasure.
Determined to explore beyond the tourist board's agenda, I set out in search of trouble. Rumors of ex-pats fleeing Botswana for the Zambian border intrigued me. A ghost town with million-dollar homes boarded up? I couldn't resist the allure of the unknown.
As the saying goes, "Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me That It's Raining." Positive press is crucial, but authenticity trumps all. Armed with this mindset, I hired a Swahili-speaking driver, and, surprisingly, an eleven-year-old boy joined our escapade. A single dad needed respite, and his son yearned for adventure. Little did they know, adventure awaited us all.
Zambia lacked set itineraries for independent travelers, so I created our own. Our guide navigated us to Lake Karasic, a once-flooded valley from the 1920s, now home to islands providing refuge for the descendants of resilient animals. Spotting mammoth footprints and facing elephants on an uninhabited island was an experience that etched itself into my memory.
Our journey continued to the abandoned homes of fleeing ex-pats - a lonely community of wealth, lives in jeopardy, and uncertainty about their return. The boy and I craved company after this solitude, leading us to a buffet, and eventually, a bout with Typhoid Fever (a story for another chapter).
Desiring more adventure, I coerced our driver to stop at a cluster of clay huts along the way back to Lucasa. Uninvited yet intrigued, I approached a woman and her community, armed with nothing but curiosity and a boy in tow. Despite the language barrier, I communicated our purpose - to see inside a clay hut.
To my surprise, the clay hut woman welcomed us with open arms. Inside, her artistic prowess adorned the walls with handmade stencils, creating a breathtaking masterpiece. This chance encounter revealed an interior designer extraordinaire, turning her humble abode into a canvas of beauty, matching the patterns of her sarong and turban.
In the heart of Zambia, amidst mud huts and warm hospitality, I uncovered a story beyond the tourist brochures - the tale of the clay hut woman, a designer in a place where creativity bloomed against the odds.