Saturday, December 29, 2012

African Adventure, part 2

Loading our luggage rack in the airport parking lot, about 1 am.  The girls arrived with no problems, except that their cellphones wouldn't work in Zambia!
I last left you with our departure from the Lusaka Airport.  We drove through Lusaka, and then onto the  road to Livingstone.  It was dark, and more than a bit eerie.  Because the car was overloaded, our headlights were aimed quite high.  In the US, that might mean something, but here in Zambia headlights are not aimed.  We had several large trucks headed the opposite direction that nearly blinded us.  Several had headlights pointed in different directions.  What it meant for us, though, was that as soon as the approaching car was near us they hi-beamed, just to, you know, let us know they weren't pleased.  Sheesh!  Like we didn't really know.

Tom was our sole driver, and we all tried to keep him alert.  Finally, about 3:30 am, he found a wide spot (not an easy thing to find) to pull over.  They are referred to as lay-bys here.  What we needed was one not near any roadside stands.  After all, we wanted to rest, not to have to set guard so the cargo loaded on top wouldn't be pilfered while we slept.

After about 1 1/2 hours of rest, and dawn breaking, we got back onto the road.  All this time we had been gaining altitude, and moving up and down hilly roads.  Just as we rounded a long, blind curve and back onto a wide, straight and flat road we had a tire blow out!  It felt like all those rumble strips built into the roads where towns or large trading areas are established piled into one long line.  Tom was able to pull over, but just barely.  We drove a little way to get to this spot which afforded us to at least not be in the lane of travel.

Not a single house/hut in sight.  Tom and Peter proceeded to get it jacked up, another challenge.  Our extra blue tarp came in handy as they had to get under the car to reach the jack and work the handle.  It took all their strength to get it jacked up, just enough to get the flat up enough to change the tire.
Tom and Peter getting ready to take the flat tire off.  Little did we know the 4-way spanner was a piece of junk!  Like everything else, the extension for the jack was missing parts (like the original spanner) so they had to get under the vehicle to work the jack.
 Then, as luck was not really with us, the 4-way wrench we had was twisting out of shape.  Made in China strikes again, the steel was not hardened, and the 4-way was quickly becoming a pretzel.  We went on expedition (knowing we were walking through truly wild land, snakes and all) looking for rocks we could use as a hammer.  The piddly tool kit we had left at the Chingola house might have helped, but then again, might not have.

After searching for about 10 minutes we located two rocks.  Tom started to try to pound the wrench back onto the lug nuts, which were tight, tight, tight!  Nothing budged.  How much more stranded could we be?  There is nothing like AAA of Zambia to help travelers out!  Just as we began more earnest prayers for an angel to come help us out, Peter saw a larger, pick-up size vehicle coming from the opposite direction.  All of us began to wave them over.  They drove past, then slowed down and backed up.  Fortunately it was a native Zambian, of Indian descent on his way to Lusaka for morning prayers.

He also happened to be driving a Land Cruiser, and the lug nuts were the same size.  His wrench was original to his new vehicle, and worked great!  He also looked at the tire and said we'd need to replace it, and recommended the same for all the tires.  We had just been having a conversation about how soon the tires would need to be replaced.  We were still over 3 hours from Livingstone, and didn't want to attempt those same hilly roads back to Lusaka.

He gave us his cellphone number, told us to call when we got to Livingstone.  Turned out he owns and runs one of the larger blue bus lines in the Lusaka area, and had a friend connected with Auto World.

Back on the road after our "angel" Flash stopped to help us.

Outside of one of the towns between where we had the flat and Livingstone.  No tire shops, not that we could have even come close to finding a replacement!

One of the many double semi's traveling the same route as we were.
The reason for this picture, other than to show the road, is to show the road.  The surface, that is.  Notice that as we got closer to Livingstone (the tourist mecca) the roads were beautiful!  Real paint on the road, wider lanes and real paved shoulders.  It was a pleasure to ride on these.  On the way home, we noticed the incremental demise of the roads.  And of course, the worst is the road that connects Chingola with Kitwe, the beginning of our route!

Entering Livingstone, and civilization.
That arranged, we got back on the road, and after the unevenness of the tire seemed to smooth out, Tom got us to Livingstone and in the parking lot for Auto World by 8:45 am.  He gave "Flash" a call, and after half an hour he had, through his connection, arranged for a 20% discount on a new set of tires.
Our Patrol in the shop.  It took them little time to remove the tires.
One hour later, still waiting to install the newly mounted tires.  
Paid with cash, which is about the only way you can!  We had plenty of bundles, but could easily see them slipping away with these types of unexpected costs.

Livingstone, ready to drive to our lodging.
Mary waiting outside the Livingstone Museum.

We waited a bit, a long bit, nothing is quick in Zambia, but finally the Patrol had new shoes.  Tom bought a better spanner while we were waiting.

Then we were off to the Maramba River Lodge.  Fortunately, our chalets were ready and they let us in early (about 11 am) so we could shower, eat lunch, unpack, and then head out to see Victoria Falls.

Maramba River Lodge, quite a welcome sight, and relief.  We didn't really know what we were booking when we made reservations in November!  Last I checked they have it up for sale!  Tempting ...
More on that, later.

Friday, December 28, 2012

African Adventures, part 1

We had an extremely stressful, restful, high intensity, beautiful and partly terrifying adventure between December 19 and 24.  Everything worked out, and if the parts we need arrive from Australia (!) we'll almost have our Nissan Patrol back in working order.

Okay, the adventure began with Peter leaving Houston on United Airlines to Heathrow December 18.  For some reason he was not given boarding passes for his next two legs on Ethiopian Airlines.  We arranged with AT&T to enable international texting and calls.  But, apparently there are jamming devices in Heathrow so Peter was not able to call or text to keep us informed.

With several requests for prayers to our friends around the world, we awaited word from him, as we were waiting for word on Meghan and Katie about to start their own journey, via Amsterdam.

We did get a quick call from Peter.  He had to stand in several lines at Addis Ababa airport, entrusted his claim numbers for luggage to a clerk, got on board, and was on his way to Lusaka.  Unfortunately, after he arrived we discovered that TSA or someone at the Houston baggage handling area stole 2 portable hard drives from his luggage.
On the road, rain and all!
In the meantime Tom, Mary and I were on the road early in the morning to drive south to Lusaka from Chingola.  We arrived, after having to pay a "fine" for speeding.  (We could not possibly have been going the 120 km/hr Tom was cited for.  After he asked the "right" question the "fine" was reduced from ridiculous to silly.  An Aussie who had been stopped at the same time only paid 1/5 of the price quoted to Tom.  After Tom finally asked what they would accept, he was told to pay the same amount. Hmmm... we suspect the officers in charge of this scam were accruing their Christmas bonuses early.)

Mary enjoying a hot chocolate at the Mint Cafe at Arcades Mall in Lusaka.
Entertainment at the Arcades Mall.

Anyway, once in Lusaka we knew that Peter's plane would arrive about 2:30.  So we found a shop to do the oil change, and filter changes.  Assured it would only take 2 hours, and it being 11:00 am, we walked across the road to eat lunch.  At least that was good!

Naturally, it wasn't true, and 5 hours later the oil and filter changes were completed.  Not without waiting, and waiting, and waiting ... always with assurances that it would only be another 30 minutes.

But, that wasn't the nail biting part.  Peter called to let us know he was on the plane to Lusaka.  So Tom told him to call as soon as they landed.  Peter did, about 1 hour early.  Curious.  He then went through immigration to purchase his tourist Visa, went to get his luggage, and then called Tom to ask if there should be signs that said "Zimbabwe".  Well, no son!!!
Proof that Peter visited at least the airport at Harari, Zimbabwe.  The result of far too many hours in the air, layovers, and confusion in Ethiopia!  

Tom told him to get back onto his plane asap.  Unfortunately the Zimbabwean Immigration officer had taken his seat stub.  Fortunately one of the flight attendants recognized him (remember all white people look the same) and let him back on board over the objection of another attendant.

As you can imagine, we were praying in earnest for Peter to be protected, and that he not get stranded in Harari, Zimbabwe!

He landed at the Lusaka airport, but then found out his phone would not work in Zambia.  Fortunately one of the baggage handlers let him call.  He had to wait about 2 hours, because the oil change was not completed.

Finally, finally, we arrived at the airport to pick him up.  It was just a bit exciting, for all of us!  We headed to our friends' home, stepped out to eat (Peter was famished.)  We filled the Patrol,  went back to their lovely home to rest up until the girls' arrived at midnight.
Full service stations mean that the attendant fills it ...

and then rocks the vehicle so they fit just that much more in.
Here is a photo of us, after getting everything loaded at the Lusaka Airport.  We then headed south toward Victoria Falls.  More in the next post.  Our internet has been out more than on, so please bear with us!  The rest of the trip has more twists and turns than you might imagine!

About 1:00 am, December 21, 2012 at the Lusaka, Zambia airport.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


We opted to pay the extra money to have the few goods we needed shipped via air cargo rather than by sea container.  The idea was to receive them quicker, and avoiding having our stuff cross through several countries from the port to here.

As they say, the best laid plans.  The Houston moving company sent their TSA certified packers to our house.  It was amazing what they could stow in the small "D" size box.  After filling it, they sealed it, literally, to ensure and reassure TSA that there were no dangerous or prohibited items inside.

The next step was to get Tom's work visa completed.  We couldn't do that until we were in the country.  Turns out it had actually been approved on September 29, but for some reason KCM didn't get Tom back to Lusaka earlier.  It would have been simple to have stayed over in Lusaka (a nicer way to get introduced to Zambia) and take care of it the following Monday.  But, part of the contract was that Tom had to pass their physical.  Why it couldn't have been done in Houston, we don't know.  But he got poked, interviewed and chatted about golf with the various company physicians and got the green light.

Finally he was scheduled to go to Lusaka to be physically presented and certified.  Finally, once he had his work permit in hand he visited the Zambian side of our cargo carrier.  The fellow who was in charge of our stuff had requested that we mail our passports to him in order to process the paperwork.

Naturally, nothing doing.  Tom went with him to the airport to visit the customs officer that would be processing the cargo.  That officer basically read the representative the riot act and he left with no doubts that he was completely out of line to request them.  Tom returned to Chingola confident that everything was set.  It was about a 4 hour process for the visa, and 6 hours to straighten out the air cargo shipment.

Then the waiting began, or rather, continued.  Through the miracle of the internet we were able to log on and track the shipment.  It sat for another week in Saint Louis, then finally cleared the US border.  It landed in Lusaka, and took another week to clear through customs.  That was a week ago.  We waited, and no word from the Zambian end of things.  Finally Tom received an email late yesterday telling us they had the cargo, but no trucks available to bring it to Chingola.

Can you imagine a cargo company that doesn't have any trucks???  Hopefully it gets sorted out, and soon!  We are meeting Meghan, Peter and Katie in Lusaka on Thursday for their visit.  Other than our golf clubs, Tom's professional library and all of Mary's school books, we can no longer recall exactly what we packed.  It will be like Christmas.  Let's pray we don't have to actually wait until Christmas (or later) to find out what is inside.  And, let's hope all the seals are still intact.

The furniture we ordered from Kubu Crafts is supposed to be shipped this week by the same company. Anxious, no, not us!  It's part of living in Zambia.  Prayers, please!


One question I have heard often is about the food we can purchase.  I mentioned the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables available at the outdoor markets.  When Tom stopped 3 weeks ago, on his way back from Lusaka, to purchase charcoal the vendor didn't have change.  So they added a huge bag of green beans, another large bag of green peppers and a watermelon.  They were all tasty, but definitely needed to be thoroughly washed and debugged.

When we passed through Kitwe this morning on our way home from the Ndola shopping trip we stopped at the new Pick n' Pay.  An American has built (and it isn't quite finished ... we live in Zambia and that is just part of the ethic here) a wonderful shopping mall on the Chingola side of Kitwe.  This is our 2nd visit (the other was last Sunday.)  Definitely worth the drive.

While there I decided to go ahead and get eggs.  Here, like many places around the world, eggs are stored on regular shelves, not refrigerated.  They are sometimes clean, but usually not completely.

Just like the produce, they have to be washed very carefully.  Notice this label on our carton:

Apparently that only means after you get them home.  There are no freshness dates, so you just trust, and do the float test.  Here are the eggs in this carton.  These look very, very nice.  The selection in Chingola at the Shoprite isn't quite as nice.  You'll notice they aren't clean, but at least they aren't crusty!  We also have to be cautious about baby roaches stowing away in the carton.  I save my cartons to use as seed starters.  Lettuce for salad is not readily available, and when it is, it is prepared in a plastic package with about only a 1 or 2 day shelf-life.

To get these beauties ready to store I'll fill our large stainless steel bowl with water, toss any that are cracked (not taking any chances), do a quick float test, then add about 1 cup of white vinegar.  Some folks use chlorine bleach to clean theirs, but I find white vinegar to be a bit less toxic to the consumer, and just as effective at killing off large and microscopic bugs.  After they soak for about 5 or so minutes I'll scrub them with a brush and store in the refrigerator.

I forgot them last week, left them in a bit too long, and the vinegar had dissolved the outer layer of eggshell.  They were clean!  But I don't intend to leave them in quite that long.  

And if you're wondering, we paid ZMK 20900 for the 30 pack.  That is a little over  $4.  (drop the last three digits and divide by 5)

Blame It on the Rain

We have had intermittent internet and satellite television for the past four days.  Right now I'm looking out over the patio, and there is enough green to make the Emerald City look pathetic.  The sun is out, which means the internet is available.  Since this area is just now entering the rainy season, bear with us as we post when we can.

Our adventures have taken us back to Kitwe last Sunday, and to Ndola today.  Last Sunday we stopped at two roadside vendors.  The first was a family that makes rattan furniture.  We picked up this little wooden and rattan cabinet.  I am using it for our telephone.  We also commissioned four patio wicker chairs and a table.  Today we stopped by to see if we could buy more of these, but of course we couldn't.  And our chairs won't be ready until tomorrow.

So, to help our housekeeper out with her dressing/change room we chose this to bring home today.  In addition we commissioned two more of the first style cabinet, plus one that is twice as wide.  These we plan to use as bedside tables.

So, we'll drive back tomorrow to pick up the patio set, and maybe the little tables.  That will probably not be the case.  But it is quite fun to pull off the road, drop off the edge onto red mud (this time of year) and make our selections, talk price, place orders, and make everyone happy.  Our other roadside purchase last weekend were several palm and bamboo plants for the front yard.

With the rain being so heavy, and no internet we had time to put together our new executive desk.  I had to argue for this one, as this is the one we were assigned.  It is currently in Mary's room, and perfect as a student desk.

The woman, Queen, in charge of furnishing this house has been an interesting person to interact with.  When she showed this to us (from another vacant house) she was proud that she had tracked down a desk.  Keep in mind that we had already located the desk we wanted, had the pro-forma submitted, and were waiting for delivery.  Or so we thought.  When we saw it, after her telling us it was an executive desk, we negotiated that we would take in in place of one bedroom item.  But, honestly, do you think this looks like an executive desk?  

Here is the desk we did eventually get.  The same desk chair is in both photos, so you can see the huge difference.  When we finally went back to World Store, here in Chingola, to purchase it we found out it was ready to assemble.  No problem.  We have put together a lot of box furniture in the past.  Plus, with the internet out, it gave us something to do on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

What we didn't realize is how skimpy the directions were.  Here are the directions for one of the side cabinets.  We scratched our heads, tried some dry fits, and somehow managed to make it work.  Well, almost.  The drawer slides don't quite match up, and the screw heads aren't flush, but I am confident Tom will get it figured out.  

These are the parts and hardware for the side cabinet.

And this is the 3 drawer cabinet fully assembled, perfect for our printer.

Here is a photo of our desk area.  You can see the bright sunshine beyond the windows.  It is a pleasant place to study, blog and teach.  The carpet was one of our purchases made in Ndola today.  There is an Indian owned business there called Ndola Trading Company.  The Dobbins family tipped us off about it, and that is where all the carpets in the house are from.  As I was arranging and moving them around today I notice they are imported from Egypt.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ballad of the White Horse

Mary and I just finished reading G.K.Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse."  This coming week we will begin to look deeper into the references, the characterizations and of course, GKC's wonderful insight into the real battle still being waged today.

One reference I found today is delightful.  Written as part of a series called Chesterton 101 will be one of many resources we will use to guide our study.  The American Chesterton Society does a grand job of helping folks discover all the richness that GKC has given to us in his thought and writing.

For my own light reading, Chesterton's fiction fits the bill.  Having exhausted most of those, I am now working through P.D. Wodehouse.  Perhaps it is my English heritage, but I find the understated humor, the eccentricity of all the characters in these stories to be endearing.  For one of my favorite American authors, give Ralph McInerny a try.

New Nativity Set

While we were at Kubu Crafts in Lusaka we spied this basket:

And inside were these figures:

The three kings, or wise men:

A shepherd with two sheep:

Three musicians, two lyres and a flute., could they be the angelic choir?

The infant in the manger:

The Holy Family:

Joseph and Mary with Jesus in manger, sheltered by the "cave" and visitors:

This little set has won our hearts! 

Happy Advent!

An Adjusted Advent

Our family Advent wreath is now considered an heirloom, and was left in Houston.  We improvised when we spied the lavendar and rose colored pilar candles at Mr. Price Home while we were in Lusaka.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heavy Hearts

Our little buddy, Basil, passed away yesterday in Houston.  We were rewarded with so many instances of joy watching him run through the yard, laughter at his crazy antics and lots of snuggles.

Basil was our mini-dachsund, the runt of the litter who just seemed to know he was Kate's from the first instant they met.  He won the hearts of everyone who came to visit, and we know there are many who are saddened along with our family.

This is Basil on a floating lounge chair in our Peru swimming pool.  One of his feats was to catch a pigeon in this yard.  All that was left over were feathers!  We had so many adventures with this little buddy, and are so thankful we had his company for 11 1/2 years.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Police Checks

We went through no less than 11 police checkpoints between Lusaka and Chingola yesterday afternoon.  While it is irritating to have to slow down only to be waved through, I hope it does stop at least one serious accident.  We were stopped only twice.  The first time was because the vehicle in front of us was being scrutinized.  The license plate was from the DRC (Congo).  It was a bit later that we realized this car was actually a left hand drive, instead of the right hand drive.  This makes it especially frightening when passing (called overtaking here) In order to verify oncoming traffic, the driver has to practically pull all the way into the on coming traffic lane.   We were behind this car for much more time that we wanted!  When we finally were able to overtake him, he was on the cellphone... yes, it is here, too.

Notice the police officer is standing on the passenger side of the car.

Here are a few dismal reminders of accidents, death and destruction along the route!  While it is irritating to have to slow down to be waved through, I hope it does stop at least one serious accident.

Oh, and the other time we were stopped caused us to sing high praises to Thomas, our driver from Chingola to Lusaka.  When we were negotiating on the vehicle he expressed interest in seeing what we were going to buy.  Tom took Thomas back out to the parklot where the Nissan was parked.  Thomas liked it, but told us the "certificate of fitness" was expired, and we would need to have that attended to before we drove home.  And that was exactly what one of the police officers checked on our car.  We would have had no idea, and the owner honestly thought it was up to date.  She had it taken care, but was just one more reason it took longer in Lusaka, but that is okay.  

We got to enjoy a wonderful German meal at the favorite restaurant of Bob and Mary Syngekowski.  And we met them at the American Thankgiving feast in Ndola.  We were invited to the Schultz' Thankgiving celebration only because Mike and Lattisha Dobbins told them about the new American family living in Chingola.  And, we only met Lattisha and Mike because they happened to be dining at the Protea restaurant the same night we were, and Tom was forward enough to ask Lattisha if she was from the US when she returned from stepping outside.  We knew they were Americans by listening to them chatting at their table!  

I know many of you reading this blog either have a disbelief in God, or a noncommittal sense of God, and some, like us have a very strong belief in God.  Sharing our experiences and living here has just reinforced that God is real, He loves and cares for us.  There have simply been too many coincidences to believe otherwise.  As we each step out in our own level of faith, I hope my own deepens, and we will pray this Advent season that yours will open up and deepen as well!  Look for my post on the button, for a humorous affirmation.

Shopping on the Road

We didn't stop to do any shopping on the road, but the variety available is amazing.  Here is a photo journey of just some of the items that were being sold by the side of the road.  Regions definitely dictated what was available.  Sorry for the shaky photos, snapping them from the passenger side of the car as we sped back to Chingola created some challenges.

Those stacks by the side of the road are charcoal.  I tried to capture a photo of one of the earthen coking ovens, but wasn't quick enough.  This is the charcoal Tom purchased for bbq when he made his trip two weeks back.  The charcoal is "caged" in sticks, then wrapped with plastic on the bottom.

Another section of the road had hollowed out gourds.  I was tempted to ask Tom to stop, but we wanted to get off the road as soon as we could.  As it was, we drove the last hour in the dark.

This is at one of the "truck stops" ... I've enlarged the photo so you can see the women carrying heavy trays of fruit on their heads.

While we did our furniture shopping in a mall and regular stores, you can buy couches alongside the road.  One place between Chingola and Kitwe must have well over 500 sets.  They sit outside, rain or shine ... In this photo there are also some gorgeous African fabrics.  Maybe another day!

More furniture, must be a more upscale shop as they have a tarp canopy.

Mostly along the road were fruit and vegetable vendors.  This market was quite long, stretching for probably 500 meters.  The prominent produce were watermelons, tomatoes and butternut squash.  While it is fashionable to eat in season now in the States, here it is just part of life!

And some stands are single families plying their wares.  Often when a trucker has stopped to make a purchase, or someone else you will have at least 5 little kids crowd around, each holding a tray of the same type of fruit.  Purchase from one, and ever hopeful, the others will try to get you to buy theirs as well!

This vegetable stand was on one I spied on the way to Lusaka, just past where the "shortcut" between Kitwe and Ndola takes off from the main road.

Along the way we also could have purchased live chickens, 2 litre bottles of honey, roasted corn on the cob, rattan type furniture, tin "toys" ... It is never quite the same, but always something can be found to buy.  When we have more time we plan to stop and boost the more local economy.

These are the rural open markets.  In the little cities there are plenty of others.  Most of those sell used clothing (from the US, Canada and European countries).  I saw a huge selection of used toys, all spread on blankets on the ground, and being perused by several customers.

Along the main street of Chingola, in front of the regular stores there are vendors.  One day Mary and I walked past a display of women's sandals that absolutely reeked of moth balls.   Unfortunately, after we managed to get past without passing out the young man selling them ran after us with a pair to see if we had perhaps not noticed them.

On any given day there are people who sell used books, counterfeit cell phones, used clothing, used carpets, linens, shoes, you name it.  If you have ever dropped give-a-way items into a collection bin where you live (unless you know it went to an established charity) it likely will find it's way to one of these outdoor markets.