Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Ever Heard of Being Scared of Car Washes?

Warning! Long post ahead. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Amy's Adventures Continue!
When last we left our hapless heroine she had suffered anoverload of adrenaline and was now driving down to Lusaka after getting a good night’s sleep:

Getting those first two hours of driving, from Kazembe to Mansa, out of the way that terrible day last month was a good move. It meant that I was fresh for the boring stretch of driving. About an hour east of Mansa the road is straight, flat and fairly empty. Few other cars or trucks pass you, and the huts are scattered apart. This goes on for about 3-4 hours.

I kept myself alert by belting out the lyrics to Queen, or beating a rhythm on the steering wheel along with Muse, or crooning along with country legends. When we finally made it past the tough 4 hour stretch, Troy begged for a bit of quiet.  You know, something’s wrong when your teenager complains that your music is too loud……

Pulling out my headphones I began playing my audio book, Jayber Crow. It doesn’t really have a plot so if I leave it for a week or two I can still pick up where I left off. One lesson I learned with this book: When listening to an audio book on your mp3 player, make sure the shuffle option is turned off. When I first started listening to Jayber Crow I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on. Since it didn’t have a plot, I didn’t notice at first that I was jumping from chapter one to chapter 14 to chapter six. I ended up having to start all over again.

Anyway, back to my journey.

I had planned to make a stop around the six hour mark for lunch and then the nine hour mark for coffee. People kept telling me that I absolutely had to have coffee at a place called the Fig Tree Café about an hour and a half north of Lusaka.

First though was lunch in Mkushi. The gas station there has a toilet (fee paying, of course) and a little restaurant and convenience store. We could fill up, stretch our legs, and get a bite to eat. My first clue that things weren’t going to go to plan was when we pulled up to the gas pumps and the attendant  (all gas stations are full-service) couldn’t even be bothered to stand up and greet us or ask how much gas we wanted. 

Next I went to the bathrooms and found that they were filthy. The whole point of paying to use the toilets is that presumably they use the money to keep them clean. Not so much. I fought the guy collecting the money, but realized it wasn’t really his responsibility—and he probably has some sort of quota to fulfill.

Then we went into the restaurant and found about five employees milling about, but no one made eye contact or offered to take our order. Eventually we got someone’s attention and ordered some food.  I went next door to the convenience store for some snacks and found the radio playing so loudly the store could have been mistaken for a night club. The two cashiers there merrily gossiped away, completely ignoring me. 

At this point I’d had enough. I tracked down the manager and lo and behold I found him sitting on a freezer, swinging his legs and wearing a sleeveless t-shirt (AKA a wife-beater) at work! He listened politely enough to my concerns and told me how sorry he was, but even though I left my number so his boss could follow up, I’ve never heard back. It’s so sad that business is treated in such a slip-shod way.

There was no way I could eat a leisurely lunch now. I was too angry. So, I told Troy to get back in the car. We could have a break when we got to the Fig Tree.

Two hours later we saw the sign for the Fig Tree Café. Boy, was I excited!  I was ready for a break, and just knew the coffee was going to hit the spot perfectly. 

When we pulled into the small parking lot, I was surprised to see no cars. Then I noticed the sign. Open daily from 6 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday.

Guess what day it was?

Yep. Sunday.

I could have cried. 

At this point I’d been driving since 6 AM and it was now around 3 PM. That’s 9 hours of nearly full on driving. I just wanted to get where we were going.

Finally at 4 PM we reached Lusaka. When I organized a place where Troy could stay while I took my week of classes I specified that he would have access to the two main shopping malls so he could hang out, watch movies, and use the internet cafes for social media and some school. The sweet family that offered to take him in said that was no problem. 

What I didn’t realize was that they lived on the other side of town, but they worked near this mall. So while I thought my driving was nearly over, I had a good ways to go yet. Before we hit the road again, Troy and I had a coffee at one of the coffee shops. I was exhausted and hot, so when Troy ordered an ice coffee, I ordered one as well. This was my first mistake. There was probably half a cup of sugar in there. This decision would haunt me later.

Once we’d rested a bit, I got directions to our new missionary friends’ house—located in a section of Lusaka where I rarely ventured.  I followed the directions carefully and found the missionaries’ house with no problems. They lived in a nice gated community (most houses here have large walls and gates for security) and I was sure Troy would be just fine.  

I now had to get back on the road and head to the place where my classes would be held--on the complete opposite side of town again. And this is where I made my second mistake. My instincts told me I should back track through the directions I’d followed till I came to a familiar section and then head south. It was a bit more out of the way, but I knew I could do it.

However, Troy’s host suggested I take a different route. He was very sweet and drew me a map. I looked it over and thought I could do it. Life lesson: follow your instincts. 

By now it was dark. I got out to the main road and followed the map until I came to a section of town called Woodlands. (There are no woods—not sure why the name…) Here was a roundabout. According to the map I needed to take the street to the left. Only trouble—there were actually two lefts. Instead of having four streets, this roundabout had five. 

So, as you can probably guess, I ended up on the wrong street. And this is where I made yet another mistake. Once I realized I was on the wrong street, instead of turning around, I tried to cut across to the correct street. Huge mistake!

I ended up driving up and down dark, dirty, unmarked and unlit streets. I saw countless sketchy nightclubs and car washes. Why on earth were there so many car washes? And what were they doing open at night? They must be criminal enterprises. Even though they were well lit, there was no way I would stop there for directions!

While there were many people on the road, I was hesitant to stop lest I be robbed or worse, and also, I realized that most pedestrians would use public transport and not know how to give directions.

In desperation I called Tom in the States. I can count on maybe two hands the times I’ve been lost in my life. Tom on the other hand has learned the beauty of using a GPS. I called him now in tears, “how on earth do you handle this feeling??” He chuckled and said you get used to it. His helpful advice was just to keep driving. I glanced down at my gas tank and figured with a half tank I’d probably survive. 

Finally I spotted a gas station and stopped. Not that I needed the gas necessarily, but it was a well-lit place where I could get directions. Naturally I desperately needed to use the facilities as well. Being so nervous wasn’t helping matters in that respect. Nor was the huge ice coffee I’d had earlier. Not to mention my blood sugar was in the basement as well. Note to self: Never, never, but never, drink sweetened ice coffee again!

After asking three different people for directions and getting the same answer (very important to do in cultures where they love to make you happy and will therefore say anything as long as you leave satisfied) I drove off down the road and after one or two more scary moments (I was nearly hit by a mini-bus & I had to drive through a dark and deserted part of town that is hardly recommended during the day, much less late at night) I finally got on track and back to a part of the city that I knew well. 

I pulled into the property where I’d spend the next week,  with my knees knocking and my stomach trembling, but I was safe. I’d been driving almost non-stop for 14 hours. 

Spending the next five days in a classroom would be a breeze after all I’d been through, right? 

Stay tuned….

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catching Up

  • I realize I didn’t write all last week. I just couldn’t get it together to write. Not with the tragedy that was happening in Kenya. I didn’t have words to express how heartbroken I was over the situation, or how scary it is for us to have that happen so close to us. How could I spend time writing about my adventures when something so tragic was happening right around the corner from us.

  • While Kenya is a couple countries away, the mall that was attacked sounded exactly like the one we frequent in Lusaka. In fact I’m writing this note from just such a place. Life can't stay on hold. We just have to operate in prayer and awareness. 
  •  I’m currently spending a few days running errands in Lusaka. I took the bus down on Friday after we completed our shopping in Mansa. I’ll be posting pictures of that bus ride later.

  • One of the reasons I’m down in Lusaka is that the rainy season is on its way and we have to make sure our back up system for electricity is ready. I’ll be buying six new batteries which will give us six hours of power should we lose power from the electric company.

  • We’re still working through the ranks with the mumps episode. Every day or two another child, or two, comes down with the mumps.
  • We thought Troy had had them back in August because he had swollen glands around the time that another child was sick, but now he has them for real. Thankfully he realized right away and went straight to bed so he is resting and protecting the rest of his glands. It meant that he missed out on this trip to Lusaka (we wanted to give him a break and a chance to hang out with young people), but there is a youth group retreat coming up in October. Hopefully he can attend that.

  • Two more of our children, Theresa and Ernest, committed their lives to Jesus today. I’ll share photos on the Kazembe Orphanage Facebook page soon. 

  • As you can see, it’s still busy as can be in our little corner of the world. However, I’m going to try write for 30 minutes each day and will post as often as possible. I would love to commit to a writing schedule as well as a posting schedule. What days do you prefer to read blogs? 
(Almost) Exactly Two Years Ago: A Coat of Many Colors
Exactly Three Years Ago: Comments Regurgitated

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Strange Things Are Happening

September is typically the first truly hot, hot month. August is the beginning of our hot, dry season, but by September you know for sure that hot season is upon you. You begin to count down the days to the rainy season which starts around the middle of October or at least by the 24th of October which is Zambia's Independence Day.

The days are dry, and hot and dusty. 

However, earlier this month we began to see clouds in the sky. Volunteers asked if it was overcast and perhaps about to rain. No, we assured them. Rain is months away.

Later that day it rained. Not for long and not very hard, but a definite rain. Our Swiss and German volunteers told us it was because we had food leftover after dinner the night before. Apparently the myth in both their countries is 'food leftover after dinner, rain the next day'. I'm not sure I've got the translation right, but that's close.

We laughed at the strange weather and life moved on.

But, the next week it sprinkled again.

And then, today!

Thunder, lightning and a real drenching.

Three times today the skies opened.

Even the old people in the village have no idea what's happening. They are completely confused and don't know what to do about planting now. Should they plant now? Or is this a fluke and are rains still a month or two away?

Something else that comes with rain has me squirming.

Bugs, bugs and even more bugs. I'm not sure you can see them all in the photo, but trust me. They were swarming.

And, of course along with the bugs come the predators. The scorpions! We've already found three. I'm not at all thrilled.

On days like this I'm tempted to believe in the little thing called Global Warming.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Thursday's This & That
Exactly Three Years Ago: A Tale of Two Shoes

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Technology Means Never Feeling Left Out Again

In August Tom took a 3 week trip to the U.S primarily to spend time with our kids and his parents, but also to gather some needed supplies and take care of a board meeting for our charity.

He dedicated one day of his trip to each of our kids and his parents. Each one was able to choose what they would like to do for their day. He visited the museums with our history major, took our oldest daughter car shopping, went bowling with our second daughter, etc.

Then he took all five out for an outing to Kemah Boardwalk. You might remember some of the fun we had as a family there a couple/few years back. These interesting pictures were also taken there.

Just before leaving Tom told everyone to quickly get on the steps for a family picture. It was unposed and unrehearsed and yet it turned out perfectly.

The only problem: Troy and I felt left out.

What a great family picture and we were missing from it.

Someone commented that we should be photoshopped in, and Troy took on that challenge.

Here it is!

Isn't that great?!

Troy's skills in Photoshop, graphic design, animation, and video editing are coming right along. He has a real future in it.

Here are a couple of his latest projects.

This one freaked me out!

He called it 'Finding the Funny Side of Me'.

So technology perhaps can't erase the feeling of being left out, but it can erase the evidence of it.

Exactly Two Years Ago: My Not-So Secret Desire

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Incredible, Shrinking Woman

As you may know, I've been trying to lose weight for several years now. This year I'm especially dedicated because I have a big birthday coming up in December and I want to look fabulous!
Wanna know if I've found something that works? Keep reading!

There are many methods out there, but one that has worked best for me in the past has been Atkins. However, it isn't the best method for long-term, and isn't exactly practical for Africa.

Then I picked up Timothy Ferris's book: 4 Hour Body. Right after I arrived in the States this past spring I found t at the library. It's very thick, but it covers a few different topics. Read the introduction and zero in on the chapters most suited to helping you.

I am not a doctor, or a scientist, nor do I play either of those things on TV or the internet. I will be sharing my experiences and perhaps something will click for you. Read the book. Make an informed decision. Consult your doctor, yada yada. :)

I won't go into too many details about this eating plan, because you should really read the book, but it can be summarized quickly as being a Slow-Carb diet.

This boils down to no white food: potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, etc. Also, you should avoid dairy and fruit. And, it goes without saying (though I'll say it anyway): No sugar.

What you can eat is protein, vegetables and beans, beans, beans.

AND! a huge selling point for me: You get one day off each week to stuff yourself. Literally! Timothy recommends eating way more than your usual caloric intake. This helps to trick your body into thinking it's getting plenty to eat and therefore burns more calories. (or something like that--see above disclaimer)
One thing I like about having the day off is, it is easier to resist temptation during the week. I reassured myself that if I really wanted it, I could have it on Sunday. Sometimes the craving would leave me. But, if not, I ate it on Sunday.
Also, if I was out with friends and they offered me dessert or something off my plan, it was easier to say "I'd love to have that, but I'll wait for Sunday". It's often awkward when someone is on a diet, and turns food down, and then whoever is eating the food feels guilty, etc. Saying I would eat it--just later--made it less judgey sounding, I guess.Sometimes my hostess would send a plate of dessert home with me which I saved in the fridge for later, and enjoyed thoroughly and I was able to tell them how much I enjoyed the dish.

A big tip is to eat as soon as possible after waking up. This boosts your metabolism and gets it revving for the day.

What I've noticed since following this diet:

I'm more satisfied throughout the day. On a regular diet or even small meal plan, I am ravenous between meals. Because my meals now contain beans they actually help me to feel full longer as they digest slowly. I have been completely happy with only three reasonable meals a day.

My blood sugar is much more even. Because the carbs I'm taking in are digesting slowly and therefore releasing into my bloodstream more evenly, I don't have the huge highs and lows that I was experiencing before. My mood swings have improved and I feel so much better. I didn't even have a blood sugar issue (aside from being mildly hypoglycemic), but the improvement has been phenomenal.

I also have plenty of energy which is not always the case when following a plan to try to lose weight.

Another big reason for choosing this diet for me is that I can do it here in Africa.  Beans are readily available and I can get vegetables fairly easily. I'll write more next week about how I've fared on this plan since returning to Zambia. Also I will talk more about what I actually eat and what my meals look like.

And now, would you like to hear the results??

During the 8 weeks that I followed this plan in the States this spring, I lost a  total of 12 pounds. In the next few weeks after returning to Zambia, I lost another 4. I found them last month during my trip to Lusaka (oops), but they are coming back off again.
I introduced my mom to this plan as well and she has lost 20 pounds! I'm so proud of her!

When I was down in Lusaka I got a bunch of compliments about looking better and how people could tell I'd lost weight. It was very affirming!

People also said I had nice hair and I was coming close to getting a bit proud, but then I remembered that the internet once told me that the celebrity I most resemble is Drew Carey--the Drew of Whose Line is it Anyway fame, not the Price is Right when he'd gotten in shape. So, this keeps me humble.

If you have any questions (about the diet/plan--not my level of humility), please let me know so I can answer them in the next post.

Exactly One Year Ago: Reading Little House on the Prairie from Our Big House in the Bush
Exactly Two Years Ago: Birthdays and Reunions
Exactly Three Years Ago: High Praise

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Puzzler

I am so glad to be married to Tom. He is a go-getter and never gives up.

Here's an example:

Our project this month has been renovating our office. I'll write more about that in a different post. One of the big things our office was missing was file cabinets. 

While down in Lusaka at the end of August we stopped in to the shop of one of our friends who owns a stationery shop. We were just trying to price cabinets and see what all we needed to get. He greeted us warmly and asked how things were going. 

We chatted with him for a few moments and told him all the exciting news from Kazembe Orphanage. At the end of our conversation he asked how he can help support what we're doing. 

So, we told him we were looking into getting some file cabinets and a supply cupboard. 

"OK. I'll give them to you." 

What? I thought he might offer a discount. But he was very generous!

He just told us to come back the next morning to collect the boxes. And they were ours. 

How exciting!!

The next day we collected four very flat boxes. Our friend assured us that everything just snapped together. We didn't even need screws. 

And this was true enough. We didn't need screws.

However, it was not a simple snap together job! The box revealed a bunch of flat metal pieces, some slidey pieces, oh, and some rivets. Yes. Rivets! So we didn't need a screwdriver, but we  needed a rivet gun. Thankfully Tom has one of those. (Am I the only one that finds that a little bit hot? Never mind, don't answer that.)

There were no instructions. None. Zip. Not even a picture of what it would look like assembled.

Tom and I labored over the first cabinet for 2 days straight. Pieces in, pieces out. Finally we had it pretty well put together so Tom riveted the frame, and we assembled and slid in the drawers. The bottom drawer slid in. Next the top drawer slid in. I let out a cheer--just a fraction of a second before the top drawer hit the frame. It didn't fit! Ack!!!

I walked away so I didn't dent the thin metal with frustrated punches.

Tom kept working on it and at last:


The next two file cabinets and the supply cupboard (also no instructions included) came together much easier for Tom.

I can't wait to reveal the rest of our office changes. Already my work is going so much smoother and I'm happy, happy, happy!

Exactly Four Years Ago:  Litterbugs

Monday, September 16, 2013

24 Hours

A couple weeks ago I had a pretty rough 24 hours. I vented about it on Facebook when I was actually trembling from accumulated stress and the expenditure of adrenaline.

My week had actually been going alright. Because Tom was out of the country I took the opportunity to have two of the little girls, Queenie and Theresa, accompany Kathrin and I to Mansa for our regular bi-monthly shopping trip. We got a room with two twin-sized beds and had a fun day of running errands, eating pizza in a restaurant, and then got a good night sleep before our shopping the next day.

Everything was wrapped up in a good time the following morning, and after enjoying a relaxing lunch with a missionary friend, the four of us got on the road at a reasonable time. This made me happy because I don’t enjoy driving this particular stretch of road as the sun lowers in the sky. Not only is it harder to see as we drive toward the setting sun, but the roads begin to fill (even more than usual) with people and animals all heading home.

We were about an hour from home when I saw a convoy of government vehicles coming our way in the opposite lane. I recognized them. They had passed us the previous day going in the opposite direction. I get annoyed whenever I see these convoys because it epitomizes one of the things I dislike most in developing countries. Here were $80,000 vehicles driving, through a terribly impoverished province, in a convoy with only two – three passengers, in cars designed to carry 5-6, and in a country where gas costs over $7 a gallon. It’s a colossal waste of money!

The previous day as I was passing them, one of the vehicles tried to pass the lead vehicle which put it directly in my lane. Only by pulling off the road did I avoid a collision. 

So, here they were passing us again. And the lead vehicle was riding the center marker! I flashed my lights making sure they could see me. They didn’t move over at all. They kept coming at a high rate of speed. I immediately pulled off the road--my heart pounding. As I’ve told this story to friends here they nod their heads knowingly, “Sweepers”. Apparently it’s normal!

We were fine, the car was fine, and the rest of the drive was uneventful.

We got home, finished putting away groceries, and then we all worked together on making French bread pizzas for dinner. 

Dinner was nearly ready when Sarah came running up out of breath and said she needed help. A staff member was leaving for the day, and during the routine security check something odd had come up. I walked down to reception praying that it was a misunderstanding. I had gotten to know this particular person quite well. I was sure there was an easy explanation. 

Arriving at the entry way I dismissed everyone and just had a quiet chat with the lady. She immediately confessed that she had stolen sausages. She reached into the front of her pants and pulled out a package of four sausages. My heart sank. 

I couldn’t even deal with it. I told her she was on immediate suspension. She went home. I had just found out that I was going to have to drive the 12 hours down to Lusaka on my own so I was leaving the very next day in order to do it over two days. I had no time to figure out how to take care of an employee who had broken our trust. 

She had her excuses. One was that she thought we fed the kids too much food and so it was better that she take it home. So ridiculous. And yet, she felt completely justified. Or, she said she did. 

I was sick to my stomach the rest of the evening, but I had absolutely no time to dwell on it. I had work to do to get ready for my week in Lusaka starting with the drive the next day. I had to pack. Had to leave everything ship shape for those helping out in my absence. Had to finish up work so that deadlines wouldn’t be missed.

There was one large job hanging over my head. Our dog, Simba, had been having behavior issues for some time. We tried to find him a new home, but it didn’t work out. Then. A terrible accident. Somehow he got startled and he bit Sarah on the face. We had no choice. He had to be put down. 

With no vet anywhere in the area, I called the police. I will spare you the details, but it was truly horrific. Tom asked me later why I was present for the whole thing and I told him I felt I owed Simba the dignity of not being alone. I don’t know. Maybe it was a mistake. 

I had asked the police to come in the morning, but they only showed up late in the afternoon. I was supposed to be on the road so I didn’t have to drive in the dark. Recently some friends of ours had an accident that resulted in a little girl losing her life. Also, previously in our large Landcruiser, while hitting a goat or pig was unpleasant, at least it wouldn't demolish the car. In our new, small car this is not the case. I wanted desperately to drive during daylight hours.

However, by the time everything was taken care of and the car was packed up and Troy and I could drive out the gate, it was nearly 5. I prayed desperate prayers for safety and pulled out of our driveway. Thankfully, Troy and I made it safely to Mansa where I was able to collapse into bed and try to process the previous 24 hours and all they had contained.

I sent out an urgent Facebook message and immediately kind thoughts and prayers flooded my way. I felt loved. It’s wonderful that an ocean or a continent is not too much distance to feel the prayers of loved ones. 

I know that God is always with me, and part of the way he takes care of me is by sending so many of you, my friends, to my aid. Thank you for all your kind words and prayers all the time. They mean so much to me!

The next day we were back on the road by 6 AM. And that day held yet another adventure. But that’s a story for another day.

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