Monday, June 29, 2009

Unusually Large Poinsettias

It's wintertime here and the poinsettas are's just shocking how BIG they are! This is one of two large poinsettia bushes in our front yard.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Firsts - in my lifetime; only here in Zambia

This week, I experienced things I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined.

1. I took a golf lesson and used the driving range.

This was my first golf lesson...but even more unique was hitting on the driving range. There weren't any fake grass mats with the little plastic tees, we were basically on a rough patch of grass/weeds outside the entrance.

My teacher called to a young guy who was hanging around the course. I wasn't quite sure why he was there until he ran out into the field and I realized that his job was to shag the balls I hit!

Since I'm not that great a golfer - I hit the first ball to the left, then to the right and this poor chap is busy running from side to side, up and back...

Also, without the plastic tube tees, my teacher would fluff up some grass and put the ball on top of the grass...and, of course, there's no machine that pours out balls into a metal basket - we used the balls we had and hoped the guy shagging the balls got them all!

It's interesting to note that about 15-20 years ago, there was a greater emphasis on sports and some very good athletes came out of Zambia. My teacher was one who benefitted from the opportunity to learn to play. Now, there are hardly any Zambian kids who play golf (although the course where I had my lesson has taught a few kids from the local compound).

For only $12 for an hour's lesson, it was totally worth the lesson AND the experience! Oh, almost forgot, I paid the ball retriever $3. Not bad...

2. Second, I paid off a police officer - first time EVER!

I was pulled over for speeding...I don't know how fast I was going, but I was behind a big truck and I know that there is NO way they could shoot (what I'm assuming is a poor quality) radar gun at the truck - and again at me, within a split second.

So, after pulling me over, the lady cop - Yvonne - sidles over with a big smile on her face and tells me I was speeding. I said, "Really, I can't believe that. How much is the ticket?" "It's 180,000 kwacha" (which is about $36).... I started to protest that I don't have that much money on me, but all the while, I could sense that she was willing to let me go for a bit of "lunch money." I'd heard enough stories from people who just gave the cops their "lunch money" and drove away - and, the other folks (those with more integrity!) who insisted on an officially written ticket, so they don't become part of the corruption that is so rampant in this country.

Clearly, I was willing to aid and abet the corruption. Who knows what will be next in my life of crime! It's a slippery, downhill slope...I need help!

3. Third,we saw a polo cross match.

Imagine this - three people to a team, all riding on horses turning on a dime and galloping at full speed - holding a lacrosse stick (slightly rounder shape from what we're used to) trying to throw a rubber bouncy ball in between the goal posts.

It was an amazing sight and very fun to watch. Who knew that such a sport existed - and that they play it here in Zambia- one of the poorest country in the world!!!

Horses can be purchased and the labor to care for the horses is cheap - so it makes it more affordable than in the U.S. and people who like to ride get into this sport because it's fast paced and fun.

John's boss is the one who built the pitch (the field) - cleared the land, seeded it, put in sprinklers and built a clubhouse.

The guy on the left has the ball and he's looking to pass it to his #1 player. Only the #1 player can shoot the ball into the goal - the rest of the guys are trying to keep the #1 player from getting the ball.

The guy in the front is the #1 player so he's trying to get to the goal ahead of the others -- because he has to bounce the ball on a line about 20 feet from the goal, catch it, then throw it into goal.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

End of school

Sophie got some great middle school awards: Academic Achievement in Humanities, Best Sportsmanship and Most Valuable Player for her soccer team! Yeah Sophie!

Peter just finished a project in class where students came together as a team and made a game. He and his buddy, Tee, made a game asking questions about landmarks, oceans, land, and explorers. One question was "What state is the Space Needle in?"... it was impressive to see what the kids in the class created...

Now that school is over, most of our friends are heading back to their home countries - it feels like Lusaka clears out completely...we'll need to find new friends since all of ours are leaving!!! It's an odd lifestyle where every 2-4 years, a big group of people leaves to move to another country on yet another assignment...and every summer, people head home for summer break. It'll be an interesting time!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do you test your child for HIV?

The news crew interviewing a sponsored child.

I went with a television crew and World Vision staff from the UK to one of our projects where they collected stories for a five part series on diseases that kill children under five years old. One of those killer diseases is HIV/AIDS and we met with a mother who wanted to have her two month old child tested for HIV.

This little two month old got his heel pricked - to squeeze out five drops of blood for the HIV test.

The test can only be read in a lab about 8 hours away and according to the clinic manager, she still hadn't recieved results from tests she had sent in five months earlier! Imagine being a parent waiting for 6 months or more to know if your child is HIV positive...

When we asked the mom how she would feel if the results showed that her son was HIV positive she said, "I know it will be ok and that he will be fine."

I was a bit suprised by that response because I thought she'd say that it would be sad, unbearable, or devastating, but she went on to say that both she and her husband are currently on anti-retroviral therapy and they are both leading strong, healthy lives, so she felt certain that IF her son was HIV positive, he too would be ok.

Where I saw death staring me in the face...she sees hope because of the medical treatment that is available to her and new son.

How to Make a Plastic Bag Soccer Ball

Peter and the brothers decided to make a soccer ball out of "plastics" as the Zambians call it - or plastic bags as we know it.

First you take a bunch of plastic bags and wad them up very tightly and wrap one bag around the whole lot of them.

Then you take take parts of a mealie meal bag (woven out of plastic strands) and braid them (see Mutale and Peter above) - these will be used to wrap around the wad of plastics...

Then, you get all the brothers together to help untangle the long string...

Mutale, the expert tier, puts the finishing touches to keep the ball intact.

Ta dah! The finished product!