Friday, April 23, 2010

Lingering a Little Longer

The month of sad goodbyes continues.

But not before we spend a glorious afternoon together with our friends from the wrong side of town. Just kidding, of course, in typical Jennings fashion WE live on the the wrong side of the tracks. In this case, we live beyond the boundries of the US state department 'security corridor,' all the way on the OTHER SIDE of Great East Road. HORRORS! If you live in Kabalonga, Jesmondine may we well be on Mars, even though it's just 5 minutes away-- the WRONG way. When we say we live in Jesmondine or Roma, peoples' eyes glaze over and they start daydreaming about king pie and boerwors sausages.

But enough of that. Some snaps from me and the mr. on the bittersweet retreat out Leopards Hill way. This place needs a proper name.....Shangri-la comes to mind.

A bientot, mes cheres! Au plasir de vous revoir.

Directions to Auntie Racheal's

Of course we had to pull over and take a snap of this sign. And while I don't think THIS Auntie Racheal's Restaurant serves clam linguine and espresso creme brulee, just in case you are in the neighborhood, here's how you get there:

Pass through KalingaLinga (on Kamloops road) to Ibex Extension.

Drive past the field of sunflowers

Turn at the house made from scrap wood and concrete bags (many from LaFarge Cement which also has a factory down the street from our WS house on the Duwamish River....) Pass the folks queuing up for water,
carry on through the neighborhood on the levee road,

Pass the football pitch (where the kids are playing with a hand-made ball made from plastic bags and old shirts-a chimpombo.)
past the kids at the rubbish dump
and the shy ones with plastic bag kites
and down the path to Auntie Racheal's

See you there!

Poppy and her Wonky Bunches

We are one of a few American families at our little community school which despite the "International School" moniker is solidly entrenched in the British system, Cambridge University specifically. The kids learn "Letterland" in preschool and then move on to "Jolly Phonics" for early primary (which by the way, is 'brilliant' as they say). The homework reading is mostly british and the spelling tests test the limits: colour, neighbour, centre, realise, aluminium to name a few.

It's fascinating--many elements I appreciate (not having "Everyday Math" for one!) and many things leave us Yanks scratching our heads. Some of the literacy homework assignments we simply can't figure out and other things, especially reading homework are so funny we can't get through it. Owen's homework the other day included a story about Poppy and her wonky bunches.

EXCUSE ME?! Is this appropriate for a 7 year old?

Other things we have trouble with:
Clothes: Kit, Costume, Jerseys, Jumpers, knickers, pants = uniform, swimsuit, sweater, coat, underpants, underpants (american 'pants' are called 'trousers' - we've had lots of laughs about the pants confusion) Some certain American I know once brought her kids to a party in their dress-up clothes b/c the invitation said to "bring your costumes" --- they were mortified to learn to late that it was a pool party not a costume party. oops.
Everyday things: rubbers, bins, rubbish, fringe = erasers, trashcan, garbage, bangs (hair)

Then there are the Zam-glish expressions: "Now" means later where "now-now" actually means now, like "right away" (unless of course I get distracted by something in which case, it reverts back to "later.") "I"m coming just now" means, "I'm going later." HE and SHE are interchangable and mostly they are reversed.

I got a funny look the other night when I asked the kids to "wash up".....our friends thought we wanted them to do the dishes....thankfully the kids knew they just needed to wash their hands. Braces is another one -- there is a zambian expression for them which escapes me, but braces (or is it bracers?) I think are suspenders. We are trying to figure out what "tea" is. Near as I can sort out, Tea is like an early dinner/supper. It has NOTHING to do with the tea that you drink. OR DOES IT? And while we are on food, "relish" is a vegetable side dish you eat with your nshima/mealie-meal/meilepap.

Other expressions (forgive me if I'm repeating myself) we have to pause and think about: daft (dense as is, in the brain), knackered (exhausted), shattered (very exhausted), mug (sucker), mad (crazy). Crazy is a funny one b/c we use it casually but here if you say someone is crazy it is taken literally -- you are saying they need to be locked up in the loony bin (which ironically is on the Chainama Hospital Grounds where Mr. 13Socks office is.....)

Confused much? There are some really endearing expressions that sneak in too. "Is it" covers a lot of bases. It's almost like saying "Really." or "Really?" but not quite in the same way. More like "Is that so?" It can get tacked on at the end of most any sentence or inserted into any conversation much like 'ah' or 'um.' Finn embraces 'is it' enthusiastically.

Wonky bunches?

Pig/pony tails that are crooked or messy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Plot thickens

Our new friend at Ibex Extension
You know you have been charmed by Zambia when you start daydreaming about “the Plot.” Everyone seems to want one or already has one -- a plot of land. I suppose “property” would be the Seattle equivalent. We’ve found out recently of a handful of people who have been taken in by lure of The Plot and have purchased land at the outskirts of town - either as an investment or for retirement; 10-20 acres of scrubby bush they can call their own. Mr. 13Socks and I daydream about one day a little piece of property on Whidbey - it seems a reasonable, within-reach daydream for us - and I think about the little cabin we can build one day.

In reality, I think I know what Mr. 13Socks daydreams about and it's not a piece of property on Whidbey (tho that is somewhere up there in that giant cranium). In fact, I’m pretty sure it's this:

To be fair to TJ, you can be sure most days I've got this on my mind:

(In case you were wondering how our trip to Paris went. - although it's funny that that piece is vaguely in the shape of Africa!)

I digress.

Our gardener recently purchased a plot and has started building. For now his family of four is highly dependent on their employers (that would be us) to provide housing as a condition of employment, wrapped up with their salary package.

The trend is definitely for expat employers to not have staff living on their property with their families even though most houses have staff quarters just for this purpose - a separate little house with a garden and separate living space. Our staff quarters at this house have been nicely maintained, are clean, recently painted, and have water, a solid roof and electricity as long as our house has it.

At our last house the staff quarters were small, dirty, leaking and there was a family of rats in the ceiling but the landlord was unwilling to make any improvement. They were willing to put in a swimming pool for the main house and put a stone facade on the foundation of the house, but forget about fixing the roof in the staff house. That is a whole other story for a different (post-court appearance) day.....

Peter (in the back with the broken collarbone....) and the neighborhood kids. His kids were at Granny's house for the Easter holiday. Peter spends most of his free time here or organizing for work to be done here.

We brought Peter out to his plot the other day with some construction materials. He’s got his yard/garden staked out, the walls up and and is now working on the doorways and windows.

His plot is in an area called the Ibex Extension behind Ibex Hill where we stayed those early weeks in Zambia and where your tax dollars are hard at work building the new US embassy and USAID complex aka “the fortress.”

American Tax Dollars hard at work.

I heard a story recently about Ibex Hill which I found both disturbing and hilarious. Apparently the hill is a gigantic anthill and occasionally the ants “move house” on a scale you would only believe if you saw it. The story came from someone who back in the 60’s once stood with her friends and colleagues in a swimming pool for 2 hours because it was the only way to get out of the ants’ way. She said you could hear them coming.

....the plot thickens, indeed.

Rural Health

The backbone of the Malaria Control program is the nationwide survey that informs donors and the government about what is going on at the household level. You can distribute bednets and drugs and paper the countryside with brochures and posters but unless people sleep under the bednets, take the medicine, understand the brochures your efforts are for naught. April 2010 is survey month and the third such survey done in Zambia (2006, 2008). Some 150 survey technicians are trained and sent out with the goal of interviewing 6500 representative households about their habits, knowledge and health. It's a massive undertaking and a logistical fete. These photos are from a training trip to Chongwe rural health district, about 45 minutes from Lusaka by car.

Chongwe gets it fair share of visitors b/c it is so close to Lusaka and is very easy to get to -- the roads are paved (tarred) until the last 20km and there is rarely an issue with flooding or access. Many parts of Zambia are in accessible for much of the year because of the poor conditions of the roads in the far-flung corners and because of the rains.

The survey questions include topics from how many are in your family? how many chickens do you have? do you listen to local radio programs? what color and style mosquito do you prefer? as well as collecting a health 'snapshot' for the household.

Surveyors headed out.

This surveyor hitches a ride....another NGO ( recently distributed bicycles in this area. It's great to see them being put to use.

The data is collected on hand-held computers; the information is geo-coded.

The village school. The school day is split into morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate all the students.

This is a concrete house typical of this village. They have appliances like TV, radio, DVD player, cell phones, etc, but no electricity. Always with corn/maize.

They have a small bit of space where they planted vegetables and a handful of chickens running around. The chickens get counted in the survey (as would any cows, horses or goats if they had them) but the dog does not.

The house has a pit toilet a short walk away from the house.

This is the kitchen boma/insaka in the backyard -- the family does all their cooking with a small charcoal brazier.

Part of the training the surveyors undertake is how to administer and report malaria tests. They collect some blood for RDT (rapid diagnostic testing) and also a slide for later analysis.

Moses had a negative malaria test this time. (The stick that looks like a pregnancy test stick is the malaria RDT.) From the oral survey, the team finds out that the family has bed nets that they got a few years ago that have recently been re-treated with insecticide but they are not using them currently. There is a 'transmission season' where infection rates are high but malaria is a problem year-round. The parents report that they have used the nets in the past. The family has 4 children living in the house. The surveyors are also trained in public education and have 'permission' to advise the family about measures they can take to prevent malaria - including sleeping under bednets every night all-year round.

As a random aside, I love that while the surveyors are out in their bright orange shirts and caps these bright orange flowers are also in bloom everywhere.

Moses (aka MoziGator), feeling better. He's deep in thought, plotting how he is going to get a hold of that hand-held computer and use it for a teether -- which he did. Victory!

Better Living Through Chemistry

This week we had a Bio-Chem crash course -- a battle against bacteria -- at 23b. So far the Jennings are "up a lead" but only with massive injections of the bum and in the pool.

Explainer: 23b suffered from two totally unrelated bacterial invasions, one strike against the swimming pool and a double strike against Little13Socks' tonsils. The tonsilitis required the bum shots and 8 days of cross-town visits to our friends at CorpMed. The swimming pool required enough toxic chemicals to defeat the Taliban worldwide...if only we had thought to invite them over for sundowners this weekend.

The battle rages on but so far, so good. The tonsils are less red and the pool less green.

I knew I would some day use my university degree for something. (the science one. really, who knew the art degree would be so handy?!)

The pond less than 24 h later: