Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Market at the Dutch Reformed Church

There isn't a lot of action here in whenever there's something happening, everyone shows up since we're all excited to go somewhere!

That is the case with the monthly Saturday Market. Held the last Saturday of each month, it is "the place to see and be seen" as one person told me. The ex-pat community is so small in Lusaka, that you're bound to see several people you know!

There are lots of crafts and food booths. People love to visit, hang out, barter with the vendors and buy stuff. The variety is interesting: plants, fruit, veggies, spices, wooden carvings, fabric, fancy pastries (a french bakery sells croissants and ciabatta), wire and beaded animals, etc.

The kids each get 5,000 kwacha (about $1.50) to spend - Peter bought a wooden giraffe and the carver had to add the eyes and Sophie, for the second time in a row, opted to buy cotton candy (which you'll see in the photos).

Friday, September 26, 2008

The African Community

We've had our first experience being part of the African community.

Here, everyone is part of the community and the general feeing is that we all share and give of what we have...If you have more than I do, then you should give some to me. And, there's never any harm in asking you for stuff - for your watch, shoes, money, food, etc. You'd want to share with me since we're all one big family!

Well, our night guard, Goodson came to the door the other night asking me for mealie meal - the ground corn that they use to make their staple dish: nshima. I told him I didn't have any mealie meal, that we didn't eat it...then he said, "well, that's ok if you don't have it, can you loan me 50,000 kwacha (about $15) so I can buy some?"

We got some advice from friends that however we chose to respond to these types of requests (and we would get lots of them) we had to remember that we'd need to continue to respond in the same way to subsequent similar requests. And that IF we "loan" someone money, don't ever expect to see it paid back.

I made the decision to not give Goodson money because I knew it would open the floodgates for him to ask every month (or week!) for more...

If we paid him for his services, I probably would have given him an advance on his pay- but since World Vision pays for the guard service, I knew I'd have to consider this "loan" a gift since it would never be repaid.

The next thing we learned from Virginia, our housekeeper, was that a metal post from her yard had gone missing. This was the night after Goodson had asked for the food/money. He was the only person who had access to the back of the house so after talking with Virginia, World Vision and my boss, we all determined that it was best to fire Goodson.

However, we told him that if he brought the pipe back we wouldn't tell his company - and he could keep his job. Well, if he really needed the money, which it sounds like he did, I'm sure the pipe was long gone!

Until we get a new guard, Goodson has been here - but he knows that he'll be fired and seems to be very sad... With such a high unemployment rate, it's hard to make a decision like this that affects a life. But the reality is that he could continue to lift items that belong to us - and then what? People told us not to tolerate - or accept - theft.

Later that same week, we were on a family walk and a woman stopped me to tell me about her 14 year old daughter who had gotten pregnant - and could I help with her daughter's baby. I guess any expat is open game for seeking help and asking for money...

Welcome to the African village!

We're all sick!

This week, something caught up with us... and we all got sick.

Peter started it off with coughing and achiness last Friday (a week ago).

Sophie was out of school on Monday and Tuesday - John took her to the clinic on Tuesday - they said they thought it was something she ate so gave her a low level antibiotic.

Miyon went to work on Tuesday, then felt so sick that she cancelled her meetings, came home and ended up throwing up (then feeling better!). She started on some cipro (antibiotic) we had brought with us - since this was going on nearly 2 weeks of feeling something brewing in her stomach, figured it's better to just kill it - and not worry about the effects of too many antibiotics!

Then John caught it - and threw up 5 times on Thursday... he's now on the mend...

Now, we're on round 2:

This morning I was driving the kids to school (because John still doesn't feel well today) - and we were nearly there when I hear what sounds like a water bottle being tipped over...

No - instead it was Peter who had just thrown up in the car. Naturally, the smell alone causes a chain reaction and Sophie almost threw up out the window (thank goodness she was smart to put her head out the window!). We rushed home, got Peter out of the car, wiped the inside of the car down a bit, then back up to school to drop Sophie off (who still made it before the bell) - and I took off for work!

I was carpooling today and had to drive with the windows down to air the car out. As luck would have it, today is one of the hottest days yet - so the wonderful smell of getting into a 90+ degree car with the leftover smell of barf...well, you get the picture!!

Let's hope we all get better this weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Peter's New Hairdo!

Peter decided his long hair was too hot (especially since he has to wear a hat during PE) and so I cut off his Beatle's hair do...



Photos of Lusaka:
We went driving "downtown" on Sunday and gave the kids the camera so they could take photos of Lusaka. I had to delete most of them because I don't even know what the images were! Even the ones that are here don't make much sense to me... but they do show you a bit of Lusaka. Just so you know that lions aren't walking down the street and that we do live "in the city", here are some VERY random photos:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Trip to Chinkankata Village

Volunteer caregivers who help take care of people living with AIDS and children orphaned by AIDS. They visit their "clients" 2-4 times a month and help with cooking, cleaning, take care of medical needs and provide hope.

A reporter from The Sun in the U.K. asked to see our malaria work since he was in Zambia to do a story on Christian Aid (a UK-based NGO). The reporter, Oliver Harvey, described The Sun as a "voracious tabloid" - it's apparently a step above the National Inquirer, but not so gossipy and slick as People magazine! He was doing a report to support Malaria No More so wanted a project that had benefited from mosquito nets.

Part of my job with RAPIDS will be to take reporters like this to see our work. For me, it was great to be in the field to meet the caregivers who are carrying out the work - and to better understand some of the issues the community faces.

One of the caregivers, Nurse Nakalonga (her name is Nurse, but I don't think she's a nurse), age 55, said this about being a caregiver:

"We know that at some point we will die and we feel humbled. We've seen relatives who have died from HIV/AIDS. We thank God because he has spoken to us and now we're working for our community as volunteers; we feel encouraged. We're not used to staying home because we like doing the work."

I also met a grandmother, Regina Moomba (who is 79 years old, which is a phenomenon in a country where the life expectancy is 37 years). She is caring for 10 grandchildren (the oldest is 34 and the youngest is 10). Her daughter and son in law both died of AIDS and her oldest grand daughter (at 34) along with her child are both HIV positive.

They have 14 people living in their compound, but only 3 mosquito nets... thankfully, they know to put the most vulnerable people: those with HIV/AIDS under the nets. Members of the community said that they noticed a sharp decline in cases of malaria once they put up their mosquito nets - but you can see that more are needed...

Here's a link to more photos from my trip:

Peter's Open House at School

The American International School (AIS) had a "follow your child for a day" day - and John went with Peter. Here are some photos from that day:

When you look at the kids - don't think they're American... Peter told us that there is only one other American kid in his class!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where do we shop for food?

People have been asking where we get our food, so I thought I'd take some photos of our local haunts. People were staring at me, wondering what I was up to!

We have two major supermarkets: Spar and Shoprite. They're both well-lit, semi-air-conditioned, have electronic scanners, etc.

Shoprite takes credit cards which is pretty amazing because I think there are only a handful of stores in all of Lusaka that take credit cards. It's a time consuming process because a manager has to be called over to swipe the card and pull out the receipt. The other day, we were in Shoprite and when the receipt popped up, I said to the cashier "oh, you can pull it out and I'll sign it" - and she said that she couldn't pull it out, the manager had to pull it out... so we waited several more minutes for the manager to return, just to pull the receipt out of the machine!

Shopping at Shoprite

We have our local small grocery store: Melissa's that has pretty decent prices. It's almost always busy, but more like a family run grocery store. I wish I was brave enough to take a photo of the meat counter (but there's always someone hovering nearby!): it's an open counter (that I think is refridgerated, but it can't be very efficient since there is no cover over the top) but there are hunks of beef, sausages, etc. just sitting out in the open. Nothing is just looks bad and you know the meat can't be good for you...

Vegetables for sale at Melissas

Every Tuesday is Tuesday Market (pretty clever with names, eh?). This is a very fun day to do our vegetable and fruit shopping. As you can see there are lots of vendors all with their wares on the ground. It's hard to decide which person to shop World Vision staff member told me that he chooses either older women (widows) or young women with children because he figures they need the money the most.

In the few weeks we've been here, I already have a pattern: we buy our bok choy (chinese cabbage), spinach, bean sprouts and sometimes tofu from the chinese folks in the corner. Then buy our fruit (apples, pears and oranges) from the lady who has fruit from South Africa. Our housekeeper, Virginia (who always comes along to carry my bag) thinks I'm getting ripped off and that I should bargain more. But, when I'm only saving about 15 cents per kilo, it hardly seems worth it to dicker over the price. Maybe I'll try harder in future shopping expeditions.

I did notice that Virginia likes to come along but doesn't buy anything. She does, however, get some freebie handouts from what I buy. My guess is she must be telling the vendors: hey, this lady is spending more money than she has to, so give me some free bananas, ginger, or whatever she happens to need that day. So, the last couple times, she's taken home some additional fruit/veggies that she hasn't had to pay for...not too bad...

There are lots of Zambians, Chinese, Indians, other middle easterners (women completely covered in black with just their eyes showing) who are there with their baskets dickering over the price of various items. It's pretty interesting to watch; I can spot the pros - they're the ones who come with their own weighing scale to make sure they're not getting ripped off!

We get there at about 7:30a.m. and are out of there by 8am...the market continues until 5pm. I can only imagine all the haggling that goes on during those hours!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Watering Hole

Almost every day, Peter, Mutele (12), Mwansa (6), Billy (10) and Sophie - all pictured above - go swimming in our pool (the three brothers are our housekeeper's sons). They have a great time playing although they're never in for very long because the water is so cold. Our pool guy - that would be John !! - is still trying to figure out why the water is so cloudy... We don't think the kids will contract some disease since there is so much chlorine in it, but it would be nice to see the bottom of the pool!

Sophie and Her Curly Hair!

Sophie decided that she wanted to have curly hair - so I got out all the socks, tied them in her hair - and voila, the next morning she had a head of (almost too) curly hair!

The night before:

The day after: