Friday, November 30, 2012


Here are some photos of the plants around our home.

This is looking from our front walk toward the front center lawn area.

Quite a few of these were in bloom a month ago.  

Both white and pink varieties of this pretty flower.  They look like gigantic Impatiens to me.

These succulent sword plants are abundant. This planter forms the outside wall of our covered back patio area.

This odd tree has been lovingly dubbed "Harold" (remembering fondly Bill Cosby's Saturday morning cartoon show.)  It is some sort of palm tree.  If you can imagine the large tree in the background gone, in addition to the topmost leaves is another array about halfway up the trunk.

Banana trees, no bananas in evidence.  I told you we had monkeys!

Hibiscus.  I love the vibrant colors.

This is looking at the back of the house.  The left side is our ensuite bathroom and dressing room.  The entire left wing of the house is bedrooms and bathrooms.  In the central part is the covered patio outside  of the family room.  On the front of the house in the central section are the living and dining rooms.  The right wing of the house is where the front hall, a huge bathroom, kitchen and butler's pantry.  Off further to the right is a wall for the kitchen courtyard, with servant's quarters forming the farthest right perimeter. 

Here you can see the brown lawn becoming green with the rains.  However not as green as the swimming pool (!)  No, we are not swimming in it.  Long, irritating story.  The good news for us it is has been pumped out, and getting much needed maintenance today.

They Just Strike Us as Funny

When you live in a new place, there are some things that just can't help but tickle the funny bone.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo, but on the highway, if a wide load is approaching it is announced with "Abnormal Load" on the vehicle's front and back.

When we went to get our Zambian driver's licenses this was on a public safety poster:

The final one for today was on Tom's jobsite, where the bulk fuel farm was located:

For the sake of decency, please send us donations so we can clothe those naked lights!

I hope these gave you a bit of a chuckle and lightened your day.

Camouflaged Roof

Yesterday the painters (finally) completed painting the roof, and exterior of the house.  They were finished 3 different times yesterday, but by Act III they made their final bow.  (I had the nerve to inspect and point out places that were either thin on paint, or completely devoid of same.)

Here is what the house looked like when we first arrived:

Here is the finished product:

And now for the best shot of the camouflage ... 

I don't think it will fool the monkeys!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


We have been very fortunate to have met Mike and Lattisha Dobbins.  They have lived in Zambia, along with their children, for the last 14 years as missionaries.  Lattisha has taken me under her wing, and given me a guided tour of the local supermarket, clued me into brands, and various healthy living practices.

One that we knew about already was water management.  Below is a photo of the water filtration system we use.  Note that this was set up about 3 weeks ago, and since this photo was taken we have cleaned the top ceramic filter.  The water "looks" clean, but as evident in the pictures, it isn't quite that way.  Hmmm... makes me wonder what might turn up if we filtered the Lake Houston water that comes into our Texas home.   ... sorry for the diversion.

This system is the exact one that we used in Peru.  There we needed two to keep up with the 5 of us.  Here, one seems to be about right.  We simply pour the cold tap water in the top, then fill water jugs we purchased prior to getting the filter.

When our shipment arrives (who know when??) there is another 2 candle filter inside, and that will supplement this one.  This particular filter is excellent as in addition to the ceramic filter, there is a tower of additional filtration mediums ending with zeolite.  The zeolite attracts any remaining heavy metals, and after a while we only have to wash them off, boil, let cool, and reuse to keep it active.


Two days ago we experienced torrential rains, complete with flashing of lightening and deafening booms of thunder.  Imagine how dismayed we are that every building has metal roofing!

Here is an attempt to capture just how much water was pouring out of the sky.  By the way, today we have bright blue skies.  The real rainy season hasn't arrived (oh joy!)

Our American Thanksgiving in Zambia

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving with some fellow Americans living in Zambia.  The 5 other families are all here in some capacity as missionaries.  Tom and I were the only capitalists.  Jill and Andy Schultz invited us to their beautiful home outside of Ndola.  We dined in their outdoor covered patio area.  Very pleasant weather!  That is me on the far left side.  Notice their adorable mini-daschund.  He reminded us of Basil, including the happy way they jaunt around!

Mary enjoyed meeting three sisters, all just a bit younger than her.  They were fast friends within a short space of time.  She a swim with them in their pool.  They are already talking about arranging long distant sleepover visits.

I had asked Jill what we could bring, and she said whatever we wanted.  So we opted to bring pies.  That was before I remembered you can't purchase lard here, we didn't have a rolling pin or wax paper, and no pie dishes.   That didn't stop us, so here is a photo journey on our quest to make peach pies:

We sifted the flour by shaking it through a fine sieve.

Measuring bulk margarine for the crust:

Cutting in the butter with knives:

Finished cutting, nice and crumbly:

We had thought to make apple, but no tart apples were available.  We opted to use canned peach slices:

Mary cooked up the peach juice, plus some spice and vinegar (no lemon juice), then let the sauce reduce and added the peaches.

Back to the pastry.  No rolling pins available .. so the next best thing .. an empty wine bottle.  Two Oceans is a very good South African wine, just in case you were wondering!

First crust rolled out.  No wax paper.  And if we find a large wooden board, it will be added to the kitchen.  In the meantime, a well scrubbed, and floured counter had to be enough.  Notice the pie plate to the side.  Tom located these in Lusaka, and we are told that was an fortunate find.

Used an oatmeal granola with brown sugar for topping .. heating it with some butter, peach filling waiting on the back of the stove.

The two finished pies!  They were good, but definitely played second fiddle to the pecan and apple at the gathering.  We've enjoyed what was left this past week.  It is nice to have a few homemade sweets.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spoon Cookies

Mary decided to try her hand at making a sweet treat.

The challenge?  Well, converting grams to cups .. and lacking rather basic ingredients.
The recipe she found online was for Lusikkaleivat.  Comparing the ingredient list with what we had on hand:

What was listed  .... what we had:

unsalted butter (1 cup) ...  salted butter (a 250 g tub) .. Mary used her head, and scooped the butter into the 2 Cup glass measure cup until the 1 cup of water hit the 2 cup mark!  

all-purpose flour (2 cups) ... check .. though we made certain to put the flour into the freezer for a week prior to opening .. dead weevil on the top of the flour confirmed our suspicions

baking powder (3/4 t.) ... check .. the ingredient photo shows we found double-acting baking powder

fine salt (pinch) ... using salted butter took care of this

large egg yolk ... check ... new eggs are opened outside, the container discarded so small cockroaches don't come into the house ... then they get scrubbed clean .. soaked in a strong vinegar/water solution .. and then put into the refrigerator

sugar ... check ... except we didn't know which bag to purchase and ended up with raw sugar ... we pay big bucks for raw sugar in Texas .. and here it is the "poor man's" sugar .. go figure

pure vanilla extract ... imitation vanilla flavoring ... this tiny bottle cost more than a pure extract that is 4 times the size back in Texas (yes, we know we aren't in Texas, or Kansas, but that is our point of reference)
jam .. check ... expensive because we prefer the real fruit imported from Denmark  .. the cheaper stuff is made with mostly pumpkin puree with some fruit added .. 

Confectioners' sugar ... passed on this ingredient ...
The recipe called for using parchment paper (yeah, right ...) We opted to just use the nonstick finish baking sheets Tom bought last week in Lusaka.

Without a mixer Mary, and then I, got an upper arm workout.  Mary molded each cookie and filled each cookie sheet, baked them, let them cool, then made the jam sandwiches.  She used black current jam, and strawberry jam.  Both varieties were great.  We think the raw sugar made them taste a bit different than the pure white sugar would have, and it was a good difference.

Her Dad agreed they were good, as evidenced by what was left on the plate this morning:

Next on our list will be some overnight bread, and then a Peach Pie to share at Thanksgiving at some new over-the-phone acquaintances who want us to share this special meal with fellow Americans.

Shopping here is an experience similar to small town shopping.  I am thinking of Kent's Market in Austin, Nevada that got the leftovers (including expired meats) from Kent's Market in Fallon, Nevada. 

Tom and I have lived in far away places where convenience isn't possible.  However, we were usually within a 1/2 days drive, on good highways, to get where we could make up the difference.  Here, not so much.

Yesterday I took my new housekeeper (!) into Chingola to shop for her and the gardener's lunches.  The staple is mealy (nshima .. I believe) meal.  The store was emptied out.  We drove around to the bulk warehouse, emptied out...   Nearby Congo, so the rumor goes, is running short of food.  Since Chingola is the closest to the DRC border, they come across, strip the shelves of staples, including beef.  Local entrepreneurs also go and buy up bags, selling them for a steep mark-up down the street from the market.  A man came up to the window of the car and told Josephine and Chanda where the black market was.  We need to feed our help, there was not a better choice.    We paid K35,000 for a 10kg bag.  I believe the normal price is around K15,000.  

Shopping ... if you see something on the shelf, I've learned to buy it, even if you don't need it right away.  There is no telling when it will be available again.  Hovering between hoarding and prudence is a balancing act.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Little Flora

When we first arrived in Africa Tom took this picture of me and Mary at the Lusaka airport.   Here is another shot from the terminal while we waited for the plane to Ndola.

These are some of the beautiful trees in Chingola:

This is our house, before we got moved in.  Our gardener just started this week, and it already looking much, much better.   More photos will come, but I'm waiting for the camera to come back from Tom's trip to Lusaka today.  Oh!  And good news is that he has all three passports sporting their official, "we can stay and not get deported next week" stamps inside.  And.. it get's even better, our few household items waiting for air shipment can now be released from Houston.  That means Mary will have her school books, I'll have more clothes, and Tom's professional library will finally be in his new office. 

The vegetation is typical of a dry climate, but we also have roses, hibiscus and primroses growing in the yard.  Last night there was a healthy dose of much needed rain.  The rainy season normally is well underway by now, but it has been fairly dry.  We sure could use some moisture to get the brown pasture out back (humorously called a lawn) to green up!

Just Be "Nice"

Back from 1960 comes a rather prophetic review that summarizes today's state of affairs.  I found this while searching for a commentary of GK Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse."  This turned out to be a very fruitful rabbit trail.

If you have not read "Ballad of the White Horse" I invite you to do so.  As is usual for GKC's writing, it is easy on the eye, tongue and mind.  And yet, and yet ... it sits in the brain, stews a while, and reveals much in the way of truth.

On Facebook (which I assure you, I seldom visit) a relative was opining that folks were not being very kind.  Then up pops an answer that in essence said that it was the fault of those people who believe in their God so much that they just can't be nice and stop talking about inconvenient truths to those who want to believe in the father of lies.  Well, he didn't exactly say that .. but the meaning was there.  It was stated that there is a vast chasm between faith and reason and only people who solely use reason can be trusted.

For someone who touts reason as the only way to truth, he also shut himself off from even entertaining an alternative view.  For anyone left wondering, no I do not agree.  Faith and reason are in fact very compatible.  A person who foolishly believes that their reason is fault free needs to spend a little more time looking at the person in their mirror.

While I believe that there are many things I will never experience in life, I would never use my faulty ability to discern (given my limited point of view) those other experiences as false.  Tell that to the family who was told their son would never recover from a very serious car accident, who sat with that same son at a Thanksgiving dinner table a year later.  Or tell the mom who was told her yet to be born infant was seriously deformed, who was being pressured to terminate this "mistake" as she holds that same now born "perfect" baby girl in her arms.

No, humility does not seem to be part of the argument from either side.  Humility comes from inside us, while humiliating the "other" is used as the weapon to silence those we don't want to hear.  I do want to understand how another comes to their conclusions.  However my patience runs thin when instead of sharing I get subjected to taunts and tirades about how belief in "my God" is only for feeble minded, easily influenced folks.  Anyone who knows me, also knows that I am not exactly easily influenced, or feeble minded.

Enough of my soap box.  This "is" my blog, though, so I do get to write my thoughts.  If any disagree, I welcome a respectful discourse.  Name calling, using generic "they", and refusing to consider all facets of the argument not allowed.

One more suggestion.  Read, and consider the premise in "Godforsaken."  This is not a quick and speedy read, but it is one that anyone who questions those who have faith, who questions whether God exists, or question how the world works will find challenging to read.  Read the book, then let's talk, okay?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We are Millionaires!!!

Well, actually this is what K3,000,000 looks like ... Tom is holding the equivalent of $600 USD.  I still get a bit shook up when a small grocery card is K 650,000.  The local currency is called Kwatcha.  There are many posters around proclaiming that January 1, 2013 the last three zeros will be dropped, new money issued, along with coins.  Locals assure us this isn't the first time they have heard about it.

We will keep you posted.  In the meantime, WE ARE MULTI-MILLIONAIRES, yippee!

The conversion isn't exact, but I drop the last three zeros and divide by 5 to determine approximate USD equivalency.   Despite the fact that we live in a third world country, we can purchase many items that you all can.  Not exactly the same quality, but we can.  A can of Pringles only costs K25,000 ... you do the math.  We don't eat Pringles, but these sure aren't Kroger prices over here!

Thanks Dad!

If you know a veteran, tell them thanks!  

My Dad is a US Navy war veteran, and he is one of the multitude of Veterans who are honored today!

Thanks, Dad.   Your small part has multiplied the lives of the South Koreans, who are examples of why freedom and capitalism are worthy goals, not despotism and greed.


We haven't seen any lions but we have been seeing plenty of other creatures.  Mostly mosquitos!  I seem to be a magnet.  Researching ways to safely repel them I came across a site that explained that they are attracted to carbon dioxide (which we exude while working hard) and cholesterol.  That doesn't mean I have high cholesterol compared to Mary and Tom.  What it does mean is that my body is efficient at expelling it, and one of those ways is through the skin.  Ouch!  I have to dive under the covers at night (even with being smeared with repellant) to avoid getting bit.  And without A/C you can imagine the discomfort.

Which is worse, sweating or being bit?

Anyway, here are some of the creatures we've encountered:

spiders (!) .. one day in the Guest Lodge Mary glanced to where I was sitting, and told me "Move, as quick as you can!"  I did, and looking back we saw a gargantuan spider on the curtain, about 1' from where my head was.  Did not stay long enough for a photo.  Instead, we found the manager.  He sprayed it with Raid, told us it was "one of the bad ones, that sting from the abdomen with venom".  The Raid didn't phase it.  He shook the curtain and flicked it onto the floor.  We though he was going to just kill it (isn't that what the Raid was supposed to do?)  No!  Instead he just shooed it with his foot out the room, down the hall, around the corner, through the lobby and out the front door!

geckos ... in that same guest lodge we had this little fellow.  He was only about 1" long.  The next morning there were 4 more in the shower, two drowned, and Tom felt bad.  However, soon there were 6!

Now that we are moved into the house (on Tuesday) Thursday evening there was this fellow on the wall, he was 3" long, and wasn't the only one in the house.  He was in the dressing room of our Master bedroom.  They eat bugs, right?  So we weren't entirely creeped out.  Oddly, the person in charge of getting the house painted assured me, laughingly, that the paint would seal out all the bugs and spiders.

But, last night Mary came screaming into our room, well, not screaming but a little alarmed.  There was a 6" lizard in her bedroom.  Tom rescued her by shooing it, with a plastic hanger, out the window, and outside the screen.  Mary opted to sleep in a different bedroom last night.  Sorry, no photo of that one, but I have a feeling it isn't a lost opportunity.

Finally, our house backs onto the golf course driving range.  Don't imagine that we look onto it.  No, the back fence has concertina wire, foliage, a sort of alleyway, more dense foliage for the golf course's fence with concertina wire.  What it does offer is monkeys, lots of monkeys.

These are some pictures of only a few we encountered while at the guest lodge.  When we asked what kind they were, we received a blank, "are you stupid" stare, and were informed that they were just monkeys!  If you look close you'll see juveniles and moms with babies.  No males would stay still long enough for their photo op!