Saturday, March 21, 2009


We have been in Zambia  a year is a photo of our home at plot 23b Mwambula Road, Jesmondine.  It is the third and hopefully last home we will live in here.  It is rather large, rather nice and rather leaky and cavernous.  It has stone walls, dark wood floors, arched doorways inside.  There are heavy bars on all the windows and doors but the doors are usually unlocked and wide open!  It is unusual for Lusaka in that it has three levels --a sprawling ranch is more the style around town for expat housing.  We are slowly filling it up with everything we brought from seattle and everything we are acquiring here, although there are many empty closets and whole rooms we do not use.  We 'inherited' the lease from good friends who are next month moving to Arusha...they have been 6 months in the Netherlands waiting to see where they would end up.  We were very lucky to get the house when and how we did but we miss them so.  It was very strange to move into 'their' house in October but also very nice because we came already with such a good feeling from the time we spent with them.

We have a huge yard/garden but pretty normal size.  We have a nice big swimming pool and the best swing in town (hanging from the giant tree out front).  We have a beautiful garden with lots of big trees, tons of fruit trees, a vegetable garden and a great big strawberry patch.  Owen can ride his bike all over the place, finny can skateboard down the drive thankfully without getting too much speed.  This is very nice considering there is not a single public park in Lusaka.

The house sits on a little slope and the property is along an open stretch of land owned by the University of Zambia with two streams running through so we are so lucky to have a view of more than just the neighbor's giant fences and also lots of wildlife.  

Even with all this space, we are, of course, almost always in the same room sitting on the same bed or bench or couch together fighting about who gets to be in the middle.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chaminuka 2.0

A recent visit from a favorite Seattlite brought us back out to Chaminuka. It's only 40 minutes or so from our house but it's a world away. 

above, the grasses are about 8 feet high this time of year. 
 below, Zambia is on the tail end of the rainy season
Below, The lions were just as eager to have a friendly finny snack as last time (our infamous 'YIONS!' incident from last May). you can see he is intent on finny (who can now say his L's thank you very much) and not me....

On the job

It's not all fun and games here.  We actually do have to work once and a while.
See how hard I work?  The result (above and below) from a recent photo shoot. (copyright reserved)

science week

I had so much fun with the kids last week for science week -- I was asked to come teach the Key Stage One kids (reception to Y2, 4-8 year olds) something science-y and I settled finally on ANTS, using my experiences with the Discovery Park curriculum and adapting it for this gang.  I may have had more fun than the kids in fact, but now they all know me as the ANTS teacher and they keep telling me how they are all studying ants at home.  One 5 year old even announced that maybe, just maybe, he would be a scientists one day.  I was both surprised by and impressed with their enthusiasm for the subject.  One of Owen's classmates who is kind, naughty....decided as he observed the anthill that he was going to be the "champion for the ants" and look after them.  He even brought some apple from his lunch for them "because they need to be healthy and strong!"  The kids especially enjoyed their 'field research' and spent their recess at the anthill watching after 'their' anthill and trying to track a single ant along it's journey to and from the anthill. (photo above) They even brought their teacher out to the anthill after class.
Below, Year 2 showing off how they remember that an ant has two compound eyes (thumb and pinky on the sides of your face) and three simple eyes in the middle of their forehead.
Every time I teach, I gain a whole new respect for the work that teachers do.  after a week of this I was exhausted and had lost my voice.  Owen has been so incredibly fortunate to have already had brilliant teachers -- Teacher Gloria (whose lessons we live daily), Mrs. Goethe, Mrs. Bentley and now Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Katemba, Mme Catron, and Mrs. Harvey to name just a few.  

If you are ever interested in easy science projects....ants are the antswer for sure (har har).  There is an infinite number of crazy ants facts out there and always a willing ant or two to show off for anyone willing and patient enough to just sit and watch...AND LISTEN!  I just learned that ants actually communicate through sound!  I'll leave you with this snippet from the Acoustical Society of America:  

"It is well known that ants do not respond to sound on a human scale. You can shout at an ant and it doesn't seem to notice. Yet many ant species communicate by means of squeaking sounds from a stridulatory organ on the ant's body, consisting of a washboard-like set of ridges and a scraper. The squeaking sounds are usually very faint but they pervade ant colonies. Sounds from individual ants can be heard distinctly and there are a number of different signals. The sounds are in the audible frequency range around 1kHz. Because ants appear to be deaf to airborne sound on a human scale, myrmecologists have inferred that they transmit stridulation signals through the soil, or other solid substrate. For a number of reasons, however, this mode of transmission is highly unlikely. A more likely explanation is that ants communicate with each other through the air using nearfield sound. As with other insects, ants are believed to "hear" airborne sound with their antennae, using hair-like sensors at the tips. By sensing the relative difference in sound displacement between the tips of the antennae, an ant can detect a stridulation signal in the nearfield, where displacement changes rapidly with distance, but can not detect sound in the farfield, where displacement changes more gradually. This explains how ants can detect sound from other ants while, at the same time, being unaware of sound on a human scale. This is fortunate for ants because they would otherwise be overwhelmed by background noise, both natural and man-made."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lake Kariba

(above, the view from Kariba Damn.  Zambia on the left, Zimbabwe on the right)

We have been fielding many questions lately -- including, how was Christmas?  Christmas was a blur.  The kids had 4 whole weeks off.  We celebrated in style...lots of fun parties, a Christmas tree as proper as any other I've managed (OK, it was a giant origami tree but that is another story altogether), piles of silly presents, and a little vacation escape.  We went with another Seattle family --I collect Seattlites like other people collect Beanie Babies--out to Lake Kariba.  

Lake Kariba is a 3 hour drive from Lusaka through the scenic Chirundu Escarpment.  The main town on the Zambia side of the lake is Siavonga.  The Lake itself is HUGE, covering over 2,000
 square miles, and is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world.  Yes, sir, Lake Kariba is man-made -- it was created when they dammed a section of the Zambezi River in the late 1950's.   The dam, which generates power for Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the world's largest at 128 meters high and nearly 600 meters long.  Construction of the damn was no small feat with massive displacement of both wildlife and people.  Some 57,000 Tonga people were displaced and the resettlement project was considered a disaster.

Above, the family posing with a friendly border guard at the dam.  Below, the situation in Zimbabwe is an unforgivable tragedy.  The border is far from porous but these families were able to cross over to get sugar and mealie-meal (the staple food here) which is rationed even at the stores in Lusaka.  The exchange rate for Zimbabwe today is a bit over 37 million zim$ to 1$
Above, the beach at Lake Kariba.   Below, Owen on holiday.  Despite it's history, robust croc and hippo population, widespread bilharzia (a charming parasitic disease), and proximity to Zim and our least-favorite African dictator, Uncle Bob, the Lake is really beautiful and Siavonga is a favorite spot for local tourists.


This is a photo not from the fabulous marsh that sits behind our's from the pool (before it got drained and cleaned).  We had whole families of frogs living in it - laying countless eggs.  We scooped up many many eggs and for a while had many many tiny tadpoles in a giant tub.  We had a hot spell, and well...we do not have a single frog of any size to show for our efforts.  Just a few photos to post as a froggy memorial.  Boo Hoo.

above - ribbons of eggs.  below, the doomed tadpoles