Tuesday, December 21, 2010

compliments of the season!

Christmas snuck up on us again.  The kids had a great, hysterically funny nativity play at school before they were let out on their FOUR WEEK holiday.  If this seems excessive, for the families who live in the southern hemisphere it is the summer holiday for them and they are always crying for a longer break.  (Thankfully for us the school follows a N. hemisphere school calendar but I see their point for sure).

Two of our primary teachers took on the pagent project again this year....they did the normal christmas story (herod, wise men, baby jesus in the manger, etc.) but it played out as a news report with on the scene interviews with smartly dressed journalists interviewing period-dressed wisemen, shepards, travelling taxpayers and innkeepers.  Last year they worked ABBA in to the lineup, this year we had Leonard Cohen and Annie Lennox (all the little ballet girls dancing to 'talking to an angel')....the older kids did some singing and recorder performances and the little kids were left with all the "acting."  Finn was King Herod but only had a vague idea that he was actually a bad guy.  (above, about the cutest evil king ever.)   gotta love the costume sews from our old library curtains and the fabric the kids have for their curtains!)
Our funny little secular community school puts on the nativity every year -- a few of us always ask if it's appropriate and frankly there are only 3 of us who think the thing could be more culturally sensitive.  (what about Haunakkah? The New Year (Islam, the 7th this year), etc.) The Muslim moms we talk to find the whole thing incredibly entertaining and really aren't concerned. And so, the show goes on.  There is always mulled wine, mince pies and a cash bar.  it's funny that nary a school event passes without a fresh delivery of lager. Can you imagine a seattle public school having a  mandatory pagent performance with Annie Lennox and booze in the equation?  AND don't forget a visit or two from Santa, of course.  Our Santa usually is the newest male teacher, last year it was our Belgian PE teacher, this year our Zambian SEN teacher.  Santa collects presents (and many hugs) from the kids after the show and they get taken the next day to the UTH Cancer ward.  It's a good thing.

Christmas for us is a lot like it would be in Seattle...minus the weather and the many trips to target.  Cookie decorating parties, decorating the tree, making ornaments, friends and fun.  We really miss the family part of course.  and the Menashe Light Show spectacular.

and snowboarding.  not a whole lot of snowboarding going on here in Lusaka. Family album snaps of our preparations:

 Every year we take on an art project for our tree. It takes up a good chunk of that first week off school and involves lots of planning and working, measuring and math....and troubleshooting  We had a GIANT origami tree one year.  Then a 7ft tall, 6 piece, cardboard tree last year. This year we wanted something a little sturdier.  Particle board was all we can manage, maybe next year we'll find some plywood.  The kids cut this out with a little hack saw and a leatherman, drilled with a hand drill...not something I'd undertake with plywood.

 I bought a pile of BLING beads and they made many many many 'fancy' ornaments.
 FPFJ enjoying 'his side' of the cute bling-tree.  Every day there is something else hanging:  beads from mali (demarreur beads, perhaps not the most appropriate for a christmas tree!), mylar 'tinsel' and most recently a collection of small animals (gorilla, moose, cows, etc).

 The kids have been getting bits of a pay doctor kit every day (advent project, something new for their kit every day) and we also made kits to give to friends, complete with casts, slings, bandages, velcro wrist bands, pez 'medicine', felt 'blood' spots. we added and extra file folder with fake medical degrees, clinic posters (vintage malaria and polio posters) patient intake forms, x-rays, eye charts,  you name it, we found it or made it!!
 Many many many people made many many cookies today.  Funny that out of 8-10 dozen all the frosted ones disappeared in the course of the day.  They are so beautiful, how can you resist?  Wow, right?
All for now, can't wait to share photos from Christmas day!

MERRY CHRISTMAS...and Compliments of the Season!

(art photo from Todd, bonus points from Santy Claus if you can tell what it is...
 it's the array of lights at the Mulungushi Conference Centre....close up below)


Monday, December 13, 2010

Operation Bunk Bed - Complete!

 the sign at m. furnitures, kalingalinga - the real 
reason we picked this shop over the others 

A colleague from Seattle recently came to Zambia for work and stayed on for a project at our favorite women and orphan's center, Chikumbuso. The task? Fundraise in Seattle, bring the cash and some supplies, and get the kids some new bunk beds for their boys and girls 'dorm' rooms.  The rooms are not quite dormatories, rather they are a safe, short-term place that the kids can come to if they find themselves in a situation where they need a safe place to stay.  Maybe there is a situation they are escaping in their family (violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse, etc) or another sort of emergency.  At any rate, the rooms are sometimes just a few children but sometimes they are really packed in.  When I visited the center back in July the comment was made "Well, wouldn't bunk beds be useful?"  The reply?  "Yes."

So, the opportunity came to hook up Manny and Chikumbuso for "Operation Bunk Beds."  We figured it would be a nice neat little project -- a little fundraising, a day of shopping, a day of hauling, a day of painting, a day of sewing. Voila! Two sets of bunk beds (with mosquito nets, of course).  Needless to say, something that we thought was a reasonable task to complete in a week's time took nearly three months and we went over budget. But...it's done!  Yah!

Thanks for everyone who donated for this, Manny's Operation Bunk Beds, project. Sometimes making a difference really IS that easy. (More ways to help Chikumbuso in my next post.)

Here are some snaps and a long, meandering dialogue to fill you in on how the project came together:

Manny with the carpenters Gift and friend in Kalingalinga at M. Furnitures discussing modifications on their bunkbed design.  We had a plan for how they should be but the carpenters had....how shall I put it....they had 'other plans.'  If I have learned anything it's to NEVER INNOVATE.  Or at least never try something different and expect it to work out as you intended.  Building in a mosquito net canopy to a bed/bunkbed seems like a no brainer but after 3 visits to the carpenter and two sets of sketches, what we picked up was something completely different. They were maybe too distracted with why trying to extract from me why I was teaching kids geography instead of the gospel.

To get something made of pine this is where you come -- the side of the road in the Kalingalinga compound between Jesmondine and Kabulonga along Kamloops Road.  The roads in Lusaka are named after other cites -- we have Los Angeles Blvd and Addis Ababa Rd.  and....Kamloops Road, which is a tiny north in British Columbia, Canada on the way to Whistler/Blackcomb.   There are many other pine furniture carpenters, this one is easy to remember and they had a 'floor model' that was close to what we wanted and a price that seemed reasonable.  The guys were nice and friendly and we thought they could meet quick turn-around.  (HA!) 

Other workshops in Kalingalinga make wicker furniture (raw pine from Zambia, wicker from Malawi), welded playsets (swings, slides, monkey bars), metal gates, gravel (hand-crushed), charcoal, etc. There is a new row of stalls for salaula -- a second-had market for your value village castoffs. What does not sell at the Federal Way VV store is delivered here and sold-roadside. (the clothes come from all over but I have seen a FW little league shirt or two, and lots of Sonics jerseys lately....)

If you need to purchase something (as opposed to making something) you come to Kamwala or go 'to town' to Cairo Road or Freedom Way. In Kamwala we found Manali Mfg Ltd and got four single high density foam mattresses and pillows. Unfortunately for us they had them in stock and we decided to forgo the unnecessary trip to the FOAM FACTORY! I'll dream up some excuse to go there, mark my words.

It was October when this photo of the Kamwala shopping district was taken.  The City Council was just beginning to think about drainage issues for the upcoming rainy season.  Now that we are in the thick of the rains it's an absolute mess down there.  They (hand) dug massive drainage ditches (which were promptly used to dump rubbish) are 8-10 feet deep and 10 feet side with rickety plank bridges between the roads and the shops.  It's really not charming and extremely dangerous. (Particularly if you factor in the poor drainage alongside the poor sanitation system, the annual cholera outbreaks, and the fact that many people (especially kids heading to school/work before sunrise) don't know how to swim.)

This was early in the morning -- Kamwala is typically packed with wheelbarrows and cars to the point of absolute gridlock and chaos.    On the left you can see the Julilika cycle shop -- this is where I get bike supplies - with marginal success.  The tube we got for Finn's tiny trainer bike (from Hank!) fit but has the strangest valve that we can only pump up with an attachment that we have to borrow from a friend who works on cars on the side.  It leaks so we have to borrow it most every time we use that bike.
There is a dying art in Zambia, it's the art of murals and handpainted signs.  Sadly most companies are moving to vinyl or metal signs (which are incredibly expensive, poor quality and are frequently stolen or vandalized).  In Kamwala, the handpainted signs are priceless.

On the left, my favorite fabric shops, Safiques and the House of Chitenge and on the right WIG WORLD. (along with every other shop you can imagine and even a few you cannot imagine.)

Our assistant, doing inventory. " 1. 2. 3. 4. Hey, I'm FOUR!" (not for long, pup!) I really did not think it possible to put four mattresses and four pillows and bedding in my car.  

Part Two of the project was a lot of waiting and a lot of hauling.  We waited for the carpenters to finish.  We waited for a truck to bring the beds home.  We waited for the hardware store to get some wood primer.  They only get pink primer here for some reason but there wasn't a pot to be had in all of Lusaka from what I could gather.  The wait was fortunate b/c when the hardware store finally had primer they had switched owners and the new owners were clearing out custom mis-mixed paint and we scored a pot of pretty blue paint for 80,000 that is normally priced 300,000. ($16 vs. $60, score!)   We waited for paint to dry (it's so cliche but it's the rainy season by now), we waited for a bednet to be stitched, we waited to borrow a drill (and used the most horribly made hand-drill in the meantime), we waited for extra hands to measure and re-cut all the bednet canopy wood (which was presented like an ikea-flat-pack from bizarro world). At last we waited for an opportunity and a sunny day where a big truck was available to deliver the beds.  Last week it finally came together.

Before -- a tangle of nets

After:  new mattresses, new bedding, new pillows, new (uber-fancy) net*

The second bed, in the shop, waiting to be assembled in the boys' room.

*We purchased one of these super fancy (and super pricey) nets with the idea that it will be a 'model' for the sewing studio to use for making a second net for bunk bed set #2 and....if they are inspired to make more for the shop....even better!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Garden Party Guest

TJ gets credit for spotting this strange creature (can you see it in the picture below?) as it made it's way slowly slowly slowly across our grass lawn the other morning.  While we watched it for over an hour and witnessed it eat 8 snacks of crickets and moths, we only were able to snap a photo of before and after capturing it's prey.  O took a little movie on his camera and happened to catch a little video clip of it getting a cricket.  I watched the movie a dozen times and you can't even tell for sure that anything has happened.  it's amazing.  more amazing are the photos I have seen of chameleons with their tongues out and grabbing a snack.  I can't imagine what kind of camera someone would have to have to get that micro-second in a frame.

Giving Thanks

While not the traditional menu we had a feast in honor of thanks and understanding.  It wasn't too difficult to settle on the Middle East as the inspiration for our gathering.   One reason is that the food is yummy but also the ingredients, while unfamiliar, are available here.  Also, while the power supply has been pretty consistent (thanks, ZESCO), we can't really plan a big gathering that depends on having electricity all day.  So, we always do big dinners that involve a lot of day-ahead recipes and an hour before guests are due we fire up our giant 55 gal drum grill.  The logic of getting some lamb from the local butcher vs. a turkey from Brazil also was a strong incentive for a non-traditional menu.  I won't bore you with the details except to say that it was yummy, the table was overflowing with sides and sauces and figs and dates and grape leaves and litchees and pineapples and falafel, the most amazing falafel I've ever had......I only thought about wool once or twice.*

I will share our lamb and chicken kebab recipes:

Jooleh Kebabs (chicken)
   for the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon safron threads (I'm certain you could skip this without any grave consequence -- it's really expensive but I know even TJs used to stock it in a teeny tiny little glass jar.  Myself, I have a lifetime supply of the stuff which I got for a few shillings on Zanzibar)
1T warm water
1-1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2t salt
1t ground pepper
2 chickens (or 2 chickens worth of parts.....we used cubed boneless/skinless breast meat and put them on skewers with great results)

For the Basting mixture
1/4 t safron threads (again, leave this ingredient out as necessary)
1T fresh lemon juice
3T melted unsalted butter

Marinate overnight.  Grill.  yum.  eat with couscous salad and some yummy spinach.

Moroccan lamb
For the meat, I found lamb legs and lamb arms (don't ask) at the butcher's already cut into 'steaks' or chops.  I beat them (b/c they were naughty) to tenderize and then I cut them into cubes. B/c I am so squeamish still about meat the dog has  month worth of scraps and gristle and bones for all my efforts)  I marinated them overnight in lemon, salt and honey and rosemary (as suggested by Donna Hay) first.

I kept aside half of the lamb to cook as is (further basted with a lemon/honey glaze at the grill/braii).  The other half I marinated a few hours in the below (I may have made double this recipe, too, I can't remember. I do remember that I was so clever to reserved half of the marinade (that the meat didn't touch) to cook down into an amazing sauce to accompany everything at the table)

At any rate, the sauce/spice butter/marinade ingredients:

1 stick butter
5 cloves garlic
1/3 c chopped fresh mint leaves (or pos 2T dried mint leaves)
1T ground coriander
1T sweet paprika
2t ground cumin

rub half of this on the lamb.  set aside the other half for the basting sauce and the table sauce:

In a saucepan on the stove add:

3T butter
 1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3T white wine vinegar or lemon juice
16 fresh mint leaves slivered
2 cups broth or other liquid (I added water b/c my beautiful quail stock was in the freezer in a container that I couldn't microwave)
salt to taste
ground cumin to taste

to cook sauce, melt butter, add onionand garlic (saute 5 min or until just starting to brown), add vinegar, mint and bring to a boil (DON'T try to smell it while the vinegar boils off, it'll singe your nostrils something fierce!  Not that I know, ahem, from experience.)  Stir in the broth/water and simmer to reduce.  mix in the spiced butter at the end of cooking.  I let this mixture cool and then ran it through the blender but you could leave the sauce chunky).  Check the flavor and add any other thing you think is missing.  (more salt?  more cumin?  some corriander or tumeric for good measure?)

Use 1/2 of this mixture for basting and set aside half to serve as a sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving

*Our good friend Ben can't/wont eat lamb b/c he is convinced it tastes like old wool.  We took a pass on the thrift-store-sweater-marinade, but of course now I can't prepare lamb EVER without thinking of Ben and of course my favorite green cableknit sweater, all soggy from a rainy walk on the beach.

So (thanks Ben) in a sick way I also think of wool sweaters when I fix lamb.  This does not deter me from eating it and strangely enough, enjoying it.  A long marinade, by the way, is the key to making the sweater association Gucci vs. Goodwill....Versace vs Value Village.