Monday, November 30, 2009

Village entertainment

Someone said once that living over here would give us a taste of what it is like to live with racism regularly. I thought about it but after contemplation I have to say that living here under constant scrutiny is more like being a celebrity.

Granted it’s celebrity without any other perks like access to plush spas and first class treatment but celebrity status nonetheless. On a recent family trip to a lakeside town, this was again brought to the forefront of my mind. Tom loves playing around with his GPS so, along with Jasmine, he searched Google Earth to find a potentially ‘undiscovered’ beach where we could camp. We found the little track leading to the beach. A seemingly deserted clearing filled with children as soon as we parked our car.

Tom left with our kids to explore the beach while I stayed in the car to watch it. read rather than trudging through the sand. A crowd of children clustered around the car to watch me. They crept closer and closer, peering through the windows, looking at me, until I lifted my camera and then they would scatter. They got bolder and bolder over the next hour. At one point they burst into song and began dancing. Unfortunately I was unable to capture this. It was really sweet.

Celebrity status is not always easy to deal with as we are constantly stared at. It is impossible to just blend in and go about our business. I imagine this is the way Julia Roberts feels when she dashes to the store to get milk and people stare and examine all she does. I've had people stare as I shopped and discuss every item in my cart with their friends.

There is also the element of ‘but you [as a celebrity] have so much—why can’t you share with us? ' We’ve all done it—a celebrity gives 1 million to some cause and we think, “Well, sure, if that’s all you can spare out of your last hundred million salary for such and such movie.” The expanse between them and us is so wide that we can’t even begin to understand what life is like for them. We experience this when people come to our door and they ask for help. We do what we can but it is simply impossible to meet the needs of everyone and at times even when we go above and beyond there is still a feeling that we are judged by the community for what we still have rather than what we’ve given.

Of course any mistakes we make are also blindingly obvious to all around us. Tom once hit a guinea fowl with his car on the way to a shopping trip. Animals are hit and killed on a regular basis since they seem to view roads as their personal playground but when Tom hit the bird it was immediately big news in the village and he was held to a much higher standard because of who he is. We experienced this recently when we had the accident involving the boy.

Sometimes ‘celebrity status’ can have a few perks—on the bus we rarely have to sit on boxes in the aisles because the conductors will usually find us a seat. And there are a few other times that it pays to be a ‘celebrity’ but mostly it just means that we are stared at a lot.

I’m just glad that for all the attention we attract here we don’t have to deal with paparazzi. If we did photos such as this one might end up haunting me.

I can hear them now: “What was she thinking dressing like that? No make up? We’ve heard of eccentric chefs but this mad look might be taking it too far.”

Whew! It’s a good thing this photo wasn’t posted on the internet. That would be really embarrassing!

Sunday, November 29, 2009



Our kids--Volume IV

Queenie was the second child we took in. She is one of our single orphan children. What this means is that although she has a father she is considered in this country to be an orphan because her father is not able to provide for and care for her on his own.

Queenie also has two older sisters who would look after her when they could but they were just little girls. Here is Queenie on the day her father and older sister came for the tour and interview.

After taking Queenie in and getting her some clothes and food, Tom went back to her house to take photos of her extended family. Even after all our time here it is still sobering to see the conditions that so many people live in.

The contrast in living standards was huge. Queenie went from spending her days riding around on her sisters' back or sitting in the dirt outside her home to playing with colorful toys and eating five times a day and having nannies to look after her all the time.

The change wasn't without a few tears but Queenie has always had such a sweet spirit.

She grew up really fast and got healthy and strong.

There was some concern on the part of the nannies and her dad when she didn't speak as early as they would have liked. They kept asking us to bring in a witch doctor to cut her tongue. We urged them to wait and let her develop in her own time. Sure enough, while not a chatter box, she is a normal preschooler who speaks just fine.

Here is Queenie in our petting zoo. Right now we have two ducks, many rabbits and oodles of guinea pigs and a monkey. Right now the monkey gets put away before the little ones get there. We want the kids to be used to animals and eventually they'll be able to help care for them as part of their chores.

Recently we had a psychologist (working with autistic children) visit and we asked her to evaluate Queenie. One of our concerns when taking in these little ones is that we have no idea what effect months or years of malnourishment have had on them--not to mention the trauma their little spirits have suffered due to the loss or abandonment of one or both of their parents.
It was so nice to have someone come in and give us some input on Queenie's care. She has some mannerisms that are interesting but this professional said that she seems to be fine.

This is my favorite shot of Queenie because it shows her loving personality. See how she has Moriah's hand in hers and her other hand is resting protectively on Theresa's knee? I love it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fab Friday Foto--Volume V

Nearly all the buses here have these mottoes on them. Most of them have to do with speed or the lack thereof. I just have one thing to say--the snail also has a much greater chance of getting squished! Seriously! 19 hours to cover the same distance I can do in 12 hours with breaks? Seriously!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

From our family

to yours

I'm thankful for God's calling in our life

I'm thankful for children that work cheerfully beside us

I'm thankful that the first two to fly the nest are soaring

I'm thankful for all our children

I'm thankful for their good health

(and ours)

I'm thankful for this blog because it helps keep me sane

We will be having our Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday because I had to travel two days to get the ingredients. Out of 42 hours 30 were spent on a bus. I just got back this morning. But, I prevailed! We have a turkey and cream for whipping!

Here's our menu:

Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy
Gem squash
Peas, carrots, green beans and corn
Angel Biscuits

Apple pie
Pumpkin pie
Whipped cream and/or custard

Since everything from the cream cheese to the stuffing to the crusts has to be made from scratch you can see why we are postponing.

Have a great turkey day all!

And to my readers not gorging on this great food today--sorry.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adventure on the Night Bus

I wrote this a couple months ago but thought I'd post it today since I'll be traveling for a couple days. I will be taking the bus down to Lusaka and back again so please keep me in your prayers.

In the middle of August I traveled down to Lusaka, our capital city with Jasmine to pick up our newest volunteers. It was also an opportunity for Jasmine to get away from life at the orphanage and relax. We watched some movies, ate ice cream, said goodbye to a Peace Corps Volunteer who had finished her term of service and enjoyed life in the big city.

Late one night we took a taxi out to the airport and met up with Katherine and Kirstie who were going to volunteer with us for 3 months. It was their first time traveling alone (in fact it was the first time on an airplane for one of them) and so we were glad their 3 airplane rides had been smooth and all their luggage arrived safely and on the same plane--not always the case.

The next afternoon after some shopping for supplies we went to the bus station and bought tickets for the night bus. Because we had so much luggage we were asked to be at the station at 2:30 PM for a 4 PM departure.

At 3:00 we decided to go ahead and sit on the bus because there was nowhere else to go and we were being harassed by people who were excited by the sight of 3 young white girls (myself not included). Vendors singled us out, drunks attempted conversation and children called out 'muzungu, muzungu' over and over.

Finally at 5 PM the bus moved out of the station. Remember our departure time was for 4 PM so by African standards we were off to a good start.

The good start quickly was lost as we spent over an hour at the weigh station 3 hours into the trip. We ate some dinner (cheese, crackers and an apple) around 9 PM and then settled in for the night. As always I had brought my head lamp so I could read during the long journey. No sooner had I turned it on when the conductor shouted "no lights"! I tried to shield the light by holding my pillow over the light and reading low in my lap but nothing doing. "No lights!", he continued to shout. Right after I extinguished my light our two traveling companions decided they needed to find something in their backpack and used a small flashlight to do it. "No lights!!!" was again shouted from the front of the bus. By now most of the passengers were chuckling over this little drama. The conductor had so worked himself into a state that even those unfortunate passengers who attempted to use their phones to check the time were yelled at.

This all took place around midnight so we tried to get comfortable and get some sleep. Just about two hours later we heard a huge bang and felt a thump as the bus began weaving across the road. I prayed urgently for the Lord's protection and the bus slowed down and came to a stop. All the passengers were shouting and wondering aloud what might have happened. Once it became apparent that we had not blown a tire I worried that we had hit a person. There is very little wildlife in Zambia along the roads aside from farm animals and they usually bed down for the night.

As I sat there praying, the conductor boarded the bus and asked if anyone had a torch (flashlight) he could borrow. All the passengers broke into laughter and said "the muzungus do". I passed my headlamp up, chuckling along with the others but also asking "who is thankful now, huh?".

Not being able to control my curiosity anymore as well as knowing what Tom would have done if he'd been there and therefore what he'd require of me, I borrowed Katherine's flashlight and got off the bus to investigate.

This is what I saw first. Complete devastation. We hit a large animal! Everyone was saying what a miracle that the bus had stayed upright. Several people said we must have had angels holding onto the four corners of the bus.

There was animal hair caught in the bus fender. Is the piece in front a fender or a bumper? What's the difference? Someone solve this mystery for me, please!

I moved around to the back of the bus where the men had brought the fallen animal. I still don't know what this is. A waterbuck, bushback, impala? Maybe one of my readers can tell me. I think the poor thing was pregnant.

Upon closer inspection of the front of the bus we found only one headlight remaining and that one was pretty mangled. The conductor and someone else worked to dismantle the wires hanging from the left side of the bus so they could collect enough pieces to get one headlight working. You can see how dark the night was. We were out in the middle of nowhere and the bus didn't even have its hazard or caution lights on so we were sitting ducks right in the middle of the road. When I heard a truck coming I ran to the back of the bus and shone the flashlight back and forth to alert them to our presence.

They had to pull off the rack or whatever that thing is called and put it inside for later.

They managed to pull together enough to get one light working somewhat. At the end they couldn't get the bulb to sit right in the center of the light so they shoved plastic grocery sacks all around to hold it in place. Gotta love what they can do with plastic bags here.

Finally, a working light.

We drove very slowly and finally reached the next major city at 7 AM. After waiting around for a while and then eventually switching buses we made it safely home--12 hours of travel had become 18 hours. We had been on the bus for 20 hours and were so glad to get off. Another episode of African travel behind us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Adventure of the Highest Order

I promised you an adventure today and I won’t let you down.

Note: You might want to check this out before letting small children see the photos. They may be a bit frightening.

Every once in a while we are reminded how blessed we are to be from a country with liberties and freedoms. There are many who would say we are losing them fast and they’re probably right but when you see what we saw this week it makes you so grateful.

Last week Tom heard about a case in the village where a man was accused of killing another man using witchcraft. According to the local gossip this man had an invisible charm hidden in his house and now some witch doctors were going to be hired to find it and prove his guilt.

Don’t you love it? It’s better than the Emperor and his invisible clothes. All these guys have to do is walk into a house and pull out an invisible item and they are heroes. Meanwhile, a possibly innocent man is convicted without a trial.

Tom asked if he could be present to document the proceedings. They reluctantly agreed and a few days later he was told to come down to the town to see what was going to transpire. The mob we saw the day before was the tribal council where they were deciding whether these witch doctors would be let in to the community to witch hunt.

When Tom arrived the witches were preparing themselves by putting on special clothes and putting face paint on as well as washing their eyes with grass water. This would help them see the invisible things. They offered to wash Tom’s eyes but he declined.

The two witch doctors then stripped down naked (replacing their underpants afterward) to show that they weren't concealing anything in their clothes.

Before entering the house they moved around the yard shaking rattles and carrying a turtle's shell with a mirror and coins on it.

There was some confusion for awhile where the accused man and his family didn’t want their house searched after all but then when they walked down the road a bit to discuss things the witches took advantage of his absence and ran into the house.

Tom followed them with his video camera (set on night vision) and it was like a crazy episode of Ghostbusters on reality TV. The witches and their helpers were bouncing from room to room searching. After a while they admitted defeat and ran down the road but then came back to resume the hunt. After a bit Tom heard screaming and yelling from one of the rooms and rushed in to see a man writhing on the floor. He (the witch, not Tom) called for the special grass water to be brought and then plunged his hand in and pulled out a rolled up item shaped like a voodoo doll.

The two witches took out the doll and showed the crowd. One them then said, wait there’s more and ran back in the house. The other witch ran out into the village. Tom went back into the house and a few minutes later as the witch began to yell and call for water again the other witch dove through one of the windows. Tom was shocked—he’d never seen anything like it outside of a Hollywood movie. After a bit more confusion a second voodoo doll was doused in the grass water which was supposed to nullify the magic. As they came out of the house they were touted as heroes and the crowd picked them up and carried them around the yard in celebration.

But then the accused man came back and things got crazy. Everyone was yelling and shouting and a true mob began to form. Tom was confused as the crowd seemed to have turned against the witches. They begged Tom to give them a ride to the Traditional Court so he agreed. As is common here once the car doors were open a ton of people poured in. Then the crowd really went crazy. What Tom didn't know because the car was so full of people was that the accused man had been put in the car too and the mob wanted instant justice. They wanted to stone him right then and there.

The crowd began shaking the car and blocked Tom in so he couldn’t drive at all. When Tom asked our gardener to intervene the crowd just picked him up and carted him away-mosh pit style. The mob began pelting the car with mangos and clods of mud. Several hit Tom with one hitting him square in the face. Then a mango crashed through our back window.

Tom had had enough and asked the witches to find their own way out. They jumped out and ran and the crowd followed. Tom was then able to remove the barrier the crowd had erected and drive home, shaken but safe.

We still don’t know if the man was even guilty. We found out later that he hadn’t even killed someone but that a man had developed an open wound on a now paralyzed arm. The injured man couldn’t explain the injury so they asked a witch and he pointed the finger at a man. Tom believes that the supposed voodoo things could have been brought in by any of the witches or their helpers—especially since the helpers didn’t strip down and were running in and out of the house.

As I write this the poor man (unless he really is guilty, then shame on him) is still sitting in the traditional courts awaiting judgment.

One final word: In case you think this post doesn't fit on my blog since it wasn't exactly Amy's Adventure--you try sitting at home and having your husband come back smeared in mud with a broken car. That's enough adventure for one day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Did you miss me?

Ok, you don't have to answer that if you don't want to.....

As some of you know I was/am participating in a challenge called NoBloPoMo which basically meant that we needed to post a new blog entry every day in order to qualify to win the contest. I've been enjoying working on coming up with something every day and have found that my life is so crazy that it isn't really hard at all.

Thursday, after writing about my ideas for future posts, I wrote most of the first episode for Our Super Story. Friday I posted the photo early before hitting the road for our weekly shopping trip. All good! Sadly, I would be unable to post anything after Friday because of a few hiccups in our road. Read on:

On the way home from shopping we hit a teenage boy with our car. It was just our side mirror, he was only slightly injured, and he walked right into the road as we passed but it was traumatic for all of us. Of course, because we are white there was an instant mob on the road and people were shouting at us and hurling insults. The worst was this group of teenage school girls who were really up in my face. They hadn't even seen the accident but ran up afterward.

We helped the boy and one of his teachers into the car and drove straight to a clinic. Of course, as is typical here there was no one at the clinic so we decided to take him to a hospital near our house where we could get x-rays done if needed. I had examined the boy by this point and didn't believe he had a broken arm but we wanted to do it right.

As we drove to the hospital we had to pass a police checkpoint. Those snotty school girls had made it there ahead of us (because of our detour to the clinic) and had told the police that we had "bashed a child with our car". Lovely! This meant that the police didn't even want to listen to our side of the story. The boy, meanwhile, was holding to his story that we drove off the road which was patently untrue!

Anyway, we got closer to home and stopped off at our local police station to pick up a form that the hospital would have to fill out regarding the injury. Here the boy told his story again and then when Tom started drawing the scenario in the dirt the teacher came along and said that the road was curved at that place. What?? It was a straight road! He also had not seen the accident and when we pointed this out to the police they said we weren't allowed to say who qualified as a witness.

We drove to the hospital and started the process of getting the boy checked out. And believe me, it is a process. First you can't figure out where to go and there never seems to be anyone around but we were eventually directed to a window where we had to pay for the medical form to be looked at. Then we were asked for a referral letter from the clinic--when we mentioned that we had started at the clinic but no one was there. They wanted us to visit every single clinic along the road before coming to them. Crazy! I just asked what I could do to bypass this and was told to give them the equivalent of $2. Fine! Then we had to give them a small notebook for the doctor to write in which becomes the patient's official record. But....we first had to go buy the book from a shop across the way.

Then it was see this clinical officer (maybe like a physician's assistant or registered nurse), let him fill in the book and then be sent to the doctor. But....the doctor wasn't there so we waited around for awhile and finally sent someone to go get him from his house. And then we waited and waited and waited. Finally he arrived and after a cursory examination said there was nothing clinically wrong but that we should get x-rays in case. Not just of the arm but the chest as well! I asked what for and clarified that he had been hit on the side -- not in front. The doc said, oh, ok. But the damage had been done in that the teacher and boy now thought the injury was worse than it really was.

When we asked where we could get the x-rays done they said the hospital had no technician and so we'd have to go to another hospital an hour away but that since the day was late there probably wasn't a chance of getting that done either. So we all agreed that we would take the boy home but if there was any change he could call us and we would take him back to the clinic.

First we stopped back at the police station to deliver the report from the hospital. While there we noticed a big crazy mob and found out it had to do with a witchcraft case that is going on in the village--you have to come back tomorrow to read all about that. It's an adventure of the highest order!

Back on the road to deliver the boy home to his grandmother. His parents live in one of the larger cities and, as is common here, the teenager stays with his grandmother to help look after her while attending school.

It was nearly dark when we arrived. We found the grandmother in the outside kitchen which is a circular structure with a thatched cone-shaped roof called an insaka. The walls are only about 2 feet high and the roof comes down low leaving a gap between the walls and roof for air circulation. All around the yard of the house were children and a few adults. We were told that we had to wait for an uncle to arrive with some more relatives that he was rounding up and that we should only have to wait 40 minutes! Since they routinely underestimate the length of a wait we strongly stated that we could not wait around since it was getting dark and we needed to get back on the road. The teacher agreed to translate for us to the grandmother.

He started out by telling the story and thankfully he used hand gestures because then we were able to follow the story. He said that a bus was passing us on the road (true) and that we swerved off the road to avoid it (so not true). We immediately had him correct that part. The teacher did an ok job of telling the story and what steps we had taken to make things better. I had given the boy a bottle of painkillers from our clinic since the hospital pharmacy was closed, for instance. The grandmother had a few questions but seemed ok about it all.

As we sat there the people in the yard were creeping closer and closer. Entertainment in the village is hard to come by so this was very exciting for everyone. I began feeling a little claustrophobic because of the small building and people all around. Then it started raining so everyone in the yard decided to sit in the tiny outbuilding with us. My claustrophobia was going crazy by this time. Sadly, as a defense, I began to get uptight. This was only made worse by the arrival of the uncle who demanded to know what we were going to pay in compensation to the boy.

Now, I completely understand giving someone compensation for mistakes you have made but this boy walked into our vehicle. He was in the road and as we got closer to him we honked our horn, slowed down and he moved off the road but just as we passed him he stepped into the road and lifted his arm. Granted, in hindsight we figured that he was probably distracted by the bus on the other side of the road but, for crying out loud!, look both ways, people!

So, here we were, out over $100 in repairs to our vehicle, we'd spent an entire afternoon helping this young man and making sure he was ok, and NOW, we had to pay him money! I am a very logical person which does not go over well here where most things are completely illogical.

Can I just stop this narrative for a moment and say how thankful I am for marriage? This may seem like an illogical segue but stay with me a moment. When the accident first happened Tom was furious. We battle daily with goats, chickens, guinea fowls on the road not to mention bicyclists who have no idea of the rules of the road and then whole groups of pedestrians who seem to think the road was made for them. Tom's first reaction was pure fury that people have so little respect for vehicles.

Thankfully, my first reaction was compassion for the boy and I worked hard to calm down the situation and get the boy to the clinic. Later, when things were more under control I began to get angry at the whole event. By this time Tom had cooled off and was able to chat with different people around us to distract them from my sour mood. He said that he loved being in the insaka surrounded by people all working toward a solution. I was a basket case in the insaka. If either of us had been on our own it would have been much more difficult to work out.

We finally came to an agreement that we would pay for part of the boy's schooling next year. This solved the problem of giving cash (never a good idea) which would be fought over by family members and not really do any good. We will pay the money directly to the school. Because the boy's leg was bruised also we will pay for someone to give him a bicycle ride to and from school for a week. At least some good came out of the situation. We can try to feel better about it this way.

On one of our many stops through the day I came across these adorable kids. They came up to the car to greet me. They loved it when I pulled out my camera. I loved the fact that God sent these tykes along to help me smile in the midst of a trying day.

Saturday morning at around 4 AM we lost power and it was only restored at 5:30 PM on Sunday and then at 5:45 it was turned off again for regular 'load-shedding'. We got full power back at around 9 PM Sunday night. I say around 9 PM because I was out in a blessed drug-induced sleep. All the stress on Friday caused me to come down with allergies/a cold/asthma--take your pick.

So, my dream of winning NaBloPoMo is finished. No prize for me. Thanks, Zesco. I already checked and they won't take any excuses. Oh well. Have no fear. I will continue to write as often as I can. I didn't start out writing to win any prizes but because I have so much to say and that is not likely to end any time soon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fab Friday Foto--Volume IV

This is another of Tom's gorgeous photos.

This is the view from the orphanage looking down toward the village.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thank you for all your input about posts you'd like to read!

Here are some of the ideas and how I plan to incorporate them.

1. How did we get involved in missions work and how did we end up in Africa--especially the African bush.

I will be starting an 'Our Super Story' series really soon. I may even post the first episode Saturday.
I have to tell you the reason for the Super Story title. That is what a popular Nigerian soap opera is called. They have a variety of dramas (usually mini-series) that air weekly on regular Zambian television. They're hilarious and over the top.

2. How did Tom and I meet and marry? This may be separate from 'Our Super Story' or included....we shall see.

3. What do our children want to be when they grow up? I will introduce you to our children soon and talk about their hopes, dreams, interests and ideas. This should be especially interesting to grandparents and such but hopefully to the rest of you as well.

4. Introducing our foster kids. I've started doing this each Sunday. I will also link to all the past posts at the bottom of each new one so you can get to know all the children easily.

Oh, by the way, I have made my peace with the term foster children. We are truly fostering the future generation of leaders for Zambia. Fostering their dreams, their love of learning...etc. Thank you so much to everyone who chimed in on this and for your wonderful ideas. Lara, thank you for teaching me what N.B. means. I will now be using note bene at every possible occasion.

5. What do I like about living in Zambia or miss about the U.S? This is a much harder topic so I think it will be interspersed throughout my other writings. I will tell you one thing I miss. I miss sitting down to a conversation with women. It gets lonely in the bush.....but that is just one of the reasons I love this blog so much. It gives me a reason to meet all of you!

6. I will continue to throw in the adventures because they keep happening and I have to share. I'm in the middle of one right now that I can't wait to tell you about. You have to stay tuned and keep reading....

Note bene: Thank you for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday--The Potato edition

Many blogs out there do a Works for Me Wednesday. I don't know that I will have one for you every Wednesday but if I have little tips to share I'll post them on Wednesday.

Today I am sharing a tip for getting oil into fry pans when making french toast or pancakes when you just want a bit but inevitably the bottle will pour out too much and you're faced with a decision--find a coffee cup to try to pour the extra off into (risking it dripping onto your floor or counter) or making an extra oily batch.

I have a griddle on my 'Santa wish' list but for now, when making toast or pancakes I usually have two or three fry pans going at a time so that is a lot of re-oiling.

I have no idea where I picked up this idea along the way but here it is: I cut a clean potato in half and stab a fork in one end. Then I pour a small amount of oil into a bowl.

When I pick up the potato it retains the perfect amount of oil to spread around the fry pan and allow for frying pancakes. After frying each one I just rub the potato around again. No more wasted oil. I think little spray bottles for oil work well also but I've never had one and I think it would get pretty dusty in this area. So, for now, This Works For Me.

And now, because I love you and am thankful you stopped by:

Here's a cutie patootie!

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