Friday, August 29, 2008

Our Wall

The wall, the gate and the guard's hut from our front porch.

I've been thinking about our wall lately. It's a 8 foot plaster wall with electric wires on the top (to shock anyone who tries to jump over the wall). There's a metal, automated gate that opens with a remote.

We can't see what goes on, on the other side of our wall. So, I was surprised when I drove out to go to the grocery store one evening, how many people were walking along our street in twos and threes. They seemed to be out for an evening stroll...We need to be out strolling and meeting others!

Msuzi Road in the early morning hours and all the homes behind walls...

We don't ever see our neighbors (because they're behind their walls), but we can hear their dogs barking (reminds us of the incessant barking from our neighbor's dogs in Tacoma), roosters crowing and the ongoing car honking (to signal the guard to open the gate). Even though we can't hear our neighbors, I have a feeling that Peter and the three boys (Muteli, Billy and Mwansa - our housekeeper's sons) are heard throughout the neighborhood screaming, yelling and laughing as they play in the yard.

As we sit on our front porch (looking out at the wall), I realize that there's some comfort in anonymity - we can be...and no one stares at us...and we can enjoy the peace and beauty of the yard.

Should we be more open to the public? As the "mzungus" (foreigners), it's nice to not be on display... but I must be feeling a bit guilty about not interacting more...

One of the first days we were here, we didn't know how to open the gate - and didn't have a key to open the door (on the gate) - we were locked in! That wasn't very comforting.

The Guards:

We just got rid of our day guard...I don't think Virginia (our housekeeper) was very comfortable with him (he did seem a little sketchy). He just sat - and often spent his time staring at us! Talk about feeling on display! Here he is in his usual position:

The evening guard, Goodson, seems like a decent guy - and has even taken on the day shift when the day guard didn't show up! 24 hours of work!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Recycling

There is no recycling here... we are going through plastic water bottles like crazy because we have to drink bottled water (it's unsafe to drink water from the tap). Even now, we can't bring ourselves to throw the bottles away, so we just stack them in the corner of our kitchen counter with the hopes that they will magically recycle themselves! I think we'll break down and throw them away next week.

While many U.S. shops are now charging shoppers to take/use a plastic bag to take away their goods, Zambia doles out the plastic bags like they're going out of style! No wonder there are so many littering the streets and hanging off of branches!

My boss's wife has a ministry to widows and they create beautiful purses made out of plastic bags so that's one good way to recycle... now, what to do with those plastic bottles (if only Patagonia would come get them to make their clothing!!!).

The President of Zambia passed away

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa dies at 59
The Associated PressTuesday, August 19, 2008

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa died in a French hospital Tuesday at 59, more than six weeks after he was hospitalized for a stroke, the country's vice president said.

Mwanawasa had a reputation for integrity and won praise for his anti-corruption and economic modernization drive, although he failed to lift the Zambian people out of crushing poverty.

He also broke the traditional silence of African leaders toward his autocratic neighbor, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, which encouraged other African presidents to show their displeasure.

"It is with deep sorrow that I have to tell the people of Zambia that our president ... has passed away this morning," Vice President Rupiah Banda said on radio and television. He announced a weeklong period of national mourning.

Banda did not give the cause of death; he said Mwanawasa had taken a turn for the worse on Monday.

The president was taken to Percy Military Hospital in Paris after he collapsed June 30 on the eve of an African Union summit in Egypt.

Mwanawasa described neighboring Zimbabwe as a "catastrophe," and criticized the trampling of democracy in the 2008 presidential elections. Mugabe was long revered as an African independence hero, but the softly spoken Mwanawasa, Zambia's third president since independence from Britain in 1964, was not bound by the liberation movement ties of older African leaders.

His death leaves a power vacuum in Zambia, one of the world's biggest copper producers. Under the country's constitution, elections are meant to be held within 90 days.

Born on Sept. 3, 1948 in the town of Mufulira in northern Zambia, Mwanawasa graduated from the University of Zambia and practiced law before going into government service. After a stint as solicitor general in 1986, under Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, Mwanawasa soon became a key figure in the push for multiparty democracy.

When Frederick Chiluba defeated Kaunda in Zambia's first multiparty elections in 1991, Mwanawasa was appointed vice president, but then quit the post, complaining of corruption.

Even so, Chiluba later tapped Mwanawasa to be his successor. Mwanawasa won the presidency in 2001 in an election marred by allegations of fraud, and was re-elected with 43 percent in 2006 in a poll generally regarded as transparent and fair.

As he sought to establish his legitimacy in his first term of office, Mwanawasa seized on anti-corruption and economic reforms and targeted Chiluba, who was found guilty in a London court of stealing US$46 million from state coffers during his 10-year rule.

Mwanawasa won praise from the business community and middle class Zambians as well as many Western donors and investors for his free market policies.

He tamed inflation and, after years of economic stagnation, presided over a period of growth helped by a boom in global copper prices. His economic austerity and market-opening policies drew support from the United States, the World Bank and lending institutions who agreed in 2005 to cancel nearly all of Zambia's $7.2 billion foreign debt.

But critics accused him of turning a blind eye to the plight of the poor in a country where less than 20 percent of the population has formal employment and the majority lives below the poverty line. Zambia's sprawling townships, homes of the urban poor, became the power base of his populist rival Michael Sata.

Riots broke out briefly after 2006 elections when Sata supporters accused the electoral commission of manipulating the results. Mwanawasa successfully appealed for calm.

"The peace we currently enjoy should not be taken for granted," he said. "Some political parties are disrupting this peace. All peace-loving Zambians must rise and say 'No' to all those preaching violence and chaos in this country."

Opponents said Mwanawasa pandered to the whims of Western donors; Mwanawasa countered that it was thanks to the forgiveness of foreign debt that he was able to increase spending on education and health.

Sata and other critics also said he was too subservient to China, which poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Zambia's copper sector.

He is survived by his wife and several children. Funeral plans were not immediately announced.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My office at RAPIDS:

In all my 13 years at World Vision, I've only had a cubicle...and now I have an actual office with a door that closes! It's small, but lovely!

I know some of my WV US co-workers would love it because they could clip their nails without being hassled by everyone within earshot - AND talk as loudly as they want...

RAPIDS is in a house that's been fixed up for offices (I understand there is a shortage of office space so many organizations have taken over houses. The HEA office is also in house because there's no room at the National Office).

I am just down the hall from the main receptionist, next to me is the IT guy (with the server) - what could be better?, then Monica Mutesa, Bruce's assistant, then Bruce's office (in what I think would be the master bedroom since he has his own bathroom) and a porch. Several others have their offices in what must be add-on space...

The view out my two windows: one window looks out onto the office junk pile. Not quite sure why there are old motorcycles, beat-up bicycles, lots of tires, etc. but that's one view.

The other window looks out onto the yard with a partial view of the parking lot. I don't think Bruce counts the cars in the morning/evening like some people we know!!!

I can't complain - I have windows, the sun streams in, there's a nice breeze when the windows are open (no hermetically sealed, temperature controlled building here!). When it gets warmer (in the next month or so), I'll turn on the fan.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The First Day of School
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Standing in front of the pick-up/drop off hut

Impressions about the first day of school:


“I felt really excited and nervous. First of all, I didn’t have any friends, but everyone looked friendly and I also thought I might get lost and not be able to open my lock for my locker.”

“I love school, my class and my friends. Most of my friends are from North America but have lived in Africa their whole life.”

What do I like? “So far, no one has been misbehaving in class and everyone is really nice.”

“My homeroom advisor/teacher is very friendly and she is good at teaching English and Geography. My favorite classes so far have been Spanish and Music. It was really nice to have my home room teacher give me tips on going from class to class. There are 17 kids in my class and another 17 kids in the other 6th grade class.”

“I was really nervous about the first day of school because I wasn’t ready to change to a new school and was scared of getting lost because it looked way bigger than Lowell.”

“My teacher told me to go to French class and I was really nervous about finding the right classroom. When I got to French class, the other kids could all speak French – and I don’t know any French, so I didn’t say much.”

“I really like it here. And like the fact that there’s grass at the school (Lowell Elementary in Tacoma has only black top, no grass), two huge soccer fields, an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court.”

There are 19 kids in my class and another 20 kids in the other fourth grade class. My teacher’s name is Mrs. Bicknell; she’s British and has taught at the school for 6 years but has lived in Zambia for 15 years.

According to the note sent home to the parents, “the units of inquiry will investigate Peace and Conflict, Body Systems, Economic Systems, Values and Beliefs, Energy Sources and Geographical and Historical Exploration.” Wow, all that for fourth grade!

About the American International School:
There are about 500 kids, grade K – 12 with waiting lists for many of the grades (so we’re extra thankful that Peter got in!). They are on an International Baccalaureate Program with both primary and secondary programs (we’ll go to a parent’s information session next week to learn what this means!).

The school is located about 10 minutes from our house. We drive past a small shopping center (think small strip mall), past a huge cemetary where there are always lots of people, past the BMW and Land Rover car dealerships, then on an open stretch of road. The school has guards posted at the gates to let parents in/out.

Ironically, the mascot for the school is the leopard, just like the mascot the kids had at Lowell!

What does it mean to have a housekeeper?

Never having had a housekeeper, I wasn’t sure what Virginia was supposed to do…

Tonight, when I got home from work it dawned on me what Virginia does every day: the beds are made, shoes put away neatly in the closet, laundry done with clean clothes folded and put away (this morning I noticed that she even folds the dirty laundry in the basket!), the bathroom is spotless, the kitchen completely clean, the tile floors swept and mopped and the outside walkways swept.

And this happens EVERY DAY!

We are all going to enjoy this while we can (we’ll be weeping when we have to do our own cleaning back home). I’m pretty sure the kids haven’t even noticed that their beds are made each day. And, just so you know that we’re not total slackers, we do wash our own dishes in the morning and after dinner (ok, not every morning...but most mornings!). Virginia generally works 8am – 5pm, Monday – Friday and half day on Saturday.

It’s been GREAT!

Friday, August 8, 2008

After 50+ hours in transit, we finally arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. We left Seattle on Saturday, August 2nd on a red-eye to DC where we had a 12 hour layover. Thankfully, we got to hang out with Sharon and Andrew Simpson and see a bit of DC (The Simpson's live in Nairobi and were in DC visiting family before heading back to Kenya).

Next, a 16 hour flight to Johannesburg, where we spent the night and left the following evening, a 24 hour layover in Jo'burg - I guess there weren't any earlier flights to Lusaka! The two-hour flight to Lusaka was a breeze (compared to our other flights).

We arrived at 9pm Tuesday, August 5 to find the World Vision staff waiting for us! What a relief! And, all our luggage made it with us as well (although South African Airlines really dinged us for excess weight; United let us take excess bags with no additional charge).

We have a furnished, four bedroom house (plenty of room for guests!!) with 2 1/2 bathrooms. It's in a lovely, quiet neighborhood. Every house is behind a large, solid wall, so I'm not sure we'll ever see or get to know our neighbors. I just heard from a co-worker that our area - called the Woodlands - is one of the original British settlements which is why there are so many tall trees in our neighborhood.

The kitchen is fully stocked with a microwave, stove, fridge/freezer, and a small stand up freezer. We have one small 6" fry pan so we'll have to be creative about how we cook!!

We're in the middle of winter and although it's sunny out, it's a bit chilly in the mornings and evening, but lovely during the day. The sky is a beautiful blue! But the windy season is just starting where the red dirt will get kicked up and blow everywhere! Having grass in front of our house will help keep the dirt out of the house.

Here are some photos of our trip:

Hanging out at Sea-Tac airport at the start our journey:

Classic photo of the kids in front of the White House (John was holding himself back from jumping the fence and expressing his feelings towards George W!):

Sophie and Peter with Joel and Joshua Simpson eating ice-cream in DC:

On the LONG 16 flight from DC to Johannesburg. In spite of the variety of movies being shown on the monitor in front of their seats, the kids eventually broke down to sleep a bit!

At the Johannesburg Airport, checking in with all our luggage (10 checked bags and 3 carry ons):

Our new house on Msuzi Road (note small pool on left which is quite dirty at the moment):

The living room - the TV is hooked up to a dish with a gazillion channels (we go from a house in the U.S. with no cable to a house in Africa with hundreds of channels) !!! We're able to watch the Olympics any time of the day or night...No need to wander down to the local pub (not that there is one!) to catch the games.

View into the dining room:

Peter is starting his own baseball team with our housekeeper, Virginia's, three sons: Muteli (12) - left, Mwansa (6) - center, and Billy (10) - right.

Some interesting tidbits:

  • We live "around the corner" from the President's House (known here as "The State House"). So, it's a pretty safe neighborhood and one really great benefit is that we won't experience the same level of power outages as many other parts of the city. I have found a nice running route that takes me right in front of the State House - amazingly, I feel very safe running alone in the early morning hours - although being at 4,200 feet, my lungs are hurting! Or maybe it's my old age...

  • Our housekeeper's name is Virginia. She has been working at the house for the past three years for two different renters and seems to be really nice, hard working, and very trustworthy. She is married with 3 sons: Muteli (12), Billy (10), and Mwansa (6) and Peter is SO happy there are other boys to play with. Virginia's husband lives in another part of the country and is studying to get his degree, but he should be home on leave this month so we'll have a chance to meet him.

  • My boss here said that having a housekeeper "takes a day to get used to and a lifetime to get over." I can already tell that will be the case for us. Virginia cleans, does the laundry, keeps the yard tidy and said she'd be willing to keep up the vegetable garden so we can have fresh lettuce, tomatos, broccoli, etc. (all which grow year-around).

  • Because it will be another 3 months before our stuff arrives (via sea) and we only came with the bags we brought with us, Virginia has been kind enough to share some of her stuff with us: pots and pans, knives, dishes, glasses, dish towels, toaster, etc. We're surmissing they're all things the past tenants didn't want to take back with them...What a blessing for us!

  • We went to church yesterday with one of the RAPIDS workers. It was quite the experience! Lots of LOUD singing (a 20 person choir with microphones) and dancing with a guest preacher who was your classic fire and brimstone preacher! (It's ironic that the pastor of the church is a very soft-spoken preacher). Peter's comment was, "wow, that was really different from our quiet, stiff church service. I liked it!"

  • When asked about the differences between Zambia and the U.S., the kids mentioned: 1) they drive on the other side of the street, 2) the grocery stores are different (and smell different) and 3) the people seem very friendly and nice. When I asked them if they noticed that the people were mostly all black, they said, "no, not really." How great to have children who are color-blind!

  • I got my new World Vision car: it's a bright blue Toyota Avanza. It's not one of those "blend in with the rest of the cars" kind of color...Driving on the other side of the road has been a test on my hard-wired brain. I still reach back over my left shoulder to get the seat belt. Having wheels has allowed us to drive around Lusaka to explore...freedom!

  • School starts on Wednesday, August 13 with a new student orientation tomorrow (Tuesday); it'll be good to get the kids into a schedule and meeting new friends.

  • We're finally over jet lag - and feeling really good. The first morning here, we all woke up at 3am - somehow both kids ended up in our bed during the night (it was the usual "I'm scared line that got them there). We forced them to stay in bed until 5:30am when we finally got out of bed!

  • Grocery store shopping. Living here, one realizes that the U.S. has a ridiculous number of options for food - and a huge number of choices per food type! Here, there is one kind of milk: whole milk - no low fat, no buttermilk, no half and half, no lactose-free, etc... One brand of yogurt. No luncheon meat as we think about it, instead they are thicker, round, slabs of either ham or chicken (no turkey).

  • Shopping: we've learned that one grocery store is particularly expensive; the one close to our house "Melissa's" is ok priced (it was packed when we visited it!). There is a local farmers market on Tuesdays that I'll visit tomorrow with Virginia. We still have yet to find coffee beans, they're into tea and instant coffee (yuck). I just learned that the director of CARE grows coffee and sells it, so I hope I can get on that delivery route! We are slowly running out of the one package of coffee we brought and are starting to panic!! :-)

  • I've started working and it's been great to meet some really intelligent, committed staff. I will continue with orientation in both offices (World Vision Zambia and RAPIDS) next week, then I will have an opportunity to visit some of World Vision's projects in the following weeks.

All in all, we are really adjusting well. It hasn't even been a week yet that we've been here, but it has been such a blessing to move into a furnished house (even though we shipped our goods and furniture expecting to move into an unfurnished house! John is uniquely suited to take on the challenge of getting rid of the stuff we don't need). We have a wonderful housekeeper who knows the house and what's needed - we're glad we didn't have to go through the interviewing process since we wouldn't even know what to look for. We have a car - and John is working with our World Vision transportation manager to secure one for himself.

We appreciate your prayers for continued good health, school friends for the kids, and an opportunity for John to get connected. We miss you all!