Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honey, honey?

Mr 13Socks recently sent around a little quiz (which he called a "weekly quiz" but which was not weekly in any way, shape, or form).  In case you missed it:

This time it’s multiple choice since last week’s entries were so lame.

The scene: shirtless brothers on top of our two+ story house last night, setting fire to old mountain bike tires and ripping off asbestos roofing panels with a borrowed claw hammer.

The appropriate response:

(a)    call the police
(b)   call the fire dept (I think Lusaka (population over 2 million) has one working fire engine)
(c)    turn up the volume on the Argentian soap opera to drown out the thudding footsteps on the roof; only then it will be clear that Soledad should NOT get engaged to Carlos the attorney who is defending her sister for murder; she’s obviously preggers from Alejandro, her true love, and needs to get over the inconvenient fact that his father killed her father. 
(d)   wait for a gooey clump of honeycomb, a divine product of the bee clearing operation

The answer? 

We have two very active hives....one up under the soffits 30 feet up and another double-colony in our ceiling board in the pantry off our kitchen (below).  The ceiling is sagging in several spots as the size of the hives and the weight of the honey has grown over the years.  Seeing as how our housekeeper has a fatal bee allergy (we had some excitement last year when she was stung and 15 minutes later I was rushing her to the "best" private clinic in town.  more on this after the bee story!)

In the night-time photo up top I must point out the one piece of equipment the 'bee brothers' brought -- a ladder.  You might notice it's a bit short.  At one point TJ says to me "Hey...You should go check out the operation outside...." and I went out to see how Plan A:  approach the hive from below, was progressing.  They were 'testing' the ladder....on top of which they had positioned a handmade wooden ladder (half rotten and very weak)--- on the top rung of the aluminum ladder.  it didn't reach up quite high enough.  thank goodness.  They went with "Plan B"  (get it?  Plan BEE?) which was to climb up on the roof from the balcony and rip off the asbestos roof panels, smoke them out and pull the hive out by hand.   TJ's question about this plan:  "This sounds a bit....Dangerous."  The response?  "YES!  You can DIE doing this job!"  Lots of laughing and up they went.

"our" bees like to hang out in the fountain grass by the door (below).  there are thousands of them.  Removing the hives did not remove the bees and since our neighbors cut down a tree that had a huge hive in it as well, we also have their bees.  Our very sweet but very strange, crazy dog (who we believe thinks he is invisible) has been known to skip his dog-food and meat breakfast preferring instead to eat....guava, ferns, avocados and....bees.   He once vomited up a stomach-ful of....bees.  The bees are looking for a new home and we have had a few 'lockdown' days where every door and window is shut and no one is allowed out.

Back to the bee allergy.  It was a really scary day and very lucky.  Our housekeeper, Obrin, is in her mid-20s and has somehow never been stung by a bee.  I was headed to school one day and she was stung on the face right when I was leaving.  we live 8 minutes from school.....I went there and back and by the time I returned, I could hardly even recognize her....she was swollen all over, breaking out in hives, having trouble breathing....all the classic symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.  

Lots of things fell into place for this to have a happy ending.  We had someone call ahead at the private clinic -- one of three private clinics in town that can take emergencies and deal with them.  How well they deal with emergencies can be debated all day but overall I am TOTALLY UNIMPRESSED.  First off, you have to go upstairs and wait in a queue and return with a receipt of payment before you can be treated and then you wait indefinitely.  (If you are to be admitted to the 'hospital' part of the clinic I think it's 5 million, cash, up front -- even if you show up at midnight with a seizing 4 year old which someone discovered one night a few years back)  

At any rate, she saw a Zambian doctor (which is important b/c her English is very limited) and had 2 Zambian nurses on duty.  They gave her a massive number of injections and observed her for an hour.  After an hour, they sent her home.  They gave her a weeks worth of allergy pills.  And that was it.  

I followed up with a few of our friends who are doctors (I like to keep a few in my pocket at all times!) and learned that without a bulletproof plan for 'next time' the outcome was not going to be good, especially given the severity of this reaction.  After many conversations, much research, we finally settled on a 'plan.'  Having an epi-pen on had turned out not to be practical -- they cost $800, last a year and there was a 3 week wait to get one.  As her employer I was happy to go this route but just having a pen isn't enough.  You have to use it properly, have it on you at all times, and replace it annually.  The pharmacist and I agreed that this would work but it wasn't sustainable.  They came up with a better solution; we put together an emergency kit (with hi-dose allergy drugs, written instructions and three ampules of adrenaline/epinephrine, the active ingredient in an epi-pen.  We live close to a clinic and hospital and they can administer the drug -- and know of her condition as long as she notifies the staff from time to time (when she takes the girls in for checkups/vaccines, etc.).  And while an epi-pen is a great solution (which still requires a clinic visit and emergency car) in a perfect world, there is no way she could afford an $800 pen. She CAN afford an ampule of adrenaline which contains 3 doses and which can be had with no wait from the chemist for $1. YES, $1.  Not only does this take the burden off of us (and any future employer), it puts her in charge of her health which is a good thing.  

The bees remain a problem....and more than a month later we still have a hole in our roof.  The pantry got a full makeover but....the bees returned to this same spot and also have a new hive at another spot on the roof.

The Buzz: Honey in Zambia. 
Zambia has fabulous honey and there is a small export business of honey/bee products from the miombo woodlands in the NW Province. Zambia honey even makes its way onto The Body Shop retail shelves! A group from Gonzaga University has an ongoing project which sprung up a few years back.  It's actually kind of funny the way it's marketed -- certified organic, blah de blah.  The reality is that the honey is harvested by a village cooperative which consists of guys climbing up trees in the woods.  

We have honey taste-tests and agree that 'house-honey' ranks high against the commercial product.  But if you want "Zambia Gold" you may be able to find it on the store shelves to do your own taste test.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We TRIed!

Owen gets ready for his 200m swim

For the past 10 years (?) the American International School in Lusaka has held a community triathlon every April.  There are four 'levels' of competition: Sprint, Intermediate, Fun and Junior.  Racers compete for prizes and for our local teams it's a great opportunity to get some records under their belts and some race experience.  For the rest of us, it's a good challenge and heaps of fun.  The race had over 300 participants age 4 to 56, every-one finished (and a few had to scramble to fix flats and change tires and recruit swimmers (and borrow swim suits!) right before the race.  A majority (if not all?) of the “Overall Winners” for the 11U and 15U were girls/young women.  There two bike crashes at the bike finish lines (both grown ups) and zero medic response required for anyone -- not even skinned knees! 

SuperBoy was the family triathlete this weekend;  he was the youngest competitor in the American School's Community Intermediate Triathlon event.  He competed against a handful of kids in the 15&Under category and 30 adults 30-48 y.o.  The race consisted of 200m swim (in a 25m pool), a 6km bike ride on a seriously intense mountain bike trail, and a 2km run with a spectacular sprint to the finish. 
SuperBoy, aka #C240, started the swimming at Batch 22 in the center lane with 4 other racers (age 39-48). By race day he had acquired a huge fan club amongst the race organizers and all our friends from all of Lusaka’s schools, so he was off to a good start just by signing up!   
Some backstory......We had gone through the race course a few weeks before...he raced with Dad’s team and they went on a wild goose chase trying to find the route.  Later, he raced with Mom’s team on yet another (wrong) route.  Finally, after trying to drive the route in a 4WD three times, we finally decided we found the actual course route and #C240 biked the full course as a training session -- or at least what we hoped it was the course -- with a good friend and excellent athlete from the secondary school (his best bud’s big brother!).  The kids in fact fared much better than the truck for the training run, but a LandCruiser is never happier than when it gets a good workout, right?  It turns out it’s quite a handy thing to have a bumper (ahem, and someone to replace it and wash the car before Mr13socks got home from work.)
On race day Owen had a great swim - he swam breast stroke very beautifully.  
The transition from swimming to biking was assisted by dad and a handful of helpers, was photographed by mom and cheered on by brother.  Transitions are tricky -- have you ever tried to put on shoes and socks in a hurry when you are dripping wet?  
Owen reports that he took the bike route pretty easy and the fact that we had an overcast morning REALLY helped b/c it was high noon by the time he finished biking.  On the last 50m of the bike race he had a run-in with a giagantic flying beettle thing but otherwise the biking went well - the course wasn't crowded and he neither passed or got passed by any bikers which he was very proud of.

After a sip of juice and a few sour gummy bears, he took off his helmet and TOOK OFF for the run!  Everyone watching thought he twisted his ankle after about 50m or was tripped up by something but in fact, it was the SAME beetle from the biking that going after him and he had to do a quick evasive maneuver. He reported the run wasn't too tough and Owen finished strong, barely sweating in 43:18.  

High Fives at the finish line
WOW!  Today he's asking for one of us to go on a 6K run with him. Uh......sure.
Myself and Mr. ThirteenSocks were swimmers on two different Sprint Relay Teams:  Team Vector (Malaria Control Team) and the Greater Puget Sounders (Seattle-Lacy-Bothell/Anne-Beth-Terri).  We did not get to compete against eachother on race day (except for our times of course) but had a great time training with everyone at our school pool and the American School pool where many 50M all-out sprint races were won and lost with no awards or trophies, or tears.  Little13Socks did not sign up but only b/c he decided too late to register. He trained with us and not only mastered his age group’s 25 meter swim but also learned, through a beautiful thing we like to call YouTube how to swim BUTTERFLY.  Yes, he is 5 and wears size 2T swim trunks but he . can . swim . butterfly.  It’s more like fluttery-by but it’s still darn impressive.  
The Greater Puget Sounders (above) were exceedingly happy with our time (1:07) and proud that we did it and finished strong.....good thing b/c when Beth finished up her run, she grabbed a cold water and ran straight to her car with her family cheerleader to meet the rest of her gang to leave town for a weekend camping trip!  We didn't win any big trophies or set any records but we decided that the race was truly the icing on the cake and all the training was our real reward.  (The excellent time does earn us some bragging rights, doesn't it?)  Next year if we keep our same team together we will be in the 40-49 category instead of 16-39! This could be a good thing.  There's got to be some benefit to turning 40. (Age 16 to 39?? Who are they kidding, right?)  
Terri just moved back to Zambia 3 weeks ago and she had to jump right into training on a borrowed bike.  She was amazing!  And cute!  notice the pink nail polish to match her top?
The happiest runner in the world, Beth, had to figure out how to ONLY run 4k.  10k more her distance.
and me....race ready?
PATH's Team Vector (Todd, John and Msinide) made excellent time (1:00.44) and won first place for the Corporate Team Award which is a speed -per-kilometer race between the all the Sprint and Intermediate teams.  Most years an Intermediate team wins so it’s a real accomplishment that they won in this category racing the sprint distance.  WAY TO GO TEAM VECTOR!  They get to have their names engraved on a special plaque and they can post the plaque in their office until next year.   Awwwwww.  Next year I promise to make them Team Vector Shirts.
Overall, a great day!  We’re all ready to start training for next year!
Some more Race Day pictures:
Friendly? Fun? Non-Competitive? Yes, until you are the middle-aged pot-bellied guy and a 12 year old secondary school cross-country record-holder is trying to pass you in the last 200m.  The big guy won but I think it's gonna take him about 3 weeks to recover.  CE on the other hand was still pretty fresh (but frustrated at being elbowed out at the finish line?)

Below, Todd's race had an interesting start, the swimmers matched up well, but after 100M things fell apart for everyone else but TJ hung on and easily crushed his heat. Even better, he beat his best swim time by 30 seconds and did flip turns at every turn.  Nice.

Above, the gang, post race. They are already thinking about their soccer game tomorrow.

 Below, Team Sandbloom. This family is going to need a trophy room for all the prizes won and records broken. All three kids competed in multiple races; Dad's team set a new record which should stand a LONG time Incredible!