Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Delight of an Unexpected Date

One of the things that Tom and I had placed on our to-do list for Lusaka was a visit out to SugarBush Farm. Several months ago, after attending church in Lusaka we took a Sunday drive--what a concept!--and discovered this little farm which hosts a leather shop and cafe. Since we had already had lunch at the time of our discovery, we weren't in the mood to eat, but just wandered around and took in the beautiful scenery and looked at the handmade leather goods.

When we knew we were going to be in Lusaka for a few days this month, we thought it would be wonderful to visit again and perhaps have lunch. But, as our list of important things to do got longer, Sugarbush Farm was pushed farther and farther down until at one point we simply laughed and mimed it dying as it fell off entirely.

Then, providence struck in the form of a lost bag at the airport. Suddenly, with all our important work done, we had the gift of an extra day in Lusaka.

After a quiet morning at the hotel where Tom got a much needed sleep-in, and I spent a couple hours working to the soundtrack of a Psych episode, we drove out of town on a rare and special DATE.

Sugarbush Farm has winding lanes that take you past corrals with horses and beautiful trees. We looked for the Irish Wolfhound type dog we'd seen last time but he was no where to be found. It's the kind of property that says it has been around, seen a lot and stood the test of time. It's not something you see everyday in this relatively new country, and so it is always a delight. It carries a type of restfulness with it, if that makes any sense.

 Then we arrived at the main attraction: A farmhouse converted into a cafe and a shop called Jackal and Hide.

Out back there is a large garden which provides produce for the cafe and sometimes even for sale, though this time it looked a bit overgrown--probably due to the heavy rains we've been having.

We wandered through the leather shop for a while. I need to replace my stolen wallet, but while there were many beautiful things, I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. That's OK! The hunt is half the fun.

Afterward, we settled on the wide porch to enjoy lunch. And here is when it got really exciting for me. The menu looked legitimate! It featured dishes that made it easy to forget we were sitting in the backwoods of Zambia--including Louisiana Crayfish with a Remoulade. A remoulade! In Zambia?? For real??

Tom chose the crayfish and I settled on a pasta dish with crispy bacon and fresh herbs because I wanted to see what the garden produced. And boy, was I glad I did! The pasta turned out to be homemade! I've never seen homemade pasta in Zambia (other than in my own kitchen, that is) and it was amazing!

We relaxed and enjoyed the cool breeze for a time, before heading back to the city. 

It's moments like this that I remember that All Things Work Together For Good. A forced delay in our plans gave us the gift of a Special Date. 

P.S. Poor Tom didn't enjoy the day quite as much as I did due to the fact that, knowing he needed a good night sleep, I gave him a sedative (2 in fact) the night before, which did in fact allow him to sleep really well, but which also meant he wandered around in a fog all day and all he could think about was crawling back into bed. Poor man! ha ha

Exactly Three Years Ago: Pause Life for a Moment (a guest post I did)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Crazy 35 Hour Day

Warning: Long Post Ahead

After a very busy Christmas season Tom and I looked forward to a few days together. We needed to take care of some business in Lusaka and a volunteer was expected to arrive on January 8, so following the New Year festivities, and after taking care of the bi-weekly shopping,  we headed down to Lusaka.

It's much easier to drive the roads here if you start off at 2 or 3 AM. The roads are clear, it's cooler, and you arrive in Lusaka 12 hours later ahead of the rush hour. It's perfect. And this is exactly what Tom and I did. We had the car loaded the night before, got a few hours of sleep and drove off at 2:30 AM. 

Tom did most of the driving, but I did 2 of the most boring hours so I think it was fairly even. Ahem.
On the way we prepared our to-do list. As is typical for trips like this, a list that started out with about 4 items on it quickly grew to include about 20. All to get done in two days. Yep.

We were thoroughly exhausted when we got to Lusaka so after a quick stop for dinner at a Thai place, where I discovered Tom Yum Kai soup, we got to sleep early since the next couple days would be BUSY!

The next morning we were out the door at 8 AM. The first stop was Immigration where we collected my residence permit. No more renewing work permits every two years. And the People of God say Hallelujah!!

From that point onward the next day and a half moved forward in a methodical way. At each shop, office, or business we found either the people or things we needed. We sat in traffic a few times, but for the most part we just moved from point to point and crossed item after item off our list. It was wonderful and by no means typical for this part of the world. We were amazed! 

On the way to pick up our newest volunteer, Zach, from the airport we marveled at how smoothly the trip had gone so far and how thankful we were for that fact.

This was about to change......

We arrived at the airport just after Zach's plane had landed and so we took our time to grab a couple bottles of water and a snack. Volunteers have to stand in the 'tourist' line so they are usually some of the last people out. However, as time passed and there was still no sign of Zach we got a bit concerned. Finally we spotted him--but where he was meant nothing good. He was at the Lost Luggage counter!

Eventually he filled out the necessary forms so the airline could locate his suitcase and they promised to call when his luggage arrived. This particular airline has 3 flights a day from South Africa to Zambia so there was a good chance his suitcase could even get in later that day. There was nothing more to be done so we called the hotel to extend our stay (we had been planning to begin driving that very next morning--at 2 AM again), and headed home.

The next day we called the airport and were told the suitcase was in their system, but would only arrive the next day at noon since it was still in Germany. 

So, with all our work done we ended up with a free day. What a gift! 

The next morning we woke up early ready to check out from the hotel and get to the airport at noon after which we would begin driving back to Kazembe. Whether the bag had arrived or not we would have to head north and make other arrangements for the suitcase because we'd been away from the orphanage too long already. And this is where the long day began. Had we known what it held in store for us, we may have just crawled back into bed.....

Car fully loaded we drove out to the airport, arriving right at noon. The Lost Luggage office showed the suitcase as being loaded on the flight and due to arrive. Only problem? The flight was delayed by 90 minutes. So we decided to wait. It was only 90 minutes, right?

Two hours later we found out the suitcase was actually still lost. No one seemed to know where it was. Tom found a courier that would get it out of lost and found and all the way up to Mansa whenever it actually arrived. That was good news, but now it was after 4 PM. We were going to hit rush hour traffic, be stuck behind buses also headed out of town, and be driving this congested traffic area at dusk. Not good!

We made a decision to check into an inexpensive hostel for several hours so we could sleep and then start driving at midnight. It sounded like a good plan in theory, but the reality was that we weren't really able to sleep and then we got a call at 9 PM that the luggage had actually arrived. So, back to the airport we went at 11 PM, collected the suitcase and right at midnight we were headed out of town. 

The road was reasonably clear, but we were already tired and staring down the barrel of a 12 hour drive. Poor Tom only managed 2.5 hours before he had to pull over. I wasn't able to help much with the driving because when my wallet was stolen back in November my license was taken along with it. We had decided that I would only drive in areas I wasn't likely to be asked to produce a license. 

After an hour of sleep Tom got back to driving. And immediately encountered pea-soup thick fog. We crept along at about 30 miles an hour. It was very stressful. I sat up straight, peering ahead, and 'helped' keep an eye on the road. Another 2 hours and we had to stop once more. An hour after that Tom drove again. There was relief in sight though because we were about to reach the 'dead zone' as we call it. It's a lonely stretch of highway where there are few villages and no police checkpoints. I'd be able to help with the driving finally.

When I took over the driving it was about 9 AM. We'd pretty much been up for 24 hours with just a couple catnaps to tide us over. I put in my earphones with my audio book and hoped I'd be able to stay awake.

About three hours later we got close to civilization so Tom woke up and took over with the driving. We were an hour away from Mansa at this point and after that it would only be two hours. We would survive this!

In Mansa we picked up some lunch, but decided to eat it on the way because We Were So Close!

The only thing left to do was to stop off at Terra Nova to drop off some tomato seedlings we'd picked up in Lusaka. It didn't make any sense to take them all the way to Kazembe only to take them back again a few days later. 

As we drove north the rain started up. This is so good for our garden, we remarked. However, Tom did wonder if the dirt road that winds through Terra Nova would be too muddy to drive on. We have gravel down for the first hundred yards but the next stretch is still just dirt. 

When we got to Terra Nova, there was so much grass growing on the dirt road we figured we'd have some traction and decided to risk it. 

Big mistake.

At this point the rain was coming down pretty good. We jumped out, pulled the seedlings out of the car, and deposited them inside the 'greenhouse' tunnel. Soaking wet, we got back in the car ready to have this trip over. Just an hour and a half to go.

 Aaaand the car wouldn't move. We were mired in the mud!

I dragged a bamboo mat out of our Gilligan's Hut, but it was too rotted to do much good. We pulled apart a fence made out of bark pieces, but they too did nothing. Our front tires just spun uselessly. 

Tom had been in the driver's seat trying to maneuver while Zach and I dashed around in the rain pulling random objects over to try and help free the tires. Tom finally got out and asked me to do the driving so he could help more. I've never worked to unstick a car from mud, so I didn't really know what I was doing. This became apparent when Tom asked me to put the car in reverse and I revved the engine spraying poor Zach liberally with mud. The look he gave me was priceless. We told him he was being baptized into African life.

Thankfully, the village headman and his fifteen year old son happened along. They knew where some logs were and helped us to jack up the car and pile debris beneath the two front tires. A full hour after getting stuck we were finally free!
We left behind several layers of rubber on one of the logs--it was literally smoking!--but we were FREE!

An hour and a half later our poor, wet, muddy, bedraggled bodies drove through the orphanage gate. Never had our bed looked so wonderful!

It was nearly 5 PM and we had been driving nearly the entire time since 11 PM the day before!

The best thing we can say about days like that is that we survived! 

And what an adventure it was!

P.S. Can you believe I got not a single picture?? Just the sight of poor Zach covered head to toe with mud on only his second African day would have been worth having. Somehow my mind was not on cameras.....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Nothing Like a Burst of Adrenaline to Kickstart the New Year

This year for New Year’s Eve we decided to continue our annual tradition of setting off fireworks at Terra Nova. We did it last year on a camping trip, and now we did it again this year, so it’s an annual tradition, right?

Unlike last year where we climbed up our ‘mountain’ and camped overnight, we wanted to save our legs and backs by setting off the fireworks at ground level and then just heading back home after the midnight ringing in of a New Year.

We invited some Peace Corps volunteers to join us and took Chewy along for good measure. Tom wanted to put in a full day of farm work out at Terra Nova and so we set out in the early morning loaded with coolers and boxes of all the homemade cookies leftover after Christmas.

While Tom, Troy and Peter got to work, I sat down with my stitching (I’m making a baby sampler for good friends) and watched Chewy run around exploring. He had the time of his young life checking out every stick and hole he could find.

Tom and I took a walk, later in the afternoon, around the property to survey the orchard—we had several workers out there cutting the grass—the 100 yard lane leading from the main road into our property—five women were pulling the grass out from the gravel—and the ducks. Most of the ducks were swimming around in the river. They are so happy out at Terra Nova! 

As Tom walked away from the river he collected a tail: Apparently the ducks are used to being fed and thought it was dinner time.

We also found something that the village headman had rigged up to protect the ducks from a hawk that lives in the area.

It’s pretty spooky!

When it finally got dark enough, Tom decided to set off the majority of the fireworks early so the villagers could see them and still get to bed on time.

We had a small group gathered around the elevated roundabout at the end of the our lane. (This roundabout was a termite mound that we cut down to about 5 feet tall and shaped into what will eventually be an impressive landmark). 
Way down at the main road another larger crowd had gathered. Tom started out with some fairly tame fireworks, but they still startled our small group. Everyone scattered at the first bang. It was funny!

Then the big ones started up. Each time a plume of fireworks would spray and sparkle, the crowd out on the main road would cheer. It sounded like a football match.

The fireworks increased in intensity as any good display should. Chewy was a little nervous about the flashes and bangs. He moved from person to person, hid under skirts, and even was held in arms before he begged to get down so he could wander around again.

After a particularly large boom, our small crowd started shouting something about a dog. We eventually figured out that Chewy had had one too many frights and was bugging out of there! Several people took off running and still took time to catch up to that tiny dog. I guess fear gave him wings.

We took Chewy back to the campsite and Tom wound up the first round of fireworks. He just reserved a couple huge ones for midnight.

After that it was a waiting game. There were still 3 hours to go till midnight. We visited under the stars, rested and Tom shot off his shotgun a few times because he could.

Finally midnight drew near and we gathered at the roundabout once more. I prepared our little plastic cups with punch, Tom got his shotgun ready, and prepared the two remaining rockets. The plan was at the stroke of midnight to let off a shot, pop the bubbly and shoot off a firework rocket.

As you might imagine, things didn’t go quite as planned…..

We counted down: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and……

The gun fired!

I wrestled the cork out of the bottle. POP!

And then, we all looked expectantly to the roundabout where Tom was still struggling to light the rocket. He got it lit and we stared with horror as it just sat there getting hotter and hotter and not taking off. Then it shot off—but at a sideways angle right at our car!

Boom! The burst of fireworks exploded right next to us!

When we could all breathe again and had determined that we were all still alive and our car was intact, we chuckled shakily and had to admit that was kinda cool.

Tom set up the next rocket and after a few adjustments to account for the soft, muddy ground, the last rocket shot upward and burst perfectly in the air.

It was a perfect ending and beginning!

Happy New Year!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Tidbits and Updates
Exactly Three Years Ago: Garden Glories
Exactly Four Years Ago: Down for the Count

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Adding a Character to our Cast

I hate to postpone the story of our New Year's Eve. More than one of you took me to task over leaving you all with a cliffhanger, but I have to first introduce you to someone who plays a big part in the adventure. 

Meet Chewbacca! Or Chewy as we tend to call him, which applies particularly well to him at this stage in his life.

For quite some time now I've wanted a little dog that can stay indoors with us and provide an extra level of protection. Not that things are terribly dangerous here, but it's comforting to have a little doggy to bark at things that don't belong. 

(I could have used him one night not too long ago when something unpleasant invaded my bedroom--but that story too will have to wait)

Chewbacca is half Jack Russell Terrier and half something unknown--maybe Staffordshire Terrier--but perhaps just mutt. This makes for an interesting little body. His front paws are much larger than his back ones. Kinda like the puppy version of a mullet: All business in the front and a party in the back. When he runs he's quite lopsided.

Jack Russells are supposed to be good at hunting snakes and you can imagine how happy that makes me. He has also been good with the kids and is playful enough to entertain them, while small enough not to intimidate.

It's been a new experience to deal with a puppy who needs to be house trained and looked after all the time and given plenty of attention. This is also the first time ever that I've allowed a dog to sleep on my bed. I would like to teach him how to sleep in his own little bed in our bedroom though. Any ideas on how to do that??

This little sweet pea is a great addition to our large family. And, he's already begun participating in our adventures. Stay tuned.....

(Almost) Exactly Three Years Ago: The Other Side of Christmas Week
Exactly Five Years Ago: Christmas Candy Toss

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Beginnings

Sunset at Terra Nova

The New Year is the perfect time to make a fresh start on so many things. I've missed writing in this little corner of the interwebs and I fear that my neglect has left it quite dusty. I'm pulling out my duster, my broom, and my keyboard to set things right.

You should see some changes over the next few weeks. My son has offered to update the header graphic. Hooray! And I'm going to play around with the layout and side bars. I know it's been ages since you've poked around my space, but if you have a moment, please stop by and see if there are elements you love and some you think could disappear with no one missing out. 

I'd love to have larger pictures and more of the stories that I enjoy writing and trust you enjoy reading.

The purpose of this space is to introduce you to our part of the world, and the beautiful children that share it with us. I'm going to be doing some remodeling and restructuring so this is accurately reflected on these pages. 

This is hereby my commitment: I am going to be publishing 3 times a week minimum with perhaps a Photo of the Week thrown in there. I already have a few articles in the pipeline (including how we spent our New Year's Eve--spoiler alert: adrenalin flowed and we were glad to be alive) and look forward to getting back into the groove of writing.

I've missed all of you!

Happy New Year and God's richest Blessings on All your Adventures this year!
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