Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh Wait, I Actually LIVE in Africa!

Tricia's mom is arriving in less than two weeks for a month-long visit. We're all super excited and we can't wait for her early morning BA flight to touch down, especially because the kids know that grandma is coming but only in a general sense and we plan on waking them at the crack of dawn (if they haven't already woken us) and taking them to the airport without telling them why. I'm sure they'll figure it out on the way there but at least they'll sleep the week before.
So in light of her upcoming visit, here's what we've been thinking about lately. Zambia has really become home for us in so many ways. The sights, sounds and smells that used to awe, astonish, frighten, or amaze me now just pass by with little notice. In other words Zambia has become our new normal. But with grandma coming we've really been looking around more and trying to imagine seeing it with her eyes. What about all the garbage, the mud or dust depending on the day, the poverty, the traffic, the beauty and vegetation, our zambian children, everything? It's really given me an eye to actually SEE Zambia again. It helps that rainy season is here. In Washington you would never have a day where you wake up to no power, the sun's up with heat and the massive amounts of rain that soaked the earth during last night's storms are creating a steamy, muggy, almost foggy morning. The sound of ten thousand crickets and other bugs whirring and chirping, frogs crrrreeeeeeeeking, our children singing songs in nynjana all morning while working on coloring, or they're picking termites out of dewey grass and putting them in a bucket of water for lunch. The mud road to Ciyanjano gets deep and bright orange and brighter green vegetation starts creeping into everything. It's amazing and beautiful. Suddenly we're having many moments lately where we really see, smell, feel like we're actually living in Africa. And we love it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inswa (Annual Return of the Termites!)

Every year, some time after the first rains begin in earnest, millions of fat termites fly out of their nests and begin looking for a mate and ne spot to start the next giant termite mound. The night it begins you can see thousands of them flying around street lamps and house lights. In the morning discarded wings lie in piles under lights and flutter in the breeze. Meanwhile, Zambians are turning over stones and digging in small holes and catching thousands of these little guys. Typically you catch them and drop them into a bucket of water which drowns them and also gets the dirt off them. One year at Ciyanjano our guys were able to catch 50kg of inswa in one morning! Then all you need to do is rinse them really well and toss 'em in hot dry skillet. They get crispy and remind me of something. I can't place the taste. The smell is unmistakeable as the air at Ciyanjano smells of them as they gather. For Zambians there is nothing better than the free fat and protein that can be gathered! With low wages and high cost of living, free food is hard to beat! The kids eat them like crazy and they wanted to save a big bowl of them for when grandma comes. I'm sure she'll love that!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love-letter to Toyota

I do not intend to start a debate with this blog. I know how guys can argue about trucks.

In high school I dated a guy with a bunch of tough, outdoorsy guy friends and they all loved to talk about their Toyota trucks and how when it came to "braffing" (which was what I think they called driving out on the back mountain roads), Toyota, and only Toyota would do. I always agreed of course because I was a sixteen-year-old girl who didn't care.

Let me tell you though, that now, in the outskirts of Lusaka (and even in the city) I often feel like I am in a crazy Toyota commercial. The roads here are unbelievable and I just don't know what we would do without our Prado!!!

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of taking a family out to get school shoes. We have a grandma who lives next to Ciyanjano in a two-room house where she alone is raising six and supporting one more. One of our supporters offered to help us help this family. So, I picked up the grandma and all the kids and took them to a shoe company that is relatively close to Kasupe.

When we arrived at the shoe place, apocalyptic rain began to pour down, which was so sad because all the family had gotten dressed up in their Sunday's best. Regardless though, we got all the kids fitted with shoes that will last much longer than they will fit these growing kids. We managed to get back in the truck and start off. Since my Nyanja is terrible and their English is very poor, we sang praises to the Lord instead of trying to chat.

Side note: Asking a Zambian if they like to sing is like asking if they like to breathe. The oldest to the youngest, love to sing and can even quite expertly lead a very complicated song with different parts... all the while at least one or two of them can clap along in intricate ways - it is like being in the middle of a professional performance.

So my trusty Toyota moved along in this downpour and I prayed to myself that the Lord would protect so I wouldn't kill this beautiful family with a traffic accident. We are trudging along Kasupe road which is rocks and mud for some of the way, and we come up to a crazy traffic jam. I get out of the truck to find that a huge truck is broken down and completely cutting off both lanes of traffic on our way home (and didn't I mention that it was dumping rain?) And giant piles of dirt for construction are making it impossible to go around the blockage. People were arguing and yelling and getting hot and bothered.

There was nothing to do but turn around and try and figure out another way home. Luckily, Mama Zulu knew a way we could take and we drove all the way back to the main road and made a huge circle to a crazy back road. We ended up on this VERY muddy, VERY bumpy, unbelievable road (think of Romancing the Stone when they are sliding down the muddy hill) and the entire time I really wasn't sure if we would make it. I thought for sure we would get stuck in mud or slide down some hill and end up turned over on our side and I'd be pulling muddy kids out of a window.

But, we made it. Despite my sketchy driving, that Toyota (and God's help!) got us home. And I found myself for the millionth time thanking God for our truck. The rain stopped just as I was pulling up to the house to drop off this whole crew of happy kids, so they were able to head home fairly dry and equipped with sturdy black shoes.

I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And forgive me for thinking "If only those guys back in high school could see this!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

translation humiliation

You might wonder if Kelly and I have much trouble communicating with people here in Lusaka - so many of the people speak English, is there really a language barrier? Here are two conversations I had with the two young guys who are helping me with my garden this morning, Gift and Akim:

Me: Since we are not going to need these beds for radishes, I think we'll just plant Kale. Here are the seeds. Can you work on these beds today?
Gift: Yes, no problem.
Me: Do you need to water the beds first to make it easier? I noticed when I watered the beds that it made it much easier to dig. Without water, the dirt is like stone.
Gift (laughing and going toward the hose): Yes. It's easier.
Me (I go to hand him the hose so he can go water the beds he will be digging.): Here is the hose.
Gift: No I don't need that, I will dig first.
Me: But see these two beds here. I watered them first and then dug. It made it much easier to dig. That is what I was talking about before.
Gift: Oh.

Gift went on to dig in the beds without watering them first and I still have no idea if we were understanding each other at all...

Me: Hello! You are back so fast from that other project.
Akim: Yes, I think I will weed the beans now.
Me: Okay. Also, I turned over those two beds there.
Akim (laughing strongly): Yes I saw.
Me: I didn't remove the grass yet but just dug them up.
Akim (laughing): Yes.
Me (smiling): Are you laughing at me? Did I do a bad job on the beds?
Akim: No, no. (laughing more) I will do it.

I left and have no idea what I did wrong on those beds!!! It drives me crazy because I can't see any difference between how I did it and how I see these guys do it but they won't tell me the problem, and often, even if they did explain I wouldn't understand!

Just a little taste of daily challenges with communication. Or maybe this is an example of gardening challenges, I'm not sure which!