Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Time

An entire 6 week "while I'm in Houston" plan, shattered-to-pieces.

I had not counted on extra time getting home - lost luggage - getting ill!  Or rather, probably still not really over whatever it was I got while in Zambia.  As of this writing (Dec 18) I am down to only 2 more doses of antibiotic treatment, and feeling far more human than I was a week ago!  Simply another vivid reminder that I really am not in charge, and glad I'm not.  I am very thankful for our family doctor, capable kiddos, and a loving husband!

But, Advent marches on, despite any protestations to the contrary.  Here are some of the decorating, some pets and a "new friend" who moved in.   Enjoy!!!

Jess, our good sport!

This little anole was discovered early in December, and now this seems to be the preferred living space (on top of my china hutch).  

Some pets have no problem waiting for Christmas!

Thanksgiving Day

A year ago we were here for Thanksgiving supper, meeting and making new friends in Zambia!

This year Tom was working in Chingola, and we sat down to a wonderful dinner in our Houston house.

Kate getting the brine ready for the turkey.  She planned the entire menu, then had her sisters and brother help make a splendid meal.

Mary happily helping out in the kitchen.  So nice to be home, right Mary?

 Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Moving On, and On, and On...

We got to spend extra time at the Lusaka airport.  And as a result, got to stand in line at the Addis Ababa airport beginning at 1:00 am .. until 5:00 am.  Missed our flight to Frankfurt and got to spend the day (as the night was long gone by the time we arrived at the accommodation the airline arranged) here:

Mary and I were completely exhausted, and so happy we had nice comfy beds to sleep in.  She is still asleep, but this is the extent of what I could do to explore .. take photos out our window.  The front desk at the Churchill Hotel kept one passport as insurance that we couldn't try to stay in the country as we only had transfer status visas.  (Now, why would we want to stay?  We were trying to leave!!)  And apparently we were not even allowed to step one foot outside the hotel until the time our shuttle was due to return us to the airport that evening.

Our impressions, compared to Zambia .. far cleaner city.  Nice mountains!  Interesting alphabet/lettering style.  Food at the hotel was quite a pleasant surprise.  So for having to stay an extra day, not a bad place to cool our toes, and they were cold!

The green VW Beetle tickled me!  Nice color, far different from the blue used everywhere in Zambia.

So, after a bit of an unexpected layover in Addis, we flew Ethiopian Airways to Dulles in Washington, D.C.  Our bags didn't make it, but went via Germany, and arrived the next day.  Most of what we brought stayed intact.  Some soapstone carvings were casualties, as well as the handle on my lovely basket that we bought in Serenji when we visited Kapisha Hot Springs.

Our choice of luggage these days are German Army surplus duffles.  Quite rugged, but not unique.  Our trip home back in August I snagged one off the belt in Detroit, only to immediately realize that it wasn't my name on the tag.  

Not having our baggage made going through customs a breeze!  I wouldn't recommend it as standard practice, but we were so exhausted by the time we got to Houston, and could make our baggage claim with United I was happy to just be "home" and in my own bed!!  

Monday, November 4, 2013

She No Work No More!!

And that means our night guard has extra duty these days.

The heavy metal doors for the garage have been getting progressively difficult to open and shut.  A year ago we pointed this out, and the solution was to "shave" the metal at the top of both doors.

Well, it took a year, but here is how we had to leave the door last evening ... And in order to even open it this far on Sunday morning Tom and I were both shoving, trying to lift, pulling and forcing it to drag open just enough to drive the Trol out!

Supposedly a crew is scheduled to come out today to fix it.  Based on past performance, that may or (more likely) not happen.

And ending with a very pretty lily in the front yard.  Everything isn't bad here, just a bit of a struggle.

New Animals

The last three days has brought a few new animals to photograph.

First one is a beautiful butterfly near the backyard (actually called the front yard here ??) patio resting on some frilled coreopsis:

Early on Sunday morning, while we were loading up the Trol for a shopping excursion to Kitwe Tom nearly stepped on this little guy.  It was quite patiently watching small ants.  Since we have plenty to share, it was welcome to any and all it would eat.

The final new creature greeted us when we returned from Kitwe.  He (she?) was waiting near the front door on the entryway.  Fortunately it simply skittered in and stayed put outside.  Beautiful lizard, though I am grateful we found it outside, and not inside.  We are fine with the inside lizards as they only range from 1" to no more than 4" long.

Since he was so pretty, here is one more shot:


Our efforts with the pool have paid off.  And we've been in the water a few times the past week and weekends.  However the rainy season is gearing up, so it is a fight between having enough solar radiation to warm the water, enough chlorine to temper the algae growth, time for the pool robot to clean the bottom and rainfall!

But, here we are enjoying the water and sunshine on Saturday.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Latest Migration

Last night, upon locking up the front doors, we discovered the inside hallway walls covered with teeny, tiny flying insects.  They jumped around, and I was worried that somehow fleas had invaded us.

If anyone (does anyone read this??) can identify, let me know.  They are about 1/2 cm. long, without the antennae.

Here is a picture of the dead carcasses on the back doorstep:

Here is a close-up, taken through our magnifying tweezer lens:

And here is an idea of scale:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This and That

The latest emerging insect seems to be moths.  These range in size from about 1/4" across the wingspan to about 2" across.  Each morning, outside the kitchen and under the security light the wall is covered.  This photo was taken about 4 days ago.

Other than being annoying, dead moths also attract the ants!  Nature's clean-up crew is always ready to haul away the debris.  Not so bad, unless of course, the moths fall in the house!  Fortunately our housekeeper is diligent about keeping the floors clean and we've been spared any ants coming in (so far).  Josephine also needed extra money for her daughters' tuition (school is not free here).  Rather than give a loan (which only increases poverty) she offered to come in 1 1/2 hours earlier than usual and keep the backyard cleaned.

The other insects that never really go away are mosquitos.  I never thought I'd welcome insect spray inside our home.  Living here makes spraying a daily necessity.  Each night, right after the sun goes down we spray all the curtains.  Then about 1 hour prior to bedtime we switch to the "low odor" spray, and do it again.  That, along with our Peaceful Sleep plug-ins usually keeps us mosquito free at night.   And sometimes not.  This morning there was one pesky one buzzing around our ears, and I found two fresh bites on my face.

Our nighttime guard has been bailing out the water since Tuesday and should be done by tomorrow.  He stays about 2 hours after his shift.  The pool is almost ready to scrape and refill!  That should help abate our mosquito population, and hopefully provide a nice respite from the heat in the afternoons.

We are still working on getting outside mosquito repellants made, using wine bottles, torch oil and citronella oil ..

Never ending, but when I look out on the back yard, if I remembered to spray under the desk where I write, the view is beautiful.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Africa House

I am currently reading a good book that Mike Dobbins loaned.  If you would like to have a terrific story, based on good, solid research, dive into The Africa House by Christina Lamb.

I am glad I didn't read it prior to our Kapishya Springs visit.  For myself, it would have felt too much like I was peering into the personal stories of the Harvey family.  It was more enjoyable to listen to Mark Harvey's stories and philosophy without having the "background."

But now that we have been visitors, it is great to now learn the history of not just Shiwa Ng'andu, but Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia.)   I realize that many of the frustrations we encounter today were magnified same back.  At least today we have internet and phones to keep us connected to the outside world, and many native Zambians are educated and no longer simply subsisting on the land.

Getting the Rain Gauge Ready

Actually, we had been given hope through out June, July and August that we would have a swimming pool to enjoy when the weather turned from cold to hot.  Unfortunately, we were snookered by the famous Zambian custom of giving hope (false hope, that is.)

After all the effort to get the pool emptied, scrubbed cleaned and refilled it was discovered that not only was the pump out of order, there wasn't even electricity to the pool. (in June)

The result is more loosed ceiling access inside the house, filthy foot and hand prints on those access areas, electricity restored to the pool, and a new pump.  (in August)

Then the waiting game began.  Final verdict .. we aren't high enough up on the feeding chain to "deserve" pool maintenance.  And so, in the meantime the organics blowing into the pool continued to accumulate.  (first of September)

Mary and I were back in the US, and because Tom's work schedule is long days, and very little time off on the weekends, there was nobody to keep it cleaned, nor to direct domestic help to do so.

And so, returning to find out KCM would not take care of it, and after turning down the generous offer from the local pool company to take care of it (generous only to them, btw) we opted to try to treat the water ourselves.

The "pool maid" cleaner was pulling up a lot, but the water was so murky we did not realize how much had actually settled on the bottom.  Tom made the executive decision that if we wanted any chance to get it ready we would need to drain the pool.

So, we reversed the pump, which managed to pull out only 12" of depth.  Then the undersized pump could overcome the head required, and we went switched to siphoning with garden hoses.  They are now at the maximum.  Next step is to pay our night guard to get it bailed out, and the organics scooped.

Then, time to refill with city water, and learn how to get the water safe to swim in.  Less than 50 days until Mary and I return to the States.  Maybe we'll get in a few weekends of swimming, or maybe not.  There isn't much to keep us occupied here beyond school work.

I used to say our years in Austin, Nevada served as purgatory.  Was I ever wrong.

Morning Monkeys

First day of Spring here, and monkeys in the front yard let me photograph babies and moms.