Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our Vacation to Victoria Falls

Our first family vacation - to Victoria Falls!

I went with a wonderful group of donors from Portland, who had funded water projects in Southern Zambia. It was very hot (105 degrees+) and dry and there was a tremendous need for water - both for health reasons (drinking unclean water is major cause of diarhhea and dysentery which can lead to death - especially for children under 5) and for crop production. We saw lots of borehole wells and lots of dry riverbeds where people were digging down to access water...I'll post more photos on another blog entry.

At the end of our time, the donors took a trip to Victoria Falls - and John and the kids joined me for four days.

The rainy season starts next month - so there has been almost 10 months of no rain and the Zambezi River (that feeds Vic Falls) had very little water running through it. You can see how there is only one trickle of water over the Zambia side of the falls - and to the left, the channel is deeper on the Zimbabwe side, so there is more water volume (see the water spray).

Looking down the canyon towards the Zimbabwe side of the falls

This is the famous bridge that people bungee jump off of!

John and I walked across the dry river bed and saw some amazing rock formations from the water pounding down the river.

We hope to visit the Falls again when there is water running over - and will share those photos with you - I'm sure it will be an amazing contrast. Apparently, you can see the spray for miles and when you walk where we were walking, you get drenched from the spray!

Visit to the Crocodile Farm!

We took a day trip to Kalima Crocodile Farm here in Lusaka with our friends Kristin and her boyfriend, Clinton. The farm harvests croc eggs and when the crocs reach 3 years old, they skin them and sell the skins for export. They also sell crocodile burgers at their "restaurant" - the croc tails are used for the meat.

The farm is run by a British man - and our guide said that they skin 1,000 crocs per year and get about $320 per skin. The main export market is to Asia.

They also have snakes (a favorite for John - NOT!), chameleons and a tortoise.

Peter and our guide, John, holding a python

Our guide mentioned that it was almost feeding time - and we got to witness a fairly disgusting event! The crocs are fed dead chickens - and when the workers rolled out the wheelbarrow with a big bag of dead chickens, you could smell it first - then saw all the flies buzzing around. The workers just stuck their hands into the bag and pulled out these nasty, dead chickens and threw them into the croc pits.

Yum, yum - love those chickens!

Crocodiles don't have a tongue, so they just throw back their heads to get the chickens down their throat. It's easier for them to eat the chickens in the water then to come up on land. The workers just whistled and the crocs knew it was feeding time, so they started swimming to the food!

We also saw the workers looking for croc eggs - they scared away a croc and started digging in the dirt, but there weren't any eggs there. They grab the eggs so they can incubate them in a separate part of the farm.

Take a look at the other photos:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Visit to Mother Teresa's

Sophie comforting a little guy...

A month ago, I accompanied a group of World Vision donors from San Fransisco to Mother Teresa's home here in Lusaka and Sophie joined me...

It was a touching visit. The 8 sisters who are assigned there run a community school for children from the compound and the neighboring area, care for 100+ infants and toddlers - many who are HIV positive, care for 60+ women and 90+ men.

There were twin girls TWO WEEKS OLD whose mother had died in childbirth and the father was being cared for in the men's unit. Both babies were HIV positive...

In the women's ward there were 63 women who were being cared for. They said that the women don't stay as long as the men because they are motivated to get better and get home to take care of their families - the men...well, they like being cared for I guess!! :-)

When asked if they get discouraged caring for all the patients, Sister Grace said, "we see the face of Jesus in each of the people we care for and are encouraged to keep doing good work." The sisters spend hours in prayer each day and take a vow of poverty as they live amongst the poor. They only have the clothes on their backs and their Bible - and can get called away to another home at any time. The two Sisters we met were from India (Calcutta - and had met Mother Teresa) and Madagascar.

Friday, October 10, 2008

If you recycle - but it increases alcoholism rates, is that ok?

Peter trying to negotiate a broom with two milk jugs -
but then he found out he needed four jugs

You remember how distressed we were to learn that there is no recycling in Zambia(see one of the first blog entries)? Well, there's good news: we can recycle our milk jugs!

On a weekly basis, ladies walk the streets singing “vipiango” in a very nasally voice - which means sweeper or broom (think “chim chiminey” from Mary Poppins, but not so melodic!). They carry the brooms on their heads - and as their sales increase, they have fewer brooms and more jugs to carry.

Four milk jugs buy a “sweeper” or broom. The jugs are sold to people/bars who make home made beer called “shakey shakey.” Last week, the ladies told me that one broom went for four jugs – this week, they told me it was five jugs…I think it was the muzungu (“foreigner”) price – so I told them that I only have four jugs – and they said ok. It’s good they’re open to negotiation!

I should have asked them how much they get for each jug!

If we're doing good for the environment, but cause alcoholism rates to go up, are we still doing good?

The second attempt:

Let me make sure the jugs are ok...

Ok, now you can have one of my brooms

The jugs that will go on to be filled with "shakey shakey" beer


See the hail on the umbrella?

When I left work today, it was about 95 degrees - and I thought it looked a little dark in one part of the sky…and sure enough a couple hours later, the rain came pouring down!!

It rained AND HAILED!!! I’m not a meteorologist, but I thought that it needed to be around freezing--or at least pretty cold-- for hail to come from the sky. Clearly, in the southern hemisphere, it can still hail when it's 60+ degrees out!

The rains/hail AND lightening and thunder lasted about 2 hours…we sat outside and enjoyed the rain – until it got so windy that it was blowing water and hail all over us…we retreated to the safety of our living room…

Even now, Virginia is outside cleaning up our muddy footprints on the tile verada/porch…

Peter and Mwansa waiting out the rain in the guard's house
The rain and hail on our driveway

One other side effect – that may be tied to the rains – is that we have no power…this happens on a fairly regular basis in many parts of Lusaka, but thankfully, in part because we’re around the corner from the President’s house, we don’t lose power that often (so far it’s been 3 times in the 2 months we’ve been here). Many other folks we know lose power on a regular basis for many hours at a time.

The last time we lost power, we didn’t even have any candles…but we did have our headlamps so we walked around the house with our headlamps on! Now, at least we're prepared with one candle and matches...and our headlamps!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mysterious Disease in Lusaka...

It's not every day that we get a message from the Embassy telling us about the mysterious deaths of three people from Lusaka...thought you'd be interested in reading this...

This Message is related to recent rumors regarding an illness that took the life of a Lusaka resident and her caregiver. The Embassy believes that this illness does not pose a significant threat to the American community in Lusaka or across Zambia at this time. Provide below is the text of an official notice published by the Zambian Ministry of Health Monday, October 6.

The Embassy will continue to monitor events and will share information through the warden network as necessary. Should an American citizen experience a health emergency, the Embassy recommends that they seek immediate medical attention. If necessary, the Embassy can be reached at 260-211-250-955 on a twenty-four hour basis.

Briefing on the Reported Deaths of Patients from an Unknown Illness

The nation is being informed that the Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Health has received information of an unknown illness which so far has claimed three lives.

The first person to suffer from it was a female South African that was resident in Zambia who fell sick about 4 September 2008. She was evacuated to Morningside Clinic where she later died on 13 September 2008.

The second victim was a paramedic that had escorted the patient to South Africa. The third victim was a nurse based at Morningside that attended to the first patient. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the driver of the ambulance that ferried the patient from Lanseria Airport to Morningside in South Africa is presently in a critical condition.

All these patients developed a fever, cough and bled from various parts of their bodies.
Laboratory investigations so far done do NOT point to any particular known disease. However, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is still carrying all the necessary investigations. In the meantime, all the contacts are being traced, and so far, of all those identified, none of them is in danger.

Note that none of our health facilities here in Zambia has reported such an illness.

The Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Health would like to assure the nation that the situation is under control and is being given the special attention that it deserves and would like to appeal to all members of the public to remain calm.

It is from the foregoing that international and local travel, both air and road, trade and commercial services in and out of the country should continue as usual.

Members of the public are also cautioned that any suspicious case presenting with fever, cough and bleeding from any part of the body should be reported to the nearest health facility.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sophie's Safari Report

Hippos in the river

I'm back from my safari! it was so much fun! here is what i did:
game drive
night drive
boat ride
camp activities

On my first day i got up very early to get on the road for the game drive. on the game drive, we saw puku, impalas, warthogs, hippos, monkeys, and alot of birds! we were out in the middle of no where looking for animals for about 8-9 hours!

The second day, we stayed at the camp (Treetops) and did activities. we did an egg drop where you have to make something so that when the egg drops, it doesn't splat! then at 4:00 p.m. we went on a night drive. on the night drive, we saw all the stars and the moon! the stars were so amazing! when you look up, you see just a whole sky of stars! we were out at night for about 4 hours! why so early? well, later in the day, my teacher mr. kys and some of my classmates got stuck in the sand! they were stuck for about 6 hours! they ran out of water quickly. then, my other teacher ms. johnson got the satellite phone (no connection) and called every camp and lodge! but they came back and we went on our night drive! they were covered in dirt and dust! they looked like they were pitch black!

The third day, my group went to a lodge called lufupa lodge and we went on a boat ride. on the boat ride, we saw crocodiles, fish eagles, and hippos! after the boat ride, we went swimming! but the water was green! we also had cold water! at treetops we didn't have cold water! so it was a blessing that the ice at lafupa was free!

The last day! :( on the last day, we packed up our things, ate breakfast, and loaded the buses! it was 9 hours! ahhhh! after that, we headed out of the park witch toke about three hours and to Lusaka it was 6 hours. we left at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at my school at 4:30 p.m.! when my mom and dad picked me up, we went straight to a store and bought fantas and diet coke! treetops was so much fun!

Here are the photos I took on my trip:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sophie Goes on Safari!!!

Sophie standing in front of all the luggage

Sophie left Monday for a week-long field trip to Kafue National Park - Treetops Schools' Camp -- a 7 hour drive from Lusaka. The two 6th grade classes are going to the northern part of the park - an area covered by miombo and mopane woodlands, with occasional open grassy plains. There are also hardwood trees including sausage trees and baobabs. The classroom at Treetops is dwarfed by a huge baobab tree, which is hundreds of years old.
There are over 400 species of birds including martial and fish eagles, crowned and wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks and hornbills, kingfishers and babblers. Kafue also has antelopes - puku, impala,kudu, bushbuck, hartebeest, defassa waterbuck, sable, roan, lechwe, oribi and blue wildebeest. Also there are elephant, buffalo, zebra, hippo and crocodile.
One of the two 6th grade teachers is a safari guide when he's not teaching, so you know the kids are going to see a LOT of animals - during the day AND at night (for night drives).

It's quiet here at home (not so much arguing between Sophie and Peter) - and we miss Sophie, but know that she's having an opportunity of a lifetime! Sophie will write on the blog when she returns!

Here's some photos of the group (34 kids, 6 adults) as they get ready to go.

Food for the trip - the teachers and kids will do the cooking for the week.