Thursday, December 31, 2009

Before and After, Part III

We've been in our house just over a year now and I think at long last that we have managed to deface walls in every room of the house! What fun! Here are photos of my (and Finn's!) handiwork, for better or worse-- my favorite before and afters from the many painting projects at 23b. (This post is a result of a few too many visits to the Apartment Therapy and Ohdeeddoh websites...)

and my new favorite room in the house...

These are the guest rooms, by the way....but where are the guests??! Come on over!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Munda Wanga

Just outside of Lusaka (past the LaFarge cement factory) is Chilanga the Munda Wanga Wildlife Park and Conservation Trust. We go from time to time to visit with Zag, their cheetah, and to get attacked by ants - safari ants, sugar ants, fire ants...bring them on. Today we learned that Zig (Zag's companion) was killed by a snake bite. Munda Wanga has many other animals besides cheetahs. They come as gifts from international heads of state (camels from Saudi Arabia!), re-hab and rescue animals, unwanted pets (monkeys, anyone?!), unwanted passengers (Baboons that came in march with a wheat shipment!) and many more including permanent residents including ostrich, porcupines, warthogs, bush pigs, baboons, jackel, serval, zebra and more. They have a beautiful botanical garden and demonstration food garden...also a swimming pool and water slides. We never make it much past the cheetah. And the ants. Did I mention the ants? More than once? hmmm.

Compliments of the Season - Family Christmas Album

Santa filled everyones' stockings; the kitties were so happy to get their Whiska's Ostrich treats in gravy! Yum. Missing from all our photos but in our hearts this day are all our Seattle family and friends....
Rockin' out with Elvis Christmas, this has been played daily in our house since August; today it was finally appropriate, finally felt right.
The boys, playing "Safari Hunt" (see detail below), the game that O spent a month designing and getting ready for TJ. Todd is sporting his new Zambia jersey. He actually took off his Arsenal kit for the day and Owen took off his Manchester kit in favor of the new Seattle Sounders. Finny took off his shirt, too and got distracted before he got around to putting on his new Sounders jersey, bringing the world one step closer to world peace.

Christmas Eve Fete, everyone rapt at the reading of Clement Moore's "Night Before Christmas"

Finny was very excited about opening presents. Not to worry, we fixed his strange haircut, just not in time for Christmas photos. Owen is boycotting haircuts and has the new nickname 'Shawn Cassidy." The funniest part about Christmas was Finny and Owen deciding on their own to wear their 'fancy clothes.' Finn I don't think has worn pants since camping in the middle of winter and even then only wore them reluctantly. Owen pulled on a pair of his jeans that landed just below his knees, so it's been a while since for him, too. Many of you might recognize Finn's's been handed down thru the Braun family and probably maany families before. It landed in our dress up box only to be miraculously and mysteriously rescued by Finn and, well..... what a handsome guy he is. Below: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Croc Study

Something about these prehistoric creatures begs for black and white photography.

Lower Zambezi

On a moms and kids overnight escape to the Lower Zambezi, I snapped these new favorites.


There has been a few wild animals on the loose this week at 23b and we finally found one this morning, snuggled down for a little snooze IN MY BOX OF Q-TIPS! If you have lived abroad you know that Q-tips from the US are a thing to treasure. I don’t know why no other country makes suitable q-tips but if you are traveling this way, please pack an extra box for us. This box of fancy Q-Tips is, as they say....finished.

Ants in our Pants

Our 2 meter long ant puzzle from LICS Science Week "Ants are Amazing" class. Who knew?

Lest you think I'm being funny, I have to say something I have unfortunately already said several times since moving here on my and Todd's behalf. Ants in your pants do NOT make you want to do the boogie dance! We have had two more unpleasant ant encounters. One red ant, biting ant, fire ant...I don't know what it was but excuse my french when I say those suckers can bite and it hurts like hell. One teeeeeeny tiiiinnnnyyyy little ant bite left me with a hard quarter-sized lump, a big red ring and a swollen forearm.

Today we went to visit our cheetah friend Zag at the wildlife sanctuary and we paused on the way to his enclosure to look at some impala...but by horrible luck paused in the path of some large, fierce, biting ants. They crawled in our shoes and up our legs. They grabbed on with huge mandible pinchers and did not let go -- even when you pulled their writhing bodies right off their heads, the heads remained and kept on biting.

Thankfully these little monsters just bite, they don't sting but I'm frankly getting tired of getting ants in my pants. Yes, Ants are Amazing, but they also really suck. I still do love a good ant story, however. O's friend who we brought along (and who I feel so horrible for b/c she really got the worst of the ants today), told the funniest story about the time her mom got ants in HER pants and had to strip in public madly to get them off. Her telling of the story, which differs from her mother's was that this was all caught on video by the evening denies the news bit but admits that the incident was filmed by some other tourists. Fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Grandma, looking lovely in Jean and Harry's garden, Summer '09
Last month Grandma celebrated another birthday - number....94?! or was this 95! Amazing! "...just a youngster!" I'm sure Parkey would say!

Some of the Ballou family, Summer '09

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mzungu moments

Let me start by saying that our life here is pretty sweet: nice school, busy social life, great friendships, unbelievable weather, crazy wildlife, a housekeeper who comes in to clean the kitchen four separate times while you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 8 families and who sneaks in and cleans up while you are outside teaching the brits about Thanksgiving Day american football.....etc. We can get on a plane and in 3 hours be on the beach in Zanzibar. I can go outside and pick oranges, mangoes and passionfruit from my garden. (The lemon tree did not survive the dry season, unfortunately.) There are many many things to be really excited and happy about.


In the words of Pee Wee Herman, “Everyone has a big but....”

Every once and a while we have these moments where things are so frustrating you want to scream. The horrible thing is that there is no point in screaming, no point in pulling your hair, no point getting all stroppy -- unless it keeps you from doing worse, of course. The complete irony is that you just look like a crazy mzungu when you start expecting people to behave rationally, all compounded by the problem that you can’t go home and eat an entire box of cookies -- because you didn’t buy any cookies!! Thankfully you noticed that not only are all the boxes of cookies (imported from brasil) $12 apiece, they are ALL SMASHED to bits, so you came home from the supermarket with an empty wallet, milk, and eggs -- the bread was all burned and it was from yesterday anyway....I digress.

Today it was an issue with the printer for a design that we are trying to crank out to send a good-will gift along with a government official who is traveling to South America tomorrow - am I being vague enough?

The example I will give is something else altogether but it goes to the core of the issue, which honestly, even as I write, I am still trying to reconcile. The problem as I interpret it is that I am operating on the assumption that ‘the customer is always right.’ Some have said that ‘customer service does not exist in zambia’ but I think that is not quite it.... there IS customer service, BUT - and it is a big but - it is that people and businesses operate on the assumption that the customer is NOT always right.

In fact, the customer could even be WRONG. Most importantly, the customer is VERY FREQUENTLY wrong. As a result, part of providing customer service is taking the instructions that the customer gave you (in this case DETAILED written and verbal instructions) and deliberately NOT following those instructions.

what I wanted

This example concerns a set of stools I had made by a very able and talented carpenter, Crispin, who works with the local hardwood, mukwa. I took Crispin a photograph of design I wanted him to copy, a 3-D sketch (to scale, on graph paper) with the exact measurements (in cm and in inches). I explained the design, the finish, etc. and we settled on a fair price. When I went to pick up the stools and the kitchen island (I’ve shown this off before, it’s really nice), it was as if he was working from someone else’s drawings. He made some modifications at the workshop "....because surely, Madame, you did not mean for it to be like THAT." Oh, Really? Silly me. I took my island and stools home, but the modifications were not working, the kids were frightened of sitting on the stools and what I really wanted....well, was what I had originally wanted!

Try #2 with the same sketches, the same measurements, the same conversation about the fact that what was in the photo, what was on the paper REALLY WAS HOW I WANTED IT. EXACTLY how I wanted it. Stool set #2 came....with modifications. Several of our friends had eyed my design and wanted them also. Stool set #3 came....with modifications. and set #4, set #5. All from the same measurements and all from the same drawing, all from the same, all from the same carpentry studio. All different from eachother and NONE executed as instructed.

what I got .... attempt #1 and 2.....SO close!

This happens with everything from getting business cards printed to getting your car repaired, from ordering a birthday cake to having a dress made. It is now more surprising when something comes out as you intended than disappointing when it does not. To add insult to injury these orders are expensive and usually you pay twice or three times to get it done right. If you are lucky, you just live with these 'modifications' if you are unlucky (as is a friend whose car is in the shop AGAIN) you pay over and over for the thing you asked for in the first place to just be done correctly.

OK I'm done.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Hysterical, yes? We were just back from a party where we had to dress up - how we settled on the bored 50s art film director and eager starlet I'm not sure. This is what happens after the kids are tucked in their beds in Lusaka...the freaks come out.

Speaking of kids: (below), Owen and Finn on the way to Thanksgiving Dinner with the Hecks. (and yes finny looks just a wee-bit like dad)


Sunday, November 1, 2009


(Above, the Port at Zanzibar City)

Stonetown, the historic center of Zanzibar City is a tangle of streets filled with spice shops and tourist traps, smooth salesmen, cafes, guesthouses, workshops, schools, apartments, restaurants and mosques. We were just there a few short days after Kempinski on the north end of the island and Jambiani down south. While we were there we walked many miles though the narrow, crowded streets. Walking is not a luxury we have in Lusaka so that in itself was a treat. Every shop seemed to have something marvelous, something wonderful, something funky, something cool; The shopkeepers really were lovely and kind, especially to the boys, who were enchanted. We walked in the evening, at midday, and the last day there, early early in the morning before anyone but the schoolchildren were rushing through the crooked labyrinth.

I am always reluctant to photograph street scenes, not wanting to haul around my camera in a crowd or take photos of unwilling or unknowing subjects so my most precious memories of Stonetown are mine alone. The ones here are from an early morning walk O and I took with the camera when the streets were empty the shops closed. I let him lead the way, let him choose right, left, straight on. We got horribly lost but enjoyed the adventure and the feast of the senses.

Below: Scenes, Streets, Shops, Doors


The little big guy listening to the morning call to prayer. The muezzins call 5 times a day over their mosque loudspeakers, it's an unforgettable sound broadcast across the city. Click on the link below to hear the call to prayer while you are looking at the photos to get the full effect!
-hear the call to prayer:
-learn how to pray:
What you need to pray: heart-felt intention to perform the prayer, a clean body with correct ablutions, a clean place to pray. Prayer rugs are optional.

below, the view from our window at the Chavda



(Above: nuts, cloves, peppercorns, cardamon, vanilla, ceylon cinnamon (ground, whole and in soap), lemongrass soaps, tumeric, iranian saffron)


To say that Zanzibar has gorgeous carved doors is an understatement. I was imagining a beautiful door here and there, lovely doors on stately buildings. As you can see from the collection below, there are ornately carved doors on every shabby falling down building at every twist and turn on every road...

Have you seen enough of Zanzibar? Are you sick of it or are you booking your flight right now? Thanks for indulging me with this huge mountain of photos from such a quick little trip...

Bye Bye, back to Zambia....