Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Comments Regurgitated

(or how I got you to write a post for me)

Many times people ask questions or make comments about things I've posted and they are really good. I don't know about you but I don't always make it back around to see what other people have commented on blogs I enjoy reading. So, here are some comments highlighted and some questions answered. Thanks for making my 'job' a joy!
On Saturday, I wrote about things I was working on teaching the nannies with regard to feelings and how to express and handle them. Raven wrote a very nice comment on that post. I've been very grateful for Raven's take on things since she spent four years working as a Peace Corps volunteer here in Zambia and even married a Zambian man.

"I can definitely understand your frustrations with the cultural emotional block. My neighbors in the village were shocked that I knew the names of each of the 45 kids that came to my house every day. That individualisation isn't something they do with children. And the kids loved me for it. (The worst talala moment I saw was at an under 5. The kid was scared of me and the mom's answer, in Bemba, was "stop crying or the white lady will eat you." I wonder why she was scared of me?)

However, just to play devil's advocate, I also see a bit of why they tell the kids to stop crying. By the age of 9 in the village, those kids would be expected to take care of adult chores and other kids. No one has time to cry or dwell on emotions, as they have to work so hard for survival. When a mother loses a child (or husband, etc), she has 3 days to grieve. She rolls on the ground and wails and screams and cries. Then, on day 4, the crying is over and she is back to work. There is no time to waste on emotions.

Joshua is often so confused by his overly emotional American wife. I cry when I read a good book, watch a movie, think of a sad memory, etc. I am very emotional and he is just not used to women being like this, even after 4 years with me. So, don't get too frustrated if the nannies don't get it right away."

I understand and I do get it. One of my nannies in just the 10 months she's been working here has lost her son and her mother. How people keep going day after day is beyond me. But at the same time, I do see many health issues that are directly related to not being able to get feelings out in the open and know how to deal with them. It's sad.

The other issue is that the kids we are raising are not going to be carrying adult loads at the age of nine years old. They are going to have the opportunity to have regular childhoods, finish their education and enter a world that is very, very different from a village. For that reason, I have to continue to set my sights high and expect more from my staff. 

I appreciate Raven's encouragement to not get discouraged. It is a hard road and the sweet ladies I work with are making incredible, albeit slow, progress. 

On Sunday I wrote about Tom working on his snake habitat. Many of you had questions about this--whether it was a hobby, questioning his sanity, etc. First of all, let me say that Tom was extremely flattered to have been considered insane. To be normal and ordinary would be a terrible thing for him. 
  The snakes are partly a hobby and partly a community project. Zambians are quite frightened of snakes (and rightly so) so that they kill first and ask questions later. Tom tries to educate them about the different types of snakes and the role they play in our environment. Right now he only keeps Puff Adders and Gaboon Vipers. He has started with these 2 particular species of snakes because they are beautiful and not so aggressive. Eventually he would like to have all the different species that are native to this area. 
  He's able to keep these two different snakes together because they are from the same family. We had cobras before (so scary!!) and they fought with the Adders and Vipers.
  Another reason he is interested in the Gaboon Vipers and why he was so excited about the babies is that they are an endangered species. He believes he can sell them in the States and Europe for a fair amount of money. Can you imagine being the UPS delivery guy holding that box? The skins are also quite pretty and could make nice belts and hat bands.

The habitat is well thought out and very safe. The glass usually has chicken wire in front of it unless Tom is showing the snakes at that moment. That prevents the snakes from getting out should they happen to break the glass. Tom has been bitten before (you can see the list on the left hand side bar) and has learned plenty from the experiences. Perhaps not enough, you may say, since he still keeps snakes but......what can you do........such is the life of an adventurer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sundays in My City--Snakes and Klingons

Unknown Mami
Tom decided that this weekend was the right time to clean and paint the inside of our snake habitat. 
I'll try to remember to post a pretty picture when it is looking all nice and snazzy. 
Another reason it needed to be done this weekend was because one of our Gaboon Vipers had 17(!) babies. We watched them being born. Well, I took a tiny peak and then ran for the safety of my living room. Later on, as Tom described the birth with all the joy of a proud papa, I nearly lost my lunch. As you may remember, I'm not exactly a fan of creepy, crawly things. 
The snake habitat is actually set up really well. They have fresh water in the little hollow, rocks and branches with fake leaves. Tom throws rats and mice down there regularly --less rats running around and well-fed, satisfied snakes--so everyone is happy.

The glass is removed from the front of the habitat and the snakes herded to that little hole at the back of the cage. 

The hole leads to this wooden passage. There are two boards fitting into slots in the passage. A larger box is fitted over the passage and a gunny sack is attached to that box with nails. Both slots are pulled out so the snake can travel down the passage and fall into the gunny sack. Once the slots are back in place, the bag is tied shut and then the nails are removed.

Once the bag is secure it is dropped into a large drum where the snakes will stay until the habitat is clean and freshly painted. There are 3-5 snakes in each bag.

Tom carefully directs the snakes to the back of the cage and into the passage way. He says that when the snakes are poked on their tails it annoys them and they move. 

Like I said earlier, I am not a fan of snakes and bravely stood by and took pictures for the entertainment and education of you, my lovely readers. Every once in a while I would jump two feet in the air if my camera unexpectedly vibrated or a fly landed on my leg. Once it was because I had taken a tiny step backward and a dry leaf crunched under my foot. I guess that can count as my cardio workout for the day. My heart rate sure was up.

Tom and his helper bagged up a total of 10 grown Gaboon  Vipers, 3 Puff Adders and 17 baby Gaboon Vipers. As I watched Tom work, there was a little something that bothered me. I realised it was his shirt.

Do you think that is the right motto to be sporting on your shirt as you work with poisonous snakes. No, I don't think so.

Definitely not!
  For more photos of people around the world, check out Unknown Mami.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Life Skills--Feelings Edition

Every Tuesday we have staff meetings. I’ve been working with the nannies and housekeepers through a book called How to Help Your Child Succeed. Because so many of the concepts are new to the women we’ve been going very slow and learning what each idea is before discussing how to implement it in the care of the children.
For example, we spent a month on the topic of Self Esteem. This is not a normal thing here. There is such a strong sense of hierarchy that children are not taught how special they are. They essentially wait for the moment to arrive where they can be bigger and stronger than someone else. Understanding that they can’t be whole and complete until they realize their self-worth, I spent weeks drilling this concept and practicing it with them. They made a lot of progress.

This week the new concept is ‘feelings’. Again, most children are not shown how to express their feelings but are told to just ‘stop crying’. It is one of the things that really irritates me. When a baby is hurt or crying for whatever reason, the fall back phrase all women use (and I could be wrong about this but it is all women I’ve met so far) is ‘stop crying’ or ‘it’s all done’. Whether the pain is still present, the problem still exists or whatever.

When the little, sick one year old brought to us this week we had to put in an IV. I was crooning to the baby and talking with her but I thought she might prefer to hear her grandmother’s more familiar voice. Again, it was the talala (stop crying) over and over and over again. I lost my patience a bit. I said, it’s quite alright for her to cry. She is being jabbed repeatedly in the head with a needle. Not only that, but she has sores in her mouth, her belly is empty and most likely aching from dysentery or worse, she misses her mom who just died four ago. I felt like saying, “Yell away, baby! You deserve it!” I encouraged the grandmother to say other things like, “I’m here. It will be over soon. Grandma loves you”. Everyone in the room looked at me with bemused expressions and the grandmother went back to “talala’ and ‘chapwa’ (it’s finished).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of crying in small children. None of us are, I imagine. But it is the way babies communicate and as they get older it is our responsibility to teach them how to express what they’re feeling using words. A four year old child should not cry because he can’t open a bathroom door. He can be taught to call for help. The way we teach that is by starting young by helping them to understand what they’re feeling and talking about how to get through that problem.

To the one year old I would say, “It hurts, doesn’t it? I’m sorry. It will be over soon. You must be scared too. It’s alright. I’m here. I’ll hold your hand. Jesus will help us make it through.” Even though to a baby, those words are mostly gibberish. They are laying foundations in language and development.

My challenge is working with local staff is getting them to develop into well rounded people who are then able to give to others. They first have to understand and be able to express what they are feeling in order to be able to help teach that same skill to the children in their care. It’s a work in progress.

P.S I taught last week using a few flashcards and had the nannies guess the feelings portrayed by the cards. Problem was, they had trouble with the visual clues because they weren't familiar to them. Does anyone have a link to share with (free) regular emotion cards I can print out? Thanks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Walk Like a Man

Baby Peter is walking!

It takes him a while to get his footing,

he finally manages,
but then, there's no stopping him

He's so pleased with himself

"Watch me, Mommy!"

I have no idea what is up with his tongue.
I guess he has to concentrate.

He made it across the yard!

He has made it even farther than that! 
Look at this picture and then look at the one above it. 
Can you believe it's the same baby?

P.S I know I said I'd write more about what I'm teaching on feelings, but it's Friday. I thought today needed something a bit lighter and celebratory.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feelings Abound

As I taught my nannies this week I marveled that the topic for the week was Feelings (more about this tomorrow) because I had plenty of them swirling around in my head and heart.

Just fifteen minutes before our scheduled staff meeting, a little baby had died. Brought to our home the night before we had fought a hard battle but she had already succumbed to the war. It was merely a matter of time.

She shouldn’t have had to die. Born to a mother with AIDS she was then diagnosed with HIV. But there are treatments out there. She could have been okay. But she wasn’t.

I was angry that her mother had refused treatment.

I was really furious that her mother had then breastfed her well beyond the safe point.

I was disappointed in the clinic staff that they hadn’t given the baby medicine when she was within their reach.

I was sad that the baby wasn’t brought to us immediately when it was obvious the mother was dying.

I was angry at the apathy of the relatives surrounding the baby that they had spent more time with their own grief than caring for this little one.

I was disappointed that all our efforts were for naught.

I was tired of pouring my heart into cases that are so hopeless that only a miracle can turn them around.

I was sad that the economic situation is such that fathers are not able to stay with their families but have to work in another city leaving mothers and children to fend for themselves.

So many feelings.  

I am relieved though, that Justina is now home with her Heavenly Father. 

I'm glad we're in a position to help others when they need it.

I'm happy that our clinic was set up and available. While ultimately unsuccessful, Justina's treatment moved smoothly forward with all medicine and equipment easily at hand.

I'm satisfied with the job our nannies did in assisting us with Justina's care.

I'm okay.

The adventures continue.....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Shoes

I am going to tell you two (apparently) separate stories but I promise they will link up at the end. Ready?

Ok, here goes:

Five years ago I was given a pair of gently used black high heeled shoes by my sister. I loved those shoes. They were comfortable and I could wear them all day or night without a single complaint. They were the only dressy pair of shoes I owned and I could wear them with a dress or jeans and they went perfectly. After about 3 years they began to show some wear and tear. I tried desperately to find a replacement pair to no avail. Every time I traveled back to the States I searched for a pair of dressy heels but could never find the right one. I stuck with my old faithfuls. Last year, they were so bad that my good friend, Debbie sent them to a shoe hospital. They did their best but it was looking more and more like my shoes had breathed their last.

This year, I visited Payless because I really needed new shoes for my speaking engagements. Miracle of miracles! I found not one, but three pairs of beautiful shoes! One super comfortable wedge open toe pump in navy blue, one pair of heels I would never have chosen on my own without the encouragement of my son and friend (see photo below) and one pair of sandal heels for more dressy occasions (I've never worn them yet--if that's any indication of the life I lead). I was so excited and wore those first two pairs every day the entire time I was in the States and the first pair a few time every week since I've been back here in Zambia. They are both comfortable shoes and have been wonderful.

Showing a promo video and speaking at a church in Texas

 A close up of the heels I never would have chosen for myself but ended up loving!
Now for the second story:

Buzz Has To Die!*

 A couple years ago our very sweet and loving dog, Licky died and we had to replace her. A couple months later we got a cute, large dog named Harley. One of Licky's puppies, Spock, was her buddy for a whole year. Then he was put down. Harley was lonely. Then we found a new puppy. 

Friends of ours promised that the puppy was nearly full pure bred something or other. I forget now. I'm not a dog person....can you tell? Anyway, sadly, this new puppy was more mutt than pure and while kinda sweet is a bit of a rascal. He is a bit obnoxious and not easily trained. I'm not really a fan. It's possible that he picked up on this because sometimes I feel like he has it in for me. More about this later.....

Then he hit puppy puberty. Heaven help us! Buzz's slightly undisciplined antics turned into full-blown naughtiness. He began to chew on everything in sight. He had done this a bit as a tiny puppy but this was really bad. Clothes left on the clothesline were in tatters in the morning, pieces of plastic blown into our yard became confetti. Even the plastic pot for our little tree on the porch suffered the wrath of Buzz's teeth.

We did our best to remove everything from the yard before closing things down for the night and to keep things up and away from his puppy jaws. 

Do you kinda see where this is going?

A couple weeks ago we came home late from our shopping trip to Mansa. I kicked up my wedge heels in a corner of the dining room and set about making dinner. We had friends coming over and I didn't give a second thought to my shoes. Not until the next morning that is when Jasmine brought them to me. Yes, folks, Buzz had gotten ahold of them and they were history! Not a chance of lifesaving measures. 

I may have shed a tear or two. I may have yelled (a lot!). It is nearly impossible to find shoes here and I went 5 years without finding shoes I liked even in the States. I shudder to think how much longer it will be before I find a pair I love again. Pray for me!

*This title is adapted from a Dixie Chicks song. You gotta love how Country songs can take an awkward or terrible situation and make it humorous in song.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My (not so) Secret Desire

I have a burns inside me......I can hardly stand the longing sometimes.

Wanna know what it is? I'll give you a clue. It has to do with cars.

First I have to give you some background. For those of you who've just joined the conversation, I grew up overseas. I lived abroad so much that I had to document the dates I'd lived in the U.S when my first children were born in Mexico in order to prove I was a real American citizen and therefore my children could qualify for American citizenship as well.

What does that have to do with my secret desire? Well, when living with my family in India we didn't have a car. Maintaining a personal vehicle was not cost effective with so much cheap public transportation around. Then I was at boarding school in Japan. I didn't go out of school much and when I did it was with teachers or staff in their cars.

After boarding school, I married my husband and we moved to Mexico. We didn't have our own car (we worked on a missionary farm) and the few times we went into town we got rides with other missionaries.

Three years into our marriage we moved back to the States. Traveling with us were our first three children. That's right--we had three children before our third anniversary! Anyway, back to the story. We were hard at work trying to make a new life for ourselves. Tom got a job, his dad generously gave us a Chevy Blazer so he could get to jobs, and I settled into life as a stay at home mom. Very quickly baby number four joined our family.

Those next few years flew by with little time for anything but surviving and babies. Before long baby number five showed up and we were making a cozy home for ourselves. 

But their was a little something missing. I was a happily married mother of five and I COULD NOT DRIVE!

Shocking, I know! There had just been no time. You try learning to drive with three, four, five kids in the back seat. It's hard!

One day, a member of the Sunday School class I attended handed me some money and asked me to please go to driving school because she was "really worried about me". I immediately went to a driving school, paid the money and had three lessons with a driving instructor. At the end of the third lesson he declared me ready to take my driving test. But it would be another several months before I finally could. When I did, I completely failed parallel parking but I think the instructor felt sorry for me and she passed me anyway.

By the time I started driving with my very own license I was pregnant with number six. What a relief it was though to be able to get the kids and myself to church or the grocery store or the park or the....the list goes on and on.

But, there was still something lacking......

I didn't really miss it at first. But slowly, slowly the desire began to grow inside me. 

I don't know how to drive a manual transmission! There! I said it! *hanging my head in shame*

When I watch people driving a stick shift it's like magic.--Like watching a dance. I love it! and I don't know how! It's a sad, empty little place in my soul. 

Really, I know I'm being melodramatic. There are more important things in life--like saving babies in Africa or something. But.....if I could only have this special skill I would feel more complete.

Up until a year ago, we had been without a car for 3 years. We sold our car to pay for the move into the bush and took public transport. Finally, a wonderful church raised the money so we could get a bush-worthy vehicle. Our Landcruiser has been such a help but, alas, it is a manual. No driving for me.

Not that I could anyway. My dear, sweet, protective husband has declared very definitely that I will NOT be driving on these rural roads because there are too many perils. It's true. There are. But, oh, to not even have the option because I don't have the necessary talent. It kills me.

But! There's hope! Guess what I did today? I drove!!!! Tom let me take the wheel on the dirt road behind our house. I only stalled twice. I'm off to a great start! I'm so excited I could do a jig! In no time at all I feel I will have learned this elusive skill and be flying (well, driving) everywhere. I'll be one ability closer to whole. Wish me luck! and pray for Tom. He'll need it, I'm sure.

Is there a skill you wish you had, and in having would feel more complete?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sundays in My City--Happy, Smiling Faces

 All the kids are happy because we have a new swimming pool. 
We're all happy because Peter learned a new skill
Wanna know why I'm happy? It's because on Friday I wasn't arrested.

Why would an innocent such as I even come close to being arrested?

Well, on Friday we were in Mansa taking care of the usual errands and shopping.

We ended up at one government office where we had to get ID cards made.

As is typical here it was a matter of hurry up and wait.

Even getting our photos done was an ordeal. They had to take our picture three times since the normal setting wasn't good for 'muzungu'* skin.

As we waited, I picked up my camera and decided to get a shot for the Fab Friday Feature. 

My favorite trees, the Jacarandas, were sitting right there in the parking lot. True, they weren't really picturesque versions of my loves, but it gave me something to do. I love Jacarandas because they bloom during the dry season when nearly everything else is bare, brown or burned.

After I took two photos, Tom moseyed over to stand next to me and casually mentioned that I might not want to take pictures right then because the direction I had pointed my camera was the Army Headquarters. It is against the law to take pictures of any government or military installations. Oops! I did know this but was so focused on the trees I didn't even look at the buildings behind them.

Sure enough, moments later, a military man walked in our direction. He was friendly enough but asked me if I had been taking pictures of him, his men or their cars. No sir, just my favorite tree. He said that was fine but reminded me that what I had done was against the law and if any people or cars showed up in the pictures I should not develop them.

So, here are my hard earned shots. No people or cars visible.

Aren't you glad I wasn't detained? Of course that would have been a really neat adventure, but there's only so far I'm willing to go for this little ol' blog.

Now, celebrate all our freedoms by surfing around the world via Unknown Mami's Sundays in my City feature.

Unknown Mami

*Muzungu= white person

Saturday, September 18, 2010

High Praise

 Last Saturday we had a special visitor. A few days before we received a phone call from the Provincial Social Welfare office letting us know that a Minister (a government official--not a pastor) would be coming to visit us at the orphanage. Zambia has a parliamentary political system (which means....I don't have a clue) and so there are various levels of Ministers. Members of Parliament, cabinet members, elected and appointed. And they change fairly frequently so it is hard to keep track of.

We didn't know who exactly would be coming but we were happy to get some exposure for our project. Also, the provincial director of Social Welfare had never visited us so we were glad he would get to see all we do here. We gave the orphanage the proverbial spit and polish and waited anxiously.
When the Minister finally arrived he had a entourage of about 14 people with him. There were three vehicles. I was a little overwhelmed but took a deep breath and greeted everyone with a smile.

We were introduced and found out this wasn't just a member of parliament (like a senator or representative) but a Cabinet Member. Kinda like having Hillary Clinton visit your home.
Immediately I was positively surprised by the Honorable Minister, Mike Kaingu. He was friendly, listened well and was considerate of the children. They were napping when the group arrived and he didn't want to disturb them too much as we conducted the tour. I was not expecting this type of behavior.
We showed everyone around the orphanage and explained our philosophy or taking in and raising children who will grow up to be leaders to help build a better Zambia. We also showed the grounds including all we've done toward eventually becoming self-sustaining.
Later, after the tour, we offered cold drinks to the group but the Minister declined as we "probably need to save our resources for the children". Again, very different from what I was expecting.

There were, of course, members of the press in the group so at the end of the tour the Minister was interviewed by ZNBC (the national TV service) and he made some very positive remarks about the orphanage including saying that he has visited few orphanages that he was pleased with or that he didn't think should be shut down. We were very honored by his comments.
He was also very impressed with Tom's chicken run. He said that he had stolen our ideas and apologized for that. I told him we were always happy for that type of robbery.

I'm not sure if the interview ever aired on the news--we don't get that channel--but it was really nice to get a visit and be recognized for the hard work we do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Adrenaline Stuff is Gonna Be the Death of Me!

Yesterday as we were wrapping things up after a long, busy day, we went outside and saw that our dog had killed a baby goat that must have wandered onto the property. I will spare you all the gory details but because we could only find part of the goat, my paranoid brain kicked into high gear and I wondered if someone had perhaps thrown poisoned meat over our fence for our dogs to find. It's been done before so I wasn't being too paranoid. Tom helpfully commented, "well, I haven't made anyone mad recently..." Good to know.

We decided to just keep an eye on our dogs--it was really all we could do. 

A short time later I heard shouting and banging coming from the kitchen. Tom was egging our dogs on as they chased mice around the kitchen. Both dogs are excellent mousers and little rodents come with the territory when you live in the country. Especially since we have empty fields or even better, fields of maize right next door. Also, we have grass on our metal roofs which is the perfect habitat for entire rodent families. Just ask me how I know! We have to keep our fan on all night to drown the sound of the scurrying through the grass--their little paws sounding like thunder on the tin.

Last night, after the goat and mouse drama, I was all tucked into bed and had just drifted into that wonderful, dreamless state when I was awakened to the sound of Timmy coming into the room calling loudly for his dad saying that there was "disaster and a lot of chaos". I came wide awake wondering what had happened. Who was hurt? Were the dogs sick? Had the mice done damage?? 

"No, Mom, go back to sleep. It's just my video game." 

Have I mentioned that I kinda hate video games? Yesterday as we were in the kitchen preparing dinner, Timmy had a conversation with his dad about going to jail twice for stealing apples and that he also gambles. Our poor volunteer thought he was talking about real life. No, dear, this is a geek household, don't you know.

Anyway, back to my interrupted night. I fell back asleep after practicing deep breathing exercises to normalize my heart rate.

An hour later we lost power which is always disorienting. You wake up and everything is dead silent and you can't see your hand in front of your face. Thankfully it came back on after just 15 minutes which meant that our fan also came on and Tom didn't have to threaten to shoot holes in our ceiling with his shotgun to get those pesky mice.

Around this time I decided I was thirsty so I walked outside to the dining/kitchen building to collect my water bottle. I opened the door and what did I see but a 6 inch mouse (or is it a rat?) falling from the top of the door across the dining room. The poor little thing (can you hear the sarcasm?) was scared to death and began running back and forth between the two doors in that corner. I finally found my voice and called for Harley the Dog to come get the mouse (mouse sounds better than rat). The mouse took off running for a shelf in the other corner but wasn't fast enough and Harley won that round. 

I stumbled back to our house on very shaky legs and just as I reached safety, the thought occurred to me that since we put poison on the roof of our house to get rid of the mice up there, perhaps it wasn't a good idea for the dogs to eat them. I mentioned this to Tom and he agreed, but then to my horror he suggested that we go together to get the mouse back from the dog. 

His idea was to distract the dogs so he could snatch the mouse up. He called them in to the kitchen pretending there was another mouse and Harley dutifully dropped her mouse and came running. Only problem--Buzz then picked it up and ran off. Great! So, Tom called Buzz and he began trotting toward the kitchen. I saw the mouse in his mouth and could just see him delivering it to me and I panicked! I jumped on top of a chair and trembled which did not amuse Tom in the slightest. He needed my help and I was  being useless (and full of pride apparently--which I haven't quite figured out) and so I bucked up and climbed down to help. Thankfully all that was required was shutting the dogs first in and then out of the dining room. I didn't have to come near the mouse. 

By the time this was all over I was shaking all over from the adrenaline overload and wondered if feeling would ever come back into my fingers and toes. Apparently it did because I lived to type this story. I really wish there were better benefits from frequent adrenaline overloads.

This story is written today to encourage my cousin, Stephanie, that she is not the only one with rodent problems. She was embarrassed to admit her problem (but shared it with the world) and so I wonder if she'll appreciate me spreading it even further. Well, she did ask for it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just Another Ordinary Day

Thought I'd do something different today and share with you my Monday. People are always asking what I do all day. Here it is: 

6:15 This is when my alarm goes off but I have it timed so I can hit snooze twice.
6:25 Finally got up. Gotta love my commute--I threw on my robe, took 30 steps (maybe 50--I've never counted) and I was at work.
        My first task is to unlock the front door to let the staff in. We had so much trouble with theft that we had to start locking (with a padlock) the front door. Because our layout is open with many buildings on one property, this locked door only prevents outside people from coming in or things going out but no one is locked into a building. Didn't want to sound like I was running some scary type of sweatshop.

       Since it was Monday it meant new time cards for all the daily staff. We have some live-in nannies, and some nannies that come a few days a week and then housekeepers and gardeners. Whew, don't we sound lah-di-dah. 

6:40  I sat in the reception area and filled out all the cards. Because punching in is a pretty novel concept I have to manually do the cards weekly so no one gets confused and punches in on the wrong week.
We have a new cook in training this week so I made sure her instructions were clear.

6:50 I got on the internet and read through my Reader and checked on Facebook. The internet is fastest in the morning.

7:45 Internet was still working well so I checked email--all three accounts (business, personal and blog) and also worked on downloading the records for our check deposits.
8:15 Woke Tom up. He frequently has to work at night when the electricity is good so he sleeps a bit longer in the morning. I was a good wife and served him homemade doughnuts & coffee. I got dressed finally.
8:30 Ate breakfast: coffee and scrambled eggs
          A few of the kids were still down with the flu so I checked on them and made sure they were getting medicine on time and resting well. The nannies don't like to have the kids resting in bed because it's boring for them (the nannies) so I have to keep on top of this.

9:00 Back at desk: I supervised Troy doing his math, kept working on bank records, and wrote a blog post

9:30 Went over business emails with Tom. Helped Jasmine with her essay.

10:00 Kept working on the blog--trying to add the photos which takes a long time on our internet speed. Kept helping Troy with his math. Read more email. Downloaded more bank stuff.
      The internet began to slow down.
Our new volunteer started school with the kids today so she went over some of their worksheets with me.

11:00 Since the internet had stopped working completely by now, I decided to work on payroll--printing and preparing the slips. I also spent some time in the kitchen supervising the new cook.

11:30 Wrapped up our charity's August finance report--always so much fun!

12:30 Essay help for Timmy. He was writing an informal essay about a trip we took to the falls last year. It was an entertaining read. I have a hard time assessing my kids' writing work though. Am I the only homeschooling mom with this problem?

1:00 Tuna sandwiches for lunch

1:30 Business meeting with Tom
             internet still not working

1:50 Took a siesta. This is one of the best habits I've acquired from living overseas. 
3:00 internet--still not working well. I tried entering PW's latest giveaway but sadly, I know now that I didn't win.
3:15 Payroll. This is one of my most challenging tasks each month. I don't have a fancy payroll program so I manually enter each time card into a spreadsheet and then mail merge it into a Word document to create payslips. I'm mostly pleased with the set up and I've had some wonderful friends help me in getting it to work as well as it does but, it is still subject to human error. I make mistakes from time to time in forgetting to enter data or that a formula doesn't carry over.
  Because I've occasionally made mistakes and because it is such a new concept for our staff (most employees here are paid a standard salary each month) they distrust the pay system and routinely question the data. This makes it a very time consuming event for me as I have to take their little scraps of paper containing their handwritten record of work and compare it to their time cards and then to the computer spreadsheet. Sometimes I have made a mistake but often they have made a mistake in their adding or in their record keeping or they forget to sign in. I'm considering instituting a fine for mistakes. If I mess up I'll pay them a dollar on their next check. If they mess up they owe me a dollar.

5:15 Payroll, eventually mostly done I moved into the kitchen to prepare dinner. I cooked soy pieces & veggies in a soy sauce & ginger sauce and we had rice with it. Nice and healthy.
    Of course, I also ate leftover icing from Jasmine's birthday cake while I was cooking so I'm pretty sure that canceled out any health benefits of the dinner. Just keepin' it real, people.

6:30 We sat down for dinner. Peter joined us as he does every evening for his special family time. He loves to sit on the table and beg for food. I'll have to post pictures of his sign language soon. He's hilarious.

7:00 We all relaxed in living room.Peter was still with us and Lizzie joined us as well. We're a little concerned about Lizzie's development so we're going to be keeping a closer eye on her and also writing to some doctors for advice. If you know of any pediatricians or other experts that could take a look at her case history, I'd really appreciate it.
7:30 The kids picked out Grown Ups as the movie for the night. I watched 80% of it but finally had to call it quits. I just couldn't endure it.
            Kept checking the internet but it was still down.

8:00 The babies went back to the nursery for sleep time.

10:00 I headed to bed. I'm currently reading The Book of Ruth (the novel--not the book of the Bible) and so I read that for about 5 or 10 minutes but then I was out for the count.


So, what did you think? Was it what you expected or did you think my life was a little more thrilling on a day to day basis?

Exactly one year ago: A Hospital Visit

Monday, September 13, 2010

So Glad to Have a Daughter*

* I actually have 3 daughters, but only one still living with me.

After suffering through lovingly creating birthday cakes for my two sons in July and August, it was nice to have a girly birthday to look forward to.

As I've mentioned before, Jasmine is a budding baker. She is especially good at cupcakes. Our latest, long-term volunteer brought her a gift of several baking books. Jasmine looked through them and chose a White and Dark Chocolate Torte.

I'm not sure how tortes are supposed to taste but I found the cake to be a bit dry and bland. I may have left it to cool too long.... This will definitely be something I revisit.

We didn't have quite enough white or dark chocolate so I improvised. The dark chocolate filler actually had some hazelnut/chocolate spread mixed in. The white chocolate that was supposed to cover the outside of the cake didn't quite make it down the sides so I made a batch of buttercream frosting for the sides and to decorate with.

Here is the final result:

At dinner, the day we celebrated Jasmine's birthday, we played a guess-the-jellybean-flavor game. We are hard up for entertainment here! One of us would place a jellybean in the upturned palm of someone who had their eyes closed. They would eat the jellybean and try to guess the color. We had really cheapo jellybeans so it was HARD. When it was my turn, I closed my eyes and put my hand out. Feeling the jellybean in my palm I popped it in my mouth....and instantly knew something was wrong! Instead of a smooth, rounded morsel the thing in my mouth was dry, crusty and jagged. I spat that thing out right onto the table faster than you can say jellybean. Tom had thought it great fun to substitute a crust of bread in place of a jellybean. He laughed so loud and long that he completely freaked out baby Peter (who was sitting on his lap) who proceeded to sob and cry and needed to be cuddled. Good times!

After dinner we moved to the living room for Jasmine's birthday movie: New Moon

I have to give props to my husband who sat patiently through the entire movie asking questions like, "Is it a full moon?" "So how exactly are vampires killed?" and also making observations such as, "Bella's a little messed up isn't she?" Indeed!

When the movie was (thankfully) over, we went back to the dining room for cake. 

Overall, it was a really nice evening. 

Happy Birthday, Jasmine!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sundays in My City--Lumangwe Falls

Before I get started, I want to answer some of your questions about our pool and the post I wrote here.

1. The giant rubber band is actually strips of inner tube tied together. These rubber strips are the go-to material for all the junior Macgyvers here in Zambia.

2. We haven't had too much trouble with gawkers but we try to swim at off hours--lunch time when everyone is home eating or napping or evening when people have left their fields and gone home for dinner. It helps that the pool is above ground because no one can see into the pool by just looking through the fence. There is the tricky moment when you have to drop your wrap before climbing and then descending the ladder but we are getting good at timing it just right.

Now, on to the main part of the post!

Unknown Mami
 Like I mentioned before, we had visitors last week. It was wonderful! and even better was getting the chance to take them to all our special places. On Monday we drove to Lumangwe and Kabwelume Falls. In my opinion these are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Zambia. We adore them!

The only reason we don't go to them every week is because they are a little bit far from our house. They are  80 miles (130 km) from our home. In a developed area this wouldn't be a problem but when half the trip is over a deeply rutted dirt road you rethink the drive. 
We piled 9 people into our Landcruiser and hit the road. The first half (while crowded) was nice. Then we got onto the dirt road. Everytime we hit a pothole we who were sitting in the back bounced all over--bumping into each other and nearly coming off our seats. We giggled a lot but by the end we were sore, sore, sore. 
The other issue was the dust. It is the dry season right now and all the fields are dried up and to add insult to injury they've been burned as well so the air is full of dust and ash. Landcruisers are not known for their good seals and it showed. 

These Bibles were brand new at the start of the trip. It's a good thing they were wrapped in plastic.

A shot of my leg--the 'bad tan' line is actually what was not covered up by my yoga pants. My face and chest looked just as bad.

It was wonderful to get to the end of our journey and see the water. The first waterfall has parking and picnic area at the top of the waterfall. The pleasant little river you see here tumbles along and empties over the edge of this:
Tom was standing right on the edge--just a few yards from where we were eating lunch. There are no guard rails or precautions. It's slightly scary but also nice to see the waterfalls in their natural, pure state.
After lunch we walked down the ravine. Slipped and slid is probably more accurate. While not as difficult to do as when I came in rainy season and the ground was covered with mud and there were millipedes everywhere, it was still hard work. 
This is what greeted us at the bottom. Tom may or may not have tried to scale this rock face. Since his mom reads this blog I'll leave it open.
Lumangwe Falls! Absolutely stunning!

We jumped right in to swim. It was wonderful to wash off all the dust.

Our friend, Tommy, is not drowning. Have no fear. The current was strong and real swimming wasn't possible but it was refreshing and safe. The only problem was the dead monkey floating next to the rocks at the shore. Aren't you glad I didn't show you that picture? You're welcome.

There were large rocks all throughout the area we were swimming in, so Tom asked me to sit on one for a while so he could practice camera angles and settings. The sun was behind me and I'm sure this could be fixed up in Photoshop or some such program but I'm not there yet.

After swimming for awhile and then climbing (or crawling) out of the ravine, we drove for about 10 minutes to another waterfall called Kabwelume. We parked in the parking area and then took a pretty walk through the woods to get to this beautiful sight. 
 This is to the right of the waterfall shown above. With everyone walking around on the bluff you can see the magnitude of the waterfall.
 I leave you now with my favorite shot of the day.

Tom took all the photos in this post except the first two. 
He's a whiz with the camera and I love him for it.

Now, go check out other wonderful sights from around the world:
Unknown Mami

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